Yesterday, July 13, 2021, was the day Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, turned 87 years.
It was a big occasion. The 13th Wole Soyinka Centre Media Lecture was held in Lagos, chaired by Mr. Femi Falana SAN.
The human rights lawyer was passionate about Nigeria in his speech regretting the sorry situation the country has fallen into under President Muhammadu Buhari.
He lamented that the country under Buhari had lost focus saying in 2021, Nigeria is still looking for abandoned grazing routes when a small country like Botswana that is 2 million in population produces 2.5 million heads of cattle through modern animal production techniques.
“How can you be looking for grazing routes in the 21st century, where you have organic beef? It’s animal husbandry.
“Look at Botswana, a small country of barely two million people, but the cattle population there is 2.5 million. That country has market and everything for animal husbandry, so, it is not rocket science to produce beef and distribute.”
He was full of grief for Nigeria noting that while the country is pathetically bleeding from failed security situation, the president is fighting tooth and nail to get a Lauretta Onochie appointed a INEC Commissioner.
He further condemned the over reliance on oil as pivotal for the country’s economy stressing that today’s world has moved from oil economy to knowledge economy.
“Nobody has time for oil again. It is knowledge economy. We have a situation today, where countries that have no natural resources are ahead of the rest, while those of us that are rich in resources are poor.”
He pointed out that revenue from oil has dwindled, adding that going to Abuja to share allocation is tantamount “to sharing poverty.”
While urging youths to persist in agitation for.change through peaceful means, Falana insisted it’s their unalienable rights.
He knocked Buhari for his crackdown on public protests, recalling how he went to court in 2003 to defend President Buhari’s right to protest.
He expressed disappointment that protesters under Buhari administration are perfidiously persecuted.
“Nobody can say that we cannot demonstrate. Under the military; under the most repressive military regimes that we have had in the country we were demonstrating,” he submitted.
“In 2003 – and this is painful -the Olusegun Obasanjo administration invaded a rally in Kano attended by General Buhari and the late Chuba Okadigbo. They sprayed tear gas, Okadigbo was asthmatic, and two days after that event, he died because he inhaled poisonous gas.
“After that horrible experience, they came to me -I’m talking about General Buhari – to beg me to go to court for them and that they didn’t have money.
“The police had said they don’t have permit to hold the rally; That how can you have a rally when you don’t have a permit? I went to court for them, and in November 2006 the judgement came. The court declared that police permit for rally in Nigeria is illegal and unconstitutional. The police went to the court of appeal, and the court of appeal in 2008 said that police permit is a relic of colonialism and that a free people do not need permit to enjoy their freedom.
“We mobilized the national assembly – a more serious national assembly than what we have now – and they made a law in 2016, that if you are going to have a rally in Nigeria, all you need to do is to inform the police, that the police should provide adequate security.”