By Onozure Dania
Mr. Kunle Adegoke, SAN, is a former governorship aspirant in Osun State. In this interview, he identified factors fuelling rampant prison breaks across the country and what government should do to curb the menace. He also spoke on constitutional amendment, direct primaries, attack on the judiciary, IPOB agitation, and other sundry issues. Excerpt:
With so many challenges facing the country and 2023 fast approaching, what kind of president do you think Nigerians should rally for?
I believe the requirements of good governance are pretty clear and indisputable. What Nigerians need in 2023 is a president that has a good understanding of how to govern and has the consuming passion to govern the country into economic progress. We need a president who is sincerely passionate about the country and is willing, able and ready to deliver on insecurity, foster unity among the various peoples of Nigeria, chart a new path towards meaningful development by which jobs can be provided for the teeming populace, put an end to inflation, engender a sense of pride in the corporate existence of Nigeria, protect the rights of the citizens and ensure a consistent pattern of development that can be institutionalised to guarantee sustainable development for the people.
Some people are of the opinion that Nigeria will never make any progress until our Constitution is amended; do you agree with them?
Our Constitution requires substantial amendment if not a total abrogation and replacement altogether. The Constitution is lopsided and completely unworkable. We need to balance a lot of interests through negotiation by the various peoples that make up Nigeria. The unitary nature of the Constitution has made it impossible for the people to be federate. We need a total overhaul of the Constitution to make people have a sense of belonging. You must remember that the current Constitution is not a product of negotiation but rather a military imposition. It is a Constitution with a different perspective of federalism other than what is known to all established theorists and practitioners. It is not a document that can integrate all the differing interests or adequately guarantee the interests of the minorities. It definitely requires a total overhaul.
What are your views about the Lagos EndSARS panel report, recommendation and the controversies surrounding the report?
I believe the government is yet to issue a White Paper on the report. I do not want to subject myself to ignorant commentaries on what I have not read authentic report on. I will rather wait till I see the official copy to comment on.
Nothing has been heard so far about serious finding of the panels , so you think it is better to have a White Paper first before the entire report would be made known?
That is my opinion. I believe it is better to wait for the White Paper on the report and the recommendations of the panel.
FG appears to be open to political solution to Nnamdi Kanu and the IPOB agenda. What are the implications of such kind of solution?
I believe that the Biafran agitation is one that must be handled with a little more caution. I believe we can resolve the agitation without bloodshed either in favour of Nigeria remaining one or the South Eastern part of the country being allowed to go its separate way. Bloodshed to address the issue of secession is never a palatable solution. Our experience from the Nigerian/Biafran Civil War is enough to teach us that we should rather negotiate than engage in another round of killings.
I believe that the Federal Government should rather subject the issue of Biafran agitation to plebiscite in line with international standards. For all you care, the people agitating for secession might turn out to be in the minority which means that the corporate existence of the country shall continue as it is, subject to attending to fears of the minority and righting the wrongs threatening our being together. On the other hand, where those agitating for a separate country are in the majority, they should be allowed to go. When Southern Cameroon opted to go a separate way from Nigeria, the British Government ruling Nigeria then did not say that our unity was non-negotiable. We should learn a lesson from that. No amount of bloodshed will justify our co-existence.
A lot has been said about the raid on Justice Odili’s house, do you believe any of the theories about what happened?
It is disheartening that the judiciary has been subjected to the worst kind of humiliation in this country. How on earth will a people be so insensitive as to subject members of the third arm of government to constant harassment? It is sad. Since it was done to Justice Salami by the executive of President Jonathan and the houses of Justices Dimgba, Ngwuta were invaded by the men of the Secret Service, one knew that we were on the path of irredeemable destruction of the judiciary. The ignoble removal of Justice Onnoghen is another sore point on the way we treat the judiciary. Now the house of Justice Odili was invaded by another set of miscreants. This is a sacrilege! No amount of deodorization of this stench can justify the invasion of the Judges’ homes.
The theories being spurned out from the various law enforcement agencies do not add up. Now we are having another case of unknown soldiers, unknown policemen, unknown lawyers etc. The Magistrate that granted the purported order by which the invasion of Justice Odili’s house was done cannot be said to be unknown. The amount of lawlessness in the system is mind-boggling. It is very disheartening to find that in a country where we donate intellectual products to other countries’ judiciary, our own judiciary is being made a subject of ridicule unabatedly. It will be good that the government carries out a comprehensive investigation and bring the perpetrators to book to deter others if we intend to have an independent judiciary that can guarantee rule of law.
What do you think is responsible for the rampant prison breaks and what solutions do you suggest to stop them?
It is clear that the prison facilities being called correctional facilities in Nigeria are moribund. Most of them are older than Nigeria and archaic both in terms of physical infrastructure and the purposive philosophy behind them.
I believe that the persistent jailbreaks cannot occur without insider connection. Yes, there are cases of external attacks but instances of internal upsurge leading to prison breaks only point to one constant factor of internal conspiracy. The government needs to work more on both internal security in prisons and check the factors that have been engendering prison breaks. The new Act by which the name of the facilities is changed is not enough to deter prison breaks. There must be a comprehensive look into the system in order to guarantee adequate provisions that can foster the correctional aims of modern justice system.
Do you think lawmakers were right in amending the Electoral Act to include direct primaries for political parties?
The idea of direct primaries is fraud. I have always criticized it. I know it is wrong for the lawmakers pretending to love democracy and enacting direct primaries as the only means of electing candidates of political parties. It is mere fraud and nothing more. What played out in Anambra in the last election has shown that direct primary is nothing but mere shenanigan. A situation where a primary election produced more than 240,000 votes for a candidate who, at the general election, hardly had more than 40,000 votes, is a fraudulent process. Does it mean that his party members did not vote for him during the general election?
It is a process that is more costly than indirect primaries. The implication is that for you to win direct primaries, you have to mobilise and be voted for across the entire wards in every local government of the state if the election is for governorship. It is like subjecting an aspirant to double election. Indirect election is cheaper and easier to coordinate and the essence is that members of a party have elected the delegates of the party to represent them in choosing the candidate of the party. I am sure it would not take time before the fraud in direct primary election would be exposed.
What are the implications of fuel price increase especially in these hard times?
It is unfortunate that we are still talking about fuel price increase. One very big reason we rejected Jonathan’s government was the increase in the prices of petroleum products which Nigerians considered unjustifiable in view of the unacceptable claim of subsidy payment by the government. This was what brought the current government into being as the people campaigned for the need to vote out Jonathan’s government. The implication of saying that price of fuel should be increased is that we are acceding that the government of Jonathan was doing the right thing then in 2012 for which we ignorantly or mischievously criticized it. The government needs to realise that the economic situation is biting hard on the people and it will be better not to exacerbate the otherwise poor situation. The outcome is going to be worse economic position for the masses.