The Nigerian civil rights movement has launched the campaign to mark what it calls the “people’s centenary group” to mark the 100 years of Nigeria’s amalgamation by the colonial powers.
The group under the auspices of the Nigerian Peoples Centenary Group, (NPCG) began the activity with a press conference Thursday. Members of the group include civil rights lawyers, Mr Femi Falana, Mr Olisa Agbakoba, Abuka Onolo Omo-Baba, Mr Adewale Adeoye, leader of the Supreme Egbesu Assembly, (SEA) Chief Werinipre Digifa, Mr Popoola Ajayi and a host of others drawn from labour, students movement and the human rights community. The group said while the authorities see the 100 years amalgamation as a carnival marked with photo opportunism, the NPCG sees the landmark as a moment to question and challenge the drifting and life-threatening posture of the Nigerian state.
In the speech read by the Deputy Convener, Mr Lanrewaju Suraj, the NPCG said the Nigeria people after 100 years of amalgamation owe history and posterity the obligation to reflect on the floundering state of Nigeria and map out a new pathway for the freedom of the people from the relentless repression by those elected to protect the mandate of the people.
He said since 1960, the country has been troubled by social and political crisis and at least one major civil war that left millions of people, including women and children, dead. Nigeria has seen military incursion into the affairs of the state and the subsequent growth of arrested development, corruption, ineptitude, nepotism and spineless repression of the voices of dissent and the emergence of a vagabond political culture that continues to traumatize the citizenry.
The media conference held at the Femi Falana chambers in Lagos was attended by several Nigerian human right leaders including Mr Rasaq Oladosu, Mr Linus Okoroji, Dr Wale Balogun, the group’s representatives in the US, Mr Adewale Aregbesola and Ayo Turton, representatives of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, (AYCF), the Igbo Youth Congress, (IYC), the Nigerian Human Rights Community, (NHRC) amongst many others.
He said that today, “the country has conducted three civilian-to-civilian transitions, a landmark in a country noted for military adventure in politics, yet elections remain far from being representative, rigging and bizarre stealing or stuffing of ballot boxes are recurrent decimal.” The group plans to hold a centenary summit involving artisans, labour movement, students, academic, human rights community and representatives of the international community and the United Nations, (UN) agencies.. The summits will hold in Nigerian, UK and the United States. According to the group, the resolution at the summits will for the basis for the campaign for the needed social and political changes in Nigeria.
NPCG lamented that the country has failed to deal with the agitation by the various ethnic and social formations for political and social reforms while the prospect for the emergence of a nationalist leader, devoid of ethnic coloration and committed to the basic principles of democracy and the rule of law remain far-fetched unless the people rise up to the challenge.
The group said have linked the instability partly to the constitution imposed by the military in 1999, unfortunately, 13 years into the new democratic path, Nigerians are yet to enjoy the benefit of a people a driven constitution.
While speaking at the event, the Director of Publicity of the NPCG, Mr Adewale Adeoye said that though with 2 million barrels of oil per day, locals remain extremely poor. He said “the wealth of the country, her human and material potentials remain stunted and trampled upon under the jackboots and the awful influence of the years of military repression. From the first coup of 1966, the military became a dominant repugnant disease on the country’s emerging sore. Beginning from the mid-1980s, due to excruciating poverty, worker’s retrenchment, sale of the country’s commanding height to political cartels, the country began to witness massive immigration of its nationals across the world, millions of people fleeing from hopelessness, fear and anguish.”
The country, under the military became a patriarch state, characterised by murder, political assassinations, and massacre of whole communities, and the naked, brutal oppression of the mass media.
Digifa, a retired military officer who is the group’s South-South co-chairman said the “military assumed, albeit wrongly, that the country could only be kept together through bullying and share force of arms. The situation has not changed fundamentally today. At the present, the country is now home to a large number of arms in the hands of non-state actors, an unending source of threat to global security.” He said the country’s return to democracy in 1999, if anything, has done little to offer hope to the teeming, hungry and desperate population.