A pro-democracy group, Save Nigeria Group (SNG), is at it again. The group, under the leadership of a lawyer and fiery preacher, Pastor Tunde Bakare is no doubt known for its penchant for civil protests anytime its members feel that democracy is being threatened. In January 2010, when the Nigeria Constitution was not being followed to the letter during the sickness of the former President, Umaru Yar’Adua, the group mobilized to “occupy Abuja.”
The group was also the backbone of the mother of all protests held in January this year when the administration of Goodluck Jonathan gave the country a new year gift of increase in the prices of oil products. The whole country was literally “occupied” by members of the civil society that was mobilized by the SNG until the government shifted its stance from N140 per litre to N97 per litre.
Presently, the group is spoiling for another big battle with the leadership of the country, this time, on corruption. And if the threat of the group last Monday is carried out, Nigeria is in for another round of “operation occupy Nigeria.” RAZAQ BAMIDELE, who witnessed the occasion where the fresh threat was issued, reports.
State of the nation
Since the formation of the SNG, the Convener, Pastor Tunde Bakare and his members had made it abundantly clear that the group is out to cleanse the society and purge it of all anti-people policies and anti-democracy tendencies. They have vowed that nothing can stop them from rising against any form of oppression and injustices in the polity.
It is against this backdrop that the group has taken it upon itself to organize series of seminars, symposium, workshops and annual lecture series to enlighten, educate, sensitise and mobilize the populace to know their rights and demand for them. Annual lecture series So, early this year, the first lecture, delivered by the universally renowned scholar, Professor Niyi Osundare was organized.
And not satisfied with the state of the nation, the group came up with the second in the lecture series. An Associate Professor from Department of English and Literature, Cerleton University, Canada, Pius Adesanmi delivered the lecture titled: Reparations: What Nigeria owes the tortoise. In the lecture, the don identified greed, selfishness as well as excessive corruption on the part of the country’s leadership as the cause of her backwardness, asserting that “until the nation is purged of all these societal ills, the country will continue to move from bad to worse.”
While likening Nigeria’s rulers to the proverbial tortoise in the ancient fables, the lecturer narrated a couple of fables where the tortoise was reported to have ruined itself through “excessive consumption to the detriment of the collective goal of the people.” According to him, since the resources of the country were for the welfare of the generality of the citizenry, “the covenant of greed, ala, the tortoise must be broken to give way to respect for collective goal and common will of the people,” insisting that “common will of the people is sacred.”
Adesanmi, who wondered that the same oil discover in Dubai that has become a blessing to that country was the same oil that has been spelling doom for Nigeria was of the conviction that everything possible must be done to evolve a natural self fashioning for nationhood where common goal would be the pre-occupation of all and sundry.
Waxing philosophical, the don warned that “the country would not move an inch if her leadership keeps on plagiarizing the greedy way of the tortoise and work towards a collective will of the people.” He expressed sadness that “the leadership of the country is, sadly, not even plagiarizing the tortoise but stealing, robbing and looting the tortoise intellectual property and thus owe the tortoise reparations.”
He then challenged “those of us who bear the brunt of the repercussions of our leaders’ greed, corruption and selfishness to rise up against the ills,” submitting that “it is then that we will gradually find our way back to our common goal and collective will that will move the country forward.” Call for protests The lecturer’s postulation gingered the former Minister of the Federal Capital territory (FCT), Nasir el-Rufai, to admit that the country was at a crossroads, warning that the situation would degenerate if the people did not rise up to tackle the misdeeds bedeviling the nation.
El-Rufai noted that creating what he called “Nigerian elite enclave mentality” would not shield anyone from the impending crises if the people refused to act now. According to him, people below the age of 20 currently constitute the majority of the country’s population, but they are faced with hardship and excruciating poverty. He bemoaned the decadence in the social structure, which he said had led to an unending cycle of violence and bloodletting, stressing that all these problems manifesting in form of violence and terrorist attacks, were products of corruption, lack of inadequate education, as well as the high unemployment rate in the country.
So to him, people must rise up to stop corruption in the country. Toeing el-Rufai’s line was the Lagos State governorship candidate of the Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA), in the 2007 general election, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, who noted that the fight against corruption in the country could only succeed with the collective responsibility of both the leaders and the led. He called on Nigerians to resist corrupt leaders or they would be constantly pauperized by them. On her part, the President of Campaign for Democracy (CD), and leader of Women Arise, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, said the idea of always wanting to share the “national cake” had remained an obstacle to the nation’s development.
She therefore urged the government to prosecute all the parties found culpable in the controversial oil subsidy scam. “Gathering here is to prove a point that Nigeria belongs to all of us and we cannot fold hands and watch corruption tear us apart,” she said. The Chairman of the Ikeja chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association, Monday Ubani, said the country had failed but still working for those responsible for it. He called for a synergy between the public and the press to chart a new course for the nation in the fight against corruption.
A former member of the House of Representatives, Dino Melaye, asserted that the country’s problem is mainly corruption, regretting that 60 per cent of the nation’s budgetary allocation goes to mismanagement and corruption. He said the country was at the “emergency ward” and would go to the “intensive care unit” if the people did not act. In his closing remarks, the SNG Convener, Pastor Tunde Bakare lamented that the country is on the brink of collapse insisting that “it requires the urgent intervention of all citizens, especially through protests, to rescue it.”
Bakare therefore urged Nigerians to immediately take to the streets and bring an end to corruption and bad governance, which he said were seriously threatening the survival of the nation. Even religious leaders across Christianity and Islam were not spared as he alleged that some use their positions to enrich themselves, and maintain ostentatious lifestyles, including buying private jet just as he called on the people to begin to cleanse the corrupt system by moving against such clerics.
His words: “All G.O. (General Overseers) must go to prison…and all of us must be rounded up and put in jail. This is not the first time I am saying it. If the revolution does not begin in the church or mosque, Nigeria will not change. Dubai (United Arab Emirates) once came to Nigeria to borrow money. And what prevents transformation in Dubais from happening in Nigeria is the corruption of our leaders.”
According to the preacher, the massive protests that greeted the removal of fuel subsidy by President Goodluck Jonathan in January demonstrated that the myth that Nigerians are a docile people, who lost the capacity to be shocked by the misdeeds of their rulers, has been shattered forever. Calling for protests to immediately begin, Bakare noted that almost everywhere in the world, democracy was preceded by revolution, and development, just as he agonized that, Nigeria had put the cart before the horse.
If the clarion call for protests is heeded by the civil society, Nigerians, in no time will witness another mother of all protests against corruption and corrupt people in the country. And Bakare has assured that when it happens, it would shake the country to its very foundation.