Chief Mike Ozekhome, a constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on the rumoured Third Term bid of President Muhammadu Buhari and other issues in the polity. Excerpts:
What do you make of President Buhari’s statement that his government will lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years?
The President’s case is still being challenged at the court. Even if he is not removed by the Supreme Court, he can only do four years out of which he has already spent six months. So, constitutionally, President Buhari has just three and half years to go. So, if he is talking about taking Nigeria out of poverty in the next 10 years, from being the poverty capital of the world, having overtaken India, he may only be thinking in terms of statistics, maybe this is the time Nigeria will get out of poverty but certainly not himself doing that as a person. He may also be referring to his political party, APC being in power in the next 10 years. But don’t forget that PDP had boasted that they will be in power for 60 years but it was terminated after 16 years in power. So, nobody knows tomorrow.
President Buhari should be talking about what he can do for Nigerians in the next three and half years and what he has done for Nigeria in the last four and half years. He cannot be talking about what he will do for Nigerians in the future when he himself will not be there as President. So, I think it is just sheer daydreaming.
Going by that statement, some Nigerians are worried saying it may be a ploy by the President to elongate his tenure in office by getting a Third term. What is your take on that?
I don’t think Nigerians should belly-ache about it. I do know that why Nigerians are saying these things is because they are wondering whether from the body language, it means he is looking for third term. Let me tell you, even Obasanjo had tried it and failed. That will never happen in this country again, no matter how brow-beaten, downtrodden, beleaguered, repressed, oppressed we have become. Nigeria is not a banana republic that you can just bring up such a warped idea. It can never fly here. The issue of third term will never ever fly in Nigeria. Read my lips.
Vice- President Yemi Osinbajo a fortnight ago offered to waive the immunity he enjoyed under the constitution in order to clear his name of the N90b allegations leveled against him by Timi Frank, a former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC. What is the position of the law on that?
Under Section 308 of the 1999 constitution, the President and Vice-President, Governors and Deputy Governors of states enjoy total immunity from prosecution. While they are in office, they cannot be prosecuted. However, it was held in the case of Tinubu versus IGP and other persons by the Supreme Court that although the President, Vice- President, Governors and Deputy- Governors cannot be prosecuted while in office, they can however be investigated whilst in office.
In that case, Justice Uwaifo in the very illuminative judgment made it clear that whilst they cannot be prosecuted, they may be investigated but the result of the investigation cannot be used to prosecute them while still in office. They will have to wait for that person to leave office before he can be prosecuted.
So, it is not for Osinbajo to say he will waive his immunity. He cannot waive a constitutional provision which applies to everybody who occupies the office of President, Vice-President, Governor or Deputy Governor. To waive it and say prosecute me is to call for violation of Section 308 of the constitution and his oath of office and allegiance to protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It is not for him therefore to elect to be investigated. He can be investigated. Even President Buhari can be investigated while in office. That is what the Supreme Court says. It is just that none of them can be prosecuted now until they leave office. But at the end of the day, I see the scenario playing out as the macabre dance of death which is a game toward 2023 and beyond. It is not about Osinbajo because when they were sending him to markets in Oshodi, Mushin, Sandgrouse markets in Lagos, didn’t they know that he was a whole Vice-President? When Osinbajo was carrying out jobs that should have been done by little hands, they needed him that time to help them win election and so didn’t see any fault in him. Some people saw that that N10,000 they were giving out was more of bribe by the ruling party to get people to vote for them because some of these people distributing the Tradermoni were wearing t-shirts bearing ‘Vote Buhari/ Osinbajo. Now the faceless cabal believe they have used him and they are now ready to dump him and they want to bring in a preferred candidate who will not be intellectually grounded as Osinbajo; a candidate that they can use again as cannon fodder and then dispense him when they want. I want to say that I pity the Tinubus of this world because whether they like it or not they will see Osinbajo as part and parcel of Tinubu.
So, they are trying to rubbish him and sending the ominous signal to him and you can see that some of them from the core North are already flying kites that democracy is about number, there is nothing like zoning, there is no question of saying the North cannot retain power. So, it is all about 2023.