By Ola Ajayi
Akinjide served as minister of education in the Tafawa Balewa’s cabinet in the First Republic and as minister of Justice and Attorney General in the Second Republic government of President Shagari. Akinjide was a frontline member of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN and served as the party’s legal adviser prior to his appointment as attorney general.
He is presently, a member of the Board of Trustees, BoT of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. In this interview, he reviews the actions and inactions of the Buhari government, the prospects of the PDP following its recent electoral loss among other national issues.
You have not been so visible in politics in recent times.
Is it age or you are just playing it cool?
I am a prominent member of the Board of Trustees of the PDP and I play very active role in Ibadan, Oyo State and in other parts of the country. So I am very active in the PDP.
Apart from the former Minister of State for FCT, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide, is there any of your other children who is also in politics?
All of them. Abayomi who also is a lawyer is very active in politics, Mobola, my daughter is very active in politics and if you count Jumoke that makes them three, so my family is very active in politics.
What is your assessment of the assignment of portfolios to the ministers?
He nominated very good people, I have no doubt about that. But my concern is with Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. When we were in Lagos as Federal Capital, Yar Adua was a Minister for Lagos and he came from the North. When Obasanjo was in office before the Capital Territory was created, a Yoruba person was in charge. But since the Capital Territory has been created, Northerners have been ministers throughout. I don’t think that is the best for the country.
I will like to see an Igbo, Yoruba, Middle-Belt man be a minister in charge of the Capital Territory. To consistently pick someone from the North as Minister for the Capital Territory is not in our national interest and is not good. I am not saying the people that have been picked are bad but I am talking about geographical spread. We should not give the impression that the capital territory belongs to a particular part of the country. It should be something that belongs to the whole country. That is the objection I have and I hope that will be corrected very soon.
Since President Buhari assumed office six months ago, how can you rate his performance in the fight against terrorism?
He has been trying his best. I mean there are areas in which I might have done things differently but overall, I will give him a good pass mark as president of the country.
So Nigerians did not make mistake voting him as the President?
I would not say Nigerians have made mistake although I would have preferred Goodluck Jonathan to win the election. But since he has been elected, I accept the election and all of us will support him to succeed.
In your wealth of wisdom, what do you think the president should do to make this country better?
Economically, Nigeria is the greatest in Africa. There is no doubt about that. But, we have a committee of 20 of which South Africa is a member and Nigeria is not, I don’t think that can be supported at all. Nigeria should be one of the people in the committee of 20, why Nigeria is excluded, I don’t understand at all. It cannot be defended, it cannot be justified. We should not be looked upon as if we are the colony of Europe or somebody who should be playing third or fourth role in that regard. Europe and America, Japan are wrong.
What is your candid advice to both the Federal Government and the Pro Biafran protesters on the Biafran agitation?
Anybody supporting Biafra must be very, very wrong. I don’t know their reason but whatever their reason, they are wrong. We fought a war for three years over Biafra and Biafra was defeated and the whole country united with the belief that Nigeria should remain one country and the Igbo joined the country and since then they have been governors in the country, they have been ministers both at the state and federal levels. They have been ambassadors abroad. I don’t see why anybody should now be asking for Biafra again, I think it should be rejected.
I think they should call them to a meeting and talk to them as father to son and ask them to stop because there is no reason for them to do what they are doing. In the last government, we had an Igbo as Minister of Finance (Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) and also, we had an Igbo as Secretary to the government, we also had Igbo as ambassadors in many parts of the world. So, there is no excuse for anybody to say he wants to break up the country again after we fought a bloody war of about three years. We don’t want to go back to that. We want peace everywhere and we want a fair share whether you are from the North, East, West, South, Middle-Belt everything should be evenly and fairly distributed.
While you say you are still active in politics but the likes of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and Edwin Clark have chosen to opt out of politics. Do you think it is good for the polity when men of your stature are opting out one by one?
Those people you have mentioned have positions and are statesmen. There is no way they can get out of politics. It is in our blood; it is part of our life and it is in the national interest for us to be actively involved in politics and in governance. I will forever be in politics throughout my life, I will not opt out of it at all either as an adviser or as a statesman. In whatever form that is appropriate, I will definitely play some role in the national interest.
What do you think actually led to the defeat of PDP in the last general election?
I don’t want to talk on the defeat of PDP. In all elections, somebody has to win somebody has to lose. Nobody should talk of defeat as if it is a disease. When they do elections in America, one has to win one has to lose. The same in England, even in Germany, Israel, Australia and Japan. Defeat in election is not a disease; it is a normal process. One party cannot be in power forever and one party cannot be in opposition forever. I don’t see defeat as a disease; I see it as a normal political process.
But the fact is that with the reputed numerical superiority and influence that PDP wielded years back, nobody thought it could lose election quickly?
I don’t use the word quick. What happened was normal; sometimes, a party rules the country and in another election it is defeated and after another election that party finds its way back. Don’t look at winning or defeat as a disease it is a normal process. It happened recently in Canada whereby the son of a former prime minister is now a prime minister in Canada.
Looking at our electoral system, what do you think should be done to make it more attractive to people outside to stop complaints of rigging?
It is culture. This type of election is not in our blood. We copied it from Europe and America and other countries, and over in the generations and years to come it will become part and parcel of our culture. Look at India. India is the second largest country in the world following China and yet in my view the greatest democracy in the world is India. I will rate India better than America and that is very good and that is what Nigeria should copy.
So, do you see any role for the BOT of the PDP to return the party to winning ways?
Leadership is very important, leadership of the party with the right person. Then, two, we should nominate the right candidate, once we have the right leadership and candidates who have credibility. I am sure the country will vote for PDP again.
The issue of internal democracy was very loud in the PDP in Oyo State and some other states prior to the last general elections. So, what is really the way out?
That is subjective whether there is internal democracy or not. What I know is that in any election, one will win one will lose.
Whether this is the reason for winning or losing is a different matter. But I have no problem that what happened has happened and I have no doubt that PDP will come back to power again, PDP will win elections.
As soon as possible.
Can you say precisely that PDP did well in the last 16years?
Very well in many respects.
That comment is subjective. It is not objective and other people may hold opposite views. Politics is argument and I listen to anybody whether it is right or wrong. But in my view, PDP has done well. Once we pick the right leadership to run the party and we pick the right candidates to contest elections for us at all levels we will be winning.
Do you agree with Raymond Dokpesi when he said that the party made a mistake on the issue of zoning?
He said the party ought to have allowed the North to complete its term and also to allow the North to go for a 2nd term instead of choosing the former President Goodluck Jonathan.
You may be right you may be wrong. I respect his opinion that is what is called democracy. You may see something as white, I may see it as black and you may see it as green.
Ok sir, do you believe in Zoning?
Oh yes. Certainly, we cannot be monolithic. One country cannot be run by a set of people all the time. We can have a Yoruba running it this time next time it could be Igbo after that it may be Kanuri, Hausa or Fulani. I believe that we should be moving the offices from place to place.
Given the recent kidnap of Chief Olu Falae by some Fulani herdsmen and the agitation of some Yoruba leaders on the issue, what suggestions would you proffer to solve the issue of Fulani herdsmen in the Southwest?
What they did to Falae was very bad and we all support Falae. But, I don’t believe we should break up the country. We should be objective; we should be nationalistic. We should warn those people and if they don’t stop they should be called to order.
What is your advice to the APC government, at least on how it can do things better?
We should offer very strong opposition at the federal level and make sure the government is run properly and in those states where we won elections, we should provide good government and run the government properly. In those areas where we are opposition, we should be good opposition, we should not make it as a matter of life and death.
How has the judicial system fared in the last 55 years after independence?
Oh Nigeria we’ve got the best democracy and judiciary in the whole of Africa. I have no doubt about that at all. If you look at our judgments and law reports it is as good as anything in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England and we will continue to do better. I am proud of this country. I am a member of the English Bar, Nigeria Bar and African Bar. I practise in three jurisdictions and I enjoy it very much.
Is there any of your children practising law?
Oh yes. I have about nine or ten of my children who read law and wife and grandchildren who are studying law and I have about three of my grandchildren who are in banking and I also have in business and I am very proud of my children and grandchildren. I have been lucky the boys have married very well likewise the girls and we will do our best to continue to contribute to the well being of this country.