Former National Legal Adviser to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Kaduna State, Mark Jacobs, has admitted some persons in his party made mistakes that led to the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the government at the center. In this first part of an exclusive interview with our Managing Editor, IBANGA ISINE, the PDP chieftain says: APC Government is Sinking Nigeria
NE: It is exactly two years since the All Progressives Congress-led government took over power at the centre. What is your impression of the government so far?
Well, my impression is from the standpoint of a citizen and not necessarily as a political opponent. Once elections are over, I like to see myself as a citizen and I address issues from that perspective. I must say very frankly that this country has redoubled its steps backward. We are backward virtually in every sector. We have seen an unprecedented and drastic reversal of fortunes, particularly of the poor. People are struggling to meet the ordinary demands of food and shelter. We have seen a total devaluation of human life whereby Nigerians die by hundreds and it looks normal. That is why a government in a state and at the federal level would only be bothered about figures when they heard people have been killed or an attacked had happened. The only question that draws the attention of officials at the federal and state levels is ‘how many people were killed?’ It is shocking that a country that has known peaceful coexistence is now being driven apart and the people are harshly coming to terms with the reality of division. The gulf between people is no longer economic but mostly on religious and tribal bases. Our differences have been heightened by this administration and it is such a terrible and fearful situation. For me, Nigeria has never had it this bad. Not even when we were under the military. Our differences have been heightened by lopsided appointments and irresponsible actions of state actors. It is unthinkable that in Nigeria you have state actors kill over 300 people in a single day and it was as if nothing happened and people have been trying to explain it away. I am talking about the Shiite Moslems, who were mowed down in broad daylight by state actors and when you come to Southern Kaduna, within one year, several villages have been attacked, some twice or thrice. Sometimes, they launch an attack, retreat and reinforce and then come again to finish what they had started. And you have people in government who turn a blind eye to these atrocities. Gradually, we are gravitating towards lawlessness and the disobedience to lawful orders of the courts and a general feeling of impunity, particularly by the executive arm of the government. They do whatever they want to do and explain it away. We have situations where the courts have granted bails to people who are standing trial on suspicion of being corrupt. But the federal and state governments will refuse to obey such orders and then have the temerity to go back to the same courts to ask for justice in their own cases. It’s such a hideous situation. But my biggest worry is that gradually, persons, groups, and professional associations have refused to speak up against the atrocities. During the military regimes, human right activists, non-governmental organisations, and civil rights organisations campaigned and stood up for what was right irrespective of the tribe, region or the state they came from. Today, atrocities are being committed by the state and nobody is saying anything. The voice of reason has died and only very few people now stand up to speak the truth to power. I don’t know where we are heading but it is a scary future I see.
NE: This administration is just two years in power and so would you be right to blame it for everything when your party was in power for 16 years and couldn’t solve the country’s problems. Now you want them to solve all the problems in two years, why?
Nobody is saying all the problems should be solved. But I am saying that more problems should not be created. If you come into a house with the intention of repairing it and the initial damage was a leaking roof, suddenly the entire roof is removed, the ceiling is gone and furniture is being taken away, it is not repairs but chaos that you have brought. You have not repaired anything. It is very probable that they were sectors that were wrong during the previous administration and I will not hold brief for anybody. But I do not agree because some wrongs were done, you come and exacerbate the situation. This country has never been this horribly managed. There is no doubt some people could have misbehaved or misruled in their little circles of power but I can tell you there is a holistic attempt now to destroy everything and it looks like the agenda is to cripple the country and reduce it to nothing. Within two years, the damage that has been caused to the very fabric of this country is much more than what had been done in 25 years. I am speaking with every sense of responsibility. I am over 50 years now and had seen the military rule and I have been a part of a civilian government. I know we never had it this bad and where the government appears deliberately unconcerned about the life and welfare of citizens and where people are only concerned about retaining power and using it maximally for personal and set goals beneficial to certain groups and people. The government is so crassly irresponsible that anybody in the government will like to put the blame on the previous government. When you talk about PDP being in power for 16, that is true. But anybody alive between 1999 to 2015 knows that there were definite goals and targets set by the administrations of different presidents that ruled the country. They were plans and people could ascertain such plans. But this government came with a push and start strategy. You wake up every day and find new things being introduced. They don’t follow their plans through and before you know it, policies are dropped, raw statements are made. They talk more than a government should be talking. When you look at the budget of the ministry of information, you find it shocking that more funds have been dedicated to the manipulation of information than funds made available for social engineering and the welfare of the citizenry.
NE: The corruption war is one of the things the administration has presented in its scorecard. Don’t you think they have made significant gains in that direction?
I choose to see what they are doing as a fight against personality and not against corruption. If you want to fight corruption, you first strengthen the anti-corruption institutions. The last time I checked, all the dedicated anti-corruption institutions in the country were set up by the PDP government and they inherited them. Suddenly, those bodies now take instructions from the presidency. You wake up every day and hear them say Mr. President has approved the investigation of so and so person. It is not just strange but also an antithesis to the fight against corruption. The president and those around him are politicians and once the fight against corruption draws strength from a politician, it is lost. Whether you like it or not, it will become partisan and the records are there. So far, who are those the EFCC is harassing? They are non-APC members. Largely, it has been those the president has fingered for being either against him or not cooperating with him and that is where the judiciary comes in. Immediately the president said the judiciary is the problem in the fight against corruption, the next thing was the houses of judges and justices were broken into at midnight with mask and heavily armed security operatives. Doors were broken and judges were arrested like common thieves. At the end, they came out with bundles of various currencies. Is that how to fight corruption? It is only in this country that people are first arrested for crimes before they are investigated. They arrest, detain, castigate the people, pronounce them guilty on pages of newspapers and then start an investigation. It is strange and embarrassing that before a man is being tried, he had been convicted on newspapers pages and by journalists.
You don’t fight corruption by just targeting individuals and subjecting them to public ridicule. When last did we hear of the trail of most of the arrested justices? They have been no trial. About eight months are gone since they were arrested and for most of them, their cases are yet to take off because it was after they were arrested and showcased as criminals that the relevant agencies started an investigation. And I suspect that when the investigation started, they ran into a brick wall and this has always been the case with most of the celebrated cases the EFCC have brought to public attention. Nigerians should begin to question why the arrests of people are heralded only to be unable to proceed with their trials. This is part of the commando style we have seen in this government. And it is ongoing. For me, there is nothing like fighting corruption, rather people who are perceived to be anti-government or members of the opposition party have been targeted. I make bold to say, why do you target those who handled the finances of the campaign organisation of the opposition party during the last election without also investigating those who handled the finances of the campaign of your own political party? Are they saying the money used for the APC campaign came from heaven? People contributed it and state actors, governors, senators, ministers, public servants and even civil servants who are still serving are known to have contributed money to the campaign of the current administration. Why are they not being investigated? When you want to fight against corruption, for God’s sake, the EFCC should be sincere. They must be a display of transparency and should not be what people would dismiss with the wave of the hand. But that is exactly what is happening. Nobody needs to be taught or go to school to understand that truly, there is no fight against corruption in Nigeria but a fight against some persons. When they suspect a person is going to be a problem to their party or government, they go after him. When somebody speaks out to condemn some of the actions of the administration, he will be targeted and this cannot be a fight against corruption.
NE: On May 30, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) called for a stay at home to commemorate the 50thAnniversary of the Civil War and the police issued a statement warning the people not to sit at home. Did the police have the right to do so?
The action of the police was laughable. It was a huge joke. If the people said they were not coming out of their houses, how does that offend the law? How does that affect the police and attract their warning? If I decide not to go out of my house today ortomorrow or for the next one week, that is my business and it is my right. When I heard what the police authorities were saying I was very ashamed because they cannot force people out of their homes if they decide not to go out but that is just the extent to which this administration has lost it. They don’t even interpret ordinary things correctly. The best anybody could have done was to plead for the protest to be shelved or done differently and not to begin to warn people about staying at home. Staying at home is a choice and am happy the threat was ignored because it was a useless thing anybody could have conceived. For the first time, we are having a very clear signal from groups like IPOB who put their feet down to make a point. I respect that a lot and shows that we can make our points without necessarily resorting to violence. I respect those who organised the sit at home and take on issues affecting the nation. Nigerians should be bold enough to put their feet down and call this government or any government to order. The voices of reason must for God sake be heard whether they are faith-based organisations or civil society groups and individuals. Nigerians were proud to say ‘no, what is happening in Cameroon and in Togo cannot happen in Nigeria,’ because of the level of our development and education. Nigerians are known to be very clear and vocal when it comes to the issue of human rights, when it comes to the rule of law and when it comes to equal rights and justice. But gradually, such voices are going down and so the action of IPOB/MASOB is certainly a wakeup call to Nigerians that there is the need to raise voices when things are going wrong particularly when a government is going astray. If citizens don’t learn to speak out, only God knows where the government will take us.
…To be continued tomorrow