•Nigeria, hell to live in – Afenifere
.We won’t trade words with him, it’s his opinion – Presidency
•Okorie, Odumakin, Shettima, Osuntokun, Fani-Kayode speak
By Emeka Mamah, Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon & Prince Okafor
LAGOS — CATHOLIC Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, yesterday, x-rayed the state of the nation and returned a grim verdict: ‘’Nigeria has broken down, it is not working and we are not safe.’’
Arriving at the unpalatable conclusion, Cardinal Okogie looked at the rippling waves of insecurity, menace of herdsmen, restiveness in the Niger-Delta, agitation for the Republic of Biafra, faulty constitution, corruption and unaccountable leadership and urged urgent solutions to save the country and the citizenry.
The clergyman raised the alarm in a a statement, titled: “Do we have a nation? A Stitch in Time Saves Nine.”
Contacted, the Presidency said it would not trade words with Cardinal Okogie because he expressed his personal opinion.
However, Okogie’s views got the backing of National Chairman of the United Progressive Party, UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie; National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin; President of Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, AYCF, Alhaji Shettima Yerima; former spokesman to President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Akin Osuntokun; and former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode.
The Okogie statement read: “The question may appear strange. But it is pertinent. Do we have a nation? Or, have we been living in the illusion that we have one?
“The landscape of insecurity in Nigeria ensures that the question is pertinent. A long list of disturbing indices compel us to ask the question: the Boko Haram insurgency that stubbornly stares us in the face in north eastern Nigeria, the Chibok girls who have been held in captivity for over three years, the phenomenon of murderous herdsmen, the ethnic cleansing in southern Kaduna, the unabating spree of abduction in virtually every part of the country, separatist agitation in the South-East, militancy in the oil producing Niger Delta, silent but ominous discontent in the South-West, the lawlessness of corruption, the equally lawless and less than methodic response to the lawlessness of corruption, the less than transparent approach to matters of governance, the display of arrogance by representatives of government when they are called upon to explain actions of government to the Nigerian, not to mention all, but these.
“It has been said many times in the past, and it is still being said: life and property are not safe in our country. But their protection is the primary responsibility of the state. The state is made up of institutions. Institutions are established directly or indirectly by the Constitution, directly if explicitly provided for in the Constitution, indirectly if established in a manner that conforms with the Constitution. It is through such institutions that government fulfills its primary responsibility of protecting life and property of the citizen.
“The Constitution that establishes these institutions is a set of fundamental norms for the regulation of the life of an association that a nation is. When it is truly legitimate, such a Constitution is not imposed. It is freely adopted by the people. Its adoption is informed as a sign that their membership of the association is consensual. The people who form the association that a nation is, regulate the affairs of their association by a Constitution they freely adopt by such informed consent.
“But here we are living in a country whose Constitution does not have our consent. By extension, institutions established by this Constitution exist without our informed consent. They exist, not to serve the people, but to serve the interest of those who imposed the Constitution. This Constitution was imposed by way of a “benevolent military dictatorship”—a contradiction in terms—and the forces represented by the so called benevolent dictatorship.
“By further extension, officials of these institutions established by an imposed and dangerously defective Constitution cannot be expected to be at the service of the people. They can only be expected to be at the service of their own interests, and at the service of those who put them in office, and those who put them in office put the Constitution in place.
Neither the state nor its officials serve Nigerians. That is why they constantly take Nigerians for granted. We may line up at polling stations, in the hot sun or in the torrential rain, when we go to the polls every four years, as we shall soon be doing come 2019 believing that we have a democracy. But, as recent publications are pointing to us, our elections are matches fixed by local and foreign kingmakers who decide on who gets “elected”. Little wonder we have a political leadership that arrogantly refuses to be accountable to the people they are supposed to serve.
“This refusal to be accountable is not peculiar to one political party. It is, in fact, multi-partisan. Instead of being transparent, accountable and polite to Nigerians, our political office holders and their spokespersons, irrespective of party affiliation, have the audacity to call Nigerians who express legitimate concerns names that such Nigerians do not deserve to bear. If they really depended on our votes to be in office, would they be so insolent?
“If the primary responsibility of the state and its institutions is to protect life and property, if institutions that constitute a state are not at the service of the people because this primary responsibility is assumed in the breach, then, neither the Nigerian nor his or her property is safe.
“Nigeria has a cocktail of security agencies, and a huge percentage of Nigeria’s budget is officially allocated to them. We have the Police, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Immigration, Customs, assorted intelligence agencies. But the simple fact is that they were not established to protect the people. They were established and are operated to protect political actors. Now, if the state does not protect us can we truly say we have a nation?
“Nigeria has broken down and is not working. She was not well set up by British colonialists. She was further incapacitated by a succession of unprincipled politicians and lawless soldiers. That is why we are not safe.
That is why we need to go back to the drawing board. We cannot validly claim that we are a nation. We urgently need to set to work to build one, and it is in our interest to do so. We must assume the task of building a nation on the basis of right relationship among Nigeria’s diverse ethnic and religious communities.
“We need a new Constitution establishing a new political arrangement, and this new political arrangement must serve the people, not the politicians at the expense of the people. When government is at the service of the people, and when each citizen seeks his or her own good by working for the common good, then we can truly say we have a nation, a nation we can proudly call our own.”
He expressed a personal opinion – Presidency
Asked to speak on the issue, Mr. Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, said: “It is a personal opinion, we do not need to to trade words with him because he is entitled to his personal opinion. He was expressing his personal opinion.”
Buhari must take Okogie’s statement seriously – Okorie
However, Chief Chekwas Okorie said: ‘’Cardinal Okogie is a well respected man of God, who is endowed with divine vision. He should be taken seriously. This is a statement of fact, it is not prophecy. He said (Nigeria) has broken down, I agree with him. He said Nigeria is not working; I agree with him. People have been talking about it but the government is not responding and this country may break up.
“What Cardinal Okogie said is in tandem with the opinion of many Nigerians. This government is worse than any government before it in terms of Nigerians and citizenship. The Igbo people think they are in a bad prison called Nigeria. At the 2014 National Confab, Nigerians agreed on how to resolve these issues. It is so tragic that on assuming power, President Buhari said he would consign the confab report in the archive.
“Cardinal Okogie is speaking for the whole nation. I hope President Buhari will listen and change attitude to wise counsel.’’
Nigeria won’t work without restructuring – Osuntokun
On his part, Mr Akin Osuntokun said: “That is quite alarming knowing that he wouldn’t give such a dire verdict without justification. I won’t go as far as Okogie but it is obvious Nigeria is not working and it won’t work until we do away with hypocrisy and come to terms with the reality that the country is doomed without the application of the prescription of restructuring.”
Nigeria, hell to live in – Afenifere
The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, threw his weight behind Okogie’s assertion, adding that Nigeria is a hell to live in.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin said: “Absolutely, Nigeria as it is works for only those hooked on crookedness and manipulations. But for the vast majority, who don’t have access to the till, Nigeria is a hell to live in and a nightmare. The earlier we restructure to make Nigeria work the better before it finally collapses.”
We need a new order – Yerima
Alhaji Shettima Yerima posited that the country is operating an already collapsed system and called for a new order.
“We already have a collapsed system, it is glaring we are not united. Despite this we are going to get out of this because the youths are united to bring about a new order for this country. We will no longer allow the old generation to dictate the direction of this country, they will no longer be allowed in the corridors of power. We are optimistic that at the end of the tunnel, there will be light. There will be a new order, we won’t allow recycling of the old guard in government anymore.”
Nigeria not workable, says Fani-Kayode
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode insisted that Nigeria is not workable even as he restated the call for restructuring.
He said: “I agree with him totally that this country is in need of restructuring and it is unworkable. We need to restructure it and if we don’t , this country may break up. Some of us have been saying this for many years now and what has made matters worse is the way this administration has been running this country for the last two years.
They have divided the country and they have created much hardship for the people. They have persecuted their perceived enemies. We are more divided now like we have ever been since the Nigerian civil war. If we want to set things right, we must ensure that this country is restructured and made workable. Restructuring is the first option and if we don’t have it soonest, eventually, our country may break up.”
We align with Okogie — Igbo leaders
President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigho, Chief Nnia Nwodo could not be reached for comments but the Igbo Leaders of Thought, ILT, and the Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, in the South East and the Igbo Youth Movement, IYM, have said that they were in support of the former Archbishop of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie that that the country had broken down and not working. They spoke at separate telephone interviews with Vanguard in Enugu last night.
Secretary of ILT and Chairman of Alaigbo Development Association, Professor Elochukwu Amuchieazu and the Founder of IYM, Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu –Uko said that they agreed entirely with what Okogie said. The South East CLO leader, Olu Omotayo also said that Nigeria had not been working since President Muhammadu Buhari fell ill and had failed to attend to state matters.
Amuchieazu said that Nigeria was not working because some sections believed that other sections were conquered species, adding that anybody who believed that the country was working when the President was so ill that he could not attend the Federal Executive Council, FEC, for three consecutive weeks was deceiving him or herself.
“We don’t have a nation. We are deceiving ourselves that things are working. The British brought 389 nations together for their market but refused to build us as a nation. I agree totally with Cardinal Okogie,” he said.
The Founder of IYM, Elliot Ugochukwu- Uko said, “It is de-javu of 2010. Don’t you agree with Okogie?We completely agree with him. Nigerai is not working.”
The CLO Chairman in the South East, Olu Omotayo, also said that Nigeria stopped working the day Buhari took ill and people started playing politics with the development.
“We in the CLO agree with Okogie. It is sad that Buhari has not been seen in the public for over three weeks now and people around him are still pretending. Things are not working and we are in a standstill,” Omotayo added.