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As I celebrate my 70th Birthday today, January 13, 2014. I must seize this once in a lifetime occasion to acknowledge the limitless mercies and abundant blessings of the Almighty as well as the love and steadfastness of my family and friends.   The Celebrations will follow with appropriate gusto.  For now, please grant me the indulgence of dedicating today to our men of letters.

Unknown to many, the person who triggered off the spate of letters which the international media has branded as “lettergate” is the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola S.A.N.    Here is the text of his letter to the Lagos Island Club and Yoruba Tennis Club:

Front page headline of “ThisDay” newspaper of December 27, 2013:

“FASHOLA : WE COULD BE BETTER AS A NATION

Nigeria’s ego bruised, national pride brittle

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), yesterday declared Nigeria a dysfunctional state, citing the diverse challenges the country has been facing which have impeded her path to greatness.

Also, the governor lamented the country’s drastic fall from her highly revered place in the international community, which he said, was once coveted and respected by several countries  in Africa as well as globally.

He expressed concerns about the declining status of Nigeria in the comity of nations in a press release by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Hakeem Bello, on Fashola’s annual lecture delivered  on Christmas eve at the Yoruba Tennis Club, Lagos Island, thereby decrying the growing scale of pretence that all “is well with Nigeria”.

Rhetorically, the governor sought to know what kind of a future “do we desire and what kind of effort or sacrifice are we willing to make to earn it.   It is not as important to speak about what lies behind Nigeria, but more about what lies ahead of her.”

He said the questions “represent a moderation of the current realities that Nigeria has become dysfunctional as a nation because not only has her ego been bruised and her national pride brittle where it ever exists.

“Many nations who either once looked to her for assistance or leadership will rather now seek not to be openly associated with Nigeria.  As if that was not bad enough, those who dared not look us in the face at one time are no longer restrained  in making scurrilous statements about us.

We seem to have fallen, like Humpty Dumpty, from Olympian Height.   Indeed like Humpty Dumpty, we are blessed with great men and women.   However, unlike Humpty Dumpty, I believe we can put Nigeria together again in a manner of speaking.”   He, however, said putting Nigeria together again would not happen simply by saying so, which he pointed out was indeed “a starting point and a good one that indicates the people’s resolve.   It will also require everyone to unite their minds so that action can also be united.

That resolve, I beg to argue, will come if only we can believe again.   Yes, I use the word because the past is relevant here.   We must remember how great we once were.   We must remember what makes us great.” He said the leaders at all levels “must accept and not pretend about our currents status, that we have tripped and fallen.    We must resolve, because we believe that we will get up and climb our way back to the top.

Let me remind those who are old enough to remember, and they seem quite many here tonight, and inform those who are too young to know, for it is they who have the largest stake in this future, that our period of greatness was not free of trouble.   There was crime.

There were labour strikes, there were political struggles; there was disease; and in the midst of our prosperity, there was still a cash crunch, but amidst all of these there was the elixir of hope and a promise of a better life on the horizon,” he explained.

He said the only difference between Nigeria of yesterday and her today, is that yesterday’s hope has given way to today’s uncertainty and despair and the only reason seems to be the choices that have been made and by the values pursued.

Fashola explained that it is the citizenry that has changed and not the country, its resources or its promise because while her population “has become bigger, her productivity has certainly diminished.   This has happened because the population of today was not of the same quality as the population of yesterday.

We must accept that we are the problem and not any government or any constitution.   We must resolve ……to say no to all of those things and to do so for one purpose – because we believe again.  What are those things we must do less of?  They are a long list that seem to vary daily, but which some of us undertake, and for which all of us pay.”

Front page headline: “National Mirror” newspaper December 26, 2013.

“FASHOLA ADVOCATES VALUES OF COMPASSION, HARDWORK”

“Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola on Tuesday urged Nigerians to once again reach for the values of compassion, sanctity of human life and those eternal building blocks of pristine civilizations.

Other virtues underscored by the governor in his separate addresses  at both the Yoruba Tennis Club and the Island Club in Central Lagos include a good name, the pursuit of knowledge, high professionalism,  respect for constituted authority, hard work and brotherly love.  Prefacing his address at each Club with his decision to speak on the Nigerian Dream, the Governor stressed that it is not as important to speak about what lies behind the Nigerian nation but more about what lies ahead of her:

According to the governor, it represents a moderation of the current realities to say that Nigeria has become dysfunctional as a nation because not only has her ego been bruised and her national pride brittle where it even exists, many nations who either once looked to her for assistance or leadership will rather now seek not to be openly associated with Nigeria.

He, however, noted that putting Nigeria together again will not happen simply by saying so, which is indeed a starting point and a good one that indicates the people’s resolve, adding that it will also require everyone to unite their minds so that action can also be united.

Governor Fashola said the only difference between Nigeria’s yesterday and her today is that yesterday’s hope has given way to today’s uncertainty and despair and the only reason seems to be the choices that have been made and by the values pursued.  He reiterated that it is the people who have changed and not the country, its resources or its promise because while her population has become bigger; her productivity has certainly diminished, adding:  “This has happened because the population of today was not of the same quality as the population of yesterday”.

By: J.K Randle