The presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi as well as the Vice Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Kassim Shettima, yesterday graced the ongoing Nigerian Bar Association Annual General Conference (NBA-AGC) in Lagos, where they respectively decried the state of the country and spoke passionately about their plans to reset the country and address most of its socio-economic challenges.
Atiku revealed that he has empanelled a committee to draft an amendment to Nigeria’s constitution that would largely address issues of structural deformities in the country. According to the former vice president, the level of disunity in Nigeria was unprecedented, lamenting the country has become more disunited today than it has ever been since 1999.
On his part, Obi declared that Nigerian is presently in a mess and more disunited, pointing out that the 2023 election would not be based on tribal or religious sentiments, but on character and competence. The former Anambra State governor said Nigeria needs urgent transition from a highly insecure country to one that is secure and free from corruption.
Also speaking, Shettima, who represented the presidential candidate of APC, Mr. Bola Tinubu, said their ticket remains the best because of their skills, capacity and past achievements in office. He urged his audience to align with the vision of the APC candidates, promising that that they would replicate the success recorded in Lagos State all over the country.
Speaking further, Atiku expressed concern that Nigeria has never found its self in such a dire and critical situation, saying the country currently has all the negative indices as never before.
“Today we are more disunited as a nation. We have never experienced this level of poverty, this type of insecurity and unemployment,” Atiku declared while speaking on the theme: “Bold transitions in the 21st century as far as our country is concerned.”
The PDP Presidential candidate told the conference that the draft amendments expected to address the structural defects in the country’s governance would be tabled before the National Assembly from day one for consideration and enactment into law.
According to Atiku, “we have recognised all these negative developments in our history, what is important is how do we tackle these challenges.
“This is where history and experience beckons on us to make sure that we don’t get it wrong at this point in time otherwise if we get it wrong, I don’t know when we will ever get it right.
“I have been involved in the struggle to return this country to democracy since the military days. In fact, I can even say I was even lucky to be alive because so many of my contemporaries have been killed in this struggle but by the grace of God I survived till this point in time.
“In my brief introduction, I stated that there are five key areas that any leadership. Forget about the party, any leadership must confront these five issues and I enumerated them. The unity of our country is very fundamental and how we achieve the unity of our country is by making sure that we give every part of this country a sense of belonging.
“Somebody asked me how do you give every part of this country a sense of belonging, I referred them to the situation we found Nigeria in 1998 and 1999. As a party, PDP won overwhelmingly. We could go on and form our government just based on our maturity, but we decided that every political party must be part of our administration.
“After we formed national unity, there was calm in the country, the issue of economy and security came in because we had a consensus, we had no problem dealing with the subsequent challenges. I believe we have had an experience, and it is that experience that I said must be brought back.”
Continuing, Atiku said: “It is only when you have this sense of belonging that you will be able to deal with the issue of security before you now talk of the economy and the devolution of more powers.
“I am a product of devolution of power and I know what the regional governments achieved with those powers. So, that is why I advocated for restructuring, for development of powers to the states and also the local government more resources, more of powers to the state and local government.
“My five points programme were based on experience, they are based on something I have seen and participated in; I am not a trial by error leader.”
In his presentation, part, Obi said Nigeria needs urgent transition from highly insecure country to one that is secured, from a disunited country to a united country, from corruption to a successful country and from a lawless country to a country of law and order.
He stated that it was important for Nigerians, “to look at where we are today, to understand the gravity of the journey we are going to take if we are going to transit.”
He added: “Nigeria has been qualified to be a failed state, we have the two or three biggest characteristics of a failed state. One is when you are no longer in charge of your territory. Today, we are among the top terrorised countries in the world. We are among the top kidnapping countries in the world, banditry have taken over part of the country and Nigerians are being killed.”
He said the country’s challenges have gotten so bad that the 2023 election would not be about religion or tribe, but about who has the character and competence to deliver the country from its current mess.
“Nigeria is in a mess. We got here simply because of the accumulative effect of bad leadership. The coming election is not about tribe or religion but about character and competence,” Obi added.
Also, Shettima said the APC has the best pair to lead the country out of its present challenges.
He said: “He (Tinubu) is a city boy, I am the golden boy. In Jim Ovia’s words, competence is what people are assessed by. We have mentored men who have excelled in all aspects of human endeavours.
“I urged lawyers to be resolute, firm, to make bold, informed decisions not emotional decisions. Align with the vision of the APC candidates, we’ll create a Lagos experience all over the country. Make informed judgment, and vote for competence, and capacity. Asiwaju is the man to beat.
“When Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu became governor of Lagos State in 1999, there was only one ambulance in the service of the Lagos state government, now Lagos is earning N51 billion every month as its internally generated revenue.
“Lagos is the third largest economy in Africa and the world is in transition. What is important is for a Nigerian leader of the next dispensation must be a leader who has a mastery of financial management capabilities and someone who understands Nigerian psychology and someone who appreciates and understands the complexity of the Nigerian nation.
“Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has established an excellent track record for performance. He has mentored men and women who are excelling in different fields of human endeavors and the world is changing and the trajectory of global growth facing Africa and Nigeria will make or mar that transition.”
The former Borno governor added: “As Chinua Achebe said, the problem of Nigeria is purely and essentially that of leadership. Once we get the leadership function right, everything right, everything will fall into place.
“In these days when others are talking of Artificial Intelligence when others are talking of nanotechnology, biotechnology, we need a leader with the skills set, understanding of the global economy to shepherd us in this age. If you get one, you are getting one for free. He’s the city boy, I am the golden boy.
“In the history of Zenith Bank, no one, I dare say, apart from the legendary Ada Umeji, grew faster in the history of Zenith than my humble self.
“I have mentored men who are excelling in different fields of human endeavour. As I said earlier, the world is watching us and the ultimate major measure of a man, as Martin Luther King said, is not where he stands.
“I urge my friends here to be rational, firm and have the boldness and courage to make informed decisions, not emotional decisions. Here we are on the threshold of making history. In the United Kingdom, a young man of Indian descent is about to become the Prime Minister,” Shettima stated.
Meanwhile, in her keynote address, award-winning novelist, Chimamanda Adichie, said Nigeria was in disarray, noting that Nigerians do not have enough leaders to look up to in the current situation.
According to her, Nigeria is presently in need of heroes who have the capacity to take bold decisions to save the country. She stated that young citizens were finding it difficult to have heroes for mentorship.
She said, “We are starved of heroes. Our young people do not find people to look up to anymore. Nigeria is disarray. Things are hard and getting harder by the day. “We can’t be safe when there is no rule of law. Nigerians are starved of heroes to look up to. Late Dora Akunyili and Gani Gawehimmi were heroes that Nigerians looked up to before now. Unfortunately, that era has gone. I believe that NBA is in a position to give the nation, heroes that we can look up to the lead the nation.”
The speaker said it was important for everyone to speak out against injustice and tyranny even if they would be called troublemakers.
She said, “a bold transition must embrace audacity and innovation. They have called me troublesome. Although, it is never enjoyable to be called troublesome. I never set out to provoke for its sake. But I refuse to silence myself for the fear of what I might inadvertently provoke. It has always been important to me to say what I believe, to call out injustice.
“Federal and state security dragging journalists to prison is tyranny. A journalist ill-treating his domestic staff is tyranny. The rape of young boys and girls is also tyranny. It is tyranny when state governments do not pay pensioners until they slump and die as broken people. “The physical harassment of lawyers and some judges is tyranny. The use of the law by some people to oppress the poor people is tyranny.”
Speaking further, she said, “As long as we refuse to untangle the knot of injustice, peace cannot thrive. If we don’t talk about it, we fail to hold leaders accountable and we turn what should be transparent systems into ugly opaque cults.
“My experience made me think there’s something dead in us, in our society; a death of self-awareness and ability for self-criticism.
“There’s need for resurrection. We cannot avoid self-criticism but criticise the government. We cannot hide our own institutional failure while demanding transparency from the government.”
She also advocated for an uncorrupted judicial system and called on the NBA to leverage technology in judicial process and the administration of justice in the country.
She said, “Nigerians are disillusioned because they know of the decline of professionalism in some sections of the legal profession. As the NBA continues to fight the abuse of power, it must also look inwards not to be corrupted.
“One way is to simplify legal procedure. We deny justice when we delay justice. Technology should also be used. It is time for the full use of technology in the administration of justice.”