Supporters of Jonathan in South West self-serving: Femi Falana

•Falana, demanded Oduah’s probe

Femi Falana

*says Yoruba agenda at the confab largely defeated

Governor Olusegun Mimiko, a staunch ally and campaigner for President Goodluck Jonathan in western Nigeria, wants his Yoruba compatriots to support Jonathan’s re-election.

His reason was that Jonathan would actualise the Yoruba agenda as articulated during the constitutional conference organised last year in Abuja.

General Adeyinka Adebayo, Ayo Adebanjo, Mimiko, Peter Obi at the Ibadan conference
General Adeyinka Adebayo, Ayo Adebanjo, Mimiko, Peter Obi at the Ibadan conference

“The CONFAB Report when implemented, will create room for each State to have its own constitution, its own police force, its own prison service, can create its own local governments, can build its own Airports, Seaports and Railways and in addition; in the economic domain, solid minerals that had been the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government since independence, have now been brought to the concurrent list. States can now create employment and develop at their own pace. With all that, it liberates everybody, it opens up the political space,” Mimiko said.

Mr Femi Falana, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who was a delegate at the National Conference, said Mimiko has not said the truth about the achievements of the South West delegates at the confab. In this interview to be published by TheNEWS magazine on Monday, Falana said the core Yoruba agenda was mostly defeated at the Confab

•Falana: debunks Miniko's  statement on benefits of confab to Yoruba people
•Falana: debunks Miniko’s statement on benefits of confab to Yoruba people

The text of the interview:

Some Yoruba leaders have been hanging their support for President Jonathan on the Confab report implementation. As a member of the Confab, what is your view?

I recognize the fundamental right of political leaders, including the Afenifere members to support President Jonathan. But they have no right to base their partisan support on historical inaccuracies. With respect, President Jonathan has demonstrated disdain for the Confab report. The report of the Confab containing about 600 recommendations was submitted to President Jonathan in July last year. Upon the receipt of the report seven months ago, the President set up a 7-member Committee headed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke SAN to study the report and recommend the implementation of the recommendations. The Committee is yet to submit its report.

Not only that, some of the recommendations are being pooh-poohed by the Government. For instance, the members of the Confab unanimously voted for the separation of the State from religious affairs. In particular, it was recommended that the State should withdraw from the sponsorship of pilgrimages to Mecca, Jerusalem and other holy sites.

The other day, President Jonathan led thousands of Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem. Even in the on-going campaign President Jonathan has been worshipping in different churches where he is usually given the microphone to address the congregation. Do you know the serious implications of the manipulation of religion if the candidates of other political parties take their campaigns to the mosques or the shrines to woo voters? President Obasanjo started the dangerous game of grabbing the microphone to join issues with priests who had the temerity to criticize his regime. Churches have since been converted to campaign centres. Unfortunately, our religious leaders have not plucked up the courage to stop the commercialization and politicization of religion.

Can you be more specific on the Yoruba Agenda at the national conference?

Frankly speaking, the Yoruba agenda was anchored on regional autonomy, restructuring, parliamentary system or Westminster model, fiscal federalism or resource control, unicameral legislature, a ceremonial president and a prime minister with full executive powers, a special status for Lagos state, state police and deletion of the Land Use Act from the Constitution. Those were the items which constituted the core Yoruba Agenda. The items were defeated in toto at the confab. Of course, the establishment of State Police scaled through on the basis of the role of the civilian joint task force in the fight against insurgency in the north east region. I challenge the authors of the Yoruba Agenda to point to other items that were adopted by the Confab. That is not to say that the confab was a failure.

However, while representatives of ethnic nationalities lost at the Confab the Nigerian people won a number of concessions. For instance, the justiciability of Chapter II of the Constitution was unanimously agreed upon by the delegates. The secularity of the State was affirmed. Instead of the federal character commission we recommended the establishment of equal opportunities commission. National minimum wage and labour matters are to remain in the exclusive legislative list. No doubt, some matters were taken from exclusive legislative list to allow for minimal devolution of powers. The 2014 National Confab made three types of recommendations on policy direction, statutory amendments and constitutional review. The recommendations required the promulgation of over 50 new laws and amendment of about 80 existing legislations. Some of the bills were prepared and submitted to the Government. President Jonathan did not call a Yoruba Confab but a National Conference.

There is therefore no basis for the Afenifere to claim the success of the Confab. Contrary to the desperate moves to claim any credit for originality of the confab, the Afenifere members embraced the idea of the Sovereign National Conference for the first time in 1994 after the annulment of the June 12 election. The human rights community had began the campaign in 1989 under the leadership of the late Comrade Alao Aka-Bashorun, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association. We had a pan Nigerian mandate. That was the agenda that the civil society and the labour movement took to the confab.

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Jonathan has been trying to woo the South West. How far can he go?

The President is entitled to woo the South West like other regions. But the battle on ground transcends ethnic jingoism. In a region where people are largely conscious of their democratic rights on account of education and exposure you cannot get substantial votes by wooing a motley crowd of traditional rulers and ethnic champions. As far as elections are concerned, most of the voters are young. They have no nexus whatsoever with these ethnic or faith based organizations. For the first time in 16 years, the ruling party is running from pillar to post. The PDP became so arrogant that its leaders boasted that they would rule the country for 60 years. It is indubitably clear that it is no longer business as usual in the political terrain. Apart from the general enlightenment of the voters, the media organizations are largely concentrated in Lagos. The critical segment of the press has since dismissed President Jonathan for unprecedented incompetence, grand corruption and official impunity. This is the reason why the President was in Lagos to extend largesse to some selected leaders of interest groups.

Jonathan met with Afenifere? How influential in the South West are the members in these times?

The Afenifere was popular because it influenced the progressive policies of the Action Group and Unity Party of Nigeria led by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the first and second republics. At that time the support or endorsement of Afenifere for any politician was anchored on the welfare programmes of the dominant social democratic party in western Nigeria. But these days, endorsements by some ethnic groups are based on opportunism. Hence, the on-going endorsements have excluded youths, women, workers and other disadvantaged people in the region. The Afenifere has continued to lose its relevance because it is not addressing the problems of youth unemployment, infrastructural decay, official corruption etc. Governor Fashola publicly accused President Jonathan of distributing dollars when he visited Lagos last week. In those days, the Afenifere would have sued the governor for libel over that statement.

The Gani Adams faction of OPC bandied a 6 million figure of members who support Jonathan. Your view.

Some private bodies now play with figures like the Jonathan Administration. The other day we were told that 17 million had supported the President. With the additional endorsement of 6 million voters the ruling party should not be afraid of the general election. But why have you not asked for the register of the 17 or 6 million voters? By the way, both factions of the OPC are united in endorsing the President Jonathan Administration. If the President is re-elected it is hoped that the OPC will win the multi-million naira contracts for the monitoring of pipeline contracts in the South West. Like the leaders of the militant groups in the Niger Delta region, the OPC has made a strong case for the juicy contract. Let those who want to protect their economic interests stop fooling the people.

Have you endorsed the APC?.
I have not endorsed the APC or any political party for that matter. I am currently leading a campaign under the platform of Nigerians Unite for Democracy (NUD) against the anti-democratic forces who are bent on truncating the fragile political transition. In other words, I am working with other colleagues in the progressive extraction of the civil society to ensure that the fundamental right of Nigerians to exercise their franchise is recognized and respected.
We fought the Ibrahim Babangida junta for annulling the June 12, 1993 presidential election, we fought the Sani Abacha junta for the subversion of democracy, we fought President Olusegun Obasanjo’s third term agenda. We fought the Yar’adua cabal for preventing Vice President Jonathan from assuming the presidency when the President was ill and was unable to discharge the functions of his office. With the on-going desperate moves to derail the political transition the struggle transcends the endorsement of any political party for now. We are back to the trenches.

We want you to comment on the Ekiti audio…

The audio recording by Captain Koli has confirmed that the 2014 Ekiti State governorship election was manipulated and rigged by the ruling party. Contrary to the statement credited to President Jonathan that the recording was fabricated not less than three of the characters who took part in the pre-election rehearsal of rigging have made confessional statements. In view of the confessional statements of Governor Ayo Fayose, Police Affairs Minister, Jelili Adesiyan and Senator Iyiola Omisore the investigation cannot be frustrated on the ground that the army Captain who recorded the conversation is not around. The President who does not give a damn about corruption has requested the Senate to confirm the nomination of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro as a Minister. The minister-designate has also admitted that he took part in the controversial conversation on tape but that Sahara Reporters doctored the recording. Since he is alleged to have filed a libel suit I would not want to comment any further on the matter. In view of the confessional statement of the dramatis personae the Inspector-General of Police should therefore not hesitate to conduct an inquiry into the violations of the Electoral Act by those who took part in the plot to manipulate the election. Having betrayed his oath of office, General Momoh should be interdicted to pave way for a full investigation and prosecution of the indicted criminal suspects. Meanwhile, all those who were arrested on the election day should seek redress in court since their arrest was premeditated.
Similarly, the governors who were disallowed from travelling to Ekiti by a platoon of soldiers at Iju, Ondo State should sue the Nigerian Army. It was discriminatory to have stopped them while PDP leaders were allowed to have a field day in the State.

And the adverts of Fayose, especially the latest in the newspapers.

I have read the adverts and several others. Some of them offend the provisions of the Electoral Act but no one is calling the suspects to order as we operate in an atmosphere of impunity. The newspapers and TV stations which publish or broadcast the adverts are equally liable to be prosecuted. Governor Ayo Fayose desperately wants the status quo of official impunity to continue unabated. For it is in an atmosphere of executive lawlessness that the on-going legislative rascality in Ekiti State can be permitted. A few months ago, the authorities in Abuja directed the police to provide maximum security in the House of Assembly complex at Ado Ekiti to facilitate the sack of 19 legislators by a gang of 7. Furthermore, the adverts on General Muhammadu Buhari are also necessary to divert attention from the Ekitigate which has questioned the legitimacy of the governor’s electoral mandate. If there is a change of government in Abuja the Shenanigans in Ekiti State may be consigned to the dustbin of history. This is my understanding of the reckless advertorials oozing out of the Ekiti Governor’s office.

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