A LAWYER and politician, Richard Akinjide, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, hardly needs any introduction. He has a rich experience in politics and his vocation as a lawyer. Born in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State in the South-West of Nigeria in the early 1930s to an influential family of warriors, Akinjide attended Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife, Osun State, from where he passed out in grade one distinction with six aggregate.
He then proceeded to the University of London, where he got his law degree in 1955 and was called to the bar of England and Wales Inner Temple, February 1956 and in March, 1956, he was called to the Nigerian bar.
Soon after, he established his company of Akinjide & co. He took the silk as a SAN on January 12, 1978.
He was a member of the Nigeria federal parliament from 1959 to 1966 and also served as minister of education in the government of Tafawa Balewa, Nigerian first prime minister, between 1965 and 1966.
When Nigeria was to transit to second republic during the military interregnum, Akinjide was a member of the judicial systems sub-committee of the Constitutional Drafting Committee of 1975-1977. He later joined the National Party of Nigeria in 1978 and became its legal adviser.
In the second republic, the government of former President Shehu Shagari appointed Akinjide as the minister of Justice and attorney general of Nigeria. His tenure lasted between 1979 and 1983.
He has been a strong member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He was a member of the last national conference which held in Abuja last year.
In his law practice, Akinjide specialises in oil and gas; companies and banking matters; mergers and acquisition; shipping; international commercial arbitration and international law. Apart from Nigeria, Akinjide also practices law in the UK and the Gambia.
Ten members of his family read law, including his wife. Akinjide is no doubt at home with law than politics because his practice has been more rewarding all over the world, including United Nations than politics. In any case, he once told this reporter that politics was more of hobby for him, while he enjoys law practice than politicking.
In recent times, Akinjide seems to be less vocal on political issues as well. This could be adduced in his interaction with Realnews recently, insisting that it is too early in the day to judge the performance of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, even as he believes that the recommendations of the national conference will be implemented by the new administration. He reluctantly shares his thoughts with Olu Ojewale, general editor, Realnews on rising insecurity in the country, why immunity should not be given to National Assembly leaders, and amnesty for Boko Haram which he considers a delicate proposal. Excerpts:
Realnews: What is your assessment of the state of the nation?
Akinjide: The government has been there for how long now?
Realnews: Four months now.
Akinjide: I think we should wait and see them perform before we can start to assess what they are doing. I think we Nigerians are always in a hurry. As a person, I like to wait.
Realnews: Are you happy about the way things are going on in the country?
Akinjide: There are many things that make me happy. But we hope certain things can be done better; we all live on hope. But I will say the government is trying and I wish them good luck.
Realnews: What are the things that make you happy.
Akinjide: What I am saying is that the government has just started; let’s have hopes that things will be done better. Don’t be hypothetical.
Realnews: What do you think about the list of ministers picked by President Muhammadu Buhari?
Akinjide: I can see a lot of interesting names there. A good number of them have records of performance. Some of them have good names that they will want to protect. But I will like to wait and see them perform. Don’t let us judge them now until they have been assigned portfolio and start to perform. Their performance is very crucial to us as a nation; so let us wait and see what they want to offer. But I have no doubt that they are good Nigerians with reputation of performance and they can still work for this nation.
Realnews: As a member of the opposition, you don’t object to any of the nominees?
Akinjide: I am not an opposition.
Realnews: But you are in the Peoples Democratic Party, sir.
Akinjide: I am a Nigerian and when government governs it doesn’t exclude anybody. I agree am not a member of the party in power. Nevertheless, the government governs everywhere and everyone whether you are a member of the party or not. So, I am more interested in how they govern and how the new ministers discharge their responsibility than party affiliation.
Realnews: What is your assessment on how the government is fighting corruption?
Akinjide: I cannot say anything yet. I have to wait for at least one year to see how they perform before I can give a definite answer. For the moment I reserve my comments.
Realnews: Security is something this government has had to grapple with immediately it came in, the Boko Haram insurgency; but now added to that is the issue of escalating incidents of armed robberies and kidnapping among others. What are your thoughts on these?
Akinjide: Security is a very important whether you are in Europe, Americas or in Japan, security is very important. In fact, I wish government good luck in tackling security challenge facing the country.
Everybody was shocked when (Olu) Falae was abducted. I think it was a big dent on our image as a nation. Falae is a gentleman, a very good civil servant. He is also an elder statesman. I wish he recuperates well from the trauma. Government should bring the culprits to justice. That is very important to us as a country and this type of abduction must not be allowed to happen again in future. It is not good for our image. I wish Falae very well.
Realnews: It is been suggested in certain quarters that if members of Boko Haram should lay down their arms they should be given amnesty. What do you think about the recommendation?
Akinjide: It is a very delicate proposal. I just want to tell you that I don’t want to be involved at all. People have their own ideas on how they want to resolve matters. But it is also a security issue. I don’t want to comment on it at all.
Realnews: There is an issue in the public domain that members of the current National Assembly want to pass a law to enable their leaders enjoy immunity from prosecution as president, vice president and governors. What do you think about this?
Akinjide: That will be very wrong. They shouldn’t have immunity at all. For the president and governors, yes. For members of the National Assembly, I say, no. Look I was in the National Assembly myself twice, before independence and after independence and there was no issue like this. What do they need immunity for? It will be insensitive of the assembly to ask for immunity. The leadership of the National Assembly does not need immunity and shouldn’t even think about it.
Realnews: You were a member of the National Conference that submitted report to former President Goodluck Jonathan. How do you feel that the recommendations of the conference are possibly not going to see the light of the day?
Akinjide: Don’t rush into judgement that this government is not going to do anything about the recommendations. It is too early, just be patient. The people in government have not been there for long. So, I don’t want to believe that the recommendations will be discarded as you have said. Just be patient. The documents are sacred; a lot of time and money were spent on them. So, they are still relevant to our situation in this country. I had the privilege of moving the final motion that closing the conference.
Realnews: But there are some aspects of the recommendations that the previous administration should have implemented before leaving the office but were left undone?
Akinjide: They had no time to do anything about the recommendations. The time was so short.
Realnews: Supposing the recommendations are not implemented, what happens?
Akinjide: That is hypothetical. The recommendations will be implemented.
Realnews: What gives you confidence that the recommendations would be implemented by the current administration?
Akinjide: Let’s give them time. It is only when nothing is done after one year then we can start to ask questions. But we need to be patient.