Insecurity: Buhari Should Make National Broadcast, Assure Nigerians Of His Capacity To Defend them – Ozekhome
Mike Ozekhome, a human rights lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in this interview on Arise Television, speaks about the state of the nation, rising insecurity, why Nigeria should be restructured, among other issues. JOY ANIGBOGU
brings the excerpts:
What is your thought on the impeachment notice to President Muhammadu Buhari?
It is difficult to wake up someone who is pretending to be asleep. The ninth senate with all due respect is probably the worst senate that we ever had since the time of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first senate president and then Dr. Nwafor Orizu who was senate president before Major Kaduna Nzeogwu coup d’état of January 15th 1966. I want to also state that the eighth senate of the National Assembly was perhaps the best, because they could challenge President Muhammadu Buhari. They could speak truth to power. They could challenge impunity. They could look at the devil, eyeball to eyeball, and say “devil, you are devil” That was how strong the eighth senate was. I will always call this senate, “Mr. Take a bow senate” Why do I call them that name? If a person comes for screening, an important ministerial position, a position that has to do with security. They will ask him to introduce himself. The next thing they will say, “Oh I know you very well, take a bow” No country grows like that.
Does it mean that you are putting the blame at the door step of the senate, National Assembly or the legislature?
I am putting the buck on the doorstep of the senate President, the House of Representatives Speaker, holding forth for the National Assembly, the legislature. The first arm of the government under section 4 of the constitution, that of the executive, I put squarely on the door step of the President who heads the executive under section 5 of the constitution. You must know that there is what is called the doctrine of separation of power. Each of these arms of government must be separate and independent of one another, to have a proper balancing effect on the other. For the country, I will say that the entire blame must be on Mr President because Harry Truman, the former American president, says the buck stops here. In all my offices, I do take the buck, in my tables, even in my bedroom, I have that sign, the buck stops here.
When the senators, the minority caucus of the senate, came out and cried out that the state of insecurity in the country cannot continue, more or less distancing themselves from the failures of the President, Ahmed Lawan didn’t allow them to put their case forward……..
Yes, because he didn’t want to falsify the whole process, which is why I said that I didn’t know that they could wake up, because the situation has become so bad that the deaf can hear it, the blind can see it. The lame can walk it, the numb can feel it. We have a proverb in my local parlance, the sky was threatening to rain, it said if you were deaf and you didn’t hear the sound that I was rumbling. Were you so blind? Didn’t you see the flashes of lightning? We have gotten to a state where the pretentious are all over and nobody can pretend anymore, so this is why I said that it is too late.
How far can the lawmakers go in this impeachment process if in the next six weeks, President Buhari is not able to fix the insecurity?
I do not see them carrying it out. Impeachment is provided at section 143 of the constitution, has many stages, it could take up to three to four or six months. With us getting closer to the election, I don’t see the 109 senators mustering majority members to impeach Mr. President. I was not surprised when Femi Adesina mocked them. He said that they were a minority of the minorities, and I felt sorry for Nigerians for a presidential spokesman to regard distinguished senators who have spoken on the state of the nation which is so bad that everyone can see it, even the federal capital territory is being infiltrated and threatened. He now describes senators as a minority among the minorities, and that they cannot carry it through. Oh, he knew what he was saying. I don’t think that the senators possess enough courage to do what is needed. It is coming too late. They should have done this more than one year ago. When Mr. President was campaigning on the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), do you know what he said as a retired military commander, “I will crush insecurity, I will crush Boko Haram”. He will lead from the front. This was the hope of Nigerians because as at that time insecurity was coming but not at the grand scale. Yes, we had the kidnap of the Chibok girls who were then coming from another planet, but today when you hear of kidnap it is like a child’s play. It is like buying “akara” (bean cake)
How more complicated is it now. You have been kidnaped before. How complicated is it now?
I was kidnaped and for 21 days I was in the kidnappers’ den. It was fear of death and the fear of fear. It was most horrific. I was kidnaped on the 23rd of August 2013. When I was released I thanked God for his mercies. The book of Romans chapter 9 verse 15 says “I will show mercy on whomever I will show mercy, I will show compassion on whomever I will show compassion” “It is not of he that willeth nor he that runneth, but it is God that showeth mercy” I came out on the 12th of September 2013. I made a seven point demand on the government and one of them is that it should declare a state of emergency on insecurity. Others are, declare a state of emergency on youth unemployment, declare a state of emergency on infrastructural development and declare a state of emergency on educational opportunities. If you Google , you will see everything that I said, Nostradamus, the man who saw tomorrow, like the oracle at Ile Ife that always gaze into the future to pronounce the next Oni to be, like Oni Ogunwusi, the Ojaja the 2nd, I saw it coming and I said when I listen to Nigerians, I discover that we are suffering from the fate of the barber’s chair, central motion and no movement, in fact we are even retrogressing. Whether it was Adesina or one of the presidential spokesmen said that the senators were talking because it was close to them. Were eight members of the Brigade of Guard not killed in cold blood? They said it was by a sniper. A sniper infiltrated from where? I always remind people of the immortal words of a German cleric, Martin Niemoller. He worked the horrors of the Second World War which took place between 1940 and 1955, leading to the destruction of two Japaness cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bomb and there was human misery. Millions of Jews were killed in gas chambers. He made the following immortal statements, First they came for Jews, I did not speak because I was not a Jew, then they came for the socialists, I did not speak because I was not a socialist then they came for the Catholics, I did not speak because I was not a Chatholic, then they came for the trade unionists, I still did not speak because I was not a trade unionists, then they came for me, then it was too late because there was no one left.
Aviation is shutting down, labour is protesting alongside the Academic Staff Union of the Universities (ASUU), bakers went on strike too, they have just called it off. Practically every aspect of national life has been affected. Everybody in Nigeria has been affected including the lawmakers. Is it too late for Nigeria now, and what action do you expect from the president?
I want the president to make a national broadcast and assure Nigerians that he is still a very strong executive president that is able to defend their lives, that he knows his duties, under section 217 and 218 of the constitution. A commander in chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not just the executive president who is the chief executive officer of the country, but as the one who can hire and fire the Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Force, who can nip in the bud the present danger. I also believe that he is the head of the Nigeria Police Force under section 214 and 215 of the constitution, and that he is ready to take full responsibility and in the remaining ten months in office. He should promise to defend and protect the lives of Nigerians and property under section 14 of the constitution. The primary duty of any government is the protection of lives and property and provision of welfare for the people. Any government that cannot do that has failed abysmally and that is what we are saying. It is why the entire country is in a state of anomy, nothing is working. The dollar has risen to N700 per dollar. Two years ago when I predicted that the dollar would get to this level, because at the time the dollar had been stable at N390 for over one and half years. I told them that looking at the monetary and fiscal economic measures in the country. At least the little economics that I did in secondary school in ordinary levels in 1974 I made an A1, I told them, the naira would go up to N500 per dollar, they said that I was crazy, but today a dollar exchanges for N700.
Do you think that Mr. President addressing Nigerians is enough with where things stand now?
It is not enough. They have held Security Council meetings and according to them they have been given every equipment and money that they needed. Didn’t you hear the head of the kidnapping group who spoke to the BBC? He said that it is the biggest industry in Nigeria today, where kidnapers kidnap children. They just go into a school, take away about 100 to 200 children, keep them in the forest, get telephone numbers of the parents and make their demands. They tell the parents how much they are going to pay in order to preserve the lives of their children, from dying of starvation. They will ask them to buy 50 bags of rice, 30 bags of beans, baskets of pepper, palm oil, vegetable oil, salt, food stuff generally, including onions, so that their children can be alive for them to come and pay ransom.
Every time you hear them say, “The government knows what we want”. There is also this international dimension to all of what Nigeria is going through now. Is it just the money that they get for ransom or do they have a bigger agenda?
Whether you want to call it international dimension, the president once said that these are people infiltrating from Libya, that is the more reason he should crush them, since they are not Nigerians. Some of them said, “You brought us into the country during the 2015 elections, you wanted us to come and help, we played our roles and helped, you didn’t severe the relationship in a decent way, you left us, so we had to go into the forest, and we must survive” When they kidnap they use part of the money to buy more equipment because it is a lucrative business. Do you know the factors which make for a failed state or a failing government? It is when non state actors dictate the tune to a legitimate elected government such as we have. The governor of Nasarawa State, Governor Sule has just closed down all the schools. In Niger State, Borno State, Boko haram and other elements have hoisted their flags on Nigeria soil in some local government areas, collecting taxes from citizens and giving them passes.
How do you categorize Nigeria, a failed State, failing state?
For a failed state, one of the indices is when non-state actors, another one is when corruption is high like we have now, another one is when the economy can no longer sustain the lives of the people, then you can say that it is a failed state. It is then left for Nigerians to know from all the indices available whether Nigeria that was over 500 billion dollars rebate economy in 2014 and 2015, overtaking South Africa and becoming one of the top fastest growing economies in the world and when you compare it with now where Nigeria is said to be the poverty capital in the world overtaking India, then you can decide. Transparency International, corruption index, declaring Nigeria as number 148 out of 180 most corrupt nations in the world, and the second most corrupt country in West Africa. When you balance that period and now, you will be able to judge it yourself. A situation where bandits are threatening to abduct the president of a country and Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State and other politically exposed persons. Are you saying that under the modern technological world, when you can even use your phone to know where they are, are you saying that you don’t know where these people are? Are you not seeing helicopters coming down to carry money that has been paid as ransom?
When the senators say if Buhari fails to fix this problem in six weeks, he will be impeached, what does it mean for our democracy?
What it means is that rather than widening, maturing, we have more problems. It was the late chief MKO Abiola, the great Nigerian who won an election fairly in a most democratic and most transparent manner. He won the election and was killed so that he will not reign but be reigns in the hearts of the people. He said that if it takes a man 20 years to learn madness, how many years will it require practicing the madness? We will always say that we are learning democracy, since 1999 have we not been learning? Doesn’t a child go from crèche to kindergarten, from kindergarten to nursery and from nursery to the primary, to secondary, from secondary to the university and from the university to postgraduate?
What is the root cause of the problem, and why is Nigeria not getting it right?
The root cause of our problem has not been addressed. That is why when living legends like Afe Babalola talk about looking at our constitution, people try to dismiss it with a wave of the hand. I spoke loud and said that the nonagenarian is speaking sense because he has seen it all. The reason is simple; we are treating a serious ailment like leprosy with medicine made for eczema. We have not attacked the root cause of the problem which is our togetherness. When Lord Lugard amalgamated the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria on the 1st of January 1914, the marriage was to be for 100 years in the first instance. We never really agreed to come together as a country because we were already independent nations. Kanem Borno empire, Oyo empire, Benin Kingdom, Nana of Ishekiri, Jaja of Opobo, etcetera, we were independent. When they came and coupled us together, unlike in America that in 1776 decided to go to Philadelphia to have a more perfect union and surrender their rights voluntarily, but we never decided to surrender our rights. Let us negotiate our nationhood so that we can believe in a country called Nigeria. When you are given a form to fill and they ask you, you sex, gender, your tribe, state of origin, your religion, they are only telling you that we are not one. Let us negotiate, draft a brand new constitution that enshrines the legitimacy, acceptability of the people. Let us have a home grown constitution derived from the people’s will, not a military crone document which is the present 1999 constitution that has already been amended four times which is actually a schedule attached to decree no 20 of 1999, which was why the 1999 election was held even without a constitution. We are saying that we can do it, it is not impossible. It was done in Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Iran, Iraq etcetera.
So when can we do it?
If Nigeria is able to weather the storm of the present challenges and we get a new government on the 29th of May, 2023, the first thing that government must do, even if it is a one point agenda, is to restructure Nigeria through having a peoples constitution after subjecting it to a referendum, even if that is the only thing that the government is able to achieve.
That government would have come to power in this present constitution…
That is what I am saying because 21 million amendments of the constitution can never solve the problems under section 9. That is why I said, if we are able to weather through and a new government comes in, and it is able to restructure Nigeria through a brand new constitution, deriving from the people, then he would have done what the bible tells us, “Seek you first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and every other thing shall be added unto you” when Nigeria is restructured into a proper fisical federalism, and not the unitary system of government that we are currently operating, every other thing will fall into place. Which state today is competing with another state in terms of revenue generation? Under section 162 of the constitution, the states go to Abuja at the end of every month to take from the federation account. Nobody cares how the national cake is baked but everybody wants to share from the national cake. We are not developing, an economy where you consume what you don’t produce and produce what you don’ consume. We produce oil sell it to people and then import the refined product at exorbitant rate. We have no export but an import dependent country, which uses 85 percent of its revenue on recurrent expenditure instead of capital projects, which is why Nigeria growth is stunted. Nigerians should therefore go to the polls in February 2023 and vote for the person that can change the present travails in the country.