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Obasanjo has broken the records of Babangida and Abacha –Falana

Posted by By MIKAIL MUMUNI (mumikail@yahoo.com) on 2007/03/05 | Views: 2282 |

Obasanjo has broken the records of Babangida and Abacha –Falana


Fiery Lagos lawyer Mr. Femi Falana has fought many battles as a pro-democracy and human rights activist. He was at the forefront of the struggles against the dictatorships of Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha.

Fiery Lagos lawyer Mr. Femi Falana has fought many battles as a pro-democracy and human rights activist. He was at the forefront of the struggles against the dictatorships of Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha.

With just two months to the termination of the eight years in he saddle of President Olusegun Obasanjo , the longest for any civilian regime in Nigeria, Falana says it is not yet Uhuru .

He believes that like Babangida on the eve of his departure from power Obasanjo too has become a bull in a china shop and is ready to ignite crisis in the land so that he can stay on. The Lawyer who is also the president of West Africa Bar Association equally spoke on the state of emergency in his home state, Ekiti among other topical issues.
Excerpts:

When you appraise the ongoing transition program, do you agree with those who say president Obasanjo is not willing to quit on May 29 this year ?
This is not about of indulging in speculations. In matters of this nature, you have to look at the facts on ground. I have made the point elsewhere that the Nigerian President is the most powerful president in the democratic world. And being a human being , it is always very difficult to abdicate or voluntarily relinquish that position.

Can you elaborate on what you mean by the most powerful president ?
For instance, the powers of President George Bush of the US are limited to executive functions. The powers of the British Prime-Minister are limited to executive functions. Under section 315 of the Nigerian Constitution, the Nigerian president can amend any existing law single-handedly to ‘ make it conform with the provisions of the constitution’ without recourse to the National Assembly. When president Obasanjo annulled the Petroleum Trust Fund decree and the National Assembly was up in arms, their attention was drawn to that section. He can amend any law that he deems fit ‘to conform with the provisions of the law’.
Neither the US president , nor the British prime-minister, nor the Russian president or even the Chinese premier has such powers.

You feel the allure of such powers may make him not to want to go ?
Yes . A president that can allocate oil block single-handedly as he gave to retired General Theophilus Danjuma who sold part of the shares to some Chinese at the cost of 2.3 billion dollars I can tell you has enormous powers . It does not happen anywhere else in the world. What I am saying is that anyone who exercises such powers without check will find it difficult to go out there and become an ordinary citizen once again. Otherwise, why did Mr. President say the next election is going to be do-or-die battle ? Why is the vice-president saying it is going to a do-or-die-battle if they don’t allow him to contest ?

So what is the way out ?
The way out is for Nigerians to insist the elections must take place come rain, come sunshine. Whether it is a do-or-die-battle or not. We must have election. We must not allow the enemies of democracy who are starting a campaign very soon that ‘people have no confidence in the transition program, let us shift it to October , so that between October and January , we are going to have election petition handled at the election tribunals and we hand over power to a democratically elected government in January.’ Nigerians must resist any attempt to manipulate the process to elongate the tenure of this government.
To critics who don’t believe that Obasanjo would leave, he recently said they are mischief makers. He said he had told the United Nations , the African Union and the ECOWAS that he was leaving and that it was uncharitable for some Nigerians to still doubt his sincerity

The former military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida told the UN General Assembly in New York where he pledge and swore he was on his way out . but he came back to Nigeria to continue the manipulation of the expensive political transition program. Indeed, in 1992, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the late Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti ,Baba Omojola, Shegun Maiyegun and myself were charged before the Gwagwalada Chief magistrate court with treasonable felony for telling Nigerians that Babangida was not ready to leave.

So, it not the assurance by Obasanjo before the UN that will convince Nigerians that he is ready to quit. The handling of the transition is the only way to assure us that indeed he would vacate office on 29, May 2007.
We have had so many assures from him before . When he came out of jail in 1998 and people were suggesting to him that he was going to be the next president, he asked what he forgot in Aso Rock that he wanted to go and pick and asked how many presidents people wanted to make of him. Did he not also deny his interest in the third term agenda until it became clear to all that the manipulation of the National Assembly to allow for tenure elongation was hatched , plotted and organized from Aso Rock ?
Assurances are not enough to convince doubting Thomases that are actually having a genuine transition.
For me however, I don’t go about wasting my time about whether anybody is going or not. No. I belong to a group of Nigerians that would always be ready to push out any regime on the basis of genuine program in accordance with the laws of the land and we are doing that with respect to the ongoing transition program.
The president is always upset when you compare him or his regime with that of Babandida and late General Sani Abacha. He always insist that he is not like those people.

It is unfortunate, but the reality is that he has descended to their levels. And I can give a thousand and one instances to support this. It is very unfortunate. In 1993, president Obasanjo it was who as a former military head of state pleaded with Nigerians to manage General Ibrahim Babangida out of the crisis he has found himself by treating him like a bull in a china shop. We have come to that level now in the management of the transition program in Nigeria. Everybody is now doubting whether we are not being taken to the precipice . It that unfortunate. Again, in the wake of the SAP debate under Babangida, in 1989 when Babangida said there was no alternative to SAP, Obasanjo gave one of his best speeches titled ‘ SAP with a human face’.

He gave his own alternative and said Babangida’s SAP lacked human face and was harsh. Under the provisions of the constitution titled the objective of state policies, the constitution specifically stated that the economy shall not be run in such a way that the wealth of the nation shall be concentrated in a few hands. The economic policies of the Obasanjo government have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few. He insulted the rest of recently when he invited a few people to Aso Rock and called them the apostles of his policies. Four of those in that gathering were his own children. Four ! So reckless, his biological children ! and he is handing over Nigeria to them !

And why is the regime talking of continuity? Continuity of poverty? Continuity of unemployment? Continuity of bad roads? Continuity of closure of universities? He is telling us that any body who is not willing to continue with these disasters will not have power handed to him. What arrogance ? What do this people take us for? Where were they when we were fighting for democracy? For heaven sake, why should anybody who has conspired with previous regimes to wreck this country now insult us by saying you either follow democracy my way or we wont have democracy?

President Obasanjo will never agree with you that he had been part of the rot. He believe that Nigeria and Nigerians were better off under his regime and those that succeeded him destroyed country while his second coming was to right those wrongs.
Let us not distort the history of Nigeria. The Olusegun Obasanjo military regime took us to the debt trap when it took the jumbo loan in 1978 . The Shehu Shagari , Babangida and others only built on it. When he turned round later and said he wanted to repay the fraudulent and dubious loan, we asked for reconciliation. Even locally, if you have a dispute with your bank about what you are owing , the first thing you do is to reconcile the account. But that was not done. He just accepted the figures given us by the westerners . And in one fell swoop, we dashed the west 12 .4 billion dollars only to turn round and take fresh loans. So what are we saying about Obasanjo being the redeemer?

You have merely drawn comparison between Obasanjo and Babangida. What does his regime have in common with Abacha’s ?
You want to tell me you don’t know? For most Nigerians, the greatest offence Abacha indulged in was the brazen commission of crimes against humanity in terms of state organized killings. That we have witnessed under this regime. The gruesome murder of Chief Bola Ige, Chief Dokubo and Harry Marshall. Dr Daramola and others . It has not been easy to fish out the killers until themselves rose up as in the case of Ekiti State to ask for their rights and insist that the killers be brought to book by engaging in their own private investigation.

That reference to Ekiti State reminds me that the state of emergency declared in that that state will expire soon . Would you want suspended Governor Ayo Fayose back or you are in agreement with those who say the sole administrator should stay on till May 29?
I think that debate has nothing to do with the Ekiti people, Ekiti people have moved forward. When you talk of a state of emergency, Ekiti people have been under a state of emergency since May 29, 2003 when Fayose became governor. What president Obasanjo did on October 19, last year was just a formalisation of that state of siege by the PDP led government under Mr. Ayo Fayose And on each occasion that we had cause to cry out, I never for once singled Fayose out for vilification because I know he was part of the system that has no respect for human life.

He is just part of what is called internationally as systematic elimination of political opponents by a government of the day and those offences are now tried by by the international criminal court . And it was the killing of Dr Ayo Daramola in Ekiti on August 14, 2006 that the Ekiti people rose up and decided that Mr. Ayo Fayose will not kill another person.

It was in that process that Mr. Ayo Fayose was impeached and he had even vamoosed before his impeachment. So, when the state of emergency was imposed , it was just a formality . And between ten and now, General Olurin, the sole administrator has restored law and order in that state. You have not heard of any state murder since then and that state of peace must continue until 29. To ask him to return is to call for the return of state sponsored killings.

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