President Goodluck Jonathan should be ready to face the youth revolution he predicted last year if he fails to take steps to create jobs, assuage the pervasive hardship across the country and address the culture of impunity that has taken over governance in Nigeria, former president of the West Africa Bar Association Mr. Femi Falana, SAN said in Abuja yesterday. He spoke at the 10th Daily Trust Dialogue at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
Speaking on the topic “Nation Building: Challenges and Realities” Falana said unless critical issues of security and poverty are addressed, the anti fuel protests of January 2012 “may turn out to be a rehearsal of the social revolution which President Jonathan predicted.” He said although British colonialists introduced policies that “facilitated the ruthless exploitation of Nigeria’s natural resources,” recent Nigerian leaders have also maintained a culture of impunity which resulted in the internal colonisation of the majority of citizens.
He regretted that rather than address security matters and critical social issues to improve the welfare of Nigerians, the PDP government hiked oil prices which sparked spontaneous reactions from Nigerians.
“Instead of securing lives and property and creating jobs, he (Jonathan) increased fuel prices...and we went to the streets. The musicians in Lagos played for free. We never paid them. But the president came out to abuse some of us who demonstrated against such level of impunity... The president accused us of being sponsored,” he said.
Falana also said in spite of the corruption in the system, what should worry Nigerians more at the moment is the culture of impunity among leaders. He said, “No country has eradicated corruption entirely. Just like Ibori who is in jail in the United Kingdom, the former governor of Illinois is in jail for selling Obama’s seat in the Senate. What Nigerians should be worried about is the culture of impunity going on in the country. The crux of our problem is that people can murder ordinary citizens and get away with it.”
The senior advocate also criticised the corruption in Nigeria’s oil industry saying “When we are talking about the resources of our country, what we call oil wealth in Nigeria today that we fight over is the crumb from the master’s table. No Nigerian, no governors’ forum know how much oil is produced in a day.” He said the Nuhu Ribadu committee report was frustrated because it sought to ask questions about the oil being produced a day. “But they said no, we must not get there,” he said.
He paid tribute to chairman of the occasion, the former president of Botswana Festus Mogae, for reviving the economy of his country during his tenure leading to increased living standards but regretted that many African leaders have encouraged policies that make the rich richer and the poor, poorer. He also regretted that many years after independence African countries conduct elections on the basis of religion and ethnicity.
He observed that Nigeria’s first generation leaders, Ahmadu Bello (Sardaunan Sokoto), Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe are being remembered with nostalgia “because of the betrayal of the generation of Nigerians that have ruled this country since the 60s.”