LAGOS – Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on wednesday said any restructuring of the country can only be meaningful if wealth is equitably distributed.
To him, merely restructuring Nigeria would not guarantee unity and political stability without the redistribution of wealth.
Falana was of the view that while the country needs power devolution, only the democratisation of powers and equitable redistribution of the commonwealth along egalitarian lines would engender unity.
In a paper delivered at the 19th Mike Okonkwo Annual Lecture in Lagos, the Senior Advocate said: since the rich were united in exploiting the country’s national resources, the exploited poor and oppressed should unite to free themselves from poverty.
Falana said, “A leading People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has become one of the leading proponents of restructuring, but his support for restructuring has not addressed the crucial issue of the redistribution of the national wealth.
“After all, in his capacity as the nation’s Vice President and chairman of the National Council on Privatisation, Alhaji Abubakar presided over the restructuring of the nation’s economy through the liquidation of public assets and the privatisation of the commanding height of the economy.
“The policy led to a situation whereby all major public enterprises and assets including oil blocks were sold to the so-called ‘core investors’.
“Such official transfer of the commonwealth to a few local and foreign corporate bodies will have to be reversed in the interests of the people.”
According to Falana, the country cannot be seriously restructured without equitable redistribution of wealth.
“Therefore, those who have cornered the commonwealth should not be allowed to talk of restructuring in vacuo.
“In other words, the campaign for restructuring should encompass the decentralisation and democratisation of political and economic powers which have been privatised by all factions of the ruling class,” he said.
The leading rights activist referred to the constitutional provision that the welfare and security of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.
He said Nigerians must therefore demand an end to a policy that allows political office holders and civil servants who constitute less than one per cent of the population to continue to allocate 70 per cent of the nation’s resources to themselves.
Falana said: “If the federal government could withdraw $12.4 billion from the foreign reserves to pay questionable external debts and subsidise the local bourgeoisie with intervention funds running to trillions of naira, it cannot turn round to complain of lack of fund to fix collapsed social infrastructures, education, health, transportation and agriculture and create jobs for our army of unemployed youths.
“The recovery of the stolen wealth of the country from foreign and local thieves should be a collective battle while the fund recovered from corrupt public officers and their privies is spent on job creation and fixing of hospitals and schools as well as the provision of other social services.”
The senior lawyer believes that the programmes and manifestoes of the ruling party and the mainstream opposition parties cannot take Nigeria to the Promised Land.
Nigerians, he said, must take their destiny in their own hands by organising themselves to demand for the actualisation of the fundamental objectives and directive principles set out in Chapter two of the Constitution.
“The economy cannot be transformed in favour of Nigeria on the basis of the dangerous prescriptions of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“Nigerians should, therefore, be prepared to challenge the recycled neo-liberal managers of the economy who continue to insist on the dominance of market forces which have been discredited by the crisis of global capitalism.
“While religious leaders are entitled to prepare the country for heaven, they must team up with patriotic forces to organise, empower and mobilise our people through their unions, associations, collectives and religious groups to rebuild the country on the platform of social justice and equity. Otherwise, the unity of Nigeria will remain a mirage.”