By Joseph Jibueze
Eminent Nigerians, including former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, former President Olusegun Obansanjo and former Head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, on Tuesday said Nigeria can only develop when its systems and institutions are strengthened.
It includes ridding the judiciary of corruption and all corrupt elements, respecting the rule of law and showing due regard for democratic institutions, and ensuring that “rogues and armed robbers” do not assume public offices, they said.
Former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Muhammed Uwais, Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) and legal scholar Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) said a strong legal system free of corruption is crucial in making Nigeria work.
They spoke at the Fourth Annual Conference of the Academy for Entrepreneurial Studies Nigeria (AES) in Lagos. It had the theme: Strong systems: Necessity for Building a Virile Nation.
Gowon said for a system to work, it must be visionary and evolutionary, and the people must be made to buy into it and internalise its ideals.
Such a system must protect fundamental rights, and must not be intolerant of opposing views.
“It must recognise and be tolerant of opposing views. A leadership cannot make progress if it only relies on the echoes of its own voice,” Gowon, who chaired the event, said.
Obasanjo wondered how the country’s value system worsened years after independence. He recalled that when he bought his first car as an army Lieutenant, a penal was set up to probe how he raised money to buy a brand new Ford Tanus.
“That was after independence. How did we lose that?” Obasanjo asked. He said it was because things were taken for granted, which has resulted in widespread corruption.
For instance, the former President said after he left the army, he once overheard a colonel asking a major to give him keys to his (the major’s) London apartment to stay there when he traveled.
In the past, such a thing would not be allowed in the army without questions being asked. “There was no sanction. We took it for granted. Now, it is difficult to change things. These things happened in our korokoro eyes (very presence),” Obasanjo said.
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