Professor Tam David-West, a former Petroleum Minister, in this interview with GBENRO ADESINA, speaks on the state of the nation.
Do you consider yourself fulfilled?
I thank God that he gives me life and good health. Personally, I am very fulfilled. For the years I have spent so far, God has really blessed me to occupy different good positions in Nigeria. I was a Commissioner for Education, Rivers State; Minister of Petroleum, under General Muhammadu Buhari; and Minister of Mines, Power and Steel under General Ibrahim Babangida. It is only God that is perfect. I am not perfect but I say it boldly that I am not corrupt and that is why I have ‘No Corruption’ written at the back of my two cars.
I declared my assets on two occasions. Nobody can bribe me. My God created me and sent me to serve my country, not to steal in any form. Even Edwin Clark abused me that I have been a minister of this and that and I don’t have a house and I say that is a compliment. A company once sent me a plan of a house and asked me to tell them where I wanted them to build the house free of charge. I said I didn’t need it. Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has been very appreciative. Out of courtesy, he promised me a lot of things.
All the money in the world cannot bribe me. My interest is to be faithful to my God. I am from a religious family. It is God that we know. My name, Tamunoemi means there is God and that is the strength of my family. So, when I want to do something, I pray to God to guide me. I don’t talk to the press without talking to God to guide me. God should guide me to say only things that will glorify His name. As you were coming, I begged God to guide me to say things that will glorify His name to my friend coming from TheNEWS.
What were the things you declared as your assets?
It is very funny. I had one undeveloped property in Port Harcourt at that time; now it is developed. It is a house which is occupied by tenants. I didn’t have millions at that time. When men of the State Security Service, SSS, arrested me and detained me on the orders of General Ibrahim Babangida, they asked me to declare my assets. They gave me a paper. After writing, they asked me if what I wrote were all the things that I had and I said ‘yes’. They asked about a house in London and my Rolls Royce. I asked them to give me a paper where I would write a directive and sign that the government should take over those things that they said that I had. The SSS was surprised that I didn’t have more than what I declared.
As at that time, I didn’t have N500. Money is not the issue. A good name is better than silver and gold.
How much are you worth?
In term of assets, I am not wealthy; I m contented. God has blessed me so much to know the difference between contentment and ‘long throat’. I am satisfied with what God has given me. I told Amaechi I don’t need any material help from anybody, including him. Some people have come to me to give me good money, I mean double digit millions of dollars, and I turned it down and told them that I didn’t need it.
Is the Port Harcourt house the only one you have?
Yes. The one I am building now is a personal house in Port Harcourt. I have been building the house for over nine years and it is yet to be completed.
Money is not flowing.
Is it a very big house?
It is not a very big house. It is a storey building in GRA, Port Harcourt. I told the architect to give me a big library space. I called the house, Tamunoemi Sakiwari, Tamunoemi is God, Sakiwari is house. It means house built when God wants you to build it.
Is that where you want to be buried?
I want to be cremated. It is contained in my will and my children know about it. My children were not happy about it. It could be done anywhere – Lagos, Ibadan – and the ashes should be taken away and thrown into the river. The reason is that many people have all sorts of ideas about David-West. Some people think that I have mythical powers, which make me bold. If you are standing for the truth, you can’t be afraid of anything, even death.
In what ways has your family background influenced you?
Let me start with my father. By just sheer accident, I was born into Kalabari royal family. I am an Amachree. Amachree dynasty has been in existence for over 300 years. My mother was Ari. My father met my mother when she was going to school in Onitsha, St. Monica Missionary School. Then my father was in Hope Waddell Secondary School. Later, my father became a banker with the Bank of the British West Africa, now First Bank. He was in the bank until I graduated. When he died, the bank sent a delegation to the family. My mother was a teacher and very disciplined. My father was softer than my mother, he was more accommodating. My mother didn’t take nonsense and she took that from her father, who they called Scorpion. He couldn’t accommodate evil; he would sting it to death.
So, you took after your grandfather?
Yes, I took after my maternal grandfather. He didn’t fear anybody. He fought for people, poor people. He was very bold. He was very comfortable. I learnt something from him. Every month, he used to have banquet for the chiefs. He was very stylish and powerful. All his furniture and cutlery were imported. He also used to organise parties for the poor families to come and eat with us. He used to say that where you are born to is not determined by you but by God. He left that in my mind that nobility has obligations. He fought many battles and won all. I was the first grandson and he used to rub his forehead on mine. He was a good Christian. No fetish in our family. Right from infancy, we are taught to fast and pray. No juju at all.
How has the influence of your grandparents affected you?
It has made me to be well disciplined and that is why I am able to discipline my children very well. My children are very regimented because of the training I gave them.
How many of them?
We don’t count the number of children, but they are all successful and brilliant. My mother gave me eight strokes of the cane when I was in elementary school, for spelling ‘daughter’ as ‘doughter’. I can’t forget that and I brought up my children same way.
You recently paid a solidarity visit to Governor Amaechi of Rivers State. You said that his problem with President Goodluck Jonathan was personal.
Why did you take such position?
I didn’t know Amaechi before I started defending him. I don’t defend you because of what you are, but because of what you stand for. I have gone through injustice before and I know where it pinches. Was I not jailed for life because of coffee and wristwatch? When somebody is unnecessarily molested, I defend him or her. Unfortunately, Amaechi has not been able to open his mouth to really tell us the causes of the problem he is going through. It is personal.
One of his greatest enemies, Nyesom Wike, Minister of State for Education, was his chief of staff and they were very close until few months ago when he went to Abuja. This same chief of staff used to congratulate me whenever he read my article about Amaechi. What is the reason for their disagreement? Their first disagreement was that the chief of staff wants to be governor after Amaechi and Amaechi said that will not be right because they are from the same ethnic group, Ikwerre. He said the state can’t have Ikwerre governor for eight years and be succeeded by an Ikwerre person. He feels that is unfair to other ethnic groups in the state.
So, he is insisting that the governorship has to go to the riverine people. But Amaechi has been vindicated because Wike declared two weeks ago that he wants to be a governor. Amaechi’s opposition forced Wike into opting to go to the Senate. But Amaechi said that his next ambition is to be a senator. Wike is finding it difficult to deal with being stopped first from becoming governor, and then senator. The last time I visited Amaechi, I told him that if he is doing well, I will say it and if not, I will say it. I can do that because I don’t want anything from him. Amaechi is suffering injustice.
But there is a speculation that his ordeal is as a result of having an ambition to be vice-president?
It is a lie.
What is the interest of the President in a misunderstanding between Amaechi and his former chief of staff?
Patience, the President’s wife, hates Amaechi. Thanks to your magazine for its recent cover story, ‘Her Imperial Majesty’. It was a fantastic research. I am not talking about the first lady, I hate the word Your Excellency. Which Excellency? Have you ever heard Barack Obama’s wife being addressed as Her Excellency? Or David Cameron’s? We forget that the place of first lady is completely unconstitutional and irrelevant. I am happy the National Assembly stopped the N4b allocation proposed by Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory for construction of a building for African First Ladies Mission.
Why does Patience, who I don’t think is patient, hate Amaechi?
She hates Amaechi because she wants an Okrika man to be governor after Amaechi. Unfortunately for Patience, she is not restrained at all. She can say anything and do anything without inhibition. That is why I congratulate TheNEWS on that in-depth research. Mrs. Jonathan once embarrassed Amaechi at a public function in Okrika. That was uncivilised. I think without further delay, Patience should be humble enough to publicly tender an unreserved apology for that attitude because being a president’s wife doesn’t give her the licence to be rude. Who will take what Patience did? That shows how impatient she is and that shows you how much Amaechi has absorbed. She humiliates him everytime. Jonathan caused it because he can’t say no to whatever his wife says. He is a very weak husband and he is a very weak president. Whatever she says must happen. How can anybody read that well researched cover story of your magazine and feel glorified. If I were Mrs. Jonathan, after reading TheNEWS magazine, I’d leave Abuja and go on sabbatical for a long time. How can she face the public now with such revelations of her unconstitutionality? Whenever she goes out with her husband, she stays in front and the husband stays behind her. Nigeria should not take this and the earlier we rose to say this nonsense must stop, the better.
Wives have a lot of influence on their husbands. Most of the things Jonathan is doing are very wrong. President Jonathan is so obstructive. If she is good, she should be able to talk to her husband not to do things that are not good and always remind him that they should leave good legacies behind. Abdulsalami Abubakar’s wife advised her husband well. She went to university and law school. But this is a lady that ended in high school.
But she has a degree.
As far as my record shows, I don’t attach any degree to her, but if I am wrong, please, Reuben Abati, publish it and let me be educated. As far as I know, she did some secretarial studies or something. There is no record that says that Mrs. Jonathan is a graduate. I am saying that the excesses of Mrs. Jonathan can’t be a positive platform for her husband to be a president. In fact, in any other country, if you are unable to restrain your wife’s excesses, you are impeached and you go back to your village and stay.
What is your take on the way Patience Jonathan took over everywhere in Port Harcourt recently?
I was there. I witnessed it. I arrived the same day. Fortunately, I left the airport before they closed the road, but I saw the crowd gathering. It was a very obscene show of arrogance of power. As soon as I checked into my hotel, the sirens came. Even Amaechi couldn’t come out of Government House. Where did she get the money to build that big house she just built? There was heavy security and the neighbours were complaining. When I was leaving the airport, I counted at least 20 security cars. One of the policemen said: ‘Professor, hurry up before the superhuman being comes.”
Even the policemen were not happy.
A few people have suggested that first ladies should be assigned constitutional roles…
It is sad. It is just like the agitation for assigning constitutional roles to traditional rulers. If constitutional roles are assigned to the traditional rulers, by the time the reality will dawn on us, it will take so long to reverse the disaster. It is better the way it is now. Any provision for traditional rulers is dangerous for Nigeria. The Oba I admire and adore in Yorubaland is Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III. He has given the royalty its due respect. He has not degraded and desecrated it. He is a king with magnetic brain. He is so brilliant. He is a good role model.
What do you make of Jonathan’s desire to seek re-election?
Has he got the right to contest or does he deserve to contest? According to the constitution, he has the right to contest, with some caveat. All the noise of continuing and completing Yar’Adua’s tenure are all academic, they are all just expression to justify what he wants to do. Does he deserve another term? My answer is that he doesn’t deserve it. Jonathan is not showing enough gratitude to Nigerians. If he ruled as a president after Yar’Adua and after that contested again and won, now ruling, he doesn’t have the moral right to contest again. Pragmatically, he is asking for third term.
The other moral aspect, which people are glossing over, is the agreement with the North that he is going to serve only one term? Governor Aliyu Babangida of Niger State is a responsible man, highly educated and knowledgeable. He said Jonathan promised to go for only one term and it was on that basis that the North supported him. I believe him. Those asking for documents are talking nonsense. Jonathan is used to lies. He has lied before concerning rotational presidency. When they say that it is contained in PDP constitution that presidency is rotational between the North and the South, Jonathan openly said that there is nothing like that in the PDP constitution. He was corrected by Ebenezer Babatope. Babatope is a great friend of mine, but his activities in PDP are so repulsive to me. Babatope said Jonathan is equal to Awolowo plus Zik plus Sadauna and I said he is talking nonsense. Awolowo made Babatope. Awolowo sent Babatope to study Law in London. His statement is not only disrespectful to Awolowo, but also heresy. Jonathan signed that constitution that says that presidency is rotational. A president that told such a big lie should be impeached.
Jonathan has lied several times. He is a serial liar. If Jonathan can lie about the constitution of his party, why do we have to entrust him with the constitution of Nigeria. I score Jonathan C- for his performance. He should stop thinking of another term. If an undergraduate scores C; he can’t go to postgraduate school. That is an academic metaphor. Jonathan has not done anything to qualify him for second term.
Recently, state accountants-general walked out of the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee over reduction in oil revenue. What is your diagnosis?
I read about it and laughed. When I was the minister of petroleum, I represented the head of state in the revenue sharing meeting. Every month, all the commissioners of finance would assemble in Lagos. I knew the amount of money we were making and we were so transparent about it. We never had one minute of disagreement. I projected for them. After our meeting, we’d have a cocktail. Something is wrong with Jonathan’s administration because he has people that are not telling him the truth. The crisis is as a result of personal interest.
The government has been painting a rosy picture of the economy – high GDP and others. Is the picture an accurate representation of the country’s economic situation?
I am not impressed. The test of a government is not what they say, but what the people say. You can give yourself 99 per cent or whatever you like, but if the people are sad and suffering is written all over them, it shows that whatever you have scored yourself is wrong. I don’t believe Jonathan. If he says GDP has improved and I know he can’t pay N18,000 minimum wage, graduates are looking for jobs as drivers or serving as stewards or selling recharge cards, then, all that Jonathan has claimed are lies. It is like somebody saying that ‘I have N1 billion in the bank, but can’t give food to my children’.
When there is crisis in the world as a result of oil prices, Nigeria catches cold. What is the way out?
An economy that relies over 90 per cent on oil will crash. Nigeria depends so much on oil. Oil makes up over 90 per cent of Nigeria’s total foreign reserves. Though we talk of diversification, we don’t diversify. I am not interested in the bridges you want to build from Sokoto to Port Harcourt when you have not fed your people. People that are graduating, are they comfortable and getting jobs? The constitution says that the welfare of the people is fundamental. Have you provided security and welfare for the people? As long as you have failed in these aspects, you are a failure.
Relying on oil is a dangerous thing because oil fluctuates like thermometer. People are saying Nigeria’s oil will dry up, it is a lie. It will not dry.
I have toured the Gulf: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other countries. One country that manages its oil best is Kuwait. In the Gulf, the oil belongs to royal families and the people. In Nigeria, the oil belongs to the people by law. Although the oil belongs to royal families in the Gulf countries, they use the oil well for the people. Although oil belongs to the people in Nigeria, the oil goes to a few crooks and idiots who are in the positions of authority. Many people have said that Nigeria is a wealthy country with so many poor people. There is no house in Saudi Arabia that you don’t see about three cars; education is free, medical care is free. Our doctors are even running there to have better conditions of service.
Kuwait has something ingenious. Kuwait has a fund called Kuwaiti Fund For the Future. Any day Kuwait sells oil, they take some millions into a special account for the future. They are so responsible. They have properties everywhere, even in London. While oil is a curse in Nigeria, it is a blessing in other countries. How can anybody talk about stealing oil over there when he knows that if he is caught, he will be executed?
In Nigeria, stealing oil is so simple. Even the law enforcement agents will help you to steal. The problem we have in Nigeria is that law enforcement agents are part of the sleaze.
Do you support the Sovereign Wealth Fund?
The Sovereign Wealth Fund they make so much noise about is not new. I proposed it long before now. During my tenure, we were drawing 1.5m barrels per day. So, I proposed that if we projected that oil would sell at $50 per barrel and later it is sold at $100 per barrel, you’d have extra $50 per barrel. I said that we should not touch the extra $50, but invest it. It is a reserve or like an insurance that you can fall on during crisis. It is not there for immediate spending, but for the rainy day. It is fallback position.
It is fraudulent for Federal Government to touch it. If the Federal Government touches it, under equity, state government must also ask for its own share. If the Federal Government is disciplined enough not to touch it, state governments will not attempt to touch it. Our oil money is so much badly managed. There is so much fraud and nobody is punishing anybody. As regards excess crude fund, anyone talking about excess crude fund is fraudulent. It is extra crude fund, not excess. If you talk about excess, it means that you have done everything and money still remains. But when we are talking about extra, we expect N100m and because of the vagaries of oil market, we now make N150m, the N50m is not excess, it is extra.
Do you support the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB?
Yes and no. The PIB as it is, I don’t support. I have written about 30 pages on it, I have not published it. It is too big. I want to make it a pamphlet. If you look at PIB, it is attractive on the surface. There is a lot of politics and personalised recommendations in it. That is not good for the system. The PIB is a rambling bill. It is not focused. The title is 40 words. A bill that has a title of 40 words cannot be a focused bill. The intention of the bill is laudable but what we have is not laudable. They should not pass that bill. Get credible experts across the country, forget about David-West, and let them sit and look at that bill from page to page and comment on it. After that, all oil producing states must meet and take a position and send their position to the National Assembly. If that bill is passed as it is, I can project that in the next few years, there will be crisis. Petroleum Training Institute, PTI, Effurun has been there before I became a minister. I am still impressed by the organisation of that place. I learnt that it has been upgraded to a university. If they pass that bill, we are going to have a parallel one in Kaduna. The PTI was played down in the bill. Why do you have to create another parallel institute to train middle-level manpower? Why can’t they upgrade and equip the existing one to do this training? We should think about cost effectiveness.
The bill also said that oil bloc can be allocated by the minister. That is the most irresponsible thing to say. It is dangerous to allow the minister to allocate oil bloc without the input of the presidency and other checking mechanisms. There was a time Jubril Aminu was talking about oil blocs and said that he practically awarded oil blocs during Babangida era. I commented that it is either he is lying or Babangida is irresponsible. During my time, I can’t allocate lifting of oil without Buhari’s approval. Oil is the prime commodity of Nigeria. An oil bloc is like diamond mine. Allocating oil blocs is like taking Nigeria’s prime wealth and giving it to somebody.
What do you think is wrong with Nigeria which produces crude, but imports refined fuel?
It is madness. That is part of PIB. The National Assembly should not be stampeded into rushing it. It is better to be late than doing a wrong thing. We are crazy for importing oil. Our refineries were deliberately sabotaged so that they can import fuel. Even when the Senate admitted that our refineries are sabotaged, what did they do? Nothing. Sabotaging our oil refineries benefits people in power.
During my time, we were exporting petroleum products. Now, we are importing. Nigeria is not qualified to be a member of Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC. We should be a member of Organisation of Petroleum Importing Countries, OPIC. There is no member of OPEC that imports fuel except Nigeria. In fact, some of the Gulf countries don’t only export of petroleum products, they even have filling stations in Europe. Why can’t Nigeria do that? Anyone who supports high price of fuel and importation should be locked up in prison. Price of fuel in Nigeria should not be more than N40 per litre. Anyone that is encouraging high petroleum price in Nigeria is not only the enemy of the people, he should be arrested and sent to Bama Prison and even killed.
How do you rate the chances of opposition groups that have coalesced into the All Progressive Congress against Jonathan?
I am a member of the All Progressive Congress, APC, merger committee. I am not a politician. I am not a member of any political party, but Buhari made me represent CPC because of my pedigree. We meet regularly in Abuja, most times in Tomi Ikimi’s house. It is a fantastic group. APC is not aiming to defeat PDP. APC is only interested in giving Nigeria a better government. Nigeria will decide what they want.
Do you think the APC is capable of being better than the PDP?
Absolutely, APC will not disappoint Nigeria.
People can’t understand why you don’t support Jonathan, your brother from the Niger Delta.
I will not support him because he is an Ijaw man. I will support you because you are doing well for Nigeria. You are not president of Ijaw, you are President of Nigeria. If Jonathan was my father, I’d say: ‘Papa, you are doing very badly.’
Jonathan is not only a graduate, he is a Ph.D holder. He should show a measure of intellectual discipline and discernment. Jonathan has not impressed me. Jonathan has failed to see that the activities of Dokubo-Asari and Chief Edwin Clark are a disservice to him. He is embracing them and giving them money and encouraging them to be reckless with their mouths. Let me take Clark first. Clark is not an Ijaw. When he was studying Law in Britain, he was secretary of Urhobo Progressive Union. Throughout the time he was going to school in London, he was Urhobo, not Ijaw.
Clark identified with Urhobo more than Ijaw in London. It is convenient for him to claim Ijaw because he is getting money. I am a better Ijaw than Clark. My father and mother are Ijaw. Clark is patch patch Ijaw. When you say somebody is partial Ijaw or partial something, you give impression of half and half, 50/50 but he is patch patch because only his father is Ijaw, the mother is from Itsekiri. How can Jonathan think that a patch patch Ijaw will like him more than a full-blooded Ijaw.
Jonathan’s supporters are mostly from the North. He is a president today as a result of the support the Yoruba gave to him. Dora Akunyili, an Igbo woman, contributed her own quota to what Jonathan is today. Save Nigeria Group, led by Pastor Tunde Bakare, fought the National Assembly to do something. He became a vice-president, which paved a way for him to be president through the influence of a Yoruba man, Olusegun Obasanjo. Who moved the motion to make Jonathan acting president? A Hausa man. The input of Ijaw in making Jonathan president, compared to others, was just 24 per cent. Jonathan is more of a creation of Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa. When you know you don’t have a political base and you still allow Clark to be abusing the people that made you, it is rubbish. As long as you keep aspiring, you need the votes of these people. Apart from that, we have 19 states in the North and 17 states in the South. To be President of Nigeria, you must not only win majority votes, but have 25 per cent in two-thirds in 24 states. The Ijaw can’t give that. Even the whole of the South can’t give that. You can’t be insulting the people you need. We have sycophant professors that are only interested in praising.
Dokubo is my cousin. His mother and my mother are of the same father. He stayed with me here. I used to give him pocket money a few years ago before he became a millionaire. Dokubo is more disastrous than Clark. He is an embarrassment to me. In one of his unguided pronouncements, he said I am an Igbo man because I bear Chidiade. Chidiade is the same as Tamunoemi. It means there is God. It was translated to Tamunoemi by Bishop Iyala of Anglican Church. It was popular in our area for an unknown reason to get foreign names. For instance, Rotimi Amaechi. Rotimi is a Yoruba name and he has no Yoruba blood in him. We have Dele, Ayo and other Yoruba names in our area. He is talking nonsense. His title is fraudulent. Dokubo has an illusion of grandeur. ‘Idiabali 1’ is an Igbo title. Is he not ashamed? He is a bundle of irrelevance and ignorance. Dokubo said Ijaw people are not Nigerians, but he said he would fight for Jonathan to be President of Nigeria. Dokubo said Awolowo, a great man, great leader in Nigeria, was a criminal. That is the type of person Jonathan wants to campaign for him. He said the North are Gambari and parasites.
Without the North, Jonathan would not be there. He said if Jonathan does not return in 2015, there will be problem. Which problem? I will like to see what will happen if Jonathan doesn’t win in 2015. That is the kind of rot around Jonathan. Dokubo will not die for Jonathan. Did he vote for him? Did he campaign for him? If anything happens to Jonathan, Dokubo will be one of the first people that will run away.
Do you agree with the view that education has declined? If yes, what do you think is responsible?
Nigeria is not investing enough in education. I was surprised when the NUC Secretary claimed that the Federal Government is not underfunding education. He is my friend and colleague. I told him to shut up because he showed that he doesn’t understand what he is doing. Many years ago, I did a ten-year study of the falling standard of education in Nigeria, which I published in the defunct Daily Sketch. The budget will say 25 per cent allocation, but in the end, they don’t give universities 10 per cent. For the past 10 years, Nigeria has not spent more than 10 per cent of its budget on education. UNESCO recommends a minimum of 26 per cent. Ghana and South Africa spend about 31 per cent. Nigeria spends about nine per cent on education. It is irresponsible for any government to establish more universities. They have just approved about 10 new universities. It is irresponsible and one of them was located in Jonathan’s village, Otuoke. Government can spend less money to revamp the existing universities, provide more facilities and open more spaces for admission. We have bastardised education. One private university, a few months ago, said 50 per cent of students that graduated from the university made first class. How can a university not be afraid to say that 50 per cent of its graduates are first class materials? If first class is cheap, it can’t be first class.
Are you comfortable the way the National Assembly is going about the amendment of the Constitution?
They are wasting their time. The 1999 Constitution is like the 1979 Constitution. I was among the persons that drafted 1979 Constitution. Obafemi Awolowo was among, but he declined to attend. The committee was chaired by the late Chief F.R.A Williams. We worked for about a year without allowance. They only paid transport and accommodation allowances and we worked night and day to produce a constitution. No allowance. We were working in the interest of Nigeria. The 1999 Constitution is the best constitution. Onagoruwa said the same thing. Nothing is wrong with it. If a constitution is brought by an angel and is given to us, Nigeria will still corrupt it. Constitution is the fundamental document of the country. You can’t have your personal interest and put in the constitution. Each one of them has a personal interest. A good example is Obasanjo.
Obasanjo wanted third term and the constitution, as it stands, couldn’t give him one. Obasanjo said there are 100 flaws in the 1979 Constitution and also in the 1999 Constitution. During the time Obasanjo was head of state, he didn’t notice flaws. Finally, when the third term bid collapsed, Obasanjo didn’t push for amendment again. All they are doing is a waste of time and our money.
There are processes of constitutional amendment in our constitution. Section 9 contains mode of altering provision of the constitution and it requires two-thirds. After, it is sent to the states and two-thirds of state assemblies in the country must endorse it. That is 24 states. After, it goes back to you and before you can make it an Act of parliament, 4/5th majority must endorse it. So, all they are doing is wasting our time and money and I will not be surprised if some of them have not read the constitution. All the money the National Assembly has spent on this mission must be returned to the federation account. They should get this straight. An Act of parliament is different from a constitutional provision. Act of parliament is inferior to the constitution. The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said state creation has nothing to do with constitutional amendment. He was talking nonsense.
When we were making this constitution, some of us wanted the names of the states to be reflected. Chief Rotimi Williams of blessed memory said: ‘Gentlemen, I caution you. Don’t mention the names of the states because if you mention the names of the states, those states can’t be removed without an amendment of the constitution.’ Unfortunately for him, majority carried the day. The states and local councils are contained in the constitution. You can’t change one local government without amending the constitution. Tinubu was clever. He called the councils he created Local Council Development Areas.
What is your assessment on the country’s civil society organisations?
The civil society is not as bold as it was during the military era. The civil society fought military and brought them down. Now, they are all docile because money talks. The civil society must stand up now and make government change.
Look at what happened in Turkey, the president of Turkey is a very proud man. He used everything against the people, but they refused to stop demonstrating. The problem in Nigeria is that the government knows that the average Nigerian hates corruption, but can’t resist the attraction of millions. Even trade unions compromise themselves. The reason that civil society was very effective during military era was that while the military threatened us with guns, they didn’t dare shoot. But the civilian government knows where to pitch. If you talk too much, they will say, ‘Go and give him N10m.’ They can always buy conscience. The conscience of the civil society now has a price tag.
What is your message to Nigerians as we march toward 2015?
My compatriots, if the elections in 2015 provoke turbulence, we will be in trouble. Nigerians should protect their votes. Don’t allow your conscience to be bought because you will suffer for it. The ballot boxes should be protected. Don’t allow your votes to be bought. Don’t vote for anyone because he has given you money. And if somebody wants to cheat you, stop them by any means available to you. Fighting a tyrant is approved by God. If you can lynch whosoever that wants to mess up your vote, lynch him because an election rigger is worse than armed robber. We must know our rights and prepare with all that we have to defend such. The civil society must wake up. I believe in civil disobedience when government is doing what is wrong. There must be civil disobedience if government doesn’t want to listen.
Your house is like an archive, a typical Nigerian library, contrary to the houses of your fellow lecturers that are usually state-of-the-art. Most of the buildings around you are painted while yours is not. One can’t even find a place to put his foot right from your sitting room, and other parts, is it comfortable?
Somebody came here and said that there is nowhere to put leg and I said shut up. If you give me N100m for a trade and you come back in 100 days and I have lost it, how will you feel? I don’t do any other thing apart from reading. Books are my best companions. I buy a lot of them.
Who will you will them to?
My children should do whatever they like with it. I have an idea to have a public library in Rivers State. A reference library, if it is the will of God. I will get all those things there. Why should a child that cannot value books inherit them? I know God will show me what to do with the books. I want a state government that will partner with me and build the library and take all the books and put them there for reference.