AS A BIAFRAN, I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO CRY AS A CHILD – Emeka Ugwuonye •His encounter with Gani Fawehinmi •His deal with God •Says: “I would’ve been a palm wine tapper and Chief Priest of our local deity” •PLUS: “I could get killed by Nigerian Govt.”

Posted by News Express | 29 May 2013 | 8,929 times

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Anytime the name Emeka Ugwuonye comes up, what usually comes to the mind are his many legal battle with the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, USA, with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Nigerian Government. But there is much more to the international legal practitioner as unearthed in this exclusive interview. Please read on.

News Express: A lot is known about your struggles and many legal battles but very little about your private life. Could you, please, introduce yourself to our readers? Who really is Emeka Ugwuonye?

Answer: People who don’t know me well consider me arrogant, pompous and tough. And my sworn enemies have added that I am a thief and a fraud and a woman-snatcher. However people who know me say I am kind and down-to-earth and a resident comedian or fun person to be with. I would tend to agree with those who know me well. I am man who has seen the extremes of life. I was once so broke that I often considered myself once the poorest African child. Also, I have been privileged enough to attend the same school as the President of the United States. I have faced the finest judges America has produced. I have been a guest to Presidents of countries.

I am a lot of things to many. I am first and foremost a father to the two most wonderful children any parent could have. I am a brother to a set of strong and brilliant men, all professionals in their own rights. I am a lawyer to many. I am an uncle to a few interesting group of children. I am the boss to my staff – most of them wonderful people. My life can be summed up around my interactions with these various groups of people. Probably because of my early childhood experiences, I hated injustice with passion. I tend to like to stand with David, not Goliath, in any fight. My system revolts against any form of abuse of power.

Tell us a bit about your background – where you come from, the circumstances of your birth and your childhood years.

I was born the first of 7 children, 6 boys and one girl, in the town of Umumba Ndiuno, in Enugu State. My town is situated 15 miles south of the city of Enugu on the road to Onitsha. I was less than a year old when the civil war started. So, I learnt my parents moved a lot during the war. I learnt that I did not have any opportunity to cry as a baby because Biafran children were not allowed to cry in their hiding places to avoid attracting the attention of the federal troops, who would come in and kill off an entire family and civilians. I think that not being able to cry as a baby helped to give me that tough persona that people see and dread from a distance.

Our father died when we were so young. So, as the first born, I had to help our young mother to raise my siblings. (My mother is only 18 years older than I). I did all manner of labour jobs to help our mother. And I practically paid the school fees of my siblings, including my sister’s, who was the next after me. It was quite difficult, but it toughened me. There is no kind of job that I have not done. I have been a mason. I have been a carpenter. I have been a street hawker. Because of the sudden death of our father, who was the sole breadwinner, it was so difficult to get by. Even food was difficult to guarantee. The death of our father plunged us into poverty despite the fact that we were among the most affluent family in our town before the war.

It affected each of us differently. The hardest hit was my sister. She developed all kinds of health problems, including severe psychological crisis, even as a child. Unfortunately, with the prevailing superstition of the time, it was believed that she was an ogbanje and was possessed by some evil spirit. My mother and I and some other relatives visited all medicine men and dibias in our area, and each had his or her own remedy for cure, all to no avail.

And this is why I have never really felt vengeful toward my sister, and I have tended to sympathise with her even when in her adulthood we see signs of this old problem. Even when the entire family had to become careful and decide avoid her, we still view her with pity and some understanding of her circumstances. Also, I did not forget the fact that if it were not that Sahara Reporters exploited what was her angry outburst, it was a thing that we would normally have forgotten by now.

Apart from my sister, every of the seven of us was able to overcome the difficult childhood and moved on in life. One thing that helped me so much was the fact that I was good academically. I keep telling my friends that if I ever had to repeat any class or any exam, I would have been forced to drop out of school. Indeed, if I had not taken the first position in my classes, I would have been forced to drop out. The only reason I stayed in the school was because I was the best student in the class. And every teacher I came across insisted I stayed in school.

I remembered when I passed the Common Entrance Examination to go to secondary school, there was no money at all. My mother was just crying. My kinsmen had a meeting over whether I should go to secondary school or do something else. The most progressive idea or suggestion at that meeting was that I should go to a commercial school to learn typing and shorthand because it would take only three years for me to come out to work and help my mother, instead of the five years a normal grammar school would take. Otherwise the majority suggestion at that meeting of my kinsmen was for me to go and learn trading in Onitsha or Aba. Indeed, my oldest uncle suggested that I should follow him and learn how to tap palm wine. I would have been a palm wine tapper by now, you know. And there would be no stories of the Embassy money and me. (Laughs). The only thing that stopped this whole thing was that I happened to be the student with the highest score in the exam and my teachers insisted that something had to be done. That was how my mother learned that she had to reach out to my father’s friends for help.

That was how I was able to start secondary school in the local school. Of course, while I was in the school I had the best results and gained scholarship that got me to the end of it. My WAEC result was so good that I was asked to teach the next class after mine and to prepare them for WAEC. So, at age 18, I began to prepare the students for WAEC, teaching literature, government and religious studies. I was fairly popular among my students, including those re-sitting the exams, who were mostly older than I. I am gifted with the skill of communication and making people understand how ideas and things are connected.

To cut the story short, I went on to University of Benin to study law. I made the best result in our first year and I had scholarship. General Babangida was the President then and Professor Alele Williams was the Vice Chancellor. These were the most formative years in my life. I met a mentor, Professor Theodoropaulos, who taught me radical philosophy and I became a Marxist in UNIBEN. Also, I met a benefactor, C. C. Aningo, and his wife. They paid my school fees in UNIBEN. At the same time my distant uncle, U. N. Anya, Esquire, gave me bursary. With all that plus the scholarship money, I was able to cater for the education of my siblings.

When I left Benin, I headed to the Nigerian Law School. Again, my results were super. The next day after I finished my exams at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, Chief Gani Fawehinmi offered me a job at his law firm in Anthony, Lagos. I was to start working on his Law Report with Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (now SAN) as my supervisor, and this was even before my result from the Nigerian Law School was out. Indeed, Chief Fawehinmi was so impressed with my result in UNIBEN that he did not want to wait for my result from Nigerian Law School to be out before he would offer me a position in his firm. I recall vividly my meeting with Chief Gani Fawehinmi. He was not going to see me. He had already asked them to tell me to come another day. But as I was leaving, I handed my result to the person that brought the message so he would at least give it to the Chief, which the person did. I was at the gate when they called me back to see the Chief. He asked: “So, you are the person with this result?” I answered in the affirmative. He said in his usual forceful manner: “Start tomorrow morning.” That was it, and even though I had hoped to travel to Enugu to see my mum, you dared not argue with Chief Gani Fawehinmi.

Soon after that I got offers of employment in several other places, including Texaco, Chevron, Shell, NNPC, Arthur Anderson, etc. I decided to join the American companies because I knew I was going to study overseas and I had made up my mind it was going to be America, and I felt that I stood better chances if I worked with American companies. So, I left Gani and joined Texaco. From Texaco, I went to Chevron. I was to leave Chevron to Arthur Anderson when I fast-tracked things and went to study at Harvard Law School.

When did you relocate abroad and why?

As I said above, my development path was aimed toward further studies overseas. I felt then that I had seen the best that Nigeria could offer a young man in my situation. I was already aware of the wider world and I needed greater challenges. I left for Harvard in 1992. I bothered to apply to only two universities overseas – Oxford and Harvard. And I was accepted in both. I chose Harvard, however.

How easy was it for you to cope in the USA? What challenges did you face and how were you able to overcome them to attain your present height as an international lawyer that has worked for the Nigerian Embassy in the USA, ADB and even some global bodies?

Attending Harvard Law School was one of the biggest challenges of my life. First, the school fees were totally a dream unaffordable. I could never have afforded it were it not for the fact that I met a man, Chief Abdulaziz Ude, who was (and still is) an extraordinary man of means.

Secondly, studying at Harvard was quite tough in another sense. Can you imagine being in a class where every student was the best student where he or she came from and was determined to remain the best? We called it the baptism of fire. We were taught by the most renowned professors and the best minds in the world. It was an experience that I would never trade for anything. All the things I had encountered as an abstract idea during my legal education in Nigeria came to life at Harvard. I lived in Story Hall, named after the famous, jurist, Joseph Story, the father of Conflict of Laws. I studied in Rosco Pound Hall, named after the former Dean of Harvard Law and the father of the sociological school of jurisprudence. I also lived in Holmes, named after the American jurist and founder of the realist school of jurisprudence. I came close to the words of Hans Kelsen, Loss, Atiyah, etc.

One thing was clear: If I were to meet a very, very intelligent person anywhere in the world, he could only be as intelligent as my classmates at Harvard. It is really a good feeling knowing that you are not going to meet anyone out there who would be smarter than your classmates.

My result at Harvard was so good such that I was employed at Harvard just five months after I graduated. I was teaching law at Harvard at the age of 27. One of the greatest ironies of my life was that even though I did not live in a house with telephone in Nigeria until I was 19, by the time I was 26, I was already viewed as one of the best in certain areas of law that included telecommunications law and I was advising big firms on how to buy national telecommunication companies at age 26 and 27. I was listed among experts in corporate law and finance on the list that Harvard Law School maintained. Harvard education made all that possible.

After three years of working at Harvard, I was offered a position at the World Bank as counsel. I moved from Massachusetts to Washington DC to work for the World Bank. The current Nigerian Finance Minister was then an intermediate level manager at the Bank.

After the Bank, I established the ECU Law Firm in New York. I had gotten married and my first child was born. My family was based in Maryland, while my office was in New York. But the Word Bank hired me again, now as an external solicitor and consultant. That was how I continued to work for the World Bank even after I had moved into private practice. I believe I was highly specialised in my area of international finance law such that the World Bank had to retain me even after I had left as their in-house counsel. Also, because of the expertise, the African Development Bank (ADB) hired me as consultant to help it negotiate and structure a 2-billion dollar loan from Sumitomo of Japan in the last quarter of 1999. Ms. Arunma Oteh, current DG of the Securities and Exchange Commission, was a manager at the ADB in 1999 when I was at there.

Indeed, I had worked for a number of organisations and countries when the Embassy of Nigeria hired me in 2001 during the time Professor Jubril Aminu was the Ambassador.

We hear so much about your children and how you miss them during your trips but we never hear about their mother. Were they born out of wedlock or you had a failed marriage? What really happened?

I was married to my then sweetheart. We met at Harvard in 1995. I was teaching and she was a graduate student. She had studied economics in UNILAG. We did NYSC together in Lagos, but we didn’t know each other then. I got to Harvard sooner than she did. By the time she got to Harvard, I was already teaching.

We dated for a while. I moved to Washington and she stayed behind in Cambridge to finish her studies. We got married in 1997. My work got the best of me and put immense pressure on the marriage. We gradually grew apart and on grounds of incompatibility, the marriage was dissolved in 2004. She allowed the children to stay with me. She relocated to New Jersey, while I stayed in Maryland with the children. My ex and I chose to remain good friends for the sake of our children. We have respect for each other.

I have the best children any parent could possibly ask for. My son, Michael Udechukwu Ezenani Francis Ugwuonyediliya III, was born in 1997, the year of my marriage. And my daughter, McKenzie Nwakego Ugwuonyediliya, was born in 2000. Because their first names both began with the letter “M”, they are simply known as M & M or as M1 for Michael and M2 for McKenzie. My children’s names are rooted in history and ancestry. For instance, my father’s name is Michael. My grandfather’s name is Ezeani and the name of my benefactor is Ude. My grandfather, who was the Chief Judge of the Customary Court during colonial days, was Ezeani. My father was Ezeani I. I am Ezeani II and M1 is Ezeani III. In the olden days, my family produced the chief priests for the Aniokpueze oracle and shrine. Being an Ezeani meant that M1 and I would have been in line to succeed as Chief Priests for the Aniokpueze oracle. But Christianity came and took over.

Similarly, my daughter has names that are rooted in ancestry. Her middle name, Nwakego, is my mother’s name. And her nickname, Omaringwo, is the name of our local beauty legend. According to the legend, Omaringwo was so beautiful that she became the object of violent envy by all the local girls, who then conspired to kill Omaringwo. But she was saved by her beauty and intellect.

My children have been raised under strict discipline and values. They have attended good schools and have been very intelligent students and active in sports and music. They both play instruments – M1 plays clarinet and M2 plays saxophone and piano rather well. M1 has played in his school football team since the past six years while M2 is an avid horseback rider and swimmer. They are respectful and well brought up.

What are the challenges of single parenthood and how are you coping with them?

The challenges of single parenthood could be enormous, especially in America. You have to make sure that all the parental responsibilities are carried out, right from getting the kids ready for school to supervising their homework after school. It is tough. In my case, I had the ability to hire nannies to help out. There has always been a live-in nanny.
You practically have to be the father and mother at the same time. Raising children in America is not an easy thing. You know, in a place like Nigeria, to some extent, it still takes a village to raise a child. In America, it takes the parents and the teachers to raise a child. Also, the children of the modern age tend to know a lot and demand a lot. So, it is quite a challenge even for the two parents working together. As a single parent, the task is doubled and compounded if you would say that.

This would be a typical day for a parent in America: by 5am, you are up to get the kids ready for school. By 7am, they are in your car on the way to school. If they are in public school, there could be school busing. But if in private school, as have been my own children, you have to take them to school and bring them back each day. By 2pm, you are on the way to get them from school, if they are finishing the same time. You may have to get them separately. By 5pm, you are dealing with homework and stuff, if not dealing with their sporting and extra-mural activities. In addition to that, you are monitoring what they watch on television and Internet to make sure they are not being exposed to the wrong influences.

As a professional that had to travel a lot, the challenges were suffocating. But, like all challenges of life, you tend to find a way around it. In my case, I have had good domestic staff. We have gone through a fairly solid list of nannies for my children. One of them is Erika Norembuena, who is active on Facebook in support of the family. Erika was the longest serving of them all. She is back now to Chile, but she remains like a family member. Also, my secretary and some other staff in the office were most helpful and supportive of my family. Indeed, in the end, my children were surrounded by a village that raised them.

I understand that your daughter is currently hospitalised. What is wrong with her and how does it make you feel?

Yes, my daughter is not feeling well. You know, my children have been the hardest hit in all that has been going on all these past three years. You would remember that I was detained in Nigeria for five months by the EFCC under all manner of pretenses. They just abused so blatantly the Nigerian criminal justice system. They accuse you of a crime. They know there is no evidence and that they could never prove anything. However, they understand that it would take the system some months and even some years to get to the fact that there is no case. They capitalise on that gap or justice lapse to do you harm. They do this all the time. In my case, my children, even though they knew that I traveled a lot, were never prepared for a situation where I could be locked up and they would be unable to reach me. Normally, even when I am traveling, I am always able to speak with my children every morning before school and every evening before bedtime. I practically have to get them to bed each night. Unless they have spoken to daddy, even the nanny would not get them to go to bed. Often, I had to read my daughter a bedtime story over the telephone.

It was traumatising therefore when all of a sudden, the EFCC detained me in Nigeria and denied me access to the phones and made it impossible for me to call my children even to wish my daughter a Happy Birthday on her birthday or to hear them on my own birthday. And these were children that loved the country of Nigeria so much.

From my case alone, I was convinced that those who rule Nigeria are truly the enemies of the country. They don’t really care about Nigeria or the future of the country. The British colonial masters cared 100 times more about Nigeria than all these functionaries or officials who are only all interested in enriching themselves and getting their ways at the expense of the law.

So, under the stressful conditions of my ordeal, things began to get quite hard for my kids. My boy could take it. He is older and has been toughened harder. But the girl has not taken it well. The nannies are gone. My staff have been diminished in number all across. They now have only their grandmother. And there is only so much that grandmother could take. She doesn’t drive and could not do a number of things that the nannies could do. It has been stress all along. I believe my daughter broke down partly out of the stress of the circumstances. But she is doing well. Her mother (my ex-wife) came to attend to her and everything is under control, from all I could see. I spoke to my son last night and we are up to date. M1 is a remarkable kid. You just have to get to know that boy, gentle and cool and so resilient. I couldn’t have prayed for a better kid.

I spoke with my daughter yesterday as well. She was just interested in her iPhone, which I promised her as soon as she gets well. My kids are strong. They have survived the worst so far and I am sure my daughter will fight her illness and would be back home soon.

What are your chances of remarriage? Is there anyone on the radar? Please tell us about her.

This is a very touchy subject for me. I would love to live fully – with a beautiful, intelligent wife, even though I might not be a strong believer in marriages. If I have survived without a wife all this while, I am sure I could do without one for some time. But I really think I have to settle down again into some marital union.

I have been particularly honoured to meet very intelligent and extremely talented women over time. I have been tempted several times, but in the end nothing clicked beyond a beautiful and memorable encounter. As I speak to you, I think I have met the woman that I would marry, if I would ever marry again. But I am not going to disclose her name yet. I first have to sit down with my kids and have some serious discussion about a step mum. (You know they are teenagers now and have strong views). Also, I would like to see an end to all this fighting and struggle against the forces of the Nigerian Government. You really don’t want to put a wife through this heck of an ordeal where she would be constantly afraid that you could get killed anytime by the elements of the Nigerian Government.

Besides, in my circumstance, you really have to make sure that you have a woman with the right mental and psychological composition. Whoever I marry must understand the dynamics or my life and my struggle. She must understand how politics plays out, how governments behave. She must share my value that staying alive is important, but it is not necessarily the most important thing. She must be a person who is capable to handle a situation where I could die suddenly or get killed by Nigerian Government forces. She will be a strong woman who would not immediately become an object of pity if I were to get killed. You know most regular people simply want comfort – good life, lots of money for fun, travels, fashion and all that. I love those too and I intend to spoil my wife to the extent that I could. But I want a woman tough enough to appreciate the exigencies of life beyond these. I think I have that woman. But I would want to confirm that soon.

How religious are you? What role has religion played in shaping your worldview?

I was born and brought up a catholic, an altar boy. I was to go to the seminary and become a priest. But I didn’t. I grew up with strong religious traditions. Indeed, it was a complex early childhood experience. My family produced the priests for our local shrine and oracle, Aniokpueze, and I was in line to be the Chief Priest. If the white man had not brought Christianity to my people, this period would actually have been my tenure as the Chief Priest. I would have succeeded the last Chief Priest, Nweke Ajuluchukwu Ugwuonye. Nweke was my favourite uncle and the last Chief Priest of Aniokpueze. Funny enough, he converted to Christianity while I was in America and they gave him the baptismal name of Richard. You can’t imagine what happened the day I visited home and came to church and saw a man that looked familiar dressed in blue jeans and people were calling him Richard, Richard. He ran toward me to hug me. And it turned out to be Nweke. Then I knew that Aniokpueze was finished and that it had been thoroughly defeated by Christianity.

Anyway, back to the question; I am moderately religious, but strongly spiritual. I admire the work of Jesus and I have been inclined to follow his examples and to even accept him as Lord and Saviour. I have been a student of philosophy, literature, history and theoretical mathematics. It is normal that all that exposure would impact my view of religion and spirituality. But I have actually grown closer to the idea of God in recent times. I admire the works and life of Paul the Apostle. He reminds a lot of myself, not only because he and I have a lot in common. Paul was an intense and passionate man. The Bible described him as a zealot. He was driven in whatever he was doing. But he was smart enough to read the handwriting on the wall. He understood that the old order was going to give way and that Christianity was a better option for the future of the world. He therefore broke from his old friends and suffered a lot of persecution for that move.

I have been a passionate person myself. I was 45 at my turning point, just the same age as Paul at his point of conversion. I started off working and serving the ignoble system called the present Nigeria. But it became clear to me that I had to break from that system and to join in building the forces that would serve the future. When you look at Nigeria, you got to ask yourself: where is the future? And you see that all that is going on now cannot be sustained. It would have to give way for the new future for Nigerians. I therefore rejected that old order and I am suffering today for my decisions.

I just hope that God will give me the opportunity to serve his people. In fact, while in solitary confinement in the EFCC cell, I had some spiritual encounters, which I am not yet ready to discuss. But make no mistake about it: the Emeka that went into detention was not the Emeka that came out of it. It was a different man. I made a deal with God. I told Him that if He delivered me from my enemies, I would serve him better and I would dedicate my life to building a world where there would be no injustice and mistreatment of His children. I owe God my life, you know. And God may want to use me, as He used Paul.

What is your relationship with your sister, Ifesinachi, and what is the truth about her mental state?

I love my sister very much, naturally. As I had explained earlier, we suffered together and endured hardship together when our father died. She was the hardest hit and worse off for it. She became seriously ill and it has been a roller coaster for those of us, her family members. Even when a situation arose and she got angry and quite reckless in her utterances and writings, I did not allow my anger to go too far. What we did as a family was to recognise the fact that we might have lost her to her conditions and to stay away from her to minimise her ability to harm us. This has been sad for all of us because she had apparently survived her early childhood challenges or so we thought. She is a survivor and she seemed to have made it.

I was happy to help her come to America in 1997. That was precisely when I had just relocated from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Washington DC. My ex-wife, then my girlfriend, and I had entered for the visa lottery for my sister and her son (from her first marriage) and her second husband, a French man. They were successful and that was how she, her son and her second husband came to the United States. They lived with me for one year before they could find their feet to stand on their own. When you look at all that and see what became of the relationship between her and our family, you just have to feel sad.

Now, I don’t want to speculate about my own sister’s mental state. Every human has some mental state at some point or the other. As long as she does not hurt herself or children, and manages to get out of marriages without serious domestic violence, I would rather say she remains well enough to live a normal life, even if not a happy one. The family however will remain cautiously hopeful that all will be well with her in the end.

In specific terms, she recklessly and falsely sent an email with false, damaging, but childish allegations against me to Sahara Reporters and Republic Report. Republic Report investigated the story and found it to be totally baseless because my sister could not answer even the basic questions about her allegations. Sahara Reporters, on the other hand, which had a case with me in court, published my sister’s false and meaningless allegations. Before Sahara Reporters published such story, they tried to get others to publish it, but everybody turned it down. And the allegation was that I had an affair with a friend’s wife and threatened the friend and that I had killed some unknown person on some unknown place and at an unknown time. That was clearly the lashing out of an angry sister. But the manner Sahara Reporters exploited the entire incident completely destroyed my sister and her relationship with the family.

For instance, my sister has not spoken to my mother or any of us (siblings) since the past four years. And we have not spoken to her either. It is quite unfortunate, but the family link has been significantly broken as to her. We could not intervene to stop her divorce from her third husband, a thing we had managed all along through series of interventions and reconciliation meetings. Once she had no family to help her, her third marriage was up in smoke and bitter divorce. Well, I am divorced too and I am not holding a divorce against her. I am just emphasising what happens when a dangerous enemy like Sahara Reporters is allowed into your family. Only an irresponsible or sick person would try to use Sahara Reporters against her family just because she was upset.

Of course, in addition to all things, my sister is a stubborn person. Maybe, you can say that is in us. But the situation is that she does not understand that she had placed herself in a dangerous and precarious position so difficult to retreat from.

The near impossibility of retreat is seen in some recent effort to align forces with my enemies. I don’t think there is anything she really could do to pull back from the dangerous lines she had crossed. You can see how till today, every Dick and Harry that has a personal issue with me would try to refer to the unsubstantiated email allegations my sister wrote against me. One lady that has been fighting me online recently published some of the allegations on her wall, cheered by her friends. But she had to take it off. Probably somebody warned that lady that she could be crossing a dangerous line in her desperate pursuit of vendetta.

Well, during my case against Sahara Reporters, my sister was deposed by Sowore’s lawyers. They had deposed her in a bid to see if there was any truth in her allegations. But guess what, she was asked if she had evidence that I was a thief. And she answered that I had encouraged our mother to claim ownership of “her land”. Can you imagine? We have all that on record. So, I was a thief because I encouraged my mother to take over her land in Nigeria. They asked her the name of the woman she said I slept with, and she asked to be allowed not to answer that question. And that questioning was done by Sowore’s lawyers, not even me.

When your name comes up in discussions these days, people’s minds tend to go to your legal battle with the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, with the EFCC and the Nigerian Government. What is the state of these cases and what are your expectations?

What happened was that Nigerian Government and its Embassy in Washington owed my law firm money for services rendered over time. They kept paying in a manner that kept the amount owed expanding. My staff all knew that and were very worried about it.

They finally agreed after several efforts to allow certain amount of money coming to them by way of tax refund to be used to pay at least a chunk of what they owed. It seemed well and good. But we later had a disagreement when we refused to share part of that money with them. They regretted allowing us to keep the money. That was how the whole fight started. They denied that they authorised us. They took me to the Bar Association. But after the Bar investigated the matter, the Bar dismissed their complaint because I showed the Bar that we followed the law.

The Embassy of Nigeria then went to a civil court to dispute the entire payment. I was prepared to meet them in court and defeat them again. But this time, they had a different plan. They wanted to make sure that I did not have a chance to defend the case. What did they do? They intercepted me in Nigeria and arrested and detained me. Not only that; they commenced criminal trials in Nigeria against me. It meant that even after I was released from detention, I had to spend 70% of my time in Nigeria fighting them here. Of course, naturally, that did not leave me sufficient time to fight them in Washington. I was practically rendered unable to fight them in Washington. That was how they had a walkover in the Washington case. Default judgment meant that I was not able to defend, not that they proved anything really against me on the merit.

But that is not the end of it. As I had said, once I found I was hindered from defending, I allowed them into this false sense of victory. The whole thing will likely be set aside. Only an inexperienced person would begin to celebrate that kind of judgment. Of course, Sahara Reporters and a few others that have been at war with me are out there jumping about and mischaracterising what is happening. But it is clear that people are not really as foolish as they think. Efforts are underway to reverse or vacate all that stuff.

If we left out anything you consider important, please feel to highlight it.

One thing I would like to add is this: Attorney-Client fee dispute between the Embassy of Nigeria and my law firm ought not to have been this monster that it became, if the Nigerian Government had played it according to the rules. The very worst-case scenario would have been that the court would determine that we should refund a part of the 1.5 million dollars to the Embassy. If that was the case, my firm was prepared to do so. However, that entire scenario was destroyed when the Government of Nigeria chose not to play it in accordance with the law. Every lawyer of average common sense would have made arrangements to protect against the decision of the court going against him. But the actions of Nigerian Government destroyed so much including any arrangement to resolve this matter in a meaningful way. The Government of Nigeria is not interested in 1.5 million dollars. They are not interested in money. Rather, from all that happened, it is clear their interest was simply in the primitive objective of intimidating me. This has become the only and most important assignment of the Nigerian Embassy, Washington. But they can’t win. Once they locked me in Nigeria, I knew they would never win.

Anyway, my story is going to be the story of this century. It is vast and unending. It is not possible to address all aspects of it in one interview. But hopefully, we shall meet again and we shall continue from where we stopped.

Thanks for your time.

Thank you very much.


Source: News Express

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