Nigeria’s failure could lead to another 1100 years of servitude for the black race, and that failure is imminent if drastic measures are not taken to rescue the country from its current trajectory”.
This was the consensus of various speakers on the occasion of the launch of a book titled: Why Not- Citizenship, State Capture, Creeping Fascism and Criminal Hijack of Politics in Nigeria written by professor of political economics, Pat Utomi on Tuesday at the Chartered Institute of Bankers House, Victoria Island Lagos. The book which portrays the dirty and selfish politics played by political actors in the country, is the author’s reflections on his brief sojourn into party politics and particularly, his eye opening experiences in the course of aspiring to governorship in his home state of Delta.
It’s painful to watch as Nigeria stutters and fumbles – Utomi
The book’s author, Prof. Utomi in his opening remarks, noted that Nigeria was “on the threshold of history, as according to him, “We are in defining times for our country. And it’s important to help get orientation right.”
“The question is why I write a book? Having written a few books, could this just be habit? Each time I think book, I think of the motive of the author, his view of the nature of man in society.”
Utomi said “the purpose of the excursion that is captured in this book derives from a very early embrace of the idea of Pan Africanism.”
He recalled that in the 70s, Nigeria as a front line state led the liberation struggle of South Africa and other African countries still not free from colonialism, noting that the country rose to “the occasion during those struggle moments, that CBS star reporter, Mark Wallace would recall a telephone conversation I had with him in 1996 when I challenged his reporting where he called Nigeria the most corrupt country in the world.
“And this was just a few months before the first Transparency International Report, which actually found Nigeria the most corrupt country in the world. But he had said that before there was any objective statement on that.
“But what is even more important is what Mike Wallace said in that telephone conversation that we had. He said that immediately after the civil war, he came to Nigeria and interviewed Gen. (Yakubu) Gowon who was Head of State. And that he was so excited about what Nigeria was emerging to be that he did a story that was titled: ‘The first black power emerges.’ He said but 25 years later, Nigeria had disappointed incredibly.
“So, as I enter the autumn of my own time of being, nearly 25 years after that encounter with Wallace, and 45 years after I was supposed to have pulled off the impossible by getting Gen. Joe Garba to arrive at University of Nigeria when they were still looking for Dimka and Co, to engage us in a conversation about Nigeria’s foreign policy, I’m pained that our country stutters
“I’m pained that our country stutters and fumbles still and we are not sure if (Robert D) Kaplan’s prediction of the coming anarchy is about to come true. This is the kind of pain that leads you to begin to reflect on experience. No patriot will have these kinds of experiences and not think they have a duty to tomorrow so that such may not be, as we say in Nigeria, our portion.” Utomi warned that Nigeria’s impending failure would have disastrous consequences for the Negro race.
“Can Nigeria shed its historic raison d’être by becoming a source of shame to the black man, rather than the fountain of the redemptive essence of the Negro race? My personal fear is that Nigeria’s failure to live its promise may actually result in 1100 years of servitude for the black man.
“If that is not good enough reason to write a book, I don’t know what will be. So, how did we get here? Having experienced Nigeria as a student activist, a technocrat in the federal government, and an executive in the industry, an entrepreneur, a public intellectual, an academic, a journalist, a civil society champion and a politician, I see it as an imperative of being engaged to offer reflections on where things went wrong for the benefit of the future.
“It is clear to me that the southward journey of our ship of state and the lack of progress can be domiciled at the doorsteps of a collapse of culture, which is largely the effect of challenged citizenship behavior: State Capture, Creeping Fascism and Criminal Hijack of Politics in Nigeria.
“We are all witnesses to these developments, these things that have evolved before our very eyes. It’s not so clear what patriot’s call should be in these kinds of circumstances. Think the long term consequences of the part we are traveling is such that anybody who truly cares must do something now.”
Utomi’s book portrays the ignorance, insincerity and lack of enlightenment of Nigeria’s elite – Reuben Abati
The book’s reviewer, journalist and spokesperson for ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Reuben Abati said it is a livid portrayal of the “ignorance, insincerity and absolute lack of enlightenment on the part of Nigeria’s social and political elite.”
Abati noted that the book “will draw mischievous reviews in the shape of, ‘We told you, didn’t we?’ Or cries of disapproval and protest from those who are victims of Utomi’s case study approach to the portraiture of the idiocy, ignorance, insincerity and absolute lack of enlightenment on the part of Nigeria’s social and political elite.”
He noted that while the author had written many books in the past, “This is different because it is part of a trilogy conveying what Utomi calls a narrative of existence. It is an intellectualised, analytical and elevated version of that book by Lamidi Adebibu titled: “What I Saw,” except that this is not about ‘Amala’ and ‘Gbegri’ politics.
“It is more about how that kind of politics; the politics of the self, the politics of I, me, myself, has turned Nigeria into modern slavery, failed potential and missed opportunities orchestrated by those who rather than move the country forward, have raped the mother nation in abject demonstration of lack of conscience, values and the much needed citizenship spirit.”
He described the author as a “Political Economist, professor of entrepreneurship, one of Nigeria’s leading public intellectuals and one of the few in that category, who have refused to give up on the country, emmigrate to another country and set up better opportunities, new friends, away from the difficult environment that Nigeria has become.
“Considering his devotion in the last four decades to the selfless task of seeking to make Nigeria a better place through the creation and development of the public sphere, propelled not by the values of personal gain but the common good, selfless leadership and National growth through enterprise and service.
From an early beginning as a Catholic Church altar boy, exposed to Dominican principles to his involvement in student unionism for public progress, his stint as a journalist reporting on the Nigerian dilemma. With many years of involvement as a leader in business and advocacy and activism Utomi has remained a recurrent lesson in the Nigerian public place, in a country where many have given up and no longer bother about tomorrow.
The book will definitely generate reactions across the board – Gov. Sanwo-olu
In his remarks, Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-olu noted thatthe book “will definitely generate reactions across the broad spectrum of our society.”
The governor who was represented by the Secretary to Lagos State Government, Mrs. Folashade Jaji noted that Utomi is “indeed one of our bright minds with vast knowledge, particularly on political and economic issues as they affect the growth and development of Nigeria. Of course, he had been exposed to high level politicking at a very young age when he was appointed special advisor on political matters to President Shehu Shagari, even before the idea of promulgating the Not Too Young To Run law came into public consciousness.
“The relevance of the book that is being launched today should be situated in the light of how it examines pertinent issues that are cropping up in our socio-political consciousness, that may turn out to become hurdles to national development if not handled with a sense of responsibility.
“Professor Utomi has attempted to awaken our collective interest of the necessity to re energise our consciousness as a people and defend our patrimony.
“I commend the author for remaining true to type by using his analytical skill as a technocrat, academic and international management expert to dissect pertinent issues affecting our collective lives as a people and attempting to provide solutions.”
In her own personal remarks, Jaji decried the failure of political leadership in the country, wondering why it has proved difficult for Nigeria to develop like other countries of the world.
“When I left office as Head of Service in 2015, I was disillusioned because I felt that governance is not rocket science if there is sincerity of purpose. I think our people will get the dividends of democracy and we will not be referred to, as the president of America Trump once said, one of those ‘sh*thole’ countries.
“It is very sad that our leaders have not been able to provide for the people. I don’t know why it is such a herculean task. We all travel, we see how developed these developed nations are and I don’t know why it is difficult for us to develop. I used to ponder.
“When I took up this position and they told me I’m now a politician, and I always say no, I’m not a politician. I say that because when they say you are a politician, it connotes a lot of negative things in my mind. But in the capacity that I’m serving, I’m there to serve everybody.”
Revolution is inevitable if govt fails to observe the rule of law – Falana
Speaking at the launch, Human Rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) noted that if the government refuses to allow the rule of law, the people will have no alternative but to revolt. He pointed out that there could not be a democracy where there is no rule of law and where peoples rights are not protected.
Its very difficult to attend a book launch where a writer is calling for revolutionary change these days because you could be accused of committing treason or terrorism, he remarked.
I have been to three African countries in the last couple of weeks to deliver lectures on human rights. Human rights in many African countries are different from what you call human rights in Nigeria. Our president has just graciously appointed about six women in a cabinet of 43, and people are saying we are making progress, because there were two the last time. This is when other African countries like South Africa, Rwanda and so on, have achieved parity, 50 percent for women, 50 percent for men. In fact, Rwanda has the highest number of women legislators in the world.
Falana emphasized that other African countries are leaving Nigeria behind, warning that things could still get much worse if those in authority fail to do the right things.
Some African countries are trying to fix their problems practically. Some are fighting corruption without making any noise. Not like some countries that are fighting corruption, but at the same time, appointing corrupt people who are standing trials as cabinet members.
I met the attorney general of Gambia, a young man. I won two cases at the Ecowas Court against Yahaya Jammeh: One a journalist was awarded $100,000 for illegal detention; he was later killed in detention. The other one was tortured for 30 days;, he got $200,000 from the Ecowas Court. I asked him what he was doing about it. He said, Mr. Falana, we were just trying to write you. We believe in the rule of law, we have paid the $100,000 to the family of the journalist and for the $200,000 we are negotiating.
I expressed surprise. He asked why I was surprised. I said because Im part of this region where many presidents dont obey court orders.
We moved to Senegal. It is a new Senegal; beautiful roads, uninterrupted electricity and water and the rest. In the course of our conference, my friend who is a Nigerian said to me, Femi, have you noticed something? I said, no. He said, we have been here for three days, I have not stumbled on a pothole.
We moved to Ghana for a lecture and as soon as I was rounding off my programme, I learnt the president was in town, President Nana Akufo-Addo. I called him, Your Excellency Im in town. He said, Femi, what can I do for you?
I told him I needed to see him in his office because I had a judgment which the government of Ghana had not obeyed. A 15-year-old Nigerian boy died in 2013, he was taken out to swim and he got drowned. The parents came; we went to court and got a judgment in the Ecowas Court that the parents be awarded $250,000. Not that the government of Ghana killed the boy, but that the government of Ghana failed to investigate the circumstances of his death.
He said I should please come to his office. I went and gave him the judgment and he scanned through it. He asked if Ghana was represented in the case. I said yes, by the attorney general. He looked at it and asked, and we didnt comply? I said yes, the former president, Mahama didnt comply. He said OK. He called the attorney general there immediately and told him to comply with the judgment.
The point Im making is that you cannot have democracy without the rule of law. Nobody is coming to invest in your country without the rule of law because when you are taking your money to anywhere in the world, you will ask, if there is a breach of contract, will I get justice in their courts? Will it be fast? Will they comply with the judgment? If you are told its not certain, you move your money elsewhere.
So, its not just enough to say we are disobeying Court order because of security. An attorney general goes to the National Assembly to say we are disobeying court order because of national security. Excuse me! National Security is part of the rule of law. The security of the government is different from the security of the nation. A government may subvert national security as we saw in the case of Abacha.
If we do not follow the rule of law, revolution is the alternative whether anybody likes it or not. We had elections in February and March this year, over 2000 people were arrested by the police for violence and killings in Rivers State and other places. But up till now, not a single person has been charged before any court. If we have a culture of impunity, we are in trouble.
Falana said the countrys political system had been hijacked and that he could have advised Utomi against going to run for governor in Delta State.
“You are still investing hope in the elite. I have given up. We must go to the people and embark on sensitisation of the people. We must now go to the people; go and embark on the sensitization of the masses,” he said.
“If you told me that you were going to go and contest, I would have asked you not to go. I tried in 2003 in my poor Ekiti State that I thought was innocent. I went out to campaign from village to village, I went to every community to ask them what their challenges were and what we could do together.
“But the elite in Ado Ekiti told me, Mr. Falana, dont waste your time campaigning. They said I was the best candidate. I said, so what do I do? They said, but you know your problem? They say here that if you become governor you will not allow people to steal. I thought it was an honest compliment, I said yes that I intended to save money so there would be money for development. They said, No, ‘thats not what our people want. They want the money now.’
“You can’t be a governor in a state in Nigeria today without at least N3billion, even in the smallest states.”
Falana regretted that Nigeria was in trouble on all fronts, as according to him, there is pervasive ignorance in the country.
Speaking of the arrest of Omoyele Sowore, Sahara Reporters publisher for organizing what he termed #RevolutionNow protest, Falana noted that Nigerians are now the ones demonising one another before the government.
“We are in trouble on all fronts. I beg those of you who are here today, buy copies and distribute, that’s what I do. And when I give you a book, I will call you, ‘I want to know what is in the first chapter or the last chapter,’ to monitor that you have read the book. That’s my advice to all of you here.
“We should stop demonising ourselves like the government. A young man was arrested over the weekend. And while he is still in detention, a lot of information is circulating, ‘Oh, he took money from Dubai, they want to destabilize the country.’ In fact one went out this morning: ‘Eeh, when they were destroying NEPA, there was no revolution, when they were selling Nigeria away, there was no revolution, now they are calling for revolution.'”
“Meanwhile, the man who is accused of causing a revolution is in detention. And many Nigerians are told me; ‘Femi, that young man went too far. How can he be calling for revolution?’ I said, where is the offense? He said terrorism Act. I said, under what section? ‘Treason.’ Under what section of the criminal code?” he asked.
He said it would be stupid of the government to charge Sowore, as according him, President Muhammadu Buhari will be his first witness.
I do hope that the government will not charge him; the government will not be stupid to charge Sowore. You know why? He had briefed me. When he told them yesterday that he won’t make a statement unless he speaks to his lawyer, they said ‘who is your lawyer?’ He said Femi Falana. In fairness to them (DSS), they gave him a telephone to phone me. Of course I knew they were monitoring the phone, and I told him I hope they wont charge you, because if they do, some of the people in government will be our witnesses, he said.
“You know why? One of them, I wont mention his name, in 2011, he asked Nigerians to learn from the Egyptian revolution and be ready for a revolution in Nigeria. So, he will be my first witness.”
He recalled how himself and the late Gani Fawehinmi, alongside three others were charged with treason by the Ibrahim Babangida government for pasting posters.
“The late Chief Gani Fawehinmi and four other people were charged with treasonable felony by the Ibrahim Babangida junta. I was one of them. We were detained in Kuje prison for two months. They told us we were going home and we were happy. But I told Fawehinmi I’m not sure we are going home yet. They drove us for about 15 minutes from the prison and we landed in a court and were charged with treasonable felony. And what was the offence? We pasted thousands of posters across the country “Babangida must go.” That was the treasonable felony.
“So we were charged. The two of us who were lawyers among the five decided to defend ourselves and our colleagues. When I had to address the court, I said my lord section 41 of the criminal code states that anyone who plots to remove the president of the republic during his time of office in other means rather than what the constitution permits, is deemed to have committed treasonable felony and is liable to life imprisonment. But if you levy war with a view to overrunning the president, you have committed treason, section 37, death penalty. I said my lord, the president of my country, Babangida, did not have a fixed term of office.
“Two, he couldn’t have been removed by constitutional means because he didn’t come to office by constitutional means. I said this law did not have a military dictator in mind. At that stage, Gani took over. He said my lord, ‘look at the charge before you if it’s not odious.’ And the judge said, ‘please, you know I’m a Chief magistrate.’
“Gani said, ‘my lord it is frivolous and vexatious.’ The Judge said, ‘Gani please can you calm down?’ Gani said ‘my lord, those who should be charged with treason are in the villa.”‘
Falana said those who are in government now are harassing Nigerians with treason, but some of them will be tried for treason.
“So it is a great irony that those of us who are fighting for change and democracy are the ones facing a trial for treasonable felony. Those who are in power now are harassing Nigerians with treason but there is no status of limitation, some of them will be tried one day for treason.
“If they don’t want to provoke the Nigerian people, they should please embrace the rule of law. And for all of us here, those who say, ‘Oh, they went too far.’ I beg you, chapter 4 of the constitution which has outlined the fundamental rights of Nigerians provides that you cannot violate any provision without the process permitted by law.
“So, bankers here, please warn FIRS, in the course of collecting taxes, you can’t remove my account without my permission or without a court order. Two, you can’t kill a Nigerian without having put him on trial and have him convicted and sentenced to death by a judge. If you detain anyone beyond 24 hours, or 48 hours where you do not have a court with 40 kilometers, you must get a court order.
“If you are going to proscribe an organization, it cannot be by ex-parte. You must serve the person and say, ‘come and show the court why we should not proscribe you.’ But you can’t do it behind me. It’s like heading home today and I’m told that somebody has gotten a judgment to take possession of my house. You must hear me.”
Nigerians must stop electing representatives under ‘fraudulent’ 1999 constitution Elder Fred Adeyegbe
Also speaking at the event, senior lawyer, writer and political activist, Elder Fred Adeyegbe said Nigerias 1999 constitution does not represent the aspirations of the people, even as he pointed out that it was written by one man and not by Nigerians and asked Nigerians to stop sending representatives to Abuja.
The 84-year old who was a front line NADECO activist, blamed the countrys legal profession, particularly the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for not living up to its responsibilities in preserving the rule of law.
“We have to thank the likes of Prof. Pat Utomi who are drawing our attention to our individual and collective responsibilities. It is saying to you, it is so bad, how are you going to let it continue? he said.
“One question you have never asked is this: On the Ist of October 1960, the British withdrew their sovereignty and their sovereign powers over Nigeria and handed over your country and your fate to you. From that very day, one of the architects, perhaps, of our independence, who had earlier delayed it for a number of years for not being ready to take independence actually stood up and admonished his people that this country called Nigeria is the property of our grandfather, Uthman Dan Fodio, and we are to make sure that the people nearest to us are used to enforce our ownership of this land, and the people farther away must never be allowed anywhere near public authority and governance.
“The British sold those who were Nigerians at the time a dummy that Nigeria will stand on a tripod of Hausa, Igbo and the Yoruba. In no time at all, through the influence, Im sure, of that party who said the country belongs to them, they tried to cheat God by creating an ethnic nationality that the good God never thought of creating. So, we now have today what you call the Hausa/Fulani. Nobody said anything about what Ahmadu Bello said. They let it go.
“A lot of other things happened about which you asked no questions. And it went on and on until the military took over. And they came to swim in waters they were never trained to swim. They messed up the society and that was also part of the beginning of where we are today.”
Adeyegbe said while the countrys president, Muhammadu Buhari has continued to disobey court orders, the bar has kept quiet.
“In 1986, the legal profession was celebrating its 100 years of practice in Nigeria. My peers called upon me to put up a play for entertainment depicting the legal professions approach to a number of things in Nigeria. I wrote the book, a play called Budiso. I want you to know that Bu there is Buhari, Di is (Tunde) Idiagbon. They were the people who deprived you of your rights and you did nothing about it. That same Buhari is in power today.
“The Nigerian Bar Association is not doing anything, some are hobnobbing with him, some stay and just watch.
The people who served the country as military heads of state, governors and so on, did so contrary to the provisions of the then constitution. They were all coup makers. One of them has become president and it is his government that is saying that you cannot mention a particular word (revolution).
“It is only in Nigeria that past coup makers come back to tell us how eligible they are for office. What did that same military do? Here is the so called constitution of your country. I call it so-called because I know that it was the then, again, so-called head of state because he was also part of the coup, Abdulsalami (Abubakar) who gave it to you. There is a chapter here in which all the sins; all the atrocities committed by the military while they were in power are said to be non-justiciable. Nobody can raise the matter anywhere. And you do nothing about it. They can show you how superior they are, they have shown you how they can do what they like and you do nothing about it.”
Regretting the neglect of the rule of law in the country, he noted that while a court had declared that Chief Ernest Shonekan was not a head of state, he has continued to attend meetings of heads of state and nobody has raised a finger, while pointing out that Buhari has emerged as the epitome of disobedience of court judgments.
He expressed dismay that while the government has continued to turn the military against Nigerian citizens in the form of Operation Python Dance and Crocodile Smile, foreigners are allowed to overrun the country and kill people at will.
“In this day and age when the president who is the epitome of the disobedience of court judgment is in charge, I dont know what you expect to get.
“There is another question that you have not asked. Buhari is known to be a no nonsense person and we have seen his intentions in dealing with the corrupt people of your country if he finds them. And yet, under his watch, even as former general because what I understand the role of the military is to ensure that foreigners do no mess up with you. But what do we have today? Operation Python Dance, Operation Crocodile Smile. They turn their arms and their ammunition, their uniforms that they put on; both paid for by your tax, inwards to give you operation Python or Crocodile. That is what we have allowed so far.
“The question is, doesnt it amaze you that our no nonsense president, who wanted to be president so much that he tried three or four times before, in all of that time, never in one sentence or speech, said what he wanted to do for Nigeria?” he asked.
“You gave him another chance in 2015. I would like to see anybody who can beat his chest and say what Buhari has done. He came back in 2019 and suddenly, your porous borders became non-existent. We have influx of strangers whom a president who is commander of the armed forces, with all the arsenals at his disposal has done nothing to repel.
There is only one thing I want to tell you, a call to action. Do you have arms? No. To advise you to become vigilantes against people who are carrying AK47 is to advise you to commit suicide. My suggestion is that you stop sending representatives in the Senate or House of Reps. Tell them you dont want them to represent you anymore. They are not capable. If you succeed in doing that, they wont go there using your name and messing you up some more.”