Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) was once top lieutenant of President Muhammadu Buhari. In this interview, he talks about restructuring and the agitation by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and why National Assembly should consider impeaching President Buhari. BODE OLAGOKE reports
What is your view on the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by the federal government? You are asking me to sit on appeal over an order of court. Yes, it was done via ex parte. If somebody is affected by an ex parte application, he has seven days to apply to have it vacated. It is there in the law. So, my opinion does not matter. Let the person aff ected by that order take the steps under the law, and let’s see whether the law will refuse him. We should stop running Nigeria on personal opinions and sentiments. If the law has provided a way to get out of a situation, don’t leave it and shout to the public. So, IPOB has a right under existing laws to go and say why the proscription should be set aside
Do you support the argument that IPOB is a ‘terrorist’ organisation? As a strict, legally-minded person, my answer is no. But, that is not the only wrong thing that has happened. We must learn how to solve our problems within the rule of law. When an ex-parte order is made, and it is made one-sided, the law says anybody affected by the order has a right to apply. If you don’t do it within seven days, you can still ask for extension of time, within which to do it.
Many people have queried the manner the agitation in the South-east was quelled. For instance, troops were deployed without seeking the approval of the National Assembly. Isn’t that a breach of the constitution? Absolutely, it is a breach of the constitution, but it didn’t start today. Our people say that when you allow abomination to go beyond one year, it becomes a tradition. When the army was deployed for election in 2003 and 2007, Nigerians didn’t see it as a wrong deployment, but it was. They allegedly shot people during the elections and since then, they have been deploying them where they should not deploy them, and nobody is saying anything. Section 217 of the constitution tells you how and when the army should be deployed. So, they have taken it as a system. Now that we have started to complain, let us complain absolutely. Let us look at section 217 of the constitution, and know how and why the army can be deployed. Th ere must be a situation that is beyond the police; total breakdown of law and order beyond the police before the army can be deployed. But, Nigerians have allowed the army to be misused so far. Now that this one has happened, and everybody has woken up from sleep, those who deploy the army should go and look at that law very well, and to know exactly when they can be called out or not.
Does it amount to an impeachable offence? Ask the National Assembly. If you look at Section 143 of the constitution, breach of the constitution is impeachable. Things go wrong in this country because the institutions that are supposed to carry out the letters of the constitution have refused to do their work. If the institutions were to do their work, many governors would have gone now, including the governor of Imo State. There is immunity to prevent frivolity, but that same law, constitution that gave immunity to chief executives, also gave the legislature the power to impeach, if there is gross misconduct. And gross misconduct is defined to include breach of the constitution. So, it is not for you and I to do it. The National Assembly should tell us why they wouldn’t start an impeachment process. The Imo State House of Assembly should tell us why they wouldn’t start an impeachment process in a situation where Rochas Okorocha has brazenly breached Section 173 of the constitution.
Let our institutions do their work, and this country would work. It doesn’t require ‘our mumu don do’ group to get the National Assembly to do its work. Unfortunately for us, most of the people given authority to run the constitution have decided to run it based on obsolete and mundane sentiments instead of acting in terms of the responsibility they have sworn to follow. All of them swore to respect the constitution, but they won’t. So, go back to the people, to take care of the kind of people they send to national and state Assemblies. If we don’t have a disciplined national or states assembly, we won’t have a disciplined president or governor. Everybody has a responsibility, but we don’t want to carry it out. Unfortunately, during elections, the common man, who suff ers in the end, does not look at who will do the job; he looks at who has paid best or other parochial considerations. Nobody talks about competence. For eight good years, all these points were fought by me up to the Supreme Court, but what did I get; silence
Before the court pronouncement, South-east governors had proscribed the IPOB. Were they right? It’s just like a governor banning me from coming to Owerri. Of course, I will resist it. You see, there is what you call locus standi. Every Nigerian knows what locus standi is. In this case, the only people who have locus standi to fight back is IPOB. But, they are not supposed to do it by bringing young people who don’t understand what they are even doing on the road to come and make a noise and block the road. If the governors have proscribed within what they think is their power, it is the person affected, who will now say: ‘You can’t do it’ and the court will decide. I think they are making a mistake of trying to implement anti-riot law.
The law comes when a group of people are being unruly in a public place. But, you will first of all go and announce that they should quit. If they don’t, then the police will disperse them; not to proscribe them. So, in all cases, I blame the AttorneysGeneral in all those places; they should know the limits of these things. But right now, a court has made an interim order, and you know every interim order has a limit; I don’t think it will go beyond two weeks after which the proscription ends if there is no absolute order.
Th e way the media reported it didn’t give the impression that it was an interim order pending the time IPOB is heard, then a final order can be made for or against. How should it have been handled? The problem with IPOB is that they have a stubborn leader; a young man, who has been given the privilege of sitting in a confab with the best in Igbo land, pleading with him to do things under discipline, but he refused. I’m sorry, I may not say what many people would like to hear, but I will always say what I think is right, without prejudice to who likes it or who does not like. Look, that young man has done something great for this country.
He has exposed that many people in the country are unhappy. I think he should have placed his hands and left it there. He should have taken steps to exploit that point; not to say secession or not. I don’t approve his secession, and I won’t approve it. In any case, I don’t think he understands the difference between secession and restructuring, or marginalisation. I am not in any way saying there is no reason why we shouldn’t complain. They are complaining late, because some of us have been complaining for a long time, but we did not form an organisation to disrupt the country
What is your perspective on the restructuring debate? Let me tell you, I read in the newspaper that President Muhammadu Buhari was not opposed to restructuring. I don’t belong to the All Progressives Congress (APC), but I don’t play my politics by telling lies. I used to be his top lieutenant, and I am aware that in his manifesto, when he joined the presidential race, restructuring was in the agenda. Th at was one thing that attracted me to him.
I said that in the first manifesto that Buhari brought for his presidency in this country, restructuring was there. But, he was against a Sovereign National Conference, because sovereign national conference meant deciding whether Nigeria will be a country or not. So, the issue at stake is that, we must talk about how we are to stay together in the country because any step to say it otherwise becomes unconstitutional as a result of Section 2 of the constitution. You ask the President to dissolve Nigeria; he has no power to do that.
I agree that there should be restructuring, but the issue is this: Anybody talking about restructuring should say what should be restructured. What should be restructured is governance, not geographical locations. How to restructure governance in allocation of funds, appointments and behaviour of persons put in power as against the people they are supposed to rule. The Nigerian public must restructure its own thinking and start thinking about programmes and not about ethnic group and religious inclination. Nigerians must warn themselves that we are living in breach of our federating agreement we had in 1960 before independence. We agreed that Nigeria should be run on the basis of production, but we are running Nigeria on the basis of distribution.