Raphael Ede, Enugu
Chief Dubem Onyia is a former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). A two-term member of the House of Representatives, Onyia has also chaired many corporate boards and served on numerous government committees.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, he said that the suspension of the CJN by President Muhammadu Buhari is a pointer to his ground plan to destroy Nigeria’s democracy.
He called on all lovers of Nigeria’s democracy to stand up to be counted and resist the dictatorship.
He also spoke on Ohanaeze Ndigbo endorsement of Atiku/Obi joint ticket, proscription of IPOB, among other national issues. Excerpts:
Are you concerned with the development in the country where the President suspended the sitting Chief Justice of Nigeria without following the constitutional provision?
I am not only concerned, it is also very worrisome. For somebody like myself who had been involved in constitution drafting, I am disturbed. The presidential system we are running now is based on separation of powers; the legislature is independent of the judiciary, the judiciary is independent of the executive and that principle of separation of power respects each other. They are very autonomous. But you see, the democracy we are operating today was fought and won with the blood of Nigerians. Maybe we have all forgotten the side of June 12 or let me go back to the civil war, and the various military regimes that took place then, before we came to the point where we have the best election in Nigeria won by the late MKO Abiola and those who shed their blood to defend that democracy before the emergency of Abacha. I was the secretary general of the Eastern Mandate Union who fought Abacha to a standstill for the enthronement of democracy in this country. We lost some of our colleagues unfortunately, the political actors meet irrespective of their political linings that never again would they allow the incursion of the military in democratic process of this country. Those that were sent to prison by this present president, 100 and 200 years respectively eventually they didn’t do anything. He said that politicians are thieves and rogues. Today, we have democracy in Nigeria. We are running a presidential system and that system has in the constitution of this country the principle of separation of powers, maintenance of the rule of law and that is the key of democracy in Nigeria. If you remove that key then we are back to autocracy or military rule. The president or executive arm of government has no right whatsoever to make an incursion into other arms; so the executive has no right to interfere with the legislature or the judiciary. But the question is why has the president not done this all along? Why 21 days to election, that is the big question? Because this present government has realised that Nigerians do not want them anymore. So, they want to rig the election by hook or crook. Buhari has never been a democrat and he does not pretend to be one.
What gives you the impression that they want to rig the election?
In Section 292 of the constitution, it says that it is only the National Assembly that can remove the Chief Justice of the Federation and with two-third majority of the members in agreement. The constitution does not empower the president to remove the CJN. They went to Code of Conduct Tribunal CCT to see if they can have the power to remove the CJN and Court of Appeal stopped them from doing that, now they went and brought a Sharia Judge with PhD in Sharia to come and be the Chief Justice of the federation. Why now?
The president said that his action was based on order from the CCT asking him to suspend the CJN pending the final determination of his trial?
So, he will listen to the order of CCT and would not listen to the order of Court of Appeal that stopped the CCT from hearing the case?
He said that the CCT order came on Wednesday while that of Appeal Court came on Thursday.
Why is he in a hurry in executing the said order when the said order was executed on Friday after the order of Appeal Court had stopped CCT from hearing the matter. Remember that Nigerians have been shouting that the fact the president went to CCT in the first place was a kangaroo action to remove the CJN. Have you forgotten that the president did not want the CJN because he is a southerner in the first place? It is Osinbajo who swore him in when the president went outside the country? He refused to swear him in from day one because he had never accepted this particular CJN as the CJ of the federation.
He accused the suspended CJN of superversing corruption?
It is not the duty of the executive arm of the government to interfere in the judicial process. The judiciary has internal mechanism to discipline its members. They have their own rules of discipline themselves. I cannot come from my house to interfere in your own family. I cannot leave my own family and come to your own family to interfere. The principles of separation of power is clear. First of all, they tried to remove the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, they did not succeed; they now went to judiciary. When they were trying to remove the president of the senate we were shouting that after the National Assembly it will be the turn of the judiciary. The government has lost totally the confidence of Nigerians so they are trying to do everything to remain in power, that is why they were trying to remove the leadership of the National Assembly and now attacking the judiciary. After that what next; they will kill all Nigerians.
The leadership of Fulani cattle herders have thrown their weight behind the president saying that his action is justified?
What do you expect them to do? Are you surprised that they supported him. President Buhari is their patron. My late friend, the former governor of Oyo State he was my colleague in the National Assembly when he was alive and he had problem with the Fulani herdsmen in Ibadan. Buhari as Minister went to Ibadan to warn him. He is patron of Miyetti Allah. Did you not hear what he said about Benue, that the reason there was conflict in Benue was because the state government refused to give Fulani herdsmen access route. And he did not even condole those who were killed in that attack.
Do you think there is an ulterior motive behind pushing Buhari other than to remain in power which APC supporters may not know?
I can tell you this, apart from the fact that the president wants to remain in power to complete his jihad, he has an innate programme which he started himself with Miyetti Allah. Let me tell you Buhari is not only fighting to remain in power for the next four years; he is going to destroy this country. The killing of Christians even some Muslims who do not agree with his own programme calls for concern. He is trying to destroy this country and Nigerians should see this as an alarm. It is not about the Chief Justice of Nigerian, he is trying to destroy the instrument of democracy and once he does that in the next four years; then he will start dealing with Nigerians. May God help us?
Last week he told Ndigbo that his appointments of service chiefs where purely on merit. Does it mean that there is no Igbo man qualified to hold any position in the security circle?
He can tell that to the marines. Let me tell you one thing Buhari hates the Igbo with passion and I will give you an example; in 1985 when he was Military Head of State, there was one Igbo man who was selected to be the Secretary General of Organisation of African Union (OAU), Amb. Onu, a brilliant guy and almost all the African Head of States love him, they wanted him to be the Secretary General of OAU. It was the turn of Nigeria to produce the Secretary General. They set up a committee to go and meet the Nigerian Head of State, at that time it was Gen. Buhari; that delegation was led by Walela Munyere they got to Nigeria but because Onu was an Igboman, Buhari rather insisted that the position should go to Niger Republic and got a Nigerien to take the position. When the Nigerien won he celebrated it in Dodan Barracks as far back as 1985. What other evidence do you want? What he has given us is because the constitution states that every state must have a minister. He has not done us any favour. He gave us what is due to us according to the constitution and what did he give to us labour, science and tech ministries, what is it? Have he ever eulogied Zik? What is he coming to commission? Please he should tell that to the marines not to some of us who has been in governance for a long time.
Ohanaeze recently endorsed Atiku/Obi joint ticket, but it appeared to have divided the Igbo elite along party lines. Do you see a major crisis brewing in Igboland?
There is no division whatsoever. If you had followed the steps and process that Ohanaeze took you will find out that they had the support of 99 per cent of Igbo. Those who are crying wholves are those that are traitor and treacherous who are betraying their people; they are people selling the future of the youth of Igbo nation for a pot of portage. Is the governor of Anambra State who went and had a deal with Buhari that if he allowed him comeback as governor he will deliver Anambra State to him, who else? Or is it those who are announcing that they are not part of it; tell me one person and I will tell you his interest in this government. Is it Ngige who as Minister of Labour has not added value to any Igboman? The Imeobi has taken the decision, it was unanimous. So anybody who did not support the decision, the executive and Imobi Ohanaeze took that person to be a traitor.
Their argument is that the tenure of Nwodo-led Ohanaeze has expired and any action he took after that is a nullity?
His tenure has not expired. Why are they saying it now? Do you think Imeobi is stupid, the highest echelon of Ohanaeze? It is the Imeobi that will tell Nwodo your time has expired, leave. Go and check the list of those who attended the Imeobi meeting and see whether there is anyone of them who is a riffraff, they were effectively and adequately represented.
Are you saying that those who are crying are insignificant?
Absolutely yes. Go and ask any Igboman on the street. Where were they when IPOB were ravaging this place, when they were killed, what did they do; they were on the fence. A time has come when you have to stand by your people.
You must stand to be counted, it is the future of our children and grandchildren that is at stake. We cannot be second class citizens of this country. Since civil war Ekweme was vice president 40 years ago. When Osibanjo said that Yoruba man will be president in 2023 after Buhari who among them reacted to that? The truth of the matter is that if you have a skeleton in your cupboard you run to APC for insurance.
You talked about IPOB, how do you fill about its proscription as terrorist organization by the Buhari-led government?
It is unfortunate; the Igbo don’t have strong leaders governing them today. Those that we have today are traders. They believe in what is in their pockets. They don’t believe in fighting for the common Igboman. They believe in what they can get today, they don’t look beyond today and tomorrow. They are not looking at the future of their own children and their children’s children, they are looking at what they can get today. They can reach agreement and make a deal with the devil as long as they stay in power and it is unfortunate. Miyetti Allah is not a terrorist group, but IPOB is a terrorist group. Miyetti Allah that has killed thousands of Nigerians all over the country, but they are not regarded as terrorist group. It is only at the United Nations that they are regarded as a terrorist group, but in Nigeria they are saints as far as this government is concerned. Tell me which part of Nigeria that Army has gone to do Operation Python Dance? They didn’t do it in the North when they were killing people in Benue State; they didn’t do it in the Southwest, it was only in Igbo land because we are a defeated people. They can come and do Operation Python Dance and get away with the impunity and massacre of our youths. They buried our sons and daughters killed on that particular operation like chickens. No Igbo leader today said anything about it neither did the governors apart from Ohanaeze. They are now shouting wholves because they want to protect their seats in support of Buhari so that he can leave them. If you ignore history you will be a victim of history. The crop of leaders we have today being governors or being whatever are not worth being leaders or spokespersons for the Igbo nation. They cannot stand to be counted; we are not second class citizens in this country and I can never be a second class citizen in Nigeria.
Where do you stand in the midst of the whole thing?
I stand with my people. I stand with the Igbo nation and I stand with Ohanaeze. I stand for the future of my grandchildren. I stand that there must be justice and equity in this country. When we formed PDP we put in a principle of rotation of power between the North and the South. Obasanjo has been president; Yar’Adua has been president, Jonathan has been president, now it is Buhari. They are now talking about Osinbajo or Tinubu or Amosun or whatever, it is from the Southwest, when will an Igboman be president; when will you put a closure to the civil war? If we are not wanted in this country called Nigeria let us go; we are prepared to go.
Do you buy the idea of an independent state of Biafra?
Of course yes. That is why I have my own house you have yours; I have my own family you have your own family. We can live separately and have a common agreement, bilateral agreement between ourselves, but if we must live together as a federating unit, as one body called Nigeria there must be equity, fair play and justice.
As a former foreign Affairs Minister what is the direction of foreign policy of this administration. Are you satisfied with the trust compared to those of past regime?
Do they have any foreign policy? Do this particular government have any foreign policy? Is it based on West African sub-region? Is it based on African Union? Listen go and look at the ECOWAS Parliament we formed during our own time; Nigerians are being marginalized there, Nigerians are crying nobody protects them and this government cannot protect Nigerians both internally and externally. What is the basis for foreign policy? We have abandoned our natural allies and we are now dealing with Sudan, Morocco or whatever, it is part of the ploy and the plot to turn Nigeria into an Islamic nation.
You are a PDP chieftain and in your state Enugu it appears the opposition is having a stage. Do you think this time around they are going to make good impact?
I hope you are not suffering from cerebral malaria; where do you get the idea from Enugu State opposition, which opposition? The people you see who are parading themselves as APC are food is ready politicians. Enugu is completely one family party – PDP – don’t make any mistake about it. APC has no ground in Enugu State forget about this thing you are seeing; if there is an election here PDP will sweep everything. Enugu State rejected APC last time in 2015, they will reject them more this time in 2019.
So, I don’t know where you got the information that APC is making incursion into Enugu State. Tell me one. Is it because President came here last week and they hired crowd? Did you see the stadium, in fact, the majority of the people there are PDP members for your information. They came to see their president to know whether the man is still alive and strong. The only way APC can take Enugu is to use military and police and kill everybody here. This state is completely and totally a PDP state.
As tge elections draw near, what is your advice to Nigerians?
I say to any peace loving Nigerian that believes in democracy to stand up and be counted now. We must resist any attempt by this government to destroy the democracy that we fought hard to enthrone with the last drop of our blood. This may lead to the disintegration of this country if you don’t respect the principle of separation of powers; the rule of law that is the main ingredient in any democratic process of this country. This country is going into anarchy and might disintegrate if we continue this way.
Do you realise that you can get seven countries out of this country. Nigeria is a complex and complicated country and you must not take the people for granted. Any attempt to destroy this hard won democracy that we are enjoying today must be resisted by every peace-loving Nigerian, that is my advice to all Nigerians including myself.