Raises the Alarm Country Could Collapse Before Six Months.
Says Nigeria of 1982 Better Than That of Today.
Erudite lawyer and senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Robert Clarke, may be stirring the hornet’s nest with his rather radical solution to the present comatose state of the nation, especially the worsening insecurity. Clarke, who spoke in an interview on Channels Television current affairs programme, Sunday Politics, advocated a declaration of a state of emergency in Nigeria and military takeover of government for a period of four years, stating with a sense of urgency, “Let us take the risk; it is a risk worth taking”. Arguing that “A dangerous disease demands a dangerous way of dealing with it,” he warned that “Nigeria is on the brink of collapse” and may not survive another six months. The octogenarian legal luminary dismissed the feasibility of another national conference to discuss the future of the country, declaring that “It’s not possible” because according to him, “today in Nigeria, nothing is holding us together again”.
Clarke, who was asked for his view on the warning to politicians over perceived incendiary utterances, by the Department of State Security, DSS, in a statement on Sunday, said “The problem in Nigeria is people who should know, who ought to know but do not know. The security section is talking and talking and talking. What are they doing? The situation in this country today is so bad that I, Robert Clarke, I cannot guarantee Nigeria staying another six months. The problems are so overwhelming and they have been created by these same politicians. Since the 1999 constitution came into being and this crop of politicians, young boys then, who were swimming in Abacha’s loot and trying to form as many political parties for him, got into money, and came into politics, Nigeria has never been the same”.
Asserting that Nigeria is worse than it was in 1982, he insisted that “1982 when Shagari was the president of the country is a better Nigeria than today, 2021. What is the cause? The cause is the leadership we have. Now, I am going to propose about this security. I don’t know whether I may be right; I don’t know whether I may be wrong. If anybody feels I’m right, thank God. If they feel I’m not right, let them tell me. Now, there is no gainsaying that Nigeria is on the brink of collapse. I have, seven years ago, about 70 percent interest in this present government; today, I don’t have 10 percent interest in this government again. I don’t have 10 percent interest in its leadership. Something has to be done and these are my solutions:
“Anybody who feels I’m wrong, let him tell me. Nigeria has to be changed; Nigeria has to be changed from what it is today and the only way to change it is to create a state that would make 1999 constitution ungovernable for its existence. We want a state of emergency to be created in Nigeria today. How do we do it? That is the question. Many times when I say about third forces, I was joking then. But let me be realistic now. Under the Nigerian constitution as it is today, the president who is the commander-in-chief, has the powers to delegate all his huge powers to the chief of defence staff. Let him now talk to the president of the senate, let him now talk to the speaker of the House and all his speakers and governors, that a state of emergency is going to be created in Nigeria next week, which means all governors must go; all legislators must go.
“Now, the military will now set up what we call the six geographical zones that we believe in our hearts still exist; but let us start from there and allow, like was done by Obasanjo during the Plateau period , allow a military governance over these states. Reduce Nigeria to six states, I can assure you the day Nigeria is reduced to six states, and there is a state of emergency, 80 percent of the money being spent for governance would return back to the treasury. So all this talk, I can’t pay wages, I can pay this, is all nonsense. The money is available there, only politicians are using this money for other purposes. Therefore, if a state of emergency is created in the six regions in Nigeria, all monies that are due for keeping that government that is under suspension, is now available. I can assure you, backlog of wages would be paid; nobody would be owed any money.
“Then we can sit down and rejig Nigeria. Let every state in the six zones, control their internal resources. People with oil and gas, let them control it; people with gold, let them control it. There is no part in Nigeria, of all the six geographical zones that I am talking about, that cannot survive because there are so many things to live on”.
Asked pointedly if he was canvassing military takeover of government, Clarke answered in the affirmative, but was quick to add that “Temporarily, temporarily; the military will take over temporarily; get Nigeria back into six states which can be done by decree through the power vested in the military by the president which I have said, I think under subsection 3 of section 129 that gives you the power to give out such power. So, there is the legitimacy involved in it and let us start from there”. He dismissed the possibility of ending banditry, stating that “Nobody is going to stop banditry in Nigeria today because it’s a lucrative business. Look at what is happening in the eastern region; it is no more even banditry; it’s becoming a civil war. Many things are happening and if care is not taken, and I swear by my father in the grave, Nigeria will collapse in six months time. We must stop it. We can stop it”.
On whether this solution would not cause more chaos, Clarke posited that “These people have failed us. For 21, 22, to 23 years, they have failed us so they don’t have any mouth to talk again. A solution must be found out; there is problem. Divide Nigeria into six states, create a state of emergency; allow Mr. President to stay and remain as the head of the army while every other duty to return the country to a new civilian form of government is ready to be done. Let me assure you, there is nothing the DSS can do here rather than looking at people who have been criticizing government; people who don’t want governors to stay again, people who don’t want ministers to stay. These are the people they are looking forward to. Or they are looking for these rascals. They call them rascals but they are useful rascals to many of us – looking for them because they are bullying down the government. But the government has not performed. So, they cannot talk, they should be ashamed. Let the people talk now. Create a state of emergency.
“Tell SSS to go and sit aside… Each state will have its police; each state will have its control of resources, and the federal government will control, under international law, oil and gas that emanates from the international zone accredited to it by international law”.
Defending the constitutionality of his suggestion, Clarke noted that “There are three or four ways to create confusion in Nigeria. To create a state of emergency, one, like it happened in October; it can happen anytime and it can create a state of anarchy. Two, the labour union can start one. Anybody can start it. What I’m saying is that the constitution allows it to happen. If Obasanjo did it to Dariye, and nobody talked, and the National Assembly voted for it, why are they not ready to vote for it now?”
Explaining how this would work, Clarke stated that “Under the military law in Nigeria, the president general has under the law, there’s a paragraph in section 129 that says he has the power to delegate, in an emergency, all his executive powers – field powers – to the chief of army staff. And once he does that, then he ceases to hold that power, and let the army deal with the matter. It is constitutional. All governors must go, all president of Assembly, they must all go. The solution is right in our eyes.
“A dangerous disease demands a dangerous way of dealing with it. The Chinese people say to build, you must destroy. So, we have to destroy that entity, Nigeria that was created by the constitution of 1999. It must be destroyed; it’s a rotten egg. If it is destroyed, a caretaker committee now goes there, created by the constitution too through the act of the president, allow the military to have oversight functions, rule over these six states, appoint their own commissioners, and give them four years, hold another election under a referendum of a new constitution for Nigeria”.
Reacting to a question on the feasibility of holding another conference to talk, he retorted: “My friend Fela, said kosheshe; it’s not possible. Look, I am 83 years of age; I have seen everything. I can tell you that today in Nigeria nothing is holding us together again. We are being held by a group or bunch of people who can never change because they are making money. Not the politicians; I’m talking of the bandits. I’m talking of the guerillas; they are making money. Nobody can change their mind again because the politicians are not giving them the money they used to give. Let us be realistic”.
Clarke who did not see the present National Assembly giving the country a new constitution because they are benefitting from the present one, spoke on how he advised former president, Goodluck Jonathan on what to do with the outcome of the 2014 national conference. According to him, “I was not Jonathan’s lawyer in 2014. I became Jonathan’s lawyer immediately he left power and only for 16 months because I recommended to him. I warned when he set up that committee that odongbodoru – zero times zero is zero.
“Before you can set up a committee, you must give it a legal basis upon which any recommendation can be made. My suggestion then was … set up a committee. Send a bill to the House that I intend to set up this committee; I intend them to propose a new thing to Nigeria. I intend that whatever you propose, we will be taking it to a referendum, but give me the legal basis that when I do this thing, everything we do will become the law. It will be brought back to you in the National Assembly because this National Assembly will never change this constitution. They are benefitting from it.
“We all see officials going to Dubai to do 80th birthday for their mothers; doing birthday for their girl friends. This is a rotten society. We must stop it…And may God in His infinite mercy open every Nigerian’s eyes to take a dramatic, a surgical approach. We are not asking the military to come and rule us; we are giving them a time-frame of four years and so there is no problem”.
Buttressing his statement that Nigeria of 1982 was better than the Nigeria of 2021, Clarke challenged anybody who would want to contradict him, to “Go and do any research. Nigeria Airways, we had almost 18 flights; Nigerian Shipping Line, we had about three ships, and we had Ajaokuta or something. This president in ‘99 came they started selling all these things; today, all the good things that were done by Shagari and the military, all to no avail. The only remaining thing, they will start selling the third mainland bridge”.