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Falana blames Buhari, Obasanjo for Nigeria’s problems

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HUMAN Rights Lawyer Femi Falana has accused former President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Muhammadu Buhari of being responsible for the predicaments confronting the country.

He told international delegates at the 2021 West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards (WAMECA) that the Nigerian military and their contemporaries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) allegedly did more harm than good, especially to press freedom in the region.

The lawyer, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), was a keynote speaker at the international event held at the weekend in Accra, Ghana.

He said the military rule was probably, “the greatest enemy of press freedom.”

Apart from the killings of several journalists across the region, Falana also expressed concerns as to how the president and his former colleague in the Army – Obasanjo – took over power during the military era, yet returned to govern the country as democratically elected presidents.

The two, he noted, were recycling themselves in the office alongside their cronies.

“In West Africa, journalists have faced repression and death. This includes the October 19, 1986 mutilation of Mr. Dele Giwa, the Editor-in-Chief of the Nigerian NEWSWATCH Magazine through a parcel bomb, and, the 1995 sentencing of four  Nigerian journalists, Mrs Chris Anyanwu, Kunle Ajibade, George Mbah, and Ben Charles-Obi to life imprisonment for reporting an attempted coup.  There was the December 13, 1998, mafia-style execution and incineration of investigative Burkinabe journalist, Norbet Zongo, his brother, chauffeur, and a friend.

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“The trend in the region as manifested in the countries mentioned and those like Ghana, show that perhaps the greatest enemies of press freedom is the military rule,” he said.

“Generally, development was not arrested in Togo until January 13, 1963, military coup against Sylvanus Olympio. Degeneracy did not set in Ghana until February 24, 1966, a military coup against Kwame Nkrumah.  Nigeria did not become a degenerate state until January 15, 1966, when the military overthrew the elected government of Tafawa-Balewa.

“The cumulative 29 years the military ruled Nigeria is mainly responsible for the quagmire the country is in currently. Today, the Nigerian coup-generals and their beneficiaries continue to recycle themselves into power. In the last 22 years of post-military rule, former military rulers, Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari have been President for 14 years during which they have continued the military culture of repression, though they claimed to be civilian president but that country (Nigeria) is ruled as if we are under military dictatorship.”

Obasanjo, a former military Head of State, ruled the nation as an administrator between 1976 and 1979. He later became a civilian president between 1999 and 2007. He is popularly remembered for pushing the third term agenda after spending years in the corridor of power both as a military officer and civilian administrator.

Buhari was in office from 1983 to 1985 under the military government. He was  democratically elected to office in 2015 and re-elected in 2019.

Most Nigerians have complained over hardship, insecurity, and corruption under Buhari’s government. While some individuals under the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are agitating for secession, there are growing concerns from the South-West part of the country over a similar demand.

Falana also applauded the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists for their reports on the Pandora document which deployed 2.9 terabits of data to expose corrupt dealings.

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He advised the media to intensify efforts in exposing human rights abuses, and other misdeeds in society.

Other participants at the conference demanded special law that would guarantee the protection of journalists.

“Look at the number of journalists in the region who have been killed. Journalists do the hard work, so I don’t see anything wrong in giving special protection to the journalists,” Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative Gbenga Sesan noted..

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