He was the lawyer who defended the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra leader, Mazi Nnamdi kanu who was arrested and detained since October last year, and he made a history when he obtained a court order in December 2015 for the release on bail of the Radio Biafra director, Kanu, which court order has not been obeyed till date.
Although, Obetta was, however, dropped by the IPOB in the defence of Kanu after he had assembled some seasoned lawyers for the task ahead.
In this interview with Daily Sun, Obetta stated his mind, he also revealed how Orji Uzor Kalu contacted him to help in the release of Kanu. Excerpt:
Two days ago, IPOB again changed lawyers for their detained leader Nnamdi Kanu; you started his defence in court, why is the group always changing its counsel?
I do not think I am in the position to pontificate as to the reason(s) IPOB changes its lawyers. In a lawyer and client relationship, the client enjoys the privilege, in terms of how he manages his case. He can hire and fire at will. But on the other hand, a good client should be resilient and tread cautiously in the way and manner he exercises that right.
To avoid abuses, firing a lawyer should be in extreme case, particularly where the fiduciary relationship existing between them no longer exists. In this instance, I learnt that members of the legal team went beyond the briefs that were given to them when they invited the Federal Government to the negotiation table, as well as cutting the ties between their clients with the members of the Niger Delta Avengers. In the same statement, all manner of allegations were levelled against the lawyers. So, once that conflict of confidence creeps in, I think, the lawyer(s) should throw in the towel.
Legal representation is rooted in trust and confidence.
Also, we saw IPOB disowning the claimed negotiation with the Federal Government, including that of MEND for the release of Mr Nnamdi Kanu, how do you see that action?
I will say that it is not possible to shave a man’s hair in his absence. To me, the MEND may have been spurred into this by a genuine and bonafide desire to foster peace within the South-South and South-East regions.
There is a missing link in- between. I think there was a discussion that took place, somewhere. Let us wait to hear from the MEND. I am optimistic they will rejoin it soon.
Why do you think that negotiation for the IPOB leader is the best way to go bearing in mind that the group said the problem is not political?
Just as I said earlier, self-determination as a principle of international law is nebulous and has an elastic construction. Since its adoption 40 years ago by the UN, the latter has not been able to set a concrete template for its smooth application. Though it had served as a beacon of hope, yet the lack of clarity surrounding its scope of application has resulted in much resistance from sovereign states who see it as subversion to the legal and political authority of such state. It is on the basis of the undulating ambivalence that agitators have been advised to anchor their struggle on non-violent approach.
The IPOB which has been a non-violent organization should also embrace negotiation as their watchword. More so, negotiation is the best way considering the fact that IPOB’s agitation for self-determination of the people of Biafra is woven around complex independent entities within the Bight of Biafra whose commitment can only be extracted through dialogue. Even in situation where violent approach is employed, the actors eventually return to the negotiation table.
Take the Israeli/Palestinian case, the Catalonians, Western Sahara agitation and the ongoing South Sudan negotiation, for example. The place of negotiation cannot be overemphasized considering also, the fact that some ‘nations’ that make up the present Bight of Biafra like the Akwa/Cross, Ijaws, Itsekris, Isokos, Deltas, Idomas and the Igalas are to be potential component units of the said Republic. You can only achieve success by negotiating with them. Anything short of that will amount to a conquest.
When you were Nnamdi Kanu’s counsel, you got a court order that he be released, why was that order not obeyed?
As I speak to you, the government has not adduced any reason for disobeying that landmark ruling of Justice Ademola Adeniyi of December 17, 2015. That ruling will ever remain indelible in my legal career.
What is your relationship with the members of IPOB since you withdrew from Nnamdi Kanu’s defence?
I was briefed by the duo of HRH Igwe Eze I. O. Kanu and the Deputy Director, IPOB, Mazi Uche Mefor; these are the people that I have relationship with. To that extent, our relationship is cordial. I appreciate them so much.
Considering the calibre of people you gathered in your negotiation team, don’t you think you should move on with the negotiation?
As I said earlier, you can’t shave a man’s hair in his absence. He must authorise you. I also believe that Mazi Kanu is not averse to negotiation. To me, last week recorded a watershed in the history of this case – the Federal Government has overtly demonstrated that it is willing to negotiate when it released IPOB members held in Aba and Enugu in the last four months.
That is a positive act on the part of the government. I must reiterate that Dr Orji Kalu informed me that his resolve to bring peace and tranquility to the people of the South-East is unwavering and as such he is determined to bring the parties to the negotiating table soon.