Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has said that tackling corruption issues in Nigeria would help address electoral rigging that has marred the nation’s political system.
Soyinka said this on Wednesday at a Colloquium in honour of the Executive Editor, The News/PM News, Mr Kunle Ajibade who turned 60 two days ago.
The event, which was held at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos, with the theme: “A Brighter Future for Nigeria and how to get there,” attracted dignitaries, Governor Rauf Aregbesola, former Governor Olusegun Osoba, former including Publisher, Vanguard newspapers, Sam Amuka; former Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) President, Ayo Obe; Odia Ofeimum, Lai Babatunde, Dr. (Mrs) Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu; Mike Awoyinfa, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu and Prof. Tunde Babawale.
Others are: Presidential aspirant and former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Kingsley Moghalu; Tunde Rahman, Gbenga Adefaye, Alh. Sanni Kabir, Owei Lakemfa, Omoba Yemisi Shyllon, Babafemi Ojudu, among others.
This was just as Lagos- based lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) told all the 36 governors in the country not to expect President Muhammadu Buhari to help them maintain law and order in their states, saying the governors had the power to control the police in their respective states, even as he suggested that the National Assembly should enact a law allowing military training for Nigerian citizens.
Soyinka, while saying that he had believed that the police were untouchable especially those at the helms of affairs of the police force, however, said the perception changed after the arrest and prosecution of the former Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun for corruption, having being exposed through an investigative story by Ajibade.
“Among those that I believe were untouchable before were the police but not those that were on the streets harassing and collecting money from people,” he said, noting that after Tafa Balogun’s saga, that he began to ask other questions as to “who corrupted the police and who made sure that the agencies enforcing law were corrupt?
“And that was why when I met Ribadu after former IGP, Tafa Balogun was arrested, I emphasised that the job of fighting corruption doesn’t end with the person holding the money but also how he got the money or how the money got into his bank account. Does he engage in other businesses aside law enforcement? And where did the money come from?” Soyinka queried.
“If we can solve issues of corruption, we will also be addressing cases of election rigging. This is because there is a direct nexus between that level of corruption and the degradation of a democratic process that we have witnessed in the country.
“If we had solved the cases properly, it would have helped curb corruption and solve the issue of democratic failure in Nigeria,” he said.
The Nobel Laureate paid tribute to the Ajibade’s tenacity in the course of the journalism profession, urging young journalists to emulate him, even as he sadly noted that the number of journalists that were killed while engaging in investigative journalism was more than those that died on the battlefield.
“I will only urge young journalists to emulate Ajibade’s tenacity. The number of journalists that were killed while engaging in investigative journalism were more than those that died on the battlefield,” Soyinka said.
In his remark, the former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Moghalu lamented that the nation’s standing in the comity of world nations had collapsed, describing Nigeria as a beggar nation.
Moghalu, who also lamented that the country had been so divided along the tribal line by people who were supposed to lay a solid foundation, said Nigeria was increasingly becoming poorer as it missed it with people reading their Democracy Day speeches talking about what they had achieved.
“Our standing in the world has collapsed. Nigeria is a beggar nation and when they give us the money, grasscutters eat it. We have a binding duty to know why we are increasingly being marginalised. Poverty is making us like slaves. We must educate our people on the kind of leaders they should elect.
“We are increasingly poor country, our economy is horrible. When people read democracy address and tell the people what they have achieved, we have missed the mark,” Moghalu said.
Also speaking on the theme, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, wife of the former governor of Ekiti State, said there was the need to create leaders, not through the ballot box, but right from the home as good leaders were not often found at the ballot box.
Erelu Fayemi described Ajibade, who was being honoured, as a role model, urging all to emulate his example.
Another speaker, Ayisha Osori, described Nigerian political parties as undemocratic, saying that most of the primary elections being conducted were sham.
According to her, people were merely hand-picked and imposed on others, adding that politics in Nigeria had now become an industry for the old generations.
Osori, therefore, called for a change of the system if things must work properly for the future, even as she enjoined people to join politics in a bid to change the system.
Speaking on the issue of security in the country, Lagos- based lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), charged all the 36 governors in the country not to expect President Buhari to help them maintain law and order in their states.
According to him, the governors have the power to control the police in their respective states.
Falana, who lamented that there had been so many killings in the land, maintained that it was not the duty of the Federal Government to maintain law and order in the states, contending that as such duties regarding the security of lives and properties belonged to the governors.
“A governor cannot go to the television and be crying that your people are killed, no; under the constitution of 1999, Section 214, we didn’t have a Federal Government Police, we have the Nigeria Police Force which shall be controlled, organised and supervised by the Nigeria Police Council.
“Who are the members of the Nigeria Police Council? The president as Chairman, Inspector General of Police, the Chairman of the Service Commission and the 36 state governors; so, we have a body where the governors constitute the largest number to determine the fate of the police. The president cannot appoint the IGP without seeking your consent or remove one but what has happened since 1999? The governors have totally abdicated the responsibility of managing the Nigeria Police Force to the president. No governor is informed, they are only informed in a meeting and nobody will oppose to it and that is the end of the matter. That is why we are in this mess.
“We are in a republic where the Supreme Court has held that the governor of a state is not for decoration, you have the power to give instruction to the police, the only time he can disapprove your instructions is when he says please, I want to confirm from the president,” said.
Falana stated that he had never, under this dispensation, heard of a situation where a governor ordered a Commissioner of Police to look for kidnappers who were causing the problem in his state and the commissioner said no.
He said: “The only thing done by Abuja is the payment of their salary, the operational allowances, equipment and the rest have been abandoned to the state; why then are they not taking control of the law and order in their states?”
Lamenting the several killings in places like Kaduna, Zamfara, Benue and Taraba, the human rights activist added that armed robbery and kidnapping incidents were also going on in other parts of the country.
“How did we get here? So, if we are gathered here to discuss the future of Nigeria, there has to be peace before we can plan ahead. Armed bandits have killed about 5,000 people in the last one-year in Zamfara State.
“Since the government has lost the monopoly of violence to criminals that is happening now, it is high time we call on the National Assembly to enact a law to allow military training for Nigerian citizens and pending the enactment of that law, I am calling on the president to make facilities available in those states where lives have become totally endangered so that young men and women can still make it even. I am not saying anything radical, this is in line with Section 220 of the Nigerian Constitution,” he said.
Also speaking, Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbeola, aligned with Falana’s position, urging Nigerians not to despair in the face of the security and other challenges in the country.
“The success of any African country as said by former Ghanaian president will be nothing if it is not linked to the success of the people. My vision is for a Nigeria that will give leadership to other nations, particularly within the Lake region of Africa, where the wealth of our race is actually. Nigeria has the potential to rally the annexation of the resources in Central Africa namely Congo, Kenya and others. Only Nigeria has the means to lead the process of using the resources for the uplift of the black race,” he said.
The former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, in his remark, decried that former President Olusegun Obasanjo for allegedly using the police to rig him and others out of power in 2003.
“We were going to court to tackle issues of physical responsibilities on police. In my own case, I had Israel Ajao as Police Commissioner. Weeks before the poll, he was working effectively and furnished me with security report.
“But the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, transferred him to Abuja by road. I had to fight before he was redeployed to Ogun State and that tells you how the president could disrupt things in the states,” he said.
While recalling how former IGP, Musliu Smith, was removed from office, Osoba lamented that these were some of the issues that had affected the country’s democracy and which they tried to correct but couldn’t because they were rigged out of office.
“Some of us tried to correct the notion, but because we were rigged out of office, we couldn’t pursue the cases anymore,” he said.
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