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Yar’Adua’s inaccessibility confirms he can’t perform — Richard Akinjide (part 2)

Last week, we brought you the first part of this interview. This week, Chief Richard Osuolale Abimbola Akinjide, speaks on the implications of the return of President Umaru Yar’Adua to the country after 93 days and says his return is of no effect.
“What it means is very simple and straight forward.  It simply means that he’s incapable of performing the functions of his office.  That is simple and straight forward enough – it means he can not perform the functions of his office. Simple. “The next move is that the ball is now in the court of the members of the National Assembly, particularly that of the Senate. “Look, let me tell you, there are precedents in history. There are precedents in history particularly in the United States. So the National Assembly should have no problem in taking the appropriate steps. A former Prime Minister of Israel, when he was in a similar situation in which our President is in now, he was removed from office and replaced.
“Legally, and so far as the National Assembly is concerned he has not come back to Nigeria – constitutionally and legally. “Look, coming back means he’s able to perform the functions of the office.
As far as the National Assembly is concerned, he’s still out of office.”

*Ball now in Senate’s court to act
*Explains how the North was foisted on Nigeria
*Blames Awolowo and Azikiwe for being myopic
*Wants National Assembly to act  on Yar’Adua

By Jide Ajani ,  Deputy Editor & Anthonia Onwuka

The death of Adegoke Adelabu (PENKELEMESI – peculiar mess)
There is something which happened which is little investigated and on which I am not going to say much now, the death of Adelabu on 25 March, 1958, through the alleged – and I repeat the word alleged – motor accident.  I wouldn’t say more than that.

But the death of Adelabu had consequences on the politics of Nigeria because two years earlier, the NCNC won Western Nigeria with the instrumentality of Adelabu.  But his death, allegedly through a motor accident, allowed Britain to consolidate their plan of dividing Nigeria and consolidate Western Nigeria for the Action Group, just as they also succeeded in driving Azikiwe back to the East to go and be Premier there and of course, the North, for NPC, which was very dominant.

How then did Britain foist the North on Nigeria?
Now, if you look at the electoral law at that time, District Heads, local government officials, Emirs were allowed to contest elections into the House of Representatives.

So you had a situation where people were judges in their own case.  I mean in the North, an Emir, a District Head or a local government official, contesting election and he would not win?  Come on.  How can they lose?  Again that’s another story all together and which is little investigated and all these have had and continue to have effect on the Nigerian nation.

Then, there was something else. While all those drama – 1956, 1957 and 1958 – was going on -Macpherson was the Governor General of Nigeria. What Britain did was to recall him from Nigeria to go and be Permanent Secretary of the Colonial Office in London.

Chief Akinjide

Britain then brought Robertson who was Governor General in Sudan to come to Nigeria and take over Macpherson’s duties as Governor General in Lagos.  There was a very strategic reason for that action on the part of Britain.
If you look at Sudan as a nation, Sudan South, black Africans, North Arabs and this was similar to the Nigerian nation – South Christians, North Muslims. So, you have now somebody who already had the experience of Nigeria being Permanent secretary in the Colonial Office in London on the one hand; and you also had somebody who had enormous experience in the North South dichotomy, Hausa Fulani North, Muslims, and Southern Christians, coming from Arab North and Christian South from Sudan.

So, you can not imagine a better political strategy to deal with and handle Nigeria’s situation to the advantage of Britain than what was put in place.  I doff my heart for Britain for that although it was not in Nigeria’s interest.

Therefore, the hidden agenda and all that went on underground at that time have never been unfolded or written in Nigeria’s political history.

But the independence itself has never been properly managed by Nigerians who took over?  What options were open to the leaders in Nigeria at that time not to accept the type of arrangement that Britain was foisting on the nation?
They had enormous alternatives but both Azikiwe and Awolowo committed serious political blunders and that is:  Awolowo left Ibadan for Lagos, Federal House of Representatives because he wanted to become the Prime Minister of Nigeria.  Azikiwe left the East for Lagos and also contested the Prime Ministership of Nigeria.

With the greatest respect and without being rude to their intellect, the wisest of them all – Zik, Awo and Sardauna – was Sardauna.  Whereas Awolowo and Azikiwe refused to remain in their power bases at that time, the Sardauna, Sir Ahmadu Bello, refused to come to Lagos, he sent Tafawa Balewa.

And don’t forget that at that time, Nigeria was running what you could call a confederation, with each region with its own flag – the Western region had its own flag, the Eastern region had its own flag, and the Northern region had its own flag.  Then there was the Nigerian flag for the entire country.

Not only that, each region had diplomatic relations abroad – had an office in London and you could have had if you wanted offices in Canberra, New Delhi, Washington and so on because we were running a confederal system if you call it that.

So, it was the mistake of Azikiwe and Awolowo that led to these serious consequences, and also, out of frustration, young officers foolishly staged a coup in 1966.  At that time, I was a federal cabinet minister and since then till this day, Nigeria has never been the same.

But the politicians of that era did not help matters because even the citizens were becoming disillusioned and that was why the coup of that year, 1966, received the welcome of the citizens?
I don’t agree with that at all. I doff my hat and I pay tribute to the leadership of the Nigerian army of today because if it was 20, 30, 40 years ago, the events of the last two months would have led to a military coup but the leadership of the Army, Navy and Air Force repeatedly stated that their responsibility is not to intervene in civilian dispute which is political and, therefore, should be politically resolved.

The Nigerian army leadership of today has laid a precedent which all future military leadership would have to follow and if you look at the United States of America and the crisis the country has had and which were by far greater than what we have experienced in Nigeria, the American armed forces have never intervened.

The only time that the armed forces intervened in politics was in British politics, for instance, was in1649, when Cromwell took over power and he was there till 1666. In 1649, Cromwell deposed the elected government and also Charles 1, who was the King of England, but what many people did not know was that Cromwell was conscious of history and he made all the members of parliament in London to sign that they ceded power to him so that what would appear to be a coup now appeared to have had the support of parliament but of course he forced them to do it. Cromwell was not a young boy; Cromwell was a graduate of Cambridge.

The army of that era claimed to have good reasons for interfering?
The Army who intervened in 1966 made a very great blunder. I was a cabinet member at that time, I was the Federal Ministry of Education and the mistake they made pulled the hand of the clock back. There have been several disputes in the United State of America, there have been violent political disagreements; there has been assassination of an American President before. There have been bloody civil wars between the South and the North, when Abraham Lincoln was the President. The American armed forces never intervened in the government; politics is for politicians and the role of the army is not to take part in politics or in governance and I again pay tribute to the present leadership of our armed forces – Navy, Army and the Air Force.

During the crisis between Akala and Ladoja in Oyo State, your position then was almost one of indifference, a PDP leader in the state.  What type of politics do you play because people say sometimes opportunism is the word?
In the case of Oyo State, Ibadan alone has more than half of the population of Oyo State but Ibadan alone can not provide the governor because of the geographical spread.  There are 33 local government areas in Oyo State.  For you to be governor, you need 25% in 22 of the local governments which is sensible so that you can not say because you come from Ibadan you don’t need the other local governments.
But let me say this first, that in politics, there are no permanent friends, no permanent interests, no permanent enemies – nothing is permanent.
So in other words you must look at the circumstances prevailing at any particular time and take a decision. Do you know that Winston Churchill who is one of the greatest statesmen anybody can imagine flirted with the Labour Party, was a member of the Whig party, was cabinet minister of Labour Party, was prime minister of the Conservative Party; so if this great statesman could behave like that, who am I to behave differently? So what I have done is nothing strange at all. Now look at you, you mentioned Ladoja.  Ladoja was impeached.  Do you know that all the members of the Assembly from Ibadan, hundred percent without exception, voted for his removal, voted for his impeachment?  How do you explain that?

Now if that is what my people want, should I follow the wishes of my people or decamp and follow Ladoja alone. That is critical, that is very important.

But the courts said he was removed illegally?
Yes he went to court and eventually he won but that is quite different. You see litigation is a very different animal.  You can have a good case and go to court and lose.

You can have a bad case and go to court and win depending on the skill and manipulating power of your advocate. So the fact that he won in court and was returned as governor does it mean that the impeachment was not politically right?  It may be legally wrong, but does it mean it was not politically right?

Politically I have a duty to follow the wishes of my own people at that time, and we have been proved right because although he was returned to power as governor, he did not support PDP when we put up Akala to contest election.
Although Ladoja had all the materials and resources of the treasury, all the local governments, he had the media, Radio OYO, the television, the treasury everything. He said in an interview published in your paper, that he backed another candidate against Akala yet we won.  We defeated him which means that although the impeachment was upset by the court, that the electorate supported the impeachment just as all the members of the House of Assembly from Ibadan supported the impeachment is not in doubt.

So we must differentiate between what is legally right and what is politically right. As far as I’m concerned, politically, I was right and that is why Akala, picked by the PDP, was elected as governor and is still governor till today.

The emergence of Akala may ….?
(Cuts in) Now, let me tell you this, Akala is the first non-Ibadan to be governor in Oyo State. Oyo State has had six governors, two military,  four elected including Lam Adeshina who is from another political party AD or AC whatever they called them then.

So you have from the various political parties, six Ibadan sons being governor, two military, four civilians.
Now, is it not right that somebody from outside Ibadan should even be governor for a change? You have Ibarapa, Oke-Ogun, Oyo-Alafin, Ogbomoso, whether we like it or not people from these areas too will want their own governor. Look at the configuration of Britain: you have Scotland, Wales and England. England alone has overwhelming majority but sometimes they pick somebody from Wales as prime minister; they pick somebody from Scotland to be prime minister and even Blair is from Scotland and he became prime minister. So my attitude is based on fairness or justice that we in Ibadan should not be greedy.

Well Akala, if he wants second term, I support him 100%.  He should have his second term so that the people outside Ibadan too will have a sense of belonging and the right to hold that office, and then in future an Ibadan will become a governor again. So I have no regret at what I do and I say categorically that I support Akala and if he wants to come back for second term, I will back him.

Still on the issue of politics, in recent times you have become more truculent in your criticism of the Northern establishment?
Let me tell you straight away, that is wrong. I am not against Northern establishment. There is nothing I have done that is inconsistent with my past at all.  A former head of military intelligence gave an interview in one of the papers, saying exactly what I have been telling you and recently Gowon, Shagari, Shonekan and all these people say they believe power should be handed over to Jonathan. And if you look at the composition of those eminent people, only three of them are from the South, Shonekan Yoruba; Clark from Delta, and Ekwueme, Igbo from the East. All the others were Northerners, and what all of them said is exactly what I have been saying.  So there is nothing I have said that is inconsistent or different from what others are saying and that has to do with fairness.

Nigeria’s nationhood and zoning: what does it say of Nigeria 49 years after independence, especially the domination by the big three ethnic groups?

What right have the Igbos, the Yorubas and the Hausas, to say that forever they must be the ones to be the head of government of Nigeria.

I’ll like to see a time when an Ibibio, an Efik, when somebody from Benin, when a Kanuri, when somebody from Benue will be president of this country. What is critical is quality not quantity, if there is quantity without quality then of course, we are in trouble, and that is why I said what I said at the beginning, of the need to differentiate between quality and people who are taking back our progress.

Now that President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is back in the country and nobody has seen him, what does that portend?
What it means is very simple and straight forward. It simply means that he’s incapable of performing the functions of his office.
That is simple and straight forward enough – it means he can not perform the functions of his office. Simple

So, what should be the next move?
The next move is that the ball is now in the court of the members of the National Assembly, particularly that of the Senate.

When you talk of….?
(Cuts in) Look, let me tell you, there are precedents in history. There are precedents in history particularly in the United States.
So the National Assembly should have no problem in taking the appropriate steps.

Appropriate step, how?
A former Prime Minister of Israel, when he was in a similar situation in which our President is in now, he was removed from office and replaced.

For the National Assembly to step in it means there is something.  Legally and constitutionally, what would you say the status is now?
Legally, and so far as the National Assembly is concerned he has not come back to Nigeria – constitutionally and legally. Look, coming back means he’s able to perform the functions of the office. As far as the National Assembly is concerned, he’s still out of office.

But his purported return last Tuesday stalled the meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation, EXCOF.  It could not meet and that has its roots in the purported presence of President Yar’Adua?

There was no reason for them not to have met. Even when the President is in the country like Alhaji Usman Aliyu Shehu Shagari and Olusegun Obasanjo, and in each instance, each was hale and hearty, but was otherwise engaged, the Vice President at each time still presided over the cabinet meeting. There are instances.  It happened when I was a cabinet minister in the Tafawa Balewa cabinet of the First Republic and the same thing happened when I was Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation in Shagari’s cabinet.

And it happens like that in US when the President is very well but not available. The affairs of state are too important to be sacrificed because of one person.

Whenever there is conflict between national interest and the interest of an individual, the national interest must prevail.

In Australia, when the Prime Minister was able to pass his budget in the lower house but couldn’t pass same in the upper house and this led to a paucity of funds to run the affairs of government, the Prime Minister was removed and a caretaker government was set up for fresh elections.

So, how would you describe what is going on in Nigeria now?
What is happening in Nigeria now is theatrical which makes no sense.  It is a comedy show. What is happening now is not in the national Interest.

Some have tried to make an issue out of the chair of the President, that in an acting capacity, Goodluck Jonathan didn’t have to sit on the President’s chair?
It is very proper for him to sit on the chair because he has all the powers of the substantive holder of the office. There are no half measures in this thing. The President, whether substantive or acting, has all the powers of the holder of office.


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