Sani, made this known in a birthday message to the septuagenarian in Abuja on Tuesday.
He said it was desire for Africa’s greatness that made Barrett, a journalist, poet, novelist and playwright with international recognition, to come to Nigeria in 1966, became a citizen in 1980s and remained in Nigeria.
Sani, a former lawmaker representing Kaduna Central, noted that besides becoming a Nigerian citizen, most of Barrett’s literary works centered on African unity, showing his belief in Africa’s greatness.
Sani, disclosed that he paid Barrett a visit recently in his Abuja home, appreciating him for dedicating his life to preaching love and unity among Nigerians and Africa at large.
“My visit to him was to appreciate his professionalism in journalism and his believe and faith in Nigeria.
“A man who came to Nigeria in 1966, naturalised and remained in Nigeria since then must be seen, considered and accepted as a true Nigerian.
“He has seen through our turbulent times. Has seen the best and the most challenging moments in our history.
“Barrett is an example of pan Africanism. He is an example of a believer in African unity and brotherliness.’’
According to Sani, he could have chosen to go to America or Europe but here was a man who came to Nigeria for a literary event just years after our independence and has remained faithful to Nigeria.
“Barrett deserves to be celebrated and appreciated by the Federal Government and he deserves all the support that he needs at this challenging moment of his life with his health,’’ he said.
The former lawmaker, wished Barrett long life and good health on his 79th birthday, while stating that, “all that needs to be done should be done to assist him and his family.’’
Meanwhile, in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria, Barrett thanked God for witnessing his 79th birthday.
He expressed hope in the greatness of Nigeria, saying some of the challenges bedeviling the country were stepping stones to its greatness.
The Septuagenarian, urged Nigerians to continue to keep faith, noting that once Nigeria got it right, other African countries would get it right.
He said one of the ways to achieving that was to continue to protect the sacredness of democracy.
He said, “I will like to tell Nigerians that they should be careful with this thing called democracy.
“Democracy is a very fragile gift. It is a gift because it is supposed to give people representation but the way we are treating it is very dangerous.
“If we do not take democracy seriously as a gift and we begin to treat it as something that we can play with, we might run into a very serious roadblock in future.
“We should be careful. We must take the idea of representation as sacred.’’
On the role of the media in the country’s democratic process, Barrett noted that it had contributed meaningfully to the attainment of sustainable democracy.
He, however, warned that the social media should not be allowed to denigrate the important role of the traditional media in nation building.
He warned that, while the social media was expected to play complementary role, it was gradually rendering the traditional media redundant.
“The social media has rendered the traditional media almost redundant and we should beware of what will come out of that.
“The traditional media has a role to play in democracy and that is the important thing that we should remember.
“We should always consider that the regulatory strictures the traditional media offers should be valuable and we should be careful because social media seems to be free for all,’’ he said.
Barrett urged journalists to always cater to their health in spite of the demands of the job.
He advised that, “given my experience, please take good care of your health in your youth because in your old age you may regret it.’’
NAN reports that Barrett, a Jamaican-born poet and journalist was born on Sept. 15, 1941, came to Nigeria in 1966 and became a Nigerian citizen in the mid-80s.
He was once an editor for the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, a freelancer for BBC World Service and his articles feature on some Nigerian national newspapers.
Some of his works as a poet and novelist were concerned with issues of black identity, dispossession and survival of the descendants of black Africans.
Notable among his several works was his debut novel, “Song for Mumu’’ and the books, “The State of Black Desire’’ and “A Memory of Rivers’’.
Barrett also lectured in the University of Ibadan and had received several accolades and awards around the world.
Edited By: Cecilia Odey/Sadiya Hamza