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November 07, 2006

Driving Nuhu Ribadu out of Town

In Tondu's Naija Chronicles by Aonduna Tondu (New York, USA) --- The EFCC is a good example of a noble idea gone awry. Faced with the rabble-rousing histrionics of its mercurial head called Nuhu Ribadu and the glaring evidence that both the outfit and its chairman have become tools in the service of a dictator and his anti-people fantasies, Nigerian democrats and those who wish our country well must be alarmed at the prospect of letting Ribadu and the contraption he pretends to lead continue to desecrate our democratic spaces with his resort to violent and illegal tactics that clearly are an affront to the sensibilities of decent, law-abiding citizens.

If the truth be told, Nuhu Ribadu has constituted himself into an uncouth loudmouth with a penchant for mafia-style antics. As things now stand, Ribadu’s EFCC has joined the police and the SSS in particular as one of the notable instruments of state being deployed in a criminal and outlaw fashion by His Majesty to constrict Nigeria’s democratic environment with an aim to perpetuating the status quo – a sinister proposition that cannot be in the short or long-term interest of the average Nigerian.

Yet, history has taught us that the type of fool’s paradise being sought after by Obasanjo and his allies is the ultimate challenge or danger that a community can be confronted with. And how well members of that community respond to such a threat to their collective patrimony is bound to determine the course of future development in the society. That is why the next time Ribadu descends on any community with his fellow thugs in the furtherance of the script laid down by his political master, all men and women of goodwill should rise and chase the rascals out of town for the likes of Ribadu and Obasanjo cowardly hide behind the tapestry of pseudo-constitutionalism in order to prosecute their petty agenda of corrupt self-preservation and political partisanship.

There is no gainsaying that Nigerians who have been bruised by decades of corrupt practices on the part of their so-called leaders are yearning for good and morally-conscious representatives. Those who tell them they will fight the plague of 419 and do actually commit themselves to the pledge should become instant heroes. But the moment the initial mission is hijacked and its agents conscripted for unwholesome purposes as is the case in the current witch-hunting and grandstanding the EFCC’s Ribadu has graduated into, Nigerians should not hesitate to call the apostates and their supporters to order. Beyond the obviously selective posture of his relentless, if reckless hounding of figures who in the main are considered as political enemies or associates of enemies of Obasanjo, there is the worrisome question of process, namely, the evidently illegal manner Ribadu, an agent of the Aso Rock tyrant, is going about his supposed business of fighting corruption. The lack of due process that keeps manifesting itself in the EFCC’s actions is troubling and raises more questions as to the commitment of Obasanjo and his henchmen to the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria. As I did stress elsewhere, the corrupt and illegal use of state structures in the so-called anti-corruption campaign is doing more harm than good. The lack of trust in government processes should be a constant source of worry for all. Already, the corrupt use of Ribadu, his EFCC and other fixtures, has ensured that governance at the federal level has been paralyzed for some time now. This is taking its toll on the Nigerian psyche. The Nigerian nation is being held hostage by loathsome types with a disdain for democratic governance. These unpatriotic characters cannot be allowed to have their way. The stakes are just too great for the country.

While Nuhu Ribadu pontificates and noisily denounces politicians and other individuals not considered as politically willing to play ball with Obasanjo, he studiously keeps mute or, worse, obfuscates by wallowing in meanders of inconsistency and duplicity when confronted with the sleazy and thieving conduct of his master and the cabal he belongs to. For those genuinely seeking after the truth, it must be mentioned that a recent document written by retired Col. Abubakar Umar on the dishonest and hypocritical way the anti-corruption war is being pursued by Ribadu and his gang should be considered as a critical part of any intelligence on the state of the nation under the regime of Baba Aremu. In his sweeping and disparaging remarks against state governors at the National Assembly recently, Ribadu was careful to leave out mentioning where much of the corruption in government offices takes place, namely, the presidency of Matthew Okikiolakan Obasanjo. And one should not ignore the fact that Obasanjo’s family members and henchmen like Bode George, Tony Anenih, and Ahmadu Ali have cases to answer regarding their respective roles in the handling of public money. Surely, Ribadu cannot be taken seriously. He has developed into a quantity of tragic proportions. And the tragic posture of which Ribadu and the EFCC are now an embodiment has once more been on display, this time, in places like Ekiti and Plateau.

In a show of shame reminiscent of the ‘coups d’état’ in Bayelsa and Oyo, Nuhu Ribadu has arrested sitting legislators of Ekiti and Plateau states, supposedly on charges of corruption. These legislators have virtually been held incommunicado. They have been intimidated and forced to start impeachment proceedings against their respective state governors whom Ribadu and his boss consider as embezzlers. It is said that sometimes tragedy presents itself as farce. This was the case a few days ago when, discarding any pretense of legality and the rule of law, Ribadu’s EFCC dragged eight members of the Plateau state legislature whom they had been holding to Jos, under heavy police escort,. Six of the legislators, out of a 24-member House, were forced to start impeachment proceedings against the state governor, Joshua Dariye! This smacks of utmost disdain for constitutionality and the Nigerian people. This is how The Guardian reported the tragedy in Jos: “EIGHT of the 24-member Plateau State House of Assembly yesterday breezed into the Assembly Chambers and declared that they were holding a valid legislative meeting.
Heavily guarded by over 400 policemen and officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the eight legislators proceeded to pass resolutions.

First, they declared the Assembly Speaker, Mr. Simon Lalong, impeached and appointed a replacement, Mr. Michael Dapialong, who represents the Quaan Pan South Constituency of the state.
They thereafter passed a resolution serving an impeachment notice on the state Governor, Chief Joshua Chibi Dariye.

The eight legislators came from the custody of the EFCC where they were being detained. Immediately after the resolutions, the eight legislators went back to Abuja with the Assembly mace.
As the eight legislators were meeting, there were sporadic gunshots in the premises by the police to scare away some supporters of the governor who wanted to force themselves into the Assembly chambers. The policemen overpowered the demonstrators who were mainly women…” A Nigerian newspaper caption has aptly described the violent attempt by the EFCC and the police, acting on orders from Obasanjo, to remove Governor Dariye, as “gun-point democracy”.

Irrespective of what the state executives in both Ekiti and Plateau are alleged to have done, due process should be meticulously applied in their cases. To do otherwise would mean the courting of disaster. It is dictatorship of the Nazi kind. The illegal abduction and detention of state legislators only to force them to remove governors should be condemned in the strongest of terms. The hand of the Imperial Ruler from Otta in all this is quite palpable. Ribadu is a mere agent, a subaltern taking his orders from none other than his political master. The scenario is a familiar one. It is the tale of Aremu as puppet master and Ribadu as a spineless puppet at his beck and call, an acolyte programmed to do the bidding of his ‘big oga’. It is a potent statement that we have in Nigeria today an individual laying claim to the Nigerian presidency who is a figure of scatology par excellence. His obsession with perfidy is at once numbing and unprecedented in the history of our nation.

Nigeria has never had it so bad in a supposed democracy. Those who rightly condemn the recent coup in Thailand should also reject what Obasanjo and his agents in the police, the SSS and the EFCC are doing in the name of a supposed anti-corruption campaign. In either case, allegations of corruption against public officials are used as a pretext for a military-style destitution of constituted authority.

It is apparent to discerning minds that the main objective of Ribadu’s gangster politics is to as much as possible seek to discredit Obasanjo’s perceived enemies ahead of the crucial primaries of the various political parties. The escalation of what is tantamount to political thuggery on the part of Ribadu and his fellow foot-soldiers is no doubt Baba’s revenge on opponents of his failed ‘term elongation’ gambit. But the appropriate answer to the type of reckless impunity symbolized by Ribadu and his mentor, the tyrant at Aso Rock, should be an uncompromising repudiation of what these cavemen stand for in the present scheme of things. Obasanjo and his éminence grise are not interested in nurturing democracy in Nigeria. Their actions speak volumes. Ribadu should be reminded that he is a nonentity, a moral nuisance willingly embracing the vile and criminal tactics of a discredited ruler. That there are consequences. Ribadu and his partners in crime must be resisted. Citizens should rise and fight them with every means at their disposal.

To retreat in the face of Obasanjo’s ignoble assault on the nation’s democratic mores and decency is to invite lawlessness and the enthronement of mediocrity and rascality as tools for societal relevance. Ribadu must resign. That is if he has integrity. You cannot fight corruption in an atmosphere vitiated by the selfish agenda of those charged with prosecuting the campaign. A government that has proved through its sordid track record that it shuns due process and the rule of law is not in a position to fight corruption. The proof of this is the current regime’s numerous contradictions like the thick cloud of sleaze at the presidency. What this means is that neither Obasanjo nor his agent, Ribadu, can transparently and effectively lead the campaign against corruption. Only a democracy-conscious – as in the respect of human rights – government can be expected to show leadership in that regard. Today, Nuhu Ribadu and his EFCC have become part and parcel of the corruption problem in Nigeria. In order to restore a semblance of sanity and credibility to the anti-corruption fight, Ribadu must go. Ribadu lacks the sober mien expected of a government official in his position. In a legerdemain, he dismisses legitimate criticism even as he indulges in intemperate, partisan pronouncements on critical national issues whereby the unmistakable message is the unwarranted denunciation of Obasanjo’s political foes. The next democratically elected government should seek to prosecute the likes of Ribadu and their crimes against Nigerians. In a new and determined anti-corruption drive to be undertaken after May 29, 2007, the support of the people will be crucial. That support will be predicated on transparency, due process, trust and goodwill on the part of all concerned, ingredients which are sadly lost in a maze of Ribadu’s rabble-rousing and gangsterism.

Aonduna Tondu.

New York
E-mail :

Posted by Administrator at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2006

This King is Stark Naked

In Tondu's Naija Chronicles by Aonduna Tondu (New York, USA) --- That the persona of the current tyrant at Aso Rock has been one big lie is no longer in doubt. As a matter of fact, amongst members of the intellectual class at least, only those who chose to ignore the ample and incontrovertible evidence as to the profoundly corrupt identity of Kabiyesi and his sinister regime can now express surprise regarding the latest revelations about the immoral and criminal activities associated with the doomed Nigerian presidency of Matthew Okikiolakan Olusegun Obasanjo and his confederates.

Today, in the aftermath of the deserved collapse of the fraud aimed at ensuring the perpetuation, beyond May 2007, of his imposition as supreme dictator, it is safe to say that this king is not only naked but also mad.

Madness and a resort to puerile, if violent tactics would seem to be informing the conduct of the Abuja ogre in his unedifying spectacle of revanchist persecution against the person of the vice-president, Atiku Abubakar. The abduction by the Gestapo-like SSS of Atiku’s media consultant, Garba Shehu, though hardly surprising, has underlined once more the pedestrian recklessness of the Aso Rock tin god. It has also served to reiterate the deeply troubling notion that the Nigerian presidency is peopled by unimaginative and grotesque types who are increasingly relying on brute force and coercion as a weapon for political ascendancy and relevance. The desperation of these Cro-Magnon men is frightening, to say the least, and Nigerians must rise and confront these beasts in order to help restore sanity to the polity. The unconscionable use and abuse of state resources by Obasanjo and his thugs in the likes of Nuhu Ribadu cannot be allowed to continue without a riposte. Col. (Rtd.) Dangiwa Umar has rightly indicted the witch-hunting of the dictator’s perceived enemies by Ribadu’s EFCC. Says he, inter alia: “As we move closer to the 2007 polls date, the EFCC seemed to have mobilized all its resources for just one objective: arresting, investigating, indicting and prosecuting Chief Obasanjo’s political opponents…

The assault being inflicted on the President’s opponents by the EFCC seems directly proportional to their capacity to win the seat if a free and fair election is allowed. The way the Commission has scampered into the wholesale arrest, investigation and indictment of opposition politicians, gives an impression that no crimes are being or have been committed by the president or his cronies and appointees. Yet, even the blind could see or at least smell the stench of billions of naira that are disappearing without trace through the president.”

Importantly also, those who seem to have only tardily woken up to the violent and unconstitutional ways of the dictator from Otta should be reminded that the sustained debasement of the Nigerian presidency by Obasanjo has been taking place since 1999, except that those who should have known better and fought against the lunacy preferred to seek refuge in the intoxicating regimentation of born-again apostasy and sectarian schisms actively canvassed by the profligate potentate and his henchmen. I will say it again.

Obasanjo’s atrocities are many and varied: The massacres of innocent civilians in Odi, Zaki-Biam, etc, the ‘419’ elections of 2003, the attempted coup in Anambra, the coup in Oyo, the destitution, at gunpoint of Chairman Audu Ogbeh, the erstwhile PDP chief, the rampant corruption at the presidency as revealed by the former Acting Auditor-General, Azie, the illegal transfer of state-owned assets into private hands through shady or questionable means like in the case of the outfit called Transcorp, unauthorized expenditures by the government, inflated contracts, dubious withdrawals from the sale of oil under the watchful eyes of the de facto oil minister, the born-again Messiah, etc.

It is one of those ironies that this usurper and wrecker of the Nigerian constitution (as well as its commonweal) should be trying to use national institutional structures in his sleaze-exposing duel with Atiku. As I have said elsewhere, Obasanjo’s actions are rarely imbued with a sense of rationality and the common good. In his single-minded obsession to avoid the day of reckoning which is fast approaching for him, the sadistic dictator is apparently hoping to use both his praetorian guard - the police, the SSS, the EFCC and perhaps the army – and the National Assembly to cage those he perceives as formidable foes in his ambition to either stay in power beyond May 29 2007 or at the very least impose a surrogate who will be willing to shield him from richly deserved retribution which should come sooner than later. What this means is that Obasanjo and his fellow bandits cannot be trusted with the organization of the forthcoming elections.

The National Assembly should immediately enact a law to insulate INEC from the temptation of executive tyranny and suggestion. Whether or not this happens prior to the elections, Nigerians must be vigilant this time around and refuse to succumb to the kind of unabashed rigging perpetrated by the likes of Obasanjo and his PDP in 2003. In the meantime, as has been suggested in other quarters, citizens should insist that Corruption Inc., that is to say the Obasanjo presidency, be thoroughly probed. The regime’s skeletons must be exposed. There will be a re-visiting , for instance, of the Pentascope scandal and the questionable sale of NITEL and other national assets. Also, Bode George’s tenure as chairman of the corruption-plagued Ports Authority as well as that of Anenih as Works minister must be thoroughly investigated. Above all, the books on the sale of Nigerian oil and gas must be opened in a transparent way.

A few months ago, Vice-President Atiku took a courageous stand against a deeply troubled despot who seems willing to further endanger the welfare of Nigerians in his immoral bid to hang on to power by hook or by crook. The National Assembly (and eventually the courts) should initiate a dispassionate probe of the presidency, more on account of the latter’s track record as an abode of sleaze than on the basis of the dubious report submitted to it by the Obasanjo side-kick called Ribadu. Should the findings of the National Assembly irreparably impugn Atiku, he will consider that as a sacrifice worth making for Nigerian democracy. That said, the pointless call by some individuals that Atiku resign even before any thorough and impartial investigation by the National Assembly is concluded should be seen for what it is, namely, an eccentric attempt at mischief. If anyone should resign, it is the dictator whose catalogue of crimes has been in the public domain for some time now. Obasanjo and his acolytes cannot be allowed to once again truncate the sovereign will of the people to choose their leaders.

In the same vein, it is absurd to claim that the vice-president is showing disrespect for the presidency in his response to the unwarranted humiliations Obasanjo has been inflicting on him in the last few years. Obasanjo further debases the Nigerian presidency with his crude hounding of the vice-president. Atiku’s belated counter-offensive against the coarse skulduggery of an unpatriotic and vindictive tyrant should be hailed as a necessary rampart against evil. Obasanjo has continued to desecrate the Nigerian presidency and he deserves a robust response from citizens. That the vice-president is at last standing up to Kabiyesi’s cowardly antics should be seen as a welcome development. Poltroons in the mould of the Aso Rock monster cannot be allowed to impose a reign of terror on the nation unchallenged. A word of caution: It is misguided for rival contenders to the presidency to want to capitalize on the dictator’s illegal tactics against the vice-president. The critical objective at this point should be to get rid of corrupt garrison-style politics as symbolized by the leviathan and his followers or allies in the likes of Adedibu, Chris Uba, Bode George and Ribadu. And as I did mention in my commentary entitled “Chief Ogbeh: Exit at Gunpoint”, there should be consequences, not just for Obasanjo , but also for his subalterns actively participating in the tyrant’s atrocities against the people. The dictator has committed treasonable offences and deserves to be impeached.

Aonduna Tondu.

New York
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Posted by Administrator at 11:37 AM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2006

The Sad and Pathetic End of Obasanjo

by Aonduna Tondu (New york, USA) --- Today, only the most cynical or brazenly sycophantic in our society will deny the fact that Nigeria is witnessing a nadir in the welfare of its people. The gloom that one sees everywhere is to a large extent directly attributable to the criminal conduct of perhaps the most callous despot in the history of our nation. It is worth reiterating that Obasanjo’s corrupt and dangerous ways have brought the country to the brink. There is death and destruction everywhere. The catalogue of the Obasanjo regime’s atrocities just keeps expanding : Odi, Zaki-Biam, the 2003 electoral heist, Anambra, Bayelsa, etc.

Other assaults on Nigeria and its putative democracy as illustrated by the dictator’s illegal take-over of the structures of the PDP and the imposition of some of the more despicable characters in the Nigerian political firmament as its officers have also immensely contributed toward the sordid legacy of one of Africa’s most enduring political disasters in living memory. All this implies a sad and pathetic end for Obasanjo, for history has never been kind to any soi-disant leader who has so ignominously treated his fellow humans the way Obasanjo has trampled on Nigerians in the last six years of a most primitive kleptocracy masquerading as a national government.

It is amazing that confronted with his disastrous track record, this punchinello of African statesmanship and his sinister henchmen take refuge in the tired and nauseating argument that the tyrant needs more time in order to «consolidate» his anti-people policies so abusively referred to as reforms. So, even as the average Nigerian sinks deeper in the pit of despair that has been his lot since 1999, the dictator from Otta has refused to change course. As a matter of fact, there has been an escalation of the political rascality Nigerians have come to associate with an individual who seems incapable of self-redemption. As I write, Nigerian democracy is once again being brutally assaulted, this time in Oyo with the despot apparently offering tacit support to the perpetrators of that transgression. The single-minded obsession to illegally hang on to power beyond 2007 would seem to be the only thing that matters to the Nigerian Caligula and the like-minded bunch around him. As I have argued elsewhere, Obasanjo has committed so many atrocities and human rights abuses against Nigerians that he is afraid of the inevitable consequences to him should a truly democratic government emerge after his scandalous imposition. The desperation to sit tight has taken the form of a multi-pronged attack on civil society : the hounding of political enemies, real or imagined, the divide-and-conquer strategy as evidenced by the crude use of region-based outfits, the corrupt use of state resources like the EFCC under the spineless puppet called Nuhu Ribadu. Nuhu Ribadu and his EFCC constitute an eloquent example of all that is wrong with the Obasanjo regime, namely, the corrupt and immoral use of state structures in the promotion of a perverse personal ambition .

As a willing tool of the Obasanjo authoritarianism, Ribadu cannot exempt himself from involvement in the regime’s excesses. His shameful role in the recent military occupation of Bayelsa state prior to the forceful removal of the governor speaks volumes as to Ribadu’s identity as an agent of dictatorship and repression. Ribadu and his EFCC have become an integral part of the despot’s reckless, immoral and undemocratic deployment of the nation’s resources in the pursuit of a sinister personal agenda with sectarian overtones. In the so-called anti-corruption scheme of the regime, Ribadu has consistently demonstrated his readiness to sumbit to the very forces of evil that continue to trample on Nigerians and their collective aspirations.The people of Nigeria must reject the likes of Ribadu for the latter aid and abet the enemies of the nation in their nefarious activities. In a decent society, a post-Obasanjo period should necessarily see Ribadu and his type answering for their many sins against the nation.

The pertinent question Nigerians should be asking themselves at this critical moment is how to robustly and effectively respond to the moral perversions of a despot who has shown that he has no qualms whatsoever resorting to the most shameful of tactics in the pursuit of selfish or unpatriotic aims. History has taught us that there are options available to Nigerians in their desire to rid themselves of profligate, sit-tight tyrants in the mould of Obasanjo.

But first, Nigerians should remind themselves that one critical factor of the full-blown dictatorship Nigerians are living under today is the role of the Nigerian media and especially that of the so-called Kabiyesi press in Lagos. As early as 1999 when it was obvious to much of Nigeria that Obasanjo had no interest in seeing genuine democracy take root in our country, not to mention his numerous crimes against fellow Nigerians, prominent actors of the Lagos axis of the national press chose to behave as if they were imbued with a moral duty to defend the regime of Obasanjo against imaginary undemocratic forces. They were joined in this unbecoming role by leaders of so-called pro-democracy outfits like the NLC leader. Nigerians still remember vividly how Oshiomhole of the NLC and several newspaper columnists resorted to intimidation and blackmail tactics in order to silence those calling for public protest against the 2003 electoral brigandage called 419. Prior to 2003, leading voices in the media even went as far as mentioning what a prominent columnist with the Guardian (Lagos) called the « religious rationalization at the heart of the Obasanjo presidency »! By that, it was meant that Christian values formed the basis of Obasanjo’s political conduct! Of course, the uncritical, knee-jerk support offered the Obasanjo regime by the media and some sections of the human rights and pro-democracy establishment up to 2003 in particular did contribute in no small measure in providing a dubious legitimacy to a rogue regime that had already shown that it deserved only derision and disdain from citizens. Even nowadays, some media people continue to incredibly talk of giving «the benefit of doubt » to the Abuja dictator as far as his policies and political conduct are concerned. These days, some self-proclaimed pro-democracy cum human rights activists like Beko Kuti would seem to have discarded their duplicitous masks in favour of open support for the dictator as can be attested by Kuti’s suspected pro-regime infiltration of PRONACO. So, human rights and pro-democracy activists as well as national media practitioners cannot in good conscience exonerate themselves regarding the current mess in the land. It is simply not enough for our media men and women to express anguish or dismay regarding the apparent emasculation of Nigeria’s political class in the face of the danger called Obasanjo. Individually and collectively, the national media and other strategic sections of the Nigerian society should seek to atone for their respective roles in the sustenance of the current murderous dictatorship with pretensions to leadership.What this means is that Nigerians must shed their indecision and clannish mindset in favour of a more robust and concerted approach in dealing with a blood-thirsty despot. They must be prepared to return fire for through the use of democratic and popular means. They should borrow a leaf from the actions of those genuine pro-democracy activists who not long ago, did fight another despot, Abacha, to a standstill. Obasanjo and his horde of hangers-on must be made to understand that they do not own Nigeria and that the choice of the next president, like that of other elected representatives, is for Nigerians to make in a transparent and democratic fashion and as such cannot be the prerogative of a backward cabal represented by Kabiyesi and his predatory gang.

Faced with a Bokassa-like tin-god, the nation’s democratic forces must discard their penchant for sectarian involvement and suggestion. Obasanjo has sought so far to use ethno-religious differences within the Nigerian society in order to maintain his ghastly grip on the nation. The abiding lesson of history that should guide Nigerians as they come out in a concerted effort to once and for all confront Obasanjo and his backers – alien or local - and take back their country is that ultimately, what matters most is that no dictator be allowed to hold the nation to ransom without a purposeful challenge. Abacha’s sad and pathetic end is living proof of that.

Aonduna Tondu.

New York
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Posted by Administrator at 09:48 AM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2005

The Middle-Belt/South-South Alliance and the Spirit of J.S. Tarka

by Aonduna Tondu --- About a year and a half ago, in the light of a nagging suspicion that much of the pro-Middle-Belt advocacy had been hijacked by influences that were more interested in feathering their political nest than in the over-arching interests of the people, I wrote an article to denounce this dangerous trend by, amongst other things, warning of its implications for the polity. The title of my commentary then was “Wither the Middle-Belt?”. In it, I drew the reader’s attention to the fact that some groups and individuals claiming to be fighting for the interests of the so-called minority people of the region had by their curious ways effectively discarded the J.S. Tarkar spirit of impassioned people-based advocacy and had thus invariably become willing tools in a macabre game of political supremacy on the part of power-hungry operators. Tapping into a well of otherwise genuine grievances, some notable figures of minority advocacy have for long sought to exploit the persuasive authority of legitimate contestation for obviously selfish or parochial objectives.

Today, it would seem that the pro-Middle-Belt advocacy wants to be seen as playing a more dominant national role in the current dispensation. At least that is what the delegates to the first Middle-Belt/South-South Summit of April 22, 2005 would have us believe. To the extent that this supposed alliance between the ‘minority’ groups of the two regions claims to work for greater unity within a more equitable and therefore more stable polity, it is only proper that the actions of some of the principal actors whose political conduct I took to task in my earlier article as well as the rhetoric of their South-South partners in the new alliance be confronted with a reiterative response which should serve as a cautionary tale for all Nigerians.

So, although my reaction here will focus on the recent inaugural summit in Abuja involving individuals or groups from the Middle-Belt and the South-South, it will at the same time point out some of the lessons to be gleaned from the type of pro-Middle-Belt politicking that I did chastise in “Wither the Middle-Belt?”. For demonstrative purposes, I will be required to quote extensively from that piece. I plead for the reader’s patience and understanding.

As to be expected, the Middle-Belt/South-South summit organizers released a communiqué in which they harped on the main objectives of their alliance.

After serious and in-depth deliberations on various issues, the following declarations and resolutions were made: that the Northern and Southern minorities of the Middle Belt and South-South zones constitute the bedrock of this country, having made great sacrifices for the survival, political stability and economic well-being of Nigeria.

We believe in a united Nigeria in which Nigerians are their brothers’ keepers and this great gathering is a statement of faith and commitment to the continued existence of corporate Nigeria.
We affirm the secularity and plurality of our country and, therefore, see the necessity to tolerate and respect our differences within the context of true federalism. The summit acknowledges the need to consciously build an enduring solidarity amongst our peoples.
We are committed to the enthronement of justice, equity and fairness, throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We lend our unwavering support to the on-going campaign against corruption in all its ramifications and shades and we consequently express our desire that transparency and accountability be enthroned as uncompromising values in the interest of sustainable national development.
We advocate balanced and very effective policies for the protection and wise management of our environment, so as to ensure sustainable development. The summit resolved to set up committees to work out details of our cooperation.

These are noble objectives and most Nigerians should support the sentiments conveyed by them. As a matter of fact, there is nothing novel in the contents of the communiqué. The principles espoused therein can be said to be a restatement of the principles in the Nigerian constitution. That notwithstanding, the fact that this gathering reportedly attracted the political elites from the two zones at this critical point in time when jostling for the 2007 presidency would seem to be the single most important preoccupation amongst Nigerian pols has led observers to believe that bare-faced jockeying for power and its spoils is the dominant consideration of the conveners of the event amongst whom are said to be (Rtd.) Lt.-General Danjuma. In his address, Danjuma reportedly talked about empowering the two zones. “The alliance will seek to ignite a fresh hope that together, we can make a positive difference in the various contests for national power”, he noted.

The point needs to be made that as one of the main allies of President Obasanjo and his incompetent regime, Danjuma has played controversial roles in the regime’s violent dealings with minorities in both the Middle-Belt and the South-South. It was under his stewardship as Defence minister in charge of the army that Obasanjo’s soldiers ransacked and committed untold atrocities against minorities in Odi, Zaki-Biam and surrounding villages. In the case of the Benue massacres, like his ally and friend, Obasanjo, Danjuma has not publicly expressed any remorse for the crimes.

As I write this article, the victims of the orchestrated mayhem against the Tivs continue to suffer extreme hardship and neglect. Beyond his born-again antics – a sad reminder of Obasanjo’s sectarian posturing – one has no recollection of Danjuma calling for justice in favour of the victims of the 2001 Tiv genocide. So, it is a contradiction of sorts that this Obasanjo acolyte should today convene a gathering whereby equity, justice and the empowerment of minorities are enunciated as key concerns. A genuine advocacy for empowerment should necessarily include a transparent rejection of impunity by a backward tyranny. This, the likes of Danjuma and their fellow wanderers in Nigeria’s troubled political terrain appear not ready to do any time soon. Through their actions and inactions, they elicit our suspicion and even disdain.

There is not a shred of doubt that the people of the Middle-Belt and the South-South have made tremendous contributions and continue to do so for the development, unity and corporate existence of Nigeria. This fact was eloquently stated at the first Middle-Belt/South-South Summit by a former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon. As perhaps the most enduring living testimony to Nigerian statesmanship, Gowon speaks to the reality that what makes a truly great leader is not one’s ethnic or social origins. In a most trying period in our country’s history, Gowon managed to restore stability to a fractious nation by appealing to the people’s common sense while at the same time laying emphasis on our shared humanity. Through the policies of his regime, he sought to transcend the myopia of sectional or ethnocentric militancy. Under his leadership, Nigeria enjoyed relative prosperity. His was an era of promise and great hope for the citizenry. In a political tour de force which in itself was both an expression of foresight and deference to the will of the majority, Yakubu Gowon instituted a far-reaching rebuilding of Nigeria into a twelve-state structure the immediate effect of which would be the dousing of ethno-religious tensions in the land. But evoking this positive legacy should not prevent us from alluding to some of its failures. For instance, Gowon procrastinated and needlessly toyed with organizing democratic elections and in the process, did inadvertently help in laying the groundwork for the emergence of the type of largely unpatriotic kleptocracy one has witnessed with especially Babangida, Abacha and now Obasanjo.

That said, it needs to be mentioned that there is one critical element of truth that seemed to have escaped the scrutiny of Gowon and the other participants at the minorities summit, namely, the consistent refusal or failure on the part of the elites of the two zones and those of the other zones in general to take to task the type of irresponsible political leadership Nigerians have lived under at the various levels of governance in the past three decades in particular. To a large extent, the crisis of leadership involving pro-minority advocacy in the Middle-Belt these days is symptomatic of a much deeper moral crisis plaguing the entire civil society in Nigeria. In stark contrast to the broad-minded, masses-oriented struggles of the likes of Chief Tarkar, today’s civil society advocates tend to box themselves in cranky, sanctimonious, self-centred power-mongering whereby the provincial demagoguery of self-proclaimed local champions has replaced the enlightened statesmanship of yesterday’s political greats. This nugget from my commentary, “Wither the Middle-Belt?”, is explicit enough:

Today, a myriad of groups with names and profiles which their so-called leaders or “big ogas” will be hard pressed to say what exactly they stand for are laying claim to pro-Middle-Belt advocacy. One may argue that the public behaviour of the Middle-Belt activist or “big oga” is reflective of the wayward mien of the average Nigerian politician. This is cold comfort for a people who, as can be attested in the case of the Tivs of Benue, have historically suffered more than most groups because of bad government at both the federal and local levels. Yet, despite the status of the Tivs as a marginalised people, the current crop of Tiv political leaders have generally failed to make a meaningful impact nationally and locally, not to talk of positively influencing the lives of the average Tiv or Middle-Belter. Indeed, it is fair to say that the relative irrelevance of the Tiv political class at the level of national political engagement today mirrors the condition of general neglect and underdevelopment which Tiv land and its people have historically been subjected to since independence. If we agree that politics is about making our lives better and more fulfilling, we must draw the painful conclusion that, to a large extent, the Tiv politicians of today have individually and collectively failed to live up to the minimum expectations of the people they claim to represent. Under normal circumstances, due to a host of salient factors and in particular the existence of a significant local intellectual elite and the demographic position of the Tivs as perhaps the fourth or fifth largest ethnic group in Nigeria and the largest in what traditionally has been understood to mean the Middle-Belt, Tivs should play leadership roles in all the strategic sectors of our national life. That their elites have been unable to work more closely together in the realization of the aspirations of their people is a telling indictment of the wisdom ( or lack of it ) of our present crop of so-called federal politicians in particular. To have allowed the likes of Solomon Lar and Dan Suleiman to virtually hijack Middle-Belt minority advocacy and politics which they have arguably used and abused as grotesque instruments for the negotiation of personal favors, or worse, as weapons in the hands of a dictator like Obasanjo is most worrisome indeed. As is the case with the Nigerian political class in general, there exists a troubling disconnect between the Middle-Belt advocacy elite and the legitimate concerns of those they claim to speak for.

This indictment of the pro-Middle-Belt advocacy has lessons for all Nigerians. The proponents of a Middle-Belt/South-South alliance in particular cannot afford to ignore the message of that admonition. Only today, I read an editorial by a Lagos-based daily. It touched on the food crisis in the country and the direct responsibility of politicians in this neglect of a vital sector of the economy. What that means is that the average citizen has no respite whatsoever. While South-South local tin gods today boast of having realized an electoral heist in 2003 which they unabashedly baptized a “seaslide” – a local term for the electoral ‘419’ perpetrated by essentially Obasanjo and his PDP, the rest of the country is grappling with the reckless profligacy of public officials, an epileptic power supply, an increasingly treacherous road infrastructure, decaying industries, a comatose health sector and dilapidated education system. Surely, the ‘big ogas’ of the Middle-Belt, the South-South as well as their counterparts elsewhere in Nigeria, should be aware of this state of affairs.

Despite the attempt by Professor Itsey Sagay to seek consensus around the issue of resource control, at the end of the day, one is left with the déjà vu impression of being treated to largely cosmetic measures by the conveners of first minorities summit. For the Middle-Belt/South-South alliance to be taken seriously, its proponents will do more than indulge in largely nostalgic chest-beating. For starters, they will dispel the impression that the lust for power and its perks is the over-riding concern of advocates of their alliance. Crucially, they must avoid a “we versus them” type of politicking that has been the stock- in- trade of the current Obasanjo dictatorship. The likes of Danjuma, Baba Iyabo, Babangida , Bode George and Anenih have been obscenely riding on the Nigerian gravy train and seem determined to hang on to their nouveaux riches status. They would go to any length, including breaking the law, to ensure that a friendly government is installed in Abuja after 2007. In the spirit of a viable federation, minority rights groups and their representatives should reject the anachronism of regionalist advocacy and the schisms it fosters. Democrats must insist on a definition of Nigerian citizenship that is inclusive in nature by repudiating, amongst other things, those tendencies that seek to needlessly constrain us by erecting mythical walls of social separation. Nigerians would do well to ponder this appreciation of J.S. Tarkar and the essence of his politics. It is culled from “Wither the Middle-Belt?”.

It goes without saying that if he were alive today, the man who is fondly referred to as J.S. would be deeply pained by what has actually happened to the movement he helped nurture in the best tradition of political activism and social responsibility. Before he departed from this world, Tarkar had established a legacy so solid that he was confident enough to opt for accommodation with those whose practices he had selflessly and steadfastly fought. His foibles notwithstanding, he was first and foremost a nation builder who erected bridges of consensus across the Nigerian cultural divide by actively seeking understanding with the likes of Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Gowon, Azikiwe and Enahoro. It is ironical that the early signs of centrifugal rascality against what he stood for would emanate from within the confines of his Tiv land through acts of orchestrated blackmail and pedestrian heckling which had little or nothing to do with honest dissent. It is a sad commentary on the Nigerian political culture that those who have made a living as agents of political rascality and brigandage are the ones jostling today to call the shots locally and nationally. Benue, and by extension the Middle Belt and the rest of the country have a patriotic duty to rid our polity of its army of scoundrels and opportunists whose conduct only serves to diminish the J.S. Tarkar vision of modern Nigeria.

Aonduna Tondu
New York

Posted by Administrator at 05:44 PM | Comments (1)

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

Posted by Administrator at 03:52 PM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2005

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


Posted by Administrator at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2005

The PDP and the Ventriloquist from Minna

by Aonduna Tondu ---- The attempt by the former military dictator from Minna to sneak back into the arena of national political relevance, it would appear, is getting more and more brazen with every passing day. There are those who would even readily attest that bravura is a key element at work in what is fast assuming the contours of sick humour and provocation directed against the numbed psyche of a nation on its knees.

As if emboldened by recent happenings within the PDP which have further reinforced the enduring image of the party as an outfit dominated by some of the most anti-people forces in the history of Nigeria, Babangida has been gallivanting across the country in an alleged bid to be president in 2007. And, not surprisingly, the usual cast composed mainly of the unscrupulous segment of the political class and its allies - contractors for whom the bottom-line is all that counts, so-called traditional rulers, carpet-baggers of every hue, etc. -, is either cheer-leading or busy playing host to one of the country’s most despised political figures. It is during one his ‘outings’ about a week ago that the ex-dictator and the current tyrant in Abuja were to treat us to a re-enactment of political ventriloquism à la nigériane the profound significance of which citizens would do well not to ignore.

As the Minna tin god was reiterating to the local Nigerian media in Bauchi his intention to actively participate in the campaigns for 2007 (and beyond), his alter-ego, Mr. President, was, on his part, seeking to accord what is tantamount to moral legitimacy to that ambition in far-away Europe. That Obasanjo chose to merely restate Babangida’s supposed constitutional right to vie for the Nigerian presidency just like any other Nigerian is most revealing. We all know that Babangida has not played the type of role a citizen with claims to leadership would normally be expected to play in the life of the country. As a matter of fact, it is hard to imagine that any future Nigerian ruler can inflict the kind of havoc either Babangida or his friend, Matthew Okikiolakan Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo, has wreaked on the people of Nigeria. At any rate, we are dealing here with an individual whose political conduct as a power-hungry tyrant is one of the main reasons for the profound moral decay in all the spheres of our collective existence. For the president to seem to ignore that fact of our recent past by trying to hide behind legal niceties which he has amply demonstrated mean little or nothing to him is worrisome indeed. We are reminded that it was Obasanjo who in 1999 told Nigerians that there would be no sacred cows in a supposed anti-corruption crusade of his government. These days, the anti-corruption posture of the regime can be reduced to one word – hypocrisy. Babangida has been a principal beneficiary of this hypocrisy and protection on the part of the Obasanjo dictatorship. Despite his sordid track record which should have been the subject of a government inquiry, Babangida, it is apparent, is instead enjoying the camaraderie of key members of a regime he reportedly helped install.

Babangida’s aim, it should be noted, has always been to have a regime in place that would be least tempted to stir up a hornets’ nest concerning his scandalous record in government. A regime beholden to him and his allies is the best guarantee for the preservation of the status quo. This would seem to explain, at least in part, the type of political ventriloquism one has witnessed so far with both co-optation and regimentation as essential ingredients of its internal dynamism. That Obasanjo and Babangida are conceivably working together to ensure a pre-determined outcome in 2007 is hardly surprising in this regard. So, for this duo and their acolytes, what ultimately matters is not whether or not Babangida per se is sworn-in as president in 2007. What matters most is that they succeed in imposing a kindred spirit who will continue to be loyal to those interests that they have come to symbolize in the present scheme of things. Those who wish Nigeria well and are thus opposed to the prospect of a Babangida presidency in 2007 should bear this in mind. The aim should be to not just neutralize Babangida and his allies but crucially, to attack what they stand for. In concrete terms therefore, this would mean repudiating their unwholesome political practices including, especially, any surrogate either Babangida or Obasanjo would want to impose on the nation. One should remember that maintaining the status quo, because it shields the Obasanjos and Babangidas from paying for their various crimes and atrocities, cannot be in the interest of the Nigerian people.

Now that Babangida has indicated his intention to openly and actively continue to participate in shaping the future direction of a country he has helped ruin, it is only fair to confront him with not just his past but also his present. And if that past is strewn with the corpses of innocent victims and broken promises, the present, on its part, is burdened by, amongst other things, the unrepentant recklessness of the man, his utter disdain for the people, his profligate tendencies, and above all, his conniving cowardice and love of tyranny as is the case in his active support of the dictatorial regime Nigerians have been living under since 1999. Obviously obsessed with his self-preservation, the ‘big oga’ from Minna has been reduced to muttering contemptible accolades each time he is called upon to comment on the Obasanjo dictatorship. In a nutshell, this is the mindset, not to talk of worldview, of the moral poltron who wants to lord it over Nigeria again.

As a nation with democratic aspirations, Nigeria is today confronted with a Herculean challenge – the fact that Babangida and his principal ally, Mr. President, have invaded and occupied our political spaces, thanks, in part, to a largely irresponsible political class. These two individuals and their henchmen have now hijacked the platform of an otherwise democratic institution, the PDP, and are using it for the perpetuation of an essentially selfish agenda of impunity and rampant tyranny. In the struggle to salvage Nigerian democracy and restore hope to millions of citizens, there should be no compromise where tyrants are concerned. There should be zero-tolerance of the type of mediocrity that continues to ensure a political shelf-life for characters that should normally be paying their debts to society in maximum security prisons. We are aware that some people would consider this a rather generous measure against those that richly deserve to be subjected to a “take-no-prisoners” approach to ‘crime and punishment’ in Nigeria. Babangida has soiled his hands with the blood of fellow Nigerians. His buddy and current President, Obasanjo, is continuing in that grim tradition. The recent imposition of a stooge called Colonel Ahmadu Ali as National Chairman of the PDP is a calculated move on the part of these anti-heroes of the Nigerian democratic project to maintain their stranglehold on our polity beyond 2007.

Remarkably, the very first move by the now three-headed monster called the PDP was to order the expulsion of Governor Ngige and his estranged godfather, Uba. It is obvious that Ngige was the main target of this illegal act which is yet another indication of the extent to which the likes of Obasanjo and Babangida can go in their politics of disdain regarding Nigeria’s constitutional order. If any one person were to be banished from the PDP or any other party for their role in endangering Nigerian democracy in the present dispensation, that person would be Obasanjo. As for Babangida, his supremely un-edifying role in the annulment of the late Chief Abiola’s victory in a presidential election that was arguably the freest and fairest in the history of Nigeria does render his pro-democracy claim suspect.

It is noteworthy that for once, there are voices within the PDP itself that are rising not just to condemn but also to offer resistance to what is happening to the PDP, and by implication, to the national polity in general under the reign of Obasanjo and his éminence grise composed mainly of the likes of Babangida. An erstwhile National Chairman of the PDP, Solomon Lar is vowing, in the light of the illegalities that have taken place of late in his party, to help organize resistance against what he sees as the loss of focus by the party - a tragic consequence of its control by undemocratic and tyrannical forces. His words, though belated, should be music to our ears. “What is happening shows that some people don’t have respect for democracy. And we will resist it. I am resisting it. Anybody that is a dictatorship, anytime, any day, Solomon Lar will fight back...I mean the owners of the party will not sit down and watch this useless thing…We are planning…We are trying to see that the party that Nigerians worked for comes back in a very strong form…It will not be a party that will be playing the script of a few people” (The Punch). These are encouraging thoughts, but Nigerians should be vigilant because of Chief Lar’s recent history of collaboration with the regime in Abuja. One is more re-assured by the position of Gani Fawehinmi – a constitutional lawyer and an indefatigable pro-democracy activist - concerning the PDP, Babangida and the latter’s fantasies about 2007.

The human rights and pro-democracy lawyer has expectedly taken a dim view of Ali’s appointment as National Chairman of the PDP. Stating that Ali is unfit for the post, Gani goes on to point out what this imposition entails for democracy in Nigeria. He avers that Obasanjo and Ali “must be told that political parties are constitutionally recognised and established bearing in mind Sections 221-229 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The Constitution of PDP cannot ignore the Fundamental Rights of its party members. If Obasanjo and Ali are allowed to render party system ineffective and inconsequential, then both of them will become dangerous impediments to the sustenance of democracy in the country and the consequence will be very grave for both the PDP and the future of this country. Ali must go” (Daily Independent Online).

But Gani has reserved the strongest indictment for the ex-dictator from Minna. Reacting to Babangida’s reported interest in the presidency in 2007, the pro-democracy activist has said that he is “most unacceptable”. “This man is most unacceptable, most derided, most hated because he has caused the greatest hardship for Nigerians politically, economically, socially and culturally. He is a nemesis on this country and is a man whose evil must be exorcised from the Nigerian psyche. God will never allow an evil man again to triumph in this country. Enough of his evil and he has no place again in Nigerian history. There is no positive side to him. There can be nothing positive about evil…” This is a potent and apt reflection. On Babangida’s army of sycophants and foot-soldiers and their sleazy campaign, the human rights activist had this to say: “This is the first time evil men will fail in Nigeria and they will fail disastrously. No matter how much stolen money they have acquired, they will collapse” (Daily Independent Online). This is no doubt a demystifying view on the ventriloquist from Minna. And it should be noted that the truth it projects is not meant to convey complacency or a false sense of security on our part. The note of urgency and determination contained in those wise words should be seen as Gani’s way of telling fellow Nigerians that Babangida and his allies in the PDP have waged a moral and political war of attrition on the nation and what is left of its values. There is a lot at stake and citizens cannot afford to sit on the fence.

Gani has spoken the mind of the silent majority. His is a timely reminder to Nigerians at home and abroad and the international community to take note of a continuing source of danger to the nation and act decisively to salvage democracy in this strategic part of the world. Babangida and his gang have had their fun at the expense of the country. Now is the time for people of goodwill to draw a line in the sand by insisting that enough is enough.

Aonduna Tondu

New York


Posted by Administrator at 04:43 AM | Comments (0)

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