Elder statesman and founding father of Afe Babalola College, Ado Ekiti, (ABUAD) Aare Afe Babalola has warned that Nigeria could also be heading in the direction of a harmful finish if a sovereign nationwide convention shouldn’t be urgently convoked to provide a individuals’s structure earlier than the 2023 common elections. In accordance with the authorized luminary, “Individuals are hungry for a sovereign nationwide convention and they’re going to vote definitely for a structure that may change the present structure, not amending it. We want a brand new and whole change within the structure, representing the individuals’s structure, with true federalism, or alternatively, allow us to return to the 1966 structure with simply few amendments. With out that, we could by no means have a Nigeria nation. We’re getting farther, farther away from being a Nigeria nation now.”
On this insightful interview with the trio of ONUOHA UKEH, FEMI BABAFEMI and PRISCILLA EDIARE in his workplace at ABUAD, Aare Babalola spoke additional on this and supplied insights into why he rejected presents to be Lawyer Common and Minister of Justice by late army Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, amongst different nationwide points.
You’ve gotten been a buddy of many who have dominated Nigeria. We all know how shut you might be and what contributions you might have made. However we’re stunned that you just by no means labored with any formally as a Minister or one thing increased. We would like you to share with us why that is so?
Nicely, it’s right that I’ve had interactions with just about all of the presidents which have dominated Nigeria; equally I had interactions with governors and essential personalities in enterprise. I’ve been fortunate to work with all these individuals together with international traders, Shell, Mobil, Julius Berger and so forth. In all, my relationship had been that of a solicitor, usually or I endorsed them if they’d circumstances of any kind. There was a time I used to be concerned in all of the election issues in Nigeria in any respect ranges; Tribunal, Excessive Court docket, Court docket of Enchantment or Supreme Court docket. I feel the earliest one which I wish to recall was the one which concerned Shagari. I bear in mind Tai Solarin, one of the vital controversial Nigerians that ever lived, as soon as wrote an article in one of many nationwide dailies and alleged that some hundreds of thousands of naira had been deposited in a financial institution in England and that it was yielding curiosity for the one who stole the cash. After all individuals didn’t just like the story, the scholars union of Ibadan college converged in Lagos and wished to destroy the NNPC constructing, the president then intervened and instructed them to return that he would inquire into the allegation, they arrange a committee to look into it, I used to be invited by the federal government to be authorities’s lawyer. After all, I used to be very lively and profitable as a lawyer and in the middle of the investigation, I received a subpoena on President Obasanjo, he was not but there because the president, he simply retired as a pacesetter within the army authorities, got here to provide proof and on the finish of the day, it was discovered that there was no cash in any respect, no cash was stolen and no cash was deposited within the financial institution. What’s fascinating in it’s that President Obasanjo at the moment was unknown to me, I knew him the primary time at that place, he was fascinated about the best way I dealt with the matter and thereafter he wrote a e book, “My Command” and he was sued. He then invited me to be his lawyer. You possibly can see how issues work. That was how a person towards whom I had a case once I wished to contest a Constituent Meeting at the moment, we received however didn’t enable me to go on, the individuals who had been fascinated about the identical place petitioned him, that was how I grew to become his lawyer and dealt with a number of circumstances, together with presidential circumstances towards Buhari towards him and I received every little thing and we grew to become buddies. Many different presidents invited me for various positions, for instance, I bear in mind I used to be in my home, often I’m going for break between the hours of 3pm and 6pm and have a brief sleep, so my spouse got here to knock the door at about 6pm that there was a name from Dodan barracks, so I mentioned to her however I instructed you to not wake me up regardless of who known as me and she or he mentioned that is essential, the caller is Abacha. I awakened reluctantly, took the phone, he knew me as a lawyer for troopers who had been put in court docket martial, so he requested, did you hear that I’ve taken over? I answered sure sir. He then mentioned I would like you to be my Lawyer Common and I mentioned sure sir. ‘Now, I wish to see you in Dodan barracks tomorrow at 9am.’ So, the subsequent morning earlier than I dressed up about six autos had come from Lagos with troopers, they mentioned they got here to choose me up, so I instructed them I received’t wish to go of their automobile, I might drive my very own automotive, it doesn’t matter whether or not I’m within the entrance or on the again, they mentioned okay and we went straight to Dodan barracks and I noticed Abacha. He mentioned ‘have you learnt the rationale I’ve known as you? I would like you to take up the place of Lawyer Common’ and I mentioned sure sir, let me go and inform my household. I left Dodan barracks, drove again to Ibadan, as a result of as at the moment I used to be driving myself, I didn’t enable any driver to drive me. I received dwelling, I instructed my individuals and my mom mentioned ‘you wish to be Minister for troopers?’ I mentioned even myself I didn’t need such a place and that I instructed him I used to be going to seek the advice of my household and I phoned him, I mentioned sorry sir, my household is objecting to my taking over the place of the Lawyer Common and Minister of Justice, that was how I turned that one down. When Obasanjo participated within the election after the exit of the army, he was instructed by a lot of individuals as a result of we received the circumstances in any respect ranges, together with Enchantment and Supreme Courts, he provided me the identical place because the Lawyer Common of the nation, in that case, he invited me to Abuja, for an govt council assembly with govt members, he mentioned with me and I instructed him sorry, I don’t wish to take the place of Lawyer Common. So, it isn’t right that I’ve not been having presents however I’ve all the time turned them down. The one one I thought of was the place of the Professional-Chancellor of the College of Lagos. That was after I turned down the place of Lawyer Common provided by President Obasanjo, at the moment I used to be the chairman of Transparency Worldwide (TI). There have been a number of corruption and issues dealing with College of Lagos, just about every little thing was down. The information was throughout, so I used to be invited whether or not I might wish to be Professional-Chancellor. I favored that as a result of one, it isn’t a everlasting place the place you might have day-to-day work like a Minister. As a Professional-Chancellor it’s possible you’ll not attend a gathering even in a month or so. I noticed it as a possibility to reform schooling within the nation. I hope you realize that I by no means attended any college or school, my schooling stopped in commonplace six, however at the moment in main faculty, we had high quality schooling certainly. It was that high quality schooling that enabled me to review at dwelling for my GCE, B.Sc., Economics, London College, LLB (Honours), London College.
I seen that the standard of schooling on this nation was dropping day-to-day. I assumed I may be capable of reform schooling and produce again the outdated glory, I agreed on the situation that I might not gather the salaries or allowances for a Professional-Chancellor and President Obasanjo agreed and I took over and noticed with my bare eyes issues affecting public universities. We noticed the issue of corruption, we eliminated the vice chancellor, and we had been in a position to settle all of the totally different factions and inside 4 years the Nigeria Universities Fee (NUC) voted me as the very best Professional-Chancellor within the nation, I used to be awarded twice as a matter of reality and the College was rated primary within the nation owing to the quantity of adjustments the College witnessed. I used to be ready to usher in my shoppers: Julius Berger, Shell, Mobil, with a number of banks and so forth to hold out repairs, in actual fact Julius Berger tarred all of the roads within the College of Lagos free of charge and likewise put up a brand new engineering outfit, geared up it for the college, others put up new hostels, submit graduate buildings, it grew to become an exquisite place and I additionally put up my very own constructing there. Like I mentioned, all the cash given to me was voted for scholarships.
When Abacha provided you a ministerial appointment, that was within the warmth of a critical disaster within the nation then. I used to be truly hoping to listen to you say you turned down the provide in all probability due to agitations by the Yoruba over the annulment of Abiola’s election; did that in any respect have any affect in your choice?
Nicely, such as you rightly mentioned there have been issues then. I used to be the lawyer to MKO Abiola. It was due to my victory within the case between him, Ashipa of Oyo and others that led to my turning into the Aare of Yoruba land.
However to me, that was not essential, what was essential was do I wish to serve a army authorities? Am I such an individual that may take orders like a army boy? Like I instructed you, I grew up within the farm, within the days when there was no electrical energy, roads weren’t tarred, the home wherein I used to be born was lined with thatch roofs, there have been no home windows, just one entry and once we had been going to the farm we used mat to cowl the doorway, no doorways. There was nothing that was essential to me than integrity. We had been contented as a individuals at the moment; contentment and integrity had been better virtues than cash to us. There was a British parliamentarian who travelled throughout Africa who mentioned I’ve gone by the size and breath of Africa, I’ve not seen a single poor man, they’re contended individuals. If we didn’t put on sneakers, it didn’t matter to anyone, we slept on the mat, it didn’t matter to us and the person mentioned if you wish to conquer these individuals, you need to allow them to really feel that their very own tradition is inferior to our personal tradition, however so long as they’re this pleased with their tradition and system, regardless of the variety of weapons it might by no means conquer them. So, the very first thing the white man did following that essential assertion was that they instructed us that our personal faith was inferior to their very own faith. The Ifa was inferior to the Bible and so forth, step by step, they made us to consider that the western tradition was higher than ours and we grew to become enslaved, that was how we believed that we had been inferior to the white man and we started to vary our names to the names of the white males and that was how we had been subdued. I’m very pleased with the truth that I used to be poor, that I can work and conquer poverty, that’s the solely pleasure I’ve in me, I don’t wish to be a minister and carry papers for anyone. Quite the opposite, I would like individuals to hold information for me. Now, when the federal appointment got here from former President Obasanjo, all my legal professionals had been very blissful that it was a possibility for us to make more cash, then I mentioned no and the president mentioned in case you are not taking it then give us one in all your legal professionals and I gave him the names of one in all my legal professionals (Akin Olujimi) as an alternative choice to me. I have no idea what number of of you’ll be provided ministerial appointment that won’t take it.
You instructed us that the one try you might have ever made in politics was to contest for Constituent Meeting, was it a deliberate coverage to not get entangled in politics as a result of a lawyer of your standing is required within the Home for instance to make legal guidelines, however we haven’t seen you featured in politics or taken lively participation, which 12 months did you contest the place?
This was when President Obasanjo constituted a committee to look into the structure round 1977. I had established a really strong authorized apply in Ibadan and the president wished individuals to be chosen on zero occasion, in different phrases, not on occasion system, that’s, anyone who is suitable to his neighborhood due to his contributions and character. The Ewi of Ado-Ekiti despatched to me, I didn’t ask for it, that authorities wished us to decide on anyone; one, who’s from Ado-Ekiti to signify within the Constituent Meeting, that was how they selected me. They noticed me as a person who didn’t belong to any occasion. He despatched 4 chiefs to me at Ibadan that I ought to signify them within the Constituent Meeting and I instructed Kabiyesi that I didn’t wish to spend my cash on politics except all of them agree 100% they usually went again dwelling. They agreed that no one would contest towards me. Even in zero occasion, it means there have been 5 individuals who will contest, so, Ewi wished me to go however there have been some individuals, politicians who weren’t pleased with the number of a person, like Afe Babalola who had by no means executed politics, then they wrote a letter to Obasanjo and alleged that I had not paid my tax, subsequently he ought to drop me. We opened newspapers; we had been at Ado that morning and noticed “Afe Babalola disqualified “. That is the mess I don’t want in my life, I challenged it due to my title. I went to court docket towards these individuals, towards Obasanjo’s authorities. Justice Aguda sitting at the moment on the Excessive Court docket in Akure heard the case and I confirmed that yearly earlier than the tip of the 12 months, we had an accountant, earlier than he audits, we pay sure sum of money representing our tax pending the time the accountant would end. If the tax was much less we received a return, if not we paid little extra and we got the certificates that had been introduced earlier than Justice Aguda and he dominated that I had paid my due tax, so I received the case and that judgment was despatched to President Obasanjo then. That was to me a blessing in disguise. I by no means bothered. God didn’t need me to take part in politics, that’s the reason I by no means tried to take part in politics. I train my proper, I vote for the occasion of my alternative.
There are points dominating discussions throughout the nation at present; there are fears about water assets invoice, as a lawyer I do know you might have your opinions on that, there are discussions about restructuring, and coming to the problem of 2023, there have been talks between the north and the south on who ought to have it, zoning or rotation, are you able to inform us and Nigerians what your ideas are on these points?
I wrote a e book titled “The elusive seek for nation Nigeria.” It was launched and we’re going to re-launch it. Right here, what I did was to hint the historical past of the nation known as Nigeria thus far and the issues affecting us. One, the nation Nigeria is a rustic of countries, over 200 nations. It was in Berlin when the white males noticed us as animals, sat down with the geography of Africa and partitioned the nation amongst themselves, every time I keep in mind that I all the time cry. There was no regard for various nations; for instance, Yoruba lengthen past the boundary of Nigeria in the direction of Dahomey, which is now Benin Republic and Togo, you get there you see Yorubas, I’ve been there myself. As Aare of Yoruba empire, my empire extends past Nigeria at present. Nigeria was carved out with out the information or consent of the inhabitants. In any case, 500 years earlier than then, we had been capturing our personal individuals and promoting them to them to be carried away as slaves to West Indies the place their mouths had been padlocked in order that they received’t style even sugarcane. I requested myself, is there one thing fallacious with the individuals in Africa known as black individuals? Now we have the identical blood with the white individuals however is there one thing fallacious with our blood? After 1884 thus far, some issues occurred for the good thing about Nigerians; individuals like Awolowo, Zik and others who needed to learn the best way I learn thought Nigeria could possibly be modified, they agitated and a few of them had been imprisoned and finally the white males by non secular perception allowed us to be unbiased they usually drafted a structure which recognised the range in tradition, pondering and in the best way you do issues and agreed on a structure which was a federal structure with every area autonomous solely on the finish of the day some elements retained for the federal authorities, similar to railway line, airport and so forth and we noticed the far improvement that befell in Yoruba land, coming first in every little thing. For instance, Awolowo paid 55 % of the income on schooling figuring out the significance of schooling, individuals noticed themselves as Nigerians then , sadly the army got here in 1966, jettisoned the structure and dominated by decrees, after they had been going away in 1999 they didn’t return us to the structure which they suspended after which they introduced their very own structure and introduced it as structure made by Nigerians, that was a lie, even proper from the face of it, it was a lie. Really the structure they made was executed in such a manner that it’s going to enable the army to perpetuate themselves in energy and that’s the reason you discover on a regular basis those that are within the army had been coming again in a single type or the opposite, we’ve got by no means had good authorities ever since. So, Nigeria is a rustic with many countries, all people going its manner. Yoruba, which was in entrance then has change into the poorest.
What’s the manner out?
The one manner out shouldn’t be an modification to the flawed structure however a brand new individuals’s structure by a sovereign nationwide convention, the politicians who’re in authorities, within the Nationwide Meeting and so who’re benefiting from the flawed structure can by no means make any good and correct structure for this nation and no modification can ever accomplish that. In 1965, we had Home of Meeting and the Senate, no one earned salaries then, what they earned was sitting allowances. Take a look at the Home of Meeting, Senate now, hardly will you discover 50 individuals there in a day they usually earn salaries, they even talked about pension , so there isn’t a manner you’ll be able to amend the structure, they are going to be sure that they continue to be incomes this billions of naira. We’re the one nation the place individuals earn billions. So, in respect of the structure, my place is, we should always name a sovereign nationwide convention, the which means of that’s that no matter they resolve is not going to be topic to amendments by these individuals. I’ve participated in lots of conferences and on the finish of the day what comes out of it, they wish to spend one other N2 billion for modification, what are you amending? Look, you probably have a home, a bungalow fabricated from mud and also you wish to amend it and make a three-storey constructing, what occurs? Calamity. That is an analogy of what’s occurring within the nation. There is no such thing as a manner you’ll be able to amend a structure and make it a individuals’s structure, they are going to by no means go a regulation which can enable them to take solely allowances anymore, to even jettison the variety of Homes we’ve got they are going to by no means go that regulation. Individuals are hungry for a sovereign nationwide convention and they’re going to vote definitely for a structure that may change the structure, not amending it. We want a brand new and whole change within the structure, representing the individuals’s structure, with true federalism, or alternatively, allow us to return to the 1966 structure with simply few amendments. With out that, we could by no means have a Nigeria nation. We’re getting farther, farther away from being a Nigeria nation now.
What about 2023?
I’ve mentioned it severally in my articles and I’m saying it once more, we should always not have the 2023 election till we’ve got modified the structure to individuals’s structure, till we’ve got sovereign nationwide convention, as a result of the best way they’re going the identical individuals repeat themselves, they are going to be there once more. We’re going to change the voting sample; these individuals can’t change the voting sample. It’s a matter for the brand new structure, so, my enchantment is within the curiosity of the struggling lots, and we should always change the structure by sovereign nationwide convention, which represents the structure of the individuals. If at present, the federal government is fascinated about what most individuals and I are saying, they will arrange a committee for this and we are able to full this earlier than 2023 if we’re critical.
How unbiased is the Nigerian judiciary at present?
I’ve written a number of articles on that, how DSS invaded the home of a Supreme Court docket decide at 12 within the evening, which was unlawful, I wrote an enormous article on it. First, they don’t have any proper to even arrest. DSS is ready up primarily to analyze and go their outcomes to the federal government; they don’t seem to be police however then are utilized by these in energy to do what is prohibited. If you realize that if you give judgment towards authorities and within the evening you’ll be arrested, what do you do? That additionally adopted the case of the fast previous Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, have a look at how he was eliminated by odd tribunal, which has no authority to take action. So many issues have occurred that typically I remorse that I ventured into regulation. I got here into this nation when greater than half of the judges had been white males, there have been white legal professionals, white judges and we practiced collectively, there was excessive respect for judges, judges didn’t go to events the place they danced, they had been revered as duplicate of God on earth however at present every little thing has modified. Attorneys had been extremely revered, there was no lawyer with out a automotive however at present legal professionals journey on bicycle to court docket. What is going on within the nation, the wretchedness, and poverty additionally impacts legal professionals and judges; have you learnt there are judges who usually are not paid their allowances for months?
How unbiased can a person be when he’s hungry, when he desires to pay for the varsity charges of his baby? However above all, Nigerian judges are probably the most poorly paid in the entire world. I keep in mind that I used to be invited to the bench by the chief decide of western area then and I instructed him it’s my want to change into a decide, as a result of a great lawyer will love to finish up being a decide, he would have acquired all of the wealth he wanted, he doesn’t wish to steal anyone’s cash, however when a decide can’t pay the varsity charges of his baby, what occurs? What number of judges can ship their baby to Afe Babalola College? They’re poorly paid, so, the judiciary shouldn’t be unbiased so far as I’m involved.
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