Chief Robert Clarke (SAN) recently bared his mind of the state of the nation, giving a panoramic view of the Nigerian polity, democracy, the Buhari administration and the forthcoming political primaries. He also proffered solutions that would move the country ahead.
What are your thoughts on the democracy day recently observed in the country?
I don’t believe that there has been anything from May 29th 1999 till today that one can attribute to democracy. From 1999 to date, Nigeria has been running a civilian form of government as against a military form of government. We have not been running a democracy. What makes a democracy to survive, and be accepted is the ability of the institutions that make up democracy to be in existence in a system. Today, the entire components that make up democracy (election, judiciary, police) none of them has been in operation in Nigeria since 1999. What we have is a civilian form of government where so-called civilians gathered together, called themselves a party. But the power of the people is the beginning of democracy.
But we just celebrated democracy day…?
There was nothing to celebrate. The best years of Nigeria after independence were the first six years of civilian government. That was a true democracy in existence. We had a constitution of a federation of four regions. Each region had its own constitution. The doctrine of revenue dispensation was by derivation. What you sow you reap. Many regional agencies were very strong in their areas. Now, even within the so-called democracy we have what we call a unitized democracy which means that it’s a form of unitary form of government or federation where the president from the party in power dictates everything. The governor in a state dictates everything. We don’t have local governments again and these are parts of the institutions of democracy I told you do not exist.
Buhari promised to tackle security, fight corruption and rebuild the economy. After three years, how far has he gone?
First, everything in Nigeria has been politicized, in the name of religion and tribe. So if you are asking an average Hausa/Fulani man to assess Buhari, he would give you 90 per cent pass. If you are asking an Igbo man, he would give Buhari 10-15 per cent. If you ask a Yoruba man, who is in-between and in partnership with the Hausa/Fulani, 60 per cent of them will score him well because they are part of it. As for me, I don’t belong to any political party and I do not allow tribalism to dictate my thinking or responses. I do not allow religion to dictate to me. What is killing Nigeria is today is corruption and it has permeated every facet of Nigeria. And who are the godfathers and godmothers of corruption? Tribalism and religion. Those are the two things. I look at Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the North, the worst enemy in Nigeria today are our clerics and our tribal Omo Oduduwa, Afenifere, Ohanaeze and Arewa. These people are the ones destroying Nigeria because they never go straight. The corruption which is killing Nigeria today is being fueled by tribalism and for us to get it off our neck, it will
take a long time. Many people say Nigeria has to be destroyed first, and in rebuilding Nigeria from the rubble, maybe we will face the reality. Some say maybe we can do it by restructuring. Whichever way it is, I pray to God we will learn a lesson. But I am seeing positive change in Nigeria because when you want to compare, you compare with things that have just occurred to you or before that one. Let us look at the last two governments. If you want to know whether Buhari has done well or not, you have to look at the last two governments. Obasanjo and Yar’Adua/Jonathan. By comparing the past two administrations with Buhari today, will you be able to judge Buhari? You can’t judge him in isolation. If you want to judge him by what he said then the person is stupid. Just like in the Bible, somebody they got, one talent, another four while another person got five talents, you cannot expect them to do the same thing. Let’s take this question of security. The herdsmen in Nigeria as far as I know, I’m talking about 60-70 years backwards as a young man, have been with us in Nigeria. When people talk about herdsmen killing Benue people, 2014 was the greatest year when most numbers of Benue people were killed by herdsmen. Go and look at the statistics. This thing has been with us, but not one leader in Nigeria, starting from Obasanjo in 1999 up to Umaru Yar’Adua/Jonathan administration can show me what they tried to do to confront the herdsmen and deal with the menace. The herdsmen and the Benue people have been killing each other as long as I was a young boy. Why should Obasanjo say there’s so much blood flowing? He was there for eight years, he never proffered a solution. Yar’Adua and Jonathan were there for eight years, and that problem has been going on, they never did anything. Even during Jonathan’s time statistics show there were more killings. Under the Constitution, land belongs to the states; land does not belong to the Federal Government. Why are you asking Buhari to proffer solution? Where is the land he wants to give to the herdsmen? I have said these things on television. Let two state governments come together, they control the land; Buhari does not control more than the Federal Capital Territory. If Buhari wants land today from Lagos State he has to apply to Ambode. The governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa was the first person to say the states do not have land to give. He made a public statement
about that. If a state does not have land to give and today you are saying the police is under the control of the Federal Government, but you failed to realise that the governor is the chief security officer of his state. The only thing is that when taking direction, the policeman turns to the Inspector General of Police. Why are you blaming Buhari? I think it’s because of tribalism and religion. If Okowa with all his experience has said he’s not going to give land, where will the cattle pass? I’m aware that these cattle have been coming from the North to the South since I was five or six years old. When a state governor says that he cannot give land to solve a national problem that can destroy this country, something is wrong with Nigeria. Where do you want them to pass? If you don’t want them to destroy your farm land build ranches. If you don’t have the money apply to the Federal Government. For instance, Oyo and Ogun states can come together to set a ranch. In assessing who is performing or not performing, you have to look at the circumstances. What problem did Buhari meet? The same problem that has been existing since when I left secondary school in 1956/57. You go to a political rally, and you hear a politician say I will give you fire and water. Fire is electricity. That is what I have been hearing for the past 60 years. Nigeria today is better than five, six, eight, 20 years ago. There are many things you don’t see. In agriculture, we are better than where we were four years ago. Today, have you not checked the importation of rice? I travel a lot. I just came back from Jos. I went by road from Abuja to Jos and I’m seeing all these things. Go to Ogun State today, it’s the hub of the South-west today; go Keffi in Nasarawa State and see what is going on there in agriculture. Look at our foreign exchange, Obasanjo left a lot in our foreign exchange in 2007. I think about US$60 billion dollars after paying Nigeria’s debt of about US$30 billion dollars and he started what he called Excess Crude Account. When Buhari took over all these had gone but today our reserve is now about US$77 billion. Are you aware of that? Within three years Buhari has been able to save. Then ask yourself where did he get the money from? When price of oil is almost half of what Jonathan and Yar’adua were getting. I’m not saying Obasanjo is the best man for Nigeria, no. But he did well. But the same Obasanjo also did many bad things. He stripped Nigeria of its assets and sold these things to questionable people. Aladja Steel, Ajaokuta Steel, Peugeot Automobile and Volkswagen, were sold; he sold Nigeria Airways as scrap and Arik took over. Now Arik is in liquidation. There’s nothing to show. Give it to Buhari; today Nigeria can be given loans. We are seeing more inflows of foreign di- rect investment. We have been able to get loans from China, and that’s why all these roads are being worked on, and you see Fashola all over the place. If the Chinese didn’t have confidence in us would they have given us loans to build our infrastructure? America had never invited any Nigerian presi- dent or head of state, but the Ameri- can government decided that Buhari should come. That is what we call respectability in international relations because he has a track record of three years. They know he’s not a crook, if he is given money, it would be utilized for the purpose. Respectability is being restored. Obasanjo with all the years he was in office was never invited by any American government. The best they would do is to go to New York during the United Nations Gen- eral Assembly. Babaginda never went, Yar’Adua never went and Goodluck Jonathan was never invited. You have to look at the perception of Nigeria today by the Western countries. What- ever you want to say about Buhari, he has brought credibility to governance as against blatant stealing that has per- vaded Nigeria since 1999. As I said, it depends on which divide you are. If you are Hausa/Fulani you will support Buhari. If you are Igbo, you will criti- cize him. If you are Omo Oduduwa, 60 per cent of those who supported Tinubu, will support Buhari.
Like you sir?
No, I am not supporting him. I’m stating the obvious. I have given you examples. Tell me one Nigerian leader in the past 20 years that has been invited on a state visit to America. None of them because all the money our leaders are stealing are being trans- ferred overseas and the Americans see these things. They are now running away from American banks and go- ing to Dubai, South America but the Americans are seeing the movement of the money. If you elect a certain politician as president, he can’t go to America because he was involved in the Halliburton scandal, for which the aide of a former United States Vice President was sentenced to prison in America. A former president was also involved in the case. That’s why they can never be invited but all these are not known to Nigerians.
People have said that the anti-corruption fight is one-sided, that APC members are not being prosecuted. What is your take on that?
It is the most stupid man on earth, a Nigerian who is involved in Nigerian politics that will think that a party in power would start hounding its own members. When Obasanjo was in power, he was not hounding PDP members except one or two PDP people like Joshua Dariye and Alamesiegha, who were in the same party with him. When PDP was in power were they not hounding Tinubu and all the AD people? Forget which divide you are, if you are in power, you cannot hound your own members. It will be stupid to do that. APC is in power they have to investigate the past government and when PDP enters, then PDP will investigate the APC. There’s nothing wrong in that. The important thing is that you are fighting corruption whether diabolically or perceived enemies, the important thing is that the man they have picked is he corrupt or not? Ask yourself, how can a government allow the then National Security Adviser, Col Dasuki to be doling out US$2.1 billion to people without any fear that anything could happen? And people who went there to take the money would say they never knew the source of the money.
Buhari wants a second term, considering his age and health is that okay?
Let me ask you a question, when you have a leader and you want to change the leader you look among yourselves who is available to take over from this leader. Let us look at APC first. If Buhari today says he’s not contesting, who is the eligible person, because it will still be zoned to the North. Who today in the north can APC bring out, is it Tambuwal, who is in the PDP and not APC with Saraki and others. Do you think a Katsina man will trust Tambuwal? Do you think a Kano man will trust Tambuwal? No. When you look at APC today they don’t have a candidate more than Buhari. He’s the silver bullet they have. In 2004, the number of votes Buhari got from the North was 12 million; Obasanjo did not beat Buhari in the North, when he contested against him. Yar’Adua did not beat Buhari in the North when he contested against him and Jonathan did not beat Buhari in the North. Buhari has contested against three presidents in Nigeria. He garnered more votes in the North than any of them. Who are you bringing now from APC to replace him? Let’s look at PDP, you cannot bring Wike to come and contest, nobody will vote for him because this is a northern slot. Now, PDP, who are they going to bring out. Today, they don’t have a candidate. If they go to the Middle Belt, you have Ortom in Benue; Ortom has come to say he’s not leaving APC. A lot of people think because of the herdsmen he will leave APC. Nasarawa and Kebbi states are for Buhari to the core. Now, who among the PDP do you see as a potential presidential candidate from the North? What I’m now saying is that if Buhari feels he is strong enough, then he can contest but knowing Buhari, I don’t think he wants to contest. I know what I’m saying.
But he has declared his intention?
When they don’t have an alternative they are begging him. Is it Osinbajo that will go and contest in the North, nobody will vote for him. Alternatively, there’s nobody in the two parties to march Buhari.
Which way forward?
We cannot continue with this system of government. Within the next six months, if we don’t sit to change the system of government this country will collapse. If we don’t sit down to change the system of governance that will move us forward, this country will collapse. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. When you are digging a tunnel, as you dig it and you are seeing a green light you know you are nearing the end, but here there is no light. We are going into a primary for all political parties, they will either sink or swim together after that primary. Go and write it down. I’m not a seer, I don’t see visions but I’m telling you that the primaries of all the political parties will be the demise of political parties in Nigeria because they are going to kill themselves.