Atiku decries widespread poverty

BY EMMA AZIKEN, Political Editor

…Says Westerners must not regard all Nigerians as crooks
LAGOS — Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has bemoaned the high level of poverty in the country just as he has regretted that the end of military rule did not end the culture of political intolerance and impunity by political leaders in the country.

Atiku who spoke as a guest speaker at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday, lamented the over-bearing attitude of  Nigerian and other African leaders whom he said often see the opposition as enemies of the state.

In the same lecture, Atiku also rebuffed widespread insinuations that Nigeria is a nation of crooks; he asserted that most Nigerians were hardworking people in productive ventures wherever they are found in the world.

In his paper entitled, ‘Deepening Democracy in Nigeria: Implications for Africa,’ Atiku Abubakar said as a result of such lip-service to democratic principles, “disregard for rules and regulations and the utter impunity with which they are committed,” has led to what he called “the militarisation of democracy.”

According to him, many retired military chiefs, who came into power as politicians entered the democratic arena without being able to shed their military mind-sets, thereby exacerbating the culture of intolerance and entrenching impunity, which character- ises  political reality in Nigeria.

The former Vice President, however, admitted that the democratic challenges, did not stop the blossom of fundamental rights in the country including the freedom of speech, of association and the liberty to criticise the government were restored with the return of democratic rule.

Painting a bleak picture of poverty in Nigeria, he said:  “70 per cent of Nigerians are living below the poverty line and maternal mortality at 840 deaths per 100,000 births.

According to him, Nigeria ranks the 9th worst in the world in 2008 and 10th worst in 2010 in terms of maternal mortality. of poverty.

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