Mohammed Belgore is the son of Justice S.B. Belgore, a serving high court judge at the Federal Capital territory in Abuja. The young lawyer noted for his sound speeches at different public fora is seen by many as a chip off the old block. In this interview with PAUL UKPABIO, the young lawyer expressed his views about the recent EndSARS protests and the youths of his generation as well as the challenges that come with being a youth in present time Nigeria.
Your father, Justice S.B. Belgore, trained as a lawyer and rose to become a high court judge at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, among other appointments. What values did he instill in you as a child and what memories of childhood do you hold dear?
Well, my father is a simple person and has dedicated most of his life to his work. So I mostly remember how it all started; his journey through magistracy and how much he wanted to realise his ambition of getting elevated to the High Court bench. He has instilled in me the value of selfless service and ambition, because when I think about it, I believe his major goal has always been to affect his immediate surroundings in a manner that puts one on an immortal pedestal. And I think he has achieved that gloriously through the grace of God.
Additionally, he has also instilled in me the value of Godliness, selflessness and humility, because despite the relatively low income of a Magistrate, we always had a crowded home with extended family and guests with whom we shared the little we had.
You studied Law in the university. Was that your choice or your dad insisted on it?
No, he did not insist on it. He had no reason to since I always loved the profession. But he influenced me. Whenever I went to court with him, he always dazzled me with the way he controlled his courtroom. He is one of those judges who are born to judge. The aura, the wisdom and the grace with which he adjudicates has always been so enticing that I just wanted to be like him. Like his name, he is a reincarnated Solomon. He treats legal issues with wisdom. So, yes, he influenced me, but he did not insist. He didn’t have to.
What exactly do you do in terms of work and keeping soul and body together?
I work in a law firm belonging to one of the most reputable lawyers in the country, Mahmud A. Magaji, SAN. When I am not working, I am at home. I am a very simple person. I unwind mostly by writing, because I love writing. When I hold a pen, I feel like an artist with a paintbrush and the paper is my canvas. It makes me feel special to play with words and express myself articulately and beautifully. I also unwind by listening to the Quran on YouTube, reading books and watching a lot of football as a passionate Arsenal fan. I play video games as well, FIFA precisely. At times, I watch movies too.
We have just witnessed the #EndSARS protests. In your own perception, is #End SARS really the crux of the matter at this time?
No, I don’t think it was. I believe that the Nigerian youths are generally aggrieved, so the EndSars movement was started by someone and everyone basically jumped on the bus. Rightly so as well, but it is not the main crux of the matter. In fact, the issues plaguing our country at this time will need wisdom to distill into principal cruxes. But the most important thing is that we know we have problems and we need to act fast and sort them out. We are at the 11th hour as a nation. I believe we should start by fixing the problem of undeserving individuals in the corridors of power.
What are the things you consider as the gains of the protest and what do you think is the way forward?
Well, we now understand the significance of people power. We know that if we unite and speak as one, the powers that be have no choice but to listen. We can also take away the lessons learnt. For example, we need leaders and representatives. We can’t all talk at the same time. I think if we have to protest en masse again, we will be more organised. We have also shown the world that we’re not basically lackeys; we’re interested in the wellbeing of our society and we are ready to take part in fixing it.
How do you think the older generation perceives today’s youths? Do you think the recent protests can change their perception?
In all honesty, I think they think we are lazy and that we don’t have our priorities straight; that we love the easy way. But you know generations must have differences. The elemental forces that build each generation of individuals are distinct and that is the power of time. So, yes, I hope and I think the protests have shown that we are not lazy and we are ready to get gritty if need be; to think outside the box. And we have the will to solve problems.
A popular commentator once said that today’s youths cannot take charge of their future because they are a ‘Facebooking’ and ‘Instagramming’ generation. How do you react to that?
With due respect to him, it does not make sense. We are a jet age generation. But like I said, that is the power of time and the elemental forces of natural progression. Instagram and Facebook have demerits, and they have merits. It depends on how you apply yourself, like everything else in life. I am sure this person has a car and does not travel inter- state on a horse. That is just life and its times. Adaptation to such technological advancements is an art.
Again, a lot of the elders believe that a huge number of youths focus on weed smoking, alcohol, music, football and women. Do you really think that the youth are ready for the task of nation building? If they are, why looting and destroying properties?
I don’t defend those ills, but Nigerian youths are nothing but survivors. I believe that first and foremost, there is good in every human being, and then social circumstances dictate everything else. There is an Angel and a beast in everyone; it depends on what you feed. I think we are ready for nation building if given the opportunity and if the right environment is created: job opportunities and good schools.
You can’t keep an energetic young population jobless. Also you cannot keep their institutions of learning in extremely deplorable conditions and expect them to turn out positively productive. Remember that an idle hand is the devil’s workshop. We need to ask the right questions and fix the right problems before criticising. Let whoever would come to equity do so with clean hands. However, in the most despicable circumstances, Nigerian youths are actually thriving. They deserve nothing but praise and not remonstrations. The real question is what has Nigeria as a country done for its youths?
You said that youths should wait and use their PVC to dislodge the old corrupt leadership from government. But in a situation where the youths are given the option of two notably corrupt individuals as presidential candidates of the two popular parties, how relevant will the PVC be in such a situation?
There are other political parties that are duly registered and legitimate. They also score a couple of votes, no matter how small, during elections. Now the current crop of leaders has perfected the art of keeping the people hungry and unenlightened, especially in the rural areas. So, on Election Day, they get something like a paltry sum of N1000 or so and 2 packs of Indomie for people to vote and they take them, because to a large extent, you can’t legislate with hunger. But we can sensitise them with the right resources and information if we come together so that they don’t fall prey to those antics anymore.
If we do that, they will ignore the current popular parties for a new dawn. It can be an idealistic and ideological revolution of paradigm if we are united. Let them know that though they may be poor, when they accept these things in exchange for their votes, they are further nailing their own coffins. It might sound absurd, you could say its wishful thinking and rather easier said than done, but it is doable.
One of the things observed during the recent protest was that the issue of tribalism and religion was played down. And the youths insisted that they didn’t have a leader because they didn’t want their leaders to be influenced wrongly. Is that an indication that the youth are seeing through the smokescreen of the divide and rule strategy the older generations have employed over the years?
Exactly! That was one of the positives. It also means we will not let any charlatan come up and say he is a leader of the youth because he is famous or relatively successful. We need people with ideas, who represent progressive development. In the future, we will definitely need leaders if we are to take charge of or contribute in the governance of society. But I think we should come up with ways to pick such leaders. Perhaps through debates, town hall meetings and what have you. Let people express what they can contribute so that we will gauge their readiness. Let us also check their moral standing and background so that we won’t have representatives based on the divisive tenets of tribe or religion but based on what people can substantially offer.
What kind of Nigeria would you want to see in the next 10 years?
Well, I’m not looking to find myself in paradise. I know we have a long way to go. But I want to see a Nigeria that does not have an outlook as bleak as the one we find ourselves in today. Let there be electricity, water, good schools, good living conditions and less hunger. If we are not there yet, let it at least look like we are almost there, because we do have a long way to go.