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April 26, 2005

Life in Nigeria’s 37th State

By Uche Nworah --- As I write this, I so very much desire to read Sam Selvon’s 1956 book aptly titled The Lonely Londoners, a chronicle and account of the lonely and sometimes frustrating life of people of Afro-Caribbean descent living in London.

I will assume that Selvon’s analysis and descriptions also apply to later day immigrants to the United Kingdom, most especially Nigerians. If only Nigerians back home, who had never been ‘privileged’ to visit London before know of the life of toil and labour that their kinsmen in London suffer, then, they wouldn’t waste their time queuing up at the Walter Carrington Crescent offices of the United Kingdom High Commission, nor at the DHL offices for drop-box UK visas.

Also, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Richard Gozney need not have bothered placing a blanket visa ban on 18-30 year old Nigerians, while this disenfranchises genuine UK visitors, it opens up other illegitimate avenues for desperate Nigerians to enter the UK. For me, all they need to do is get some real Nigerians living in London, and pay them an appearance fee for their testimonials, which will be later broadcast or published in the media. I am sure that such testimonials may dissuade lots of Nigerians from coming to London, and will also confirm what the late Fela sang in one of his songs: African man wey dey your country, wetin e get? E no get nothing!

Although Nigerians have now claimed London, as the 37th state of Nigeria, as a result of the population of Nigerians living in London, and also because of the ease with which Nigerians commute from Lagos/Abuja to London, as if they were commuting from Surulere to Ikoyi, it must be however said, that beneath the façade and the false-image of living the London good life which Nigerians living in London portray to their families and friends back home, the reality actually shows the opposite.

The problem starts with coming into London as a visitor or tourist, Nigerians are always in a hurry to ‘check out’ of Nigeria just like Andrew in the famed federal government patriotism TV advertisements, in doing so, they fail to take advantage of other legitimate routes of emigrating to the UK as professionals, Information on such UK migration schemes such as the highly skilled migrant programme and the working holiday maker visas are readily available on the internet but some of us don’t see it because of our mad rush and impatience. Also some have failed to explore other opportunities such as simply applying as health care or educational (teachers/lecturers) professionals, acute shortages of staff in the UK health and educational sectors have opened up this option and nationals from other countries are exploiting the opportunity, but Nigerians have not, preferring rather the short-term route of coming as visitors.

It used to be that in the past, it was a bit easier for Nigerians to ‘do what they had to do’ in London in order to obtain their residence permits, but now the EU expansion, and the influx of eastern Europeans into the UK has meant that residency laws have been toughened, on this front, things are no longer as they used to be. Inability to obtain official residency papers is what condemns Nigerians to the low life they live in London as illegal immigrants, without any state or social entitlements. In the long term, it is not a lifestyle that one would wish on even his enemies; as a result, people are stuck ‘in’, and can’t get ‘out’, as they wouldn’t be able to come back in if they venture out. This has ensured that some Nigerians have not been able to visit their country of birth in a long while, and this adds to their alienation and frustration.

And so once they find themselves in London, they are stuck with the lowly-paid jobs, such as flipping burgers at McDonalds or cleaning other people’s ‘shit’. Life becomes a bore and a drag as they jump from one bus to the other on their way to start the next shift; a sad and hectic life that they must live in order to afford London’s very exorbitant living expenses.

There are always people out to make a fast buck from you in London, the town is almost becoming a soul-less city like Lagos, for those stuck in the poverty cycle and living below the bread line (22% of the UK population live in poverty, 1 out of 5 of the population), this type of living surely can’t be good, from the £70 weekly room rents in shared flats and houses, to the over £5 day travel cards, there is also the utility bills (gas and electricity), which is operated on a pay- as- you -use basis, there is no NEPA or NITEL in London to bribe their officials, if your meter credit runs out, then it is between you and your God to save you from freezing in the cold winter.

It is at this stage that those who abandoned their lives and career back home, for a ‘rosy’ life in London begin to regret their decisions, they have no one to complain to, else they will be considered failures. As calls are made to family and friends back home, the moods are saddened the more by the news of career progressions and promotions of colleagues the person has left behind.

Some Nigerians living in the London always have this false assumption that those they have left behind in Nigeria won’t be climbing the social and economic ladders as well, that they will be waiting for them to come back to Nigeria in their flashy cars, fancy clothes and fake accents to ‘oppress’ them. Sadly this is not the case. By my own estimates, at least 2 out of every 3 Nigerians living in London will gladly swap places for a settled life and career in Nigeria, no wonder the careers in Africa recruitment event and many of such ‘return to Africa’ schemes are proving to be big hits.

It is always the case that most Nigerians immigrating to the UK always come when they are in their late twenties or early thirties, for both the men and women; this is the time that marriage dreams become imperative, but where does one find a potential husband or wife in London? If there was a place like that, then those ‘over-ripe’ brides and grooms before them would have since exhaled and replied with ‘I do’ to the pastor’s ‘Do you take xyz to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband…?’

In a recent conversation with a thirty something year old Nigerian lady, she vented out her frustration in these words ‘Nigerian men in London are dry, and stingy, after using you, they will dump you and go to their village to marry a village mgbeke’, on the other hand, Tochukwu Modebelu, a London based lawyer readily comes to the defence of Nigerian men living in London, according to him ‘Nigerian girls in London are still into their ways of regarding relationships as commercial ventures, also their wahala is too much, so I don’t blame guys who go to Nigeria to look for wives’.

As a result of the scarcity of men, and women or the difficulties in finding the perfect and willing partner, Nigerians have now resorted to having brides and grooms packaged and sent to them from home, but obviously such arrangements come with their own problems, usually revolving around differences in cultural values, unfulfilled expectations, and UK’s gender politics that is largely on the side of women, having brewed a disaster recipe for themselves, it is no surprise when divorce lawyers are called in at a rate faster than that which saw the couple coming together in the first place.

Some Pentecostal churches are happily exploiting this situation, Nigerians haven’t forgotten their ways at all in Nigeria, they seem to have carried the Pentecostal culture with them to London, as there now seems to be one on every other street, in areas of London with large immigrant population. Don’t be surprised to find these churches packed full on any given Sunday with expectant and hopeful worshippers, mostly young women whose main heart desire is for men to rain down from where ever.

However, there are Nigerians living in the London who have made good, and are already living the good life, some of them work as professionals while others have their own businesses, but such success stories do not even reflect the true situation of the real life of an average Nigerian in London, a sad reality, and a reality that bites.

uche nworah is a doctoral student at the university of Greenwich, London and also teaches business and marketing at Newvic, London.

Posted by Administrator at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2005

The Father of all Nigerian Ethnic Groups

by Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa It is very interesting that most of the Ethnic groups claim association to the Nile Valley, somewhere in Sudan, Egypt etc. but no association to one another in Nigeria. On their way from or to Egypt through what we now know as Nigeria, these Ethnic groups never met? Usually, they were each King or Queen, first lady. Who were their subjects? It may remind you of most of our parents who always took first in their classes when they were students. Who came second?

Africans are great sojourners, and they left their genetic traits all over the world. Please see YORUBA WORLD EXPLORATION AND THE LOSS OF DYNASTIES. If Africans were in Australia before the time of Christ, in America before Columbus and spread all over great distances, we should wonder why they never knew or had anything to do with one another until the British created NIGERIA!

Apart from the article mentioned above, I also relied on an article by Sola Omole on the Ijaw, another by the Ijaw Nation. Of course, I also depend on different histories of the Ethnic groups. However, I must admit that many are just like blind men describing an elephant we call Nigeria. Each was about its group but not how it relates to Nigeria, the giant of Africa.

Nigerians talk about relatives in Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal etc. The distance between Maiduguri and Lagos is not as long as that between Nigeria and Australia, yet Nigerians deny each other at home. Ghana, Mali, Songhay Empires were not formed based on Ethnic groups because some of the Empires were bigger than Nigeria. Ibadan, here at home, was built as a cosmopolitan City made up of variety of people.

The people were around the same place from the beginning of time, and traded with one another before the British came. The Europeans heard about ancient civilization trading in gold, they named one place Gold Coast. They heard about Ivory and named another place Ivory Coast. They heard about Ile-Ife Arts and Sculpture - they thought they found lost civilization of Atlantis. They marveled at Benin Bronze; they heard stories of handsome skilful men and women with mystical power; and drugs that can cure many diseases. They discover aspirin, antibiotics and ancient form of writings on the body and tablets. At the same time, they dreaded the diseases of mosquitoes and tsetse flies, sparing us of earlier domination.

Greek historian Diodorus of Sicily, 1st Century B.C, credited the Ethiopians (name for Blacks) as the first of all men created by gods, as founders of civilization and religion in Egypt imported to Greece.

Nigeria is just a “geographical expression” and 1914 are always in the papers and books written by many Nigerians. Awolowo is always credited with the former. It does not mean that he did not believe in one Nigeria, otherwise he would not have campaigned from the South to the North for the Prime Minister of Nigeria. Actually, Ahmadu Bello could have preferred that he stayed put in the South. We now have scholars from the North who actively support one Nigeria, while some in the South are going the other way. In Nigeria, we call that progress!

Sometimes, I wonder what difference it would have made if the Europeans divided Africa in slices north and south or in slices east and west. Most of the Ethnic groups have relatives across Africa east and west, and the same north and south. Could it have been a better Country that way? The so called main Ethnic groups with their relatives across West Africa could have formed one Country. I am sure nobody thinks that could have solved African problem.

Nkrumah, a man before his time, wanted a united African Country. Tafawa Balewa dismissed it as taking independence from the British only to surrender it to Nkrumah. Only Zik cried out loud when Ghanaians were thrown out of Nigeria in early eighties. Lately, the South Africans rejected free African movement for fear of Nigerians dominating their Country, as we did in Ghana in the sixties. When the East African were kicking out the Europeans, they were asked who would replace the educated labor force. Nigerians, they answered. They were warned – Nigerians were worse exploiters than the British! Some Nigerians, thinking about our politicians, may agree.

The difference between Hutu and Tutsi has to do with one being town boy and another country boy. The Somalis are from the same family with the same language, it is still not a peaceful Africa. After the war in Nigeria, the Ethnic groups have fragmented further, even more so in the south. There was an article I red, “My People are killing My People”, about the fight between close relatives – Ijaw, Itsekiri and the Urhobo youths. Or between Aguleri and Umuleri, or Ife and Modakeke or Fulani and Jakun, Tiv or Yelwa and Shendam. I have not added those between Sunni and Shiite, Moslems and Christians over foreign religions. Africans, calling one another unbeliever of foreign indoctrination.

There are autochthonous Africans in Nigeria, no doubt. I also believe these Africans especially in the rain forest are more or less the same in everything. Those in the northern part of Africa or our Country are so close that our origins can not be different. Since one of the oldest human is dated around Lake Chad, how much distance is that to the sea that man could not have sojourned to?

No Ethnic groups deny each other more than the Igbo and the Yoruba. I am totally dismayed when I listen to young men and women who were not born during the political days of Bello, Awo and Zik trade insult as if they were there. Who passed personal prejudice to them? Check out their internet chart sites, it is full of hatred. When I pointed this out to some of my friends, they ignored it since most people stuck to their favorite sites. Some of the comments about our brothers from the North or vice versa are just as caustic. It boils down to ignorance. It is almost a conspiracy – they fear you may know one another as the children of the same father!

The Yoruba, a combination of OYO and OBA from Ife, has been known as YOBA well before the time of Christ in the Nile Valley and later, as far as Papua Guinea. They refused to be converted to later religions like Christianity and Moslem. The same is true about Oba Koso, King of Shango in Kush from the holy City of Ile-Ife - This was written in Coptic text, published in Paris in 1666.

Oduduwa has been thrown into question even within Yoruba and their close relatives in Ijebu and Benin. Fortunately, this ancient icon before Christ is not only known among the Yoruba as Adamu but among our own Ijaw and in Diaspora, during ancient time.

Each Ethnic group in Nigeria has translations for Yoruba and Oduduwa. Does that mean that these Ethnics groups have been in contact with one another as brothers and not willing to admit it? Since migrations happened in waves, those who came first might have recognized those who followed.

I can not fault Chukwu Eke interpretation of history. Indeed we may agree in more areas than disagree. The Igbo of the Southwest may be the same Igbo of the Southeast. I will also add the Northern part of the Country. These people were not known as Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Edo, Urhobo, Ijaw or Efik. They existed as one people moving freely in Nigeria and in neighboring Countries.

The Igbo also claimed affinity with the Nile Valley. They knew the Yoruba well as they claim they were the original inhabitants of the present western part. But Oba Mafimisebi, the Olugbo of Ugbo claimed they were the original inhabitants. After pestering the Yoruba, the Igbo fell in love with Moremi who gave out the secrete that dislodged them. According to Chukwu, the Yoruba called them Igbo (bush people) and in retaliation, Igbo called them Yoruba (Oyo oru Oba) that is “Oyo, slaves of Oba”. He also has a translation for Oduduwa, “Nkaa bu onye odudu wa or Nkka bu Odu wa”, that is their leader. Here, we part.

Phillip Emeagwali also gave a convincing relationship between Yoruba and Igbo. The Igbo had no king but the Yoruba relatives had Obi. He also pointed to a lost Yoruba dialect, Olukwumu spoken in Anioma, Idumu-ogu,Ubulubu, Ugboba and Ukwuzu. This dialect is still spoken in Brazil and Cuba. Onitsha could have come from Orisha. Orisha is still worshiped in Diaspora. I remember how mad some Igbo were that a man of his status would even dabble into such things. I am not surprise, I am a mere mortal and my friends laugh at me when I bring it up too. But it is not new, I heard it among my friends in the fifties - boasting as the real Ibo vs. the YorubaIbo.

I think once people realize that we are not selling out one group for another, education may overcome prejudices. There are only one related autochthonous people in the rain forest, differentiated by sojourners coming in waves from outside.

It took me a while to accept the link between linguistic and people because one can find any word and link it up. Is Ijebu-Igbo a Yoruba town, or Igbo people? Is alligator called oba by Igbo the name of a king? Even Obi has its own Igbo meaning: court house. But how does court house become a king? The similarity in meaning among us only points to common ancestor speaking the same language at certain point in time.

All I am stating is that there is a convincing link between the people of Nigeria. Herodotus 490-425 B.C described the scarification mark on the forehead of the blacks he saw in Egypt. We also know that it took a combined army of the Arabs to drive out the Africans, “sharp shooters of the eye”, out of ancient Iraq in those days. These Africans were not known as Igala, Kanuri, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Ijaw or Efik. Anyone interested can pursue this further. Research is easier now than in my own days as a student.

The Hausa claimed that the Yoruba were one of the illegitimate children of Bawo from a different mother. They founded or ruled additional kingdoms of Zamfara, Kebbi, Nupe, Gwari, Yauri, Yoruba and Kororofa after they left Egypt. They claimed that Yoruba was the name they gave the people of the Southwest.

However, the Yoruba in name and religion were known in the Nile Valley and between the Arabs as unbeliever of their religion before the Hausa met them again in Nigeria. I would say they recognize their cousins again during another wave of migration. What can not be denied though is the relationship of both the Hausa and Yoruba to the Sudanese in terms of facial marks.

An article by Ibrahim Waziri on - The Unhappy Marriage of a Quadruple - described the mixture of people in the North with other so called Ethnic groups in Nigeria. Even though he is from the Saifawa dynasty that opposed the Jihaad of Usman Danfodio, like most Northerners, he has Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri, Yoruba etc in him.

Some Ijebu claimed that they were neither Yoruba nor part of Oduduwa dynasty. The Oba of Benin recently brought out a novel claim about Oduduwa as a lost Prince of the last Ogiso. Indeed, the Edo claimed they are the father of most southern Ethnic group. But the Ogiso and the Oba met the autochthonous people, Oru, Efa and Ijaw in Benin.

Professor Obayemi researched eight Ile-Ife, and we know at least two Oyo including the present location. The Yoruba, coming from or to Ife, passed through Borgu, Nupe in the North and the Nile Valley. These were the Cities that were documented; there must be others in between them unmentioned.

The Ijaw went through the same route through Borgu, Beni, Nupe, Ile- Ife, present Benin before spreading to the delta region.

Do all these parts of an elephant belong to the same animal?

If all these groups are the same, they should speak the same language or may be in different dialects and have the same ancestors. I think they all do.

ARCHEOLOGY: The best tools we have are the discovery made in Nigeria in spite of wet acidic soil that is not good for preservation. A relative comparison of discoveries inside and outside of Nigeria can be convincing evidence of our ancient civilization:

Iwo Eleru – 10,000 B.C Between Akure and present Ile-Ife
Nubia culture - 10,000 B.C
Indian culture - 6,000 B.C
Dafuna Canoe near Yobe dated 8,000 years old compared to oldest
Egyptian boat 5,000 yrs old
China culture - 3,000 – 2,200 B.C
Malenician and South Pacific Hawaii – 2,000 B.C
Olmec Mexico- 1,100 B.C
Igbo Ukwu - 10 AD In the heart of Igbo land

I have left out many Yoruba, Igbo and Benin Arts paraded around the world exhibiting African craft before our Asian and European neighbors caught on to our civilization.

The history of the Ijaw by the Ijaw is not that different from that written by Sola Omole. It links all the Ehtnics groups in the south one way or another. This is important because it collaborate our history beyond Nigeria with our relatives in Africa.

Ile-Ife is a common factor in the history of southern Ethnic groups. Other places, as indicated, are Borgu, Bassa, Nupe and Beni/Benin. The first wave came to Nigeria through the same Borgu, Nupe, Ile-Ife and Benin. The Ijaw spread to the delta region from present Benin.

Oduduwa/Adimu/Adumu/Adum. He created a dynasty before the time of Christ in more than one Ile-Ife. One of his descendants was Ujo, a Prince of Ijaw who ruled over the delta, even on his way back to Ife as he got lost. The Ijaw are familiar with Ogiso in Benin as some left Benin when the Ogiso arrived from the same part through Ife. They also know the last Prince of Ogiso Kaladiran/ Ekalederhan who fled before (or after?) Oranmiyan arrived from the Ife. The Benin are very proud of the Oba era but our history began well before that period.

Even the Ijaw met Autochthonous African in Nigeria and were able to rule over them or moved on. They were ORU who met Nigerians before they become Igbo, Hausa, Ibibio, Ijaw, Yoruba, Igala, Tapa etc. The Kumoni who may or may not be the ORU also came. So were the Bantu, Efa, and others.

In Yoruba land the OOYELAGBO/UGBO/IGBO AND ORU became the son of the soil.

In Igbo land the UGBO/IGBO and ORU and EFA and BANTU became the son of the soil.

In Benin land the OOYELAGBO/UGBO/IGBO and ORU and EFA became son of the soil.

In Hausa land the ORU and HAUSA and OOYELAGBO/UGBO/IGBO became the son of the soil.

The Itsekiri are a mixture of OOYELAGBO/UGBO/IGBO and ORU and EFA.

The Urhobo are a mixture of ORU and EFA and OYELABO/UGBO/IGBO

All Nigerians are a mixture of autochthonous people, ORU and other so called Ethnic groups in different mixture giving rise to different languages/dialects adapting to different environmental stimuli.

How dare?

I blew your cover, man! Aborigines of Australia are your cousins, black Americans are your brothers, West Indians are your men. How are you related to them?
However, the ones you live in the same Country with are unknown and unrelated to you.

I was once a professional student in Toronto in the seventies when Stokely Carmichael, American Civil Right activist, came to University of Toronto or York University.. One of the student said he was not an African. So Stokely asked him where he came from. He said Trinidad. (Stokely was born in Trinidad). The student said all the Africans died in the sea before reaching the shore. Stokely said he must be a seaman. As we were laughing, Stokely did not find it funny that such ignorant statement came from a student. He told the student that Trinidad was not a Country but a sugarcane plantation. We laughed louder.

Many of the Nigerian Ethnic groups in general and in the southern part in particular are familiar with the ORU people that many of us have ignored for centuries. In many of our villages they retain that name. Some of them have been relegated to the position of slave or ERU or OSU whenever they can be dominated. The same people created dynasties all over Africa and ruled over the autochthonous Africans they met in other places.

Oduduwa was born in Ife by marriage between OOYELAGBO and ORU. He sojourned north and south of Africa creating dynasties until he was overthrown and came back home. He was known in the Nile Valley as Adum, in Nigeria as Adimu/Adumu and among the Ooyelagbo as Oduduwa. The Yoruba are a good example of how we mix in Nigeria.

If this is the case, why can’t we live in peace in any part of Nigeria? Or in Africa?

Animal Behaviorist and Psychologists teach us that you can only have so many mice in a pen. Two will get along fine, especially a male and a female. As the number increases, discomfort and problem start. I will try to examine this in the future. Some of us are claimers of two states, one leg in each state. One leg (h)as an indigene, another leg (h)as a citizen. If you mix that up with land, son of the soil, off/on/in/out shore resources, wahala starts.

Most of us realize that resources can not keep us together and must not separate us. It is not the resources you have that matters, it is how much it commands in the market. Think! If I buy fresh fish for 50.00 naira, package it, and sell it as sardine to you for 150.00 naira. Add 50.00 naira for taxes, shipping and delivery. Replace fresh fish with raw gold, you get the same result. That is 200.00 naira. My brother, you are left poorer than when you started. As poor as Ghana, the Gold Coast.

Take another hint. How much was oil before the cartel and how much is cocoa now?
In order to conserve energy, many countries imposed heavy tax on oil, like tax on cigarettes. These Governments make more on taxes than they make on the bare products. Not in Nigeria, please!

I hope I have created enough doubt in the minds of none believers of Autochthonous people of Nigeria. Ironically, those with ulterior motives will never be moved. More research is needed to bring these people in us to light.

Posted by Administrator at 08:39 PM | Comments (1)

April 20, 2005

Singing the NYSC Blues

by Uche Nworah --- How could he have forgotten so quickly? Mr. Frank Nweke Jnr. I mean. It is not as if it’s been decades since he ‘passed out’ himself. Well if you don’t know who he is, Mr. Nweke is the youthful Honourable Minister for Inter-governmental Affairs, Special Duties and Youth Development (whatever all that means) in the Obasanjo government. I stumbled on his remarks and proposals for NYSC reforms by accident on this government website

I wouldn’t say that I am disappointed with him because the young man is trying very hard to do what he is paid to do, but I don’t see how the corpers (as in youth corps members) are the causes of the problems in Nigeria. It’s not like Mr. Nweke doesn’t know that the NYSC scheme is the last rights of passage to adulthood for these corpers, before they join the beat to march up and down the streets of Lagos, or whatever town where they would have uncles, aunts and friends willing to host them for as long as their job hunt will last, hopefully not forever.

In the reported article, The Honourable Minister likened the NYSC scheme as presently constituted to a Jamboree, yeah right!

Well, if he thinks that the scheme has deviated from its original format, well, is it not because the economy of Nigeria today is no longer the same economy we had when the scheme was introduced in the 70s? When corpers had companies chasing them even at the orientation camps with mouth watering packages while also dangling the keys to brand new Volkswagen Beetle and Peugeot 504 cars before them.

Times have changed my dear minister. So why not let the poor boys and girls indulge themselves one last time in the ‘jamboree’. It may be their last before that pocket money from parents and relatives dry up, and they start receiving those My dear son, or My dear daughter letters requesting for money to pay school fees for obinna, musa or funmi.

Now the Honourable Minister is proposing to use the one-year NYSC scheme to teach youth corpers entrepreneurial skills, please!

As if they (the corpers) don’t already have enough of those, how else does he think that the students have survived in the universities all these years? Definitely not from the pocket money from parents and relatives, which are hardly ever enough, not even sufficient to fund an average student’s monthly GSM phone bill, not to talk of the other living expenses such as buying hostel accommodation, ‘settling and sorting’ lecturers, buying handouts and of course remaining ‘marketable’ in the dating stakes through maintaining a trendy designer wardrobe, how could I have forgotten the electronic gadgets and personal ‘tokunbo’ car needed to complete the cuppie (campus urban professional) personae.

If the Minister cared so much, why couldn’t the proposed entrepreneurial scheme be introduced as part of the academic curriculum in the colleges, universities and polytechnics? By admitting to lack of jobs for the corpers on completion of their service year, hence the need for the proposed reforms, isn’t that also the same as the government admitting to failure and inability to look after, and take care of it’s most valuable assets (the youths)?

Knowing the academic rigors of Nigeria’s ivory towers, the moment students are signed off, after defending their final year projects and thesis, the last thing they would wish for would be to go into the national service year and then be subjected to another round of academic torture, possibly with the threat of failure if they fail to squeeze out money from their meager ‘allowee’ (NYSC allowance) to buy handouts from the entrepreneurial skills lecturers, whom I am sure will still be drafted from nearby colleges and universities.

There is nothing as exciting as a gap year after graduation. So, the Honourable Minister should see the NYSC scheme as a gap year for Nigerian graduates. In the developed countries, students use such periods to travel far and wide with just their ruck sack tied to their backs and a one way flight ticket to what ever destination that catches their fancy, any where but home, away from nagging family members and peers, and away from anybody or anything that remotely looks like a lecturer or university, at least for a while.

Such experiences have been life changing according to the students’ testimonies. Friendships built along the journeys have lasted a lifetime, and many have been known to remain in these far lands and commit their skills to making a difference in their newfound lands and societies.

(The writer at the Katsina-Ala orientation camp in 1993)

On a personal note, my NYSC year was one of the best times of my life, particularly inside the Katsina-Ala orientation camp in Benue State. I remember sitting on top of an Okada motorcycle as the driver sped and wheezed through the November harmatan breeze, from what you would call the town centre on our way to the Katsina-Ala College of Education, the venue of our month long orientation.

This was at the heart of Tiv land, and my excitement was not dampened in any way by the poor surroundings that enveloped us as we sped along. At the college gates, I met other eager and starry-eyed corpers who just like me, would probably not have ventured to these parts, but for the NYSC scheme. We quickly bonded and cheered each other up, promising to make the most of our time at the camp.

Formalities accomplished, uniforms collected and platoon allocated, it was time to hit the famous mammy market inside the orientation camp, which my friend Sunny Ogbu told me so much about.

The mammy market is your number one hang-out and action center in any NYSC orientation camp; here friendships are quickly struck up, alliances made and one's lifetime quantity of alcohol consumed. Infamous stories of campus exploits and escapades are told, and the follies of youth celebrated even as ‘made men’ (cult and fraternity members) rent the air with different coded whistle sounds in search of their fellow ‘brothers’ from other universities and colleges.

In our days, Guinness stout was the beer of choice and I am sure that the reason why I no longer drink stout is because I am still recovering from the ones I consumed back then, I didn’t help myself in any way by being an ally to Anyiam Anyaehie, who by all standards was about the richest corper in camp then, and who wouldn’t be happy unless everybody around him was drunk and on him.

As Mr. Nweke would have people believe, it wasn’t just jamboree all the way, not with the likes of Corporal Asuquo being in the camp, to make sure that he squeezed out the last drop of alcohol from our system during the early morning drills.

It was at the orientation camp that I thought I had met my love match, I really would have loved to go all the way with her but you don’t marry a man’s daughter on an empty stomach. I also struck beautiful friendships with other people who have remained my friends ever since.

I remember our passing out day, sadness suddenly enveloped the camp, people were shedding tears and were expressing real fears that probably they were not going to see each other again, that sadly was the reality and truth. I didn’t get to see Godlight Ebisi again until I received the news of his sad death (bless his soul).

I was deployed to Leke Grammar School in Konshisha local government area of Benue State to begin my primary assignment as a teacher. This was the first time that reality hit home, on my way to the school, sitting at the back of an open pick-up truck with other villagers and their chickens and goats bound for the local weekly market, I almost felt like weeping. Every passing mud house added to my sorrows and I felt like jumping down and running back.

Thank God for civilization, you wouldn’t want to find yourself in these parts if cannibalism was still in vogue. You would be dead by the time you could say breakfast.

I began to miss Makurdi town, from where I had set out for the journey, after a few days chilling out with my girlfriend, I missed her as well and wished that we had been a bit more discreet in our relationship, maybe the camp commandant wouldn’t have gone to such extents in trying to keep us apart from each other, by posting me to a no man’s land, so that he could perfect his moves.

Leke Grammar School is in a town called Tse-Agbaragba; it’s almost like the last tribe after the Koma people to witness civilization. The school compound comprised only of two small buildings surrounded by trees.

I lived in a plastered mud house and drank from well water; my room then was as austere as you could imagine. It contained a 6-spring bed; kerosene lamp and a cooking stove. There was no electricity and any form of transportation. To go into the village square from the school compound required a trek of about 4 kilometers one way, a journey I didn’t often indulge in. I became a hermit but not by choice. I passed the time after school by learning bird quips and songs, and staring at the ceiling counting my days. Mr. Innocent (a local, neighbour and fellow teacher) never had these issues as he had his acres of farmlands to worry about.

The toilet then was in the middle of the bushes, so I devised an eating habit, which wouldn’t make me a frequent visitor to the ‘white house’, on the occasions that I visited, my eyes and heart beat moved in synchrony as I constantly watched out for snakes and other bush and forest residents.

To some people, this may be adventure but I wasn’t an adventurer, I was a youth corper, serving his fatherland but who didn’t want to lose his life in the process.

I was to later contract the life threatening typhoid virus as a result of the bad water; this led to my going back to Makurdi for treatment and for good. Even as I was leaving Tse-Agbaragba to seek for treatment, I never looked back because I knew that I wasn’t going to come back and I never did. My life was far more precious to me.

While I was getting ready to leave, the Ghanaian principal of the school (Mr. Kofi) insisted that I come back after my treatment and so wouldn’t endorse a rejection letter, years of reading James Hardley Chase novels came to my rescue, I had always wondered what he was doing in such a place and if he was a legal immigrant, I threw a wild card and threatened to report him to the Nigerian Immigrations service in Makurdi, that worked the magic.

Before I became ill, I wasn’t so much concerned about my own situation; I began to feel for the students I was teaching English Literature, Economics, Government and English language. I really wondered at what the future held for them.

During the short period that I was there, I lost a lot of them to the farmlands (what else were the empty lands for? queried the village chief when I went to him to protest), some of the girls who were already bethroted just stopped coming to lessons as baby demands from their suitors were of more importance to classroom chants of A noun is the name of a person, place or thing.

I experienced first hand, the classic saying that youth corpers survive mostly on goodwill, for whatever reason, maybe it was the uniform which we used to proudly wear back then, I found that people went out of their way to be nice and helpful to youth corpers, I don’t know about now and if the attitude of Nigerians towards youth corpers have changed.

A kind gentleman (David) whom I didn’t know paid for my treatment at a private hospital in Makurdi, he saved me from the hands of the Makurdi NYSC staffers who had dumped me at the under- resourced makurdi general hospital probably to die.

As a corper, I can’t recount the numerous free meals I ate at local restaurants and also the countless free rides I enjoyed from both commercial transport owners and private car owners.

While not denying the jamboree aspect of the NYSC scheme, I want to also say that it is not just fun and good times all the way; the Honourable Minister would have to think harder for better reforms for the scheme. His proposals as presently submitted to the government is not any different from all the different government back-to-work schemes, the reality is that there are no jobs and government should really be thinking more along the direction of job provisions.

The danger in trying to convert everybody to be entrepreneurs is that, it reduces our intellectual ambitions and rubbishes our God given talents, it also limits our choices. People’s passions and talents differ, for this reasons they have chosen and studied different courses, there is a flaw in the Minister’s wholesale solution of entrepreneurial skills for all corpers.

Corpers and ex-corpers, this is your call, let the Nigerian government know what you think.


Post your comments and share your NYSC experiences (good and bad) here.

The writer is of the 1993 NYSC set, and now teaches business and Marketing at Newvic London

Posted by Administrator at 06:42 AM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2005

Gbenga Obasanjo: I thought…

…the emperor chased off all his offspring did he not?

Anyway, I was naïve to think that your emperor have no identifiable son he is proud of since in the not so distant past he vehemently denied fathering some kids in Ibadan or somewhere around there. The only exception being the obese broad (daughter) whom I met at a gig in Durham, North Carolina whose former husband used to jumpstart his financial freedom then dumped like a sack of hot Africanized cassava. The euphoric feelings of these children in Ibadan was short lived due to Obasanjo’s outrage when he found out that some loose nuts or so were going about proclaiming him as their father. He never showed any pride towards his children or acknowledged most of them, he denied all or so I thought. So, where did this one sneak from? Who then is Gbenga, how resourceful was he before now?

Pardon me for asking, what type of name is that by the way? Whatever you utter please do not let great business man or energetic warrior be one of them. Because to me, it sounds like something a Baba olowu - native doctor would ask his patron to buy from the local market for forward completion of a fetish request to get away with treachery. This funny sounding name could also make a good one for a disease, you could when asked about a mutual friend say; oh, you mean Dele, he is currently undergoing treatment at the hospital due to Gbenga ailment. The name equally is similar to what we in the east have; “Ngbe eke,” usually applied to village chicks that are below manageable standard. Only good for wham bam thank you ma’am – one nighter for those who partake. Women in Igboland also use it as a fight word; like, who is that ngbe eke sef? Or, get outta my face you Ngbe eke and so, so. The Gbenga name serves also as a reminder of Nigerians that give their sons silly names like Bruno, which I find amusing since such is usually associated with dogs especially in Nigeria, where else? A neighbor in Nigeria would thus say to his menacing doggie, Bruno catch am. It is always “catch am” since this is the only grammar most dogs in that country understand. Or, with a motion say, Bruno go. But to get the dog to come to ya all you do is holler; Bruno, Bruno, Bruno. Even my father’s dog in the village understands a little English too as thus; Brown go and then he goes. Brown is actually his name. I have my own peeve with a certain name old acquaintances call me, kinda twisted. So, the good folks out there who bear these names please understand it is a collateral dent no malice intended just part of the tete-a-tete.

The alleged discovery of twenty-two million dollars stashed in an American bank by the heir to the Obasanjo throne was expected, as they say, like father like son. What every prepared mind conversely should be asking instead is where the hell did this SOG - Son of Gun, yes, son of a gun after all the evidence is there his father is literally a machine gun, where did he spring from? In less than five years we are suddenly being lampooned with the lowly claim of business astuteness of Gbenga. Really? Business ko, business ni. Where if I may ask was this “business” man prior to his father’s crowning? He is definitely of interest therefore should tell us what his business portfolios were prior to 1999. If this discovery is false then the initiator(s) should be held to account however, I am writing assuming it to be true. I do not claim to know it all as a matter of fact I know less, but still I know what I know as my Grand would say. And to the new day charlatans that might misread as usual this piece, I suggest you read, “Dr. Fabian Osuji an extortion victim?” before you put a tribal label to an otherwise straightforward piece. It is all about corruption, dude. Having said this, I simply cannot ignore a sad statement credited to Obasanjo in reference to Dr. Osuji, “Only in Nigeria you catch a thief and he turns around and sues you.” This is indeed a sorry comment by a President who I am sure knows the difference between a thief and someone that was entrapped, blackmailed and forced into bribing the members of Obasanjo’s wasted assembly, something he invented. No need to further this since my position towards Dr. Fabian Osuji’s blunder has already been shared, but for the interest of those reading for the first time, my disappointment is with the Professor’s foolishness not about stealing. Dr. Osuji is not a thief and it was rather unfortunate that Obasanjo with reckless indifference made such crass statement about him. For once, he never alluded to Tafa Balogun and the rest of the real thieves (Tony Anenih, Julius Makanjuola, Sunday Afolabi, Olu Agunloye) all from the same area by the way who are truly thieves by every definition as one yet was quick to call a decent man insulting name thereby rendering his quest to arrest corruption useless as supported by Chief Sunday Awoniyi’s recent commentary. The Professor’s only crime if you call it that was that he succumbed out of naivety to undue pressure to give forced bribe.

I have zero doubt whether Nigerians know unripe rotten lemon when they see one, which the subject of this essay definitely is. It is something of a miracle how someone that could otherwise be managing like everyone else in no time acquire such obscene unmerited wealth at the expense of the entire population. Is this not among other things indictment of the maximum dictator of Nigeria and his hoax on corruption? How I wish someone on the level of Chief Gani Fawehinmi is the democratic president of that country and not the quack you have now. Here is a scenario how an otherwise nonentity transmutes to a shrewd business person in the same accidental country. Yakubu Gowon for example have always, ok, not always, but been seen by me especially lately, as a war criminal who was much less corrupt than his successors. Maybe this criminal coupist was without a clue who knows but all the same he is not as crooked as his boys that followed. The point here is all my entire life nothing has ever been said about a junior Gowon or a wayward daughter that swims in riches emanating from their business acumen. But once Gowon is crowned an emperor as the current ‘monarch’ and after only a few lousy months all we would hear is how resourceful and sharp his children were in turning the family’s corner shack into a billion dollar conglomerate. This obnoxious deviant behavior nurtured in greed usually is passed off to the commoners as wise after the stealing is halfway complete. Halfway in the sense that the yet to be complete fleecing of the peoples’ treasury by the emperor and his boy is only midpoint through. They should in no hushed tone be reminded that Nigerians may be starving and indeed are starving but they are no fools. You betcha! They know what will happen in a competition between an untoward hintless Ph.D and common sense; common sense will prevail hands down.

A wheezing shriek is never heard about these imaginative fake businessmen until their fathers or in-laws climb the seat of power then in less than two months new ‘billionaire’ sons emerge. These guys you would think care about leaving behind a name that could stand the harsh reality of history by insisting on sound governance. Something that in turn buys escape route from history’s cruel judgment the following defaulters experienced; Sani Abacha, Idi Amin, Gnassingbé Eyadema, Mobutu Sese Sekou, Nicolai Chauchesku, Ferdinand Marcos and endless are good examples but not exclusive. A sensible son should care how his father is seen by avoiding things that are inimical to his administration’s wellbeing and in fact tell him when public opinion is too negative so that a correctional attitude is taken. Instead Gbenga made an already dire situation deadlier by stuffing his pockets with the peoples’ dough. Their attention is hereon called to; “What do African leaders think?” - Dozie Azike, posted on to see how incredibly pathetic they too look right now. Had Moshood Abiola ascended the Presidency too it would have been same, same with generous info on how a wonderful businessman his son Kola is. What is not in contention today is how this same ‘businessman’ son ran a business empire left under his care underground with zero resentment from the very cabal that is known for their bulldog tenacity in defense of overflowing filth. Had Kola too been in a position to rip us off his kangaroo defense team would be quick to tell how smart he is. Who fools who? The abhorrent behaviors of these Nigerian dictators and their offspring are an affront to our sensibilities which no right thinking honest fellow would dare defend. Is it not a fact the money being squandered is ours that could be better used for the benefit of all and not just some airheads whose only claim to fame is a father’s crooked live? Are the thieves’ families really proud of dad (Anenih and Balogun etc) knowing they are common thieves? Are they really?

Now, you see how their business excuse is full of monkey stench like in monkey business? I hope the monkey forgives me since I know how he feels from a story that was told how after years of watching his name muddied by associating it with failed business ventures, started taking offense to the degradation of his name. The monkey justifiably I was told argued that since he was never consulted by anyone prior to embarking on a business endeavor, his good name should not be ridiculed when the deal goes belly up. Why should it suddenly become “monkey business” when things go kaput? He inquired. He henceforward let it be known no such thing. This though should not exempt Gbenga and his gang from telling us how much (not much, maybe chop money) he was worth prior to the coronation of his father so that we may apologize for insinuating robbery as the source of his wealth. Is anyone out there who still does not know what happen to real and true businessmen in Nigeria? Everyone I am sure is familiar with what genuine business people go through in the kaikai country, enough can never be said. Instead of an upward progression true business people fall flat, they suffer due to the concurrent prohibition of basic and needed commodities especially without due process of public hearing and reasonable notice. All the Nigerian governments since 1975 have with wanton arrogance interfered with commerce to the disadvantage of honest and assiduous traders. Let me tell ya about two of my uncles. In the 70s they both thrived in their respective businesses, one, a reputable tailor trained by a German educated mentor in that vocation and the other an Agip oil company contractor. Both busted their rear to ensure the success of their endeavors. The one in tailoring had an impressive shop and in addition to that, a van he bought (N4,000) new from the dealer, I was with him. The contracting uncle had two automobiles, a Peugeot 504 saloon and a 404 pick-up all new from the shop. Don’t ask me about them today for they are struggling, my eyes are in fact misty right now. To think of them destroys me, fellas and I do think about them a lot.

In my hometown for instance, many hardworking and sincere businessmen have died but one particularly stood out. This man whose philanthropy affected all and sundry was in the 70s a success story also, he had it all; a duplex in Surulere, a Mercedes 280S, a Range Rover, 505 Peugeot and vans for his different and various conglomerates. On every visit to Houston, Texas, in the very early eighties he reached out usually in benevolence with cash gifts to our struggling Assembly. Sometimes he even brought local arts from Nigeria for everyone; that is how kind he was. You cannot believe this man died destitute thanks to the greedy wicked Arabian governments of Nigeria that our neighbors in the west support, why, I don’t know. There is no way this piece will be complete without the mention of a maternal uncle who also is in despair today in the same Nigeria. He too is very honest, kind and unassuming without the normal Nigerian “bigmanism.” During his heydays, the only way you could associate him with richness is his clothing or cars otherwise he was as simple like every other man in the neighborhood. In the mid 70s he was into clearing and forwarding, coming to late 70s, he transmuted to importation and did well with two trendy vehicles, a Mitsubishi Gallant (almost mine) and a Toyota Cressida coupled with a story building in the village and one or two in Aba. But again due to the maddening ban on everything the Igbo are involved in, he too succumbed to the life of poordom/poverty/hardship.

This particular uncle who was a victim of loveless relationship as he was a victim of the system cannot go blame free. I say this because much as I blame the freaking despots, I ascribe some blames to him also. He made what I regarded as unnecessary miscalculation for refusing to see the magic writings on the walls and bail from the one-way relationship he was involved in. He was prey to a pretty lady that was obviously out for gold digging, who took him to the cleaners. He lavished her senseless with monetary gifts, travels, visits to boutiques such as Unit One Unit Two on Itire Road, Surulere, Lagos. He in fact took over her tuition and upkeep at the university and even built a family house for her in Warri, but this alone could not have wrecked an established tycoon like him. Only the Nigerian government factor could have uprooted such a person and it did. Even though he hops danfo and stuff in stride today, but for his simplicity and strength in not letting the setback affect his psyche I still see him with reverence. These among many other things are responsible for the emotional trauma I often go through and the reason I see Nigeria from a combative side. Each time I think about my loved ones in that back pedaling hellhole it gives me the strength to push on to a victorious end. One’s present locale ought not becloud his sense of right and wrong. Despite the present democratic freedom most of you enjoy in your respective adopted countries everyone must be forthcoming to tackle the deep seated hydra-monster there.

As you know, a gist cannot be complete without digression, it has to be allegoric for preferred effect; I never restrict myself when I write. The allegory may or may not connect the main character(s) but usually it does. It never should be about one topic that may bore people, consequentially, it has to be diced a little with other tidbits to get the desired aroma. Anything that comes to mind is put out there and why not. In a Joint/Beer Parlor – House of Assembly for example, a debate could go from newsreel to social happenings to rumoring or even personal. It could also take a worst turn and become physical like when the Hausa senator slapped the living devil out of the female Yoruba senator, some like that. The fist fight is not exclusive to Nigeria as it happens in other back walking countries too like; China, Korea, Indonesia and lately Russia where legislators settle arguments/debates in a free-for-all fight, a somewhat come one come all. Incredible! Innocent parleys in Nigeria could normally go from how to dig that country out of the hole and take a sharp and ugly turn and end on a plot to order a Minister to deliver bribe money to their homes before a ministry’s budget is passed. For further expatiation, Honorable Haruna Yerima, the only person in the Legislative branch that deserves that appellation is a good source.

For civilians like me, a normal gist could go from, weather to job, maybe politics and definitely Terri Schiavo of Florida whose inhuman starvation to death came with the help of a lying husband so-called. Na waa! Therefore, in keeping with the tradition of taking a story out of course I ask; what is keeping Bamaiyi and company’s trial from concluding one way or the other after six donkey years? They should either be found guilty and officially imprisoned or cut loose to save the judiciary and the generality of Nigerians further mock their continued illegal detention is causing. Nigerian Judges have their necks up in corruption without a hint which as seen affects the process. There, you have judges and civil servants putting up some astronomical sums to buy properties that were built with the resources from a particular area yet Obasanjo does not give a rat ass damn where and how a Judge or civil servant acquired the offensive billions. Astonishing! In what other civil society has a Supreme Court Justice in Mohammed Uwais status been accused of venality? Please sit down, sit down please, no need for the ovation, thank you. How could these guys be on trial for that long without justice winding down? Is justice delayed still denied? I brought this up not as a fan of these men whose crime were abominable say the least, but to simply show how embarrassingly low that country sunk with excessive thievery under Gbenga’s father. No fooling around here his corruption fight is a mere rhetoric that is already forgone.

It will be very unwise for anyone to still question Obasanjo’s Christian values more so after sniplets of his being a true practicing “born again,” whatever that means, leaked. His history shows that he does unto others then tear/run takeoff at the speed of wind as a result no one should be left confused about his Christianity. It does not perturb him that the “do unto others” in the Holy Books comes with a different twist. Could it also be possible that he is suffering the agony of a father whose son was found wanting just about now? Is what is happening not a clear case of what monkey see, monkey do? The emperor’s acceptance of Gbenga as his son may have some to do with the latter’s mastery of the art of stealing. I know how a straight acting father would be feeling this moment, overwhelmed with shame and sadness but here pappy must be proud of son for keeping the family trade going. No DNA needed to confirm whether or not he is pappy’s boy, none since it is pappy that created the sustainable environment that ensures only crooked ones such as junior survives in Nigeria where kind, honest and real business people do not survive the unrelenting sortie by the government on their means of livelihoods. Let no one for now loose any sleep. Let them go ahead and buy the whole country numb with their stolen funds, but it’s only a matter of time before all that; Tin Can Islands, Refineries, 1004 Estates, Eric Moore and Alagbon Towers, NITELs, Ocean liners so on revert to the peoples’ custody. The revision of this open robbery will surely be at the nucleus of the next administration’s policy for the people to reacquire their looted properties when an authentic egalitarian order that will have human face is finally situated. The preceding statement is not to be argued after all this thing happen all the time in Nigeria where the incoming administration exerts its own pound of flesh in recrimination to even things out. Still Nigeria, do not forget that!

Legions of things about that country I hate that includes the introduction of new vocabulary in the way bandits do things. What exactly do they mean with their constant demand for a “soft landing” spot for a thieving colleague? This idea to me only encourage the thieves to steal on since a graceful exit will not deter the next thief in line to adjuware/retreat after all he too would receive a landing that is over cushioned to absolve the negative impact. The only alternative to the crazy padded landing these political robbers persistently seek is a hard crash that will usher in a better outcome. This anti-corruption war portends failure if it is continually carried out on the basis of who you don’t know. A stiff and unbiased policy of; you steal you pay should be instituted to divest these crooks from further assaulting our resources. The attempt to look the other way while his immediate and extended family members swim in corruption will definitely affect the integrity of his one-man crusade on corruption. Many people are already suspicious of it; it is no longer a whisper. The fight will have a far reaching effect and treated with reverence if certain people; Anenih, IBB, Gbenga, Stella, Abebes and more are not seen as untouchables. A complete investigation and prosecution of all is the only thing that would appease the populace since anything short will betray Obasanjo’s seriousness in his phantom fight.

Chief Fawehinmi to Obasanio; “Tell the world how many wives and children he has as well as their businesses and sources of wealth as well as those doing business with government.”

Any fool who accepts Gbenga’s business resume as legit must also admit that Mohammed and Abba Abacha and others were in this business of flagrant abuse of the system too before him therefore, the Lord President should follow the “primus interpres” maxim to show respect and stop his harassment of the Abachas. His son like Abacha’s sons may have all the cover and protection at the moment, only a matter of time before he too gets chained and dragged around. The fact that as their popularity dwindles with the passage of time so also is their eminent fate in the hands of the next junta should give Nigerians consolation. Their emperor couldn’t be thinking the Arab north would cut him some slacks if he mistakenly allows the dribbling Babangida to sneak back in. He better then think twice as the only savior I see in my crystal ball for him and his family is the use of good judgment to demarcate that country now. Fast, fast! I hope the pit-bull, Fani Kayode is alert and taking notes to what lie in wait should his oga snooze again as in 1979 when he erroneously passed the baton to the oblivious Shehu Shagari even when it was obvious Chief Awolowo was the man to beat. An act which saw Shagari handing over to Buhari who in turn handed the stool to Babangida who finally gave the mantle to Abacha who as we know put Obasanjo up for slaughter. With his unprecedented thirst for raw power, I believe now that he was in the scheme to topple Abacha in 1995. Obasanjo and his son should quit carrying on as if there is no tomorrow and follow good examples that are submerged in antiquity knowing there will come a disciplined and serious government that will as first thing, confiscate all ill gotten stuff together with disbursements of long prison terms. Having said this, our grammar police should end the abuse of the language by applying the underlined operative words on people who really are bandits. In this case, Gbenga is not a businessman, never have; he is rather if the allegation is true a newly discovered thief, robber, crook, bandit et cetera.

Ndubụeze Godson III

Posted by Administrator at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2005

Letter to Wada Nas

by Aonduna Tondu --- Dear Sir,

It has been three and a half months since you left us. How time flies! The inevitable passage of time is of little use when recalled in the abstract. Hindsight is a remarkable human capacity and individuals or groups who fail to learn lessons from those whose lives have been closely associated with the struggles and aspirations of the wider community risk repeating the errors of the past.

Partly due to the concern for the perpetuation of the species and the renewal of societal values it implies, there is the widespread belief in traditional African societies that those who have left us for the great beyond are actually still living amongst us, in one form or the other. Whatever one’s beliefs, there is no denying that Wada Nas has left an important legacy and for many Nigerians, he will forever be with us, at least in spirit. That legacy is beckoning us more than ever before as the Nigerian nation traverses periods of increasing uncertainty and stress at all levels of the polity. It is only proper that fellow citizens be reminded of the wisdom of your counsel and especially regarding our present circumstances as a nation grappling with bad political leadership. Nigerians have a short memory. We behave as if we are not a historically conscious people. In the second half of your short but happy life, your principled crusading in our national spaces did contribute in no small way in reminding us of what we are as a people, where we came from and where we should be headed. This dialogue with you is my way of helping sustain awareness around some of the critical issues of our common national existence.

Let me start by saying that you are not missing much as far as the president’s National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) is concerned. Religious extremists from both the Muslim and Christian camps have been making threats and counter-threats on issues ranging from representation at the Abuja event, the forthcoming census, to so-called marginalisation. I must tell you that Nigerians are getting fed up with the crass sectarianism of the leadership of Nigeria’s two largest religious groups. The self-absorbed bigotry of some of our Christian and Muslim brothers is becoming depressingly familiar. It is also one of the major challenges of the Nigerian democratic project today. You will agree with me that inter-communal conflict, especially that involving Christians and Muslims, seems to have escalated, thanks in part to Obasanjo’s divisive politics. But this is no news to you. I am sure you will not find this nasty situation the least surprising. You used to chide politicians and other members of the elite classes for their responsibility in the fuelling of communal conflicts.

Another thing that should not come to you as a surprise is the recent statement by the president that he is being prompted by yet to be named forces to go for a third consecutive term. In your usual perspicacity and frankness, you were the first public figure to actually alert the nation about this diabolical plan by Obasanjo to remain in power beyond 2007. Very few people believed you then, while the regime in Abuja kept denying that any such thing was taking place. Well, now that the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, those of us who have never doubted the lucidity of your analysis of our national events must commend your courage and tenacity as well as your role as the voice of the voiceless. You were also the first moral authority to specifically warn Nigerians that Vice-President Atiku was being victimized by his boss, Mr. President, who is hell-bent on preventing the vice-president from succeeding him. You were called all sorts of names by the regime’s sycophants and henchmen alike for expressing this fact even though nowadays, Obasanjo and his errand boys hardly pretend that there is anything but mutual distrust between Nigeria’s first and second citizens. And while we are still on this self-succession matter, it is important to note that Obasanjo and his allies are said to have a plan B should the self-succession bid backfire. It is called refusing to put one’s eggs in one basket. Most Nigerians would say it is desperation on the part of Baba Iyabo and his friends to cover their backs.

As part of this plan B, a surrogate with a supposedly less contentious moral baggage than the likes of Babangida will be foisted on the nation. The name of a former military governor of Lagos – Buba Marwa - is increasingly being mentioned as the individual President Obasanjo and his political clan may want to recruit for this scheme. Of course, Marwa has rejected that insinuation even though his frenzied criss-crossing of the country in recent weeks, not to mention his numerous foreign trips, is taking on the aura of a carefully choreographed political intrigue whose dénouement is already known by a cabal responsible for the plotting as well as execution of previous assaults on Nigerian democracy. At any rate, I take it that you would resist that kind of sinister design allegedly being contemplated by the political mafia around Obasanjo if you were here in person. You would tell Marwa and his sponsors that collecting scores of traditional titles and laying claim to having been a Babangida boy are not the attributes Nigerians expect from a prospective president. You would call for a level playing field to be established for the various political parties and their candidates. You would ask the people to rise and reject once and for all any undemocratic imposition whatsoever.

As a footnote to this self-perpetuation matter, it has been reported in the media that a mysterious document purportedly proposing the extension of the life of the current Obasanjo regime is making the rounds at the Abuja conference, with the name of the ubiquitous Jerry Gana mentioned as one of the characters charged with seeing to it that the conference adopts those changes to the constitution that would give Obasanjo what he wants. If true, this development should add to the charge that Obasanjo’s anti-corruption campaign is essentially serve-serving in nature. And regarding the criticism of the president’s anti-corruption crusade, I would like to draw your attention to perhaps the most apt admonition so far – that by the Oracle of contemporary Nigerian politics, Chief Sunday Awoniyi of the ACF. In his address over a week ago to a gathering of National Assembly members from the northern part of the country, Chairman Awoniyi stated bluntly that corruption flows from the presidency. He added that the president is guilty of spiritual corruption and as such his sanctimonious talk about fighting corruption at the National Assembly and elsewhere cannot be trusted. It is worth mentioning here that Awoniyi prefaced his criticism of the president’s attitude to the problem of corruption by indicting northern politicians whom he accused of neglecting their responsibility toward the people. Some of the northern legislators, he alleged, had been involved in electoral corruption in 2003 and as such can only lay claim to a dubious mandate.

It goes without saying that this corruption wahala is bothering a lot of Nigerians these days. Corruption in all its ramifications has held us back as a people and for any politician to use it as a bait in the search for political relevance as seems to be the case with the president is quite unfortunate. Nigerians in their moral majority appear sceptical, and rightly so, about the blatant, TV-driven campaign currently being waged by Obasanjo. In my commentary on this issue last week, I did not mince words by dismissing the campaign as largely selective and vindictive in nature. This hypocritical posture of Mr. President regarding the imperative to fight corruption is what you yourself never ignored in your various writings. But let me get to the main topic of my letter to you. It has to do with what can be regarded as the president’s first wide-ranging public defence of his current anti-corruption campaign. I am hoping that the integrity and transparency you consistently exhibited in public discourse will help us in our attempt at understanding president Obasanjo’s defence of his campaign.

In a chat with journalists before he left for overseas again, this time, on a 14-day trip to Asia, the president railed against almost every strategic section of the Nigerian society. He was angry that media practitioners were not considering the anti-corruption mantra of his regime as the gospel truth. He threw tantrums and barked at members of the National Assembly. He cast aspersions left and right, including, remarkably, on people within his government by accusing them of trying to sabotage his anti-corruption war which he promised would be “total”. You could sense his frustration and disappointment. Disappointment that Nigerians were not signing on to this new credo of his. But much of the president’s anger and frustration would seem to have been provoked by the damning allegations in the media about corruption involving his family. In his defence of Gbenga, his son, against allegations that the latter is corruptly enriching himself, Obasanjo limited himself to claiming that the young man does not have $22 million dollars in his American bank accounts. Obasanjo is telling Nigerians to believe his version of the story. He wants us to trust him. And if one may ask, what would be the basis of this trust?

I can imagine how you would have thrown scorn on this weak defence by the president. You would have wondered, as some commentators are already doing, why Gbenga Obasanjo, an adult and a successful businessman, according to Fani-Kayode, cannot defend himself. You surely would have insisted on the police (and the EFCC) carrying out a thorough and transparent investigation into the bank accounts – foreign as well as local – of the younger Obasanjo. You would have gone further than that, all in the name of fairness and transparency. You would have called for an investigation of the alleged business deals of Gbenga Obasanjo as well as those of his associates. You would have moved further up the family ladder to ask the NNPC to open their books. You would have denounced the recent hiring of a foreign outfit to audit the accounts of the NNPC as an attempt at whitewashing the rot there. You would most definitely have insisted on the need to broaden the anti-corruption campaign to other sectors of the economy. Just like Gani Fawehinmi is doing, you would have also asked the president to tell Nigerians what his various businesses are and how much he is making from those ventures. Further more, the president would be required to tell fellow citizens how many wives he has and in what businesses, if any, the wives are engaged. And in the light of the scandal involving the sale of government houses in Lagos, Nigerians would want to know if other relatives of the president should be placed on a morality watch list.

Nigerians remember vividly how the avuncular Wada Nas taught them enduring truths about themselves. Avoiding the temptation of easy remedies, you were insistent but fair in your scrutiny of the current so-called democratic experience. Thanks to you, it is no longer considered as a heresy to acknowledge that Obasanjo is running perhaps the most corrupt and most violent government in the history of Nigeria. You told us that the Abacha government of which you were a member did put in place more viable economic measures than those of the PDP-led regime of president Obasanjo. This earned you the derision and hostility of some sections of the national media. You refused to be cowed and continued to castigate as well as entertain in the best tradition of public discourse. These days, even the most scathing of Abacha’s opponents readily concede that Nigerians were economically better-off under his regime than they are today. With Obasanjo’s PDP, Nigeria is fast regressing to a Hobbesian state of nature where life is nasty, brutish and short. Except, of course, for the pigs of the corrupt system in place who are increasingly electing to spend their last days on earth far away from the land they have actively ruined - in Western capitals.

On that note, allow me to say that in death as in life, you hold useful lessons for us all. The manner of your last voyage is in itself profoundly symbolic. You chose to live and die amongst the people. You lived a fulfilled life. You were not rigid in your thinking. Only fools maintain a closed mind by rejecting the merits of self-revision. The values which you lived by will continue to guide Nigerians.

I hope to maintain this exchange with you on the state of the nation. Our encounter by way of the posthumous open letter should be seen as an important aspect of the necessary dialogue citizens need to have with those figures whose ideas deserve to be immortalized on account of the lasting impact they are bound to have on the society.

Au revoir, Wada Nas. You deserve your rest.

Aonduna Tondu

New York

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The Chinua Achebe Foundation Interview Series: Nigeria: A meeting of the Minds Chief Gani Fawehinmi in conversation with Onyeka Onwenu (Part 1)


Chief Gani Fawehinmi was born in 1938 to Saheed Tugbobo and Alhaja Munirat Fawehinmi, the Seriki and Iya Suna of Ondo Moslems respectively, in Ondo town in Nigeria.

He graduated from Holborn College of Law, University of London in 1954 and was called to the bar in 1955. Gani as he is fondly called by the masses, whose interest he has defended all his working life is Nigeria's foremost Human Rights Lawyer as well as a vocal critic of bad government in the country.

In 2003, Gani Fawehinmi was the presidential flag bearer for the National Conscience Party (NCP). After his unsuccessful bid, he returned to his law practice in Ikeja Lagos from where he has continued to publish the well respected “Nigerian Weekly Law Report”, which he started in 1985.

Although his law practice remains one of the most lucrative in the Nigeria, a large percentage of those cases are done on pro bono bases as Gani refuses to turn down worthy causes. Also, on a yearly basis, Chief Gani Fawehinmi awards about 30 scholarships to indigent students

In 2001 Chief Gani Fawehinmi was awarded the much deserved title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN but only after a more “meaningful” Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM) given to him by the Nigerian people in compensation for the belated SAN.


Onyeka Onwenu is a Singer/Songwriter, Journalist and Actress.

She is a graduate of Wellesley College, Wellesley Massachusetts and the New School for Social Research in New York, where she obtained a B.A in International Relations and Communications and a Masters Degree in Media Studies respectively. Onwenu recently veered into politics when she contested the Local Government Chairmanship for Ideato North in Imo State in 2002.

Though unsuccessful in her bid, Ms. Onwenu plans to seek further opportunities to serve her people at the local government level.


Onyeka: This is a rare honour, sir….

As I walked into this room (Chief Fawehinmi’s office), and glanced at the wall right behind your desk, I noticed a sign, which says: “The Legal Practitioner lives for the direction of his people and the advancement of the cause of his country.” You have been described as a gift to Nigeria, and we thank God for your work on behalf of the people of this country. I would like to begin our conversation with the issue of the Political Reforms Conference. It is not quite the Sovereign National Conference that Nigerians have desired all along. You have had a lot to say about the issue in the past. The Conference was declared open on February 25, 2005; where do you think we are heading with it?

Gani: We are not heading anywhere. We have no destination in this respect. We are moving backwards. We are taking false and faulty steps backwards, rickety steps indeed. February 25 2005, was a very sad day in the history of Nigeria. The President acted as a dictator, and not as an elected democrat. He assembled 400 men and women, all of them nominated, but not a single one elected. In charging them with the responsibility of finding solutions to the problems of the country, he made some heretical statements.

First, he said that sovereignty of the people of this country has been transferred to the elected representatives, including the president; therefore, he did not need a Sovereign National Conference because he had sovereignty. That was unconstitutional nonsense. Because even under the constitution that brought him to power, it was provided, in section 14 sub-section 2a of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom all authorities and persons derive their power. Thus, the President within the context of section 14, sub-section 2a has committed a constitutional goof.

Secondly, he went on to say that the decisions of the conference will be by consensus. And so, if there is any dissenting opinion, he is at liberty to reject the decision; because according to him, all decisions of the conference will be recommendations to him as the President. He has put himself on a very autocratic and dictatorial pedestal.

Finally, he made a nine point no-go-area. He said the unity of the country should not be discussed; nothing outside federalism or presidentialism could be discussed, or anything outside the fundamental objectives and direct principles of state policy, among others.

Onyeka: So what exactly were they prepared to discuss?

Gani: We all know that the presidential system in this country, today, breeds dictatorship. Within the context of our diverse features, we need a parliamentary system of government. We even need to re-organise the structure of the country; we don’t even know that Nigerians may prefer a confederation, depending on how it is presented. And when you insist that these topics should not be discussed, you are asking people to come, talk, and go away without any substance – because you can’t discuss the problem of Nigeria without discussing the structure of the federation itself. So, you go from there to the abnormal area of his (the president) inaugural speech. He outlined a number of papers that would be presented at the conference.

One, the preparation document, the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, the Oputa panel report, and also the NEEDS – that is the current socio-economic programme of the current regime -- amongst other issues. Now it is assumed that the people are assembled to come and re-examine the Oputa report, and they would reach that re-examination by consensus. The Oputa report has indicted so many people for certain crimes. The report indicted Babangida for the murder of Dele Giwa. It indicted Abdulsalami in connection with the murder of Abiola, and so on and so forth. The tribunal commission went around the country for three years – from 1993 to 2002, and reported its findings to you (the president) in May 2002. For three years, you (the president) have done nothing about it, and now you are bringing it to the conference of 400 people, demanding they reach a consensus. You are indirectly telling the world that you have killed the Oputa panel report.

When you look at the most abominable aspect of the Conference, the Nigerian people whose problems you want to resolve have no input as to who should be their delegate. At the end of the deliberation there is no referendum, and it is this conference that will resolve their problems? So either way we have lost. Whose problems are you trying to resolve then? That is why I believe that the entire exercise is spurious, bogus; only to deceive the unwary.

Onyeka: Apart from the Oputa Panel Report, which has just been made public, there have been other reviews of our constitution, other review panels which have been set up. The last one produced a report in 2001. The secretary of that review panel was a fellow journalist who was a former Ambassador to Spain, Yusuf Mamman. That report was never made public. If we keep putting up these reviews, and they are never made public, and nobody makes use of the findings, what is the purpose of setting them up in the first place?

Gani: There are many purposes which the presidency wishes to achieve by establishing panels here and there. It is to divert attention and cool the temper of the moment. You remember that in 1999, the Christopher Kolade Panel was set up to look into failed contracts. That report has not seen the light of day. He also set up the Brigadier Rotimi Panel to look into the misuse of government buildings. That report has not been made public. You also remember the committee set up to review the Constitution? That report has not seen the light of day.

Now, the Oputa Report, the most outstanding of all the commissions I have encountered -- I mean, I have never seen such a commission devoted to details, and philosophical in its approach. The Oputa Commission was thorough and honest in its methodology. Not just because it was headed by one of our most renowned jurists, one of the greatest philosopher jurists of the Supreme Court, and one of the most honest judges I have ever seen in my life and career, but simply because it was the most thorough job ever done by any commission in the history of this country. For three years, Oputa went round the country, every nook and corner, and the report was submitted. It gathered dust. For three years, the President did not apologize to anybody for not making it public.

Onyeka: Well, some people will say that even though it [The Oputa panel report] was not made public for a long period of time, at least it was not lost like the Dr. Pius Okigbo Report.

Gani: (bursts into laughter) That’s correct, and I am surprised that the present Secretary to the Federal Government, Ufot Ekaette, who was a member of that (Dr. Pius Okigbo) Commission, has said to the government that its report is lost completely. He even said he has no copy of it. The government has no copy of it. Who has a copy, now? (Laughs the more) it is a laughable matter. The way they run the affairs of this country is tragic.

Onyeka: The National Assembly has not been in support of the Political Reforms Conference?

Gani: No! No! Not at all, No!

Onyeka: Does it not make their work redundant; they were elected, but not a part of this setup?

Gani: They are not part of this. And they are not prepared to release funds. Mr. President has not disclosed the source of his funds, and this is very dangerous for the integrity of this country. When you take funds from sources that are not known, you can compromise the integrity of Nigeria.

Secondly, the President is oblivious of section 9 of the constitution of this country that gives power to the National Assembly and other State Assemblies to amend the constitution of this country; any part of the constitution of this country. If the National Assembly can amend any part, why should there be no-go-areas in the confab?

Onyeka: This is all very interesting. Let’s delve a little more deeply into the conference…

Gani: (interjecting) Oh! Well, to start with, they started on February 25, 2005, and they adjourned for one week. There are four hundred members for three months, and if we go by four hundred members divided by 90 days, many of them will never speak at all. And yet, they have taken one week off from the start. They have gone to rest.

Onyeka: Among these 400 men there are 30 women…..?

Gani: (cuts in) that is a disaster

Onyeka: In a country where more than fifty percent of the population is made up of women, the female delegates are just a handful. The women are protesting all over the country…….

Gani (cuts in again) they have the right to…

Onyeka They are not finding it funny…whether the conference has legitimacy or not, the point is that the women and youths are not well represented. You made a statement recently that grabbed me. It is something that Nigerians don’t often think about. The schism in this country has historically been based on ethnic loyalties. There is another schism between the poor and the rich. You have always been a man of the masses, so much so that when there was a delay in giving you a well deserved ‘Senior Advocate of Nigeria’ (SAN), the masses gave you their own - ‘Senior Advocate of the Masses’ (SAM). You have come out to say that a conference such as this that does not represent the interest of the masses is not a conference that should be given attention.

Gani Yes, there is only one way by which the people can be involved in a serious National Conference; call it National Confab or Sovereign National Conference. First of all, government has an involvement in any serious Sovereign National Conference, because of the scale and magnitude of the work to be done. There needs to be State power. We are advocating that there should be a Sovereign National Conference planning committee. Half of the members can come from the government; the rest can come from the private sector.

There are two types of delegates that are needed to encompass the totality of Nigeria. You have delegates that are elected by each community in Nigeria, represented by the Local Government of the community. We have 774 Local Governments in this country. Each Local Government should elect a member to the Sovereign National Conference. The advantage of this is that when you elect a member to the Sovereign National Conference, you are electing not that person alone, but also the ethnic group to which that person belongs, the social thinking of that area, the economic factor of that area; the cultural affinity of that area.

So, if you elect somebody from Ikot-Abasi, he is bound to be Ibibio, or you elect somebody form Calabar Local Government Area; he is bound to be Efik. You elect somebody form Uturu in Abia State, he is bound to be Igbo. You elect somebody form Enugu, he is bound to be Igbo. You elect somebody from Ondo; he is bound to be Yoruba. You elect somebody from Maiduguri, he is bound to be Kanuri. You elect somebody from Kanama Muda, he is bound to be Hause or Fulani. You elect somebody from Adamawa, he is bound to be Bachama, if his local government is Bachama. If his Local Government is Hausa/Fulani, he is bound to be Hausa/Fulani.

Therefore, you don’t need a special slot for the ethnic groups, because once you are elected from the Local Government community base, all the ethnic groups will be represented. There are more than 300 ethnic groups in Nigeria; but every ethnic group has a Local Government to which it belongs -- that is number one.

The second category of delegates will be those representing interest groups – the Lawyers, the Doctor, the Journalists, the Accountants, the Surveyors…

Onyeka: The Musicians…

Gani: Yes, the musicians – but you belong to many groups. The Intellectuals, you belong there too; the traditionalists, students, Organized Labour, Organised Industry etc. We have identified about 235 interest groups in Nigeria. So you elect from each of the interest groups to hold a congress; the musicians will hold a congress. Maybe one or two slots are given to the musicians to hold a congress and openly elect their representatives. Lawyers will hold a congress, and elect their representatives supervised by both the planning committee of the Sovereign National Conference in collaboration with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It will not be on party basis. It will be on an individual basis. Since the election is by the community, there is no party business. If you are an interest group, there is no party business. So, if you elect people from both Local Government Area and interest groups, you have taken care of the entire federation; so the people are involved.

Thirdly, another area of the masses interest is after the deliberation. There should be a referendum. This referendum means that everything that was discussed will be taken to the Technical Committee of that Conference. They will put it into a constitutional form then it is referred to the people in a referendum -yes or no. When they say yes, then a new article of faith is found in Nigeria. A new Constitution is born in Nigeria.

The unfortunate thing, Onyeka, is this; Nigeria became an entity in 1914, the constitution was imposed on us through Lord Lugard. In 1922, another constitution was imposed on us without reference to the people of this country, called the Clifford Constitution. In 1946, the Richards Constitution was imposed on us, which divided Nigeria into regions, and another Constitution was imposed by Whitehall Colonialists. In 1951, we had the John Macpherson Constitution imposed on us, and in 1954, we had the Lord Littleton Constitution. Even at our Independence in 1960, the James Robertson Constitution was imposed on us from Whitehall. Then we had the first Republican Constitution in 1960, and there was no referendum. Babangida did the same in 1987 with no referendum, and Abacha, in 1994.

For the first time, let us have a referendum that allows Nigerians to participate in the process of governance. Nobody is prepared to die for Nigeria, because nobody is involved in the way Nigeria is governed, in the way Nigeria is operated. But once Nigerians are involved, in the delegation input and in the referendum input, they will have a country for which they are prepared to die.

Onyeka: Why is it that we are running a democratic system, and we have a President who, as you have said, ‘seems to be running this government all by himself?’ And it seems like there is nothing we can do about it; no one is calling him to order. The National Assembly seems to be powerless as to what they can do to draw his attention to how we feel.

Gani: There are two reasons. One, the Court of Appeals has given us an insight into one of the reasons. On the 28th of December 2004, the court of appeals decided that even the President’s party rigged the election in his home state, and the Court of Appeals dismissed that election and nullified it. The meaning of that is very clear; that elections of those said to have been elected, were porous, filled with malpractice, forgery, manipulation and rigging. Most of them were involved. Take Wabara (the former Senate President) for example. Elder Imo won the election, but Wabara was given his position. Thus, right from the start, he lacked the moral legitimacy to become a senator.

So, people such as I have mentioned, have to bow to the wishes of their party, and protect the status quo, because they are all, more or less, involved in irregularities. Number two, Nigerians in power love the ‘perks’ of public office so much that they are unwilling to rock the boat. To rock the boat will affect what accrues to them, and, therefore, they are prepared to keep the boat steady, even as it is heading perilously towards the rock, as the Nigerian ship of state is now heading. They are oblivious to the catastrophe before them. So, everybody now wants to maintain even the rickety posture, until crisis begins. Those are the two reasons. “Selfishness, one, and the lure and love of power that brings money, prestige “honour…” all the where-with-all of Nigerian society. And that is a crime of vengeance and corruption.

Onyeka: That is why we have this Political Reforms Conference going on. Maybe the suggestions and the ideas that will come out of it, will ensure that whatever happened in 2003 never happens again. Do you agree with that?

Gani: I don’t, I don’t. One of the documents they are supposed to consider is the drafted electoral bill presented by INEC. Of course, that bill is very defective. There is no where in that bill that is suggestive of the need to have the representatives of the political parties in the electoral body that supervises election in this country. I would like us to buy the Indonesian experience.

Indonesia has more than 56 political parties. Indonesia has about 225 million peoples. The Indonesia Electoral Body accommodates the representative of each of the political parties so that individual interests are protected. One makes sure that one’s own interest is no sabotaged. That is one aspect. Secondly, there is so much power given to Mr. President, even under the electoral bill, that I don’t think that we can have an independent incumbent trying to surrender power to the will of the people. It is not possible. Thirdly, one thing is to have a law, another thing is to have the institutions to execute that law. Our institutions in this country are so weak, because the major institutions that enforce the law are under the nose and armpit of Mr. President. The Police, the Army, the SSS, the NIA, the DMI, are all controlled by Mr. President. So, these are dangerous situations we have.

We are told not to discuss the Federal structure; in truth, we don’t have a Federal structure. We have a unitary form of government in Nigeria, masquerading as Federalism. We don’t have a Federal structure in Nigeria. Out of 327 sections of the constitution, you have Mr. President mentioned in more than 111 sections. A single individual with near absolute power…he appoints the members of the INEC…and there is one aspect that people don’t understand. There are Resident Electoral Commissioners in the states directly appointed by the President, but without the approval of the Senate. So, if the president says he wants to win a particular state, the Resident Electoral Commissioner has no choice. There is so much power in Mr. President’s hands.

Onyeka: I am sure you were not invited, sir - as a delegate to this conference. And I am sure that had you been invited, you would not have attended, since you have been calling on others not to.

Gani: They (the Federal Government) wouldn’t dare. If they did, I would do what one of my heroes, Chinua Achebe did in respect of the honour they gave to him. Ofcourse, I will come to the public place and decline it.

Onyeka: People will say - why don’t you go in there…that it is better to fight from within than to fight from the outside. If you go in there and raise all these issues we have been talking about in this interview, it might be of greater help to the Nigerian people.

Gani: It’s like saying that before you catch a robber you have to engage in robbery to know how robbery is done. I don’t have to do that.

Onyeka: Thank you. Let’s talk about corruption. In 1984, I was involved in producing a film about corruption in Nigeria with the BBC and NTA - “Nigeria, A Squandering of Riches.” It was widely acclaimed in Nigeria, and all over the world because it proved that if Nigerians could take a critical look at themselves, and, maybe, find solutions to their problems. Well, that film is still relevant today, probably more relevant than it was in 1983/84 when it was first released. Why does corruption in Nigeria only become progressively worse?

Gani: There are social reasons and there are political reasons. Quite frankly, everybody is afraid of poverty. Everybody is scared of poverty. This is a poor society. We have all been poor. I don’t know of anybody now who says he is a multi-millionaire, who has properly inherited money, nobody. I do not know of the father of Mike Adenuga as a millionaire. I have never heard of the father of Subomi Balogun as a millionaire. I have never heard of these rich people, Dangote – well I know of Dantata, but not Dangote…and so on and so forth. So, you have the nouveau riche. This shows you that we don’t have a legacy of general wealth in our society.

Let us be frank, I mean we know of Ojukwu, the great transporter, the father of the present Odumegwu Emeka Ojukwu as a rich man. He may be the first in his family, but he made it. Now social problems account for why we fear what will happen to us. But there are ways that Western democracies have developed to exterminate rampant corruption. You see when you wake up in the morning and you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, and you have no succour, you don’t know where to go, you either prepare to tear the state apart or join in and rob and do whatever you can, using unorthodox means to get money. What have they done in the West? Social Security…it started in Britain. If you are taken out of employment, you go to a shop, and you are given a coupon, money for the week. Then of course, you can maintain some social sanity. Social security is one of the ways of fighting social corruption in the society.

Onyeka: Nigeria is a very rich country; why can we not provide for our poor.

Gani: Yes, you have mentioned that this country is rich. This country is more than rich. Everyday the government, without investing a kobo, makes sixty to seventy million dollars from our God given oil. But this oil is not being extracted by our government, but by foreigners. The government merely receives royalties from foreign companies.

Onyeka: We don’t even know how much these foreign companies are charged?

Gani: We don’t know if they pay us sixty million, we don’t know whether forty million had gone the other way. So, in essence we need a committed government, a committed leader, a masses oriented leader, a man who hates poverty not only for himself but for others; who wants to lift the people from the throes of poverty and degradation to that of reasonable opulence, of adequate social amenities.

There is no justification for any Government in this country to put the right to education under the direct principles of the state policy; it is not justifiable in the court of law. You can’t go to court and say I want free education, the government must give me my free, it is not a right. There is no justification why the right to good health or the right to be treated free of charge in the hospital should not be a fundamental right, and why it should be under the principles of the state policy. That is not justifiable.

These are what some of us are campaigning for, the right to health, free education, social security and so on. Once you take care of the fundamental issues of life – a place to lay your head, food to eat, education for children, your health is taken care of and if you have no job, you are given social security, you will minimise corruption in the society. That’s number one. The other corruption is for the big people in governance. Give the whole world to a greedy man in government, he will ask for the Creator – “who has created this world”, I own it but I want to own the Creator? They are never satisfied.

Look, you can shout about Abacha from morning to eternity, corruption at the helm of affairs was not institutionalized by Abacha. He post-graduated it, now we have even reached a D.Sc. level, not even post-graduation. So it existed before him, and it is worse after him. Today the level of corruption in this country, is unprecedented, and yet the Government is just glossing over it through propaganda.

Onyeka: But this government says fighting corruption is one of the tenets of its administration.

Gani: Now let me ask you this; when the President came to power, the first speech he made at the Eagles Square was about fighting corruption. Yes?

Onyeka: I remember…

Gani: Yes, but what has he done? We have laws under the constitution of this country, the criminal code and penial code, which have been there and are still there for several years now. And we know those who have run this country aground. He is not prepared to touch them under the old laws. He now brought up new laws called ICPC laws, in June 2000 that could only catch those who are involved in corruption thereafter, not those who were involved in corruption before. So, the likes of Babangida are out, the likes of Abdulsalami are out.

Onyeka: Is he afraid of them?

Gani: It is because they put him in power. He has to compensate them. He did not want to preside, he was afraid to preside. Babangida and Co, and Abudulsalami and Co, pushed him forward, and drove away those that would compete with him. Nobody can tell me Abacha died ordinarily. Nobody can tell me Abiola died ordinarily. So, those people whose hands are full of blood have to explain to us why those people died and how they died. That is one. These people have put him there to compensate them, and he does not want to touch them. That is one of the reasons why the Oputa Panel Report was delayed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the interview are not necessarily those of the Chinua Achebe Foundation. The Chinua Achebe Foundation, an intellectual and cultural organization, believes in the right of every Nigerian to express their opinion.

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Biafran Footballers: Mr. Obasanjo’s legacy

by Okechukwu E. Asia --- Mr. Obasanjo’s legacy shows, very sadly, that six years into democracy, nothing really has changed except the deteriorating state of the nation. No water, no electricity. No good roads, no jobs. The only things in abundance are crises, criminality, corruption and executive gangsterism. Every other thing is in short supply including good old fresh air. It has indeed been six troubles in six years. - Kenneth Ugbechie (Champion Newspaper, April 13, 2005)

There has been so much negative reporting these past months surrounding the issue of government-gone-crazy and Obasanjo’s unwholesome assault on the 53 members of Biafran football team. I am compelled to write in support of the 53 brave Biafrans who played football, their families, and those who choose peaceful means to achieve self-reliance and political righteousness. You will always have our support. And you are not alone.

I had wanted to comment on this issue long ago, but anger took over my mind that I wouldn’t have been able to write without raining down heavily on or otherwise insulting Mr. Obasanjo. I would have focused more on Obasanjo’s mental state than on the issue. I folded my hands in disbelief and suppressed my anger knowing fully well that Obasanjo is suffering from Igbo-malitis disease - a kind of end-stage mental hate-the-Igbo inflammation disorder. It is not contagious but it can be learned. It is in his blood, in his bones from head to toes. I am not a medical expert or have expertise in end-stage diseases, but I recognize the symptom when I see someone suffering from it.

Since the Biafra – Nigeria war, President Obasanjo have been suffering from Igbo-malitis disease, which even in his almost ending life has inflamed to an uncontrollable proportion. From 1999 to present, this Igbo disease has paralyzed Obasanjo’s mental, moral and economic judgment towards Ndiigbo in particular and Nigerians in general. Inflaming at a dangerous rate even when unnecessary and unprovoked. Speech after speech from Sokoto to Baylesa he brags about how he defeated Ndiigbo in the civil war, and how he and his troops invaded Igbo villages, massacred Igbo children, pregnant women, chopped off the fingers of young men so that they won’t join the war, all to teach Ndiigbo a lesson. And yet he called the war a “clean” war.

Now he has turned his government machinery to defenseless Igbo children who chose to play football, instead of taking up arms and fighting back, as anesthesia to the pains Obasanjo is inflicting on them. But Obasanjo’s uncontrollable Igbo-phobia could not allow him to reason that playing football is better than pointing guns at him. Unfortunately, aggressive government heavy-handed approach to suffocate its citizens for seeking autonomy has failed in many experiments (see India, Bangladesh, Eastern Europe, Eritrea, Czechoslovakia and South Africa). You may torture their bodies, break their bones, imprison them, and even massacre their peoples and have their dead bodies, but you can’t stop determined souls. Go ask the British, the Russians and Apartheid South Africa. You can’t stop them with aggression and intimidation, Mr. Obasanjo. Only honest and mutual dialogue can solve Igbo and Nigeria problems. Mr. President, until Igbo issues are settled, Nigeria will never develop or know peace. When you hold a man down, you also hold yourself down. And if you and your government can stoop this low to attack and imprison children who went to play football, I seriously question your sincerity about your “One Nigeria” slogan and agenda and indeed your mental state.

It is truly sad that while Nigerians are suffering at home and humiliated abroad due to the policies of your government you found time to harass innocent children who are minding their business at a soccer field. It is sad that it became such a government issue and priority. I would have thought that you would spend your time on meaningful issues facing your government. And address those issues that help breed the demand for self-reliance and autonomy. Mr. President, do you know that you are presiding over the worst economy in the world, that you have wasted so many lives since the inception of your administration. That Nigerians now eat from the trash cans on the street corners. That your national currency is becoming useless. That your fellow citizens drink and wash their cloths and bodies in stream animals wash themselves. That your country is not safe to live in, as armed robbers and government-sponsored assassins have taken over our streets and made life unbearable.

Do you know, Mr. President, that your government is operating a runaway budget, which have cost Nigeria so much since 1999? Are you aware that your country’s infrastructures have collapsed and your educational system is in shamble? Did you know that a cup of garri today cost 30 Naira? Have you seen the sorry state of your hospitals, recently? Where were you when your hospitals turned to mortuaries because your universities cannot train quality medical doctors and real medicines are not available to your hospitals? Mr. President, I think you have enough problems to occupy your time than to stoop low to around up children footballers.

It is clear that you have no real agenda for the country and you camouflage your failures by pursuing unnecessary and useless issues. You are outside Nigeria more than people in Diaspora. One can correctly say that you are running a government from Diaspora. Your so-called anti-corruption crusade is your most clown performance. Since you cannot show Nigerians one thing you have achieved in six years, you have worn your clown outfit to perform yet another foolish and deceptive act called “Anti-Corruption” and chasing Biafran children who went to play football. Your anti-corruption crusade is nothing more than just another foolish scheme to get back at your detractors. Nothing more, Mr. President. We have wasted six years under your regime and there is no hope that the next two years will be different. To save our country from total collapse and to save you the embarrassment of exiting in shame, I call upon you to resign from the presidency. Your administration is a failure. Please leave with some honor.

On judgment day, you will give account (as every leader in Nigeria) of your stewardship. You shall be asked, "Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, what did you do with the power and position I gave you?" I’m sure the response shall include the arrest of 53 Biafran children footballers and charging them for treason.

I don’t know how historians will write your legacy, but one thing I know is that your legacy includes your foolish attack on innocent children who played football to entertain themselves. And this pales you in comparison with Mobutu Seseseko, Idi Amin, Charles Taylor, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic and Sani Abacha.

Okechukwu E. Asia

Boston, MA, USA

Real Beauty is My Aim - Mahatma Gandhi

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April 12, 2005

Ngige and Uba stole our Mandate – George Moghalu

Interview by Uche Nworah ---- He is one of the few shining stars of his generation. If Nigeria were a country where ideas and ideals ruled and mediocrity was allowed to languish where it belonged, in the trash can, then George Moghalu may well have been granting this interview from the government House Awka, as the executive governor of Anambra state, having contested for the governorship election of the state in 2003 under the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) platform. Prior to diving into the mad house Anambra state gubernatorial elections, Chief Moghalu was the national secretary of Nigeria’s leading opposition party, the ANPP. This reporter caught up with the Nnewi- born father of five recently in London for a brief chat on Anambra state, Obasanjo, and other national issues.

UN: Chief, kedu? (How are you?), you are looking well; you do not look like somebody who has been through Anambra state’s political minefield.

UN: (laughter). By nature, I am a happy person, I am also happy that God is happy with me, that may be the reason for the way I am looking.

UN: Since the 2003 election fiasco, what has been keeping you busy?

UN: My business of course, I am back to doing that which I know how best to do, I am also spending quality time with my wife and kids.

UN: How would you describe your experience from the 2003 election?

UN: I would say terrible, especially when one has good intentions to serve the people, my campaign covered all the 21 local governments of the state and over 177 communities, in fact my campaign was grass roots oriented, and also covered the entire state. Peter Obi of APGA also ran a grass roots oriented campaign.
After all the hard work, it is quite disappointing that a group of people will sit down in their hotel rooms in Abuja and write the results of the elections, against the wishes of Anambra people, using the machinery of government. Their own version of the election results is in total disregard of the people’s wishes, it is also inhuman and wicked to declare such a result and sustain it.

UN: Sorry chief, but can you be a bit more specific, when you say that government machinery was used against you and your closest rival, Peter Obi, what do you mean?

UN: All the security agencies, INEC, the police, the army and others were deployed, it was a total collaboration. You can then appreciate the level of my frustration, for this reason I have often said that what happened in Anambra state is nothing but what can be described as a theatre of the absurd.

UN: how would describe the other candidates, in terms of the kind of campaign they ran.

UN: Well, some of them I know and some I don’t, but in all fairness, any individual who after a personal assessment and due consultation, decides to offer himself to come and serve his people should be considered a great person.

UN: So what is your relationship with governor Chris Ngige?

UN: I have known Chris Ngige for some time now, he is my friend and we will still remain friends, however our disagreement is on principle, I do not recognise his position as the governor of Anambra state because he didn’t win the election. It was a stolen mandate.

UN: Do you feel Ngige has robbed you?

UN: I feel robbed personally, and not only me, Anambra people as well, and the only way to assuage the peoples feelings is to restore back their mandate, by conducting a free and fair elections, if Chris Ngige wins, then I will support him, but if I win, or any other candidate wins, then he should be courageous to surrender and support the person.

UN: So do you feel pity for Chris Ngige considering his travails and difficulties with Chris Uba, his godfather?

UN: To be honest with you, I don’t feel pity for him, rather I sympathise with him and more importantly the Anambra people because what is happening to him is expected, after every robbery, there is always a disagreement at the point of sharing the booty, theirs will not be any different.

UN: How would you assess the social, economic and political climate in Anambra state?

UN: The Anambra people are like a conquered people, the state is like a keg of gun powder, anything can happen, if something happens fine, if nothing happens fine, and we can trace this problem back from 1999 to date. Our people are frustrated and we are looking up to God for intervention, under this circumstances, any thing done by the government no matter how small is considered an achievement especially in a situation where some of the gang are being accused from the inside. There is now a general feeling by our people to accept low standards, even though they are being short changed. In the midst of plenty, our people sure deserve better. Poverty should not be our portion.

UN: Chief we hear that Anambra state is broke, although you are not the governor but can you enlighten us a little, as a key player in the system, what is the current situation with Anambra state treasury?

UN: I don’t have current information as to our monthly allocation from the federation account, to both the state and local governments which is also now being controlled by the state government, not to talk of our internally generated revenue. Let us even assume that we are not getting so much, Anambra people deserve to know how much is coming in and how much is going out, and into what areas?

UN: The governor of Abia state publishes the state’s account monthly, would that be something you would have loved to do as governor, and also would that be something you will encourage governor Chris Ngige to do?

UN: Yes, there is nothing wrong with that as it promotes transparency and accountability, but I would have gone further to run a transparent and accountable government that would be open to public scrutiny

UN: How would you have done that?

UN: There are many ways, declaration of assets, subjecting every contract to due process, and also publishing of the state’s accounts, most importantly allowing the rule of law to prevail by obeying court orders in all circumstances.

UN: So is there hope for Anambra people?

UN: Yes, there is hope; with God there is hope for sure. I for one believe that Anambra state has great human and material resources, but the government must create the enabling environment for the people to thrive and for the state to flourish and occupy its rightful position in the committee of states in Nigeria, if the government does its part, I am sure that Anambra people will do theirs.

UN: How can Anambra people in the diaspora be part of this process?

UN: You must understand that our people look up to Anambra people in the diaspora as role models; some how there is a great expectation that Anambra people in the diaspora can influence the political and socio-economic situation both in the state and in the country. You can also attract foreign investors to the state, but like I said the government must create the enabling environment, for example how quickly can the diasporas secure industrial sites in awka? How safe is the environment for the diasporas, after living in safe countries with minimal crime, they should at least expect a safer state, diasporas can also mobilise themselves and form political groups. They can stand for elections, they can vote and be voted for. So the Anambra diasporas are a big and important part of this process, in fact I am discussing with a group of diasporas at the moment both in London and America concerning the way forward for the future of Anambra state, I am always open to further consultations with our people both in Europe, Asia, America and in other parts of the world. I believe that if we all join hands, we can reclaim our state and restore it to its pristine glory.

UN: Chief, what is your assessment of what is going on in Abuja at the moment, regarding the president’s war on corruption?

UN: The president’s war on corruption is commendable and should be supported by every Nigerian.

UN: Do you subscribe to this school of thought that the war on corruption is being targeted most especially against Ndigbo, as is being claimed in certain quarters?

UN: No, I don’t agree with that school of thought, I have always said that corruption has no tribe, be it Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Efik, Ibibio, Itsekeri, Fulani etc. a corrupt man is a corrupt man.

UN: It has been widely reported that you are a friend of the Wabaras, do you feel pity for the ex- senate president.

UN: I feel embarrassed by the whole incident, most especially for my friend Marc Wabara, but my own position is that the ex-senate president (Adolphus Wabara) and all those connected with the scandal should be given a chance of fair hearing to defend themselves, doing that will be part of the democratic reform process.

UN: You seem to live a very quite and simple family life, most people hardly know anything about your family, would you like to tell us a little about your family?

UN: Well, to God be the glory. That’s to be expected of a simple Christian family, I am married to a beautiful woman (nnenna), and we are blessed with five wonderful children, 2 boys and 3 girls. We couldn’t ask for more. My wife has been a great pillar of support.

UN: What does your wife think of your involvement in politics considering that in our own part of the world, it is still considered a dirty game?

UN: She shares my passion for service to the down trodden and to humanity, but at the same time she feels disappointed with the system, but since it is a matter of for- better- for -worse, she will always go with me, and prayerfully too. God has always used her in every situation and I am most grateful to God for her.

UN: Political analysts were quite surprised that you (a young Igbo man) became the national secretary, and in that regard the chief operating officer of the ANPP, a party viewed in the south as a northern party, how were you able to break into the northern circle?

UN: Firstly, contrary to assumptions, ANPP is a national party and not a northern party, with presence in all the 36 states of the federation including Abuja, adequately represented in the national assembly, though without governors in the south for reasons Nigerians know. Having said that I have goodwill in the north, I have friends in the north who supported my aspirations when I declared my aspirations to be the national secretary of the ANPP, they worked for it, coupled with the support of our governors and prominent leaders of the party across the country who endorsed my candidature, trusting that I will do a good job, for which I am confident I didn’t let them down during my tenure.

UN: Is it safe to say or to assume that your friendship with the north can also be seen as something positive that will benefit Ndigbo in the future, being that you have become sort of a bridge between Ndigbo and their northern brothers?

UN: Certainly, such relationships matter and are important in politics; we should be able to reach out to people from other parts of Nigeria in the overall interest of the Igbo nation

UN: Do you feel that certain people may misunderstand you, and eventually view your relationship with the north as being too close for comfort, in the light of the several clamours for an Igbo president in 2007?

UN: I don’t mind being misunderstood, but the truth of the matter is that Ndigbo cannot exist in isolation, if we are sincerely desirous of producing a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2007. I am sure you are aware that both the northerners, the south westerners, the south southerners and the northerners, everybody who is a Nigerian and is qualified to vote will participate in choosing a president for Nigeria in 2007, if we start this early to isolate such people because they are not Igbo, how would you expect them to trust you, and that takes us back to my initial position that we must build bridges across tribes, religion, culture and so on in order to realise our dream.

UN: You set a precedent by being the first Anambra man to be appointed a Director- General in Abia state by the then governor, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, how did that happen and what is your relationship today with Dr. Onu?

UN: In a nutshell, I played an active role in his emergence as governor of Abia state, in the course of which he identified my potentials and defied critics by appointing me as a DG; I believe that I did not disappoint him. Regarding my relationship with him, it has remained very cordial, if anything we are getting closer and closer. I also see myself as a detribalised Nigerian, I am from Anambra state, grew up in Aba (Abia state), schooled in Enugu, I have business interests in Lagos and the north. My appointment as DG in Abia state shows that Nigerians can actually excel anywhere they find themselves in the country if given the opportunity. That initiative by governor Onu has paid off and is now being copied as non-indigenes are now being appointed into key government positions in several states.

UN: Chief, I know that it may still be a bit premature but what role are you going to play in the electoral process of 2007?

UN: You have already answered the question by saying that it is still premature but what I don’t do is play god, however I can assure you that God willing, I will be involved.

UN: Thank you for your time and best wishes.

UN: Thank you too and God bless you.

11th April 2005

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Of Sleaze and the last Messiah

The widespread misgivings Nigerians have harboured for some time now regarding President Obasanjo's soi-disant anti-corruption war are bound to deepen further with his handling of the scandal at the Housing ministry. The manner of acquisition of public property by the dictator’s allies and relatives of which Ikoyigate is only but the latest example does also call into question the entire reform philosophy of his regime. The curious dismissal of the Housing and Urban Development minister should be seen as a vindication of sorts of the position of those who have all along suspected that less-than-honourable intentions form the basis of Obasanjo’s anti-sleaze crusade.

The obvious scape-goating of the minister does bear the hallmarks of a pre-emptive strike the purpose of which seems to be her gagging or, at the very least, the withdrawal of a viable platform from which she could have offered what is tantamount to a rebuttal of the president's dubious posture in this rotten affair. To have allowed Mrs. Osomo to talk posed a grave risk for the president and what is viewed as an agenda of personal political survival dressed in the garb of a moralizing rhetoric. Obasanjo and his henchmen want Nigerians to believe that the dictator is a kind of latter-day Messiah – something akin to the last Hope for our nation – who is committed to fighting corruption but alas, his actions so far point to a sad pattern of grandstanding on the issue. Moreover, the president seems to be thoroughly enjoying his thirty seconds of media glory, precariously perched as he is on a podium of inconsistencies and the minister’s spilling of the beans could have taken the shine off the gimmickry associated with his sham campaign.

Commenting on the bribery scandal at the Education ministry and the president’s attitude to some of the individuals allegedly involved in it, Femi Fani-Kayode, Obasanjo’s Special Assistant on Public Matters, had this to say: “…This is only the beginning. This is what I will describe as a messianic redemption of the country on the part of the president…You have to understand the mindset of Obasanjo. Corruption is an anathema to him. He has zero tolerance for it…”! And we are expected to tolerate this kind of fawning dishonesty from the regime’s mouthpieces by applauding, if not actually aping their inanities!

But beyond the louche familiarity of the tyrant’s messianic postulation, one is confronted with the fact that Obasanjo’s anti-corruption crusade is at once superficial, half-hearted, selective and mostly given to histrionics which betray a profound insincerity
by those who think that subterfuge and a lack of finesse are credible alternatives to transparent leadership.

Obasanjo's decision to sack Mrs. Osomo barely a day before the date she promised to reveal the documentary evidence pertaining to the sale of the federal government's landed property is quite troubling indeed. This blunder on the part of the president will no doubt reinforce public distrust toward a regime with a history of cover-ups, mischief-making and a facile resort to roguish tactics in dealing with sensitive national issues. One of the pertinent questions being raised in this latest scandal of the PDP-led kleptocracy is that names of other prominent figures have deliberately been dropped from the list of those alleged to have benefited from the sale of the government houses in question.

Several commentators in the national press have rightly drawn attention to the haphazard, non-systematic nature of the regime’s anti-corruption effort. Many observers have gone as far as suggesting a partisan political motive behind the clumsy and dubious tactics being employed by the president in his crusade. Some of the concerns about Obasanjo’s strange anti-corruption war need reiterating.

A critical factor of our national politics today is the obsession on the part of establishment figures to protect their interests irrespective of which regime is in power. And as we all know, the protection of those interests implies that national development priorities are either discarded altogether or relegated to the background. For Obasanjo and his allies, the single-minded determination to effect their political self-perpetuation or survival has meant subjecting the nation to all sorts of schemes like election rigging or the use of security agencies and other national institutions to intimidate and silence perceived enemies. The recent political brigandage that saw the imposition by President Obasanjo and his allies of one Col. Ahmadu Ali as National Chairman of the PDP should be understood in that light. It is apparent that a large segment of the Nigerian society believes that the president’s posture in this anti-sleaze war is all about the settling of political scores, with 2007 in mind.

As is usually the case in such matters, many people are paying the price for this curious anti-corruption crusade by an individual with messianic pretensions. One should hasten to hard that on the surface of it, it doesn’t hurt Obasanjo that some of the men and women named in recent scandals have actually been involved in corrupt activities. However, you need to come face to face with the sordid track record of the figure in charge of the crusade and especially his mischievous and remorseless mien to ascertain the magnitude of the deceptive enterprise behind his grandiose rhetoric.

In the scam involving the illegal disposing of government-owned property, for instance, the element of mischief and political calculation was apparently very much in attendance. Apart from the muzzling of the former Housing minister and the selective release of names of individuals allegedly involved in the scandal, it is noteworthy that one of the names on the list of buyers was that of the Vice-President, Atiku. Two days after the release by the presidency of the list, Obasanjo’s office reportedly issued a statement stating that Atiku was not involved in the scam. So, one may ask, why release his name in the first place? Could this be a deliberate attempt at character-assassination on the part of the president?

That President Obasanjo is said to be opposed to Atiku succeeding him does make this tactic of releasing names only to be followed by retractions very worrisome. This is political recklessness of the worst kind. It is also akin to the personalization of the anti-corruption crusade – an untenable proposition. It is remarkable that whereas the first phase of President Obasanjo’s anti-corruption crusade was reduced to what may be termed as vendetta against the late Abacha and his family, its second phase can be said to contain the same vindictiveness but with a much far-reaching impact. The element of personalization and vindictiveness which one has witnessed so far in Obasanjo’s anti-sleaze campaign is also very much evident in the president’s address on the N55 million scandal at the Education ministry, especially at the point where he admonishes two former National Assembly leaders.

"It is the responsibility of the National Assembly to cleanse itself, to show to Nigerians that it deserves their respect, to rebuild public confidence, and to flush out those members who continue to derogate and degrade its integrity and stature. Because this has never been part of the Assembly’s agenda, past leaders of the Senate and the House got away with near murder and are now living in obscene opulence. Such opulence is without foundation except abused privilege of being a leader in the National Assembly for a few years. Their honour, integrity and credibility will remain impaired and dented no matter how they live and where they live and certainly cannot meet acceptance in the eyes of their Creator. In the final analysis justice will catch up with them “.

It is one of those ironies that the president does not appear to realize that the words expressed in the last quote are like a mirror he is offering himself. When he expresses concern about National Assembly members “who continue to derogate and degrade” the “integrity and stature” of that august body, we are reminded of a far worse desecration of Nigeria’s pre-eminent national institutions – the continuing debasement, with impunity, of the presidency by Obasanjo and his allies. The president and his PDP continue to inflict a wholesale desecration on our national institutions and life in general. The examples of their unwholesome and corrupt ways are many and varied. The dictator’s current anti-sleaze campaign is yet another illustration of the corrupt identity of his regime. As for the pitch about justice catching up with corrupt former government officials “who got away with near murder and are now living in obscene opulence”, it is interesting that the president seems to limit his peculiar concern for justice to “past leaders of the Senate and the House” – meaning, conceivably, those who have crossed swords with the tyrant since 1999. This looks like vindictiveness to me. It smacks of partisan political manipulation.

The concern that political manipulation is informing the current anti-corruption war by the president has also led to the belief that the recent antics surrounding the campaign are part of an orchestrated bid at diversion. Irrespective of where one stands in this debate, one cannot ignore a palpable consequence of Obasanjo’s selective campaign, namely, the fact that it has already taken on the allure of a diversionary ploy.

It is increasingly becoming clear that Obasanjo's latest shenanigans regarding his so-called anti-corruption crusade are aimed at, amongst other things, drawing attention away from his regime's bad ways and especially its role in the recent atrocities in Anambra which culminated in the forced resignation of Chief Ogbeh as PDP National Chairman. It is noteworthy that so far, the anti-corruption war has been one big show with our imperial president playing God – casting an all-conquering, infallible shadow over a deeply flawed process even as he dispenses the moral equivalent of summary justice through the agency of state-sponsored outfits with a tenuous claim to transparency. The use and abuse by the president of nominally legitimate state structures in the furtherance of parochial political objectives is nothing new. In the supposed anti-sleaze war, the ICPC has become a potent weapon against Mr. President’s political enemies, real or imaginary. The fear a lot of Nigerians are expressing today is that Ribadu’s EFCC is also being used as an ego-massaging instrument for Obasanjo. That both Justice Akanbi’s ICPC and Ribadu’s EFCC are now part and parcel of the president’s self-serving schemes is amply demonstrated in the way and manner the anti-corruption crusade has been waged since 1999 and the handling of Ikoyigate is no exception.

Some Nigerians have argued that by naming members of his wife’s family in the Ikoyigate scandal, the president is demonstrating that he has no ulterior motives. This is a superficial reading of Obasanjo’s gesture in this scam. In his desperation, the dictator is probably naively hoping that the public will be so impressed as to consider his anti-corruption posture as even-handed and therefore deserving of support. While still in the manipulative cum self-serving mode, the president and his henchmen, one can fairly assume, expect to exploit the anticipated goodwill on the part of citizens in order to avoid having to deal with much more embarrassing allegations of corrupt conduct like the one involving the many foreign accounts of at least one of the dictator’s children and his curious business deals. It has been alleged that a son of the Aso Rock tyrant, Gbenga Obasanjo, is enriching himself at the people's expense.

Strangely, though, there are Nigerians out there who would rather harp on Obasanjo Jnr.'s standing as a businessman in his own right - as if that were in contention - than face up to the serious allegations that this guy is using and abusing his family connections by indecently cornering the nation's collective wealth, thanks to the regime’s much vaunted privatisation policy. Cancelling the sale of some government houses, even if in the process some members of Obasanjo's family - extended or not - are inconvenienced by the revelation, is arguably a lesser burden, politically, than having to 'expose' the dictator's son or transparently deal with the suspected massive corruption taking place at the NNPC, for instance. And, by the way, who says a future sale of the same government-owned buildings will not benefit other friends of the regime or their fronts? It is a double tragedy that the Housing and Urban Development ministry has now been placed under the supervision of one of the characters who benefited from the illegal sale of government buildings in Ikoyi. It will take a gullible public for the diversionary ploy of selective crusading to succeed as a convenient cover for the self-serving agenda of political survival and supremacy by a power-hungry president and his allies.

In his address on what is now referred to as Budgetgate, Obasanjo did invite Nigerians to join in the fight against corruption. A few days ago, in an admonition to the Police High Command, he reportedly reiterated his pledge that he would no longer tolerate corruption in public service. Nigerians have heard that before. What they expect this time around, is that Mr. President will stop playing games and earnestly fight corruption by beginning with himself and his immediate entourage. Largely after-thought gestures like the recent arrest of Tafa Balogun are bound to make people more cynical. The EFCC and ICPC should cease behaving like tools in the service of a tyrant and his friends as they jostle for 2007. '419' – as in the 2003 electoral charade - , Anenih, Anambra, Odi, Zaki-Biam, the NNPC, NEPA, BPE, NITEL, these are some of the potent metaphors for the profoundly compromised image of Obasanjo and the kleptocratic tyranny he is presiding over.

The dictator and his propagandists should realize that his regime has no legitimacy whatsoever and the more its contradictions and evil practices become entrenched, the harder it will be to convince the average Nigerian as to the sincerity of Mr. President in matters of public morality and governance. Nigerians must know that ultimately, it is their individual and collective responsibility to sanitize their society. If we find the selective and self-serving anti-corruption crusading of the regime unacceptable, it then follows that our advocacy as citizens and civil society groups against sleaze and other forms of bad conduct should not be lacking in both transparency and consistency. The true war against corruption will necessarily involve, amongst other things, a rediscovery of core values like hard work, honesty, the rule of law and a sense of community.

Aonduna Tondu

New York


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April 11, 2005

In Defence of Arinze's Candidacy

by Okumephuna Chukwunwike, Abuja ----- My first personal contact with him was in the Jubilee Year, 2000. I was then doing my one year mandatory Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme programme with the Trinitas Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha having finished my Ordinary National Diploma from the Federal Polytechnic at Oko, Anambra State. I was then 21 and you could imagine my excitement to meet him where he normally stays during his yearly leave in Nigeria which comes up every September.

I could still remember the exact date and time. It was September 10, 2000 at about 7:30pm. I was just relaxing in the sitting room waiting for him to come down. My then, Editor, Rev. Fr. Nzubechukwu Ibegbunam, who is now doing his Post Graduate studies in Rome had earlier booked an appointment on my behalf for an interview with him.

And so, there I was in that sitting room alone waiting for my host, His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze, the then President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the Vatican. I was specifically to ask him questions on two main areas. Firstly, on the Silver Jubilee of the Congregation of the Brothers of St. Stephen, a religious order of Roman Catholic brotherhood he founded in 1975, when he was still the Archbishop of Onitsha and secondly, on his work as the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The third was just my own addition. As a young exuberant journalist, I wanted him to talk on the possibility of him becoming the next pope.

When he came down. I could not believe my eyes. I was expecting to see a pompous fellow but I saw the opposite. I thought he would come in a limousine car escorted by half a dozen other cars with uncountable number of armed policemen and state security officials who will surrounded him from every angle taking orders from him while the rich and highly placed would be busy kissing his golden ring.

His appearance was not too rich, neither was his demeanour proud. He was wearing just a very simple cassock. He had no servants and maids attending to him. He came alone and was more of a proletariat than a bourgeois. To me, he was an epitome of what simplicity and humility is all about. He was just putting on only his Cassock and bathroom slippers.

As soon he saw me, he walked straight to me to greet me and curdled my hairless hair because I normally like to go on skin and asked, ‘Hi young man where are your hairs?’

He eventually answered the first and second aspects of my questions very intelligently, articulatively and marvelously. It was not unexpected people who know Arinze will tell you he is a walking Catholic Encyclopedia. But he could not answer the third one. It was very difficult for him to even utter a word on it. Later he asked me to ask another question saying that he could not answer the third question simply because as a ‘Prince of the Church’ he is forbidden from talking on any issue relating to the succession of a Pope, whether the pope is still alive or dead.

But being too exuberant I was not satisfied with the answer. I felt very bad that this man of God could not answer my question. A very simple question that proved very difficult for him to answer despite his doctorates in philosophy and theology and this and that and erudition in Arabic and Islamic affairs, knowledge of all world religions and cornucopia of others. It was really disgusting.

Since then that number three question has not gone out of my mind. It has always been there. It has always been ‘Can Francis Cardinal Arinze be a Pope? Can he make a history as the first black Pope? And a lot of other questions. But as I grew up in my wealth of knowledge I concluded that if an African man can be a Cardinal, he can as well be a Pope. If Africans can be the Secretary-General of both the Commonwealth and the United Nations, they can as well produce a Pope in this modern time.

If the election of Carol Wojytla from the Communist Poland as Pope John Paul 11 after nearly 500 years of Italian monopoly of the seat could be possible two decades ago, then the next conclave coming in matter of days could prompt an even more startling turn. It may produce a white smoke for a black pope after all the Bible says that God chooses the weak to shame the strong.

Cardinal Francis Arinze, who was until the death of Pope John Paul 11, the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worships and a highly placed Vatican official is no doubt today one of the most often-named successor to the deceased Pope. He has all the qualifications to hold the top office in the church. He is very humble, very prayerful, dogmatic, conservative, well-learned in at least eight languages of the world and the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, an expert in world religions and an icon worthy of emulation. He has been described as the link between Christianity and Islam in the modern times. This may play in his favour when the 117 cardinals who are entitled to enter the conclave meets next week to elect a new leader for the world one billion Roman Catholics.

Arinze is a ripe candidate for the papacy but am sure that the Arinze I knew and talked with for about five hours in September, 2000 would be quick to dismiss this idea, at least in public.

Observers say that the increasing prominence of the Roman Catholic Church in Africa, combined with his Interreligious credentials, make him a strong contender.

Catholicism is registering its strongest growth in Africa at the moment. The number of Catholic adherents in Africa increased by 4.5 percent in 2003 says the 2005 Pontifical Year Book, while the number of Catholics in Europe remained constant. In Asia, there was a 2.2 percent increase and in the Americas a 1.2 percent rise. Africa presently accounts for 13.2 percent of the world’s Catholics.

Considering the above advantages, it would therefore tantamount to injustice and unfairness for anyone to posit that Arinze could not be a Pope simply because he is a black and an African. This is a very archaic and uncivilized way of thinking. Many blacks and Africans have done magnificent and unbelievable things in the recent times. I doubt there is still anything the whites have done, Africans have not done too. No doubt, from the above statistic and position, it is obvious that Africa is the strongest of the tripod holding Roman Catholicism today.

Since he left the See of the Archdiocese of Onitsha in 1985, Arinze has headed the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, writing Ramadan Greetings to the Islamic world, traveling extensively around the world and reaching out to members of other faiths.

Whether or not he is elected to succeed John Paul II, Arinze's moment in the spotlight is serving as a reality check for western Catholics, who have been compelled to recognize that the population center of their church has shifted dramatically to Africa and the South America.

In the first few Christian centuries, North Africa produced notable Christian leaders. St. Augustine was from North Africa including his mother St. Monica. So was Pope Gelasius I, who led the church from 492 to 496. He was the third and last pope from Africa. Africa itself experienced a downturn as a major Christian centre after the advance of Islam in the seventh century.

But during the past 30 years, the number of African Catholics has skyrocketed to about 137.5 million. More than 20 million of these are in Nigeria. It is estimated that there are more than 200 million black Catholics around the world, most of them living in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

With two-thirds of the world's one billion Catholics living below the equator, the world's largest Christian denomination is no longer a European institution and therefore talking of a pope from Africa is very significant and could be shouted from the top of the mountains and minarets. No doubt, black Pope has come of age.

Arinze has been a strong proponent of efforts to develop a style of Christianity compatible with African realities, perceptions and cultures rather than the culture of the historically dominant West. This push goes hand in hand with anti-colonial sentiment that dominated the continent during his early years as a young priest.

Frankly speaking, in Africa the growth of the church is very impressive, though it has been going through a lot of hard times. The struggle is going on amidst wars, conflicts, hunger, poverty, refugee problems and diseases like HIV, AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria which are the three major health risks in the continent. Arinze having been born and brought up under these conditions would definitely have an answer on how to alleviate it.

Arinze's expertise in Islam is highly valued on a continent where Islam is developing swiftly with Christianity. He would later say, “Christians form about 33% of the total world population. Muslims number around 18%. That means that Christians and Muslims are more than a half of humanity. Moreover, theirs are the two religions most widespread geographically.

“It matters very much, not only to Islam and Christianity, but also to the world, how the followers of these two religions relate to one another and how they envisage these relationships at this turning point in the beginning of 21st century”.

Nigeria's nascent democracy is threatened by religious tensions, corruption and instability, reflected in the country's soaring crime rate and recurrent civil conflicts and religious tensions. Optimists say that Arinze's prominence, combined with his emphasis on interreligious respect, could help keep the peace.

From the way things are now in Africa, I have no doubt that Arinze’s former role in the Vatican as President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue which ceased on the demise of Pope John Paul 11 helped in bridging the gap of misunderstanding between the Christians and the Muslims on one hand and between the two religions and the African Traditional Religion on the other hand. I think Cardinal Arinze is often proposed as the next pope because he has the skills needed for dialogue, understanding and reconciliation amongst religions. This job, I have no doubt, he will do marvelously well if elected the next Pope.

Arinze learned about coexistence with members of other faiths early in life. Although he was born in Eziowelle in Idemili Local Government Area of Anambra State and ordained and worked as a pastor in Onitsha, a predominantly Catholic city, nearly half of Nigeria's citizens are Muslim. Arinze arranged for Pope John Paul II to meet members of both faiths during the pope's visit to Nigeria in 1982 as well as in 1998.

There is no need pretending not to be aware that Christian-Muslim relations around the world today is like a life-and-death affair but am convinced that religious tolerance and Interreligious dialogue and understanding is going to be one of the most important tool to bring love, tolerance and peaceful co-existence between this two great world religions. I have no doubt that Arinze has a solution to this situation. Before he was appointed the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worships, he has worked as the President of the Vatican Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue for 18 years.

Since then, Arinze's name has appeared on virtually every list of possible successors to John Paul II. He has earned a reputation as a forceful and articulate speaker. He is often described as charming and media-savvy, a "diplomat's diplomat." He is uncompromising on doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, a conservative in the mode of John Paul II.

Little wonder that when he heard of the election of Pope John Paul 11 in 1978, he exclaimed: "Now we will have order in the church."

Just like Pope John Paul 11 his mentor, he has been strongly against and strongly opposed to contraception, abortion, married priests, homosexuality, divorce and female ordination. This is a fine quality that will make Arinze a fine product for the papacy.

His conservatism reflects the trend and the current administration in the church. He has never been himself in his job; he is always what the Church wants him to be. A true son and prince of the Church, a quality Roman Catholics would like to see in their Pope.

Born into a pagan Igbo tribe, Arinze became a Christian at the age of 9. He was baptized by his first mentor and teacher in the seminary, the Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, who will later become the first Nigeria to be beatified by the dead pope and first candidate for the sainthood.

He taught and mentored Arinze and in actual fact opened Arinze's parish in Onitsha in 1939. Arinze would later become his Mass server, followed his encouragement to become a priest, and attended his funeral in England in 1964 when he died eventually as a Cistercian monk in Leicester, England and also participated in his beatification mass in 1998 by Pope John Paul 11.

“He inspired many and we still remember what he preached 50 years ago. To Europeans and Africans, Father Tansi shows how different races can live in harmony and solidarity in recognition of God as our common father”, he said at Tansi's beatification ceremony in Nigeria.

His decision to become a Christian devastated his parents and brethren who were still then practitioners of the African Traditional Religion. But they had made the decision to send him to Catholic schools and therefore accepted his decision to convert. Later, in 1958, after their son was ordained a priest, they, too, became Catholics.

Arinze was ordained at a very tender age of 26. He studied in London and Rome and attended the Second Vatican Council before returning to Nigeria in 1965. He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Onitsha that same year thereby becoming the church's youngest bishop at 32.

He would be mistaken later as a bishop boy or mass server when he attended the Second Vatican Council due to his physique and age as the youngest bishop and participant in the Council.

Three years later, he was made an archbishop and in fact the first African to head the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha. Previously, that post had been held by Irish missionary priests. It was really a turbulent period for the young bishop as his consecration coincided with the Nigeria-Biafran Civil War. He went through the entire storm unscathed, a move analysts says would enable him face pressure that is associated with papacy if eventually elected.

In 1979, Arinze was elected president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria. A short time later, the pope invited him to Rome to become the head of the newly created Vatican's Secretariat for Non-Christians which was later renamed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

By the time Arinze left the Archdiocese of Onitsha, it has witnessed incredible and immense development especially in vocation to priesthood, brotherhood, nunhood and sisterhood. The Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha which he headed for nearly three decades is today boasting of having the highest number of priests not only in Africa but in the entire Catholic world. It has every feature of the Catholic life and can as well boast of being a miniature Vatican. It has all Vatican has got including one monastery for men and two for women, one of which is an Abbey.

As head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Arinze traveled extensively, met different people, experienced divergent cultures and made a lot of friends for the Roman Catholic Church both from the Christendom and otherwise. He has visited all the continents of the world and more than 112 nations in the world. This is a move analysts say has better equipped him for the task ahead if elected eventually as a Pope.

Often described as a confidant of the pope, Arinze is one of five cardinals chosen to help the pope coordinate millennial-year events. This is another factor contributing to his place in the limelight. No wonder the Holy Father made him the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, a no nonsense department charged with the custody and protection of the Roman Catholic doctrines, dogma and faith which amongst others include issues of priesthood, marriage, divorce, homosexuality and many other controversial areas.

Arinze has been a symbol of interfaith unity and Interreligious dialogue and an ardent advocate of religious peaceful co-existence and tolerance. He once said, "Collaboration between followers of the various religions is necessary for theological and sociological reasons. Theologically, all people come from the same God. There is no Catholic hurricane or Baptist drought. There is no Jewish inflation or Muslim unemployment. There is no Buddhist drug addiction or Hindu AIDS. Indeed, these problems don't respect religious frontiers."

Though he believes in religious freedom, Arinze has always believed in the separation of religion from politics and has spoken vehemently against the manipulation of religion by politicians.

“Christian and Muslim leaders cannot remain indifferent in front of the manipulation of religion by politicians. Religion should be allowed necessary freedom to concentrate on beliefs, ritual and a rule of life. God is at the centre of all genuine religion. Politicians and governments should be impartial towards all religions.

“Religious leaders who succumb to the temptation of allowing their religion to be abused and made an instrument by a political party will have to reflect on the negative consequences, including the probability that religion is likely to become a despised widow when that political party is no longer in power. At times it will be useful for religious and political leaders to meet and discuss such questions”, he once said.

On religious extremism and fanaticism, Arinze who has been described as very courageous in speaking against the two evils said: “Muslims and Christians have no choice but to accept that we are in a world in which religious plurality is a fact. ‘There is no compulsion in religion’ as Qur’an asserts (Q 2,256). Religion is therefore to be proposed, not imposed. Religious unity or compliance arrived at as a result of force-physical, psychological, economic, social or otherwise-is not worthy of the human person. And it is not a fit offering to God. Religious fanatics absolutely need conversion.

“As for those who engage in violence in the name of religion, this is a major insult to God and to religion. ‘No one can consider himself faithful to the great and merciful God who in the name of the same God dares to kill his brother. Religion and peace go together; to wage war in the name of religion is a blatant contradiction’ said Pope John Paul 11 to the World Conference on Religion and Peace.”

Even as he reaches out to other religions, nevertheless, Arinze insists on a strict doctrinal line. "All are redeemed by Jesus Christ," he will always say. This is obviously one of his conservative messages that do not always go down well with leaders of other faiths. Nor is it strongly held by all contemporary Christian theologians. The Vatican, in fact, has been clamping down recently on Catholic theologians thought to waver on that point.

But frankly speaking, all the talks about a black pope do not mean that Arinze actually has a better chance more than other candidates to become a pope. Since it is a Catholic belief that the Holy Spirit decides on who heads the church, the next week conclave may as well turn out to be a white smoke for a white pope. Though many would like him to be the first black pope in the history of the church, some black Catholic leaders say they are enjoying the speculation but aren't holding out a lot of hope.

If not for anything they are in full subscription of the ancient saying that cardinals in the limelight before the papal conclave are rarely the ones elected.

“He who goes into the conclave a pope comes out a cardinal”, the saying goes.

Okumephuna Chukwunwike

Is with the Abuja Bureau of the

Guardian Newspapers.

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April 04, 2005

In search of the real Professor Omo Omoruyi

In search of the real Professor Omo Omoruyi

The first sign that a public intellectual is in a classroom is an attempt to instill discipline, reverence and order. Once, a public intellectual asked a new class, “If there are any fools in this class, will you please stand up.” To his surprise, a student stood up moments after. The public intellectual asked the student, “What made you think you are a fool?” The student laughed for a while and then replied, “I do not think I am a fool. I just hate to see you stand up there all by yourself.” – Rudolf Okonkwo

I can’t stop laughing. After reading a speech by Professor Omo Omoruyi published in the Daily Sun newspaper last Monday March 28, 2005 where Omo Omoruyi reportedly revealed IBB’s game plan for 2007, I laughed. And I can’t stop laughing. Here he goes again was my only immediate response.

As the countdown to 2007 approaches, weird characters are beginning to emerge from their often-irrelevant corners to make foolish speeches on Nigerian politics. They claim to be experts in democratic dispensation and scholars of Nigerian external affairs. They target a likely candidate to go out to make speeches on behalf that candidate even when the candidates disassociate themselves from these characters. Omo Omoruyi is one of these weird characters. He has hitherto taken it upon himself to become the new campaign manager for IBB and make speeches on his behalf when he and IBB only met each other in 2004 after many years not speaking to each other. Even when he has become an outcast in IBB’s kitchen and any mention of his name around IBB provokes anger and resentment. He is still working harder to become relevant in 2007 and beyond.

For those who do not know, Omo Omoruyi is a self-professed expert in political education, whose so-called Center for Democratic Studies (CDS) miseducated thousands of Nigeria’s political elite. As many Nigerians question where his loyalty lies in the current dispensation, the bigger question for him is where has the political scientist left his pride? Omo Omoruyi prides himself as the expert that helps former military officers to join politics. He prides himself as an expert in campaign management, and he is designing a platform on which to launch himself back to political relevance. He is conveniently forgetting the past, ignoring his missteps, neglecting loyalty, and paying attention to grabbing power and relevance. He is repainting and repackaging himself as IBB’s spokes person and calling himself an IBB’s close friend. His passion for romantic public space makes him an ideal intellectual whose quest for political relevance supersedes reason and unconditional loyalty.

In Omo Omoruyi there is no question of legitimacy of his professional authority or competing understanding of professional accountability. With zero credibility, he whitewashes the truth with ease. His yearning for a return to the throne of vanity drives him to no end. He has misstepped before, stabbing the principal in the back. And announced to the world how he fought the principal to release the June 12th election results. He abandoned the principal and went to an exile in Boston, USA only to turn back and spoke blasphemously against the principal. Most recently he was singing and dancing to Obasanjo’s tunes and was searching for an Igbo or South-south president. It is obvious that he is not content with his failure as preacher of political empowerment.

Omo Omoruyi’s last week ranting in Minna, Niger State parading himself as the legitimate IBB campaign manager is appalling and embarrassing and called into question his mental state. Even in his own Local Government Area – Oredo in Edo State, his popularity is in the lowest bottom. When he ventured to run for a vacant electoral seat in Edo State he received the least votes with only 173 votes of the total votes cast in his home ward. With this result, where is Omo Omoruyi getting his guts to attempt to manage a national campaign when he was not able to manage his own campaign? I hope this self-professed campaign expert is not fooling the people in Minna, those inside IBB’s campaign.

Back to his days in Boston, he lighted more fire that is burning long after he had moved back to Nigeria. He brought tremendous pain to so many families and friends here in Boston. These friends helped him when he arrived in Boston to begin his life in exile. He is well known with turning against the people who had helped him along the way. With a man of this character I seriously question his presence in Minna, Niger State of Nigeria. And what does Omo Omoruyi want?

In Igboland, we say a man does not spit and lick back. Omo Omoruyi has been spitting and licking back. Since he left Nigeria for America on his self-imposed exile he has written so many derogatory things about IBB and others who helped him in the past. That make me wonder what Omo Omoruyi has up in his sleeves this time or is Omo Omoruyi packing up his shit with his own mouth? You be the judge.

Okechukwu E. Asia

Boston, MA, USA

Real Beauty is My Aim - Mahatma Gandhi

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April 02, 2005

Save the Igbo Language

by Fr. Charles A. Ebelebe CSSp ---- You probably have heard it before just as I have that the Igbo Language is endangered. However only recently has the truth and the implications of this statement dawned on me. Maybe these words have never registered with you, as it didn’t with me for a long time. I am hoping and praying that it will this time. The Igbo Language is indeed in danger of going extinct unless you and I do something about it today and tomorrow.

This is not some joke or a wolf cry. You need not look beyond yourself to know that this is a real problem. You only need to pick up the phone and try carry on a conversation in Igbo with any of your Igbo friends for five minutes to understand what I am talking about. It will be an achievement if fifty percent of your conversation is still in Igbo after five minutes.

The usual complaint that many of us make whenever this issue comes up is that the Igbo Language is too poor; that it lacks the necessary vocabulary and concepts for conveying exactly what one means to say. That is a real problem I admit. But how is that going to change? By our sticking with English? And do you think English fell down from the sky very rich? Not at all! It got rich with use and is still growing everyday as more and more people use it. Practice makes perfect. Igbo Language will not only remain poor but will get poorer and eventually disappear the less you and I use it.

All of you reading this are well-educated people. If you are not fluent in the Igbo Language, what are the chances that you can read and write Igbo? Very little, I dare say. If many an educated Igbo cannot speak fluent Igbo let alone read and write it, do you still need to be convinced that the Igbo Language is in danger of going extinct? The last time I checked, the definition of an illiterate is, someone who is unable to read or write. A good number of educated Igbos are by that very definition illiterate in the Igbo Language. Can you imagine that? We as a people are among the most literate ethnic nationalities in Africa if not the world over but we are illiterate in our own Language. Who would believe it? We who are reputed to be masters of many of the world’s major and minor languages cannot master our own! Granted our forefathers sent their first children to school principally to master the white man’s tongue, they didn’t ask them to sacrifice their own in the process. We seem to be in the process of doing just that. Neither they, our forefathers, nor our progenies will be happy with us if we let this happen.

The pity is that there are many among us who do not seem worried by the possibility that such a calamity might indeed befall us. Such people, it would appear, do not appreciate the stakes here. They do not seem to understand what language means. They are apparently oblivious to the fact that there can be no Igbos without the Igbo Language. They do not stop to ponder why it was necessary for Americans to fashion their own brand of English even though the Queen’s English could have served them very well. They do not stop to ponder why the French and the Germans are fighting with all they have to save their languages from the ‘predator’ called English. They are apparently unaware that language gives a people their identity; carries their culture. The French and the Germans understand this and that is why they are fighting to save their languages. If such highly developed languages as French and German are fighting for their lives against English, is there any reason to suppose that such a poorly developed language as Igbo can survive without a fight?

If we understand the seriousness of this problem, we will understand that it will require more than naming our children Chiamaka and Onyebuchi or wearing traditional attire to church and to social occasions to save the Igbo Language and culture from extinction. It also will require more than the voice mail recording in Igbo on my phone and that of some of my friends. These are important symbolic gestures all right but a lot more is asked of us. What is the use of calling your girl Chiamaka if she can hardly say her name properly? We will need to teach our children the Igbo Language and culture. If the Hispanics and the Asians can do it, we can too. The problem however is that nobody gives what he or she does not have. So we will start by working hard on our Igbo. We should resolve to always speak Igbo in our homes and when we speak with our Igbo friends on the phone. If it means buying Igbo grammar books and tapes so be it. If we could work half as hard on our Igbo as we do on our English and on cultivating that near-perfect American or British accent, we will speak Igbo fluently. But it will take more than the spoken word to save the Igbo Language. Those of us who are into writing should consider putting down some of our thoughts in Igbo. This may not win us international acclaim and favorable reviews in reputable journals but it may help save our mother tongue from going into oblivion.

It may sound incredible, but if the Igbo Language is to be saved, the impetus will more likely come from those of us who have lived or are living outside Igboland than from those within. Those at home are too busy trying to be more oyibo than the oyibos to appreciate this kind of discussion. That will explain how my little nephew could live in Aba and yet speak very little Igbo. His mother’s response to my complaint was with a question: ‘E ji Igbo eje ebee?’ and she followed it up with, ‘He will pick it up.’ How wonderful! My nephew should learn to speak, read and write English from his first days in school and pick up Igbo wherever and whenever. So English becomes the first language for a boy born and raised in Aba. And before you dismiss her as ignorant, my sister-in-law is a graduate, and runs a nursery school, where children are fined for speaking Igbo in class. And there is nothing to suggest that this practice is unique to her kindergarten or that she is alone in her attitude to the Igbo Language. So do you still need more proof that our mother tongue is in danger of dying away?

I do not deceive myself and neither should you. It is going to be difficult to save the Igbo Language. If you have tried sustaining a conversation in Igbo for any length of time you will understand what I mean. But we have overcome many a difficult challenge in our lives before. We can overcome this one too if we commit to it. That’s all I am trying to do here: To call our attention to a major problem facing every Igbo man or woman worthy of the name and to get us to commit to doing something about it. The survival of the Igbo nation depends on it. As far as I am concerned this is a more important campaign than the campaign for an Igbo president for Nigeria come 2007. What makes a president an Igbo if he or she can hardly speak Igbo let alone read or write it? A na-ebu uzo azotagodu ji tupu a zoba oku. Please carry this message forward as you see fit and as best you can. Long live Ndigbo!

Marquette University
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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April 01, 2005

Impeachment and Mere Allegation of Looting in Nigeria

by Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa --- There was a time in Lagos and might be in other parts of Nigeria, when you shouted OLE, most passerby wanted a piece of him with at least a slap. Some OLE got smart, as people ran after them, one would manage to step back and push an innocent soul forward shouting OLE, OLE with the rest of the crowd.

This is the case with our politicians today. If you dare call them OLE, they will deal with you severely. Not even the President will be spared. He may now face impeachment for pointing finger at some senators and house representatives as OLE, even though he called most of them hard working and honorable. Our politicians specialize in looting the treasury directly, indirectly or impeaching one another.

Yerima was recently suspended from the house for calling them bribe seekers. They had to deal with him severely. Yerima did not learn from those before him who dared call these honorable men, his cohort, OLE.

El Rufai was force to apologize and he was also exposed for paying foreign money (hard currency) to his Assistants, as expatriates. The same Mantu, who demanded bribe to facilitate his confirmation as minister, is now getting report about Wabara demand from poor Education minister. He should have listened when Obasanjo asked them to come clean. He decided to play the game in town and got burnt, so he is suing to clear his name.

When Nzeribe decided to expose his cohort, he was also severely dealt with. He did not generate much sympathy because of his unusual character. But he made his point and sensitized us to how money bags move around among the polititians.

It was Aluko who blasted those economic refugees including his brother, as failures who could not succeed in Nigeria, because they are too scared to come to Nigeria and join the ONYEOSI club like him. He actually got the support of his father, a respectable and honorable economist of our time. Blood is thicker than water.

Well, these are MERE allegations that have not been proven in the court of law. Most of us still remember that Oyi Okadigbo and his colleagues were finally pardoned after an investigation that was investigated by other cohort investigators!

The son of Abacha reneged on his promise after who and who of Nigeria got him out of prison and he decided to go to the court of law to challenge these MERE allegations.

There are also MERE allegations against BARAWO Makanjuola, Dariye, Tafa Balogun, etc. We are still waiting for Nigerian due process in many cases, another word for I will fight with a little of what I stole. We have to clean our judiciary to respond to these ills in our society, the same way others establish tribunals.

There are others that are so sacred that you do not mention them, unless you want to be severely dealt with. That is why I am surprised that my dear Arewa Man of the Year, Ribadu would dare talk about Babagida. I wonder if he was aware that Obasanjo in the front of the whole world at Harvard University, asked anyone who has any hard evidence against him to come forward. Poor Ribadu is in hot water for saying what everyone thinks.

When the Muslim heard that those in the Sovereign Conference (?) were getting 250,000 naira a week and may decide the faith of the Country, they asked Obasanjo for equality. Who can predict that the Muslims who constitute the majority of the Nigerian ruling class, looting the treasury for years would now ask for equal share. In Nigeria, that is what we call progress!

Right now, Obasanjo is the one eye man in the mist of people blinded by corruption. Yes, I heard about his son’s foreign account in the United States. Do not forget Abacha’s son also claimed to be a legitimate business man. So is the son of Kofi Annan. Can we separate the sons from the fathers? Of course business flows better because of the fathers.
However, unlike Abacha, nobody has accused Annan or Obasanjo of channeling illegal or stolen money to their sons’ bank accounts.

There is nothing wrong with one INO exposing another. We are doom if they all keep quiet. This notion that one has to be a saint to clean up Nigeria is unreasonable. Even Abacha did his own cleanup at the Bank and also exposed some people including a monarch. We should encourage other BARAWO to expose their cohorts, not discourage them. Watch out for - if you Tarka me, I Daboh you.

ROBBING PETER TO PAY PAUL: If this is how we see ourselves, do you blame receivers of our stolen properties if they refuse to return our stolen money taken from one rogue and ask them to return it to another. That is double complicity, aiding and abetting.

If a former leader wondered why Nigeria had not collapsed, we should wonder why anyone would trust a Nigerian. A friend from Ghana once told me that he heard almost on a daily basis that these many millions were stolen from Nigeria. How many millions are there in Nigeria?

Another friend who is an accountant and head of his department was once asked by his boss if he knew who sent a fax from the Central Bank of Nigeria asking for money. He was shaken with anger, he could not respond for fear of what might come out of his mouth. A colleague of mine actually had the guts to ask me about 419!

One Friday I decided to stop by a restaurant downtown for take home treat. As I was leaning on my twenty-something year old car that some people still admire, a well dressed white woman with two small children demanded that I (privileged black man?) give her money because she was hungry. I decided to give her the money for my treat that Friday and went home without. I wondered how much she would have demanded if she knew I am a Nigerian.

If Nigerians are known for corruption at home and 419 abroad, can we demand that these Paris club and others cancelled our loan, which to them is credit cards? Can anyone default on their credit cards without declaring bankruptcy in one form or another? I am not sure we are ready to forgo our foreign reserve and other private properties outside of our Country.

FROM 13 BILLIONS TO 34 BILLIONS US DOLLARS: Some of us remember Chavez, a lawyer who devoted his life to helping farm workers in the southern part of United States. Many of these workers before many people became aware, owed their boss or masters more money at the end of their working years than when they began. Their children and wives sometimes continued to pay the debt as second generation workers.

Africans who know history and listen to Nkrumah about Neocolonialism are aware. If not, learn from Danfur or children brought from neighboring countries into Nigeria as house help. Some bourgeoisies got mad at Jakande for building schools everywhere reducing the availability of house helps.

If you wonder why we owe much more than we borrowed, think about the person who borrowed money to buy a car and the one who borrowed to buy a house. Some Nigerians may remember that song about Bobby who bought a car and not a house. They called him a dirty name. So the worker asked the master why he owed so much while he had been working for pay all his life. The masters explained:

Rent – the workers did not own the boarding house, rental payment accumulate for their masters. The same as those big mansions Nigerians buy all over the world, paying big taxes to develop their schools and that community. The day he stops paying, he finds out the real owner of the house. The Japanese bought prestigious Rockefeller building at the height of the boom. They sold it back to Americans at a loss during downturn. Nigerians who work for dollars in the US can not afford those properties, how long can the looters and their lazy children keep them?

Food – The masters sell groceries to the workers at exorbitant prices. Foreign taste acquired by Nigerians abroad through travels, foreign suzies, and home copy cats who know everywhere in Europe and America without leaving Nigeria.

Water – Perrier water, Damon, Spring, sugar water and others imported into the Country.

Beverages – Minerals, champagne, beers, people’s drink, and others.

Light – Masters charge the workers for light by paying the bills and then pocket the differences. NEPA is a sink hole dripping/pouring into individual pockets.

Clothes – In these farms, the masters sell the uniforms. The same as our designer laces made anywhere but in Nigeria. If made in Nigeria, they have to be exported and re imported before Nigerians would buy them.

Security – The master has to pay for security to make sure nobody revolts against him or his family. More important, to make sure farm workers do not escape, without paying the balance of what they owe him. Nigerians pay for security too, at the top as police allocation and at the end as twenty naira per car. Since allocation hardly reaches the bottom, twenty naira help pay for family allowance and vehicle maintenance.

Farm Equipment – Machinery and Tractors used in the farm have to be paid for by the masters so that the workers can increase their productivity. Nigerians love Hummer trucks, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo. Not for farm or road building. It is for “feferity”. Usually the seed money pays for these first, whatever is left if any, pays for the execution of the project.

There was a joke about the load carrier who consumes bread in the days it was a luxury, hardly realizing that his bald head was paying for it. While interest was accumulating on our debt, there was no appreciation on our consumption, and we are passing on the debt to our children.

In spite of our reputation for corruption, Nigerians are known to be very educated and clever. Most of the crimes Nigerians are known for are white collar crimes. So how do we get out of this bondage is the 34 billion dollar question.


Our leaders have been traveling all over the globe hoping against hope that our loan will be forgiven. After all Mexico got some reprieve and other poor countries got their loan forgiven. Indeed, we have recruited Nigerian expatriates paying them in US dollars to see how our loan can be forgiven. The problem here is that nobody will forgive your credit card loan if you have equity in your house. The hired Nigerian expatriates know that. Nigeria has potentials that are wasted away by corrupt officials.

It is very ironic that the same military politicians who stole borrowed money are now the leading candidates to run the affairs of this Country again. They will be same people who will negotiate our way out of the same foreign debt. How would you like to face the same armed robbers who had raided your house, at the police station, but in police uniform? Or, better still, the same robbers out of military uniforms in civilian Agbada?

May be we can negotiate as we curb 419 from operating and get some return on our effort. We also curb drug trafficking that adversely affected Europe and America. Fighting terrorist is now big business, if we can handle our domestic terrorist.

Nigerians send billions of dollars home to their relatives every year. These are the same Nigerians who are too scared to come home and steal or not connected enough to earn US dollars in Nigeria. Then there is the other class of Nigerians who stashed billions of US dollars outside of Nigeria without working for a dollar in their life. Who should help pay back the debt?

Repatriation has been mentioned many times. It has been going on since the time of Marcus Garvey, Nkrumah, Zik and Awo. Slave labor built America and the children of these slaves deserve some compensation. If Europe and America decided on paying compensation, to whom should the check be made to? Corrupt Africans who sold the slave and got paid with mirrors or the children of the slaves who labored?

Legal means has been suggested by Professor Afe Babalola. Most of the loan were given to illegal Military Governments and shared with their foreign partners in collusion against Nigeria. We are yet to make our case on this. Has anybody confessed?

Some people have suggested that any money made or returned in the name of Nigeria should be monitored by that foreign Government. I think we still yearn for the days we were ruled by the British. Indeed, some people claim that was the good old days!

If we have the same brain, sometimes attend the same schools, our culture richer and our civilization in Africa is older than others, why are we so blinded by greed? African American kids feel better about themselves when they learn their African history and realize they were Queens and Kings with civilized culture at some point in time. We may need our historians to come to our aid. I know when Yoruba are given their oriki, they remember whose children they are.We need the African villages where everyone cares about others. Not everyone for himself.

Posted by Administrator at 07:59 AM | Comments (0)

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