It’s embarrassing to declare Amotekun illegal —Babatope
ASTUTE politician and lawyer, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, is seriously disturbed by the multifaceted challenges facing the country and offers his opinions on the way forward, in this interview by KUNLE ODEREMI.
There are diverse views on the role the judiciary has continued to play in deepening democracy in Nigeria since 1999. As a lawyer and astute politician, how do you think it has played such critical role in the light of the recent judgment of the Supreme Court on the governorship election in Imo State, which has propelled Senator Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to power in a dramatic manner?
The issue is curious and astounding. I know the issue is going to be in the public domain for some time to come because of the circumstances that surround the matter. I have spoken sufficiently on it. I am a lawyer; so let the judiciary continue to play pranks. As far as I know that one particular time in the history of this country, God almighty will preserve democracy for the people of Nigeria. I can say it without any iota of contradiction that we don’t have democracy now. Rather, what is trending is that you keep having contradictory judgments left, right and centre. But it doesn’t matter because I know and I’m convinced that in no distant time, God will restore democracy in Nigeria, as we do not have it now. Democracy is about the will and rights of the people.
Are you sure we do not have democracy sir, as the series of judgments delivered by the election petition tribunals and the Appeal Court and Supreme Court often go either way? Don’t you feel the judiciary has been fair and fair to the concerned parties?
It is a laughable matter. And there are a number of examples and instances. But the one that has astounded me and would have sent me to my early grave as I set to mark my 77th birthday was the judgment on the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal case. I would never in my lifetime, until I enter the Kingdom of God forget it. The Supreme Court ruled against the Peoples Democratic Party in Osun State because they said one judge did not come to attend a meeting of the tribunal. And that technicality made us to lose the seat. Well, it doesn’t matter. Like I said earlier, I know that one day, the dark era will come to an end when God will restore democracy in favour of the Nigerian people. I am still bewildered by the Osun matter and I know that all they (Supreme Court) have been doing in Imo State and other places is not right. But let’s hope things are going to improve because we believe in the unity of Nigeria; it must remain one indivisible entity. Like I said, one day, God will restore democracy for the people of Nigeria.
I leave what happened in Imo State to posterity and I leave it to the Nigerian people because it is astonishing that a Number Four man has suddenly become the Number One also on technicalities when the Supreme Court tried to count votes. What we have been told about the Supreme Court before now was that it never recognises the issue of technicalities. Now, the Supreme Court is applying technicalities. I know Senator Hope Uzodinma (now Governor of Imo State); he is not a bad person. We do not belong to the same political party but that judgment is astonishing: Number Four suddenly became Number one! Was it that (the hitherto governor) Emeka Ihedioha did not have supporters in any of those electoral centres where elections were cancelled? Are we saying Ihedioha could not secure a single vote from a total of 288 electoral centres? That is curious. Indeed, there are more questions than answers. They mean Ihedioha could not have got one vote from the entire polling centres. It amazes me. All I can say is that Nigeria is in the hands of God. I believe in the unity of the country and I believe that our fathers: Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, all of blessed memory Nigeria must remain as one country. However, when we see things that are embarrassing and abnormal, we must speak out. In the next five days, I will be 77 years of age so, I know what I am talking about.
There has been a rash of protests in the streets of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja and the six states in the South-East zone over perceived injustice in the Imo State matter. On its part, the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is demanding a judicial review of the judgment ostensibly to right the perceived wrong. Do you see any prospect in the suggestion by the PDP?
I cannot use this platform to go against my party but honestly speaking, I don’t like that path. The Supreme Court as far as I’m concerned, ids the apex-court in Nigeria. You are going to review, where has it happened? My party has spoken on the issue and I must go along with it. But where has it happened? The apex court gave a judgment and you now say go and review. All we can say is to condemn how the Supreme Court has arrived at its judgment. They are now upholding technicalities and supreme in their mind while giving judgment. It is very embarrassing and astonishing.
The launching of the regional security outfit, Amotekun has elicited a lot of public interest and comment. How proper is the initiative, which the Minster of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, described as illegal.Do you agree with him?
I love Amotekun very well. I pray the governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples democratic Party (PDP) who have come together to form Amotekun. Anything about security must be taken as sovereign in this country. And I want to make reference to an example. Some years ago, my friend, who is now late, Lam Adesina was governor of Oyo State. Our current president, Muhammadu Buhari, led a delegation to Lam Adesina to protest that Fulani were being maltreated in Oke Ogun part of Oyo State. It is interesting that the same president now is also saying the actions of some people to enhance protect peace and unity of this country are illegal. It is very interesting! Lam Adesina was surprised by the action of the president then. He was surprised that such action could come from a former Head of State and an elder statesman. And what happened in Oke Ogun that time? Lam Adesina was trying to maintain peace, and again, the Yoruba have no problem with the Fulani. No! We are not against anybody in Nigeria. We want to live well with everybody. Maybe, we need to remind the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of justice, President Buhari and others that the principal duty of any party in government is to ensure the safety and security of its people. That is the primary responsibility of a government, but you are now saying that an attempt by the governors of the South-West made up of five APC and one PDP that they are wrong. Honestly, I find it astonishing and embarrassing. I’m sure that somebody is already predicting the future because the future of the country, based on the decision, is evil and bad. So, I support the decision of the South-West governors and I pray for them, as I pray for the South-West because we have never wronged anybody and anybody who wrongs us will definitely be found guilty by God.
With the successful launch of Operation Amotekun in the South-West, what should be the next line of action by the governors in view of the chained of reactions trailing the initiative?
They have sustain their supreme interest and comfort in securing the safety of their people. You will recall the various shapes and signs of worsening insecurity in the South-West. You will also recall how Mrs Funke Olukunrin, the daughter of the leader of Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti was murdered in this country and in the South-West to be precise and you are asking the South-West governors to keep quiet. Not only that, many of our people have been gruesomely killed, kidnapped and you ask us to keep quiet. We are not going to fight any war; we don’t want war in this country again. But for goodness sake, Amotekun is God’s own solution put into the hands, minds and mouths of the South-west governors to preserve the unity and peace of the Nigerian people. Let Nigeria remain united but let us respect the fact that everybody has the right to live their own lives.