L-R: Fashola claps as Jonathan shakes hand with Braithwaite
In a move that suggested a good reading of the political climate and public mood, President Goodluck Jonathan, at the book launch and 79th birthday of Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, assured Nigerians that the clamour for National Dialogue will not be ignored. Anayo Okolie captures all that transpired at the event
For some time now, activists, opinion leaders and eminent Nigerians had canvassed for a need for the ethnic groups making up the social unit called Nigeria to dialogue on their fate as a people. While some call it national dialogue, others are inclined to addressing it a Sovereign National Conference; the ultimate goal is to carve a platform that would give room for citizens to discuss and deliberate on issues bordering on their corporate existence.
However, the possibility that any such thing would take place had remained uncertain, given successive government’s lackadaisical disposition to what was perceived as politically inexpedient. Yet, the national questions remain constant.
But at the 79th birthday of a lawyer and activist, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, an event which also doubled as his book launch, President Goodluck Jonathan, raised the hope of Nigerians when he said such possibility had not been foreclosed. He said the call which daily agitates the mind of Nigerians would not be ignored, adding that dialogue remains the most potent weapon for greatness and togetherness of any nation.
“All our present circumstances and challenges are trying to portray a disputed picture of our country. The reality is that we are supremely gifted and blessed and that is an input of an occasion like this. Nigerians are recognized and honoured across the world for their intellectual industry and achievements. Without any doubt, we have a great future ahead of us if only we can believe and work toward building a new Nigeria together.
“We must all continue to work together for a better Nigeria where the rule of law will deliver justice to all and for the benefit of the present and future generation. Nigeria can only be transformed if everybody joined hands to contribute to the development of our country. I call on all of you here present and those listening to us let us work together to transform our nation into the land of fulfilled oracles.
The President who also dwelt on the book that was launched said though, several arguments were contained in it, the one that needs to be properly underlined is the author’s contention that the law must serve the course of justice.
According to him, many Nigerians are of the view that when the law is strictly and literally interpreted, the guilty may be set free, adding that the result to legal technicalities will always tamper with the administration of Justice in the country. He however said his argument was not against the rule of law, but meant the law must be applied in a way that justice would not only be done but seen to have been done.
“Dr Braithwaite is in a very good position to discuss this particular subject which is of great interest to many Nigerians who look up to the law and relevant institutions for protection and reassurance,” even as he appealed to the judiciary to bring close attention to dispensation of justice for the benefit of all Nigerians.
He said: “Cases of corruption for instance should be dealt with. My administration will continue to pay special attention to those urgent matters that will strengthen our union and the rule of law and accelerate economic growth. As we consolidate on our democracy and deliver on our promises to make our country better than we met it. We must continue to honour the men and women, who continue to defend, strengthen and support the development of our nation.
“We need to work together to change all parts of the country,” he said, adding that: “Lagos is very important to us and there is no President in this country that will play with Lagos and that is why we need maximum cooperation because from the analysis of the Central Bank in terms of bank deposit and loan, Lagos controls 52 of the economy of the whole country.”
Interestingly, the occasion afforded the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, to push further a case of special status for the state. Fashola who spoke earlier noted that Lagos State has paid it dues and has contributed its own share in the Nigeria household in terms of GDP and productivity.
He, however, informed the President that he owes the state a debt. “It is not your debt originally but it is a debt that many of your illustrious predecessors did not discharge. So, as you inherit the benefits, I must also lay the burden at your door sir.
“Our state deserves a special status in this household- in this family- and I am sure that my learned friend, the Attorney General of the Federation as we are talking about law can draft appropriation laws, even in the appropriation to make a provision to carry this state along. We do not believe that we are going to be violent to get what we deserve,” he said.
Braithwaite, who had assembled the crème of the society also emphasised the need for a national conference which according to him, was the only way to get the country out of her present quagmire. Although, he was optimistic that Nigeria would not disintegrate, there is the need for a national dialogue to resolve some of her pressing problems.
He therefore urged Nigerians to support the Jonathan administration to enable it deliver the dividends of democracy. He claimed to have declined offers to work with several governments in the past but considers Jonathan as a listening leader who should be encouraged and supported by all.
He also claimed to have been motivated to writing the second edition of the book entitled: “Jurisprudence of the Living Oracles” by the present reality in the country. “If we follow the injunctions of God, we will pass through all mistakes.”
Others who graced the occasion included the Obi of Onitsha, HRH Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, King Jaja of Opobo, the Emir of Ilorin, Sulu Gambari, Deji of Akure and the Emir of Kano, Senator Ben Obi, Odein Ajumogobia (SAN), Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora and Ms Onyeka Onwenu.
Others were presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, Minister for Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, Minister for Justice, Mohammed Adoke, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, President of Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Dr. Fredrick Fasheun, Dr. Joe Okei Odumakin and Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, amongst others.