In our last edition, we started an interview with s Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ntufam Mba Ukweni where he addressed some critical issues bothering on political developments in Cross River State. In this edition, we run the concluding part of the interview. He spoke with CHIEMEKA ADINDU on the security situation in the country, among other issues.
Insecurity in the country is getting out of hand, does that bother you as a lawyer? And having been exposed to public affairs over the years, where do you think we have got it wrong?
Well, first it worries me, not just as a lawyer, but as a citizen of Nigeria. It worries me as a person. This is a country that Nigeria is a very good place and not too long ago, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, I was chairman of NBA and then a NEC member and I know that we travelled round the whole country to attend NEC meetings in all the states because we alternate it, it’s a quarterly meeting and within the short period, you have gone round the entire country and you meet the people and know the people and know their issues and know their problems. A good country that we were going round, enjoying ourselves, but now you can’t go out even from your own house; you’re afraid. So it worries me as a person, as a lawyer because I can’t do my practice round the country as we used to do. We have cases in Kaduna, Kano, Maiduguri and you go there they come and brief you to go and do cases everywhere. But now, even at a short distance to go to Ebonyi or Akwa Ibom here, you’re afraid of going, not to mention that somebody is briefing you to go and do a case in Kaduna, you’ll just say oh, you’re now consigning me to go and die in Kaduna. So it worries me, it is very worrisome.
The cause of this which we all know, there’s no hiding the truth, is politics. The level of insecurity that has now unfolded is being perpetrated by the politicians for their selfish gains including the present government at the federal level, only for them to find out that they can no longer control the people they were using, they’re now enjoying the hoodlums. The people that they were using to perpetrate this security problem have now enjoyed the monies and the freedom they have been having as a result of the position that they have placed them and they don’t want to let go. So that is the problem they are now having. Even if they call them, even if Buhari calls them, they can look Buhari on his face and say were you not the one that said we should make it this way so that you can become the president? The ones that are bold enough can tell him that. When all these issues started, ‘president must come from the North, if we don’t have president from the north we will make the country ungovernable’ that is how all these started. The other angle to it is that, oh, the Niger Delta militants have been settled, then we should also have something at our own side for the money to be shared round, the cake to go round but this is where we have found ourselves. We can no longer control them.
So what do you think is the best approach to the situation?
The best approach is to have a person firm in position to be able to stand firm and control the situation. In other words, you believe the situation is controllable.
Of course, Abacha said it and I said it in a number of interviews. Abacha made a statement which I have said; I was big enough to understand Abacha. Abacha said if there is any unrest, insurrection that lasts for more than 24 hours know that the government is interested in that insurrection. So for Boko Haram crisis, insecurity to go on for this length of time, the government is interested in it, the high people in the government. Jonathan cried out to everybody but we refused to hear him when he was crying out that people in his government, high people in the country were the ones sponsoring Boko Haram, people refused to take him seriously because some of the people hated him and they didn’t want him to continue in power. I was not in support of Jonathan coming to do a third term because within me, my perception and my understanding of the law is that what he was coming to do was a third term, that remains my perception and I didn’t support him from my understanding of my constitution and law. He has done some years of his former master which he was sworn in as president, he was a president and did his four years so if you give him another four years, will the other one be jara for him? And the constitution says, not even one minute should be added. So when some of us were shouting that what Jonathan was seeking for was a third term, people did not agree with us and very, very unfortunately, the court could go and interpret that, forgetting that they have taken a decision in the tenure elongation matter that if it’s four years that not even one minute should be added and if it’s eight years, second term, not minute; so they did not take that into contemplation that if Jonathan was to win again, it was going to be a third term for Jonathan which would have been unconstitutional because if they had done that, given the ticket to another person not Jonathan, we wouldn’t have been where we are and Buhari would have not won the election. Of course we wouldn’t have been where we are, we wouldn’t have been in this mess.
Coming home to Cross River state, we can say there is some level of peace probably as a result of the introduction of a security outfit, Operation Akpakwu. Would you say it is worthy for other governors to emulate Cross River to ensure that the fight against insecurity is controlled to some extent?
Which peace are you talking about? Few days ago, they kidnapped my friend, the former deputy speaker in Akpabuyo in his farm and it took the youths, it took the local vigilante to be able to trace the people and that is what I’ve been talking about even the Boko Haram. I said these people are from a community, they are from families; so you cannot tell me that people do not know the Boko Haram people, they know them. In villages where we are, any new person that comes into the village every other person has known that a new person has come in, we all know that. So where are the bushes where the Boko Haram people are hiding? Are they not from families? Are they not from villages? We can say we have Operation Akpakwu or whatever it is, but I commend them, whatever they can do to bring peace. But a lot needs to be done, more needs to be done. May Day was not celebrated because some workers were kidnapped. I agree with the fact that if the security agencies intend to do their work, they do it well. But there is a lot of interference from very high level with security situation in the country that is why there is no performance. That is why Boko Haram appears to be winning and that is why even in the east, in the south, you see various groups appearing to be succeeding because if you touch anyone of them, the very high politicians will go and talk to the commissioner of police, talk to the Inspector General of Police to release those people.