We should do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to stay to­gether – Jus­tice Mustapha Akanbi

Sunday Trust - - BIG STORY -

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.

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