25 November 2012

Nigeria: I Had Big Dreams of Nigeria - Falana


Femi Falana, SAN, is a foremost human right activist and a Lawyer. Falana a vociferous fighter against injustice and for the right of the common, bared his mind on the Nigeria of his dream in this soft interview he granted Ayanda Ngwane and Solomon Nda-Isaiah.

Could you please give us a brief summary of your life starting from your early childhood?

I'm not very comfortable discussing that because there are more important issues, but to satisfy your curiosity, I was born a couple of years before Nigeria's Independence in Ekiti state. I grew up in a system where most of us "didn't have shoes", we had big dreams and the country was a very safe place to live in. As under-graduates, employers of labour went about interviewing potential employees. And during the youth service, you were employed so that at the end of the day, the graduate had the liberty of choosing where he/she wanted to work.

Advocate Falana, you have been at the vanguard of the struggle for your life. How do you sum up the courage to continue to fight for the masses?

In a country or an environment where life has become cheap, it will be fool-hardy to believe that you are safe. Some people and places that were considered untouchable have been attacked. It is therefore, sheer luck that many of us are still alive. Some were shot and others poisoned. It is sad to say that in this democratic government, nothing has been done to address these unjust acts.

Your career is kind of a sky-rocketing success. Is there any time when you want to take off and unwind somewhere?

My wife and children insist that I take a break. We travel to West African countries like Ghana, Republic of Benin, Gambia and Senegal. I enjoy those trips but during the military regime I was always on detention therefore it became part of my vacation those days.

I think your ability to speak and to get people to listen and open up is amazing. People feel relaxed around you. How do you attribute that?

I believe some of us have a duty to assist the under privileged and if you are going to do that, you have to be very open, transparent and remove and inhibition around you so that people can express themselves.

On the issue of Bakassi, Sir is there any hope?

Well as far as I am concerned, it is not a totally lost case. We need to be innovative and keep our options open t the people of Bakassi. The government needs to attend to the daily challenges that we are facing.

What do you think about the former Head of state's (General Muhammad Buhari) refusing the offer to deviate?

I think it was the best decision. I believe it was a trap. Any responsible leader would have dissociated himself from such.

People are complaining about corruption in the judiciary. What is your opinion?

Of course! The whole country is corrupt. The judiciary is part of the country so naturally, it should be corrupt. The judicial corruption is a dangerous phenomenon but I am more interested in engaging the system to expose these corrupt people. The biggest agent of corruption is the media. It is entrenched and sucked into the way of life. A section of the media has been paid to divert attention from the evil going on in the petroleum sector. And it is dangerous for us.

Sir, you are a lawyer by profession. Who would you say was the motivation behind your decision and who was your mentor?

I am a product of my environment. I am a product of the home that believed in religion (Christianity). They strongly believed that if you spare the rod, you will spoil the child. I attended a catholic seminary with the hope of becoming a Reverend Father; but many are called and few are chosen. And I am tremendously influenced by strong men all over the world like Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela, Obafemi Awolowo and the late Gani Fawehinmi and many others.

Do you remember any books you read as a child and how they have affected you?

Ah!!! Nelson Mandela's "Long walk to freedom" is one of my favourite and I believe you cannot be educated without some familiarity with Marxism. The right to life, liberty, expression, you name it. It is my belief; I may be wrong. You cannot limit yourself as a lawyer. The wealth of a country should be well distributed amongst its citizens and not reserved for only a selected few. You cannot begin to imagine the number of private jets being purchased by Nigerians in 2012 alone. It is intolerable and unjustifiable.

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