Rivers state Governor and Chairman Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Amaechi, yesterday declared that corruption became institutionalized under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Amaechi, who was represented by his Commissioner for Information, Mrs Ibim Seminitari, noted that former President Olusegun Obasanjo made conscious efforts to fight corruption by setting up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to fight same, pointed out that Jonathan has now turned round to hound those individuals who are insisting on fight against the malaise in the country.
The Rivers state governor, who was the guest speaker at the 2nd Peoples Daily Conference organized by the Peoples Media Limited, tagged “Nigeria: The 2015 Question”, said “The progress made in fighting corruption began to erode under President (Umaru) Yar Adua. His short-lived regime cannot be assessed in this wise.
“Currently in the present regime of President Goodluck Jonathan, corruption appears to have been institutionalized. A whopping sum of twenty billion dollars is alleged to have been missing. The stories of both fuel and kerosene subsidies are not anything to behold. It smears of corruption and rottenness.
“The aviation bulletproof saga remains unresolved. The Shell Malabu story is a macabre dance. The response of the regime to corruption is to imprison those exposing corruption. The impunity in corruption is extended to the punishment of those who fight corruption. The removal of the Governor of Central Bank is unconstitutional. Constitution means nothing to the current government. What we see is the re-emergence of civilian dictatorship, but enough about corruption.”
He added that the rate of unemployment has continued on the upward swing since Jonathan emerged the President. According to him, unemployment rate is now at 23.9 percent up from 14.6 percent a few years ago.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, in his own comments at the event said tribalism and nepotism have been elevated to a state policy in the Jonathan’s administration.
Tambuwal said “Part of the problem is that tribalism and nepotism have become such a critical part of our policy and politics that people often feel that they will not be reckoned with unless their candidate, their tribesman or woman, or their party win.
“We must learn to run our government in such a manner that whoever comes to power, the rights and privileges of every citizen remains guaranteed. Once we stop seeing power as an opportunity to enrich our friends and cronies but an opportunity to leave positive mark on governance, the extreme views that people hold over candidates for elections will be substantially moderated.”
The Speaker also lamented that there have been so much noise and condemnation of people who do not share prevailing opinion but with no action on how to correct the failing system. He also expressed disappointment at comments coming from some stakeholders on the 2015 general elections.
Former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who chaired the occasion, in his comments raised the fears that the way the power tussle between the north and the south is being handled ahead of the 2015 Presidential election would go a long way to determine the continued existence of the country as a united nation.
He said “As political animals that we are, nothing seems to have gripped the imagination of Nigerians as the issue of the coming 2015 elections which in my view is a watershed in the history of our dear country.
“The way we are able to handle this very important event will largely determine how successful we will be in our efforts at remaining a united, indivisible and stable country. Already, the fault lines are apparent and politicians are ready to exploit them to the fullest to achieve their sometimes not so noble objectives,” he stressed.
According to him, the determination of the North to reclaim power in 2015 and the desire of President Goodluck Jonathan to seek another portend danger for the country.
He said “The North is determined to have the Presidency back and its leaders are pulling all the stops to see that that happens. On the other hand, the body language of the incumbent president strongly suggests he wants another term in office” he said.
Abubakar warned that “the unfolding scenario may portend danger to our nation if Nigerians from all parts of the country do not close ranks and put to interest of the nation first”
The former Head of State explained that the sad and tragic experience of the 2011 post election violence was a reminder that election matters have become serious business that must be handled with the utmost seriousness and patriotism in order to avoid a repeat.
He however expressed the confidence that the nation could collectively rise above this challenge and deliver elections that not only Nigerians but Africa and the rest of the world will be proud of.
Abubakar emphasized that to rise above this challenge, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has a key role to play in ensuring free and fair elections that reflect the will of the people.
While recollecting his role in the midwife of the nation’s new democratic experiment in 1999, he added that “Free and fair elections are crucial to sustaining a democratic culture, hence my distress whenever we are unable to hold elections that can pass basic standards”.
In his contribution, Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku who was represented by his Special Assistant, Kingsley Osadolor, charged politicians at the states and local government councils to wake up to their responsibilities of providing adequate social amenities rather than dissipating energy over the 2015 general elections.
He stated that the inability to conduct credible election in Nigeria should not be narrowed to the centre but be traced to the states and local governments where ruling parties often claim absolute victory without conscience.
He said politicians in the states should endeavour to get elections right devoid of rigging before denouncing national elections.
Citing the electoral successes in South Africa that brought black majority rule and subsequent ones despite the strong contending forces, he urged Nigerians to work together for the country and endeavour to build the economy towards curtailing social vices.
The Minister charged the people to also hold governments at the state and local level responsible for their failures to deliver good governance instead of always heaping all the blames on the federal government.
Despite recorded growth, poverty level still on the increase
The level of poverty in Nigeria has been described as persistently on the increase, despite, the many reported dividends of democracy.
Speaking during the National conference organised by Peoples Daily Newspapers yesterday, the Vice Chancellor of VERITAS University, Professor Mike Kwanashie said the Nigerian paradox is that while the economy is growing, poverty is increasing.
“While in 2004 poverty rate was placed at 54.4 per cent, this percentage had increased to 71.5 per cent in 2011”.
Stressing on the high rate of poverty in the North, he added that “The major observation from the profile of poverty in Nigeria is its increasing rate, coupled with the geographical distribution of poverty in the country.
Kwanashie noted that the danger of Nigeria’s 2015 is the disillusionment of the country’s political process. “The Present Political system in Nigeria is still badly fractured,” he said.
He lamented the attitude of the present political leaders and parties in the country, adding that the present parties leading in Nigeria are birds of a kind.
“I don’t know the difference between the two major parties we have in Nigeria. In fact, I think what we have in the place of political parties are mere platforms where individuals and groups struggle for power rather than make efforts to ensure the coherent organisation for collective interest”
Speaking also at the conference, Ms Toyosi Akerele, founder and Chief Executive of Rise Group, a non-governmental organisation based in Lagos said the problem of unemployment in Nigeria is not so much as an issue of Nigerians been unemployable but that of Nigerian leaders failing to provide the grounds for employable Nigerians.
She lamented that Nigeria is a country where fundamental problems abound resulting from a long history of poor leadership. “Nigeria is the only country where we produce things we don’t use and consume things we do not produce. We have, as leaders, a set of people who handed generators to the younger generation, rather than power,” she lamented.
Maida charges politicians on peaceful elections
Chairman, Peoples Media Limited, Malam Wada Maida has charged politicians and all concerned stakeholders to come together in order to avert crises akin to that which trailed the last general elections in some parts of the country.
Maida stated this yesterday in Abuja at the 2nd Peoples Media Limited conference held at the Sheraton Hotel and towers with the theme “ Nigeria: the 2015 Question”.
He said “this year’s theme was carefully chosen in the light of the existing harsh realities facing the nation as we navigate the turbulent political waters in our journey towards the enthronement of a democratic country by holding a free and fair election.
The chairman called on politicians and stakeholders to create platforms and fora to talk to electorates considering the occasional tension hanging over the nation anytime elections are about to hold even if immediate solutions may not found.