AGAIN, the worrisome issue of graft among the country‘s leaders yesterday came to the fore as the ugly trend has been identified as turning the nation into a criminal state.
This was the common view to former Presidential candidate, Prof. Pat Utomi; Lagos lawyer and rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana and former Editor of the defunct Daily Times of Nigeria, Chief Areoye Oyebola. He is also the initiator and chairman of Movement for Nigeria’s Total Transformation.
The trio spoke at Airport Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos at the launch of Oyebola’s new book, Grave Issues Nigeria Must Tackle.
Utomi stated: “Nigeria has slipped into the status of common criminals. All who rule us have become common criminals. All is not right when the rule of law is not followed. Even when Nigerian courts absolved ex-Governor James Ibori of stealing Delta State money, a British court has nailed Ibori and today he is a common criminal”.
On how Nigeria arrived at this dangerous, corruptive bend, the Lagos Business School don argued that the uncertainty and apathy that greeted the 1999 elections called by the departing military made men and women of integrity and natural leaders to stay away. He said that action allowed all manners of political charlatans and common criminals to jump into the fray and have consequently amassed so much wealth to scare away genuine contenders to political offices in the land.
He stated further: “Today, Nigeria is paying for it; we need to change it. We need a ground norm to correct so many ills. The argument is not about resource control; that is a small matter before the major one we’re talking about, the basic laws”.
He commended Adebola for “his persistence and for staying focused; I pray that the labours of his days in the field as journalist will not be forgotten and for his transformational mission to come true for all Nigerians”.
On the ragging issue of the desirability or otherwise of a National Conference, Utomi carpeted the Senate, particularly its President, David Mark, saying it was not his place to determine what is best for Nigeria, being as he is, a beneficiary of the huge financial waste the National Assembly has become for the ordinary citizen of the country.
On his part, Falana said the former Delta State governor has qualified to enter the Guinness Books of Records “as a congenital thief; he stole Delta State dry. Ibori’s case must go into the Guinness Book of Records because his sister, wife, girlfriend and lawyer have all bagged four years’ jail term each. Ibori is going to be convicted for the fourth time – twice in London and twice in Nigeria”.
Oyebola said Nigeria’s situation was so critical that it needed serious handling for it to overcome the problem.