The demand for a referendum on a separate state of Biafra is a constitutional impossibility, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Prosecution, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, disclosed this in reaction to the call for a referendum by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
In this interview with WILLY EYA of The Sun, he described such calls as a waste of time and also stated that even restructuring would not solve the myriad of problems confronting the nation.
There is so much tension in the land today with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) asking for a referendum to seek a separate nation for Ndigbo, what is the position of the law on such a dream?
The demand for a referendum with regards to Biafra is a constitutional impossibility. It is a legal and political impossibility. There is no provision in the constitution of the country or any other law that provides for a part of the country to break away. It is a nonsensical demand. Biafra ended on the January 15, 1970. I think the agitators are just expressing their rights to freedom of expression.
But many think that even though it is not in our constitution, the issue of referendum has become an international legal instrument for self-determination groups to realise their dream?
The international law does not take precedence over the Nigerian constitution. If you want to ratify any treaty or international convention, the National Assembly has to approve it. You cannot begin to use the international law to deal with municipal, local and national issues. Let them stop wasting their time. There is nothing like that. The agitators are just wasting their time and that is why I am saying that they are just expressing their right to the freedom of expression.
In granting bail to the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, the federal High Court in Abuja gave him conditions but many think he has breached several of the conditions. Do you think that is enough to deny him bail in his next appearance in court?
If conditions were given to him and he breached those conditions, then it is left for the counsel to the Federal Government to bring that to the notice of the Federal Government. If the conditions were breached, the court can say those conditions were breached. If you have breached them, the law would take its course. Nobody is above the law. If he has breached the law, then the law would deal with him.
But the argument in many quarters is that in the case of the Arewa youths who recently gave the Igbo a quit notice, none has been arrested even when their offence is similar to that of the IPOB leader. What is your take on that?
Which of the offences is worse? Is it the one that wants a separate state for itself and breaking away from the country or the one that gave the quit notice and says some people should leave a part of the country?
The first one is worse but the argument is that both of them have violated the law of the country. Don’t you agree?
The Niger Delta militants were threatening that some nationals should leave the Niger Delta even before the general election of 2015. My advice is that all these people should allow peace to reign in Nigeria. Let them look at Iraq, Syria and others; war is not good. It is just like throwing a stone into the market; you would never know who the stone could hit; it could hit your son, daughter, nephew or niece. Let them allow peace to reign in Nigeria. Nigeria is not the biggest country in the world. China has more than 1000 ethnic groups and China has made progress. It is the same with Indonesia, America and even the European union, everybody is trying to come together, why is it that in Africa and Nigeria, we are asking that our nationals should be divided. I think everybody should mind his language. The IPOB has been passing out a lot of threats and even trying to drag a part of the country who do not support their advocacy into Biafra like people of the South South. They say that the South South is part of Biafra which is not true. They say that the Igala people are part of them. They say that the Idoma people are part of them and it is not so. Why are they trying to rock the national boat; they should allow peace to reign. What the Arewa youths did is wrong but it is a consequence of what the IPOB has been doing. They were threatening people and trying to cause a civil war in the country.
What do you think is the cause of these sudden rise in tension and calls for disintegration in the country?
Some people are not happy that President Muhammadu Buhari won the 2015 presidential election. Some people are not happy that their access to making big money has been blocked. They are those who want to destabilise the country. Period! When Jonathan was in power, all the major positions were taken by the South East. Then, they were not talking and they were not asking for Biafra. Why did they have to wait until Buhari came to power before the agitation. It is the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) who are sponsoring these people.
But in your honest view, do you think the government is doing enough in the area of national unity and integration?
The government has done enough. We have the National Youth Service Corps(NYSC) and we have the Unity Schools. And in fact, the South East has been well integrated. They have been president of this country, Senate President of Nigeria, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Head of the Army, Police and so on. So, what do they want? They are everywhere. About 90 per cent of houses in Abuja are owned by them. In Kano, Lagos and everywhere, they are there. Let them not give the impression that they are very selfish people. Let them work with other people. They need Nigeria which is a big market and they are traders. They need the West African sub region. They need to work hard to preserve the corporate integrity of this country.
One burning issue in Nigeria today is restructuring. Except a few major power brokers, almost all major stakeholders in Nigeria are in support of restructuring the country, what is your own view?
Restructuring is the manifesto of the All Progressives Congress(APC). It is not a new thing. It is there. We envisioned it before but you have to look at the cost effect. The APC is just trying first to put the country together and thereafter, we would begin to look at restructuring.
The current administration headed by Muhammadu Buhari has spent two years in office, what is your assessment of the journey so far?
The government has done very well considering where we were coming from. Where were we coming from? It was a country that was on the brink. It was a country where Boko Haram had taken over two states; it was a country where the government could not pay salaries; it was a country where corruption was rife and so on. So, we have done very well taking into account where we were coming from and we would do more.
Despite your positive assessment of the administration, many think otherwise because Nigerians cannot find food on their tables?
When the PDP was in power for 16 years, was there food on the people’s table. The party made over N500 trillion from the sale of crude oil but they squandered all the money. We are working. Venezuela that was richer than Nigeria, in the country today, people are eating from the dustbin. But those who are crying in Nigeria that there is hunger are those who were used to free money. During the time of the PDP, there was money everywhere. People would go to the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) to collect foreign exchange and share. So, those who are saying there is hunger are those who were used to free money. I see a lot of food in Nigeria. If you go to the rural area, you see that there is food and that this government has diversified the economy into agriculture and farmers are making money.
One of the areas the government prides itself to have done well is in security but the herdsmen are the new face of terrorism. Are you not worried over the development as many believe that this government has recorded more deaths than any before it?
The issue of herdsmen has always been there. It was there during former President Jonathan’s time, during Yar’Adua’s time, and even during former President Obasanjo’s time. It is not a new issue. It is as old as Nigeria and it is something that Nigerians should join hands to address. Nobody should stigmatise Fulani herdsmen because they are Nigerians.
Many Nigerians are calling for the implementation of the 2015 National confab. Recently, the Senate joined the bandwagon and went further to call for the report. Do you think that it is time to implement the report?
It is not everybody that is in support of its implementation. If the Senate wants to look at a document, what is wrong with that? That does not mean that everybody supports the National confab. The convocation was not democratic and it is not a true reflection of the wishes of Nigerians. If the Senate calls for the confab report, so what? The call for the report does not mean that the National Assembly wants to adopt the report. It is the National Assembly that is empowered to change the constitution and not the National confab. The National confab can look at the Confab report as any other document or book but that does not translate to the report of the confab being adopted. If the confab report is adopted, it would still be the National Assembly that has the power to amend the constitution. People should stop being unnecessarily excited about the confab report. And in any case, the report cannot be the solution to the problems of Nigeria. The problem of Nigeria is our elite. If the elite become patriotic, hardworking and visionary, the problem of Nigeria would be solved. It is not even restructuring that would solve the problem of the country.
Do you have any fears about Nigeria?
Not at all, Nigeria has come to stay. I have no fears at all. Nigeria has come to stay.
What are the chances of the APC ahead of the next general elections?
Nigerians still love the APC. Why not for a party that has done very well? The APC has brought good governance and Nigerians would still vote for the party in 2019. It has brought good governance, responsibility, accountability and transparency in governance.
But are you not worried over the crisis in your party, the APC?
It is democratic. Crises are part of democracy. You agree to disagree.
On the road to 2019, what are your projections?
When we get to the bridge, we cross it.