Enugu State-born lawyer, public affairs analyst and social crusader, Vincent Egechukwu Obetta was the legal counsel to the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
In this interview Culled From DailyGlobeWatch; Vincent reveals why he backed out from defending Nnamdi Kanu in his case with the federal government.
From the beginning of Nnamdi Kanu’s trial, you represented him. At what point did you withdraw from the matter?
I withdrew on January 29, 2016 after the court proceeding of that day. It was a withdrawal that is based on principle. The withdrawal was widely publicized in the sense that I addressed the press to the effect that my and I team have withdrawn. Putting up defence for Kanu was one of the toughest criminal trials in my legal career; I was contending with the teeming and impatient members of the IPOB, the Nigeria security apparatus, the surging inquiries from the media, home and abroad, foreign missions as well as the demand of casting good appearance on his behalf.
Shortly after your withdrawal, there was a publication from one of the IPOB Coordinators alleging that you engaged in unprofessional conduct unbecoming of a legal practitioner.
I read it. Initially I felt betrayed, humiliated, furious and cold. I was beclouded by a sense of disillusion –in the sense that it was not worth it to have put in my best in the matter, after all. To me, it was libelous especially to a professional like me. I threatened a reprisal. Thanks to well-meaning Igbo sons and daughters who spoke to me. And when I reviewed the actions/attitude of the so-called coordinators of IPOB, I realized that nobody has ever passed their integrity test. It has become a case study to behold a situation where every well- meaning and reputable Igbo sons or daughters who have a relationship with Nigerians of other tribes is branded a traitor; and once you hold a contrary view, you are branded a bastard. The entire South-East- governors, Ministers from the South-East are thieves, first class traditional rulers and respected Igbo elders are dead woods. When I found out that respected and prominent Igbo like Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, chief Debe Ojukwu, Chief Dozie Ikedife etc. have, at one time or the other, been derided and slandered, then I took solace and said to myself who am I? And the answer is to maintain absolute silence in response to that publication.
Do you keep tabs on Nnamdi Kanu’s trial proceedings and how far it has gone so far?
The information about his trial is in the public domain, both on electronic and print media. As to how far it’s gone, I make bold to say that since December 17, 2015 when I secured a landmark ‘unconditional bail’ for him, nothing tangible has been recorded. But like I said earlier, the facts are there for all to see. During our stewardship, we brought professionalism into the matter, advanced our cause without descending into the arena of conflict, secured the sympathy of both local and international press and the support of teeming Nigerians while we called the shot. The sentiment and support the matter received cut across ethnic affiliation. It was indeed an interesting but challenging experience that exposed me a lot. Be that as it may, I am calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to comply with the order of the Federal High Court by Justice Ademola and release Mazi Nnamdi kanu unconditionally. His continued detention has cast a dent on the President’s avowed claim to be a repented democrat.
What is your assessment of Mr. Presidents’ anti-corruption performance index, one year after?
According to Justice Chupwudifu Oputa, ”Justice is not a one-way traffic. It is not justice for the appellant only. Justice is not even only a two-way traffic. It is really a three-way traffic, justice for the appellant accused of a heinous crime of murder; justice for the victim, the murdered man, the deceased, ‘whose blood is crying to heaven for vengeance’ and finally, justice for the society at large…” Mr. Presidents’ war against corruption has been skewed against the opposition and dissents. The Nigeria state is a big institution and the fight against graft should be aimed at repositioning Nigeria on the right track. Therefore, no one, no matter how highly placed, party or ethnic leanings, who has skeletons in his cupboard, should be spared. More credibility would have been injected into the system if Mr. President had started the fight from within his party. The politicizing of the anti-corruption war has put an end to the much bandied ‘body language’ mantra of Mr. President. I want to assure you that consequent upon the expiry of the ‘body language’ epilogue, our corrupt leaders have returned to their illicit transactions. There is so much concentration on recovery of loot and trial of immediate past political office holders to the detriment of other sensitive facets of our national life. We are talking about recession and impending economic doom while the presidency spends whooping N2 billion annually for the maintenance of 10 expensive presidential jets; apart from the presidential fleet, over 20 private jets are owned by private citizens across Nigeria. Yet, most Nigerian workers still go home with N18,000 monthly. You expect them to perform miracles for the next 30 days. We are in a system where corruption fertilizes and hatch like mosquitoes. What manner of corruption are we fighting while there is a restriction on overseas medical trip but same is flouted by those who should lead by example? What moral justification do we have to parade a man before the media for stealing a goat, and eventually jail him accordingly while we protect (using legal nomenclature such as plea bargain) and share the proceeds in percentage with a thief (looter) whose unilateral condition for refund of some of the looted fund is that his name will not be mentioned or published. Our government claims to spend N10 billion annually on the feeding of prisoners, and the sum of N14,000 daily to feed each prisoner, yet we are voting a paltry N5000 for unemployed indigent citizens. The implication is that life will be better in prisons for the indigents. I hope we have not forgotten in a hurry the controversial Central Bank of Nigeria job scam, the Budget padding saga, the ‘living-ghost workers’ who have been milking our civil service treasury dry; where are those faceless oil cabal that has put Nigeria in this mess, the Malabu oil scandal etal? Are these not corruption cases. So what corruption fight are we talking about? The truth is, crime is lucrative in Nigeria.
Can you share your thoughts on the state of insecurity in the last one year of this administration?
The situation appears to be getting worse. The reason for this can be gleaned against the backdrop that people are getting more impoverished to the level of criminality. You can see the tide of insecurity moving eastwards. From the North-East to the Middle belt and down to the South-East, lives of thousands of hapless Nigeria citizens have been lost in the hands of the ‘Libyan Fulani herdsmen’. It’s more painful when government posture is defensive of these hoodlums and they appear not proactive in rising to the challenges; it’s also more painful when it is understood that the federal governments’ body language portrays the nefarious actions of these savaged weapon wielding criminals as less harmful than the peaceful and non-violent agitators in the South-East or the harmless religious procession of the Shiites adherents in Zaria.