Shehu Bankole-Hameed, author, politician is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Bankole-Hameed, a member of the Lagos Forum in this interview, faults the agitation for Biafra. He also bares his mind on other sundry issues. Excerpts:
50 years after the truncation of the First Republic, do you Nigeria has learned lessons?
My first reaction is that the activists who truncated the First Republic were men of questionable character in the fine profession of the military. That was when a few soldiers mostly of the then Eastern Region massacred prominent political and economic leaders of Northern Nigeria and Western Nigeria only. This singular dastardly act resulted in deep division and distrust among the three major actors in the Nigeria political space; Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo, who had the responsibility to get the project going. The death of Hausa and Yoruba leaders in the hands of the Igbo officers created big economic and political gaps in these regions. What followed was what we are still witnessing today. Another aspect of the ill conceived coup is the decimation of minorities. I don’t think we have acted out to show if we as a nation have learned anything.
There are growing concerns over the president’s continued refusal to obey court orders, what is your take on this?
I’m not going to say that. I don’t think that the President is a party to the court proceedings. EFCC I believe is the institution that is on trial as regards court orders, but to be fair to them, explanation as to how a new arrest is effected has been given. It was established in the case of Dasuki for example, that he had new criminal cases for which he was re-arrested.
What is your reaction to the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu?
I think this is truly an interesting development. Here is someone who knows that what he did embark on was nothing short of terrorism. What does he expect of the authorities? Body massage, hotel accommodation or what? He is lucky Nigeria is not interested in capital punishment, otherwise he may be so charged. I think the government is even soft on him.
But do you think there should be a negotiation with the South East over Biafra?
This is a very good question. What is Biafra, who are the agitators and how is the cry for it being funded? I will attempt to define Biafra as best as I can and from the perspective of average Nigerian. There was an attempt by Ojukwu now late, to steal away and enslave non Igbo of the then Eastern Region, while taking over the oil in the region. He got his own people to buy into the act, there was no justification for the declaration then, which made the concept of Biafra ineligible for negotiations. What needs to be done is to amend the Constitution to allow for legal agitation, where structured steps are laid out for such discourse. Many countries have such provision. There should be no force or coercion in Union . Right now, activities related to agitation for Biafra is tantamount to terrorism.
Do you think each region should agitate for autonomy?
The question of regional autonomy may be discussed at state levels, where various local communities agree that what is needed is the granting of legal, financial and economic autonomy. Then the next step is to convince the federal assembly on the need to amend the Constitution to that effect. How many of the existing states can survive being autonomous? (Vanguard)