Smell the coffee, we are five minutes away from Afghanistan – Omirhobo
Chief Malcolm Omirhobo is the Principal Partner, Malcolm Omirhobo & Co., a human rights activist, who stirred controversy at the Supreme Court, Abuja, and Lagos High Court, after he appeared in court in lawyer’s gown dotted with ‘native doctor’ attire.
In this interview with CHIJIOKE IREMEKA, he spoke on the reasons he wore Igbe religious garb to court, urging Nigerians to apply for guns in selfdence.
You were among the three persons that sued Federal Government on behalf of the masses concerning Twitter ban. With the judgement in favour of the masses, how do you feel today?
I feel happy that I’m part of this historic judgement. I would say it’s an advancement to our freedom in Nigeria and Africa in general, that our governments should not trample on the rights of the people as provided for in our Constitution, the African Charter of Human Rights, and also the universal human rights as contained in international laws that the governments of Africa and Nigeria should not take the rights of their citizens for granted.
So, it’s a good thing that, at least, the ECOWAS Court has been able to pass the judgement in favour of the people, because we sued on behalf of the people. The people are happy that ECOWAS Court of Justice was able to pass the judgement in favour of the masses. So, I am happy about it.
Why did you choose to go to ECOWAS court instead of a Nigerian court?
Well, because the court has jurisdiction. I also believe that the court is speedy; we believe that the court will not be bias and will not have any particular interest. But then, they still delayed, because they didn’t go with the speed we expected. You know, everything was doused down and fundamental rights of the people have been violated and abused, but the judgment is just coming. So, there’s no force, nothing.
But then, if it’s in a Nigerian court, you could still be there up till now. I’ll give you an instance. I have fundamental right action in Delta State regarding the restriction of my movements, right to freedom of movement and all that. That matter has been on for five years now; four judges have sat on the matter. As we speak, the judges are scared of doing the right thing, because there is no independent of the judiciary.
You hardly see the court or the judges that would stand and say to the executive that, ‘what you are doing is wrong?’ Four judges have sat on the matter for originating motion on notice. Issues have been joined. Why? Because the judiciary is afraid; there’s no independence of the judiciary. The judiciary is now an appendage of the executive; they have been subsumed into the executive. That goes to the appointment of judges; when appointment for people to bench is based on connection or someone from either the government or executive or somebody with connections without merit.
If you are good on the merit, you’re okay and you will be able to give sound judgments. If you give good judgement and they don’t like it, you can resign. But we don’t have such people any more or rather, we have very few of them. Now, you see people who just go to the bench for survival; they want to lead. They want to make good life not necessarily because it is what they want; they’re practically begged to become judges. They bring their children from abroad or from one obscure place and begged them to be judges. Will that person perform? Whereas there are others who are born as judges and they are not there. So, these are the problem; the judiciary is very timid.
With this judgment, what’s your next plan of action?
Well, there is no action; the deed has been done. Twitter has been unbanned before now, and the rights have been violated, but it’s just for records and future purpose.
What’s your position on the Supreme Court’s judgement, which gives Muslim faithful the right to wear hijab in public school as part of their uniform?
I’ll borrow a leaf from the words of the dissenting judgment of Hon. Justice Okoro Inyang. He said the reasoning of the justices of the Supreme Court majority that held that decision was right, but their conclusion was wrong. I must state categorically that the judgment of the Supreme Court must be complied with. It’s an order and decision. It’s a judgment; it’s a decision that must be upheld and must be followed.
But understanding the power that they have, they ought to have been very careful coming to that decision. Every school will now have to wear hijab, even in missionary schools. So, if you come to my school, I have a Baptist Missionary College and you know the dress code, but because of that judgment, you can come to my missionary Baptist School and wear hijab. It doesn’t make sense.
They did it in Kwara State and they brought it to Lagos. The Lagos High Court judge, the Court of First Instance, did well by saying ‘no, you cannot do that, because hijab is not part of the education of the child.’ Hijab is not part of the fundamental rights of the child. Even, the hijab is not something that is fundamental to worship in Islam; it’s not a must be.
So, what happened before now, when people weren’t going to schools with hijab? Did they die? Did it make them more pious, more religious, or close to God? It has not. So, it is the judgment of the Supreme Court. I disagree with it, but then, we must comply with it. I’m a trained lawyer and must comply with this. The Lagos State must comply with it hoping it’s upturned. You must comply with it. Everybody must wear a hijab and everybody must also wear his or her religious clothes for worship to school and to anywhere. That’s why I also went to the Supreme Court dressed in my Igbe clothes.
So, we will comply with the judgment of the Supreme Court. I’m aware of a family that said its children would go to school dressed in Igbe. Are you going to take that away from them? If you don’t accept them, it’s discriminatory. If you allow this person to wear religious attire to school because it’s the mood of the person’s worship, and you say no to another, it becomes violation of their fundamental rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Then, if you must allow others to do the same, how do you think Nigeria would look like where you see Rastafarians, you identify them; you see celestial that wears dread locks, you recognise them. Does it make sense? We now leave our lives and face religion. Religion is a private right and private right cannot override the public right or interest. No right is absolute as far as law is concerned. Once everybody is not allowed, then it becomes the violation of rights to he or she that were not allowed.
Section 10 of the Constitution whittles down Section 38, which is that Nigeria is a secular state. Or that nobody or state should adopt any religion as a state religion; the federal, state and the Federal Capital Territory.
Nobody should adopt a particular religion as his or her own. What’s adoption? It means this is not actually your own, then you take it and cater for it. That the government does not have any religion, but the government has taken part of a particular religion and adopt it. Adoption means taking; when you take, you’re going to cater for, you’re going to sponsor, you’re going to protect, you’re going to advance. These are the things you have to do for anything you adopt, because it becomes your own.
So, saying that people can wear hijab in the public schools now funded with public funds, then, the implication is that you’re now propagating Islam over and above other religions. Okay, you will now say, why did other people not wear theirs to school? No, they won’t, because they know that Nigeria is a circular state. How do you feel as a teacher when you see a child with charm in your class, will you feel safe? So, this is why I’m in the forefront of activism in Nigeria, because I have seen what Nigeria did for me, not directly.
I’m one of the people that have seen that out of every N1:00, every kobo counted. N1:00 I saw then is now equivalent to N100, 000 today. I’m not kidding you; I saw it. It was painful that people from poor background, people who Nigeria had shown love and gave everything – Babaginda and Obasanjo among others – but see what they have done to Nigeria. I saw unity, I saw peace, and I saw love among Nigerians. That’s why when I see all these happening, it pains me that it is the same people that Nigeria has shown love from poor backgrounds that are the ones doing this to this country. That’s why I do my own in any little way I can, to speak for the voiceless, because majority of Nigerians have been highly oppressed and subjugated.
Could it be the reason you appeared in Supreme Court and High Court respectively in Igbe cloth?
No, not necessarily. Let me tell you the truth; let’s not deceive ourselves. I’m against neocolonialism; I’m against what the Whites are doing to us. And it’s sad that Africans don’t want to understand. What is wrong with the African tradition? Some of the strongest thing we had, the Whiteman had to destroy it. I’m not saying it is perfect. Okay, any tradition that says ‘kill another man,’ then take away kill and take other things that are good.
Now, tell me, are you not a Catholic? Don’t you go in front of statue and bow? Now, you are saying that the Blackman’s religion is idolatry. What is idolatry about it? Most of us now pretend to be Christians or Muslims, but it’s a lie. We are still traditionalists, because we go to babalawo everyday. Yes, even the priests also go to native doctors. Yes, when I was growing up, my parents patronised native doctors. Yes, we did. We went as far as Port-Novo, but I never heard my dad say to one native doctor or herbalist, ‘kill this man.’ The only thing I heard from them, was ‘oh, my gods, please don’t allow evil spirits to harm my children. Protect them.’ They bring razor or needles and make marks on our body or puncture our bodies and robbed black powder in it and asked us not to bathe for seven days that the spirits are working. Is that not what we call acupuncture today?
You know, growing up in the west, you can see someone who answers Bukola Ogunlabi in the West or Chidera in Enugu. From the name of a child, you may not know whether he is a Christian or Muslim or an Igbe. Why do I need hijab to distinguish? It’s a bad thing for us to identify any body in school, or police or army by dress code. By this hijab, you are already discriminatory, because once a Muslim teacher sees a girl with hijab, she has found favour in him/her.
There are people that are Muslims, but their native names suggest something different, though they answer indigenous name. So, let’s continue to comply with the judgment of the Supreme Court. I will advise the Lagos to allow hijab in Lagos schools. There is problem with the black man. We now leave our lives to play religion.
Coming to crisis at the Supreme Court, especially what played out when the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Hon. Muhammad Tanko resigned and the controversies that followed it, what’s your take?
First of all, I will say that I warned Nigerians about honourable Justice Tanko, that he wasn’t the right person for that position in terms of competence. Go and find out, I said it and I’m saying it again that he was not a fit and proper person. I said he wasn’t the competent person to be the CJN; it is on record. I filed six cases against Tanko to ensure that he didn’t assume the office. If you want, I’ll give you the particulars. Six cases, but nobody listened to me.
Today, we can see the damage he has done. He continued to complain each time about corruption. Any gathering he attended, he would talk about corruption. He sings corruption, whereas he does the opposite. He cried that there was no money in the Supreme Court, but he received more money than the past Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, that’s the heads of the judiciary. But what did he do with the money? He converted it to personalised race.
He had more money than others, but he was holding it, using the money meant for the fellow brothers at the bench for himself and his family. The Nigerian judiciary was dying in silence until the Supreme Court Justice was able to complain. When they complained, you know it has gone beyond redemption. We used to say something like ‘judiciary should not be seen but heard,’ but that is wrong. Who says the judge cannot sue the government? Who says the judge cannot sue the Supreme Court? I don’t know where we got that from and they were dying in silence until they have to complain. So, the man is corrupt; he converted money.
A day before I went to Supreme Court in Igbe outfit, I wrote the CJN and NJC. The first letter to NJC, I said, ‘give me the amount that you received from the Federal Government that is standing to the credit of the Supreme Court.’ You know how that works, the judiciary, the police, INEC… everybody gives his estimates to the executive.
The executive will now look into it and agree or disagree. Then, it sends it to the National Assembly, which will approve this money through appropriation. Once appropriated, the money that comes to the judiciary is sent to the NJC and it (NJC) will now, from the Federation Account, distributes it to the heads of courts as provided by the Constitution.
So, by this, I now asked the NJC to give me the money since 2019 to date that they gave the honorable justice Tanko to run the Supreme Court. That I want to know how much they received and how they disburse. Interestingly enough, they responded. I have given the documents to the accountant, but one of my friends said, ‘no, that was not what you asked for, you asked for an unedited account, but they gave you an audited account. What you asked for was the raw figure. They should tell you how much they received and how much they disbursed simple.’
So, that was not what I asked; I gave them seven days to do so. On the part of Justice Tanko, on the fifth day of this letter, he resigned. Note that before I appeared to the Supreme Court on Igbe cloth, I had sent a letter to NJC and Tanko in his capacity as the head of the Supreme Court based on the Freedom of Information Act 2011. I have explained what I asked the NJC to give me, which they have given to me, but not what I wanted. But, Tanko on the fifth day of seven days, resigned on health grounds.
Well, many will not want to say this, but I tell you that he didn’t want to be embarrassed and he knew I was going to do that. Look, which Africa go resign? He’s ready to die. The fire was too much on him from all angles, not me alone, everybody wanted him out and he had to leave.
On Arise TV, I said I was going to text him and I’ll find out whether he will not answer me. People are still asking me whether I’m going to continue now that he had resigned or I should quit; they want me to continue. They said that I didn’t write him as a person, but the office. So, the new person should render those accounts. That’s where we are on the matter now. Also, I need to clear the Nigerian public before they will say that I have collected money and dropped the case.
What is your take on the monetisation of Nigeria elections as evident in the last primaries of the two major political parties in the country where delegates were bribed? What does it portend for our nascent democracy?
It’s sad. What happened with this delegates’ election is very, very sad. I am not one of the people that subscribe to this election. I’ve always insisted, I am still insisting, because it’s not too late, that we should go for referendum.
You see this energy we are using for this election, I am of the view that we should use it for referendum. I’m not in support of this election, but who am I? They are in majority and if I try on my own to say ‘don’t do the election,’ it will be like swimming against the tide; it can’t last. I have to go with the tide. But be that as it may, the monetisation of the primaries of these two major political parties in the country is a big shame; shame and a disgrace. I will say it’s an insult on the electorate. Look at all the candidates of the major parties apart from Peter Obi; all the other major players have issues of corruption hanging on them. Even the delegates and members of the parties have corruption charges.
All the dollars that we’re supposed to use for students school fees, or health and for industries, they are keeping them for next year’s election. Look at what’s happening to the economy now. The scarcity of dollars we have is because of the money these politicians are keeping for elections. So, it’s a sad situation that we have to bribe people in the primaries to be able to get positions. So, what do you expect the man that bribed you when he gets there? He’s going to recover his money. Somebody you know that doesn’t have the capacity will now give you N12 million as a delegate to vote him.
So, you have to mortgage the future of your children and the born generation? How long will it last for you? In my place, they say if you finished eating food and you’re not satisfied, it’s not by licking the plate or picking the ones on the ground that you would be okay. Forget the crumbs on the ground and licking of the plate; it makes no difference and that’s what we are doing.
So, the electorate should go for capacity and that’s why I’m happy with what is happening right now. That, at least, there is a fresh approach in this election. We have a Labour Party that is giving the other parties good fights for their money. But then, I heard Peter Obi say ‘we don’t spend money.’ Labour Party has to spend money on campaign. I’m not saying bribe the people, no. Even in America, you will still spend money on elections and campaign. If I have an opportunity, I will advise him. Yes, I know they are coming for you; that they do not ask you for money doesn’t mean you cannot on your own pay their transport or give them drinks or even lunch after election.
Labor Party needs to work very hard. All I’m saying is that there’s nowhere in the world you don’t spend money for election. I know our case is critical, that we are the ones that supposed to spend for somebody like the candidate of Labor Party; we are supposed to spend for him. So, you don’t need to wait for him if he doesn’t have it. In that your local government, tax yourself and make sure everybody is comfortable. He is the type that you don’t think of what the presidential aspirant will do for you or what the country will do, but think of what you want to do for your country and yourself.
So, I’m happy with this new blood or this new force that is infusing into the political system. Let’s see how far it will go. There’s a lot to be done. For me, and many people who want change, I think we should participate and encourage other people get their PVC to bring about positive change we want for this country. Not only for our sake, not for the sake of our children, but for the unborn generations.
Talking about insecurity and senseless killings in the country, what’s your take?
I have told you people that what is happening in Nigeria are genocide. Do you know in Nigeria, we have over 500 ethnic nationalists not 250? I’m telling you, look at it very well. Over 500 ethnic nationalities with their cultures, their religions, and some of their cultures you don’t understand. Go to Adamawa State for instance, you will see one ethnic group here and in the next two minutes or 30 minutes drive, you see another ethnic group. They don’t understand their languages, but they trade together; they do everything.
Now, these are the people, the indigenous people that are being wiped away. What’s happening today is deliberate. Some will say it’s ethnic cleansing, but I would say it’s genocide. Tell me, if you say people are bandits, will bandits kill people? Bandits will not kill, because if bandits kill the people that they steal from, who are they going to steal from tomorrow? They’ll steal and leave so that tomorrow, they can still steal from you again or other bandits can still from you. But in this one, they kill senselessly, because there’s that internalised hate.
Growing up, when you get to Kaduna, do you know what you feel? You feel secured. Why? The presence of the Army! Now, tell me, where do you think we have the most of our arms and ammunition in Nigeria? It’s in Kaduna, not even Jos. When we are in the mood of fighting wars, they will have backup. Now, this same Kaduna is where bandits have taken over; they have taken over the International Airport. They come into the towns, kill and go away.
What’s the distance between Kaduna and Abuja? Not much, with a good artillery or ballistic missile, you can strike Aso Rock from Kaduna. Despite the fact that you can attack from Kaduna, the state has been taken over by this people. That’s one.
Two, Niger State has been taken over. How many minutes drive is from Niger State to Abuja, from Shiroro or Suleja? They have taken over there. How many minutes is it from Suleja or Mina to International Airport, 24 minutes? It means that these people can actually seize the country. Smell the Coffee; we are five minutes away from Afghanistan. Again, smell the coffee, we are five minutes away from Afghanistan, whether you like it or not.
So, this election, if it doesn’t go the way of some people, they will make this country ungovernable for the next person. They will make it ungovernable, not only that, but they will destroy the country. Funny enough, the people who are bringing in foreigners to destroy this country, if Nigeria is on fire, they will go back to their countries; you don’t have anywhere to go. They will not accept you in their country.
Forget about some men that after stealing money, they go to Dubai and stay. It’s a lie; home is home. With your money in the US, they have a limit at which they can recognise you; they don’t give a damn. So, you are not accorded the respect you have here. You are still like the second-class citizen there. If you now bring people because they are your tribal men from other African countries to destroy your own country, your children will have nowhere to go.
And these people that you bringing to destroy the country, do you think that when they take over the country they will hand it over to you? They will not; go and read history. These barbarians and savages you’re bringing in to destroy this country, if they takeover, they will not hand it over to you. They will take it for themselves and put you to the background. That’s what these people do not understand.
So, the insecurity in this country is deliberate and it’s eating everybody up. That’s the truth. Look at the Kuje jailbreak; it’s deliberate. Everyday, they keep on sending police and army to international engagement when we have problems at home. All those people you are sending out, why not keep them here at home? You can imagine some riffraff went and destroyed the train that we took loan from China to procure and killed people, kidnapped people, keep raping and sodomising them. And you are warning them as if you are talking to your children? Please, I want to be quoted. I wish whatever is happening to the kidnapped victims for our leaders; let their family members be kidnapped, raped, and sodomised. That’s my wish for them to understand what the ordinary man is facing. That’s my wish. And honestly, and normally, you say I don’t wish this for my enemy, but I’m wishing this for our leaders.
Would you now advocate for liberation of arms for citizens’ act of selfdence?
On this insecurity, I’m one of the people that said let us arm ourselves. I don’t know if you read some time ago where I applied for AK 47 (assault rifle) through President Muhammadu Buhari? I applied and sent my application with DHL directly and I’m with the presidency’s acknowledgment copy. I applied for an AK 47, because he’s the only licensing person that can give me that gun as it’s prohibited. The Commissioner of Police licenses the other ones like double barrel and Pump Action.
AK 47 is prohibited, but Buhari can license it and that’s why I applied to him. He has my letter. He refused, but I’m taking him to court with other 36 states’ governments. What we need to solve this problem is balance of terror. If I have gun and you have, even if yours is more sophisticated than mine, when you come to attack me, we speak the same language, violence. So, if you have violence and I have violence, you will be careful.
Okay, I’ll give you an example, look at the US church where a madman went in and started shooting at the people. He killed two and it was the church members that gunned him down. Why? Because they have the opportunity to fight back and defend themselves. The Constitution gives us rights to life; right to property; rights to dignity of person; right to freedom of association and all these rights are being taken from us by these bandits.
If the Constitution has given us these rights, the Constitution says we must defend these rights. The Constitution says that if somebody attacks you, you have the right to proportional force; attack that person back and if the person dies, you have not committed murder. So, what are we saying? The government cannot defend the people; let the people defend themselves.
Look at what is happening in Kaduna. If you get 100 Kaduna boys, give them guns, and mobilise them, they will enter that forest and bring the bandits out on their own. How many are the bandits? Yet they have amassed so much arms and ammunitions. My brother, let me tell you my fear for this country; we are going to fight senseless ethno-religious war. I tell you, Rwanda is a child’s play, because these people are not ready to back down.
You can see the arrogance with which these things are going, because some people feel that Nigeria is given to them and they most take it over. That’s what this thing is all about. Gradually, they are killing the indigenous people; they are taking them out. Go to some parts of Adamawa, there are villages that have nobody living in them; these villages are being renamed.
Go to Kaduna, see what they are doing; they have continued to kill people like chickens. Even the chickens are more secured than them, because when you attack chickens, they will cry and the owner will come out. But in this one, nobody; they will come, kill and go. The other day, some people came to pastor’s house, shot the man, killed his two songs and took his daughter away.
I don’t know this God that we’re worshipping. I’m telling you, I feel so bad. Are you saying if that man had a gun, he wouldn’t have killed somebody? He would have killed somebody, knowing that he would be killed eventually. Then, his children will have the opportunity to fight for their lives; they have a fighting chance.
Mine is that everybody should go and apply for guns before it’s too late; that’s your right. Apply to own a gun; if the government refused, come to me, I will go to court on your behalf free. This is my advice to Nigerians.