Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and activist-lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) on Sunday warned Nigerians to be wary of a coalition formed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, purportedly to rescue Nigeria.
They said Nigeria was in danger when politicians like Obasanjo, who “supervised the sacking of democratic governments” in Oyo and Anambra states, pretend to be the messiah.
Obasanjo formed the Coalition for Nigeria Movement on January 24, 2018, which he said was meant to salvage the nation.
He asked President Muhammadu Buhari not to contest next year’s election as he had “failed.”
Soyinka and Falana, who described but didn’t name Obasanjo, spoke in Lagos at the 80th post-humous birthday of the late human rights lawyer Gani Fawehinmi (SAN).
The event was the themed ‘Democracy for the masses through proper and effective governance.
It also featured former Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Senator Shehu Sani, Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, Afenifere chieftain, Senator Femi Okurounmu, among others.
Soyinka said: “All I want to say in connection with the title of today is just one word: vigilance….There is no question whatsoever that democracy is in danger.
“And so I find it ironic, that those who’ve proved themselves the enemies of democracy who’ve really taken, they’ve really committed acts, not just negligence, but actually inaugurated certain policies which contributed to our being at this point again are once again coming out and positioning themselves as saviours, as messiahs, as the sole possible rescue mission that this nation can even dream of, a nation of nearly 200 million people.
“I find it very strange, and I find it even stranger because at the beginning of this movement towards ‘Rescue Mission’, there were one or two organisations that came out under different names and they had people in them whom I considered worth following, worth encouraging, worth encouraging others to study closely and even consider following.
“The next thing I knew, these movements were being hijacked by the very people who laid the foundation, an ironic word by the way, for the collapse of the democratic edifice.”
Soyinka said he turned one of the groups down when it approached him.
He said: “The next thing we know, they are forming coalitions and I was invited by one of the rescue missions to address them and I telephoned them and I asked the question, ‘wait a minute, which one are you? Are you the original people I saw or is there a faction or is there now a fatherly umbrella under which everybody is moving?’
“And I told them; don’t even come near me, if you’ve signed up on one of those who are the enemies of democracy in this nation.
“Those who inaugurated so-called constitutional amendment programmes, total charades, to assist them to continue to run, which has been scuttled by the direction known as tenure elongation, third term, etcetera for which the entire national treasury was almost bankrupted. And suddenly, here they are they are forming coalitions all over the place, once again, confusing people.
“Who are the genuine leaders, who are those that we can trust? The answer to that is very simple: look at their track record. That’s all.
He advised Nigerians not to allow themselves “to plunge into a zone of amnesia, in which you conveniently forget unpleasant realities.
“We’ve had presidents in this nation, some of whom inaugurated a never-ending democratic process, which landed us eventually under the most brutal dictators that this nation has ever known.
“We had others also who actually supervised sacking of ‘democratic government’; I’m speaking of Anambra, I’m speaking of Oyo State. A governor was kidnapped under their watch with their complicity; in another instance, thugs actually entered the House of Assembly, sacked the legislators and installed their own candidates; under the same watch.
“And they call themselves the God-designated watchman over the fortunes of this nation? And suddenly, here they are and I see Nigerians flocking to them and asking them once again to lead.
“Mind you, they’ve said very clearly if it becomes a political party count me out o, but paths are already being beaten to their doors, control by subrogation.
“Even if they do not individually put themselves back in the position of power, they are already smoothening the way for their surrogates, their stooges, so that they can continue to misrule from their cosy farmsteads. So, all I’m urging is: be very vigilant. Just look closely at their records, look at the company they keep.
He urged the youth to “grow up” and take political power.
“Why can’t a new generation actually rise, throw us all out of the window and take control of their own lives by themselves? Why do we keep recycling the same jaded, traitors, enemies of the people? Why do you need to go for blessing somewhere if you’ve made up your mind that it is time to take control of your own existence?
“Once again, I don’t want to be misunderstood, I know what I think about this government when voting time comes, I know exactly where I’m going to cast my vote but I’m not going to allow anybody to hoodwink me and say I will show you the path. No, this will be adding insult to injury.”
According to Falana, the government would confiscate some of Obasanjo’s assets, including a university, “at the right time.”
Falana said: “Our country is undergoing serious crises of governance but we must be very careful so that we do not allow those who destroyed the country, those who ruined the nation to pose as the saviour of our people.
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“There’s somebody living very close to this place who has been parading himself as the saviour of our people; this guy ruled the country for 11 and a half years cumulatively – three and a half years under the military, eight years under a civilian dispensation. And even wanted to do a third term but Nigerians rejected him.
“The guy is going round the country now, claiming to have solutions to our problems; I wish to say here and we are challenging him to name one thing that he did, any problem of the country that he solved.
“On the contrary, this guy wasted $16billion to generate darkness for the country. This guy formed and took over the resources of the country blindly under what he called blind trust.
“Nigeria is the only country in the world where a sitting President and a sitting Vice-President established private universities when the government refused to fund public universities and other tertiary institutions. But let me tell,
“Gani went to court to challenge the extortion of state governments and contractors by a man who realised about N7billion to set up a so-called library.
“Under the constitution, any gift received while you are in office, other than customary gifts, is forfeitable to the state; therefore, at the right time, this country, when it is properly organised will take over all those universities and libraries that were set up with public funds and that may be sooner than you think.”
Kaduna State Senator, Sani, said Nigeria is not yet in a true democracy.
He said: “In fact, our country is sick, the republic is sick; our people are dying, violence, bloodshed, killings, mass murder is becoming the emblem of our democracy today.
“We are out of PDP misrule but we will be deceiving ourselves to say we are in the Promise Land; we are not in the Promise Land. We must keep vigil,
“The political ruling elite are not yet prepared to see to a democratic Nigeria. Nigeria’s political reality is about personal interest.
“Those who destroyed our country in the past are very much present as born against.”
He urged Nigerians of integrity to support Buhari because “You can’t build a country because of the integrity of one person. The integrity of one person is not enough to rule and sustain a state. We have a President who is a man of integrity but integrity is not enough for leadership.”
Sowore lamented that Nigerians rejected Gani for Obasanjo in 1999.
He said: “I want to say very briefly that Nigeria must be regretting that when they had a chance to choose between Chief Gani Fawehinmi and a Barabbas, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, they decided to choose Obasanjo instead of choosing Gani Fawehinmi and that is why we are regretting today.