Echoes of national dialogue at Beko’s 7th anniversary

Echoes of national dialogue at Beko’s 7th anniversary

As activists and eminent Nigerians converged in Lagos last Sunday to remember one of the Icons of democracy, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, who died seven years ago, their common refrain was “convocation of Sovereign National Conference (SNC),” asserting that “that is only befitting honour that can be accorded the departed hero.”RAZAQ BAMIDELE and NDUBUISI ORJI, who monitored the various events organized in memory of the departed medical doctor cum human rights activist, report.

Precisely, three major events were organized in memory of Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti in Lagos State alone. And participants at the three events cut across all strata of human endeavour from politicians, to technocrats, professionals, students and civil society groups across the nation.

Locations of the three events were the Beko Garden at Anthony-Oke area where he has his cenotaph where the Campaign for Democracy (CD), held court with several human rights organizations, Obalende Roundabout where Beko Kuti Klub (BKK) held a rally and the famous Ikeja Airport Hotel, where a symposium themed, “Constitutional gridlock, the way out,” was organized by eminent jurist and academicians.

Present ?Speakers at Beko’s cenotaph at Anthony area of Lagos included former Lagos State Governor, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, CD President, Dr. Joe Odumakin, her South-West Chairman, Goodluck Obi,  Arewa Youth Consultative Forum President, Mallam Shettima Yerima, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) National Coordinator, Otunba Gani Adam, former Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) president, Ms Ayo Obe, Voters Assembly Convener, Moshood Erubami, National Chairman of Beko Rights Klub (BRK), Debo Adeniran, Beko’s daughter, Mrs. Nike Nedun and his mother, Mrs. Abosede Ransome Kuti, Secretary-General of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Barrister Musa Lawal and President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Osahon Enabulele among others. ?All the speakers unanimously admitted that, “though Beko is dead, his spirit still matches on,” insisting that “he never died in vain since his ideals are still being vigorously pursued by those he left behind.”?According to them, Beko’s ideal included “restructuring of the polity through the convocation of Sovereign National Conference (SNC), enthusing that “the SNC would soon be a reality since the  agitation for it has become a National Anthem even to the extent that General Ibrahim Babangida is also singing it.”

In her welcome remarks, CD President, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin said that the late Beko was one of the moving spirits of the idea of a sovereign national conference in Nigeria.?”Untill he breathed his last, Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti worked tirelessly to convince Nigeria that convoking a sovereign national conference was a necessary panacea for the crisis of nationhood.?”A practical move by Beko, the late Mr Alao Aka-Bashorun and other patriots to have a national conference at the National Arts Theatre in Lagos in 1990 was smashed by the Ibrahim Babangida regime.?”The issue today is no longer whether Nigeria needs a sovereign national conference but whether we can still get delegates to the conference in the midst of Boko Haram bombings in the North, and kidnappings and violent robberies in the South.” She said.

Okei-Odumakin noted that Nigeria has reached a point where there is no going back on the sovereign national conference.

Addressing a rally organised by the Campaign for Democracy in Lagos, Kanu said that the reason the civil society was pushing for the sovereign national conference was for it to take place peacefully.?”The SNC must take place but we want to avoid it taking place via violence” he said.?He said that all those who oppose the sovereign national conference do not want Nigeria to survive.?The NADECO Chieftain however urged all activists and civil rights groups nationwide not to lose sight of the agitation for the convocation of the sovereign national conference.

Addressing a rally organised by the Campaign for Democracy in Lagos, Kanu said that the reason the civil society was pushing for the sovereign national conference was for it to take place peacefully.?”The SNC must take place but we want to avoid it taking place via violence” he said.?He said that all those who oppose the sovereign national conference do not want Nigeria to survive.?The NADECO Chieftain however urged all activists and civil rights groups nationwide not to lose sight of the agitation for the convocation of the sovereign national conference.

Also speaking, the Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr. Musa Lawal, who said “there is no going back on the sovereign national conference”.?Otunba Gani Adams, the National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) urged activists across the country to have one rallying point that would galvanize the conference.?He described Beko’s death as a monumental loss to the civil society pointing out that Nigeria would have been better if we had leaders like the late Beko.?Ms Ayo Obe, former President of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), said that “Beko would be disappointed in the way the nation has gone”.?”We need to look for a party that will bring about the SNC instead of just continuing to talk about it,” she said.?Convener of the Beko Rights Klub (BRK), Debo Adeniran, who is also the Leader of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), also celebtated the late activist, calling for stiffer penal code to effectively tackle corruption in Nigeria.

Adeniran tasked the national assembly to show seriousness in tackling corruption by coming up with a penal code that would appropriately penalize offenders and deter would be offenders.

At the Airport Hotel symposium, discussants also called for a peoples constitution, just as they extolled the virtues of the late human right Czar, Beko Ransome-Kuti.

Leading discussants, the Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi and former governor of Lagos State , Senator Bola Tinubu and others called for a Nigerian constitution that will reflect the need and will of the people of the country.

At the Airport Hotel symposium, discussants also called for a peoples constitution, just as they extolled the virtues of the late human right Czar, Beko Ransome-Kuti.

Leading discussants, the Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi and former governor of Lagos State , Senator Bola Tinubu and others called for a Nigerian constitution that will reflect the need and will of the people of the country.

Fayemi described  the late Beko as  “a Nigerian, who was never intimidated by power but was always looking for ways to improve the lots of the generality of the people,” saying “he was always looking for ways to foster the well being of the generality of the people.”

Fayemi further said “the challenge of the moment is how to pull the country out of the doldrums,” stating that there was need for every Nigerian to get involved in the process to rescue the country from the brink.

“The issue is how do we change Nigeria. Nigeria is in the doldrums and we have a duty to change the tide. If we do not do something, we are all going to be victims. There is no going to be innocent by- standers. We must stop agonizing and start organizing”, he urged.

Speaking on the importance of a constitution in a country, Governor Fayemi described it as a mirror of society, and pointed out that “nobody on the governing side who will do the right thing unless monitored”.

On his part, Tinubu who was represented by Adebayo Williams, a professor of Literature  described the 1999 constitution which is currently being operated in the country as an unworkable document, lamenting that “the constitution has made it impossible to fight corruption at the centre.”

Consequently, the former governor said the call for a national conference to fashion out a people centred constitution is justified, adding that “the country will only work when the various ethnic nationalities in the country are given the opportunity to discuss amongst themselves on how they want to live.”

However, he said the process to get a people’s constitution will not be easy and called on Nigerians to drive the process. “We will need to act. It is not a tea party. We will have to carry the battle to them. The 1999 constitution is a document that does not meet the need of the people and does not reflect their will,” he submitted.

Also speaking at the symposium, Professor Akin Oyebode of the University of Lagos said Nigeria is yet to have a constitution. Heposited that “the 1999 constitution is bereft of legitimacy,” regretting that “the current efforts by the National Assembly to amend it will end in futility.”

He was of the view that, “to bring about a constitution that will be reflective of the wishes of the Nigerian people, there is the need for a constituent assembly which membership will be drawn from all the ethnic nationalities in the country.”

Oyebode added that whatever decision arrived at can then be subjected to a referendum where all Nigerians will freely express their opinions.

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