Human rights lawyer Femi Falana on Monday accused the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government of being insincere about its supposed commitment to national restructuring and true federalism.
Speaking at a public lecture commemorating the 24th anniversary of the annulled June 12, 1993 election, Mr. Falana’s comment was a response to Minister of Information Lai Mohammed’s statement that national restructuring was not a part of the president’s program.
Mr. Falana emphasized that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) supported restructuring in its party manifesto during the 2015 presidential campaign. The APC-led government would therefore be going back on its promises by abandoning its earlier commitment to restructuring.
“Last week, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said restructuring is not in the program of President Buhari. Let me refer Alhaji Mohammed and the government of President Buhari to the manifesto of the APC, the first paragraph of that manifesto.
“The APC manifesto says, ‘the government will initiate action to amend our constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true federalism and the federal spirit.’ That is page one, paragraph one of APC manifesto.
“Therefore, Mr. Governor [Akeredolu], your party, the government at Abuja, cannot go back on the commitment to restructure Nigeria,” he said.
Mr. Falana added that economic restructuring of the country should be the government’s priority given the poor state of the Nigerian economy.
He criticized former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his vice president, Atiku Abubakar, for setting the Nigerian economy back by selling off the commonwealth of the country through dubious privatization schemes.
“Alhaji Atiku Abubaker, who is now a front liner for this campaign [restructuring], please don’t be deceived; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and former President Olusegun Obasanjo were in power for eight years. They let the status quo remain and the question of restructuring was not one of the bases of their quarrel.
“Political restructuring without economic restructuring is not a panacea to our problem. Obasanjo and Atiku restructured the economy of Nigeria; they sold our common patrimony, our national assets, and they sold them through privatization,” he declared.
He also lamented that Nigerians are suffering under the APC-led federal government while accusing Mr. Buhari of not keeping to some of his promises.
“It is a shame that the president of the largest black nation has to travel down to Britain to be treated,” Mr. Falana said, referencing the president’s medical vacations to the UK.
The human rights lawyer added that June 12 is a time to commemorate the life of the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola and should not be seen as a struggle for the people of the southwest alone.
Mr. Falana also took the opportunity to criticize a “quit notice” issued by some youths under the aegis of AREWA telling Igbos to leave the north, stressing that tribal sentiment has hindered progress and development in the country.
Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who hosted the event, said Nigerians should embrace unity and peace, noting that living in division would not help the country develop into a giant of Africa.
“This has become more exigent now that the country faces a serious identity crisis. Must we also remind the simpletons who issued empty threats that nobody will be evicted from any part of the country?
“Is it not shameful that while we all condemn xenophobic attacks in South Africa and other places, we are unable to live with one another?
“In whose interest are the exigent calls for political restructuring without considering the economic potentials and inputs of virtually all regions that have been rendered parasitic and unproductive by an avaricious and untoward generation?” he queried.
Mr. Akeredolu later declared the popular Democracy Park to be named MKO Abiola Democracy Park.