Brigadier General Don Idada (retd) was Provost Marshal of the Nigeria Army and a leader in the Niger Delta struggle. In this interview with PATRICK ECHOGA, he speaks on some issues bordering on the nation’s unity
The nation’s unity appears to be on the edge following the quit notice by Arewa youths to Igbos in the North. How do yo?
The quit notice is unwarranted and it shakes the very foundation of the Nigeria’s existence and our cooperate well-being. At first, I considered this threat as a misguided statement by unserious youths. My worries increased when I heard very notable Nigerians from the Arewa Consultative Forum saying that even the elders supported the quit notice, at that point I began to entertain fears for Nigeria. I began to see it as a well-orchestrated and thought out approach, maybe in response to other grievances or issues raised by some other segment of the country but whatever the basis I believe that anybody who loves Nigeria would first think about how we can work together as a people and work to remove all those things that are the causes of agitation.
What are those things? To my mind, those things include injustice, lack of equitable and fair approach to distribution of national assets, tribalism, religious intolerance, unbridled cheating and stealing, insecurity and government apparent inability to provide security and welfare for all segments of the people.
Other issues include a steady and growing departure from the concepts that informed the evolution of the Nigerian state day after day, that is the concept of unity in diversity which includes that the various ethnic nationalities should retain their peculiarities and develop at their own pace in such a way as to enhance the sustenance of a united country with a central government working in harmony with its federating elements. Also relevant to the issues of grievances is the continuing operation of laws that are undemocratic and out of tune to with federal system of government that we have adopted as well as visible denigration of the principles of democracy and other global norms that have become binding on all civilized nations of the world.
The point to consider is whether those who are dishing out this quit notice have the capacity of implementing their threat and whether Government can be relied upon to prevent any violence likely to arise in the event of non-compliance with the quit notice?
To the first question, everybody must know from previous events from this country that the quit notice cannot be dismiss as empty threat because those issuing the notice must be presumed to have the capacity to unleash violence. It has happened before. To the second question, it is also evident that government cannot be trusted to have the capacity to properly and adequately protect those who would not comply with the quit notice in the event that violence breaks out.
Aside the above point, although the quit notice is directed at the Ndigbo, another relevant question is how anyone would distinguish between the Ndigbo and other southern. I dare say that such a distinction will be difficult to make especially in the event of an outbreak of violence. It therefore mean that it would be a matter of Arewa versus all Southerners in the North.
In conclusion, those who would not want to see a fight must first prevent the quarrel. October 1 is still a little distance away, therefore I urge government and all in leadership at all level prevail on those issuing quit notice to shift sword so that we can all imbibe the spirit of unity which will ensure justice and as a pillar of our country’s strength.
As it is today, some Nigerians are of the opinion that the full implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference is the only way out of the obvious danger ahead in the Country. Do you share in this view?
The convocation of the 2014 CONFAB was a desirable measure even though it took President Jonathan a long time to embark on the measure. I remain unshaken in my belief that the decision would have been one of the hallmarks of President Jonathan administration if he had embarked on the implementation of some of the major decisions of the CONFAB. That CONFAB did a wonderful job and made wonderful recommendations to government. The CONFAB addressed all the short comings in the constitution.
The non-justiciability of chapter two of the constitution was resolved and the sanctity of the secularity of the state was established making religion no more than a personal affair of the individual. It would take many years for any government to put together any group that would match the number and spread of the 2014 CONFAB. For me, I do not see how any government can run away from the decisions of the CONFAB report. It is on this note that I consider the implementation of the decision that CONFAB is imperative for the country. The failure to implement the decisions in the 2014 CONFAB report by any government can only be traced to pursuit of selfish interest.
Lastly, as a legal practitioners, the acquittal of Senate President Sakari by the Code of Conduct Tribunal of the 18 count charges appears to be another setback to the anti-corruption war of the Buhari’s led administration. How do you respond to the judgment?
Very frankly, on hearing that all the 18 count charges of false assets’ declaration were struck out and the accused person discharged and acquitted on the basis of no case submission rendered by the defence counsels, my feeling was that of pity for the ongoing anti-graft war of the present administration. I have since become aware that many Nigerians considered the development quite disgusting, especially those who have been identifying with the Buhari anti-corruption crusade and stance. It is quite sad that after nearly 2years, the prosecution ended up unable to gather enough evidence to get a conviction even on one count. That leaves one with the feeling that either the investigation or prosecution were completely incompetent or they were out to persecute ab initio or that the trial judges were compromised. None of these is acceptable.
Sadly, this verdict is coming only a few weeks after the visit of APC leadership to the National Assembly, a visit that was meant to find solution to the impasse between the Executive Arm of Government and the National Assembly. The coincidence is too much and so the reasonable man would feel that the parties really struck a deal- which appear to be “rub my back and I rub your back”. It may well not be so, as I said the timing is wrong and the outcome visibly suspicious. The effect is therefore bound to have a negative effect on government’s anti-graft posture. What is worst? It is that the National Assembly would appear vindicated that their frequent refrain of witch-hunting has been proved. I wish this didn’t happen!
But would anyone now condemn the cry against witch-hunting. The good thing however is that the Attorney General of the Federation has resolved to proceed upstairs, I only hope he gets vindicated for the public who has watched the trial episode. It would have been better that the APC leadership did not embark on the trip to the National Assembly to seek to resolution of the affray between the Executive and the Legislature at least for the credibility of this administration.
To the common man, the sanctity of the constitution would appear to be sacrificed on the altar of reconciliation of the feuding arms of government even as the integrity of the judiciary is put under question mark. God save Nigeria.