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The Chinua Achebe Foundation Interview Series #32

A Meeting of the Minds
(Mrs. Oyibo Odinamadu in Conversation with Obi Nwakanma Part 2)

The Chinua Achebe Foundation

Mrs. Oyibo Odinamadu,

Chinua Achebe

Prof. Chinua Achebe


Mrs. Oyibo odinamadu

Mrs. Oyibo Odinamadu

an icon of politics, civil rights and the women’s movement, made a name for herself as a leader of various women’s organizations and as a public servant in Nigeria. She was especially active in the founding of the National Council for Women Societies (NCWS) and was president of the Eastern Nigeria council from 1958 until she joined active partisan politics in 1978. She was the First National Vice-President of the Unity Party of Nigeria, and contested as the Deputy Gubernatorial candidate for the party in Anambra state. Educated at Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Missouri and at Columbia University, New York, Mrs. Odinamadu worked in the government of Eastern Nigeria, and retired voluntarily from the public service in 1971.  Mrs. Odinamadu talked to Obi Nwakanma in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she was visiting.




About Obi Nwakanma


Obi Nwakanma was educated at the Government College Umuahia, and studied at the University of Jos and at Washington University in St. Louis. He has completed work on the biography of the poet Christopher Okigbo. Obi Nwakanma also won the ANA/CADBURY prize for his collection of poems, The Roped Urn in 1996. He has worked as a journalist in Nigeria as Group Literary Editor of the Vanguard and correspondent for Newsweek and for the Nue Zurcher Zeitung. He continues to write a weekly column, “The Orbit” in the Sunday Vanguard. Obi Nwakanma currently teaches Literature of the Black Diaspora at the Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri.



The Interview



What do you think about the current crisis in Onitsha involving MASSOB, NARTO, and the State?   


The current crisis in Onitsha is the

Mrs. Oyibo Odinamadu

Mrs. Oyibo Odinamadu

Federal Government’s reaction to what it views as confrontation and a very serious challenge to its authority. This reaction has been demonstrated in the very violent use of extreme force by the Government to exhibit its superior power and fire-power against the
MASSOB – an organization that professes a policy of “Non-violence.”  


I believe that through its agents, the Government, in its usual manner, had very seriously infiltrated the MASSOB in order to defeat its policy and agenda. It also used its political agents in manipulating the NARTO and other such organizations to foment disturbances and violence during MASSOB’s activities. Nonetheless, I feel that MASSOB was not vigilant enough to cry out about “the presence of wolves among them” before it was too late.


Do you think the crisis was properly handled by the Anambra State Government?


I think that the first thing in a situation of violence is to stop any on-going violence. And this is done by separating the violent parties, keeping them apart. On that score, I think it was a very good move to disband the warring organizations, that is, in effect, to separate them and render their members disconnected and incommunicado with each other, thereby, non-functional, for a period of time.


It was totally wrong for the demonstrators or protesters to release prisoners from the Prisons, as a way to spite the Government. This is in actual fact, cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face. The prisoners were put there after a due process of Law, and found to be dangerous to the society, and therefore, deserved different grades of punishment, ranging from short to long-term incarceration. Releasing them without due process of law is taking the law into their own hands; and taking the prisoners and the society back to square one and beyond, to the disadvantage of the society. How does the Government go about returning the prisoners to confinement? That some of the prisoners returned to the Prisons on their own was a great mark of either, their ethical standards, or their uncertainty as to whom and where to run to and what the next action should be. 


I condemned, in no uncertain terms, the posting of soldiers to patrol and maintain peace and security in Abia State, or in any other state of Nigeria, for that matter. I condemned it as a declaration of War through the back-door on the people by President Obasanjo. How can soldiers, whose orientation and training is to torture and kill, be spread all over the country to maintain peace, security, and order? Has the President accounted to the people about what has happened to the Nigeria Police and their responsibilities to the people?


From your experience in government, how would the Okpara Government have handled a similar scenario or conflict?


In my opinion, I think that Dr. Okpara’s Government would have done the first things,

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first, which is to separate the warring parties, and bring them to a position of negotiation on how to settle the matters amicably. Dr.
Okpara would have, very strongly, condemned the releasing prisoners, and brought the culprits to face the consequences of their action. He would have set the Police, which was a real and virile Police Force under that administration, to get on with the job of recovering the prisoners. The polity would have also been outraged and cooperated in every way possible to bring back the prisoners.


Dr. Okpara’s Government would not have called in soldiers to parade the place under false pretences of helping to keep peace and security, which function is the opposite of what they are trained to do. The Government of Premier Okpara would not have accepted the order that the citizens of the state should vacate their Home State. Non-indigenes of the State might have been ordered out of the State, as non-Easterners, including soldiers, were ordered to leave the Region during the Crisis of 1966. Usually, when people are banned from other states, they are deported to their Home States. To order the indigenes of a state to vacate their Home State is an extreme denial of human rights that could ever be taken on an individual –that is, to render him/her homeless and stateless.     


The Government of Dr. Okpara would not have, by any stretch of the imagination, acquiesced to the order to shoot anybody on sight. That is a declaration of War on the people, under false pretences, with the soldiers who have already been positioned there. The order to shoot at sight is an approval of mass murder, perpetration of genocide and totally lacking in any element of protection for the people’s lives and human rights.


It is Shame on President Obasanjo, Governor Peter Obi, Chris Uba and their collaborators for this declaration of War on Ndi Igbo and the Igbo Youth! OBJ is a soldier, and a soldier to the core, who cannot see any other way of handling the problems of the country he was mandated to govern, other than by sheer brute force. And the South-Eastern Nigeria is his permanent battle-ground! There is no doubt that OBJ is handling Ndi Igbo and the South-South with an iron hand; that he wants to see whether he could complete his job of complete destruction and annihilation of these peoples, before he vacates office in May, 2007. These activities of his are all the reasons why his going would, of course, be good riddance!


Right now, President Obasanjo is on the rampage throughout Southern Nigeria, especially in Igbo land! He should know that God is not happy with him, and will continue not to be happy with him if he does not stop this vandalism on Ndi Igbo and the people of the Delta State, of Bayelsa, forthwith, confess his sins and wickedness against the people and humanity, retrace his murderous steps, and make amends; before he leaves office in May, 2007.” Otherwise, God will confound him!


For Governor Peter Obi, this is his first activity and engagement with the people after taking over the administration of Anambra State from one who the due process of law ruled that he snatched the mandate. If this is an indication of the true sample of how Dr. Obi exercises the mandate, then he is riding the people rough-shod, and should get off it. If not, his days in office may be numbered less than he thinks. He should remember that he is first an Igbo, before he is a Nigerian, and then a political Governor of one of the States of Ana Igbo. Ndi Igbo have a saying that: “Ekesie n’obi, eke-e na mkpuke”: After sharing at the outer father’s chamber; the people would retire to the mother’s inner chamber to complete the sharing”.    


As for Chris Uba and his cohorts, who have no compunction in standing with OBJ in his bid for total destruction and annihilation of Ndi Igbo, their lives, property and  geographical space, I can only call their attention to a saying by Ndi Igbo, to the effect that: “Onye n’ako n’ubi Chukwu, Chukwu an’ako na ubi ya; mana onye n’alubi alubi n’ubi Chukwu, Chukwu an’alubi na ubi ya”, which means: “If somebody is doing good cultivation in God’s farm, God will also be doing good cultivation in the person’s farm; but if the person is doing destructive cultivation in God’s farm, certainly, God will be doing destructive work in the person’s farm”. 


I know their dear mother fairly well. In fact, we were friends; lived in the same neighbourhood on Zik Avenue, Uwani, Enugu; belonged to the same Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion); and used to exchange friendly visits. Our contact with each other was discontinued since I have been on my present extended visit to the USA. I trust that she is hale and hearty. Knowing her as well as I do, I am sure that she would be most unhappy with her son’s political activities with the PDP and President Obasanjo; and now with the NARIO, which Chris Uba was said to have organized in order to get on with his anti-social activities in Igbo land.


I know that it may not mean anything to you, Chris Uba, what Ndi Igbo might feel and think about you, but it must be very disturbing to your dear mother. I want you to give her my regards and this message: “That she should do all that is in her power as a good mother to call her sons, especially you, Chris, to order, because Ndi Igbo, especially Ndi Anambra State, are not happy at all with you. This is so, because instead of being a nation-builder and a construction artist, you have constituted yourself into a cog in the wheel of progress; a spoiler and destroyer of Igbo lives, home, property and legacy. And besides, that God is not, and will continue not to be happy with you, if you do not stop this vandalism forthwith, confess your transgressions against Ndi Igbo and humanity, retrace your steps, and make amends, and make a right-about turn”.



How do you react to the phenomenom god-fatherism in Nigerian politics - particularly given the experience of Anambra and Oyo States?


The phenomenon of God-fatherism or King-maker in politics and societal life, is one that operates all over the world, but which has, like other practices in Nigeria, gotten out of-hand and thoroughly abused. This practice is among the ugly ones that have given Nigeria a very bad name and hung her up in the body politic, as well as in the comity of nations. There should be nothing wrong with a big brother/sister or father/mother or person with economic resources helping out a candidate of his/her choice to win an election or to achieve some laudable objectives. But the way it has been done or is being done in Nigeria, whereby such a god-father wants to take over exercising the powers of the office of his client completely, and to collect as much money as possible, as agreed in a pre-arranged contract, is ruining governance. This extends to the “god-father” not only dictating how the finances of the office should be disbursed, but indicating also how much of it he will be collecting on regular basis. Otherwise, the person he supports is removed from that office. This, in actual fact, is what has been done.


The person who entered into such a contract in order to win an election has, in effect, mortgaged his soul and those of the people he sought to be elected into in order to serve to his mentor; but has trifled away the life and destiny of the people of the State in exchange for his personal aggrandizement to be in that office. And in an effort to collect the dues from a commitment the client/public officer has decided not to honour, such public officer is hounded, dragged about; disgraced, impeached and very nearly killed, all for the sake of the “god-father,” for whom the exercise was merely a business venture and investment, to exact his “pound of flesh.”


In the case of Anambra State


Dr. Chris Ngige entered into

Mrs. Oyibo Odinamadu

Mrs. Oyibo Odinamadu

such an unholy alliance with Chris
Uba, with the full approval of President Obasanjo. Otherwise, how could Chris Uba have access to the Mobile Police Outfit, which he used to abduct Dr. Ngige from the State House and “imprisoned” him at a Hotel in Awka, until Vice President Atiku Abubakar, in the absence of the President who was abroad, brokered the peace that withdrew the contingent of the Mobile Police, and returned Dr. Ngige to his office? And then Chris Uba, still in his effort to collect from Dr. Ngige, a sizeable portion of loot that is likely to reach the President, ( in the same vein that the collections of the Police Constables at check-points reach the Inspector-General of Police), continued to institute impeachment on Dr. Ngige, to remove him and to install his deputy. The saving grace was that the Court Judge who was to swear in the Deputy Governor, refused to do so, and ran away.


To what extent did the two “Chrises” not go to contain each other? They went from the above to swearing by the Holy Bible to patronizing the Okija Shrines, and culminating in the destruction of Anambra State by arson by Chris Uba and his agents. This is a State that started on a very clean slate in 1991 – without any kind of infrastructure - having left everything at Enugu for Enugu State. The State had just been created and shown to an empty expanse of land, known as “Agu Awka,” that is “the Farmlands of Awka”. But with imagination, ingenuity, belief and trust in God’s magnanimity, Ndi Anambra State started to build a state that would measure up to and compete with all the other much older and richer States, from scratch. It was whatever that had been constructed, in addition to the old Onitsha Provincial Resident’s House at Amawbia, which was used as the Anambra State’s Residence for the Governor,  Dr. Ngige, that Chris Uba and his agents razed to the ground; the records, ancient and new, inclusive.  


It is obvious that Chris Uba was not doing all this just for the money he would have collected from Dr. Chris Ngige. I believe that he was executing a well-calculated plan of the destruction of the new Anambra to keep it from existence at all! What did the President say or do in all this? “Something”- eminently something - to write home about; and that was his most outstanding statement of his whole administration: “That if Dr. Ngige was in agreement with Chris Uba, he should go and settle him! That sort of statement, in the face of all that threat and destruction, left no doubt in people’s minds that Obasanjo was behind it all. That undoubtedly confirmed the old adage of Ndi Igbo that: “Onye nna ya zili ori n’eji okpa agbawa mgbo”, that is: “The person who was sent to steal by his father breaks the door with a loud, thunderous bang”. That was it!



In the case of Oyo State

Adedibu who sponsored Governor Ladoja, wanted to be the one to call the shots, especially about how Gov. Ladoja would spend his Security Allocation of N50M monthly. Out of this, Chief Adedibu wanted “a mere N15M monthly.” Governor Ladoja ran to the President for rescue only to get a promise that the President would look into the matter. But on getting back home, he was greeted with an impeachment exercise organized and finalized by Chief Adedibu, with a view to removing the Governor and installing his deputy. That was when, in an attempt to garner the two-thirds majority required, the Chief Richard Akinjide type of “fuzzy” Arithmetic, which got the runoff in the 1983 Presidential Elections cancelled, reared its ugly head again.


As we all recall, Chief Akinjide’s “fuzzy” Arithmetic meant that two-thirds of 19 States, as they were at that time, was thirteen and two two-thirds of a State or a person, which the NEC accepted as tenable and practicable. Therefore, the runoff election, which would have taken place between Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s ticket and a candidate of the Progressive Parties Alliance (PPA comprising the NPP, UPN, GNPP, NEPU) was called off, and victory was again granted to the Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Dr.Alex Ekwueme ticket. It was this second-term administration that the military intervention of Alhaji Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon overthrew in August 1984.


But in the case of Chief Adedibu, he achieved the two thirds majority in the Oyo twenty-five member Assembly, sitting and voting, by sending nine of them on vacation, and convening the House with the remaining members. Having gotten his two-thirds of a fixed number sitting, he sacked the Governor, and installed his deputy. When Gov. Ladoja ran back to the President to give him an up-date, the President told him that he was coming to Oyo. Evidently, it was in the effort of the President to bend backwards to help Governor Ladoja, that at the public meeting arranged by Governor Ladoja with Chief Adedibu, that President Obasanjo presented the very worst of his public image of his administration: He prostrated to Chief Adedibu, belly flat on the ground, and begged him to let go of Governor Ladoja. Probably, being a citizen of an ethnic culture where prostrating is an accepted form of greeting and submitting to an  elder, the President did not realize that he had dragged the whole of Nigeria in prostrating to Chief Adedibu. Worst of all is that he still did not get Chief Adedibu to forgive Gov. Ladoja and to go easy on his demands from him. What a thoroughly, crying out shame!           


What in your view led to this peculiar type of shadow authority?


This type of shadow authority is a demonstration of the lack of any kind of respect, even for the high office that persons in public office, even if sponsored, occupy. It is downright uncivilized; greedy; avaricious; corrupt; limitless; and a complete disregard of public opinion. “Godfathers” make nonsense of the electoral process, by which they want to be not only the “king-maker,” but the “king” through the back-door. These individuals only see things from the point of view of the money they spent on a “business venture and investment,” and which returns they must collect. Otherwise the whole thing becomes a bad investment and a failure. This shadow authority inflicts a slap-in-the-face on office holders and Nigeria, as a whole. The worst part of the whole ugly procedure is that the President of Nigeria is in support all this monkey-business. If not, he would have been able to nip in the bud, at least, the instances that came to his attention.  


Godfatherism and election-rigging are OBJ’s stock-in-trade. Right from the 1979 Presidential Elections when he first informed Chief Awolowo of his intentions, and then proceeded to rig him out his victory in the Elections, to prevent him from probing the Military. He has also institutionalized election-rigging in Nigeria. This is because he himself is steeped in these vile practices, and has rigged himself into office each time. These practices have also become part of his policies and legacies. That is why his War against Corruption was a colossal failure: an unmitigated failure, because he was also selective in his choice of the people to go after. These practices are not going to cool down or go away until President Obasanjo leaves office in May 2007. Then, Nigerians will have a chance to make a round-about turn under a new leadership, which they can look forward to as indeed new and refreshing. Nigeria needs a respite desperately, and a compassionate change. It is time.


What has changed in the time you became active in the NCWS and the place of Nigerian women today.


Actually, I did not just become active in the NCWS; I was a founding and foundation

member of the organization in 1958. I mentioned earlier that as soon as I finished with my graduate studies in 1953, I decided to go home. I wanted to help young people get on with their education, as well as get into the nationalist struggle, and I later joined the
Zikist Movement in Port Harcourt in 1947, as a result. But when I first returned, since I sought and took up employment in the Public Service, I could not join a Political Party. However, I found fulfillment in organizing women on a cosmopolitan, voluntary, charitable, non-religious, non-profit, basis, and still kept my employment in the Public Service. Even though these activities took me outside the sphere of my employment quite often, I was left alone by my bosses. In any case, my husband was very supportive.        


At the time, men were quite unwilling to let their wives attend meetings of organizations that were not religious; in village associations and market unions men could know what was going on. It was an uphill task to get women to break those bonds and attend the meetings of organizations that did not quite fit the requirements of their husbands. But they started to come out gradually; to participate, and even go on representations to conferences and seminars, even beyond West Africa.


We organized Leadership Training Courses to acquaint women with voluntary and charitable work, and what officers of such organizations were expected to do. We also explored fundamental human rights, and how they applied to women as wives and mothers, and to their children. 


More girls started to attend school; but the proportion of girls to boys in schools was still deplorable, until the Nigeria/Biafra War acted as a catalyst; an eye and mind-opener for Igbo men to appreciate that, even though their daughters might not carry their family names after marriage, many had survived the War due to the hard work, attention and care of wives and daughters.


Of major concern was for the girl-child to have equal opportunity as the boy-child for secondary and tertiary education. There was also the need for employment opportunities to open up for the girl-child as much as for the boy-child at each stage of their education. We also demanded better working conditions for women, especially to enjoy the same working conditions as men; and even extra maternity and sick leave.     


We also demanded that women were not only employed, but promoted in due time, and to be appointed to policy and decision-making positions. Some action was seen in this direction, but improvement was more or less cosmetic or a window-dressing where you found one woman among twenty to fifty men or none at all; as in the “fifty wise men” who drafted the 1979 Nigerian Constitution.   


Do you think Nigerian women have arrived at the dream your generation of women activists set out to accomplish?


Of course not! Far, far from it!  Women have come a long way, though, and not by a sudden flight. Today we no longer have to pressurize women into attending meetings of cosmopolitan organizations; they are even organizing some themselves. Nigerian women, even Igbo women, have entered the field of partisan politics, and are pushing right into it, with or without Affirmative Action. It is no longer necessary for women to obtain the written consent of their husbands to even travel locally, or to obtain a passport; they are traveling all over the world for whatever purpose – education, business, conferences, politics, holidays, health purposes, visiting with children, family members and friends.


The outstanding recommendation of the International Women’s Year 1975 was that the Federal Government should set up a Commission on the Status of Women. The Commission was set up ten years later, in 1985. It took this long because the Military Boys did not want to know about it. However they set up the Better Life Program for Rural Women, which was replaced by the Family Support Program (FSP) in 1994. This Programme was upgraded to the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in 1994, and is run by Ms. Rita Akpan as Minister. The Ministry is doing a very good job of studying, delving into, and executing solutions for women’s problems, as well as representing women at national and international forums such as the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; and the Beijing Conference. The establishment of the Center for the Advancement of Women is particularly effective.    


Today, Nigerian women are in almost every profession, and are displacing men in quick succession. Women used to be confined to employment as teachers, nurses and even that, at the lowest echelons. But they have worked quietly; slowly but steadily, and have come up from the grassroots; not as mere sprinkling, frosting, or window-dressing any longer, but in strengths to take over in quite a few areas. Teaching and administration of primary and secondary education, and tertiary-institution professorships are a few of such disciplines. A few are also in administration. Women, of course, are in the nursing profession in all grades; they are in pharmacy, the medical field; architecture and engineering. They practice the law as attorneys; magistrates and judges, they are economists and finance experts, as well. They are in law enforcement as agents, in the armed forces; they function as law-makers; permanent secretaries, directors-general; chairpersons of boards of parastatals, and of corporations.


Except in the Roman Catholic Church, and in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), they are holding their own, and putting men to shame by their shinning examples of performances. Women even work in construction, carrying materials - cement, sand, gravel, water, wood, mixing concrete in head-pans to the masons. Pretty soon, they are going to be actual builder; putting up walls, roofs and ceilings and painting them. That will happen in Igbo land once women and girl-children can wearing pants or trousers.


There are no female governors, yet; but there has been a woman deputy-governor. The exclusion of women is due primarily to the chauvinistic stances of men in political parties, who view a position opened to women as one lost to men. My humble self is a typical example of that act of discrimination and exclusion by male members of my political party, at the State level. Most of Nigerian men still think and believe that the place of the woman is in the house and kitchen. The good news is that some other men are very much emancipated and forward-looking about the advancement of women. Now that Liberia has put Nigeria to shame by electing the first African woman President, may be Nigerian political parties will wake up to the possibility and realities of nominating and electing a woman governor “with immediate alacrity,” as Zebrudaya would say. Perhaps, a female President will follow in the very near future. I pray God to spare my life to see these developments, because it is said that: Onye diruka, o’vuruka. “The longer one lives, the more s/he witnesses.”  


When people talk about the greatness of Nigeria, I really wonder what is meant by that. I would like to ask President Obasanjo what he sees as the greatness of Nigeria, and the contributions of his two-term Government. This is in the stark realities of:

i.                   at least fifty-percent of Nigeria’s population – womenfolk - are still stark illiterate;

ii.                the generality of women and the girl-child, in all ethnic nationalities, are so downtrodden by oppressive cultural practices, to the approval of  their men-folk;

iii.              women have to fight tooth and nail for any advancement, any ground gained in education, employment, freedom to travel, political participation, etc;   

iv.              men still do not see anything wrong with girl-childhood marriage, in

v.                 which biologically undeveloped and immature girls are put in the family-way; mostly by men old enough to be their fathers and grand-fathers;

vi.              young girls either dying or ruined for life by obstetric fistula, which is the

vii.            tearing of the female reproductive system at the time of delivering babies, unaided medically;

vi.              high maternal and infant mortality at birth, as well as the toll of malaria,

            diarrhea and malnutrition;

vii.            polygamy and female genital circumcision reigning


viii.      the Criminal Code – un-amended since its inception from colonial days – is

            still applicable in the South; and the Penal Code applied in the North;

ix.              ten-year old “married” girls regarded as adults and treated as such;

x.                 the political constituency of a married woman is not yet correctly and

            appropriately defined;

xi.              a native Nigerian woman’s citizenship cannot confer citizenship on her foreign husband; while a man may earn citizenship for his foreign wife;

xii.            Nigerian women of all ethnic nationalities still live under the scepter of

            Native Laws and Customs and Sharia Family Laws that clash with

            the Statutory Laws. Etc, Etc.


Should women have any special, gender-defined role?


Nigerian women have every role to play in the economy of nation-building, by way of their education, training, vocations, professions, as well as in their superior sense of discipline, patriotism, moral and ethical strength of character, and so on. Affirmative Action would be an advantage in helping to balance the lopsided acceptance of women as equal participants and competitors in all areas of the economy.   


Nigerian women do not need any special gender-defined roles, as it has been well- established that what a Nigerian man can do, a Nigerian woman can do it, and even better, as Governor Bolaji Tinubu of Lagos State and President Obasanjo have testified.  However, adequate allowance must be made for women of child-bearing age, in the provision of generous maternity leave, benefits and sick leave, to enable them to raise children and families for the nation, as well. A way should be found for women to benefit from welfare and tax relief for their children.  Sharing the allowances in half with their husbands is not a bad idea, either. 


In the aftermath of the "Constitutional Amendment vote," what's your view about Obasanjo's attempt to force a constitutional amendment that would have elongated his tenure?


I have always believed it ill-advised

Mrs. Oyibo Odinamadu

Mrs. Oyibo Odinamadu

and ill-fated for President
Obasanjo even to contemplate a constitutional amendment that would benefit him while still in office. People like to say that he was on a bid for a third term; but I have always maintained that it was for a bid for a fourth term, because he had his first term, without an election from 1976 – 79, after the assassination of General Murtala Muhammed. Therefore, at the end of this term, he would have been in that office for eleven years. I maintain that whatever plans or capabilities he thinks he has to serve Nigeria longer, that he has not yet executed in eleven years, is simply not there. Any furtherance of his stay in office would just have been for greed and arrogating to himself, the only person, out of the one-hundred and twenty million citizens, who can handle Nigeria’s governance. Even if he was good at it - which he was not, because he was riddled with corruption, abuse of power and dictatorial tendencies - and if he had any tricks about the governance of Nigeria, he had exhausted them long ago.    


Besides, he just took Nigeria on a wild-goose chase for a constitutional amendment. First of all, he would not tell Nigerians the truth about what he wanted. He simply hoped that if things worked out, he would grab and enjoy it; if not, as is the case, he would jump back and say, as he has, that he was never really interested in a third term; that people were pushing him into it, and that he just wanted Nigerians to exercise their minds on the debate. He can make all the lame excuses he wants, but one thing is clear: he was pushing for a third term as hard as he could, distributing heavy cash and largess with impunity, and sending appeals for support to the Governors, Assemblies, the Senate and all sections of the populace, so as to buy himself approval. But he failed woefully; and that served him right! He thought that he was the cleverest of all Nigerians, not realizing that he was only too clever by half. His son, Dr. Gbenga Obasanjo talked once, and he shut him up.


OBJ had turned into a monster for power and a robot without human feelings for the people he was given the mandate to govern, which job he actually held, most of the time, while globe-trotting. It would also appear that OBJ has so many skeletons in the cupboard that he would have liked to stay longer in office to protect them. In other words, he has not groomed anybody that he can trust to take over from him; to guard his skeletons and build upon his legacies where he left off. What does that say? It was very interesting to read of a press report where he was asked what he considered his most cherished legacy when he has left office, and his reply was that he was not thinking about any legacies. Perhaps, that was humility and modesty, talking.


What is your reaction to the defeat of that move?



The defeat of President Obasanjo’s third term bid is, in fact, a master-stroke! That day, Nigeria started well on the way to self-correction, self-realization and self-healing from all the sores, bruises, and fractures of the misrule of Nigeria by the Military Boys and retired Military Boys. That day, Obasanjo’s most outstanding civilian supporters of the third term debacle started to leap backwards off the bandwagon.


The day the forthcoming Presidential Election of 2007 is conducted, and a true representation of the people’s verdict returned, without the participation and interference of the Military and Retired Military Boys, Nigeria will be celebrating with great jubilation and fanfare! In fact, it would resonate as a “good riddance!” to very bad governance.


Not only has OBJ followed the footsteps of his predecessors-in-office in instituting

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or perpetuating the very worst practices in the governance of Nigeria -- Bribery and Corruption; God-
fatherism; Election Rigging; rejection that the Military should be probed; Untouchable Sacred Cows; the kind of disgraceful disregard of the Rule of Law and the flouting of Court judgments and orders with impunity that prompted the just retired Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of Nigeria -- the Hon. Justice Uwais -- to cry out against OBJ’s Government; Squandering of public funds; Gross Indiscipline; Unpatriotism; Hypocritical Claims of Religiousness, while every action and practice we observe are the very direct opposite of what is expected. OBJ has also perpetuated IBB’s creation and use of the SSS as an outfit for acts of repression and abuse of power; abuse of human rights, illegal detention, torture, self-succession and bid for self-succession and looking on to life-long dictatorship, extra judicial killings, etc, etc.


Nigeria will certainly be a better place, and will have respite without OBJ in the saddle, because:

i. he has declared unwarranted wars on certain ethnic nationalities individuals, especially Ndi Igbo;


ii. He has hated Ndi Igbo with a passion; and has continued his War of Genocide on them, unabated, even after the War that Nigeria declared and foisted on Biafra and, Ndi Igbo notably, ended thirty-six years ago.


iii. He has constituted himself a cog in the wheel of the progress of Nigeria, by blocking the Sovereign National Conference, through which all ethnic nationalities would have met, to study in-depth, the manner in which the British Colonial Administration assembled the geographical and administrative area it named Nigeria, and decided on how to make viable adjustments.


iv. The petroleum wealth of Nigeria has been of little or no use to the country or to the people from whose territories the oil is extracted. There is also the attendant environmental devastation and ecological degradation that is caused in the areas. Our Petroleum wealth has also not been of much use to those who have been stealing the proceeds, because, apart from what they spend on themselves --on what they regard as the enjoyment of their lives-- it is only a minute part of the loot. Billions of dollars of our national wealth is stashed away in the banks of foreign countries, while the looters hold a card or a pass-book with their names and monetary figures, and think of themselves as wise and rich. In the meantime, their foolishness provides the foreign countries with our hard earned monies to continue improving their already developed countries, while leaving Nigeria a desolate, pauperized and devastated land.  


v. OBJ has also continued to use the SSS and Personal Security Guard, created and used by IBB, as well as his other predecessors in-office; Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubarkar;  for acts of repression, denial of human rights, illegal detention and torture, abuse of power, extra judicial killings, and the like.


Do you think citizens have adequately defended their civic duty to participate and protect the democratic process?


Nigerian citizens have reacted to the abuse of their civic rights to participate in the electoral process through the mass and print media; but it has not been enough. Besides, their reactions and protests can never be enough or too much! Is it not said that: Aku agwuro, na nti anezuro ike?: “If what is being chewed is not finished, the jaw does not rest”!


I think that the fear of repressive consequences that follow dissention and disagreement with the powers-that-be, has forced the people to appear docile and recoil from greater outbursts of protests and public showing and disapproval of what happened in the 2003 Presidential Elections, and what is very likely to happen in 2007, though through non-violent activities, like:


a.    Protest-Marching to the President at Aso Rock; 

b.    Picketing the President and the Executive Council at Aso Rock;

c.     Picketing the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) -- which is not independent, at all, by any stretch of the imagination -- for its use of High-tech  Computers to rig the Presidential Election of 2003, and denying everybody else access to their computations; and

d.    Protesting INEC’s plan to introduce even more state-of-the-art Digital Computers for the 2007 Elections, in favour of their designated candidate;

e.    Simply asking the question boldly: Are you leaving Nigerians any chance for their real mandate to be represented in 2007?

f.      Protest-Marching to the Senate Building; the Federal and State Assembly Houses; the Local Government Headquarters; the Court Houses; the Stadia, Sports and Football Fields, to march, chant, speak and deposit their written protests and wishes with the highest authority there, for onward transmission to President Obasanjo.     


Ndi Igbo also have another

Mrs. Oyibo Odinamadu

Mrs. Oyibo Odinamadu

adage which observes that: “
Obulu na ozu emeghaliro isi, ebulu ya veli ama nna ya”, meaning that: “If the corpse does not move his head, he would be carried past his father’s village square!” This means that the electorate must show their annoyance, disapproval and disappointment for all the mismanagement of the facilities for their participation in the democratic process, for the culprits to recoil and do what is right.


Can you give a historical perspective of Nigeria through the year 2007?


Nigerians before 2007 would appear to be a used, tired and exhausted people, but by no means a down and out, spent force. Pre-2007 would appear to be the period when Nigerians “stood and stared” at Obasanjo and his Military predecessors in-office rampaging the whole processes and resources of territory, because no one should be fooled: This period will go down in history as a period when bribery and corruption, especially in high places, ruined the country in all facets of its life – socially, educationally, economically, politically, spiritually, morally, ethically, name it. And all culprits will be duly noted, even if they succeed in escaping physical punishment in this life.


The period before 2007 will go down as when incompetence, due to the enthronement of mediocrity in the governance of Nigeria, put people in authority who did not have the vaguest clue about governance and, therefore, no program or plans with which to lead the country for development and progress. The country just drifted, because the Governments did not know how to go about their job.


It was a tragic time for Nigerian youths forced out of schools, because they could not find gainful employment, and were led to degenerate and criminal practices and vices. 


It was the period when the Structural Adjustment of the economic infrastructure, introduced by the promoters of one-world economy, sapped Nigeria to the marrow, and the middle-class disappeared from society.


It was a time for the rich to become even richer, and the poor to become poorer, because against experienced advice, the Nigerian Government borrowed from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and accepted their packaged economic deals, which landed Nigeria into unthinkable foreign debts. And while celebrating debt-forgiveness for some of the debt, even more debt was being accumulated by endless borrowing.


It was a period when the economy of the country sank to its lowest; and Nigerian currency was worthless, and not recognizable on the world-market. It was a time of election rigging by paying out big money to supporters from Government coffers. Those who were elected in offices to serve the people kept the monetary allocations for their States for themselves so that they could rig elections and continue in the offices, in which they were incompetent.


It was the period when the abuses of human rights, trafficking of children - boys and girls - at home and abroad was rampant, while successive Governments looked the other way, giving the impression of powerlessness in dealing with the situation.


It was a period when, due to the very poor economy, adults with families left home, to trek across the Sahara Desert, in search of jobs in North African and European countries around the Mediterranean Sea, and so on, dying in this bid by the thousands without realizing their dreams. Did the Governments take any action to quell this deluge, this exodus of able-bodied men and women? The answer is a capital, No! 


It was a period when terror

Mrs. Oyibo Odinamadu

Mrs. Oyibo Odinamadu

reigned supreme: assassinations, even the assassination of the foremost journalist and Managing Director of
Newswatch Magazine, Mr. Dele Giwa, and of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige; about which the two Heads of State, at the time -- President Ibrahim Babangida, and President Olusegun Obasanjo, respectively -- have yet to make any statements to the effect of these murders, to the people. 


It was a time that Nigeria fell to the dogs in 419 criminal activities at home; international scams; bank robberies and abandoned contract projects while the funds have been totally withdrawn, etcetera.


It was a period of Petroleum Oil theft otherwise called Oil Bunkering; and the bursting of petroleum finished product pipelines, which the local people go to harvest and become consumed in their hundreds by infernos, time and time again.  Was any compensations ever paid to the victims and their survivors? Tell that to the Marines! 


It was the period when barrack-wars broke out between the members of the Nigerian Police Force and the members of the Nigerian Army, over the collection of illegal tolls, even from soldiers, by the members of the Police, at check-points mounted by them.


It was the period that ammunitions, carelessly stored at the Ikeja Cantonment, detonated and caused untold destruction of lives and property. Whether an enquiry into the incident was ever conducted by the Federal Government, the procedure, result, recommendations and actions taken, is yet to be released. 


It was a period of strikes by public servants – clerks, doctors, nurses, teachers, labour unions – for better conditions of service; and at which times they have been handled, not compassionately, but high-handedly and severely.    


It was the period when Nigerian health-care delivery degenerated to the lowest ebb, because the governments has never been concerned and does not care about the wellbeing and welfare of the people. Therefore, most hospitals are dysfunctional. Nigerians are increasingly traveling overseas for treatments that can easily be taken care of at home. And many Nigerians have died overseas, with expenses not only for medical care, but for carrying bodies home. 


It was the period of the greatest brain-drain from the country. There is so much more…



And Nigeria beyond 2007; where are we headed?



At this rate, I think that Nigeria is headed for the abyss, unless something happens at the 2007 Presidential Election to divert the course of total destruction the country is moving towards. The only solution is in electing a person into the saddle of Presidential power, who can see Nigeria differently, and treat her problems of staying together as a country an emergency. We need to elect someone who will stand for the amicable discussion and deliberations of the ethnic nationalities of Nigeria, during which each stands on its own, expressing the opinions and choices of the people as to how they would like to co-exist in peace and harmony and progress with the others in Nigeria; treating each other with understanding and respect like brothers and sisters. Treating each other as we would like to be treated…but will such a time ever arrive in Nigeria? 


It would be great if we were headed for a place where greed and avarice could be put under control and we can amicably share the resources – human, economic and material – that we have, in peace and understanding, accommodating each other. There is another saying that: “Eweli nwayo n’esute ove, ove lolu alo ezue nli”, that is that: “If one takes time in eating thichened soup, a small quantity of the thickened soup will be enough for his/her foo-foo”. In other words, if Nigerians would take time to appreciate the resources they have, and to share them amicably, with understanding, they would have enough and to spare!


I wish that God, in His Infinite Mercies, will grant the leaders of each ethnic nationality of Nigeria – big and small – the wisdom to know that it is time to change their minds about their prejudices in the way we have been seeing and treating others and have been pursuing personal stakes in Nigeria; grabbing the economic resources to the fair consideration for the others, into the bargain. Have Nigerians not tried the route of suspicions, hatred, war, genocide, greed, avarice, snatching what we want from the hands of the person to whom God has given it, instead of saying, please share with me? Have they not also yap-yapped, engaged in unholy diplomacy and intrigues?  Have they not seen that these have not worked out well?  


This time around, should we not try some peaceful approaches? Have mistakes not been made, and Nigerians, especially Ndi Igbo, suffered tremendously by them? Is it not yet time to “Let bye-gones be bye-gones”, in actual fact, word and deed? The leaders of Nigeria, beginning with General Gowon at the Peace Conference at the end of the Nigeria versus Biafra War 1967-71, pronounced the verdict of “No Victors; No Vanquished;” but Ndi Igbo have known that there are “the Victors” and “the Vanquished” and who they are. General Gowon also agreed to the 3Rs of: Rehabilitation; Reconstruction; and Reconciliation, which never saw the light of day. They proved to be just fancy-writing on paper; never meant to be executed, but put up as a smoke-screen and curtains to shield their real intentions; not really worth even the paper they were written on. These were in addition to his, so-called, apologies of 1994, which also turned out to be empty. These pronouncements were turned upside down, murdered and trampled into the mud; yet, General Gowon had the courage to try to communicate, at an interview he granted to Pini Jason, that he had done much to help Ndi Igbo.


Next was President Ibrahim Gbadamosi Babangida who had said in his National Day Broadcast of 1st October, 1985 that his Government would “leave behind us the legacy of bitterness and the negation of our sense of justice.” This categorical statement turned out to be a hoax, a mere expression of words and the stirring up of empty hopes. Should that deception not torment his conscience and those of his co-executives of Government policies? Should the marginalization and penalization of Biafrans, which has continued unabated since the end of the War, in spite of all of these statements, not end?


It was General Babangida who also said at one time, to: “Give Peace a Chance!” This also turned out to be another empty jargon of deception; of telling the people what he thinks they would want to hear.  Otherwise, what chance did he give for peace to reign?  Will Peace ever be given a chance in Nigeria? Who will take the first step to stop all the negative approaches and really give Peace a chance? Time is running out on us! None of us is growing any younger; but does the present generation of adult Nigerians really want to see “Peace” in their lives? Now is the time to take the bull by the horns!


Then President Olusegun Obasanjo said it also; as late as the month of January, 2006, as reported by Ernest Amadi <> who wrote: “Let's Bury Civil War Bitterness,” says Obasanjo. And from Gbenga Akinfenwa, in Onitsha; that he, President Obasanjo, “… a pleading tone, had to call on Nigerians to put the bitterness engendered by the war behind them: The President made the plea yesterday, when he visited Amichi, Nnewi South Local Government Council of Anambra State. It was his second visit in 36 years.


“The event was the celebration of the 70th birthday of Chief Simon Okeke, chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC). The President, who was the central figure in the reconciliation mission at Amichi on January 13, 1970, said his meeting with the then acting Head of Biafran Government, Gen. Philip Effiong and other key players in the civil war brought an end to the hostilities, “with peace and reconciliation taking its turn in the town”. Besides, he said his visit was to fulfill the biblical injunction, which says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice."


That was when he went to Amichi to set up his War Memorials and Monuments. Even then, nothing has changed in his attitude, repressive and oppressive actions against Ndi Igbo, which Ndi Igbo understand as pathological, dyed in the wool, infused in his blood-stream, hatred for them.


The on-going thing now is the Crisis at Onitsha with the MASSOB and the NARTO. President Obasanjo has ordered that anyone seen or suspected to be a member of the offending organizations should be shot on sight. It has also been reported that house-to-house raids have been going on at Nkpor, during which able-bodied men - innocent men who explained that they were not members of MASSOB - were arrested, stripped naked, bundled into the Black Maria and driven off. Is this the best way for leadership that President Obasanjo can adopt towards Ndi Igbo? Is this the way to bury the civil war bitterness? Bury them indeed! If these inflammatory statements are not meant to be abided by, why make them? Is it “to tell it to the Marines,” as the expression goes; or “to give it to the winds” to carry away? Should people in positions of trust and responsibility not outgrow such careless and useless utterances?  


I should say that Ndi Igbo, who have not attacked anyone, but have been attacked in Northern Nigeria as well as in their own homes, now and again, have been ready to put the “emotions of the civil war behind them, and to look up to reclaiming their rightful position in the country.” But are the other Nigerians and their leaders ready to put their utterances and pronouncements into effect, viz: “No Victors; No Vanquished”; “the 3Rs of Rehabilitation, reconstruction, rehabilitation”; “To leave behind us the legacy of bitterness and the negation of our sense of justice”; as well as “To Bury Civil War Bitterness?”


In addition, was the latest from the Ikemba, General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu himself, when he said, as reported by ugo nwoke that:


Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, presidential candidate of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2003 general elections has called on Ndigbo to put the emotions of the civil war behind them, and look up to reclaiming their rightful position in the country. Dim Ojukwu, while speaking at the Igbo Political Summit organized by the Coalition of Igbo Organizations and the Youth Movement in Igboland and Beyond, said recently, at Imo Concorde Hotel Owerri, that: Ndigbo was not vanquished in the war, but were victorious


Nigerians have heard it all now from “the horses’ mouths.” What are they waiting for? How much longer would Nigerians continue to lead each other by the nose, and right around the corner? When will the people start telling each other the truth, which is so very important for Nation-building? 


Are Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria so incompatible that they cannot realize that since the fate of colonialism has pushed them together, they should, at this age of their association together, sit down to sort out their differences amicably, either to co-exist together or call it quits? Since the British colonialists did the amalgamation of the North and the South in 1914 for their own administrative convenience, and since Nigerians have come to know this, as a fact, why should go anyone go on defending the phobia of the colonialists, about the collapse of their house of cards called Nigeria? And if they must part company, why can they not be mature and discerning enough to do so in peace and quiet as adults and to say: “Hail, good friend well-met!  To Your Tents, Oh, Israel! with a strong, robust hand-shake? Otherwise, would they accept as inevitable, the next step, which would be to go back - hook, line and sinker - into another bloody war, which has been going on, any way, through the back door? Besides, no one who goes into war ever comes out unscathed; no one that is killed ever comes back, but the living are doused with bitterness for his/her killing!


If anyone would stay away and appear unconcerned, it would just be like the case of the Upland Igbo (Agba-enu) running away when fighting broke out, usually at a Riverine Market-place, between the Riverine, Olu bi na mili, and the Upland Igbo people, saying that s/he is not concerned or involved. Then the question that stands out for such a cowardly person is: “On’agba-di ka olu gbue onye?” meaning to say: “Who is he/she running away and leaving behind for the Riverine people to kill”? 


Therefore, it would be most advisable for Nigerians to pull energy and resources together, close ranks, and stand tall against the common enemy of the people who are mis-governing Nigeria. Again, Ndi Igbo have a saying that: “Obulu na akpili gua onye gbulu ochu, ka onye kpelu ya”, meaning that: “If a murderer loses his or her voice to speak, who would state his or her case for him or her?” It would be an endless task of running away from extreme danger for dear life, which is, as Biafrans used to say: “Oso ndu agwu ike,” that is that: “Running away for dear life never renders anyone tired”.


I believe that anything that Nigerians do not come together to decide amicably by the end of six months after the 2007 Presidential Elections, may not be decided that way, for a much longer time to come. The decision is up to every individual – man, woman and youth - of Nigeria today. The destiny of each ethnic nationality of Nigeria is in her own hands. Let each ethnic nation get together and deliberate very seriously among themselves, before the 2007 Presidential Elections; before the voting begins!


On Chief Awolowo


"Ndi Igbo love to heap all sorts of accusations and blames for their woes during and

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after the War on Chief Awolowo, and to hate him with a passion; but none of them ever bothered to find out from him why he resigned his appointment as the Minister for Finance in Gowon's Adminisration in 1968, just about one year into the War that Ndi Igbo preferred to believe that he supported for their annihilation.


Neither did anyone bother to find out whether or not it was General Gowon who made him resign for disagreeing with his policies. Or did Gowon accept his resignation, and then have him stay in his house, where he could go to secretly consult with him, as an elder statesman, on such extensive and devastating influences on his policies, not only in the prosecution of the War, but also on how to treat Biafrans after the War? Nor did Ndi Igbo bother to ascertain that Chief Awolowo resigned from the Government as a result of his disagreement with Gowon's policies on both the prosecution of the War and the treatment of Biafrans afterwards.

It should also be borne in mind that Papa Awo never forgot that it was General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, as the Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, who released him from incarceration in the Calabar Prison, where he was serving prison-sentence for conviction on Treasonable Felony Charges.

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.

Chinua Achebe Foundation Interview Series: Mrs. Oyibo Odinamadu in Conversation with Obi Nwakanma 2