We should do everything possible to stay together – Justice Mustapha Akanbi
of one North, the Igbo attended the course with us. Many of them in our class became executive officers in northern Nigeria. But because of the civil war, all of them had to leave. We regretted it because they sold their properties very cheaply. I was a chief counsel in Jos and I was the first person to draft the bill that abandoned properties be protected for the rightful owners, the Igbo, despite the fact that they had gone. The commissioner of police was the chairman of the committee on abandoned properties. It was not possible for them to go back with all the properties.
Are you in support of the proscription of the IPOB and its designation as a terrorist group?
Inasmuch as there is no appeal, the court is right until there is a contrary view about it. I understand that the people were going too far; the IPOB had started having their own police, which could be dangerous. I don’t want to use the word, terrorists. However, until the court of law decides otherwise, it is legally right. But if they are not happy, let them go to the court of law because there is always the right of appeal.
Do you think there is the need to restructure Nigeria?
I don’t know what can be called restructuring; some people wanted us to go back to the old regional system. There were four regions of North, East, West and Midwest. If people now say that the presidential system, where we have of 36 states, is quite expensive and there is the need to restructure (go back to the regions), there should be a general discussion among all Nigerians. But I cannot be part of that because I am old now. And I don’t dabble into political issues because I know that wherever I am in Nigeria, I can survive. I have a good educational background, and I grew up in an environment where I had Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba friends. My children schooled in almost all parts of the country. For me, it doesn’t matter where you are, if you have the brain and work hard, you will survive. There are people who feel that others are taking advantage of them despite federal character. I have tasted the fruit of sweet and bitter disdain as a result of federal character. I don’t feel concerned so much, but I hate the question of separation.
As we celebrate 57 years of independence, what is your message to Nigerians?
Let us stop worshipping money. Because most of our leaders are worshipping money, they don’t give opportunities to people based on merit; hence they put round pegs in square holes. If we continue like that, it would not work. The best thing is for us to work together and be our brothers’ keepers. We should not only want everything to ourselves, children or family.
When I came to Nigeria from Accra, Ghana, Papa Olajide, an Egba man, encouraged me to study Law. He made sure that I read Law because he believed I had the brain. I took his advice and became one of the first four people to qualify as lawyers from the Institute of Administration, Zaria.
So when I look back at that, I saw that Nigeria was great. Also, some of my teachers, who were Christians, not even Muslims, helped and encouraged me to become who I am today.
Let us bring back the spirit of love that existed when we were growing up. We had the support of our elders who didn’t bother about where we came from. They were concerned to see us attain great heights; and by the grace of God, we attained great heights. That’s why you came to interview me. If I were an ordinary labourer in the street, you won’t come.
Let us go back to the glory of the past and work together. Up till today, I run a library here, Mustapha Akanbi Foundation, and a school, Nana Aisha Academy. I don’t take a dime from the school. When the teachers there complain, I tell them to stay if they agree with what I am paying them, and if they don’t, I allow them to go. I just want to show love and care to the children of other people the way I was shown love and care when I was young.