Prince Bola Ajibola, SAN, a scion of the Owu Royal Family in Ogun State, was president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, at the advent of the Muhammadu Buhari military administration in 1984.
He subsequently became minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, AGF in the Ibrahim Babangida military regime that ousted Buhari from power.
Ajibola’s legal expertise was subsequently offered to the international community when he was appointed a judge of the International Court of Justice, ICJ between 1991 and 1994. Prince Ajibola founded the Crescent University, Abeokuta, Nigeria’s first Islamic University in 2005 and is currently living out his retirement in Abeokuta. Ajibola, in this interview, blasts political and religious leaders, who he accused of making inflammatory comments and trying to break up Nigeria. He heaps the blame of the crisis in Kaduna, Rivers State and other related crises on them and warns them to stop because division will not help the country.
On the state of the nation
This country has many good things that other great nations don’t have. If you look at it from that angle, you would see that in only few cases you have one indigenous, exclusive people living together in a country.
They all, invariably, came together to live together, to work together, to cooperate with each other and have good understanding, not killing each other.
All this aggression, all this violence, all this disturbing situation should not happen.
I was reading something that was written by (a former minister); it was highly disturbing and quite treasonable, in which he was suggesting that we should all come out in arms against ourselves. That will not cure the situation.
What will cure the situation?
Looking for a peaceful means of settling the disputes would be a better and advisable option. It is not good for people to continue to harbour Boko Haram insurgents. We should look for a way of reforming them. We should let them know that they are just doing things that are satanic and and so, they should desist from doing so such things because what they are doing is absolutely wrong.
When I was in the Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta, even the bad boys, once they were submerged into incessant preaching about the bad things of life, they stopped i and started to behave better.
And that helped because a lot of us that graduated from that school became good people in all the places we went. And as a result, it gave us the impetus to bring up good students in our own universities.
It is a good idea that we must always find a positive way of addressing matters rather than the negative way. The negative way will lead us to death and destruction of our people. It will lead us to a radical annihilation of our people.
It is not good to continue to propagate the idea that we should continue to kill ourselves. We should find a way of settling these disputes.
What is propping these kind of herdsmen, I don’t know. But they should find out. Is it not guns or cutlasses that they are using? Why not ensure that they don’t get these weapons? They can remove all these guns and cutlasses and stop encouraging them from killing themselves or killing other people.
It can be done by simple persuasion and telling them that what they are doing is bad.
We are doing that in our university (Crescent University Abeokuta) and we are getting good result.
There was a time that there was riot in the North and at that time students of many universities around were on holidays. All the students joined in the riot except the students from our own school, the Crescent University, Abeokuta.
They told them: “We are not joining you because we have been told in our university not to be part of things like this.” The man who came to tell us about this happened to be the governor.
So, it is a matter of trying to educate these youths about these evils and to refrain from violent and terrible acts.
Look at the United Kingdom, they have the Wales, the English, the Scottish, the Irish, they are still there living together, developing the whole place and that is just an Island and they have been able to live together. America is even broader than that.
They have everybody from everywhere and they are still there living together. Obama the outgoing President of America is from Nairobi in Kenya.
So, Nigeria, all these incited violence and killings must stop because ours cannot be different from the rest of the world. We must be able to learn to live together.
There is no problem with our nation’s structure. The problem with our country is with the people themselves powered by those who are fanning the embers of hatred and discord among us. We must learn to realise all these and be educated that there is no sense in killing ourselves.
There are many nations in the world, many nationalities living together and developing their nations together. What would we give as justification for our own? Religion? You can’t give religion as justification for the violence.
Those religious leaders, who are making issues should check themselves and they will see that there is no reason for all that they are doing. Ethnicity?
This country needs a lot of education and there has been a lot of education, it is just that some people, who benefit from our downfall and crisis don’t want us to live in peace as a people and the government of Nigeria must be able to stand stronger to do this. It is sad!
But what do you say to people who say that Nigeria is too big or is not well structured, that the only way it can develop is to break up?
That is petty. That is childish. If you look around the world, you will see that living together, in fact, has generated a lot of developments because people from different areas have found the ideas of living together in peace and harmony and they have lived competitively.
And that condition has even developed and has allowed them to grow.
Therefore, separating and dividing can only give rise minor groups. They will not develop at all. And that is a fact because united we stand, divided we fall. In any given place, unity is strength and coming together forges that unity.
On dangers of Nigeria’s breakup.
If you start breaking up, the sections will also find another means of breaking themselves up and the breaking up will become endless and we will become like Yugoslavia where you see Bosnia, Macedonia, and the rest.
And they will continue to break and break and break. And so, those who are fighting should be called to order and asked to stop. We should stop.
On inflammatory comments by some political and religious leaders.
If we want to grow up and develop as a nation, we must try our best to stop inflammatory comments by political and religious leaders, even by ethnic nationalities. It does nothing to us except push us backward. It is not helpful to our nation, neither is it even helpful to our individual lives. It will lead us nowhere.
Religion, for instance, is a personal belief and it should be kept that way, which is the matter between you and your creator. To make that a kind of issue is to make it a tool to divide the nation and it cannot help. Division will not help and it will not end easily.
Generally speaking, when you look at the Nigeria of today, what would you say has changed from what it used to be before President Muhammadu Buhari came to office as civilian President?
Any normal person will know that a lot of things have changed that we can say is good for our country.
What about the rising complaints of hardship?
I think Buhari is facing turbulence because of those who are looking for divisions in the whole country.
Therefore, you have a situation whereby a lot of disgruntled people are becoming very vocal and apparently demonstrating a kind of frustration in the country as if it was not there before, as if people were not dying and suffering before this time, as if these new people who just started created the whole troubles, as if the former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke is also a minister with Buhari. They are making the whole thing look as if it was created by Buhari, whereas it is not; obviously, patently, it is not.
What then is your advice in this regard?
We must learn to be objective in all our utterances and demonstrations. And also we must tackle our problems all together.
Those who are deeply enmeshed in corruption and those who are still being fed with that corruption all around are the ones making so much noise so that some people are now of the view that precarious situation, the recession we are now facing was something created by the current government of Buhari.