By Kazeem Ugbodaga
When it was announced that Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba was to give this year’s Felabration lecture, many Nigerians waited with tip-toe expectancy. This is because the fame of Lumumba, a Pan-Africanist who holds a PhD in Laws of the Sea from the University of Ghent in Belgium, had traveled here before him. The former Director of Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission and now head of The Kenya School of Laws since 2014 does not waste time to speak truth to power. Not a few were eager to listen to the man who gave a speech, The Tragedy of Africa, which went viral on the web in the past.
And so, when Lumuba came, he did not disappoint. On Monday, he decried rising wave of corruption in Nigeria, saying that the malaise had produced thousands of elite thieves in the biggest black nation on the planet.
Lumumba was the keynote speaker at the 9th edition of ‘Fela, the Debates,’ with the theme: “40 years after FESTAC. 20 years after Fela…Wither the Pan-African Dream?” The event was held at the NECA House, Ikeja, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the demise of Afro-beat maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. It was one of the activities lined up for this year’s Felabration Festival.
Felabration is an annual festival of music and arts, commemorating the life and times of Nigeria’s foremost musical icon, the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
At the event, Lumumba lamented that corruption has been the bane of the African continent, saying that it was roughly estimated that through the activities of corrupt individuals who were in position of authority, the continent was losing huge sums of money.
He likened Nigeria to the case of the popular book, “Ali Baba and the 40 thieves,” saying that the case of Nigeria has gone beyond 40 thieves but thousands of thieves.
“Today in Nigeria and the 36 states of Nigeria, you read the story of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, you will discover that they are no longer 40 thieves, but thousands of thieves. Until the day we liberate ourselves from these thieves, Africa is going nowhere.
“We are in a continent where the occupation of public office is a means of acquiring wealth. We have to ensure that the continent of Africa is free from corruption and it must come,” he stated.
Lumumba added that when former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu was fighting corruption, he was forced out of the system, saying that when the same Ribadu vied for the presidency despite his pedigree, he was rejected.
According to him, the current president, Muhammadu Buhari came out with the mantra to fight corruption and was elected, lamenting that when he started fighting corruption, some people were now saying “oh let corruption come back. What do you want your president to do? “
The professor said if corruption must be won, it must not only be at the top, but that all, including civil servants, companies and others must say no to corruption.
“Civil servants, don’t be corrupt, Petroleum minister, don’t be corrupt. There is no justification for corruption. Corruption undermines education, values, infrastructure; corruption destroys our being, it is the reason Africa countries can never be allowed to sit at the UN Security council. Corruption must be dealt with. Fela saw it many years ago, Fela was a human being and not a Jewish prophet,” he said.
Lumumba stated that when Fela introduced the Afro Beat music, he never meant it to be for entertainment and for dance alone, but that he wanted the nation to ‘dance’ to the Afro Beat of good education, infrastructure, good health system, among others, which he said were lacking in the system due to corruption.
He also said that more than ever, the call for Pan-Africanism was louder as many nations in the continent were still under the siege of neo-colonialism after decades of exit of the colonial masters.
He said since the partition of Africa at the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884 and 1885, several Africans, such as Nkwame Nkrumah of Ghana and the rest championed the course for independence for Africa, adding that after the 1963 meeting in Accra by Nkrumah for Africans to decimate neo-colonialism, Patrick Lumumba of Congo, Tafawa Balewa and a host of others were assassinated due to the force of neo-colonialists.
Lumumba lamented that Africa remained the only continent where the countries had been polarized as Francophone, Anglophone and the rest, which he said had been the tragedy of the continent.
He said the late Fela was right when he said ‘if they want to enslave you forever, they won’t let you know who your grandfathers are.”
The legal luminary added that 40 years after the Festival of Arts and Culture, FESTAC, was staged in Nigeria, the culture of the African continent had been eroded, while the continent was still to realize its potentials.
He decried that the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, of the entire two billion population of the African continent was not up to the GDP of Spain alone, asking: “are we children of a lesser God? God in His divine wisdom gave us all the resources that we need. Our presidents can’t attend our hospitals when they are sick.”
Lumumba also said it was proper for every tribe in Nigeria and in the continent to know their root, saying it was only through this that they would be proud Nigerians and others.
“Here in Nigeria, it is proper and right for the Igbo to know their origin, it is proper and right for the Yoruba to know their origin. It is proper and right for the Ibibio, Hausa and Fulani to know their origin because it is when they have all discovered their origins and are proud Yoruba, Igbo that they can make a great Nigeria. This must happen in all countries in Africa.
“There must be unity in diversity. When I think of the music that Fela put in place, it is telling us that we should be proud of our black skin, that God was not mad in creating us black, it is telling us that there is beauty in our being negroes,” he said.
Lumumba further stated that secession would not do Nigeria and any other country any good, saying that the unity of the nation could be negotiated so that everyone would be happy.
“You, the Igbo and Hausa in Nigeria, your destiny lies in Nigeria, your problems can be solved within Nigeria. There is no need to slaughter yourselves. We can talk about the unity of Africa. We must have the moral courage to tell ourselves that we can resolve our problems without resolving to fight,” he added.
Also speaking at the event, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN faulted Lumumba that Africans were more corrupt than their western counterparts, saying that America and Britain were the most corrupt countries in the world.
He said all those rantings that Nigeria and other Africa countries were the most corrupt were being exaggerated, but agreed that it was high time Africans decimated neo-colonialism and championed the course of Pan-Africanism.
Replying Falan, Lumumba said even though there is corruption in the western countries, they still provided the necessary infrastructure for the people unlike in Africa where the leaders would steal and do nothing for the masses.
The panel session was anchored by Kadaria Ahmed, a media entrepreneur and seasoned journalist, while the Editor of the Guardian, Abraham Ogbodo was on the panel along with Falana.
The Excutive Editor, The News/PM News, Kunle Ajibade lamented that the abolition of history from school curriculum in Nigeria for a long time had impacted negatively on students’ acquaintance with the culture of the nation and the people they should have emulated as role models.
According to Ajibade, “For more than a decade, history was taken off the curriculum, even though it has just been brought back; what happened to all the hundreds and millions of students who went through secondary schools without history? What happened to those who removed history? Were they smoking?”