By Christy Anyanwu
Robert Clarke (SAN) recently granted an interview to Sunday Sun on the state of the nation. The octogenarian who has been on vacation in the UK came back during the week and bared his mind on some issues especially concerning Mr President’s health.
What message do you have for Nigeria now?
As a Christian, I believe in Psalm 23 which says “…though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil for thou art with me…”. Nigerians need to pray and recite Psalm 23 everyday now because it looks like we are walking in the wilderness of death. I’m not a soothsayer, but I can foresee that very soon, very soon, Nigeria is going to be embroiled in a crisis if Buhari’s health doesn’t improve. Nigeria is going to be embroiled especially in a succession palaver but there should be no need for it. Like I said, ethnicity and religion are the two most damaging aspects of our life in Nigeria and they will now play out should Buhari’s health deteriorate. We were lucky during the time of Yar’ Adua, Obasanjo played a significant role, whether bad or good depending on which side of the divide you are but he was able to rally the country round to accept Jonathan easily. We need a strong man like Obasanjo to prevent crisis. Nigeria has to be careful if the worst happens to Buhari which I don’t pray for but it’s inevitable for any human being. We should not make the same mistakes we made during Jonathan’s time. We should ensure that Vice President takes over as President if Buhar is incapacitated.
What’s your take on the President’s sick leave? Some believe he should just step aside for Osinbajo to rule instead?
As human beings, we can be sick at any time.There are certain sicknesses that are not life threatening and yet will be a nuisance but nevertheless the constitution says where a president is incapable of performing the functions of his office then at that stage it can be determined whether he is fit or not fit to continue. If the illness has not impaired his capacity to function in office, he should continue.
What’s your take on the proposed restructuring of Nigeria?
I have always said it, we can never make progress until Nigeria is restructured and it shouldn’t be on the basis of ethnicity. What I’m saying essentially is that the system of governance should be changed. If we are retaining the presidential system then let’s do it the South African way.
What’s your take on the controversy surrounding Ibrahim Magu’s appointment as EFCC Chairman?
Section 5 of the Nigeria constitution says that the president is vested with all executive powers. The EFCC is within the purview of the executive powers vested in Mr. president and therefore, the appointment of the EFCC chairman is also vested in Mr. President, subject to the approval of the Senate. Where the Senate refuses or decides not to confirm a nominee, the president has the power to allow that nominee to stay in an acting capacity because the constitution has vested in him under Section 5 the power to exercise all executive powers. In Magu’s case, one thing about him is his tenacity and ability to get results. He has at least been able to do this in his acting capacity. Mr. President can still recommend him again for approval by the Senate. Many of my colleagues don’t know where to hang this legality of asking him to stay in acting capacity, because there is no law that says a chairman must be appointed at any given time. If somebody is acting, he is acting, the only difference is that he’s not the chairman; he’s only an acting chairman. Mr. President can still retain Magu as acting chairman of EFCC under Section 5 of the constitution which gives him all the executive powers under the law. So, he’s not doing anything wrong.
While you were away in the UK, you heard about the release of 82 Chibok girls. What’s your reaction on that?
Let me be honest, two weeks after these Chibok girls incident happened, I was on Channels Television and I warned that if nothing was done quickly to get these girls back, the problem in Nigeria will be that they will turn out to be suicide bombers or in the alternative they’ll be used as comfort women and prisoners of war. Invariably, it has happened. You see, their release is belated but I thank God some of them have been released.
Some of the girls don’t want to come back. What do you have to say about that?
Well, let us be honest. These are young girls of 14, 15, and 16 years old. They are having sex for the first time and enjoying it and some of them have been impregnated and bore children for some of these insurgents. You can’t blame nature playing its own part at this stage. An innocent 14 or 15 year-old-girl who had never known any man coming into that circumstance would change immediately. I don’t blame many of them who have refused to return to their homes because their new found life is different. They need physical and spiritual therapy or whatever form of therapy to allow them adjust to the reality of the life they are now living.
Do you believe there’s anything like a cabal in the presidency?
Since the advent of democracy, there have always been cabals anywhere. In civilized countries they call them kitchen cabinet. The president has a kitchen cabinet. No matter what they discuss at the Federal Executive Council meeting, subsequently the president summons his kitchen cabinet to evaluate the resolutions of the FEC meeting just like the aforementioned kitchen cabinet. Obasanjo had it, any ruler must have it. Information had it that when Clinton was president of America, after observing protocols, he and Hillary, because she was an outstanding lawyer would still talk. Clinton still consulted his wife on many of the issues before even taking a decision. She was part of Clinton’s kitchen cabinet even though she is his wife. It’s part of democracy.
What’s your take on the Ikoyi gate scandal?
It’s one of the oddities in Nigeria. When you look at other African countries how many of them have an annual budget least of all such money of that magnitude in limbo. Not even one. Let’s be honest, even our neighbor here, Ghana, they can’t boast of such huge amount in foreign currencies in their vault. How can you keep such an amount of money in a three bedroom apartment?
But the money was said to belong to NIA?
Well, I do not believe that the money belongs to the NIA. I believe that NIA was just brought in by those who kept the money there as a ploy to conceal the identity of the people behind the scandal. That money belongs to the government, because no other entity can have so much money and keep it somewhere. There’s no doubt about it though NIA is now laying claim to it as overt or covert money and it does not sell to me. What I believe is that an individual who was in government had access to just keep the kind of money. Maybe they were using it for political campaigns. Maybe it was being kept to front the political machinery of the government of the day and they had to keep it there so that it will be available at any time they need it. It’s most surprising that even those who are neighbors in that place couldn’t even smell such huge freshly mint currencies. It beats my imagination that this could happen. As they claim, one woman came in silently and took as much as she wanted regularly. Well, that shows you the kind of country we are in. In Nigeria, anything can happen. I regard it as miracle, it shouldn’t have happened but it shows the system in which we find ourselves and the system will have to change for us to survive as a country. The only way they can cover up the true owners of the money is to allow the NIA to lay claim to it.
Was it from the last dispensation?
It was from the last dispensation, we know the situation of the dollar to the naira in this present dispensation. It’s from the old dispensation where anything could happen.