Being the text of a press conference addressed by Mr. Debo Adeniran, the Executive Chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,
To begin with, we like to appreciate your patriotic response to our invitation by honouring us with your esteemed presence here today, just as we welcome you to the Press conference being organized by our coalition, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL. The conference will amongst other issues focus on the state of the nation generally but particularly on the recent headlining news called ‘The Panama Papers’ leak, the state of the anti-corruption drive and the recent transition of two dedicated humanists and activists - Dr. Tunji Braithwaite and Comrade Rotimi Obadofin.
The imperative of a press conference like this cannot be overemphasized as all hands must be deck as our country continue hang on a dangerous precipice; where socio-economic, political and cultural crises continue to linger in addition to a future looking gloomy.
These times call for serious introspections, reflections and actions; not just actions, but decisive actions that could wade off the gloomy future that stare us in the face and ameliorate the existing painful situation of living of the majority of Nigerians.
THE STATE OF THE NATION
It is no gainsaying to state that at the moment, Nigerians are groaning in pains under a situation where every aspect of the country’s body polity seems to be in quagmire and doldrums. The double dose of tragedy represented in the present crises in the energy and power sectors have taken majority of Nigerians to the peak of pains where life is steeply becoming more and more frustrating and hellish.
A critical and objective look at, and appraisal of the state of the Nigerian Nation at this moment reveals fogginess and confusion as the country remain in that situation where the poor ordinary working and toiling people which constitute the majority are writhing in pains almost on all plains; with a rich ruling class and their underbellies that are impervious to this reality and apparently does not ‘give a damn’.
More than 9 months after the inauguration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal government, it is pertinent to come to terms with what is real and what is fad or farce. The worst thing may not be so much about where we are coming from but much more about in which direction we are going, we dare say. And as things stand, Nigerians are more concerned with the direction the Nation is moving. And the only direction they want to go is that direction which will guarantee that the ordinary Nigerian can feed; have shelter, have access to gainful employment, education, good health care and security and to live in harmony, as simple as that, and it is for those reasons that government was instituted in the first place!
The Budget of Change: The ‘paddings’ and Power show.
The brouhaha and the intriguing ‘gymnastics’ over the Nigerian 2016 Budget has continue to linger since December 2015 when it was presented to the National Assembly; the episode has brought to the fore what the ‘skeptics’ and deep discerners have espoused about the APC led Federal government on its capacity to deliver on the mantra of change upon which it rode to power on one hand and almost total insensitivity to the fate of Nigerians whose life are directly affected by the intrigues, unwarranted disagreements between the Executive and the Legislature, buck-passing etc. over a document that is so fundamental to National planning on the other hand.
The so-called ‘Budget of change’, in spite of the anti-corruption stance of the APC government has turned out to be a budget of corruption; it has revealed several ‘paddings’, ‘inflated figures’, hidden thieveries, bare-faced and audacious thievery inclinations, bloated and unnecessary expenses. In all these, all the Arms of government, civil servants, bureaucrats and career politicians are involved.
This scenario is a not a departure from the agonizing past, it reflects an apparent non-readiness to abandon the ways of the old that Nigerians vehemently voted against in 2015. The issues that are significant; that can transform the excruciating condition of living of the poor, working, toiling and oppressed masses are not even on the 'scale of preference' in the so-called 'Budget of Change'!
On the economy
The present economic situation exposes the futility of ‘cosmeticism’ and redecoration as strategic approaches for revamping an economy already in woe, as a result of the hitherto existing economic direction i.e. the neo-liberal economic order. Any economic order predicated mainly on the neo-liberal dictates of the IMF/World Bank etc. would always prioritize every issue from the perspective of profit; that has and still remain the bane of the economy, and this is linked with the political will to alter the cause of the subsisting existing economic order. The privatization of the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy; a neo-liberal decision is what is really behind the crises in the Power, Oil, Education, Health sectors and some others.
Prior to now and till now, no government since 1999 has attempted to implement or even bothered about what Chapter 2 of Nigerian Constitution says, and that is the ground norm upon which government is instituted; this explains why there is no social protection for the extremely poor. A political will to begin to make social economic rights as enshrined in chapter 2 of the constitution enforceable would be a departure from the past which will indicate clearly the direction of government socio-economically. As for everything economically in Nigeria presently, it is cob-webbed and indeed foggy stipulating arguably harder times ahead.
It’s no gainsaying to affirm that any economic direction that will not alleviate the sufferings of the vast majority of the people will be tantamount to elevating their pains and worsening their situation of existence, thus the least that the government can do is to adopt a social welfarist approach that will embrace the provisioning for; social security for the extremely poor, a situation to ensure equitable distribution of resources and avoiding the concentration of wealth in the hands of a privileged few; affordable housing, education system that will leave no child out of school, a health care system that will be accessible to all and infrastructures that will facilitate the enabling environment for business and enterprise.
The present regime has failed to clearly stamp its’ economic ideology, direction or principle which could be used to prove, that indeed, there is a ‘change’ economically and that it is moving toward alleviating the painful situation of the people, particularly the poor who forms the majority. At best, the economic direction can be described as ‘foggy’ and this appear to be consciously made so; with the scenario riddled by contradictions, somersaults, illogicality, indecisions and uncertainties. This is what is at the background of the present economic hardships; where the people are battling with challenges for very basic needs; from food to housing, power to energy and from education to employment etc. and with government appearing hapless.
On the Panama Papers, Saraki and others: The Nigerian government must not act dumb and indifferent.
The leak of 11.5 million documents from one of the world's most secret companies, Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, has grabbed headlines around the world. Dubbed as ‘The Panama Papers’, the episode has blown a putrid global wind that has revealed the corrupt tendencies of the ruling classes across the world in very bold relief. Nigeria represented by members of its’ extremely wealthy, ruling/ruining class, unfortunately could not help but register its’ notorious presence within the global Circle of vampires and the incredibly greedy.
The Nigerian government’s attitude to the gruesome revelations from the Panama Paper leaks is worrisome and repugnant, as the attitude is apparently lackadaisical and indifferent. When in other places, heads of the ‘mighty’ have ‘rolled’ over the Panama papers leaks, (notably in Iceland where the Prime Minister was forced to resign from office following protests by Icelanders) the Nigerian government’s reaction or better put inaction and insensitivity over the Panama papers is unacceptable and reprehensible.
With such a lackadaisical or indifferent attitude on the part of government toward global issues like the Panama Papers leak especially when so-called leaders from Nigeria are mentioned in the scam, the celebrated anti-corruption drive of the government and the anti-corruption poise of the present regime may as well just be described as a ‘ruse’.
Consequently, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL is demanding that a special attention should be paid by the Federal government and the anti-corruption agencies to the revelations from the leaks with a goal of acting on them and with the view of verifying the facts; carrying out investigations, probing, prosecuting and recovering all the loots stolen from our Commonwealth that are hidden in the tax havens and offshore companies.
Additionally, those found culpable must be punished accordingly no matter how ‘highly’ placed or influencial they are in the society. Those specifically mentioned; Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (Rtd), Dr. Bukola Saraki, Mr. James Ibori, Senator David Mark must be invited by the anti-corruption agencies; interrogated and prosecuted if enough evidence and facts confirm their involvement in the global scam revealed in the Panama Papers.
Dr. Bukola Saraki, the sitting Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly with all his baggage of corruption charges is once again topping the charts in the Panama Papers. This is totally disgraceful and very tarnishing for the image of the country and calls for drastic action of government and good people of Nigeria. Saraki, who is currently facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on a thirteen count charge, on the
basis of corruption and false assets declaration is also reported to have continued receiving salaries even after leaving office as Governor in Kwara state and used state funds to pay for private properties.
With the addition of the Panama Papers indictment to his ‘multi-coloured coat’ of corruption, it is time for Nigerians to call on Saraki to step down as Senate President and as Chairman of the National Assembly pending when he has successfully cleared his name and clean the ‘smears’ all over him. If he fails to resign, Nigerians must rally and mandate their representatives in their various constituencies to commence his impeachment process based on moral and ethical grounds. Nigeria cannot be respected among the comity of nations if the Head of the Law Making Body, the third in hierarchy in the leadership of the country oscillates between being a corruption criminal suspect in the criminal suspects’ box at the Code of Conduct Tribunal and as the Chairman of the National Assembly and while also ranking very high amongst those mentioned in the gruesome global scam activities revealed in the Panama Papers leaks.
With the revelations from the ‘Panama Papers’, the Federal Government and the anti-corruption agencies should swing into action with the view of investigating, prosecuting and recovering of the loots while applying necessary punitive where culpability is established. And this is not just about Saraki; it must include all other Nigerians mentioned in the ‘leaks’ like Mr. David Mark and others. The Nigerian Government must seek and ensure that James Ibori, after serving his term in the UK prison is repatriated to Nigeria to answer for the charges against previously and his involvement in the Panama Papers scam.
TRIBUTE TO Dr. Tunji Braithwaite and Comrade Rotimi Obadofin
CACOL is using this opportunity to pay tributes to two of our compatriots and co-travelers in the struggle for the social emancipation of the oppressed and exploited masses of our country, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite and Comrade Rotimi Obadofin that passed on 28th March and 7th April, 2016 respectively.
Dr. Tunji Braithwaite was a Nationalist, a consistent and persistent fighter against all forms of oppression and repression, a supporter and motivator of our Coalition in the war against corruption. His passage represents a colossal loss to the activist and revolutionary community; his monumental contributions to the struggle for an egalitarian society are immeasurable and invaluable. He lived and died for the struggle to liberate the poor and oppressed in spite of his ‘privileged’ background. As far back as 1978, he formed the National Advance Party, NAP, a political party with the mission of prioritizing the welfare of people; he was of the ‘Awoist’ school of thought, an ardent and outspoken defender of the voiceless and the poor.
Comrade Rotimi Obadofin was a unique revolutionary, a self-determination Activist, a labour activist and a Politician whose art of organizing was highly profound and impacted a lot in several struggles of the oppressed against their oppressors. He dedicated and committed his life to the struggle of the oppressed.
Adieu comrades, may you rest in Power and your spirits continue to haunt our oppressors and exploiters.
CONCLUSION: Our demands and recommendations
Against the foregoing, we demand that the government wakes up from slumbering and play its’ fundamental and constitutional role by taking decisive steps and actions; by exercising political will to achieve alleviation of the catastrophic situation of living of the vast majority of Nigerians by confronting the present socio-economic situation like emergency situations are confronted. Lame excuses will not fly as the pains of the people are real and getting aggravated on daily basis – an existing reality that cannot be wished away!
We demand immediate and urgent emergency actions on the current situation in the Power and Energy sectors. Extraordinary steps must be taken by government to intervene in these two vital sectors to make queues disappear at fueling stations (thereby saving productive hours) and to facilitate regular energy supply to light-up Nigeria to achieve economic buoyancy.
Government must recognize that emphatic or sympathetic utterances like – ‘we understand your pains, ‘we know how you feel’ etc. – and derogatory ones like – ‘Buhari is not an angel or miracle worker’, ‘I am not a magician’ Nigerians are impatient’ etc.’ will not assuage the pains of the masses with the present ‘emergency situation’. Governance is much more about pro-action than sloganeering and phraseologies; a situation whereby almost every aspect of the polity is in crisis owing to government failure is not acceptable. Flimsy excuses will not resolve the present situation we are in as a Nation and people.
We agree that to give birth to change is like birthing a child which naturally comes with ‘pains and loss of blood and water’, but good midwives prepare for the birth process ahead including having spare pints of blood in the blood banks for sake of emergency should the patient lose too much blood. This is exactly what is missing in the attitude and approach of the present government, there are no ‘shock absorbers’ for extremely poor who are the majority to cushion the effects of the festering harsh economic condition. Presently, Nigeria can be likened to a patient requiring surgery in order to get well but the surgery is being carried out by ‘quacks’; without anesthetics, without reserve blood and with ‘butchers’ knives!
We call on all Nigerians to monitor the processes of loot recovery to forestall any attempt for corruption to get back what it lost ‘at the roundabouts on the swings’; on our part as a Coalition, we shall vigilantly monitor these processes to ensure that the excruciating conditions of existence of the majority of Nigerians stemming largely from corrupt practices perpetrated by some elements in government are alleviated and the people are not made to suffer the elevations of their pains. If the funds get re-looted, then, all the anti-corruption efforts of the government and the people may just add up to plunging energy into a process that ends in futility.
Beyond the recovery of loots, the Federal government and the anti-corruption agencies should ensure that convicted corruption criminals are dealt with punitively within the rule of the law. The anti-corruption drive must yield impactful results in terms of utilization of recovered loots and in the achievement of convictions of corrupt elements; these will draw more popular support, credibility and confidence for the anti-corruption drive.
CACOL demands life imprisonment for convicts that stole any amount above 1 billion naira, and they should be made to work diligently for their own upkeep via whatever skills they possess previously or has been able to learn behind the bars. They should be used as objects to educate the young, the youth and all when they go on excursion to the prisons, seeing former corrupt leaders in such situation will certainly serve to deter the potentially corrupt. Furthermore, whatever assets traced to such convicts should be deemed to be proceeds of corruption and confiscated by the Nigerian state.
We demand for the urgent passage of the 2016 Budget now! Nigerians should not be held to ransom on the account of the bickering between the Executive and the National Assembly emanating from obviously greedy, corrupt and selfish reasons of the political class.
Finally, we commend the efforts of the Federal Government and the anti-corruption agencies for the efforts thus far put into prosecuting the anti-corruption drive. We call on government to work assiduously towards creating the enabling environment for the drive against corruption by facilitating the emergence of enabling laws that will remove encumbrances on the path of anti-corruption drive and by funding the anti-corruption agencies adequately to enhance their capacity in battling the behemoth called corruption.
Name, Nail, Shame and Shun corrupt leaders anywhere, everywhere.
Executive Chairman, CACOL