A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and founder of Law FM, a radio station dedicated to advancing the rule of law, Tayo Oyetibo, has advocated the promotion of liberty and order in Nigeria through observance of the rule of law.
He said any society that fails to promote the rule of law would suffer the consequences of anarchy.
Mr Oyetibo spoke alongside other socio-economic rights campaigners, including a former President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and now Director of the Media Centre at the University of Ibadan, Ropo Ewenla, and a tax law expert, Afolabi Elebiju, among others.
They spoke at a public lecture organised to mark the 30th anniversary of ‘June 12’- a day long adopted by pro-democracy campaigners to commemorate the contributions of the annulled 12 June 1993 presidential election and the winner of the election, MKO Abiola to the advancement of democracy in Nigeria. The election, annulled by the Ibrahim Babangida regime, was regarded as the freest in Nigeria.
The day was formally recognised by the Nigerian government as Democracy Day some years ago.
The public lecture was organised by LiberteVie Law Practice, a private law firm established by a rights advocate and former leader of the students’ union at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Olaniran Obele.
The law firm, according to Mr Obele, officially opened for business on the day as a mark of respect for democracy and in honour of the pains and pangs of Nigerians whom he noted suffered to institute a democratic process in the country.
Speaking on the theme: ‘Liberty, Law, and Order in the Age of Crisis,’ Mr Elebiju said people are more responsible in a society that is well governed and where power is judiciously used.
He said in a society where there is law there are consequences for every illegal action, noting that a nation’s constitution ensures there is a laid down set of rules “as an ingredient of a decent society.”
The lawyer, however, noted that one of the challenges in Nigeria is that “leaders lack patriotism and that some resources being looted can increase the quality of life of Nigerian citizens.”
He emphasised that everybody has a role to play in the building of a society and suggested a review of tax policies, and the factors leading to brain drain in the country.
“We need a society where there is no limitation of opportunities for people,” he said.
On his part, Mr Ewenla, an actor and media practitioner, maintained that June 12 remained significant because it involved an all-time relevant struggle of the people.
While dedicating his presentation to the 49 ‘victimised’ lecturers of the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), Mr Ewenla said the recent elevation of three of the 49 lecturers to the status of professors after 25 years of stagnation on the job is a celebration of the virtue of personal conviction in liberation struggles.
He, however, faulted the foundation of the country’s constitution, saying since something cannot be erected on nothing, there should be a constitution that would be representative of the wishes and aspirations of Nigerians.
“The constitution we currently have was imposed on Nigerians, and to have meaningful development, Nigerians must be allowed to prepare a constitution that will truly reflect their involvement and participation. Until then, our democracy cannot be said to be true,” Mr Ewenla said.
He said unimaginable things happened within the last eight years of governance in Nigeria, and that “the law and order structure should be able to reprimand those that have crippled the country through corrupt means including through fuel subsidy.”
Participants at the event including Mr Oyetibo hailed Mr Obele for his dedication and commitment to defending the people against oppression. Mr Oyetibo said, having worked with Mr Obele for over 10 years, he was happy to be part of the achievement he recorded with the new law firm.
Mr Oyetibo said: “Only a bad principal would not want his staffers to grow. You were dedicated throughout the period you worked with us, and when, three months ago, you told me you would like to start your own law firm, I was happy because you remained a source of inspiration to many.
“I can attest to it that you have garnered more than enough experience having appeared at all levels of courts in Nigeria. I will like to urge your partners and those who would be working in this law firm to emulate your character in terms of discipline, humility, dedication to work, and passion for humanity.”
Mr Oyetibo, who attended the event in company with his wife, Abiola Oyetibo, and his son, Mofe Oyetibo, prayed for the success of the firm.
Mr Obele, the lead counsel at LiberteVie, said the choice of Democracy Day to open the law firm was not a coincidence, but a reflection of his avowed commitment to the rule of law, liberty, law and order.
He noted that a combined experience of six decades between him and his partners would be dedicated to the service of humanity and in defence of the rule of law.
Speaking on the theme of the lecture, Mr Obele said: “Everything in Nigeria is a quest for freedom and the lawyer in rendering service is like a guard to guide the society.”
Meanwhile, at the event were members of the Pacesetters Movement, an ideological organisation at the Obafemi Awolowo University which Mr Obele belonged to. The organisation was represented by many individuals who are principal partners of various law firms in the country, including Felix Ogunmade, Ariyo Odole, Ige Asemudara, and Olaide Balogun, among others.
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