Tuesday, October 8, 2019


What the Former Imo State Attorney General and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Professor Francis Dike said in an interview with Raphael Ede that they failed to ask why Nigeria went from United to Indivisible. Nigeria failed because of personal, cultural and ethnic interests instead of pursuing national interests.

Where were you when Nigeria gained independence?

"I was born on September 17, 1940. I was in my final year at Baptist High School, Port Harcourt and preparing for Cambridge Overseas School Certificate. 1960 was a very exciting year for us in the college. We had a classmate that was nicknamed October One. There was something great in the air – Nigeria. We had a united Nigeria. The pupils came from different parts of the country and we lived in peace. Interestingly, I was regarded as a Kaduna boy because I was born in Kaduna. I spent my holidays in Kaduna and we travelled by rail."

What was the hope at the time?

"Ghana got its independence in 1957. The secondary schools then were learning centres because we could discuss world affairs. I remember our teacher telling us that in the comity of nations, Ghana would be there at the table while Nigeria would be like a servant but all that changed in 1960. From the song – Island in the sun by Harry Belaforte, we coined ‘Giant in the sun’.

Today, we talk about indivisible Nigeria. We fail to ask why it went from ‘united’ to ‘indivisible’. Indivisible is being touted by persons who know the country is fractured but don’t want to admit why it is so. There is no reason for me to be proud of Nigeria. I grew up in England and know what it takes to give the citizenry a sense of belonging and ownership of the country. That doesn’t exist in Nigeria. Only those who claim that Nigeria is indivisible want the status quo to remain and they don’t love the country."

You said that you don’t see any reason why one should be proud of Nigeria.

"I don’t see any reason. I am not. I will always tell the younger ones that unless they make efforts to change the situation as our generation has put them into shame, they will have no country to call theirs."

How do think Nigeria has fared so far compared with the hopes you had in 1960?

"It has failed because instead of pursuing national interests, we started pursuing personal, cult and ethnic interests. In those years, youths pursued national interests. There was only one university – in fact, it was even a College of London University – the University College Ibadan. It was a source of pride. At independence, Nigeria wanted to enter into “Anglo/Nigeria Defence Pact”. It was Ibadan students that opposed it and marched against it. The government dropped the idea. Mark you, we read about these things when we were in secondary school – no TV or radio.

We only had newspapers in our school libraries. Today, even so-called graduates don’t care about what is going on and this suits the powers that be. Those who protest are beaten up, arrested and/or locked up. It is our generation that is doing this to them. We saw protests by blacks in the US, the Black Power of Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael. We saw youths in Hong Kong, US, Britain and everywhere. In Enugu at that time, the Mayor was Umaru Altine. He defeated Igbo people in the mayoral election.

Today as an Igbo man, if I go to the North, there will be fear that one man may get up tomorrow and say all Igbo people should leave. The northerners in Igboland will also have fears of reprisal. Is this not enough to get into any thick head that we don’t have a country belonging to everyone? I belong only to a component and others see me as that and I see them as only belonging to a component part of an aggregate? Nobody belongs to the aggregate. I regret this is the country we are leaving to our children. It is a disaster and a fractionalised country."

What factors do you think are responsible for Nigeria’s failure to do so, to live up to that expectation?

"After the Nigerian Civil War, we moved towards the presidential system of government. It just created a situation of ‘winner takes it all’."

So why did the regions accept the 1999 constitution?

"I don’t think anybody accepted it. You don’t accept an imposition; you just live with it and jettison it when the time comes. This is the time to do so.

You have seen the kind of debates they have at the British Parliament, the dedication of the people and the preparedness. As an undergraduate, I got to know that members the British Parliament had free tickets to travel to London and back for sittings. In the US, some members of Congress slept in their offices, squatted with others or shared flats to attend sittings. In Nigeria, the situation is different. They live and own mansions, are paid more than the wages of 10 per cent or even up to 20 per cent of their constituency in some cases.

They have not contributed anything to warrant being paid the money they get. The quality of our representation at the national, state and local government levels is nothing to write home about."

What are the other factors responsible for the country’s failures?

"First, we don’t have separation of powers. The executive does not confine itself to its responsibilities but prefers to control the legislature and the courts. And because the legislature is made of the kind of people I have already described, they are not strong enough to resist the executive. Then the two of them want to intimidate the judiciary. If everybody is doing their job in accordance with the separation of powers, we will have a very strong government and the people will reap the benefits.

As an undergraduate in England, we used to discuss the future of the developing world at the students’ union. I remember vividly the belief held during a discussion that three countries had the potentialities of being world powers – South Africa under the apartheid, Brazil and Nigeria.

Today, Nigeria is even worse. Instead of improving, it has become a laughing stock. There is a Chinese saying that ‘a fish gets rotten from the head’. So it is not the people but the leadership that should take responsibility for this."

Do you still believe Nigeria can be united again?

"Let us realise that when we are crying that Nigeria is indivisible, we should know why we are crying and the answer is that it is fractured. If we are aware of this, then we can start solving the problem. Then we can say this is what the people want. Let me tell you, the present political structure must be restructured. If we are going to have six geo-political zones, let it be. To talk of being indivisible is not the answer and it won’t solve our problems.

In 1707, the Acts of Union of England and Scotland provided that the union shall be indissoluble and shall remain forever. In 2014, there was a referendum on whether Scotland should remain in the union. The best union is always the one freely entered into and it is strange to think that in this modern time, you can compel people to adhere to something that is not their making and which they manifestly say hurt them while the other person says ‘I know but it will remain so till the time of your children’s children’. This should be regarded as gathering dark clouds.

Another problem is the executive not thinking that court orders must be obeyed. Youths must protest and show their anger over what is happening, and to charge them with treason is ridiculous. What treason, what arms have they got? Is Nigeria just a weak country that government can be overthrown by Omoyele Sowore just saying the word – revolution? The nation must be strong enough to face criticisms. Sowore cannot even overthrow an autonomous community in Igboland let alone overthrow the government of Nigeria."

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