Professor Francis Dike is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), former Imo State Attorney General and Chairman of Imo Elders Council. He is a Professor of Law and has lectured for over 50 years both within and outside the country. In this interview with Damian Duruiheoma, the octogenarian speaks on a number of national issues, particularly the suspended $22.7 billion loan by President Muhammadu Buhari, Igbo presidency, amongst others. Excerpts
How did you view the non-inclusion of the Southeast states in the allocation of the $22.7 billion dollars foreign loan before it was stood down?
In the first place, I think it is misnomer to say we are in a federation. We are not in a federation. We are in a unitary government that is governed by a group of people who have no interest for Nigeria.
You can say we are governed by a group of people who believe that what is theirs is their own and what is ours is negotiable. In fact, to use the word negotiable is even mild. It is what is ours belongs to them and from there they can throw the crumbs to our people.
Everybody knows that the Southeast is not regarded in the equation of this President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. It is not regarded as part of Nigeria.
But what comes from the Southeast goes into the federation. And it is used by those who contribute less to the federation for their own benefits. I am not shocked.
In fact, I would have been surprised if a good share was given to the Southeast. There have been deliberate policies to marginalise the Igbo.
Even our South-south neighbours, who we regard as our kinsmen, are joining these people to marginalise us. And this is just the manifestation of that policy. It is just the manifestation of that policy and it will continue.
We all saw the question of toll gates. It will cost more to build a road from one point to another point in the north than it will cost in the Southeast even when it is the same mileage. Is it not? And yet you have less toll gates in the north than in the southeast.
Let me just put it this way; I think it was Fani Kayode that was saying about restructuring. I want to talk as an elder statesman. There is a saying that we, by our own hands, precipitate that which we have feared to come to pass.
And what is happening today is that we are now tying the Gordian knot and the question of untying it would be totally impossible.
Does it look fair? By any stretch of imagination, it doesn’t look fair. But what is annoying me, let me just put it this way, is the fact that only very few people want to talk in terms of what is going on.
The South Easterners are not an ethnic group, they are a nation. They are not like the Kurds that are Balkanized into different branches.
They are a concentration of a people. And the only way you can try to subdue them against their will is by committing genocide. I think you understand what I am saying.
You can overrun the Kurds in Syria as they are doing now. You can overrun the Kurds in Turkey as they are doing now because they are not one concentrated nation. But in Nigeria, you can never overrun the Igbos.
On the issue of how Nigeria should be run, the Igbos were just like the voice in the wilderness. Today, you have groups, even among the Yorubas.
I remember there was a time some boys from Edo will say, if they do, they will join IPOB as if the Igbo group was a taboo thing. You see, IPOB does not need you.
Some of them now want to form their own groups. So, you don’t because of what the Igbos are saying, hate the Igbo. But now, it is themselves that are being hated and no longer the Igbos. This is a pure manifestation of hating a nation and it is not a nation that is localised. No.
The Igbo are scattered all over the world. I was in England when the Biafra war started. And if they want to know, that book, the New Africans was to have had the photograph of Ojukwu on the cover first but the British refused.
I will say that I am very proud that I am Igbo man. And you can never, never suppress us. We will overcome. Let them eat all the money.
I have always said that that is rubbish. It is sheer stupidity. What do we want an Igbo presidency for? Okay, when we get it, we become like the other people and attract all the wealth to ourselves? In fact, it is an anathema to an Igbo man.
Let us face the truth. People might say it but a man who leaves his home and go and build in another person’s home does not feel so much passion about what he gets as an individual from the country.
Is it not? Of all the Nigerian nations, it is the only the Igbo man that leaves his home, goes to another place, builds and lives there and has more stake there than in his home. If 40 percent of Igbos’ wealth outside Nigeria is repatriated, the Igbo land would be like Dubai tomorrow.
When Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi was killed, Ojukwu asked for Ogundipe to become the next Head of State. Is it not? When it happened to Yar’ adua, may his soul rest in peace because he was one of the finest presidents we had; when it comes to Yar’ adua, it was Dora Akunyili who moved for Jonathan to be declared. The Igbo man has always risen to the occasion when it comes to the general interest of Nigeria.
But if you ask for the Igbo presidency as they are talking now, in the first place, it is 90 percent that they will impose on us an idiot. Why do we ask for Igbo presidency when the better thing is for us to restructure? Let us restructure this country.
Just recently, the former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, affirmed that the Igbo are the most marginalised in the country, saying that the Igbo should be given an opportunity at the presidency. What’s your take on that too?
It is just like musico chairs. What did he do for Nigeria as a president then? What did Obasanjo do? What is Buhari doing for Nigeria? So you cannot say that because somebody is the president therefore his people will benefit.
Are you going to be a president when the army is not in control? And let me tell you again, it is always a smokescreen.
The people that have ruled this country are very cunning, so to speak. Because of the things that are apparent, they are now ‘dashing’ the Igbo presidency like carrots and getting everybody talking Igbo presidency, Igbo presidency, Igbo presidency.
Okay, let them say the presidency should come to the South. Instead of Igbo presidency, let it come to the South; whether it is an Edo man, Cross River man. Okay, let it be any other person. Or let the presidency come from the Middle Belt.
The whole question of an Igbo presidency, I am sorry I may be wrong, but I have never subscribed to it. I don’t need it. Give us an opportunity for us to compete on equal terms; for us to be treated equally and for us to have a federation in which the Southeast has its own constitution, its own Supreme Court, the Southwest has its own Supreme Court, the North has its own Supreme Court, the Middle Belt has its own Supreme Court, every person has its own Supreme Court and then we go to one court to decide like the Americans, matters of very high national importance.
Talking about the Supreme Court, what is your take on what transpired in the court recently regarding the Imo State governorship election?
Well, let me just say one thing. I am a lawyer and more of an academic lawyer, but let me just point out something, that if you look at the whole legal system we have, historically, if I say like a legal historian, the quality of our judgments are now crumbling.
You are just talking about the Supreme Court, what about what happened this week in Kano? Well you can see that the doctrine of the lis alibi pendens has been thrown board. You can just pick.
Is it not also in this country that you had a case of a High Court Judge trying to overrule the Supreme Court? In the first place, let me tell you, sometimes I like to say it, the whole system of appointments, the whole of recruitment and the whole system of even legal education in Nigeria have collapsed. They have all collapsed.
So talking about the Imo case, you see, when that judgment was given first, I said when we were in England, in America, in New Zealand, in Ghana, in South Africa, in Australia, you have law journals.
You know in medicine, you have medical journals, keeping people up to date, criticizing opinions, and where you have medical opinions. In Nigeria there is no legal journal to tell us about whatever happens. The only basic thing that happens in Nigeria today is ‘as the Court pleases’.
That is the legal journal every lawyer knows. ‘As the Court pleases’ and that is all. You see, in England, in the case of Dann against Hemiton, a judgment was given on drunken drivers. The Judge was so criticized that he had to write a rejoinder in a law journal to explain what informed his judgment.
In England, Danny was regarded as one of the best brains in the world. I don’t know if you have heard about him. I was in England when they wrote top 100 people of the 20th Century; he was one of them as a Judge.
But we have a situation that the Nigerian bar journal that used to be the journal of criticism of Judges has gone. That of the University of Lagos has gone.
There is nothing. All we have today is ‘as the Court pleases’ and that is why you talk about final and finality and all that. I think if you read the judgement, you will find that what is real is merely apparent. What is regarded to be real is merely apparent and that is what you can say about final and finality.