Legal practitioners, scholars say Nigeria’s unity negotiable, calls for federal structure re-negotiation

From Left:Chairman of the Occasion,Dr. Tunji Abayomi,Editor-in-Chief,Former Assistant Director,SSS/CEO, Zoomlens Security Solutions,Mr. Dennis Amachree,Head of Unit,University of Lagos Distance Learning Institute,Mrs. Modebelu Obiageli, Chairman, Editorial Board, The Nation Newspaper, Mr. Sam Omatseye and Editor-in-Chief,Afrikanwatch,Mr. Mark Orgu at the Afrikanwatch Annual Lecture Gold Merit Award in Lagos

• Politicians yet to understand what democracy is all about, says Babawale
• Nigeria is infected with ‘Chinese disease’ that may lead to colonialism

Emminent legal luminaries, Dr. Tunji Abayomi and Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) as well as Chairman of Editorial Board, The Nation Newspapers, Mr. Sam Omatseye; Rev. Father Anthony Kanu and Prof. Olatunde Babawale have asserted that the unity of Nigeria was negotiable.

The scholars believed that in the face of the rising waves of separatists’ agitations and the relentless demand for restructuring “the unity of the country based on the 1914 Amalgamation could be re-discussed,” as they also expressed frustration on why Nigeria is still in murky water after 103 years of coming together as a country. Saying “instead of using our diversity to turn around our economy as the Asians had done, we engage in divisive tendencies.

Speaking during the 2017 Afrikanwatch Magazine award and public lecture/documentary  held recently in Lagos with the theme Should the labour of our heroes’ past be in vain?, they also said the greatness of a nation is not defined by continued agitation and dialog on issues that underdeveloped it but should be on things that bring out the best from all the ethnic components.

In his address, the Guest Speaker, Prof Babawale of the Department of political science, University of Lagos in a paper titled: “Democracy and the Labour of our Heroes’ Past’, said Nigeria has invested heavily in democratic governance and therefore deserves to obtain returns.

He said our experience with democracy in the immediate post-independence era before the advent of the military has remained a point of reference for political observers, intellectuals and even practitioners.

The university don noted that politics in the First Republic focused more on the delivery of the public good, observance of the rule of law, participation by the citizens, respect for civil liberties, healthy competition among the nation’s constituent units among others.

According to him, “The result for such focus then made Nigeria the leading as African nation and one of the world’s promising democracies. It was precisely the point at which those rules and tenets of democracy began to be violated that the republic ran into troubled waters and eventually got overthrown by the military.”

He lamented that there was no denying the fact that political parties in Nigeria lack internal democracy, a factor that has adversely affected the country’s march towards true democracy.

He reminded the audience that democracy is not alien to Nigeria, and Africans, as there are existing traditional practices among the African people that approximate to democratic governance. Such practices as the Igbo village democracy and the cross-cultural extended family tradition can be rejuvenated to entrench sustainable democratic governance.

“Our traditional sentiment abhors privatization of communal resources as well as authoritarianism and the lack of accountability on the part of political office holders as power was shared vertically and everyone had a say in how society was governed.” He said.

“Abuse of power was curtailed by the various structures put in place to effectively check the powers of the ruler. We therefore need a kind of cultural renaissance to enable us face the challenges of governance and democracy in our country”.

“It is sad that even though development is now back on the African agenda, our development policies do not place sufficient premium on the cultural dimension to development. Our development plans in Africa are strong on economic ambitions but weak in their cultural content”.

He added “Time has come for us to stop treating culture as a residual category in development. In developed societies, culture is seen as part of economics and economics part of culture”.

While advocating a social economy paradigm of development which assumes the launching of a development process that is socially just, economically productive, ecologically sustainable, politically stable and participatory and culturally vibrant, he said, “collective decision to sanitize and disinfect the electoral process, on what he call parasites, leaches and vampires who masquerade as politicians as it will be in our collective interest to insulate the electoral umpire from partisan politics through a more inclusive method of appointing people into those electoral bodies, as steps must also be taken to dispose of all election litigations before the assumption of office of elected officials especially the President and Governors.

In his remark, Dr. Abayomi, one of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirants for the 2016 election in Ondo State who was also the chairman of the event said the current system needed to be tampered with for the country to move forward.

Omatseye said Nigeria heroism have been so flaw, defective that when you call an Obasanjo a hero, is actually because the level of our heroism is very low; because of the low level of our heroism, the man that stopped coup d’état, we say he’s a hero where in other societies, people change generations to become high level people in their society

All we have in Nigeria is ethnic heroes; you ask an Igbo man who is his hero, he will never mention Awolowo, you will ask a Yoruba man the same question and he will never say Zik.Calling on governments to re-introduced history into the school curriculum, he said, “I was sad after a video of a young boy where he was ask who his hero was between Obafemi Awolowo and ex Nigeria Super Eagles forward, Obafemi Martins, and he was very quick to mention Obafemi Martins, this was actually in Obafemi Awolowo home village, Ikene, Ogun State so, that is the nature; the reason we don’t have a hero is the failure of heroes, whether it is Adekunle Fajuyi , Muritala Muhammed, Awolowo, they were heroes in closest and because we don’t have heroes with epic character, people that carries with them a heavy load of ideas and consciousness, and because we don’t have such hero, we have problems such as corruption, Kidnappings among others; look at corruption not as a problem in Nigeria but the symptom of a greater problem which is our culture. We have a culture that has been distorted, and we become slaves of certain values that have already been distorted.

There is no sense of honour anymore, you hear people stealing millions today, billions tomorrow and no one cares because judges are also going to collect their own cola nut, you take them to court and they come out a free man.

Speaking on the Nigeria debt, he said, “one other problem facing our country is ‘Chinese disease: it is terrible because there is no way we can pay back the money we borrowed and we continue to borrow from the Chinese government and the Chinese know so, we are going through another phase of colonialism.

The other problem is that politics has become the only game in town. A friend of mine went to his town in Ekiti and say that he asked all the young men that just finished from school what they want to do and they all said ‘Politics’, this is the only place where your account will ring N2 today and tomorrow will ring N10m so, why do you need other job.

That is why we have militancy flourishing.On another issue of concern, the derivation fund given to oil producing communities in the Niger Delta region, he added “The host communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSTCON) were given 13 percent derivation fund why if same Oil was found in Kano or other northern state, the host communities would have all; it would be ‘every community should live on what they have.

On his part, Publisher and Editor–in- Chief of the African Watch Magazine, Mr Mark Columbus Orgu said “the present situation of Nigeria has challenged us to look into the account of the late Niger Delta freedom fighter, Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro where he asked if the circumstances that brought about our independence was truly ripe enough for self-serving at the time the British left.

“However, we must come together to correct our faulty foundation, we must look at our country and her true heroes’ who have made indelible mark on the sound of time.”He added “It would be a trite notion if mere men are allowed to build nations, this is because, they lack the will power, innovation to turn things around, saying Nigeria is not an exception to this, as the theme of lecture is a call for reflection and repentant for Nigerian leaders who have refused to do what is right, and have a critical examination of those referred to as heroes’ past.

Among the awardees include Chief. Mike, Ozekhome (SAN), Prof. Gabriel Tunde Babawale, Gen. Dr. Oviemo, Ovadje rtd OFR, Olorogun Barr. Benson Ndakara, Rev. Fr. Prof. Anthony Kanu (OSA), ACP Alade Taiwo Opoola rtd, Dr.Charles Oni, Hon. Oghene Egoh, Elder Emmanuel Oyibo, Elder Emmanuel, Mr. Adebowale Atoloye, and Pastor Martins Oluwafemi.

Other guests at the yearly event include, Prof. Patrick Egbule, Gen. Dr. Oviemo Ovadje rtd, OFR, Sen. Olabiyi Durojaiye,. Benson Ndakara, Pst. Martins Oluwafemi, Mr. Emmanuel Avielele, Joseph, Elder.

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