By Clifford Ndujihe & Chiebuka Ndujihe

 

bill,IKOKWU
Ikokwu

Elder Statesman, lawyer, and Second Republic Politician, Chief Guy Ikokwu, 83, in this interview shares his thoughts on the state of the nation and the way forward. He warned that the level of hunger in Nigeria is scary, the country already in state of anarchy and urgent measures must be taken to pull the country from the precipice.

As a lawyer with over 50 years at the bar, what is your take on the hate speech bill being considered by the Senate?

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It is not the first time it is being introduced. It was introduced in the 8th Assembly it was shot down and has now been brought back in the 9th Assembly. It is a bill that is dead on arrival because these are abnormalities. Even the people who are promoting it should be the first to be killed or hanged. You have to define what is hate speech, describe when it was made, who takes the decision and who kills and so on. Those who are promoting hate speech bill have been guilty of hate speech in the last 10 years. They should be killed first. There are things you tell a child and the child will look at you and say how can you be telling me this when you are guilty of it, you are not a good teacher.

The bill is very retrogressive and the rest of the world is laughing at us, that is why Nigeria is almost a failed state.

His take on the closure of land borders by the Federal Government

The land borders of Nigeria have not been totally closed, only a section has been closed, you can say from Badagry up to the East have been closed which are adjacent to other West Africa countries but from there you go up to Niger the borders are very open. Trailers, vehicles bring in rice, and some of these vehicles are controlled by some para-military and police vehicles. We have seen the videos. Some of those videos are true.

When you look at it, it’s an albatross and therefore causes more friction between Nigeria and neighbouring countries. Why do we sign the agreement on African free trade and all that, when we cannot even implement the terms? If there is problem between Nigerian officials and those of neighbouring countries, we should have made efforts first to resolve it in a civilized manner and then implement it in accordance with the treaties that have been documented and signed. If people on the other side are cheating us, we print it out and show them that they are actually cheating us, they cannot deny it. A situation where you close borders, Yoruba in the East cannot communicate with Yoruba in the West because of this artificial boundary created by the colonialists, is wrong. They cannot visit their kindred, they cannot even purchase food, agricultural produce and so on.

At the president’s home town, Daura, the border is open. You see petroleum tankers moving in and out. Is that smuggling? It’s not, it’s free entry. You go through the border and nobody asks you who are you? Where are your documents? This is one of the things making Nigeria a failed nation and a failed state.

On the state of the nation and controversies trailing the Kogi and  Bayelsa governorship elections

The problem we have in Nigeria is how to advance our democracy, and democratic excellence is not something that just comes once; it is a developmental process, and it takes time. You learn from your experience and improve on it.

Many Nigerians today are still disappointed because the experience of our performances in the recent past, in the last 20 years has not elevated our status as a country that is progressing.

Our experience in politics in Nigeria today is not a sustainable one. Nigeria is believed to be the largest country in Africa and we did not make it so, God made it so. We don’t even know our population; it’s all a result of guess work,  guessmatics. Some say 160 million, some say 180 million and some say 200 million.

The decay

Look at Nigeria with all the universities that we have; there was a time we had only three universities but we had more intellectual progress at that time than today when we have more than 70 universities littering everywhere.  In those days when we had three or four universities and three or four hospitals, people from Asia, Saudi Arabia, etc. were coming to Nigeria for medicals, medical tourism, to get cured, but it is no longer so  today instead Nigerians are the ones going out for medical tourism. There was a time when we used to have very colourful dances, cultural displays, carnivals, which attracted a lot of tourists from abroad like the Durbar, like what we have in the riverine areas. They were colourful.

Today, there are many countries that their GDP is almost 10% richer through tourism because when foreigners come to their country, they come with foreign exchange.

Nigerians ‘re frustrated

These things are very akin to the democratic process, electoral process and so on and most Nigerians today have become frustrated that we are not making progress; that Nigeria is no longer the shining light of West Africa or Africa. It is so much that you find people in South Africa, like late Nelson Mandela regretting, he had been in Nigeria and without Nigeria they (South Africa) would not have been liberated from the yolk of apartheid.

Nigerians today are frustrated because internally we are not making progress. Talking about elections, most Nigerians will rather not vote because the voting process is not clean, and transparent. If it were credible, there would not be problem.

In advanced countries, you can go online and vote, you can finish the election in half a day. There are even areas you have early voting. There are countries that have diaspora voting. It has not been possible to extend this to Nigerians abroad. So, when you talk of election, Nigerians in the Diaspora are frustrated. The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN,  tells us that Nigerians in Diaspora are sending more than 20 billion dollars to the Nigerian economy, and what do they get for it? Not much.

So, elections are just a cause for frustration for our people. People do not expect much from it. To return to the time of progress, the path of sustainability where we give more than we take from the system, we have to change the governance system of Nigeria. We have to go back to what our founding fathers called true federalism.

True federalism means a federal structure where you have a heterogeneous group of people. Why should a heterogeneous group be ruled today in a dictatorial manner? And then you change the constitution of the country to unitary constitution. There is no such thing in jurisprudence, political or legal, as unitary federalism.

At a meeting of no fewer than 12,000 lawyers we had a month ago in Lagos, I asked a question: ‘Can you please define for us the meaning of unitary federalism?’ Nobody could answer, everybody was laughing. The present Chief Justice of Nigeria was there, the Attorney General of Nigeria was there, everybody was just laughing.

So why can’t you do the simple things first, and do the other things later? That is why we say education, education, and education. The best thing you can give to Nigeria is high quality education. The next thing you have to give to Nigeria is liberal democratic system, where different cultures will be raised and optimized, where there would be freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and rule of law.

If you devolve the powers that are now heavily weighted on the federal government to the states, to the people, who are the origin of sovereignty,  the people will now take things up to another level.

Once you do that, you will find out that to be the president of Nigeria is no longer a do-or-die affair. A situation where you go to an election and you see what happened in Kogi, can you imagine how many people were killed and still being killed? Look at the lady (PDP Woman leader) that was just killed the other day. Her house was burnt by young boys, thugs you call them, but these thugs did not originate themselves, people hired them, and gave them money, and guns.

These are issues that if not properly handled with re-orientation will pull Nigeria down. Let me say it as a matter of fact, Nigeria is already down, Nigeria is gradually becoming a failed state. The last four budgets of Nigeria failed on arrival and the present 2019 budget has already failed.

How?

You cannot sustain a budget based on borrowed money, where the country is owing more money abroad than internally generated fund, the World Bank and IMF from whom we borrow have told us. So why don’t we listen?

So, what Nigeria needs immediately is good leadership. Good leadership means a good governance situation; good governance situation means the  rule of law and rule of law is such that is against dictatorship and dictatorial tendencies.  People must have their say but the majority will have their way but you can’t just form a majority without allowing people to identify where they are whether they are for minus or for plus,.

These are the issues for Nigeria, but it is so frustrating that today there is a state of anarchy in Nigeria whether we like it or not. The unemployment situation in Nigeria is very scary. The hunger in Nigeria is too much, the cost of living is such that it is no longer affordable for the ordinary Nigerian.

Is the world wrong when they tell us from statistics that Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world?

Those who live in abject poverty are about 87%, so industries cannot thrive when there are crooks embedded inside, even families cannot progress when the children are bereft of the basic necessities of life.

They say a hungry man is an angry man. Nigerians today are hungry so they are angry. When there is anger in the land, there is a lot of criminality. When there is criminality in the land, there will be instability.

Now, the leadership is comatose, absolutely comatose, and a leadership that is absolutely comatose whether in the family or society or otherwise cannot elevate the people from their current hardship. That is why Nigeria has become the laughing stock in West Africa

Today, when you tell a young Nigerian that a few decades ago the Nigerian money was more sustainable than the dollar, he would say no. There was a time when the Nigerian naira or the pound as it was called then was higher than the US dollar, you could go to London with only 20 pounds, but now you need a million.

We are supposed to be the leading lights. When our people are made election monitors in South Africa, and other places they see that election is done in one day, the results are released the same day, latest the next morning, the elections are credible and they use modern means of calculating electronically. How can a country like Nigeria where we have more telephones, electronic devices and on the average more people on the internet than any other African country not conduct a credible election by just going and voting?

After voting at a polling booth where you know the result, what is the problem of transmitting it with modern gadgets to a central station, where in a matter of one or two hours you get the whole result? Why do we deceive ourselves?How can you go to an election where you were hoping that things would be done electronically and then you refuse to sign it, and yet we spent billions of dollars to get that system into Nigeria?

On dependence on crude oil

In the next two decades nobody is going to be talking of oil. The way things are moving now, Nigeria will soon become the dumping ground  for diesel and petrol vehicles because other countries are now advancing into electric cars, battery-powered. Why can’t we advance ourselves?

Even in places like Uganda, there are about three companies there now, they take old vehicles, remove the engines and install their electronic battery and it works. So, Nigeria will soon become a dumping ground for these old vehicles. If we are futuristic, we have the capacity to, in the next eight years, turn all the petroleum powered engines to battery. We have the intellectual capacity to do so but we are not doing what we can for the future generation.

If we do not do that, we are doomed and if we are doomed, Nigeria is a failed country. If Nigeria becomes a failed country, woe becomes the fate of Africa and the Black race.

So, in Nigeria, let’s put our thinking caps on. If we are able to put our thinking caps on, Nigeria will become an epitome of the Black race.

Are  you saying that e-voting would have improved the Bayelsa and Kogi polls?

Kogi and Bayelsa are part of the Nigerian democracy revolution. If you look at the Bayelsa poll, there are issues, the former president is not even recognized in his own local government or senatorial district, because of  the Nigerian factor he had  to move up to Abuja and to talk to his  adversaries.

When you analyse Governor Seriake Dickson and the person he gave the mandate, you will find that they have maternal relationship, these are not the things that will elevate any democratic system. And then you go to Kogi,  how can you return a governor that is owing the citizens 30 months salary?

So, the leadership in Nigeria, the system in Nigeria has not given the Nigerian people the capacity to excel from their present intolerable subjugation and now we are close to absolute anarchy and total unrest. Is it when we start killing ourselves and human meat becomes cheaper than cow, that we will realize that we are human beings?

His take on the Supreme Court ruling on the 2019 presidential election

Looking at what happened to the presidential election in Nigeria and the Supreme Court judgement, some lawyers argue that under the laws that the Supreme Court judgement must be rendered and given 60 days from when the petition got to the court of appeal, but the one they did was 64 days.

This means the judgement and the reasons by each of the seven judges did not come in tandem with the prescribed rules. Does it render it as nullity? This is an issue trending among lawyers, and there are cases to support it.

So, if you get to this position, who will now interpret the rules, is it another Supreme Court or is it a lower court? Can you now go back to Supreme Court to set another panel  judges to look at it? If the new panel of said the judgement of the first panel is a nullity, then what happens? It means we don’t have a government. It means we did not have an election, you have no result so we go back to a new presidential election.

You see that the situation in Nigeria is intellectually morbid. It becomes so argumentative,

On the way forward and advice to Nigerians

We are at the precipice. We as Nigerians should not take the wrong step forward now because we are at the precipice. Any wrong step at the precipice will lead to a free fall and a free fall is injurious. We have to gradually, carefully and meticulously move away from the precipice and I will keep saying this, we have to realize ancient realities that keep us together.

The realities that keep us together are one that we are a heterogeneous people, different languages, different cultures, different religions, different standard of living, different education, different lifestyles and once that is done and we recognize it, then we can now see the binding factors that will make us an entity to move forward.

You can have six or seven children in the family but you can’t say that the six children are one, they have different intelligence capacity, different health status, different personalities; once you recognize it, as a parent children that have deficiencies you bring them up. These are things that are recognisable.

If you turn a blind eye and do not recognize the inherent deficiencies in the nation, you are wasting your time. It has happened in other countries, Nigeria will break up by itself, not by any ordained structures. Soviet Union broke up, Europe broke up, Asia broke up even India broke up

If we do not learn from history what happened in these countries, how can we say we are exceptional that what happened there will not happen here? It is a fallacy, you cannot live a life of fallacy, that is the problem we have now. What will happen will happen, how it happens will not be too different from what happened elsewhere, especially when you have common factors.

In Ethiopia, they use Chinese technocrats to build their trains, fast trains and in two years they have developed and built them.

In Nigeria, the same contractors are still doing it after 10 years. Some like the one in Rivers State has been abandoned; the one in Lagos here is supposed to run from Badagry to Lagos, but only the section from Mile 2 is being done, you now have about eight Chinese workers with some Nigerians putting rods and doing cement work.

It is a job that should have been finished within three years, but it has already run a decade and the cost is times four if not more.

How FG set Lagos back

The current leadership in Nigeria cancelled what would have been a modern rail system in Lagos State during the administration of Alhaji Lateef Jakande as governor. The consultancy was done, I know the company that did it, I was their legal adviser, Dalhandasal.  They had done it, everything, the capital work signed and they were to get on with the work but the current president when he came as a military head of state, said it should be cancelled. But we had paid all the consultancy fees and so on, you can’t ask the consultant to refund.

These are the things that have drawn us back, that we cannot have a progressive quantum leap. In the past three or four decades we have not had a quantum leap, it’s as simple as that. You cannot keep betraying the fact, so instead of growing we are retrogressing, and when you retrogress so much after sometime you become a failed nation. It is already a failed state because we are the poverty capital of the world.

These are things we have to look at and we are just hoping that by our deliberate actions, we can liberate ourselves and our people from this comatose situation. To say the situation is not comatose is a lie and you don’t need a lie detector.

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