Akinjide: It’s wrong to fight corrupt judges outside rule of law
Chief Richard Akinjide, former Attorney General and Justice Minister told The Guardian he has no explanation why Nigeria should remain the way it is.
As a leader of the Inner Bar in Nigeria, there have been reports of corruption in the judiciary, especially at the level of judges. What is your take on this?
You cannot right the wrong thing in the wrong way. It will be as bad as doing the wrong thing. I don’t like corruption in the judiciary, we should deal with it severely and openly, and I have always believed in the absolute independence of the Judiciary.
Are you saying there are no corrupt judges?
No, I am not saying that at all. It is true that there must be some individuals who are corrupt, but to say everybody in the judiciary is corrupt is nonsense.
Are you saying the way the DSS stormed residences of some judicial officers was bad or unlawful?
Yes, I condemned it totally; it is nonsense. A lot of judges who are being condemned are very decent judges in whose presence I have appeared. I like to doff my hat for many of our judges who are very good. I have appeared before them and I have great respect for them. Before many of them, I have won cases and I have lost cases, and each time, I respect them.
Do you subscribe to the view that the government is trying to intimidate the judiciary?
Well, you cannot do the right thing in the wrong way; it will be bad as doing the wrong thing. That is the way I can put it.
Then, how do we handle the issue of corruption in the judiciary?
We should address the issue of corruption in the judiciary the right way. If there are corrupt judges, they should be dealt with severely and rightly. But at the same time we should doff our hats to a lot of our judges who have done extremely well. Look at Sir Adetokunbo Ademola who is one of the best judges we have ever produced in this country. Look also at Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola, who did Nigeria proud in the international arena, so also is Justice Timothy Aguda.
You may not be an active member now due to old age, but your party, the PDP cannot be said to be well by any standard now. What is your view on that?
The party, PDP is very good, and I believe the party will be restructured in a way that it will come back to power. I have no doubt about that.
As pioneer members of the party, are you talking among yourselves on the possible ways to resolve the crises?
I am not out of politics and I am not totally in politics, but if there is any role I can play to help, I will be too happy to help. Many of us are working behind the scenes to do something about it and I will not put it more than that. I am sure the party will be restructured and when it does, Nigeria will be great again.
What is your take on the current state of the Nation?
I must confess to you that I don’t have the best of heart. I came into politics before independence, and I have been in government twice, once as the Federal Minister of Education, and second as Attorney General. Why we should be where we are today baffles me.
If you claim you don’t understand why we are where we are and yet you have been in government since the age of 23, are you not hiding some things from us?
The truth of the matter is that what you see now is as a result of military interventions in government. If the military had left us alone, the situation in the country would have been very good. Sir Tafawa Balewa was a first class Prime Minister. But if you look at the era, look at the period when you had the military intervention, and how many times we had military interventions you will agree with me that military intervention is largely responsible for how we got to this state today.
If the civilian government then ruled well, the military would not have come?
The civilian government was very good. In fact, it was excellent. Tafawa Balewa was a very good Prime Minister, and I will challenge anybody who will disprove that. When Alhaji Shehu Shagari was the president, we had to go and do something in Balewa’s town, what we saw there of his home, of his family, was as bad that President Shagari had to order something to be done to help the situation. It is not the civilians who spoilt the country, certainly not, and I will challenge anybody to debate that with me. The British took the economy of the country away in 1897, when the British intervened in Benin and drove away the rulers of Benin, and in 1900, we had two Nigerias, we had northern Nigeria, and we had southern Nigeria. We had two Governor Generals, one ruling southern Nigeria and the other one ruling northern Nigeria. So we did not have one Nigeria until 1914 when we had the amalgamation. That Amalgamation was for the economic interest of Britain. And that dominance of the economy by foreign interest continues till today, and I will challenge anybody to debate that with me.
But the British had left way back in 1960, why are we still blaming our misfortune on Britain?
Britain left Nigeria physically; but economically they still control the country. And I will challenge anybody who will tell me that France, Spain the Portuguese are still not controlling in Africa; that is the truth.
For 16 years of PDP, your party; Britain was not controlling our economy, former presidents Obasanjo, Shehu Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan did, yet PDP failed to translate all these things into meaningful development for the country.
All these people you have mentioned did control the economy in the way they could. But the truth is that, who was the dominant factor? Let’s be honest today, especially in the French speaking of Africa, do we control the economy? My answer is no, we don’t. The French is the one controlling the economy of the French speaking countries.
One will still find it difficult to absolve your government of the kind of injuries unleashed on the country through corruption, thereby rendering her almost comatose?
Yes, I accept there is internal corruption, but foreigners majorly promote them and a lot of the assets, which are siphoned away, are put in foreign countries. Let us face it without the engineering of foreign interest its difficult for Africans to be as bad as they are. China would not have been as great as it is today if China had not been independent, and I challenge you and I say categorically that why is it possible for China to be the second greatest country in the world today? China is able to do so because it did not allow foreign interests to dominate. If in the whole of Africa, we can take away the role of the British, French, the Portuguese, the Spanish, Africa cannot be as backward as it is. I repeat, Africa is the most backward continent today.
Since foreign interests are responsible for carting away Africa’s assets, including Nigeria’s, can’t there be an international law to criminalize this attitude?
That is a very big joke, if you look at most African countries today; all these international laws against corruption are essentially directed against black African countries. And that is why many African countries are now driving themselves out of this international tribunal. Because they discovered that those structures are directly against black African countries.
African countries have not been able to have permanent seat at UN Security Council. Could that be part of the reasons why
Africans have not been able to assert themselves?
I don’t accept that. The world is so structured in a way that makes Africa virtually powerless so to speak. When Nigeria became independent, and we became a member of the United Nations, I was in New York with Tafawa Balewa and other Nigerians, but in spite of that, have we been able to assert ourselves economically and politically? My answer is no, I asked a categorical question, who controls the economy of Nigeria today?
Are you saying that the setting up of (ICC) International Criminal Court was done with Africans in mind?
Yes, one of the great officials of this court (Tribunal) is a Gambian and the country is leaving the Tribunal. You know that the Head of State of Kenya was being tried for corruption and leaders of other African countries. That is a big joke and nonsense. It is very ridiculous. The way the international Tribunal is made, is in a way that Africa will be playing third and fourth fiddle, and not first at all.
So, you throw your weight behind the decision of some African countries to assert withdraw from the ICC?
I support them 100 percent. They are right and I will recommend that others who have not done so should follow suit, including Nigeria because that body is a very big joke. It is designed to ridicule Africans and African countries. And any African leader who still remains there must be ridiculing Africans; because we have to re-assert ourselves as sovereign states.
We should not be members of the ICC again. We should withdraw from that place. We should show the white people that we are sovereign and we want to assert ourselves, and that the former structure should be destroyed.