Braithwaite, Utomi, Falana, Asobie, Others Call For National Renaissance To ‘Save Nigeria’
CITING the decline of the country into what they described as a failed state, a consequence of pervasive corruption in governance, eminent Nigerians, among them academics, leading lawyers and human rights activists have called for national renaissance ahead of 2015, in order to avert a looming catastrophe. Speakers after speakers at the Inaugural Annual Tunji Braithwaite Birthday Symposium, part of activities to mark the 80th birthday celebration of the legal icon and political thinker held in Lagos Friday, were unanimous that there was urgent need for the people to come together to launch a new national liberation movement to free Nigeria from political and economic thralldom imposed upon the country by its pseudo-capitalist, irresponsible politicians and their neo-imperialist allies.
Firing the first salvo, celebrant, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, in his remarks said that a year ago, on the occasion of public presentation of his book The Jurisprudence of the Living Oracles, encouraged President Goodluck Jonathan to make the most of his unique opportunity, give a good account of himself, for the benefit of the nation that there could be no way out for a sensible and peaceful resolution of the grave issues of corruption and bad governance in this almost failed state other than by a national sovereign conference.
But, unfortunately, said Braithwaite, it would appear that the political elite was not amenable to the idea of a national conference. Delving into his area of expertise, the legal luminary advised that the “burning issue of a legitimate constitution instead of the military-hatched decree of 1999, imposed on a sovereign people, must be, and I repeat, must be finally dealt with to the satisfaction of a sovereign people.” Continuing, Braithwaite said: “We have consistently admonished against the on-going manipulative tinkering of the constitution in the pretext of constitution amendment by the National Assembly, largely motivated by its collective membership’s self-interest, which runs parallel to those of the masses.”
Lamenting that corruption reigns supreme in every area of governance, legislative and to a less extent, in the administration of justice (and this condition of the latter is unacceptable by virtue of its sacred duty) in Nigeria.Braithwaite added: “We have persistently demanded the dethronement of King Corruption before another charade elections are stage-managed. These are minimum national renaissance imperatives that must be accomplished before 2015, if we are to avert the looming catastrophe. Keynote Speaker and Professor of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Professor Assisi H Asobie said that Nigeria, in its entirety, was beset by the twin challenge of political instability and national insecurity.
“Kidnapping of persons, ritual murder, armed robbery, trafficking in human beings (adults and children), even slavery, are on the rise. There is growing threat of ethnic and religious conflicts partisan political disagreements, acts of corruption are interpreted in ethnic or religious terms, and even portend to ignite inter-ethnic, inter-religious war or war between an imaginary north and an imaginary south. Such is the extent to which people’s nerves are frayed by mindless bad governance, in our dear country, that an outbreak of civil war appears imminent every minute,” he said.Asobie added that Nigeria was already in the throes of a civil war, because in reality, Boko Haram insurgency was a war against the Nigerian state. According to him, the strategy employed was that of guerrilla warfare that could be sustained for a very long time if it was confronted with just violence and nothing else.
The former Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) then said that the only foreseeable solution was for the people to come together in a conference to decide how they would want to live in one country. Presidential candidate in 2011 election and professor of political economy and management expert, Pat Utomi Okedinachi said: “One of my favourite ways to measure the health of an economy is to assess it through the quality of life of the people. Very closely tied to the quality of life of the people is the level of employment or unemployment, because if people are going to live decent, quality of life, they need to have income.
One of the problems of using GDP or output to measure the economy is that you can have a situation in a country where some individuals can have an unfair proportion of the output of the country, as was in the case with Brazil, and a few people getting wealthy with very little production where national revenue is mainly extracted as rent or stolen by the way of corruption, as is the case in Nigeria. So the use of GDP as the basis for evaluating economic growth has limited value in terms of issues that are before us.” He added: “With statistics, you can tell a lot of lies about anything because statistics is the father of lies.
But, the most important thing is the quality of life of the people. It is correct to say the Nigerian economy is growing at 7 per cent, but what is the value of the growth when the people cannot feel the impact of the growth? It is growth for those who are profiting from it, who are very few.”This, he said, therefore meant that there were leakages (corruption) in the system, which ought to be plucked for any meaningful development to take place in the country. Utomi lamented that corruption had thrown the country into so much disequilibrium that in any major statistics like Human Development Index (HDI), Transparency International rating, Global Stability Index, Nigeria featured precariously near the bottom. “We are a society that has no balance,” he surmised, hence the need for a round table on how to fashion out the right balance. Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, said the ruling class in Nigeria was very selfish and irresponsible and that it was only Nigerian government in the whole world that kept kidnappers in its payroll.
He explained that what was needed in the country was not the “New PDP” but a new liberation movement. He suggested that instead of state governors illegally deporting Nigerians from one state to another, government should pay all unemployed graduate unemployment benefits. Renowned policy analyst, Galtima Liman advised that the people and policy makers and moulders should go back to the drawing board to decide how Nigerians should pick their leaders. While agreeing with the call for a sovereign national conference and call for revolution, Liman however, suggested “revolution without violence”, the type the Martin Luther King led in the Civil Rights era America.
This, he said, would ensure that country did not fall into the trap of people fuelling the Boko Haram insurgency, which, according to him, was aimed at destabilizing the country. Other speakers like Professor of International Relations and Jurisprudence at the University of Lagos, Akin Oyebode lamented that one sign that Nigeria was a failing state was the fact that multinationals were relocating from the country because of the rising spate of insecurity, resulting in abductions of their expatriate workers and even indigenous ones for ransom. Oyebode expressed regrets that “Aso Rock seems to have lost its marbles, incapable of tackling the rising state of insecurity.
Dame Marie Fatayi-Williams decried the lack of political boldness of the political leadership and elite to admit the truth: that Nigeria is in a deplorable situation, adding that this admission would enable them appreciate the enormity of the task before them.Fatayi-Williams therefore, wondered aloud: “Can we have an Arab Spring in Nigeria? Can we occupy? Are the ordinary Nigerians ready to die to liberate the country from the yoke of a leechin political elite?”