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Nigeria will disintegrate if… Ozekhome, a constitutional lawyer warns at Zik Lecture Series

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By Gabriel Chy Alonta

A constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Dr. Mike Ozekhome (SAN), has questioned Nigeria’s indivisibility and indissolubility claims across different divides in the country, warning that if the Federal Government continues to pay deaf ears to agitations of the people that Nigeria’s unity would be in imminent jeopardy.

Ozekhome, who was the guest lecturer at the 11th Zik Lecture Series, spoke on the theme, “Nigeria in the Throes of Insecurity Towards 2023: “Any Panacea?” on Wednesday November 16, 2022 at the ASUU-NAU Secretariat.

Dignitaries and speakers standing for the national anthem

According to the guest lecturer, “We want Nigeria to remain one united entity but such unity should not be taken for granted; it should be nurtured and respected. There are several countries that have broken as a result of marginalization of one section. Let us not think that Nigeria is indivisible and indissoluble.

“The marginalization of some ethnic groups and lopsided appointments have contributed to the agitations and secessionists movement in Nigeria. Political insecurity is what has led to the self-determination movement by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

“I am calling on the federal government to release Nnamdi Kalu to bring peace and tranquility in the South East. The continued detention is not what will bring peace in the coming election but its release”, Ozekhome said.

Prof. Esimone presenting award to Dr. Ozekhome

He also frowned at vote buying/selling, urging Nigerians to use the opportunity of 2023 election to elect competent leaders that would address the myriad of problems facing the nation, even as he entertained fears that the insecurity in Nigeria if not checked, would constitute a major threat to the 2023 general elections.

While identifying bad leadership and political insecurity as bane of Nigeria’s woes, the guest lecturer decried that “failure of our leaders to live up to its billing has left Nigeria in tatters, poverty, desolation and despondency, adding that marginalisation and non-inclusion of certain groups in the scheme of things breeds insecurity”.

The human rights activist then fingered Nigeria’s democratic practice, calling for true federation to expedite growth and development of various regions, remarking the need for the federal government to devolve most of the 174 functions on the exclusive list to state and local governments.

Ozekhome then listed bad governance, economic imbalance and marginalization, ethno-religious intolerance, weak security apparatus, loss of traditional values and moral ethos, porous borders and arms proliferation, the reality of unemployed and grinding poverty, among others as causes of insecurity, while recommending new constitution and strong policies and programmes by the government at all levels.

Also speaking, the Executive Governor of Delta State, His Excellency, Sen Ifeanyi Okowa said the occasion would provide the platform to discuss and proffer solutions for peaceful co-existence, unity and sustainability of Nigeria. He identified banditry, insurgency, kidnapping, ritual killings, terrorism, farmer-herder clashes, and more as some of the security threatening Nigeria.

Prof. Esimone presenting award to Governor Okowa

While decrying that Nigeria was ranked as one of the most dangerous nations to live in the world, the governor listed poverty, inequitable distribution of wealth, absence of modern security architecture, lopsided power sharing, corruption leading to poor economic growth, among others as contributing factors fuelling insecurity in Nigeria. Governor Okowa further urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure that the 2023 general election is credible, saying that a credible electoral system was good to strengthen democracy, build peace and unity in the country.

Delta community in Anambra state presenting an award to Dr. Okowa

Also speaking, High Chief Sen. Ben Ndi Obi, who is the benefactor of Zik Lecture Series, said the event was endowed in the loving memory of Nigeria’s first president, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, adding that the Lecture had evolved over the past 11 years with very significant impact and huge contribution to knowledge and national development. He described the theme of the lecture as timely, educating and a source of research for all. He also called on the federal government to declare November 16 as a national holiday to properly recognize and immortalize Zik of Africa who, according to him, was instrumental to the independence of Nigeria.

Cutting of anniversary cake

“It is embarrassing that in this 21st century, universities in Nigeria were kept under lock and keys for 8-months. It does not happen anywhere in the world because no serious nation desirous of growth will halt academic proceedings for such a long time.

“We must solve the university problem once and for all. It is not rocket science; universities all over the world have a reliable, consistent source of funding, including an autonomy that is not jeopardised or politicised. We must seek policies that would address these. We must equally guarantee their independence and greater autonomy for efficiency”, Sen Obi posited.

The guest of honour, Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra State, represented by the deputy, Dr. Onyekachi Ibezim, said the state sometime in the past recognised November 16 as a public holiday and assured that the state would partner with the organisers going forward. He regretted that the recent generation was deviating from the type of politics played by the Great Zik of Africa, while drawing attention to the need to follow Zik’s track records. 

Prof. Esimone presenting award to Dr. Ibezim

In a remark, a former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, said the occasion was one of the ways to immortalise Zik because of his belief in education as a pathfinder to both self and national development. “We have a problem as a nation; the country is in trouble and the university can come up with ideas on how to strategically deal with these issues”, he added.

Prof. Charles Okechukwu Esimone, the vice-chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, had in a remark, thanked the benefactor for attracting national and international personalities annually in memory of Great Zik of Africa, adding that the gesture would provide the platform to further the capacity for good governance in the country.

Cross section of participants at the event

Earlier, the Dean of Social Sciences, Prof. Uche Nwagwugwu said the lecture was the university’s most prominent academic event with international visibility, which, he said, had attracted eminent dignitaries, as well as outstanding scholars.

Prof. Au. Nnoyelu and Prof. Ifeoma Dunu who is the chairperson of Zik Lecture Series, had in a vote of thanks, commended those who graced the occasion and the speakers for their insightful contributions. Award presentations and cutting of anniversary cake formed the high points of the 11th Zik Lecture Series.

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