Insecurity Has Assumed Alarming Dimension, Needs Urgent Attention – Barr. Onuora Odo
Onuora Odo, a firebrand Lagos based Human Rights Activist, Constitutional lawyer and a Youth Empowerment Advocate, spoke to P.M.EXPRESS on burning issues in the polity.
In this interview with our correspondent, he talked about the rising spate of insecurity, the ongoing strike by the Judiciary workers and other sundry issues of national importance.
How would you assess the rising spate of insecurity in Nigeria as currently constituted?
Let me start by saying that all is not well in Nigeria in terms of security and the general well-being of the country. Practically speaking, the security architecture of the country has crumbled almost beyond redemption. With the current trend of bombings, kidnappings, hostage taking, arson, armed robbery and all forms of carnages allegedly being perpetrated and perpetuated by suspected Fulani herdsmen, there is a persistent erosion on the foundation of unity in the country.
It’s no doubt that the issue of insecurity in Nigeria has assumed an alarming dimension with the recent proliferation of arms and free movement of aliens on our borders. The issue of insecurity has gotten to a point when both the rural and urban dwellers live in apprehension and perpetual fear. Apart from the general feelings of insecurity in the country, you can observe, sadly though that there is an attendant poor development and infrastructural deficit in the country. It’s pertinent to state that national security is a premise for national development. Peaceful nations attract foreign investors and no doubt, security is the pillar upon which every meaningful development could be achieved and sustained. With the spate of kidnappings and abductions, armed robbery, bombings and carnages of all forms and magnitude, there is an urgent need to rise to the occasion and address the issue headlong. We live in an era where youth restiveness is the order of the day. It’s obvious that one major remote cause of insecurity is graduate unemployment. The Government of the day should adopt drastic measures to contain the seemingly chaotic and combustible situation, if not, things will get out of hands.
Without sounding pessimistic, what’s happening now is a mere dress rehearsal of what is about to come.
As an activist and a Constitutional Lawyer, what do you suggest as the way forward for Nigerian judiciary,having been allegedly enmeshed in high level corruption?
It bleeds the heart that an institution that is saddled with the constitutional responsibility of dispensing justice has turned out to promote injustice and unfairness within its rank.
I must state that a compromised judiciary is threat to the same rule of law it’s required to uphold and enforce. It calls for interrogating of issues as the judiciary as a sacred institution is gradually sliding into a bottomless abyss. It’s becoming increasingly impossible to restore sanity to the judicial arm of the government. It’s really disturbing that the judiciary, the last bastion of the rule of law is being dragged into the crisis of nationhood. Quite unlike before, you can see nepotism, corruption, mediocrity and incompetence play out in the judiciary. For judiciary to come back to life, it must stay above dirty politics. Its gates must be locked against politicians by all means possible. It’s worrisome that when the 3rd Arm of the Government becomes a pawn in the hands of the politicians or becomes openly mired in politics to the irritating extent that its impartiality and independence becomes a subject of analysis, speculation and even protests. Judges should be men of impeccable pedigree, unimpeachable in terms of integrity, most deserving of their positions and of such moral and professional competence to be able to deliver justice without prejudice. Recently, there was allegation of politicization of the appointment process of judges. There is no doubt that the appointment of judges has been mired in irregularities. The judiciary has been traumatized, bastardized and starved of funds. While I strongly advocate that the selection process of judges should be merit-based, the judiciary should be seen to be truly independent in strict compliance with the constitution.
It has been a challenging moment for the Judges, Lawyers and litigants alike due to the total lock-down of Courts all over the federation as a result of strike by the judicial workers. What do you have to say?
It has been a very delicate rope for lawyers to navigate through in view of the industrial action by the judiciary workers.
I hold the view that the ongoing industrial action by the Judiciary workers is for the benefit of Lawyers, Judges, litigants and the Legal profession at large as a way of addressing the real issues once and for all. Indeed, it has been a very turbulent experience for all the critical stakeholders in the Justice system. With Covid-19 ravaging the effectiveness of justice administration coupled with the wanton looting of and arson upon the Courts in some parts of country during the #EndSARS protests, a strike action at this period in our national history is seen as an overkill, especially for the masses whose hope is the Court. The timing is the major concern. The Government of the day should look into the demands as the judiciary should have the power over its budget and spending.
It’s my belief that judicial independence cannot be measured by funding alone but also in the willingness to obey and abide by all decisions and orders of the Court.
What’s your take on the state of our electoral system?
Truth be told, the state of our electoral system as currently constituted is appalling. It’s sad to note that our history with elections is nothing to cheer about. Judging from the recent elections in the country, it’s apparent that something is inherently wrong with the system. The conduct of elections in Nigeria been a case of trial and error. Our elections have been enmeshed in irregularities. Early steps should be taken to ensure adequacy and availability of election materials in order to address some of the logistics issues that have become a recurring decimal in the conduct of elections in the past. There is no gainsaying the fact that elections are becoming increasingly mired by violence. There is an urgent need to overhaul the electoral system. In the same manner, there is need for a continuous voter registration so as to ensure a more elaborate voter participation. There is need for national dialogue on electoral reforms. INEC, as a Commission should live to its bidding as the repository of a public trust. A lot of ugly things happen during and after elections. We observe things like open purchase of votes, hijack of electoral materials by area boys, hostage taking of INEC staff, attacks on observers, intimidation of voters, underaged voting widespread stuffing of ballot boxes, ballot snatching and multiple voting and in all these, we surprisingly observe a direct complicity of security agencies in giving leeway to hoodlums to disrupt elections.
Political alignments and re-alignments are on top gear preparatory to 2023 general elections. What’s your take on Igbo Presidency?
As a build up to the 2023 general elections, there have been calls to zone the No. 1 seat to the South East in the interest of fairness and justice. Let me start by saying that Igbo Presidency is not the solution to the myriads of problems facing Nigeria. The search for and installation of peace within Nigeria is no doubt, the fulcrum upon which the entire weight of our national aspiration balances. We must commit ourselves and our entire energy to finding a viable solutions to our predicament. Our problem is hydra headed to the extent and cannot only be resolved by zoning the Presidency to the South East.
However, we need to tell ourselves the truth, ask pertinent questions and resolve to understand ourselves as a basis for our continued meaningful co-existence. I am persuaded to believe that giving the South Eastern part of the country to produce the next President will go a long way in calming frayed nerves and addressing some pockets of agitations and grievances. Political parties are encouraged to cede their their Presidential tickets to the South East as a way of re-integrating them into the mainstream of Nigerian polity.
Without being told, it’s clear even to the blind that the Igbos have not been fairly treated in the national scheme of things.
We have been shortchanged, having drifted away from the national political equation. Sadly, we are holding the shorterend of the stick.
As the ball for the 2023 Presidential election is about to be set rolling, there have been pockets of agitations and threats of secession by some ethnic groups. What’s your take on this?
I am not an advocate of balkanization and or secession. I belong to the class that shares the belief that unity of this great country can be negotiated. Unity cannot be forced or decreed. It’s no doubt that there are pockets of agitations from almost every quarter. That is always the case with countries that lack sufficient homogeneity. With this kind of trend, there can be no appeal to patriotism or national vision and aspiration. The Federal Government should wake up in the area of national orientation. It’s not about parroting that Nigerian unity is not negotiable but to interrogate the basis of that unity and proffer lasting solution that will rally every Nigerian to the unity table.