Law News
Many participants at confab were there for the money— Agbakoba, SAN
ON the outcome of the  national conference, will you say that issues affecting the country were exhaustedly dealt with?
When we started the conference, we just could not move forward. We did not go in-depth, time was against everything. So the quality is not as sharp as it ought to be. I thought that the national conference was really on how to forge a new Nigeria. I did not see us coming to discuss on how to eradicate corruption or how to make the Port Authority more effective, so I wrote a paper called “core-issues.” Many people came to the conference with pre-conceived motions. The core-issues were defeated. A lot of us came there just for the money. So the longer we stayed, the better. We were so widely spread and the kind of debates that I thought would come out did not come out at all.

The conference should have been a game changer. Something that you do and be excited that ‘yes,’ this is a new Nigeria because it had people who knew the issues. I must be honest, I was very disappointed and I am happy that I did not accept the money. My conscience is clean. The conference ought to have produced better results. But we still have to appreciate President Goodluck Jonathan for putting it together. Other presidents had used it for their own agenda, which was not the case with this one. As far as I could see, I just knew that the discussions were allowed to flow.

The issue of resource control generated ripples at the confab, what was the final conclusion on the matter?
The issue of resource control was bracketed. First of all, when we started the conference, Lamidi Adamawa made his remarks which made him popular. Therefore, it was felt that a smaller group of wise men should go and set the tone. I was part of it. So we came back with reliefs. One of the reliefs was that we will fight to achieve consensus and I agree with that. Consensus was the right thing to do. We agreed that difficult questions would be bracketed. That means, when we come to a point that we do not agree, we will put it in bracket and continue. So we bracketed the issue of resource control. The frame work for a special fund such as Boko Haram was a challenge, it was bracketed as well and sent to the Federal Government.

Will you say that the conference had too many issues at a short time, therefore it did not achieve its objective?
People may say that the conference failed. But if you step back and look at troubled areas around the world, I would say it is good thing that we had a chat. One thing that happened with the chat was that we knew how sick we are. If you go to a doctor, you will know how sick you are. Even though the time was not enough, we knew where the shoe was pinching.

Challenging problems

What I think is left for us now is for the President to deal with some of these challenging problems, like the resource control problem. I will suggest that the best the president should go is to do what Obama did when the Republican congress wanted to frustrate the Obama Care, he appealed directly to Americans. The difference is that there the people responded, but here, the response is poor. But I will still appeal to the president to get Nigerians to support his programmes. There is no broad conclusion on the viability of the conference.

What role would you say civil society played in ensuring that the ational conference held?
Civil society had wanted to organise a sovereign national conference. It was in my view, which was later accepted by some of my colleagues like Femi Falana SAN, that we should take the space we have and go for the national conference. What is in the name?

So, we approached the government, with the Secretary to the Government, to set up a presidential retreat on creating a peoples’ constitution. That discussion was the foundation for the national conference. Even though there was long time lag, which I pointed out to the Secretary of the Federal Government. So, civil society will want to take credit for sustaining the pressure on government to have the confab because people must talk.

He did the various regions see Nigeria’s problems?
Well, if there was enough time for the conference and if we had narrower issues, we would have dealt with them in deeper ways. Generally, the North did not see it as a constitution conference. The South saw it as a ground breaker. The North saw it as advisory, that the president did not authorise us. On many occasions, we had to go back to the president’s speech. And we said that the president himself said he is expecting that we will be able to create a new constitution for him to look at. What happened was that people saw the same issue in different colours- one green, one yellow. The various geo political regions saw the Nigeria challenge in different ways. And how to narrow that was a difficult task itself.

I understood why Lamidi Adamawa said what he said. I understood why Lagos did not want regionalism, I understood why Ebonyi was not interested in regionalism. It is important that we understand our problems. Even Nelson Mandela said that the fact that he understood why his jailers jailed him was enough to understand how to overcome the enemy. So, I now understand Nigeria better. And I am sure most of the participants understand Nigeria and the problems better. Nigeria is seriously ill. If you bring an issue, everybody will speak according to his own tribe. A country thrives when the best guys are there, not whether the person is his brother or not. If I am getting light, water, education and everything is working, why will I care if its an Igboman that is in government? I realised from the conference that I was deceiving myself and that makes me happy that I didn’t collect money to attend same.

Having attended the confab, what is way forward for Nigeria?
The only way Nigeria can work is to create autonomous regions. The Nigeria problem has to be confronted frontally. Unless we all understand the division, we cannot solve the problem. We are absolutely divided by many things. And like I said before, there is no big reason why we must be together. If we cannot be together, let us part in peace. Prof Ben Nwabueze, in one of his books, found that when you tell people you can go, nobody goes.

I do not know if you have heard of the Catalane, there are at least six separate entities in Spain, none see eye to eye. Spain was originally colonised by the Moros, they came from Morocco. So, there is a lot of Islamic influence on Spain that are called the underlusions. Then we have the fascists who do not want to be in Spain, they formed their own Boko Haram called ETA. Then the people around Real Madrid as related to the French, they are called the CASTILS.

It is the Castile whose group dominates the Spanish life, but the Catalance (Barcelona) are the ones who supplied 30 percent of the revenue. But the Castils in 1675, subjugated the Catalance. Till today, there is that big argument among the Castils and the Catalance. So, the answer was to create autonomous regions. The President of the Catalance becomes in charge of all the Catalonian. So, saying he is the President of the South East, he is in charge of all the issues of the South East.

As the 2015 general elections get closer, how will you assess the political environment at the moment?
It is a great disappointment that the clap seems to be happening with one hand. I do not see two hands. When it is only one hand, the clap will not be good. President Jonathan is not facing opposition. He needs to face opposition. He needs to be challenged by issues. All Progressive Congress, APC is simply not a party, it is a party waiting to take power. And that is the truth.
That is why Nuhu Ribadu can cross from APC to Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. When I was abroad and read it, I did not believe it. How can you be in APC and you cross to PDP? How do you cross-party? So, the president is clapping with one hand, and he needs strong opposition. So, the call will be for the principle of multi-pluralism to take place in Nigeria because when you have two strong teams, you are likely to have a strong result.

Strong result

As I see it, I do not see the opposition. The APC is in tatters, they are fighting each other. There is a clear South West APC, there is a North APC. I do not know if the South West wing of the APC and the North wing of the APC will work together. I do not see that happening. But the PDP, with all its challenges, seem to be the only one in town and that is terrible in a country of 160 million people. That is terrible because the result of 2015 elections is almost for me predictable.

There is so much poverty in the country despite its abundant resources and assets, what do you think is wrong?

What is wrong is that a lot of our resources and assets are not properly deployed. Our politicians are not interested in issues. A candidate wishes to win the governorship race, but he does not take issues to the people. So, Nigerians are still not part of the equation. We are not counting in elections.

Our politicians do not create the issue which will excite the populace. I am sure you know why? It is because the populace votes do not count.

Some activists have accused the civil society of losing interest in the issues of Boko Haram and the abducted Chibok girls. What is your reaction to this?

I regret that we in the civil society, we have lost some of our bites. But do not blame us because our strength is in confronting the military. I wish we have a way to challenge the politicians.

Business as usual

There are so many governors there who are there because your votes did not count. That will be very insightful for 2015. In view of the fact that PDP is clapping with one hand, even though there are no issues, the result is going to be business as usual.
On the Boko Haram thing, I think our first task is to look around and ask whether what we see happening in Islamic State in Iraq and part of Syria, whether what we see happening in Yemen and else where, whether our Nigerian intelligence and military structure is doing well. Speaking for myself, if I was the Command-in-Chief, I will dismiss the Chief of Defence Staff.  How can Nigerian soldiers carry our equipment to Cameroon and run away? It tells you that the army is degraded. The only thing that can solve the Boko Haram problem is by a resolute decapitation. IS declared a caliphate in Iraq and look at the response of the Iraqi authority, including the United States and the West, but Boko did it here and we are licking ice cream, that is rather sad.

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