By Bamidele Aturu

Being Text of a Press Conference addressed on the State of the Nation by Bamidele Aturu Esq on behalf of Bamidele Aturu and Co on Monday, 17th October, 2011.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press: We welcome you most fraternally to this brief Press Conference on the State of the Nation. The purpose of the conference is twofold. First, we would like to use this opportunity to remind you and through you the public that the 4th Annual Law and Social Development Lecture will hold at 11.am prompt on the 24th of October, 2011 at the Ondo Hall of the Airport Hotel, Ikeja.

The topic of this year’s lecture is Security and the Welfare of the People: The Historical Disconnect in Nigeria. The Guest Lecturer is Professor Yomi Akinyeye of the Department of History and Strategic Studies, University of Lagos. Professor Akinyeye is an astute and cerebral public intellectual who has graciously agreed to assist us to lead the debate on the possible connections and interface between security and the welfare of the people of our beloved country. We would be greatly delighted if you help us to publicize the forthcoming event and if you also find time to attend it. It is our contribution to finding solutions to the myriads of problems created needlessly by the greedy and thieving ruling elite. By the Grace of God the lectures have been solely funded from our own income. We have made available as Monographs texts of the previous lectures at no cost to the participants. We intend to continue with that practice this year. We like to thank our friends in the media for always keeping a date with us on the lectures and for giving it adequate coverage. May God bless you all abundantly in Jesus Name. Amen.
The second purpose of this conference is to express our views on recent happenings in our country, particularly on the fundamental incapacity of the ruling elite to grapple with the crisis of the Nigerian state.

Growing Insecurity and Thieving Elite
It is not by accident that we are focusing on security concerns at our conference this year. Nigerians now live in palpable fear everywhere. Militants have transformed into terrorists across the country. Bombs are now thrown with an alarming frequency and ease that demonstrate beyond any doubt that there is serious failure of intelligence and of governance at all levels. It is truly amazing that those who have imposed themselves on Nigerians as leaders at all levels cannot appreciate that there is a linkage between the pauperization of Nigerians and growing insecurity in the country, and that there is a linkage between their looting of the treasury and general culture of impunity and the resort by some Nigerians to violent methods and means of agitation and participation. The truth is that our so-called leaders are bleeding the treasuries. Corruption is luxuriating in Nigeria. The EFCC, ICPC, Police and the Code of Conduct Bureau are all incapacitated and have woefully failed to carry out their statutory mandates. In saner climes all the heads of these organizations would have been shown the way out if they do not appreciate that they should tender their letters of resignations. But can we really blame them? There is clear leadership failure, again, at all levels. Why is it so difficult for the President to ask these institutions to perform or be dismantled if need be? The answer lies in the fact that the Nigerian ruling elite is a corrupt class and without corruption it cannot maintain its control of political power. From this perspective it can be understood why the President may appear powerless.

The trials of former Governors are just mere propaganda routines to hoodwink the unsuspecting members of the public that the phantom war against corruption is alive. The war never took off as a matter of fact. The people must seize the space and take on the corrupt politicians with a frenzy never before seen. The strategy must include social stigmatization of all who flaunt ill-gotten wealth. From now on we must not allow them sit among decent Nigerians. Clerics must reject their fat cheques in our churches and mosques. We must stop dignifying corruption and devaluing ourselves. The anti-corruption laws must be reworked in such a manner to make the offences strict liability offences so that the onus will be on the accused person to justify his or her wealth and not for the prosecution. This should not be a problem for hardworking and honest Nigerians.

Waste of public funds is as grievous as venal looting of public resources. Apart from the huge resources frivolously wasted on a coterie of aides who do nothing but aid corruption and incompetence, the annual frittering away of our funds on pilgrimage sponsorships by our governments is one of the most irresponsible pastimes of our elite. Here we need to commend the Edo State Governor for not being part of the nonsense. It does not make sense that governments will be sponsoring individuals for their private religious projects or programmes in a secular state. Nigeria is a secular state in spite of the mischievous and mendacious misinterpretation of the clear provisions of our constitution by fundamentalist jurists.

Another way public resources are drained is through the dubious security votes. There is the myth popularized among the elite that security votes are not subject to auditing. This is a myth as it is not in any of our laws to the best of the knowledge of this firm. In practice Governors and the Presidency have access to billions if not trillions of Naira every year without accounting for how they are spent. This cannot continue. We will challenge all the Governors and the President very soon in the courts of law and of public opinion. Until then, our position remains unshaken that all appropriated funds must be accounted for. We even hear that Chief Judges now also have security votes! What nonsense?!

Islamic Banking or Religious fundamentalism

The debate on non-interest banking has assumed a religious dimension and this in our view is unnecessary. As a matter of fact the Governor of Central Bank, Mallam Sanusi has himself to blame for the way and manner he has championed the idea. Our position is that there is nothing wrong with non interest banking for as long as no one will be forced to patronize banks offering the service. However, there is a lot wrong with promoting it as Islamic or Shariah banking. That would offend our secularism and to that extent would be unacceptable. There is no room for Christian or Islamic banking in Nigeria. But a word for our Christian leaders. Rather than shout themselves hoarse on non-interest banking, they should go and facilitate the promotion of their own non interest banks. But they too cannot call them Christian banks for the reasons earlier adduced. It must however be realized that non interest banking cannot fully address the crisis of the Nigerian state as it is suitable only for poverty alleviation when the focus should be poverty eradication. Poverty is inherent in capitalism and that is why those who are genuinely interested in the development of our country must begin to look beyond capitalism and the current leaders or elite for solutions to our problems. This is not to say that non interest banking with all its inherent imperfections should not be given a chance. After all poverty alleviation is better than poverty consolidation.

Decadent State, Decadent Judiciary

The myth that the Nigerian judiciary is the last hope of the common man has exploded. The judiciary, we need to repeat for the umpteenth time, is but one of the superstructures of the Nigerian State. It cannot but reflect the ethos and mores of the ruling class. To the extent that the dominant elite in Nigeria are corrupt, backward, visionless, wicked and selfish, it is futile to expect the judiciary to be different. Of course, this does not imply that we do not have some exceptions here and there, but the general characterization of the Nigerian judiciary today is that it is as corrupt and visionless as the political class. The solution to the decay in the judiciary can only be found if we sanitise our polity. The 28-member Committee recently set up to sanitise the judiciary would ordinarily have been welcome, but for the inclusion of the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria. His inclusion is insensitive and controversial, to say the very least, as it gives an impression that he is the victor in the dispute between him and the suspended President of the Court of Appeal. He should be removed from the Committee if Nigerians are expected to take its work seriously.

On Phantom fuel subsidies

The decision of the Federal Government to ‘de-subsidize’ the prices of petroleum products next year shows clearly that each time government is broke the only thing its officials can think of is how to inflict further pain on the people by increasing the prices of petroleum products. There is nothing like subsidies on petroleum products. As far back as about 2005 a top government functionary had informed the whole world that subsidies had been completely removed. The decision shows that the government is insensitive and does not care about the material conditions of the people. The people must resist the planned increase of petroleum products. Our firm will participate in every programme by organized labour and civil society to prevent the actualization of the wicked decision. The decision is intolerable and unacceptable. It will be resisted.

Immoral and Illegal Privatization of Nigeria

The Constitution of Nigeria makes it clear that government shall operate and manage the major sectors of the economy. Without amending the provisions of the Constitution, government has been illegally and unlawfully cannibalizing the major sectors of the economy such as the ports, education and Power Holding Corporation of Nigeria. The implication of the privatization has translated to increased costs for services without a corresponding or commensurate efficiency in service delivery. The ever deteriorating Lagos-Ibadan Expressway eyesore is a classic advertisement of the evil of rapacious privatization of public affairs and works. But more worrisome is that the parceling out of our collective patrimony tends to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few privileged and connected Nigerians contrary to unambiguous provisions of the Constitution. We urge the government to put an end to this reckless, illegal and immoral privatization of our country.

The New Wave of Intimidation of the Press

The arrest and detention without trial of some journalists of the Nation newspapers for undisclosed offences is a blemish on the human rights record of the present Federal administration. When governments turn on journalists it only shows that they lack ideas on how to move the country forward. The only way for governments to enjoy good press is to take the security and welfare of the people seriously and not by intimidating those who are merely doing their duty of disseminating information. We join other Nigerians to condemn unreservedly the barbaric and unwarranted arrest and detention of the journalists. We expect an unqualified apology from the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of the Federation for the inexcusable conduct of those who ordered and carried out the vicious arrests. The arrests cast a pall of darkness on the sincerity of this administration on the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act. As we have repeatedly warned the Act in itself without an active citizenry will not guarantee democracy. The challenge is for us to work for the emergence of such citizenry. At Bamidele Aturu and Co we promise to do all that is reasonably possible to make that a possibility. The starting point should be to remove criminal sedition from our statute books, although the Court of Appeal shot it down many years ago in the case of Nwakwo v The State. Criminal libel is antithetical to democracy. If a journalist or any person for that matter publishes a matter which is false in every material particular, the state should be able to use the enormous resources at its disposal to explain its own side of the story. Criminal libel is a relic of despotic militarism which should be abolished immediately.


Democracy is imperiled when the mass of the people suffer from poverty, ignorance and diseases. At the moment that is the case with Nigeria’s chequered attempt at democratization. It is amazing that the political actors cannot see that if the present attempt collapses they will be the main casualties. The people must resolve to reclaim our sovereignty from those who pretend to govern but do more than loot and misbehave comprehensively. The governments are irresponsive and many are indeed irresponsible. The people need to act so that the political actors will know who is or should be at the centre of democracy.
Thank you and God bless.

Bamidele Aturu Esq

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In the beginning...Let there be Light http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japheth_J._Omojuwa

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