APC Chose Buhari Because Of Sharia Implementation – Nwabueze | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


APC Chose Buhari Because Of Sharia Implementation – Nwabueze

Posted: Apr 27, 2016 at 3:30 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

Constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Prof Ben Nwabueze, in this interview with ROSE MOSES, says dialogue , not intimidation of aggrieved sections of the country is the only panacea to national unity.
As a constitutional lawyer, how would you describe this administration’s style of trying suspected corrupt Nigerians?
My view is that any people have the kind of government that they deserve. And Nigerians should have known better than to vote into power, by their own deliberate choice, anybody with the kind of antecedent that Buhari (President Muhammadu Buhari) has. He might be a good person by nature but of course, if you are to balance that with the statute, this is a man, who has been a military commander for the greater part of his life. And as a military commander, he is used to giving orders and having his orders obeyed. That is the way he was brought up: order, obedience.
I presume this position also applies to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who we’ve equally had as a civilian leader, despite his military background?
Yes, that’s what I am saying. We should have learnt from our experience with Obasanjo: Military commander, head of the federal military government. Both of them!
How can you just give up a habit you have imbibed over the years, the disposition that you’ve acquired, and the antecedents? And we experienced this with Obasanjo, who could not shed that habit. So he aborted our transition to democracy because he was still much influenced, conditioned by his past. I have said this several times, we should learn from our past, and not make the same mistake of entrusting our government to anybody with this kind of antecedent.
He (Buhari) is not going to, just overnight, change into something else he claimed to have changed in a democrat because that is not what we are experiencing from him.
Many people have different views about Obasanjo. Some will say he is the father of this democracy. Some others say he is a statesman that thinks the best for Nigeria and he also praises himself to high heavens as the best thing that has happened to Nigeria? What do you think is wrong with Nigerians?
That’s what I am saying, something is wrong! How can any people, rational people having experienced this kind of rule by Obasanjo, with his antecedents, forget it and vote a man with the same antecedent? Something is definitely wrong. I call it amnesia.
Amnesia is part of our characteristic as a people. We forget easily because we don’t think. We don’t have any culture or habit of thinking, we don’t think! We are not a thinking nation. We don’t read, we don’t think!
At the time of voting in Buhari, the general thinking was that anything outside the incumbent President Jonathan would do. Looking back, what would you say to that?
It was a difficult task. Very difficult, even for me personally choosing between the two of them.
How do you mean?
In the sense of what I have said now about Buhari. Then, on the other hand, the man opposing him in that election – Jonathan….What can anyone really say about him? What can I say about him other than publicly advised him not to contest. I advised him not to contest in that election because of what you have said – all the contradictions, issues. So I said to him, ‘I think it will be better to concentrate on mobilising Nigerians for national transformation. That way you make a name for yourself rather than go into this election. The northerners were determined to take the power back; they were going to frustrate you. So don’t go into a venture there is no chance of winning.’ I advised him publicly, in fact, it was all over the place in the newspapers. His aides attacked me.
So, it was to a point, as you rightly stated, that most Nigerians would prefer anything else, anybody else to Jonathan continuing and so they handed the thing over to Buhari.
But I blame us Nigerians. Much as we needed to change Jonathan, we were not obliged to change from Jonathan to Buhari because at the time, there were alternatives. If the power must go to the north, there were candidates, one of them being Atiku Abubakar, whom I know very well. He doesn’t have the antecedent of Buhari. He is a liberal man. He is a Muslim, alright, but he is not the die-hard Muslim like Buhari. He was my client. I represented him as lawyer for many years and I know him. I know his limitations too. Between him and Buhari, he is much more modest.
But then, you saw what happened at the APC primary. He scored 954 against Buhari’s over 4000 votes. Why? They knew what they wanted. They wanted a die-hard Muslim. The issue is not about democracy, it’s about Islam. They wanted somebody they could rely upon to implement the Sharia. That was it, as far as I am concerned, the vast majority of the members of APC primary were Muslims.
Why then are we talking about unity in Nigeria? Isn’t this scenario justifying the several protests, like those of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), for instance, asking to be allowed to go their separate ways?
That is a new issue. Now, I look at the matter in the point of view of the Igbo. I am a real Igbo man. I don’t make any secret about that. I have no regrets about that. I have said so on a number of occasions, like if I had the privilege, the right to another life, I will still like to come back as an Igbo man. I say so publicly. So, is it in our interest as Igbo to break up this country? I don’t think so, I don’t believe so. Much as Nigerian unity is difficult to achieve, I won’t say it’s impossible because I keep on advocating it.
When looked at from the point of view of our people, the Igbos, scattered as we are all over the country, and indeed all over the world, there is no part of the country you go to that you will not find an Igbo. We are scattered all over the place with properties all over the place. I always give example with the Mambila Plateau when I went there some years ago, the highest point in this country in Taraba state but you climb from Jos in those days.
I was there sometime in the 80’s and you come to the Plateau in Mambila, which takes the whole day to climb up by car. The federal government was then in the process of constructing this road cutting through rocks. You get there, all the shops are owned by Igbos. And I said to them, how did you manage to get there, how did you manage to get all these goods in your shops? And they said to me, ‘we carry them on our heads to climb.’ Some come from Cameroun because it’s just across the border to Cameroun.
That is the Igboman. He is everywhere. How can you really say the country should break up? What is going to happen to all these Igbos scattered all over the place, from Mambila Plateau, down to Kano, to everywhere? Look at Abuja created the other day! Seventy percent of the hotels are owned by Ndigbo. What are you going to do with them?
So, from the point of view of self-interest, I am against secession, I am against breaking up. The Southeast will not contain all of us as Igbos.
But the argument by those calling for breakup is that since the civil war of 1967, nothing really has changed and instead of continuous marginalisation by the Nigerian government, why not just let them go their separate ways?
My answer is: We keep on pushing. One day, and I believe that day will come, an Igbo president will emerge. And I have said so publicly in my book, whatever people may say about system of rotation, it is the Igbo man’s only chance of getting the presidency in this country. With rotation written into the constitution, when it is your turn you know that it is your turn, and no matter how many Igbos are contesting, one of them will win. He will have a chance of ruling for at least four years.
By advising Jonathan not to contest just because some people were bent on grabbing power back, can we then say this country belongs to a certain group of people and not to all of us?
It is all because of the national question, which is, how to treat this country as one, how to achieve it. Some people say it is impossible, give up, you can’t achieve it. But I say no! It is achievable. It may take time, but it is achievable. One of the factors that makes it look as if it is not achievable is this north-south divide. It is a tragedy up till today. 56 years after independence, the idea of northern Nigeria, of one north, is still very rigidly adhered to by the northern elites.
I call it so-called north because north is a geographical entity in the sense that they all belong to north defined by geography. The entire middle belt, they are not in the north, geographically. We know what the north means in terms of geography. But they are still trying to pull everybody to that by force. Look at Buhari, elected only last year, look at the speech he delivered in Queen Amina Hall at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) after his election! Talking, recalling memories of Sardauna! That’s the president of the country!
So, one of the greatest problems of Nigeria’s unity is this north-south divide. How do you break it? Instead of allowing it to lie in its grave, he (Buhari) has resuscitated it. Can you break it? And of course, recently, the south has responded by creating this Southern Peoples’ assembly. So the North-south divide is one of the greatest obstacles to Nigerian unity and when you read the attitude, the thinking of the elite, the northern elite, oh God…
What then happens to the slogan, ‘unity in diversity,’ since Nigeria is made up of 389 ethnic nationalities, just as the USA is made up of people of different nationalities living harmoniously with one another?
There is a difference, which people don’t appreciate. All those different people from different languages, different cultures and so on (in the USA), they are not the same as the different ethnic nations in Nigeria, they are not geographical entities, they are not territorial entities. These different linguistic groups, they don’t form different territorial entities as in Nigeria.
The Igbo are geographical, territorial entity. Not only that they have common language and common culture and so on, but they are different, separate territorial entities. Same as the Yoruba, same as the Hausas, same as the Fulanis, same as the Ijaws, that is the difference. How to coalesce all these separate territorial entities to form one nation…oh God! It’s not the same problem as in America.
Is it therefore impossible for Nigeria to have a leader, who will be dispassionate in addressing the Nigerian problem?
That is the crucial question. Is it possible to have a leader who will so thoroughly be dispassionate? Is it possible? Not Buhari, not Buhari! From the statements he has made since his election, 31 strategic appointments, 80 per cent are from Muslim north, Seven from South. None from the South East, not one!
But according to him, there is nothing wrong with the lopsided appointments since the constitution empowers him to do so. Does the constitution actually so empower him?
The constitution doesn’t.
What does the constitution say?
The constitution is clear. I mean, it doesn’t prohibit this in so many words but the constitution says Federal Republic of Nigeria is a state founded on justice, freedom, equity in several sections. What does justice speak for? In a country of this diversity, you base your appointments, strategic appointments, not just any appointment, to one area! That is a terrible injury to justice.
How can you expect people so excluded, so marginalized to develop the sense of feeling of belonging, feeling of loyalty to the state? All these happening now in the South East are as a result of those appointments and the statements that he has been making. And instead of admitting, or say how can I reconcile these people that are hurt, you are clamping them into prison. That is it, the agitation continues, the protest continues. (Nnamdi) Kanu is still in detention, the law courts are all intimidated.
Intimidated? Because I was about asking how President Buhari has been getting away with all these impunity, abuse of court processes?
Fight against corruption! Yes, fight against corruption. Forget, for the moment whether he is actually fighting corruption. But his advisers, they don’t let him work, they advise him that ‘you can get away with murder with war against corruption.’ That is what is happening.
Nigerians clamour for war against corruption. Everybody believes that is what is killing Nigeria. Therefore, anybody, any president who can rid this country of corruption, we support it, we support it. Constitution? Leave the constitution aside. All the limitations you have in the constitution against abuse of power, against perversion of power, nobody is prepared to take that into account anymore. Anything that will deliver us from corruption, we will support. And that is what is happening. That is the mentality and that mentality is a tragedy.
You asked for the way out, and for growth? Most of this depends on you journalists. I blame the journalists because they seem to have been sucked into this war against corruption mentality. I have shouted more than Bishop Hassan Kukah. I have said: ‘this thing you are doing, don’t let this war against corruption be used to blind fold us’.
The man is raping the constitution doing whatever he likes in the name of war against corruption. Perversion itself is corruption.
Look at the judgement the Supreme Court delivered on Senate President Bukola Saraki’s case, which I have written long critique on and published in some national newspapers! The Supreme Court judgement says go and face trial. The man is not refusing to face trial but let the trial be in accordance with the law before a court that has competent jurisdiction.
And you read the judgement delivered by seven justices of the Supreme Court. Oh God! You really shudder. Where is this country going to? It is my worry. The apex court as the last resort giving that kind of judgment, knowing that there is nowhere else you can go, except to God. But where is God?
So, war against corruption is the thing killing us because any enormity committed against the constitution, people will accept it.
But do you think he is committed to fighting corruption?
That is a difficult question. Very difficult. And my answer is yes and no. We put beside the fact that it is propaganda; he is using the fight to do just anything. Then the second dimension is this one that you raised: Is he really fighting corruption?
Corruption doesn’t really mean people looting money in the country. I don’t see him looting and I don’t think that he will loot. But that’s a narrow conception of corruption. Corruption includes pervasion. He is perverting so many things in the name of war against corruption not realizing that pervasion is also corruption. He is perverting the judicial system. He is perverting the rule of law.
The court will grant this man bail, you take him back behind bars. You take a man simply because he is charged or accused of corruption and you handcuff him, contrary to the constitution.
The only criminal offense that will possibly justify handcuffing a man is murder. Where there is evidence that the man tries to escape then you can handcuff him. Only in that case, otherwise, handcuffing is an inhuman treatment, which is outlawed by the constitution of this country and yet, he did….Metuh, handcuffed because he is accused of collecting N400m…for whatever reason, there is no justification for handcuffing him or anybody else, except in cases of murder.


Comments (1)

  • Apr 27, 2016 at 7:45 pm FrankNick

    Thank you sir for this interview. let people know it. When you are telling them they said he is fighting corruption for that he is right. But I faulted you in one way sir. All of you know this truth about pervasion and nobody is ready to take it up. Somebody need to take it up in other to call him to order. He felt he is still on military era where he can do anything without thinking of the rule of law

Comments are closed.