Excerpts of an interview that Barrister Monday Onyekachi Ubani granted Daily Independent Newspaper
How would you assess Nigeria's journey of nationhood in over 53 years?
Monday Onyekachi Ubani:
The journey has been very rough; it has not been very smooth. The fact that it is not smooth stems from the fact that we have had leadership that has not been very favourable to the citizenry. We have not had it right with our leadership. It started a bit well in the 60's , we had a little problem here and there. The leadership couldn't’ manage it well and before we knew it the military came and messed up everything, destroyed everything , that it will take nothing less than 100 years to rebuild this country, given the
destruction that was carried out by the military.
They sowed seed of discord, disunity and mismanaged the resources. There is nothing they put right. The census was manipulated. The creation of states and local governments was manipulated by the military. They did more damage and the politicians also came back; they
did not depart from the path of destruction set by the military. They almost followed the same path and have not been able to rise above some of the mediocrities in order to really entrench good governance and set Nigeria on the right path of development. It has been one step forward, several steps backward. Obasanjo had the greatest opportunity: he had the muscle, he had the capacity, he had everything going for him to right the wrong and put Nigeria on the right direction just like it happened in some of the Asian countries like Singapore. In our ethics on democracy, sometimes you’d step on toes in order to put Nigeria on the right path.
You said the rot created by the military will take almost 100 years to clear. Is that the reason why the ruling party in Nigeria has been unable to deliver the gains of democracy since 1999?
Yes. This is because the system is defective. Even if somebody that is righteous comes in, with the way that Nigeria is structured, he may not even make effective change. He may not effect very sufficient changes . President Jonathan may want to do certain good things , but there are contending forces . There are people that come with many things and tell him not to go ahead, even if they know that this the right way. Now look at the appointment of the IGP , look at the reason they advance for his selection , and they had the upper hand. So , even if you know that that is the wrong thing but because of those sentiments and because of the fact that he too knew that he could not retain power if this people are not supporting him, because if these people are against you, you will lose power and you want to remain in power. So , sometimes you go against the interest of the country for your own selfish interest. That is the kind of argument that goes on in our country. Look at what took place in the confab , where some people said ‘ no, we will not allow any region to go higher than us or advance higher than us, every region must advance at the same stage, even if we are going backward, all regions must go backward and wait for everyone to catch up. That doesn't happen anywhere and that is an argument someone was putting up, that if you allow the regions to start developing independently, especially with natural resources that are within their geographical entity, they will just one day wake up and say they are no longer part of Nigeria, because of that, we must all stay together and every resource must be put together and shared. The beneficiaries must come cap in hand, begging for what comes from their land then you now make them remain underdeveloped until all of us catch up. That is the argument
they were putting up and they feel that the argument is very, very sound.
Funny enough, all the regions all the states they have several quantities of mineral resources that if they allow
listen to what those who have foresight are saying , everyone will be a beneficiary because whatever comes from your land, you will now begin to enjoy the competition and will want to add to your own . All those things that have hitherto remained untapped because of oil you are depending upon, you now forget them and begin to act.
In fact, the Americans say that
Nigeria's economy is not dependent on oil, that Nigeria’s economy is depending on agriculture and other mineral resources that are planted all over the land. There are some states in Nigeria that have up to 15 minerals under their soil, that if they explore, they will be one of the richest states in Africa, if not in the world. But because of their short- sightedness , they have resolved to depend on oil.
Is it possible for us to have such a leader like you have mentioned who is ready to step on toes and be decisive so that Nigeria can return to the path of greatness?
It is possible but that person will have to be brutal. If you want to achieve , you come in and tell everyone irrespective of their status in the society that ‘ this is the way to go and you know that this is the way to go for everyone, both for the Hausa , the Yoruba , the Igbo and for all the minorities, and that is if you want to better the lot of everyone. And somebody wants to say, no for their own selfish interest, you have to hit and when you clear them, you have to step on toes and if possible render them irrelevant. When people now begin to see the result, they will align with you. And also, you must be genuine, because if they are thinking you are a thief, a corrupt person , and you don’t have the locus , they will not respect you. And everyone must see you as somebody that is very genuine, that you are not after your selfish interest but national interest. I did it during my tenure as Chairman of Ikeja branch and the result is there for everyone to see. Nigeria is such a complex country that if you don't do it that way, Nigeria will be tattered.
We are scattered, we don’t know what is ideal, what we glorify are those things that are animalistic, that are devilish, we don’t have morality, national ethos. So somebody like that must be a perfectionist, urbane, righteous and straightforward. Someone that is a nationalistic leader that has a vision. He must not even be interested in his national life and have a time frame to achieve his goals. We have such leaders in abundance in this country but for them to emerge, it involves the hand of God.
Some of the recommendations at the ongoing national conference has been hailed by many Nigerians , like the one on part -time legislature, do you think these decisions will be implemented at the end of the day?
The problem is that the Jonathan administration did not set out with a clear- cut understanding of what the confab should stand for. There must
have been an enabling law in the first place that will set up the modalities , the membership and the outcome , that we should go for plebiscite, that people should vote for; rather, he left it
inchoate. You are now planning to take all those resolutions that were reached at the confab to the national assembly and most of the decisions you have taken affect them , so they will not agree with you. They (the resolutions) will be thrown out. Already, the northern region is saying there won’t be creation of any additional state in the East and the confab has agreed that states should be created . And then you are now taking it back to them; definitely, they won’t accept that.
The President recently requested for $1bn to fight insurgency. Don’t you think some people are benefiting from this insecurity situation in the country?
Insurgency has become a big business in Nigeria. Anything that Nigerians see – that is lucrative –they would create a myth around it in order to elongate it; to create more money for them. If we say we are rich and have money, why are we going to borrow one billion? The ones you have spent 3 trillion on, what have you achieved with it? I think they are looking for money for their personal interest and to prosecute the election and also to enrich their pockets .