For the Record: Nigeria must avoid civil war, scrap Lekki tollgates – Bode George

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Being the press release by *Chief Olabode Ibiyinka George* at the press conference held today at Lugard Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos.

*WE MUST WiTHDRAW FROM THE BRINK*

l have observed critically over the last three months and have watched with disbelief, with despair and with dismay the gradual hurling of our country to the precipice.

The widening spread of banditry, the reckless shedding of innocent blood, the bitter murderous clashes between farmers and herdsmen, the lease brigandry have virtually made all corners of our society insecure, vulnerable to the rule of the cudgel and machete.

Governance everywhere is fast losing its grip on the First Principles of protecting lives and properties. From Sokoto to Lagos, from Ebonyi to Borno, from Katsina to Ogun and from the Savanah to the rain forest, lives are daily cut down without the culprits being brought to pay for their crimes. Road users are kidnapped, brutalized, exposed to unimaginable kinds of cruelty and then forced to pay ransom.

Even the homesteads are no longer safe as all kinds of criminals descend upon the rich and poor, breaking into private hearths, breaching our collective security, inflicting the most sadistic venom on their victims as they are brutalized and their properties stripped bare.

And even in the streets, various warlords declare their own turf wars, wielding cudgels, guns and all kinds of available missiles in pitch battles.

All over the country lives are no longer being treasured. Nothing is sacred. There are no Holy of Holies anymore. Everything is a free game. Gradually, we are slipping into the rule of the mob, in form of the Hobbesian state of Nature where the rule of the strong and the cudgel prevails.

When lives are neither treasured nor safe, and ordinary citizens cannot carry out their legitimate businesses without being hindered or molested, what then is the purpose of governance? What then is the responsibility of leadership?

The primary responsibility of Government among other things are to preserve, protect and defend her citizens from both internal and external threats.

Governments are elected to guarantee the pursuit of happiness, to ensure the protection of personal liberties, to create an atmosphere where all citizens can carry out their economic livelihoods without being subjected to oppression or being savaged by the lawlessness of incendiary actors. ‘

Sadly, we are living in an increasingly dysfunctional society, where the structures of power are un-representative, skewed in unitary bias, devoid of democratic balance.

I strongly believe that before our country can heal from its present wounds and rectify the observable aberrations, we must address the apparent imbalances.

We must restructure the Nigerian entity to ensure its survival as a nation. There are so many aberrations thwarting equitable governance in our country. The center is too encumbered with many responsibilities. it is overburdened, stressed with unnecessary functions that ought to be devolved to the states.

Our federation is only a federation in name. it is more of a unitary system, barking out Command and Control like a military hierarchy.

This is not how Democracies operate. This is not how true Federating units function.

We must loosen the overarching power at the center and return more responsibilities to the states.

This is the normative pattern all over the world. And why should our own be different? We must re-evaluate and remodel our structures of governance to be more representative of the will of the people.

Another contributory malady in the composition of governance is the inordinate greed and the unconscionable conducts of some of our leaders who are elected to represent and protect the interests of the people. They often act like overlords, distant and indifferent to the will of the people.

In this instance l want to use my state as an example of the most culpable organ of power, spurred by the narrow protection of the economic interests of state actors, callous and indifferent to the economic well being of her people.

The Panel set up by Lagos state government to look into the Endsars tragedy has demonstrated an unconscionable totality in the inexplicable, hurried, greedy, selfish, inhumane, outrageous and immoral decision to re-open the Lekki Toll Gates while the blood of the Lekki martyrs are still trying out forjustice.

It is this unconscionable decision that forced the angry resignation of Ms Rinu Oduala from the panel. The young woman claimed: “i cannot be part of a cover up. ”This is quite vitiating to the state government and the panel itself.

The treatment of peaceful protesters who were humiliated, bundled into the hot oven of the Blackmaria amid the searing heat last Saturday at Lekki Toll gate does not enhance the critical ingredients of democracy wherein citizens are guaranteed the right to protest peacefully against the obvious wrongs of power. This strong arm tactic does not make us look good in the eyes of the enlightened world.

By all standards, this is rather disturbing. The Panel set up by Lagos state to bring justice to the victims has not even thrashed out the very underpinning of its assignment but yet overturns logic on its head, peremptorily declared that the Toll gates should be re-opened, believing that the economic interests of a very few are more important than the precious lives brutally cut down during the Endsars protests on October 20, 2020.

What a show of shame!!!!

This is not just. This is not right. This is not fair. This is sad.

We are demanding that the Lagos state government through the Freedom of information Act must publish the names of those who are managing the Toll Gates. We do remember however that there was a buy-back several years ago returning the control and ownership of the Admiralty Toll gate to the Lagos state Government. The Lekki-lkoyi Toll gate was built from scratch with tax payers money.

How then can anyone/company inexplicably make a legal claim to the Lekki toll gates.

Again, what is the relationship between Seyi Tinubu and Lekki Concession Company?

Equally, what is the relationship between Sunday Dare and the Lekki Concession Company? We all know that Sunday Dare until he became Minister last year was Bola Tinubu’s Good Man Friday. There are too many untidy, dirty, stinking intimations here. That’s why we demand that the details of the Toll gate ownership should be presented to the public immediately.

A more enlightened government should dismantle the two parallel intra state Toll gates and erect a permanent monument to honor those who lost their lives at that Endsars rally.

There is no were in the world where you have two parallel Toll Gates on intra States roads. As a matter of fact the Toll Gates are responsible for the severe traffic gridlocks endangering the health of Lekki Residents and causing unreasonable economic hardship. WHY?

lnfact how much is Lagos state earning from these two Toll Gates per day, per month, and annually? It is alleged that an estimated 400 million naira is collected on both Toll gates everyday. If we are wrong, let them bring out their books and tell us how this humongous money is being spent.

l have gone to this length to illustrate what could go wrong when there is a brazen interloper and a destructive tin-pot despot who has handcuffed the government of our state.

This over bloated character is obsessed with the interests of the privileged few to the detriment of the majority of our citizens.

Lagos is indicative of the quality of leadership presently steering the rudder of some of our states. When the leadership is uncaring, when the leadership is restricted to personal gains, when the leadership lacks embracing accommodating largeness, there will always be the inevitable descent to ethnic and sectarian jingoism. There will always be the withdrawal to the rule of profiteers and mercantilist characters whose fixity is to benefit from destruction and ruin.

The national leadership is advised to tackle these tendencies towards nepotistic sway and prejudicial preferences that are basically injurious to national unity.

The seemingly intractable clashes between herdsmen and farmers across the nation which are now more pronounced in the South West can only be stopped with the outright banning of open grazing. The free ranging of cows in our forests, in the farms and even in the cities is wrong, archaic, deleterious to the economy itself. The corralling and the
ranching of cows are the model in Argentina, Brazil and all other beef producing nations of the world.

This is the time that President Muhammodu Buhari should demonstrate a rallying unifying leadership to bring all our people together. Surely, this is not the time for ethnic or sectarian jingoism. This is the time for healing. This is the time to mend the broken places and rectify the pervasive wrongs.

Our people have been living together in peace and harmony for more than one hundred years even before the colonialists imposed the rule of the gunpowder.

We must return to the path of peace. We must return to the path of fairness. We must return to the path of goodwill.

Thomas Payne, the British American Author was right when he published Common Sense on January 10, 1776 when blood was shed at the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.

And I quote:

*”These are the times that try men‘s souls: the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country…”*

But we dare not shrink. We dare not waver from the just cause. Let us endure. Let all men and women of goodwill come together to salvage and redeem our nation. There is no other way.

Finally, l speak to you today on this Ash Wednesday which is a Holy time of fasting and atonement in Christendom just like the Ramadan is acknowledged by the faithful of the Islamic faith, I want to leave you with these spiritual quotations from the Holy Bible as reflections of the Grace of God during these Lenten period.

“Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong. “Psalm 37:13”

And Prophet Ezekiel told us during this same Lent period: ”Go through the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” Ezekiel 9: 4. The words of Prophet Ezekiel are still relevant today. God invites us to express our sadness and then pray for our community our country and our world.

Finally, as a veteran and a retired Commodore of the Nigerian Navy, l plead with all Nigerians to withdraw from the Brink and ensure the national continuity.

I thank you all for listening. May God save our nation. And may the good Lord be with you all.

*Chief Bode George, Atona Oodua of Yorubaland*
Wednesday, February 17th Lagos

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