•Let’s sit and renegotiate the country
As the National Assembly gets set for another constitution amendment exercise, elder statesman, Chief Mike Ahamba, SAN has warned the legislative body not to engage in wild goose chase as it doesn’t have the power to amend the Nigeria’s constitution.
Speaking with VINCENT KALU, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Second Republic lawmaker, stressed that time has come for Nigerians to sit and renegotiate the future of the country.
Nigeria is 60, and we are talking about it being a failed state, a divided nation, cracks here and there that can lead to break up, agitations from here and there, what do these portend?
They portend a faulty foundation. This issue of separation, togetherness and otherwise became more after the 1979 constitution. Before 1979, we were closer to being a federation than we are now. That constitution created what I have always described as a unitary federation; the first time I’m seeing a federation that has state constitution in the absence of a federal one. That is one reason. The second reason is that we suddenly developed a sort of jealousy among ourselves that is judging on the ethnic level; the ethnic groups started a competition that was very negative, a competition that now depends on over doing others or out doing others not in positive things, but out doing others in cheating. So those who have some advantages want to perpetuate the advantages to the detriment of the rest of the country, so people began to think.
Thirdly, Nigeria has been living in breach of its agreement on how to stay together in 1959 prior to independence in 1960. The tampering with the military of resource control issue is what we are suffering now. We agreed before we had a federation of Nigeria that people should work hard, produce and give 50 per cent to the federation, but the military came and removed everything being given to the federation, they gradually gave one per cent to the owners of the resources and then came to what we have as, not-less-than 13 percent. At the National Conference, I pushed that we should stop this not-less-than , let us stand and say something, and I even suggested 30 percent to cool the minds of those producing, but it didn’t sail through and it remains 13 per cent. So, this question of living in breach on the basis of agreement created laziness in the states and created anger in those that are producing natural resources. You find out that apart from the natural resources, those oil producing areas are producing nothing else, those not in oil producing areas are producing nothing else. So, our oil wealth became a source of laziness in the states and that has stunted the growth of this country, and we went on recess, and it became a question of everybody struggling to fend for himself instead of the country or the state or even the community. When people own billions of naira from national wealth, ask them what are they going to do with it? If you go to their villages, there is no road to these places; they won’t even use it to develop their villages; all they know is themselves with the obscene wealth. These have created lack of cohesion as everybody is looking for his own so that his family can survive. But I hold this view that if the society survives the family will survive also. There are so many things to look into and consider, that is why 60 years after, we are not sure whether we are in a country or not.
There is no place people sleep now with both eyes closed. Boko Haram is ravaging the Northeast, bandits are holding the Northwest on its jugular, herdsmen taking over North Central and in the South, kidnappers are holding sway, as an elder statesman, are you not worried over the insecurity in the country?
I am very worried. I used to go to Abuja by road, but I don’t do that anymore. It is unfortunate, but the fact is that when you allow the wealth of the nation to be in the hands of the few, neighbours watch them living in obscene opulence; some people who don’t know how to go and get their own in the normal ways will ask you what of the others? For example, five permanent secretaries, and one of them is living in obscene opulence, the other four are merely surviving with even their pension not paid, the children of those who didn’t create obscene wealth while in office will be asking their parents were you not the same permanent secretary like the other one; what were you doing and some of the children might find a way to catch up. This is one of the reasons. Legally speaking, Nigeria has not been fair to take care of its senior citizens, who put in their youthful years to keep the country alive and they retire into unhappiness and hunger. Those coming behind now believe that there was no need waiting on what the nation has prepared for you; if you go to US and see how they are pampering their senior citizens, you come to your own country and weep. It used to be said that civil service gave a guaranteed future to people, but now, it is not and the younger ones are feeling disappointed and looking for alternative route to catching up. Thirdly, the wrong impression by some people that they own the rest, is what will break the country if it will be broken.
When you listen to debates in the National Assembly, you find out that everybody is talking about his own most of the time. Nobody is ready to talk about the interest of another zone or against his own zone when things are wrong there, except when bandits start killing some of them and they start complaining. I hope that the president should wake up; those around him should wake up. In the Bible, Pontius Pilate didn’t kill Jesus Christ, in fact he washed his hands clean of it, but till today what we know about is that in the days of Pontius Pilate, Jesus was crucified. Nobody talks about those who did the real crucifixion. So, those who are in charge today should be worried for being recorded in the future to be said that in the days of Buhari, in the days of anybody else that Nigeria disintegrated. If I were in their shoes, I would say not in my time. You will not say not in my time without doing those things that will make everybody have a sense of belonging. The youth can easily be accustomed to negativism because they feel that the nation doesn’t think about them; they want to think about themselves and take care of their own family.
You are close to Buhari, have you taken time to draw his attention to these situations that may lead to the breakup of the country?
This not the first time of interviewing me and if you look at my interviews, I have always said so. I have always done my best to point out these things at all times, but unfortunately those around him have not allowed me to see him since he became president and I have no intention of forcing the issues.
Before, separatist agitation was only from the Southeast; MASSOB, IPOB etc, clamouring for Biafra, but today, some groups in Southwest are calling for Oduduwa Republic. As it stands, don’t you think it is better we do it the Czechoslovakia way, everybody going his separate ways and enjoy peace instead of engaging in any form of bloodshed?
I have said it before that Nigeria must sit as Ojukwu would say during the war, round a well polished mahogany table and discuss our future. Can the centre still hold? We must sit and talk about it now or we can talk about it in foreign land, when people used to invite us out from Nigeria to talk peace about our own land, that is what we are waiting for. The truth is that we should decide now and talk about it, we can patch all the leaking roofs and cracked walls and continue and you can only do it by what I may say, ‘getting apart to be closer.’ You know in a family if there is rancour, the elders will tell them, you move to the other piece of land and live there, or they say, you build a wall here, don’t disturb the other side; that is getting apart to be closer. This is what we need here. This over centralised Nigeria’s situation may destroy Nigeria. We must get aside a little; let us go back to our near federalism than the purported federalism that we are doing. Let us revisit the issue of resource control.
A situation where those in power are not interested in restructuring, going back to federalism; they argue that what we have now is ok, where does that get us?
It means that those who are talking in different way should know that they can’t rule this country alone for God’s sake; they should know that. There was somebody who once boasted that his ethnic group is bigger than other groups in Nigeria. I said, look at you, you don’t even know the situation. The worst part of intelligence is intelligence in yourself; when all you know is that you are better at everything and better than everybody, it means that you don’t know anything because you cannot be better than everybody. If only they can have a few people there who can advise them that they cannot take on the whole country and get away with it then they should listen; but those who feel that there should be no talking that they should go to war, it is unfortunate, God will not let them have their wishes. When someone is pushed to the wall he has no option than to resist even with stick against gun. That is the truth of the matter.
The National Assembly has started another round of constitution amendment. Nothing came out of the previous exercises, and this time, the Northern Elders and Afenifere are opposed to it, what is your take on this?
My honest position, which I have not failed to express is that the constitution didn’t give the NASS any competence to amend it. They have competence to alter its provisions. I have a book coming out very soon where I argued the issue very effectively for Nigerians to see and judge. If we allowed this question of nibbling at the constitution by the NASS, it may lead to a certain dictatorship. NASS was not authorized to amend the constitution; it is authorized by the constitution to alter provisions of the constitution. Check the difference between altering and amending. It is just like pandemic and epidemic, they portray the same thing but there is a difference in their meaning. One has a wider connotation than the other.
Talking about security, Southwest has come up with Amotekun; Miyetti Allah launched its own last July 22, and it is to operate in all the states to protect her people. The Southeast governors and Ohanaeze agreed to set up her regional security outfit, but the governors jettisoned the idea and adopted the IGP community policing model. Some Igbo argue that the governors were not doing much in protecting their people, what is your position on this?
I will adopt the Southwestern style.
If you were in President Buhari’s shoes, and with agitations coming from different corners, what will you do?
I will not do what is happening now and do something else. My attitude will not be the current attitude; it will be something different and more positive.
Politics of 2023 is about taking the centre stage, some argue that the presidency has to be by rotation, while others say it has to be by competence that rotation doesn’t enthrone the best; some hold that power remains where it is today, what is your option?
Out of correct statement, there can be a faulty decision. If there are good people from all parts of the country and have all had a chance of their good people coming at a stage, what is wrong in allowing the one that has had no opportunity of bringing in its own good person to perform? Can anybody tell me with conviction that the Southeast cannot produce a president because it has no good people? That is rubbish. What we are saying is that in the interest of peace, let everybody has a share if the good materials are available.
There was this deputy governor in Imo State under Mbakwe, Prince Isaac Uzoigwe, who used to say, emenyiri Nwaogugu, emenyiri Anosike, emenyri kwa nwani non’ulo, that is, you give a share to Nwaogugu, you give a share to Anosike, you give a share to the woman in the house and that is the panacea for peace. Can anybody who is right thinking in Nigeria say that Southeast cannot produce a good material for Nigeria. I leave it for the parties to save this country or not, because if all the parties nominate from the Southeast, the zone will produce the president. All I pray is that in supporting those who will come from Southeast, let them be supportable people.
You have made a case for Southeast to produce the president, but some argue that the zone cannot be asking for president and at the same time Biafra
Yes, they are correct. I remember when I went with Buhari sometime ago to US to attend World Igbo Council, he made a speech, and said an Igbo man being president is not only justified but imminent; but it cannot go together with MASSOB. At that time, it was MASSOB. That has been my position all the time till now. I want to tell you IPOB is not an Igbo project, it is a project of those who want to be seen. Ohanaeze is our voice and not IPOB.