Professor Itsay Sagay needs no introduction among legal practitioners and the discerning public.He has been in the public view for decades.
A professor of law, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and a renowned constitutional lawyer, Sagay is a scholar who never shies away from giving his well-considered opinion of any topic of national discourse.
Currently the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption (PACOC), he heads a team that seeks to underpin the present administration’s war against systemic corruption in the country.
In this no-holds-barred interview, he blames senior lawyers for corrupting judges and promoting corruption and defends the recent crackdown on the Bar and Bench by security agents. It’s a complete package, don’t miss out.
There are growing concerns that the government’s anti-corruption war has not recorded any major convictions. Do you share this concern?
No I don’t. We have to look at where we are coming from before determining what is happening now. The situation that existed in which you have a group of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) who had carved out a new profession out of corruption, and that profession was a many-sided one, stalling, frustrating and also depriving us. With that combination, all of that created a situation where there were no major convictions since 2003, apart from the former governor of Edo State, Lucky Igbinedion, who was just given a slap on the wrist and allowed to go.
Why are convictions slow in coming?
Two major things have happened since then. The first one is the passing of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act. That Act took care of a lot of the problems. Previously, the minute you file a corruption case of a high profile personality, the first thing his lawyer will do is to file an application that the court has no jurisdiction, and there was a tendency for the court to concentrate on that application and sidetrack the issue of corruption which is the major issue. At times, it took 18 months or even two years to resolve. Rather than resume after that, the SAN would then appeal to the Court of Appeal. That issue will take another two years and he will then appeal to the Supreme Court. By the time you finish at the Supreme Court with the court’s jurisdiction confirmed, a minimum of ten years would have passed and you know what that can do to a case. Evidence would have been affected, witnesses moved, died or been intimidated and others compromised. The judge on the case might have retired and all that. So we had a situation where cases were not ending. They were hanging, suspended in the air, where the accused were neither innocent nor guilty. And the SANs were happy with that. Then in 2015, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act was passed. It achieved some major things: firstly, under the Act, you are compelled to try crime cases in which corruption is a part, on a day-to-day basis; not to hear a case, adjourn for a month and then come back. You must hear the case daily until the case is concluded and there must be no adjournment. Where an adjournment is inevitable - because in human society, there will always be problems, maybe a party falls ill - the court is permitted to adjourn for not more than 14 days. And throughout the trial, there must not be more than five adjournments. That is intervention number one.
Secondly, on the major cause of the problem - challenging the court’s jurisdiction, bringing a preliminary objection - the Act now states that if you bring a preliminary objection, the court must hear it but not give a ruling, so there is nothing to appeal against. When the main case has been heard, the court is by law directed to give the ruling that was suspended along with the judgment on the corruption case together. So if you are guilty, you go straight to prison and then you can appeal. If you’re not guilty, well that’s the end of the case. The new law states that whether you appeal or not on any interlocutory matter, the case continues.
Thirdly, if a judge is promoted in the middle of hearing a case, his jurisdiction to hear the case continues regardless of the promotion. So he is compelled to complete that case rather than leave to take up a position. This has been used in the past to prolong cases. The total effect of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act is to cut off the ground from under those SANs who have made a profession out of frustrating cases and ensuring that they don’t come to a conclusion.
That’s why I say I’m optimistic and not discouraged. This law just came in last year. And now there’s a new government that is determined to wrestle corruption to the ground, unlike the last one which was indulging corruption. This government wants to bring corruption to an end with every means at its disposal. A combination of these two things - a new law that empowers the judicial system and a new executive that is going to promote the fight with energy -simply means that the future is quite promising for solving corruption cases.
It was thought that the amendment of Administration of Criminal Justice Act would make prosecution and conviction more efficient, if not faster. Would you say that is happening?
Why we have not seen results now is that the law is only just being applied. If you look across the board, cases are going on. We talked of the former publicity secretary of the PDP whose case is virtually over. We talked of the former chief of defence staff, the one who was getting
N500m every month. That case is goingon. Quite a number of others are going on. There is some disturbing evidence that some judges are not yet at home with the new law. Look at the Saraki case, the man is still adjourning by a month, two months. That is against the law. Some of them still need to be taught.
In fact, as an aside, we spent one year training the judges on how to apply this law to corruption cases. So they know what to do now, and the areas they have been missing and neglecting, they no longer have an excuse. They are supposed to be in control of their courts. An example of this is allowing one witness to be cross-examined for thirty days. Some judges have not got it yet. The first witness to give evidence against Saraki was cross-examined for 30 days. It never happens. Judges are supposed to control their courts. If cross examination is going on for too long, you tell counsel that you will give them a time limit, say, thirty minutes, to wrap up, and if they are not finished, too bad. If he’s not happy, let him appeal. But the presiding judge of the CCT just allowed them to go on and on endlessly.
In view of what is happening, would you recommend the setting up of a special court to try corruption cases?
That’s a good question. Yes, it is in progress. My committee has drafted a Bill for a special court which will hear not only corruption cases but will hear cases of kidnapping, terrorism, money laundering and drug offences. Those judges will be limited to those matters. I want to say one thing – not all judges are corrupt. There are a few corrupt ones but most judges are upright. The majority of judges are upright.
Most politicians return stolen public funds and we just let them go. The investigation seems to stop there.
No, no. As a matter of practice, that has not been the case. Yes, they will return some but the investigation still goes on. Most of the people who return loot are those who have not been accused. It is only in the case of Olisa Metuh where, at the conclusion of the case, the family said they were going to return
N400m. There will be some sanction but, most likely, it will not be as severe as if he had allowed the country to waste resources and time.
A senior lawyer said it was hypocritical for the government to go after the judiciary for corruption after the ruling party took advantage of the same system to get to power. What do you think?
I don’t know about that. There no quid pro quo in this sort of thing. Let me put it this way and you will appreciate: no matter the quantity of evidence gathered, if you do not have a court you can depend on to do justice, the person will get away with it. When there is no confidence in the judicial system, anybody can do anything. Say a man has collected
N20bn, he can afford to take N2bn out and buy their (judges’) conscience and make them give him a favourable judgement. The point I’m making is this – without an upright judiciary, forget the struggle against corruption, forget about it; it doesn’t exist. So we have to clean the judiciary before we can even start the process. We know there was some corruption within the judiciary but we didn’t know it was that bad, so bad that it was even at the highest level of the judiciary, the Supreme Court level. There is a need to really deal with it at that level. We need to try to stamp it out at the judicial level before we can even begin to deal with the one against politicians and other members of the public who are engaged in very serious acts of corruption. Otherwise, once you get to the judiciary, that will be the end of the matter.
Is it getting worse?
Oh, yes. I have not done any research but what I observe is this: the thing really took off after 2007, after Yar’Adua was elected. That was when millions were carried around by the then attorney-general, spreading money. And that was when there was a particular Supreme Court judge who we all know, who is retired now, who was at the centre of this particular thing. He was the point man to whom everybody was taking the money to. And he would then distribute it. So he established, at that time, a system of corruption which had become entrenched.
Can you name him?
I won’t name him. He is retired now. And you can do your research. He later became Chief Justice of Nigeria. Yes.
The leadership of the legislature and the executive are not getting on well. There should be independence of the judiciary. When the executive is going after the judiciary, will it not breed mistrust?
What is the whole basis of the independence of the judiciary? It is not whether the executive does what it has to do. In this case, it has no choice. No it is not that. What creates independence, particularly in the judiciary, is moral authority. If you have men of the judiciary who are upright, they will be the most feared. There was a time when the Supreme Court was even more powerful than the government. I always tell people that this was so even in the military government of Buhari, when we had people like Anthony Aniagolu, Kayode Eso, Chuwudifu Oputa, Andrews Obaseki, Mohammed Bello, etc. These people had established such a high moral authority right from the high court where they all started. By the time they got there (Supreme Court), their integrity was so high, moral authority so high that no government could disobey them on any issue. It was during that period that we had the famous case of Ojukwu’s house being seized by the then military government of Lagos State. When the Court of Appeal gave judgement, the state didn’t obey it. Instead, they appealed to the Supreme Court without obeying the order to release the house. When they (Lagos State government) got there, each judge lambasted them, telling them they were lawless and indulging in self-help and were not deserving of help from the Supreme Court since they did not obey the Appeal Court order. That is how Ojukwu got his house back. The military government gradually withdrew and released his house. It happened in Buhari’s military regime. Judgement after judgement was given against that military government by this group of people and they were obeyed because they had high moral authority. But when you live on Mount Olympus, when the whole country is worshipping you as a smaller god and you come down to our level and swim in the mud of corruption, then you have lost your independence by yourself. It is not the executive.
Leading human rights activists have expressed concern about the continued detention of former NSA Sambo Dasuki against the ruling of the courts, including the ECOWAS Court. Would you advise the government to release him on bail?
I don’t know why this is so. There must be something that the government isn’t saying. I have not been taken into confidence about it. My impression is that Dasuki is a very powerful man, he probably has the capacity to destabilize the government. That’s the impression that I have, so I don’t want to make any definite statement. It’s very rare for a government to insist on keeping him and you know he has been under Department of State Services (DSS) before going into normal detention. It’s not usual. You can condemn the government for not obeying court orders but you need to be on the inner recesses of government to know what they know that the rest of us don’t. I’m not going to condemn the government because I have a feeling that there is something they know that we don’t and they have not communicated it to the public.
Let us look at the capacity of the Ministry of Justice to diligently advise the government and prosecute a number of the high profile corruption cases and that of the EFCC. The EFCC tends to prosecute them on the pages of the newspapers and then start gathering evidence.
No, it’s possible. That used to happen but if you have been studying the EFCC of late, they are not doing that anymore. They bring their cases to court; they bring their witnesses. What you are saying probably was a thing of the past. It no longer happens. Apart from the EFCC, one of the things we have done, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, is to raise a prosecution team, a total of 160, who have been trained in various aspects of prosecution, particularly in drawing up charges so that in a case where you need just five charges, you do not draw up fifty, diluting the case and making the whole thing tedious and irrelevant. We also have a prosecution manual which tells the prosecution, from A to Z, how to go about prosecuting, to work as a team, to know that every prosecutor must have, not only an investigator but counsel and other members. The lawyers are there to guide the investigators because they know that for a crime to be established, there are ingredients and you must establish ALL of them. As time goes on, we are going to see better results.
The Buhari government came very close to appointing Femi Falana as Minister of Justice but suddenly pulled back. Do you think that was a missed opportunity for the government?
(Laughter) I will not discuss that.
A serving judge recently accused the Minister of Justice of paying him back with evil because he ordered the minister’s arrest and detention for professional misconduct some time ago in Kano. Do you think that accusation is valid?
I don’t know whether that happened but I think it is unbecoming of a judge to say that. If you are accused as a judge, there are ways to deal with it. It is only little children that say, ‘but he’s against me because of this and that.’ If your hands are clean, then there’s no issue, so I don’t take such statements seriously.
It appears that the government agrees that the DSS should have allowed the EFCC or the police to handle the arrest of the judges, instead of storming their houses. Is it even legal? Isn’t that why the matter has now been transferred to the EFCC to handle?
Yes, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act allows that. You do not break in unless there is resistance or refusal. You knock and announce who you are. If there is an answer, there is no problem, but if you delay, that gives time to hide things or run away and all that. If that is going on, they have the right to break the door and move into the house. The DSS is actually established for the protection of our internal security, but if you have acts of corruption that are going to affect that security, then it gives the DSS a mandate to handle it. I think that is the basis of it, because our security was beginning to be affected by the level of corruption that was going on – people are being denied of the right to justice. I’m a lawyer; you sit down in your office, you prepare, you go through all your law reports and you write your brief. It takes time and effort. You go to court and you don’t know that you’re wasting your time - the judgement had been bought. No matter how excellent your presentation, or brief, it’s all a wasted effort. When it gets to that stage and a whole country is beginning to lose confidence and is frustrated by the judicial system, it can affect internal security.
When you make statements like, “Without Buhari Nigeria would have ceased to exist,” that’s more politics than what you have been appointed to do. You don’t think you’re exposing yourself and your office to political attacks?
I think that is a bit exaggerated, but I think we would have probably degenerated to the level of Zimbabwe where existence will be more precarious, our currency will be of no use and we will become colonized because we will be using dollars as legal tender. God saved us from that situation because the government that was there before didn’t seem to appreciate the consequences of the looting and total emptying of the Nigerian state of its resources. I think Buhari came to save us. We have very little resources now but it’s been well-managed. You may question competency in one or two little areas, but in terms of integrity, no one is sharing among themselves; it is all going into our governance and our own interests. If you appreciate the fact that the price of oil has crashed and the Niger Delta militants don’t even allow us to take the little left in order to earn money, you can see what the government is going through. If we didn’t have someone like President Buhari, Vice President Osinbajo and others in power, in my view, we would be telling another story.
But the recession is also bad, some states cannot pay salaries, people are suffering.
It is bad. What pains me is that many don’t appreciate the extent. If you look at the National Assembly, they are still living as if we are an oil-rich Arab country, giving themselves cars and allowances totally unrelated to what we are going through as a country. People have no feeling, particularly the elite. What frightens me is that they are creating a situation in which Nigerians can revolt and attack anybody. We pray to God that they won’t bring us to that level.
Buhari’s government is sometimes accused of sending mixed messages in the fight against corruption by being soft on cases involving his loyal aides. Recently, you also defended Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, when a judge accused him of offering bribe. Of course, you said you were speaking in your personal capacity. What do you have to say about this?
There is a difference between oral accusation and accusation with evidence. All the people saying this, to my knowledge so far, are political antagonists. They have not provided any evidence; they just say it without evidence. EFCC already has its hands full with cases where the evidence is overwhelming for them to go fishing in bare accusations which tend to have political motivation. That’s the problem. If any case is brought with evidence, the EFCC is bound to go after it. They cannot say, “Oh, it’s an APC person.” They will not do that.
What’s your relationship with Amaechi?
He’s my friend. I will tell you the basis of the friendship. You know I am a public commentator. When his case was going on against Celestine Omehia, I spoke in his support and said it was unfair for him to have been denied (his governorship ticket). He got nomination from INEC and was the rightful candidate. Somehow he got to know about it and after he won his case, he gave me a call and said he was very grateful that I spoke up for him. That was the basis of our friendship. We became friends, and when he was governor, he was doing so many things: monorail, hospital, schools, etc., and he invited me to come and see and I was impressed. So he is somebody I like very much. And I like his courage, the way he stood up to the Jonathan government at the risk of his life because he had a belief, he had a principle. He is a man I like, there’s no doubt about that.
What would you say to those who accuse you of talking like a government spokesman?
(Hearty laughter!) If I give you the background, you will understand. I joined politics in 1962. I joined the Action Groupparty when Chief ObafemiAwolowo was in prison, so I was not looking for power or material gain. I was a university student when I organized and campaigned for UPGA. From that time, Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) came and I joined. UPN was never in federal government. Nothing tempted me to join the federal government of President ShehuShagari because I thought it was inept and incompetent. But Awolowo had the wherewithal, principle and knowledge to run this country, so I joined his party again. When that was over, I supported Alliance for Democracy (AD). I regarded AD as an offshoot (of UPN), then AC (Action Congress), then ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria), then APC (All Progressives Congress). I have been consistent. Now, since 1964 to 2015, all these parties have been in opposition, so I never expected to support a party in power in my lifetime. What happened last year was a big surprise to me. So you can imagine why I will support this government to the last drop of my blood, because I have seen one good, progressive government in Nigerian in my lifetime. I will support it to the end.
The new Chief Justice is acting. If he’s not confirmed in three months, his acting appointment can only be renewed once. Aren’t we heading for a constitutional crisis?
I hope that before the three months are over, the matter might be resolved. Technically, the reason is that his name or his recommendation has not been approved by Senate. What is behind that, I cannot discuss with you. The way I see it, at the end of the day, everything that is happening is to ensure that you have a judiciary that is above suspicion, a judiciary that will fight corruption. In essence, that is what is behind what is going on now. I think, eventually, and I speak as an intelligent layman and not someone in government, the present acting CJ is likely to be confirmed.
What if he is not confirmed? What happens?
I cannot tell what is going to happen. I hope that situation does not arise. It will be something very serious. I’m sure if such a thing happens, the country will understand. But as things stand, I believe by the end of the three months, there will be a confirmation unless something very grave happens to upstage the process.
Complaints about bribery and corruption on the Bench, aided and abetted by senior lawyers, appears to have increased in recent times. What happens to them at the end of the day?
I made it quite clear that it is my colleagues doing this. I feel sorry for the poor judges. They are not used to the type of money that they have been receiving, but who brought it to them? Senior lawyers! They carry millions to them - dollars, naira - to these poor judges and have spoilt them with money. What will happen to them? They should be tried and imprisoned and removed from the legal profession because they are not fit to be lawyers. We know quite a number of them. They are not fit to be lawyers. They are a disgrace to the profession and they are the ones that brought down the judicial system.
Can’t the Nigerian Bar Association sanction them?
How far is the NBA even clear in all this? When all these things have been happening, what positive role has the NBA played? They have been a big disgrace in the fight against corruption. Many senior lawyers have become multi-millionaires because of corruption cases. Effectively, they are sharing the proceeds of crime with these politicians. Now they have private jets, houses all over the world and are carried away. As I said earlier, they have made a profession out of frustrating the corruption cases and made millions from it. And from what I can see, they are not yet ready to even consider restraining themselves. So we have a very big problem. Until something like twenty or more Senior Advocates are imprisoned, we will not learn a lesson. Some of them have to go to prison.
Do you think that will also help cleanse the Bench?
Oh, yes. Once we eliminate these lawyers who are the ones fueling the corruption, it will cut off the source. It is just like a cocaine supplier. If you cut off the supply, those who are depending on cocaine will have no choice but to do without it.
We understand there is a practice in the NJC to give retiring CJs cash gifts worth nearly
N800,000 and a house valued at over N500m. Where is the NJC copying this from?
I don’t know. This is what we are mulling over. I think some of the rewards which the Chief Justices are taking away with them are frightening; that’s all I can say at the moment. I think journalists need to go and do some investigation. Frightening rewards are being taken away by retiring CJs. It is totally unrelated to what the judiciary are entitled to. They are already well taken care of, so something very serious is happening there. Those rumours have some basis.
The EFCC has also said that they discovered some secret accounts that judges can access, for instance, for holidays and such like.
If you look at these things that are happening, the source is that very CJ that I told you about who is now retired. He set up a whole scam system for rewarding judges both in terms of bribery and unauthorized funds. He is the source behind all of this. He started it. I feel sorry for the judges. You’re sitting there minding your business, suddenly the Chief Judge says you are entitled to, maybe,
N50m. Most people will not ask where they got it from; they will take it.That’s what is happening.
Speaking of the EFCC, the chairman of the EFCC has spent one year in office without confirmation. What is the problem?
Corruption is fighting back. The people who are supposed to confirm him, many of them are under investigation and, somehow, they think if they don’t confirm him, the investigation will gradually fade away, forgetting that an acting chairman is a chairman. There is no difference in powers. He is going to be there.
How long can he continue in this position without confirmation and what signal does it send?
Whether they like it or not, he will be there. His chairmanship will keep on being renewed. Since Nuhu Ribadu left, we have not had a man with such sterling qualities as Ibrahim Magu, and whether they like it or not, Magu is going to be there until he completes all the terms he is supposed to under the law.
Do you think your committee will outlive the Buhari administration?
It’s difficult to say. We are a creature of the Buhari government. If a government comes that is not happy with what Buhari has done, we will be the first casualty; there is no question about that.
Would you recommend that it should be a statutory body?
Yes. It has to pass into law and be established as a legally constituted body, but I don’t see the people in the National Assembly now supporting such a law because they will feel it is against their interests.
What were some of the surprising things you noticed in the first six months after your committee’s appointment?
The issue of prosecution that was not well prepared. We have done some training. We noticed that the judges were not familiar with their role in presiding over corruption cases, so we did a rigorous training programme. This included judges in the six geopolitical regions of Nigeria and the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court judges, to bring them abreast of their responsibilities under the law. Also there were agencies that usually didn’t communicate with each other. We have created a forum for them to pass on information among themselves so that they can benefit from each other. We have also got them to revive cases on which injunctions have been placed - special injunctions and all that. We are going to see it to the end.
One of the widely known ones is that of former Governor Peter Odili.
Yes. Definitely, it is being revived. The case will be heard at the end of the day.
How did the Bar and the Bench receive you during your fact-finding tours?
Funnily enough, the Bench has been very friendly towards us. We have been well received at every level of the Bench. It was all very warm and everybody was ready to cooperate. Where we have a problem is the NBA. It is the lawyers who are hostile to our work because they have the impression that we want to reduce their income. The NBA and its members are not cooperating with us.
What lasting changes do you hope your committee will be able to make when your job is done?
That’s what we are working on now. Firstly, the effectiveness and efficiency of the anti-corruption agencies in their investigations. Secondly, reducing the level of corruption to an unnoticeable level so that confidence in the judiciary will return. Thirdly, we are also pursuing how to make cases come to an end - whether acquittals or convictions - and we are trying to review the system in which there will be effective investigation, a speedy prosecution and effective judgement. We are also working on sentencing so we don’t have a situation where the sentence is not related to the offence. We are creating a manual on that so that judges will know what sentences go with a particular offence. We are working on all these areas, generally, to make prosecution and judgement faster and agencies cooperating among each other more effectively.
You have been blessed with longevity of career and have seen many governments come and go. Do you think we can eradicate corruption in this country?
We cannot eradicate corruption in this country but we can reduce the level of corruption, the degree to a minimal level that it no longer affects our development. It is affecting the activities of the state and preventing us from marching on and achieving our potential as a country. It discourages foreigners from investing in the country. So although we cannot completely eradicate it, we are going to reduce corruption to a minimal level. That is our objective.
The president said a few days ago that corruption is fighting back.
Absolutely. I also just told you, because corruption is very well-armed. There is all this money they have stolen with them, so they can hire the best lawyers and, of course, those lawyers have an incentive in maintaining the status quo because that is how they themselves grow fat financially. So, yes there is a big fight going on, but I don’t think they will succeed because we, too, are absolutely determined. We have raised a team of 160 prosecutors who are going to enter the field at every level. We have streamlined how prosecutors are engaged. You will see less and less of going to source prosecutors from private law firms because, in the past, once they collect their fee, they hardly do anything, and some of them were compromised. We are now going to be using prosecutors who are working within the government administrative system and we encourage them to work hard and, of course, get rewards for their hard work.
Have you made enemies in the course of this job?
Obviously, I have made enemies. Some have attacked me publicly, others on the phone. But on the positive side, the public has received us very well. I have got so many positive phone calls, letters and emails from Nigerians who are happy with the work we are doing, praying for us and telling us not to give up, not to be frightened; that we should continue; that they are happy with what we are doing. That is very encouraging. That absolutely gives us hope.
Why do you think the government is dragging its foot on Halliburton?
Will I call it dragging its foot? I think work is going on but I don’t know to what extent. It is something you will have to ask about, but I think they are investigating more and asking people based on information released of late about the people involved. But why you may not see it being too prominent is that the actual cases that have been arising from Jonathan’s government are so many. The amounts involved are so huge and frightening that they are battling with that as a priority. Halliburton came earlier and is not such a hot priority as the recent ones, the ones we call the low-hanging fruits.
Could it be because it involves some former heads of state?
I don’t think so. If I know this government, it is not one that respects corruption.
You once said you used to be a shy young man. How did you overcome that?
It’s just the passion. I was shy but I have a sense of justice, of what is fair and what is right. That is why, as a young student of 21, I joined the Action Group because I felt it was comprised of those people most qualified to run this nation. And I felt they were being harassed and oppressed. The best brains were in prison. Because the then NPC (Northern People’s Congress) government was afraid that if these people were let loose, they would convince Nigerians about the quality of their minds and their programmes and probably win an election and take over the country. I felt these people needed to be supported.
Share memorable seasons of your youth with us.
Still on politics, I am a non-Yoruba-speaking person. When politics became hot in the 1964 federal election where I campaigned, I had to learn Yoruba because I was campaigning in Yoruba territory – Ile-Ife, Ogbomoso and so on. I remember that very well. I learnt the political language of the Yorubas on the trail - “digbo fope” and suchlike because the palm tree was the symbol of the party. I had to learn all these things.
Another significant thing in my life was that I wanted to be a medical doctor from the age of five. I went to secondary school and my father observed that my strength was not in science. I said, “No, sir, I want to be a doctor.” When I left secondary school, I enrolled at the Federal School of Science, then at Onikan. I was working and closing at 2pm, and after attending classes, I would stroll to the National Assembly, then at Tafawa Balewa Square, to watch the debates and the politicians. I saw Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Festus Okotie-Eboh and all those ministers of the First Republic and I was carried away by the brilliance of the opposition. The shadow cabinet seemed to know more about their subjects than those actually occupying the offices. I got carried away and jettisoned science. Then I enrolled for A-levels and passed them and went to the university to read law.
What is your single greatest wish for the country?
For this country to not only be democratic but to be rid of corruption and to start a development process that is based on competence and determination to excel, the kind that saw Singapore, which in the 60s was at the same level we are now, become a developed nation. I wish for all of us, the elite particularly, to put our hands behind the oars and work seriously to raise this country to a level of development, and that the majority of people will be hopeful and optimistic about the direction in which we are going.