​(In) Justice In Our Penal System: Evans Vs Corrupt Public Servants By Abiodun Ladepo

Without one of those spoilt, narcissistic Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) who specialize in advocating for white-collar criminals standing by him, Chukwudumeje George Onwuamadike, also known as the celebrity kidnapper Evans, narrated to the media how he kidnapped people. We got to know the entire modus operandi. I bet you, given enough time, he will tell us more…everything from how he selected his targets, to how he studied their lifestyles, how he selected the dates and times for the kidnap operations, reconnoitering and selecting the intended routes, recruiting the right accomplices for the operations, deciding what types of weapons, modes of transportation and signs and signals he shared with his crew for whether to proceed with or abort operations.

Given enough time, Evans will tell us what post-operation meetings (After-Action Review?) looked like. Did they burn vehicles used in the operations? Did they shut off or throw away all the phones they had with them? Did anybody get wounded? Did anybody die? What were the health conditions of the victims? How much were the victims really worth? How were the ransoms collected? What were the sharing formulas? And how were the monies kept or spent without triggering suspicion in the community?

Evans would tell you all these not because he has suddenly been overwhelmed by a sense of contrition, or that the Holy Ghost has taken control of his dark heart and lodged there to cleanse it, or simply out of the goodness of his heart. He has been singing like a canary and will continue to sing like that because he has undergone (and is probably still undergoing) some of the most “creative” interrogation techniques in the whole world. No, I do not know for sure if that went on, or is going on. I just know, by taking a close look at his face, seeing his bloodshot eyes, his swollen red face and overall countenance, that he has faced the kind of interrogation techniques that Musiliu Obanikoro, for instance, did not face while being questioned for alleged corruption.

You probably know a thing or two about “creative” interrogation techniques…those that violate some of the articles of the Geneva Convention to which Nigeria has long been a signatory; those that could cause a country to be seen as a pariah by the rest of the civilized world, and bring the government official violators before the International Court of Justice at The Hague for human rights violations. The “good” thing about those kinds of interrogation techniques is that they make you confess fast and deep. You may even confess to crimes you did not commit!

Now, let me state without any equivocation that I do not think Evans has confessed to crimes he did not commit. In fact, he has confessed and given us proof of his sadistic crimes. There is no question Evans is one of the most depraved and despicable entities to have walked the face of this earth. There is no question he put innocent people through untold anguish by depriving wives of their husbands, children of their fathers; siblings of their siblings and friends of their friends. There is no doubt he robbed people of their hard-earned incomes and stripped them of their dignities in the most heartless and brutal ways, killing some in the process of snatching them against their will. And there is no question the man belongs in a fiery furnace, thrown in there while still alive, and left to immolate until his ashes are completely burnt too.

But just as Evans represents the worst kinds of human beings, so do some of our public servants represent the dregs of our society. The difference though is that rather than vilify the white-collar criminals like we are doing to Evans now, we celebrate them. We rankadede them when they show up in our communities in their bedecked clothes and accouterments. We trot after their sleek SUVs. We hold them in awe, drooling with admiration when their private jets land at our airports. We troop to their mansions to eat the crumbs off their tables. We never challenge them for the crimes they have committed against us…crimes with far more devastating and lasting consequences on us as a nation and as individuals. We can’t challenge them because we can never know with the kind of clarity, lucidity, and forthrightness (albeit forced) that Evans confessed to his sins. We can never know because we will never subject them to “creative” interrogation techniques.

Or will we ever strip Bukola Saraki naked; slap tight handcuffs on his hands, clasp leg-chains on him, and deny him sunlight, food, water, shelter from cold, shelter from heat, shelter from mosquitos? Will we ever subject him to marathon questioning where we get to change interrogators to give them a break but not give him any break in order to sustain weeks-long sessions and any time he dozes off, we beat the living crap out of him? Will we ever introduce a flaming rod to his private part? Will we ever introduce a hammer to his fingers and toes? Will we ever simulate drowning him? Will we ever do any of the above to him while questioning him about the allegations he faces?

When you took a look at Sambo Dasuki’s face, did you see any evidence of “creative” investigation techniques? What about that of Rabiu Kwankwaso? What about Alex Badeh’s face? What about Femi Fani-Kayode’s face? What about Stella Oduah’s face? What about Patience Jonathan’s? What about Adesola Amosu’s? And these are people against whom some of the most “fantastic” corruption allegations in the history of Nigeria have been made. Some of them have never even been arrested, let alone interrogated. Some of them have admitted to stealing (way more than Evans has stolen violently) and have started to return their loot to a government. But we don’t see them as terrible people in the same way we see Evans, even though they may have hurt our very beings beyond repair if some of the crimes against them are ever proven to be true.

Hundreds of women die monthly during childbirth because hospitals do not have the equipment to monitor their and their babies conditions, with funds meant for equipping the hospitals having been embezzled by public servants. We don’t see that as worse than what Evans did because we have not subjected the public servants to the process of atonement, the kind that Evans faced. Boko Haram successfully carved out a “country” for itself in Nigeria’s northeast, butchering thousands of innocent and poor civilians, kidnapping and raping hundreds of young school girls and Nigeria’s military could not defend Nigeria’s territorial integrity because some eminent Nigerians diverted to their pockets funds meant to arm the military. We don’t see that as a crime worthy of the kind of burn-in-a-ferocious-furnace punishment that I recommend above for Evans?

What about those death traps we call roads? What about those coffins we fly as aircraft…with funds for their maintenance having been cornered by the politicians we eulogize? What about our children’s future being taken from them when tertiary education has been priced out of their reaches?

The list is endless. We see and feel every day the litany of crimes committed against our humanity by the people we revere, trust and respect. But we have inoculated ourselves against the sense of justice, proportion and fairness in apportioning punishment to the point that we lynch a hungry man who steals a loaf of bread while saluting the public servant who steals our billions. We subject to public opprobrium and humiliation the common criminal while 50-plus Senators, 100-plus SANs, shameless media advisers, pliant prosecutors who intentionally sabotage their own cases and morally debased judges all conspire to free the highly-placed criminals. The war against corruption will fail unless we have a level playing field…the kind of field on which we played Evans; the kind of playing field that will serve as deterrence for our super-corrupt public servants.

Abiodun Ladepo

Ibadan, Oyo State

Oluyole2@yahoo.com

​2019 And The Legend Of Buhari On A Wheelchair By Emmanuel Ugwu

Considering President Muhammadu Buhari’s struggle an unremitting debilitating disease which has kept him out of his office and country indefinitely, should the 74-year -old be on the ballot in 2019?

In an ideal world, this is a non-question. The proposition carries the unmistakable undertones of callousness and mischief. For the obvious reason that President Buhari has been in a protracted state of incapacitation, it is inhuman to speculate in his electability as if he were some blue chip stock.

A certain ‘supporter’ of the president, however, responded as if the question was about a larger-than-life cult figure in a banana republic. Yes, Buhari must run for a second term. The North wants him to run ‘’even on the wheelchair.’’

The doctrinaire Buharist borrowed his response from Mrs. Grace Mugabe. Asked whether her nonagenarian husband would seek to extend his 30-year-old rule over the-food-basket-of-Africa-turned-basket-case-of-the-continent in the next presidential election, the first lady of Zimbabwe replied that her husband, Robert Mugabe, would run by all means, even if he was wheelchair-bound. (The vixen would later venture to promise that if he happened to die before the elections, he would be fielded as a ghost candidate!)

Now, it must be noted that ableism is absolutely unjustifiable. It violates the basic decencies of a civilized society. Physical disability does not diminish a man’s personhood and the physically challenged among us are entitled to the same rights, respect and opportunities enjoyed by all law-abiding members of society.

But Buhari’s re-election candidacy should be out of the question. And this has nothing to do with ableism. It has everything to do with his readiness and fitness to execute the office. So far, the unnamed ailment he suffers from has overwhelmed him to the point of being his preoccupation. The survivalist quest for recovery has rendered him unavailable to lead. Therefore, it goes without saying that he cannot be re-elected to carry on as a foreign-based, absentee president.

It is within the realm of possibility that Buhari can make a stunning health comeback. But he is no spring chicken. The reality of his age and the seriousness of his condition mean that the odds are stacked against him.

With the best medical treatment in the world and the blank check of a compassionate leave, he is still unable to bounce back in quick time. This fact suggests that his recovery is in the lap of the gods and that it is safe to regard him as a will-o’-the-wisp.

Wisdom acknowledges a present truth and constructively adapts to it. The truth of the moment, which only an ostrich’s playmate can miss, is that Buhari cannot be trusted to provide leadership at the highest level in Nigeria. Wisdom whispers that it is foolishness to plan the future around a sick, aging man with an uncertain prospect of recovery.

Let’s face it: Buhari has had his day. At the best of times, he was unable to stamp his interpretation on the role of the president. He dissipated his head of steam on hesitancy and squandered the goodwill he needed to push his agenda. With the best of will in the world, he cannot make a more effective leader out of himself now or in the future.

His sickness has tremendously weakened him as the head of the government of Nigeria and as a person. His ill-health has created the dynamic of codependency between him and his inner circle. He uses them as fig leaf for his privacy and they exploit their proximity to him to prosper as the dead hand of a privileged cabal.

In his absence, ‘Acting President’ Yemi Osinbajo has found himself working to earn brownie points for loyalty. Osinbajo flinches from taking assertive steps. He acts timid to stave off charges of ambition, instead opting to play the underling who ‘regrets’ having to hold down the fort.

He would travel to Katsina and introduce himself to the president’s kinsmen as Buhari’s son. He would not sign the budget until the cabal in London telegraphed permission in the name of the boss. He cannot inaugurate newly confirmed ministers. He cannot deal with the rampaging headhunters. He cannot move against the demented Northern youths threatening to destroy 44 trillion naira Igbo investment in the North. He cannot go beyond the brief to ‘coordinate the affairs of the nation.’

The absent president/acting president arrangement is an awkward and inconvenient theatre. It offshored power and left a well behaved figure head to maintain semblance of constitutional order. The entire administration has, however, shrunk to Osibanjo trying to impress with his loyalty to his principal. Aisha returned from London the other day to thank him for dimming his light while the master was away!

This state of affairs is not what the presidency is for. Sadly, it is most likely to persist in a second Buhari term. President Buhari has to admit that he has had his day. If he manages to weather this tenure, he should be grateful enough to retire. He needs to relieve his frame of the crushing burden of the presidency and to release the nation to progress beyond his infirmity. He needs to experience as much of the lightness of insouciance as the earth can allow.

Buhari needs to head home, whether he winds up on ‘Mugabe’s wheelchair’ or walks on his two legs before 2019. He should not contest in the 2019 elections. He lacks what it takes to run a viable presidential campaign, and more importantly, what it takes to run a country.

Subjecting himself to another campaign is a high risk bet. The rigors of another campaign will exhaust him, drain him and put his very fragile health at the mercy of chance.

I recognize that the shrine of power is never empty of sycophants. Every head of state we have had had an (un)critical mass of flatterers that took on the mission of spreading the gospel that the man of the moment was the only citizen competent to rule Nigeria. Abacha’s people said it of him. Obasanjo’s people said it of him. Jonathan’s people said it of him. And Buhari’s people are saying it of him.

The chairman of All Progressive Congress, John Odigie Oyegun, says the presidential ticket of the party is already spoken for. Buhari will have an automatic ticket. There will be no contest for presidential candidacy.

The president’s spokesman boasts that Buhari’s second term is a foregone conclusion. He has won in advance. He is invincible.

All of this sounds familiar. It is the sort of prideful thinking and arrogant talk that prefaced Jonathan’s doom. Buhari will experience a similar ruin if he permits himself to be suckered into buying the lie of his own invincibility.

He might be well thought of in the North. But the South is not as enamored of him. The wider electorate will not embrace him again without demur.

Buhari’s supporters often wheel out the degradation of Boko Haram and the fight against corruption as his notable achievements that qualify him for re-election. But whatever reduction in bloodshed that was achieved by the diminishing of the capacity of the terrorists to kill and hold territory in the North is being overcompensated for by the bloodsport of the ‘Fulani herdsmen’ in other parts of Nigeria. He has declined to apply state force against them because blood is thicker than water.

His fight against corruption has been discredited by the corruption of his closest aides and his hypocritical intervention as their human shield. He ‘cleared’ Tukur Buratai when the Dubai properties of the modest-salaried Chief of Army Staff were exposed. Buhari also wrote to clear Babachir Lawal after the SGF’s grass-cutting scam blew open. The enlightened demographic notes the double standard of in lavishing deodorant on your corrupt friends and spraying pesticide on your corrupt foes.

The economic recession, caused by a combination of the legacy of greed of the Jonathan administration and the chaotic mismanagement of the fundamentals of the economy by the Buhari administration, has caused countless job losses, spiked hunger and spread misery all over Nigeria. Many Nigerians are worse off today than they were before he took office. And their next vote will reflect their discontent.

The 2019 elections will be a referendum on Buhari and the ‘Change’ mantra of the APC. He is almost certain to lose if he stands. Any Trumpian character that taps into the anger in the land will defeat him.

The idea that the worst of Buhari is better than the best of anyone else is ridiculous. This country of 175 million people has a sprinkling of younger, visionary individuals who can do governance infinitely better than Buhari. Nigeria is not so poor in humanity that only a frail Buhari is qualified to be president.

The last thing Nigeria needs is a president that cannot function. We need an energetic president. A virile president with smart ideas.

And the North needs that kind of president even more. The North is the backwater of Nigeria and seems fated to remain so for the foreseeable future. All that Northerners have benefited from the long rule of their ‘brothers’ is the vicarious feeling of being in power, worsening poverty and burgeoning out-of-school-kids population.

The North may want ‘Buhari on the wheelchair’. But they need a strong president. They need a stronger president more than the other half of the country.

You can reach Emmanuel at immaugwu@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EmmaUgwuTheMan

Dear Acting President Osinbajo, Saraki Is Coming, Act Fast!, By Akin Fadeyi

“Nelson Mandela was an extra ordinary human being. He put a strong “truth and reconciliation” committee together. He was not insulting everyone and anyone. It earned him global respect.

“Leadership matters when you want to heal a divided nation. Donald Trump hurls abusive speeches at every perceived opposition in sight and that has greatly damaged America”.

These were very punchy and incisive comments of Ed Luce, Financial Times‘ chief commentator on Fareed Zakaria GPS on the night of Sunday June 18, 2017.

The opening topic was on why GOP Congressman and Louisiana Rep, Steve Scalise, was shot by an obviously disgruntled 66 year old American who had nursed disgust for Donald Trump’s style of racially divisive politics. James T. Hodgkinson was lurking in dark shadows like an untamed reptile. He struck before anyone could cage him and dealt a great blow not through the injury caused Scalise but actually to the ideals of diversity America once proudly represented.

I have written against Donald Trump before, describing him as a “bad dream for a fragile world”.

But nonetheless, I love Trump because he is down to earth, sometimes recklessly though, but again, you cannot fault his unconventional radicalised Republican brand of politics. Hate him all you like, he has millions of followers who look up to his “rascally” tweets. In a democracy with all its faults, it is figures that still count. Trump seems to have the figures, albeit within a nation now beleaguered by naked hate and prejudice.

Having said this, there are learnings to pick from Fareed’s GPS guests’ stance that a nation is full of divergent political interests, social alignments and cultural leanings; and therefore, you cannot be insensitive to the feelings of the led as a leader.

In terms of Nigeria, I have no doubt the acting president, Yemi Osibajo is probably genuine in his efforts at harmonising various positions in this nation and bridging the divides. The same Sunday on Channels TV, I saw his rapprochement with South-East Leaders. He has been to Cross River; and a few days ago, he hosted the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to a very private meeting at the Villa.
Osinbajo is writing some plausibly good history as a strong believer in a compact Nigeria. Awesome.

But let me give the acting president a piece of advice. David Blankenhorn, activist and president of “Better Angels” does something for America that Osinbajo needs to do in Nigeria. His organisation brings grassroots people together, despite their political differences. His organisation believes people can get angry at each other, debate emotionally against each other, but they must all be heard with a sole focus on nation-building and genuine national healing. He strongly recommends a public square engagement.Another guest on Fareed’s GPS warned against “dehumanising” Steve Scalise’s shooter, James Hodgkinson and painting him totally evil. He describes the shooter as a symbolic representation of certain hurt, frustrated and shattered feelings after Trump shaped America’s political narrative with racial colourations. He wants this hush-tone section of the nation to be heard, understood and brought back to the mainstream.

The acting president, at this stage, cannot engage with elites and leaders alone while assuming that the real agitators are committing heresy. The anger and agitation is down here, Mr. Acting President. I doubt those “leaders” have the ears of the crowd you are trying to rein in. If they did, IPOB would not arise, OPC will not flourish and Arewa Youths would never have issued an ultimatum.

The acting president must necessarily open up strategic and far-reaching processes of honest and robust engagements, where every tribe is allowed to openly express where and how they have been hurt. Where no tribe feels superior to the other. Where citizens will now believe and trust the government. Where leadership is handed to competence and not federal character, but is also well managed within the delicate thresholds of our interests and diversities. Where federal government vacancies are not presumably filled up “already by their children” despite paid advertorials. The government must identify with the genuine youth who want to discuss without angling or positioning themselves for pecuniary gains. Many “youth leaders” seize the microphone and utter gibberish once they have access to the media. The job of identifying the truly aggrieved and the honestly prepared in national discourse must be factored into our engagement template.

The executive, I dare say, must confront our fears and maybe revisit the national confab report which is about to evolve into a nuisance-value boobytrap that ex-President Jonathan inadvertently put in place for this administration.

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo must carefully manage how he serves into the hands of the NASS, whose members are now demanding for the consideration of the 2014 confab report, without falling naively for a populist goal about to be scored against the presidency. The presidency has conceded many of these recently.

I am still in doubt over what the underlying motive of our senators are. If it is positive, then that is great for Nigeria. Not a few, though, will be pleasantly surprised. On Channels TV a few days ago, even the then confab chairman, Senator Femi Okunrounmu expressed reservations about the National Assembly’s sudden interest in the report, so soon after Senate president, Bukola Saraki was let off the hook in a no-case submission and acquittal by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, which Professor Itse Sagay has been losing sleep over. For the NASS to now open the books of the confab report, this will be a masterstroke move to “buy-the-public” applause in a political chess game. But hey, who would not like to us to discuss the issues tearing us apart for which we have been living in denial? In-here lies why the National Assembly might trounce the Executive once again, and in a silly manner too. If Saraki organises a national grassroots forum today for these discussions, he would have a huge crowd. The presidency must act fast – they either play this game or glide painfully into public irrelevance.

Overall, we must all mean well for this nation no matter which desk we occupy. Corruption is still a damning monster and it is actually getting brazenly bold. Leaders should visit social media occasionally and find out the huge extent to which the people have lost faith in the government’s anti corruption fight. We must go back to the drawing board and re-strategise. The acting president should read the Chatham House report where a holistic approach involving grassroots behavioural change is recommended as a great tool for tackling corruption.

We must patriotically work towards building a nation where no one sees any other person as inferior. Where Yorubas don’t feel Hausas are “hungry for power” and where Igbos don’t feel “Yorubas can’t be trusted”. I have met fantastic Northerners, civilised Igbos and golden-hearted Yorubas. Those dividing us don’t mean well for us. Their intentions are not beyond their ambitions.

This country is beautiful and holds a promise: But the frank realities confronting us cannot be skirted over. Doing so may damage us irredeemably.

Shall I say, God bless Nigeria? For those who believe there’s some God somewhere; and an ‘amen’ might mean a lot at this critical moment in our nation’s history.

Akin Fadeyi is Convener of the Not In My Country Project.

​Judges’ Recall And Malami’s Crocodile Tears By Azu Ishiekwene

The government of President Muhammadu Buhari just boxed itself into a corner and the National Judicial Council (NJC) is very pleased to beat the government with a big stick.
After last year’s dramatic arrest of nine judges on suspicion of corruption and the sense of relief that Buhari had, at last, taken the fight to the fallen temple of justice (aptly described by Femi Falana as the ‘new supermarket’), the government has been caught on its back foot.

Days after the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) made the ridiculous call for the judges to be recalled, the NJC recalled them without wasting time. What is left to complete the government’s humiliation is a ceremony for the government to convey its profound apologies to the judges for the inconveniences they may have suffered in the last eight months.

It’s a sad moment.

Of course, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami has dramatized his anger at the NJC’s decision and has promised that the government would appeal.

If he’s pretending to be angry to impress us, he needs to get over himself. It’s the incompetence of his office that has brought this embarrassment on the head of his own government and it’s a pity if he doesn’t understand that.

When the NBA, the tail that wags the NJC dog, issued a statement at the end of May saying that judges under investigation should resume sitting and that the government should terminate the charges of corruption filed against them, Malami should have known what was coming next.

He should have known that that was exactly the shot in the arm that the NJC needed to rescue its tribesmen from disgrace. Curiously, he let it slip.

Then came the second chance to show that the slip up was, well, a mistake. Six days after the NBA’s statement, the NJC issued a statement on Saturday asking the judges to resume on Wednesday – all of this happened within eight working days. Again, Malami let the eight days slip.

If the AGF and his team of nearly 1,000 lawyers in the Ministry of Justice could not file any charges in eight days (worst case by Monday) to potentially save the country from the spectre and embarrassment of a few judges sashaying from the dock to the bench, then I think the honorable minister should seriously start thinking of something else to do.

A faction of the NBA, the NJC and their political wing in the National Assembly have always wanted to cripple the anti-corruption war, discredit it or have it on their own terms. The minister is lending them a hand.

The NBA is right in saying that eight months is a long time to arrest the judges without filing any formal charges against them. But surely these lawyers cannot pretend that a court system that subjects tens of hundreds of other citizens to this same misery should work differently for judges.

The Comptroller General of the Nigerian Prison Service said in March that out of the 68,000 inmates in the prisons, 46,351 or 68 percent are awaiting trial. Some of them may have been detained for years for giving their dog a bad name, but the NBA does not think it has any business to speak up for them.

Of course, it begs the question, why the delay after the dramatic arrests eight months ago?

One of the reasons why the Lagos State judiciary remains exemplary is that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was then Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, took personal responsibility for the implementation of the reforms. He was a professional, not a politician.

He did his homework, copied and adapted the best examples and practices wherever he could find them and personally led the state’s legal team to court when it was necessary. He provided leadership.

Under Malami, it would seem that leadership means a commando-style raid on the judges and letting foreign travels do the rest. There are credible reports that when the Ministry was preparing the charges against the judges, the Minister was away on a foreign trip to Turkey, while his staff were groping. It may well be that he traveled to save the Republic, but home is where the redemption is most needed.

Malami must get that clear. The anti-corruption war is one of the major pillars of Buhari’s agenda, and if the man who should lead its legal charge is distracted, confused or perceived to be incompetent, then the war is lost.

Of course he cannot do it alone, and no one is suggesting that he should. It is within his powers to ensure that the anti-corruption agencies – the EFCC, the ICPC and the Code of Conduct Bureau – are giving their best; it is his duty to make any changes necessary, where this is not the case.

It was also to strengthen his hands that the National Prosecution Coordination Committee was launched last year for high profile corruption cases, and that was months after the Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption was also inaugurated.

So, instead of pretending to be upset and vowing to close the stable after the horse has bolted, Malami must tell the public why, in spite of the range of assets available to him, he could either not file charges against the judges or did so in a manner that suggests he was pleased to cut off the tail of the snake.

The NJC does not smell of roses either. How can it say, with a bold face, that judges with such heavy clouds of suspicion hanging over their heads should resume and start judging others?

How can the Council, against the most elementary requirement of equity, maliciously ignore petitions against its own members and ask them to continue sitting in judgment over others? Is this what the Lord Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen promised at his swearing in when he said he would fight corruption? Have we, milord, entered the phase of two laws, one country?

Recall is not acquittal, so perhaps Malami has another chance to save himself and his government’s reputation.

It’s also heartening that the offenses for which the judges were arrested are not time barred. If NBA President, Abubakar Mahmoud, wants to lead a delegation of the NBA to apologize to the judges on behalf of its members and enablers, that’s fine.

But Malami has to show, within the next two weeks, that he is ready, willing and able to bring the judges to justice.

In the fight against corruption, he has to show the presence of mind and leadership that his office and the country deserve. Else he might as well resign and start his Kebbi governorship campaign immediately.

Azu Ishiekwene is the Managing Director and Editor-In-Chief of The Interview and board member of the Paris-based Global Editors Network.

​Neo-Biafra: Of Sense And Nonsense By Louis Odion

Just when the rest of the nation on Wednesday began a postmortem of the Biafra Day celebration following media reports of “total compliance” in Igbo land of a sit-at-home-order by IPOB/MASSOB, the following are excerpts from the riposte by one Ken Henshaw, obviously from the South-South, trended on social media:
“I think the current generation of ‘Biafrans’ are the most (unprintable) so far. How dare you sit in your home or offices and draw your Biafra map and include places like Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom etc as part of of your empire? Did you consult them? Did you seek their opinions?

“You are forcing people to join a country whose commander-in-chief you have already anointed – Nnamdi Kanu; whose currency you have already decided – Biafran Pounds; whose official religion you have already adopted – Judaism; whose God you have already chosen – Chukwu Abiama?

“Do you not realize that you are doing to those people the same thing you accuse the British and Nigeria of doing to you?”

With this, Henshaw no doubt reopens the untold stories of counter-agitation within the Biafran enclave for the 30 months it lasted. Stories passed down by surviving older generations of co-opted minorities in present-day South-South hardly suggest the new lords of Biafra then were any better than the feudal overlords they were running away from the so-called rickety wedlock Lord Frederick Lugard had cobbled together in 1914 in terms of the way they related with non-Igbo conscripted into the rebellion against the Nigerian state.

As legitimate as Henshaw’s observations of the neo-Biafran agitation may sound, there is no denying that Biafra as an idea lives. With major streets deserted across the South-East out of civil disobedience and the Igbo community in the diaspora reportedly staging marches in key countries across the world, it is evident that attempts by the Nigerian establishment over the past half century to exorcise its spirit have failed woefully.

This official failing, in turn, speaks directly to a more dire frailty: collective failure of the estimated 386 ethnic nationalities to make a nation of the contraption Lugard bequeathed. Rather, what we continue to see is the pathetic self-canceling struggle of serpents and scorpions trapped in a squalid basket.

But forget the saber-rattling by the exuberant IPOB ideologues raising hell on the airwaves. If we are observant, we would recognize that the cry of Biafra today is only the formula of the Igbo elite to protest being schemed out of Nigeria’s power equation in continuation of what has become a rat race for bargain, control and dominion.

Beneath this hell-raising would appear some cold calculations. It seems being perceived in the “land of the rising sun” that the momentum for Obasanjo’s political coronation in 1999 was made irreversible by sustained resistance by Yoruba intelligentsia after June 12 coupled with OPC’s guttural brinkmanship. So much that, for the first time in Nigeria’s political history, the two main political parties were tele-guided by the retreating military oligarchy to field Yoruba candidates in the presidential contest of 1999.

Such mindset also assumes that if not for the sustained pipeline bombings and other calculated acts of economic sabotage by Niger Delta militants during the Obasanjo administration, an Ijaw would not have been “planted” as Yar’Adua’s running-mate in 2007 in what, in hindsight, would now appear a complex chess game to sneak in a South-South minority as a substantive president on May 5, 2010.

The neo-Biafrans also seem to reckon too that Buhari’s ascendancy in 2015 was substantially aided, abetted and made inevitable by Boko Haram’s genocidal insurrection in parts of the North once a Southern Christian minority was declared winner of the 2011 presidential election.

So, they now seem to have concluded that without raising hell or threatening to levy war, no one will give Igbo their dues in the bazaar Nigeria has always been. It explains the various mutations of the Biafran franchise since the return of democracy 18 years ago. First was Ralph Nwazurike’s MASSOB during the Obasanjo years with the beatification of Emeka Ojukwu, even while still alive, and merchandizing Biafran memorabilia on the side. APGA, as a political party, would tap into the same emotion.

Then, enter the social media-savvy Daniel Kanu-led IPOB with far more thunderous words and apocalyptic pronouncements.

But it must be recognized that the neo-Biafran cry attained the present crescendo only after the winner-takes-all culture instituted by Buhari upon ascending power two years ago. While the Igbo were prospering under Goodluck Jonathan on account of key political appointments and patronage, we never saw this sort of scare-mongering; the separatist rhetoric was at best muffled then.

Truth be told, this is a dangerous mentality to cultivate in the context of genuine nation-building. History already teaches us that no durable nation ever germinates from such make-shift arrangement that seems to reward only the biggest bully. The first condition is to create a climate of mutual respect and incentives for all to realize their full potentials.

That is why I think the colloquium held in Abuja on May 25 to mark Biafra’s 50th anniversary was significant indeed. That such a talk shop held at all and drew a quality audience including no less a personage than the Acting President is very unprecedented in history. It should be seen as official shift from living in denial. Once upon a time, such idea would have been unthinkable, taken as an affront to the “constituted authorities” in Abuja. Once the news broke, the security establishment would immediately have taken steps to abort it.

In this regard, I think we are making progress.

But the real challenge is to institute a culture that gives every section of the country a sense of belonging. Speaking that day, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, I believe, used the right words by sounding conciliatory and harping on the sentiment that we are “greater together than apart.”

Truly, nationhood is a shared commitment. Otherwise, it is a bondage fated to break some day.

But, words remain what they are: cheap. Indeed, while the erudite professor of law with demonstrable progressive credentials was pontificating that day, genuine patriots truly committed to national reconciliation and integration must have wished the voice was Buhari’s. Were Osinbajo’s boss in his shoes on the dais that day at the iconic Yar’Adua Centre, it is very doubtful if he, judging by the maximalist tendencies he has exhibited since assuming power in 2015, would have spoken in the same conciliatory tone or evince a disposition to engage those in the cold.

If the dominant feeling in South-East and South-South today is that of alienation, the exclusionist governance model Buhari has pursued with zealotry is largely to be blamed.

Indeed, the challenge today, as always, is to have a leader who can look beyond the narrow prism of the voting pattern in the last election, rise above pettiness and give every section of the country a sense of belonging. In case Buhari does not know, he needs to be told that nation-building is not helped when a leader goes ahead to fill all key national positions with only people from his locality.

To be fair, Buhari is not a pioneer here. He could only be accused of improving on the existing records of political greed and nepotism. Under Jonathan, it was Ijaw triumphalism we witnessed, thus putting to shame all those who earlier championed the crusade that he be declared acting president early in 2010 in the name of natural justice once it increasingly became clear that Umar Yar’Adua would not make it back to Aso Rock from his sick bay in Saudi Arabia. Jonathan, in turn, only chose to break the record of Yar’Adua who, despite his impressive academic standing, seemed detained all the way by the little god of the province. When he still had the presence of mind, his inner circle were drawn largely from a small district in Katsina. And as pericarditis – a rare medical condition – began to sap the last drops of vitality from his anatomy, his executive staff was summarily hijacked by a tiny cabal from the same provincial stock.

But to birth a more cohesive Nigeria is not the only duty of a broad-minded leader. Patriotism should oblige citizens themselves to stand and speak against injustice wherever it occurs regardless of ethnicity or faith. Only this could explain why when self-styled military president Ibrahim Babangida mindlessly annulled June 12 won MKO Abiola, the push for its revalidation largely became mostly a Yoruba project eventually.

Today, on a milder scale, we are witnessing a reenactment of the same civic complicity in the continued public silence, in the loss of the sense of national outrage, over the indefinite incarceration of the Shiite leader despite repeated court orders.

But nationhood is not an abstract construct. One of the key pillars is social justice.

NNAMDI KANU, BIAFRA AND KATE HENSHAW’S FALSE PREMISE BY FEMI FANI KAYODE


I think the current generation of ‘Biafrans’ are the most funny people I hve ever seen.

How dare you sit in your home or offices and draw your Biafra map and include places like Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, etc as part of your empire? Did you consult them? Did you seek their opinions? You are forcing people to join a country whose commander in chief you have already anointed- Nnamdi Kanu; whose currency you have already decided- Biafra Pounds; whose official religion you have already adopted- Judaism; whose God you have already chosen- Chukwu Abiama? Do you not realize that you are doing to those people the same thing you accuse the British and Nigeria of doing to you? For carving my state into your ‘Biafra’ and renaming it without my permission and consultation, I have a moral duty to stand against you with everything I have. I am not standing against you because I do not want your freedom; I stand against you because I love mine too. I don’t stand against you because you don’t have a right to your country; I stand against you because I have the same right. I stand against you because your map is an insult to me and my freedom to choose were I belong. Be warned!”

In a short contribution titled “Biafra Without Our Consent?” which appears to have gone viral on social media, a social commentator wrote as follows:

“I think the current generation of ‘Biafrans’ are the most funny people I hve ever seen.

How dare you sit in your home or offices and draw your Biafra map and include places like Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, etc as part of your empire? Did you consult them? Did you seek their opinions? You are forcing people to join a country whose commander in chief you have already anointed- Nnamdi Kanu; whose currency you have already decided- Biafra Pounds; whose official religion you have already adopted- Judaism; whose God you have already chosen- Chukwu Abiama? Do you not realize that you are doing to those people the same thing you accuse the British and Nigeria of doing to you? For carving my state into your ‘Biafra’ and renaming it without my permission and consultation, I have a moral duty to stand against you with everything I have. I am not standing against you because I do not want your freedom; I stand against you because I love mine too. I don’t stand against you because you don’t have a right to your country; I stand against you because I have the same right. I stand against you because your map is an insult to me and my freedom to choose were I belong. Be warned!”

This commentator who I shall refer to as Miss X and those that think like her are being disingenious and unduly hostile to Nnamdi Kanu and the concept and spirit of Biafra.

She has made a point that appears to be valid but that point is based on a false premise. That premise is that the southern minorities would be compelled or obliged to be part of Biafra without their consent. This is false. It is not true.

The truth is that each of the bordering ethnic nationalities, and even the Igbo themselves, must and will have their own referendum before going anywhere. It is entirely up to them what they do and where they go.

They cannot and will not be forced to go with Biafra if they choose not to do so. And neither can they be forced to remain in Nigeria if they choose to leave.

Everything that is done must and will be based on the free and fair expression of the will of the people.

That is the basic point that needs to be grasped and clearly understood. Miss X’s fear is therefore baseless.

Yet we cannot leave it there. We must consider the wider issues that her concerns have raised. We must learn to be clear-headed and strategic in our thinking and actions. We must know what we wish to achieve and we must learn from history.

The cost of petty bickering, division, undue rivalry, pettiness and age-old suspicions amongst the southern ethnic minorities and southerners generally is extreemly high.

It has cost us virtually everything and it has stripped us naked and bare before our enemies and adversaries.

Someone is fighting for the freedom of his people and you lend your voice to rubbishing that person and that cause? That cannot be right and neither is it reasonable or fair.

The sooner that we southerners get it into our skulls that there must be unity between us the better. Without that unity we are nothing and we shall continue to fail and falter.

Yours truly has attacked and joined issues with the Igbo in a series of literary debates and articles in the past perhaps more than anyone else but now I know better.

Now I know that historical and intellectual debate is one thing and political expediency and pragmatism is another.

Now I know that we are fighting a collective cause and that we have a collective adversary and oppressor who seeks to destroy and devour us all.

Now I know that when my Igbo or southern neighbour’s house is burning, even if we are barely on speaking terms, it is in my own interest to help him to put it out before that fire spreads to mine.

Now I know that the “handshake across the Niger” that the late and great Ikemba, Colonel Emeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu, the former Head of State of Biafra, once spoke about is the only way forward.

Now I know that whether we like to admit it or not Igbo and Yoruba co-operation, understanding and unity is a fundamental pre-requisite to the freedom and emancipation of the entire south.

Now I know that the more I attack my Igbo brothers the more I weaken myself, my Yoruba people and the south generally from the incessant and relentless attacks, humiliation and indignities that we collectively receive from the ruling core Muslim Hausa-Fulani north.

Now I know that what fuels and feeds northern hegemony and subjugation more than anything else are the petty rivalries and divisions between the southern ethnic nationalities. And it has made us utterly powerless and hopelessly weak.

The end-result is that we have all been turned into pliant and cowardly slaves.

This has been the case since 1960 and it will continue into eternity if we don’t sit up, grow up and set aside our many mutual suspicions and differences.

The Biafrans are simply asking for their own country and for an affirmative referendum to give it legitimacy.

No-one can be made to join Biafra against his or her will or by force. It appears to me that this is obvious.

In any case did Miss X or her forefathers give their consent to becoming a Nigerian in 1914 when the amalglamation took place?

Where is her sense of outrage about that? Did she warn the British or the north about that and did she promise to attempt to fight them because of it?

Were we not all just herded into Nigeria like cattle at the time? Were those of us from the south not just lumped together with a north that the British described as our “poor husband” whilst we were described as their “rich wife?”

Have we not been raped, sodomised, cheated, battered and butchered by that poor husband ever since?

Have we not been turned into second class citizens and slaves in our own country? Has Miss X protested about that and has she expressed her outrage and “warned” our collective oppressors as well? Does she not feel a sense of revulsion and outrage about that? Or is her outrage and warning reserved only for her fellow southerners?

The people of Biafra are fighting for the self-determination of their own Igbo people and anyone or any other group that wishes to join them. Is that a crime?

Would you seek to deny them that right and instead join sides with their oppressors and keep them in Nigeria by the usage of state-sponsored terror, guile, deceit and tyranny?

I do not accept the notion that the Biafrans seek to compel anyone or any group of people to leave Nigeria with them if they do not wish to do so.

That would be unacceptable and it is not their intention. Unlike Nigeria, being part of or joining Biafra is not by compulsion but rather a matter of choice. And that choice can only be made in a free and fair referendum.

If you do not wish to be part of Biafra and leave Nigeria then dont join them and instead stay in Lugard’s “happy” contraption. That is your right and your prerogative.

Yet the truth is that with or without you the Biafrans will achieve their objectives and realise their dreams and aspirations as long as it is God’s will and the desire of the Igbo people.

Whatever you and your people choose to do, either to go with Biafra or stay in Nigeria, do not allow yourself to be used by the retrogressive core north, the primitive forces of oppression and the asinine peddlars of lies, ignorance and falsehood to destroy someone else’s yearning for freedom from oppression and aspiration for liberty.

I say this because such an aspiration, yearning and quest is not only noble and pure but also deeply courageous.

It is an aspiration that we should mirror and admire and not attempt to rubbish or belittle.

This is all the more so because it has been paid for by the blood and suffering of many that have been killed over the last 50 years for daring to voice it, including many young people and many children.

If Miss X’s Efik ethnic group had suffered just 10 per cent of what the Igbo have been subjected to since 1966 they would have agitated to leave Nigeria long ago or perhaps been driven into extinction by now. That is the bitter truth.

Finally let me say this: whether anyone likes it or not Nnamdi Kanu symbolises the Biafran struggle today.

He has earned it by the suffering he has endured, by the immense courage that he has displayed and by the gargantuan risks that he has taken.

He has energised his people and inspired and brought hope to millions of Igbo youth all over the world.

He has given them back their pride and self-respect which is something that no other leader has managed to do since the end of the civil war.

This is a beautiful thing and I wonder why anyone that lays claim to being enlightened or educated would attempt to besmirch or denigrate him?

Why try and demean him or discredit and belittle the views that he and his followers hold so dear?

Whether anyone likes it or not the truth is that Nnamdi Kanu speaks for millions.

And many other ethnic nationalist groups in the south and Middle Belt have precisely the same aspirations and dreams of emancipation and freedom that he espouses, enunciates, epitomises and holds so dear.

The challenge that they are faced with is that, unlike the Igbo, they have yet to produce a leader like Nnamdi Kanu that can unite and rally them together under one banner and lead them to the promised land.

It Is Time For The Nigerian Government To Let The Biafran People Go By Ola Balogun

The current antics of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the self-proclaimed leader of the illusory Biafran nation, brings to mind an often quoted remark by Karl Marx, who pointed out in reference to the 9th November 1799 coup d’etat by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte in France:

“History often repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce…”

As if to illustrate this thought-provoking adage afresh, post-colonial Nigerian history, which first produced the immense tragedy of Biafra with its horrible litany of death and widespread destruction, is now going on to provide the world with a new version of Biafra that is being preached by the colorful duo of Ralph Uwazurike (MASSOB) and Nnamdi Kanu (IPOB).

In the original historical version of Biafra, the world witnessed General Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu strutting pompously across the stage of history in a crisply starched military uniform, proclaiming for all to hear that “no power in Black Africa” would ever stop Biafra from coming into being.

And now we have a fresh enactment of the Biafran tragedy, this time as farce, with Ralph Uwazurike issuing bogus ‘Aba-made’ Biafran passports to gullible youths willing to believe that an adventurer posing as a Head of State can be trusted to “actualize” the Biafran mirage, while his erstwhile employee Nnamdi Kanu has now suddenly morphed from a fire-breathing bush fighter into the self-ordained rabbi of a bizarre new Jewish religious cult.

Let us hope that this new prophet can now be left in peace to lead his fellow Biafrans to much deserved freedom from the hellish confines of the oppressive Nigerian nation.

Thankfully, the process will probably be swift, since Nnamdi Kanu apparently has very deep pockets, as well as unparalleled access to top political leaders in Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra and Abia States.

Interestingly enough, a three-page spread that was published in the “Sunday Sun” of December 12th 2015 (pages 48-51) threw some very interesting light on what Ralph Uwazurike has been up to with MASSOB, as well as on who the mysterious Nnamdi Kanu actually is.

In the interview he gave to the “Sunday Sun”, published on p. 48 in the newspaper’s edition of December 12th 2015, Ralph Uwazurike complained bitterly that Nnamdi Kanu was originally an unemployed youth whom he hired to supervise the activities of Radio Biafra in London due to the fact that Nnamdi Kanu had legitimate residence status in the United Kingdom.

If indeed Nnamdi Kanu is who Ralph Uwazurike says he is, how did he suddenly become endowed with the tremendous level of funding that appears to have been required to rent large crowds for the unruly demonstrations all over the Eastern states, as well as in Delta and Rivers States?

How was he able to fund a secret radio station within the confines of Nigeria, as well as purchase considerable quantities of sophisticated weapons in preparation for an armed uprising?

Hopefully, the answer to these and many more questions may become known when and if Nnamdi Kanu and his alleged co-conspirators are eventually put on trial.

In the meantime, fellow Nigerians and Ndigbo who have a sense of humor will probably enjoy the free cinema show of Nnamdi Kanu’s efforts to spread his new Jewish faith among the faithful that he has gathered in his father’s compound, clad in white priestly robes, and brandishing a highly symbolic fan artfully decorated with Biafran colors in a bid to demonstrate the nexus between the resurrected Biafra and the mythical Jerusalem that Donald Trump is apparently getting set to proclaim as the heavenly ordained capital of the State of Israel.

Turning now to the possible remedy that might help quell the ongoing agitation for the birth of a Biafran nation, there have been a number of calls in the recent past for some kind of “dialogue” with Nnamdi Kanu and his followers.

This kind of advice is obviously misplaced, notwithstanding the rather bizarre utterances of Bishop Kukah, who once described Nnamdi Kanu as “the most popular politician in Nigeria today”!

If there can be no “negotiation” or “dialogue” with Nnamdi Kanu and his supporters, is there any means of diffusing the present unrest, short of engaging in a shooting war with the neo-Biafran agitators?

Obviously, the best solution would be for the Federal Government to publicly announce that it is prepared to grant a Biafran homeland to all Ndigbo who wish to abandon the choice properties and flourishing business enterprises that they have acquired by dint of back-breaking labor and intense sacrifice over many decades in Lagos, Abuja, Benin, Jos, Maiduguri, etc. and return to Nnewi or wherever else they may choose to relocate to in a newly independent Biafran enclave.

Naturally, the returnees would be unable to carry buildings or other major physical assets with them, so they would be limited to whatever they might be able to fit into a few suitcases and “Ghana must go bags,” with assistance from Eze Ayodele Fayose 1, the newly crowned paramount ruler of Ihiala.

Furthermore, the new Biafran nation would be a landlocked enclave with no access to oil, since no rational indigenes of Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Bayelsa and Rivers States can be expected to associate themselves with the highly illogical caper of the newly proclaimed Biafran nation, a factor that happens to have been one of the underlying causes of the collapse of the original Biafra under the leadership of the late Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

(It would appear that Ralph Uwazurike, Nnamdi Kanu and the bulk of their hard-core followers are apparently too young to be aware of the deep-rooted reasons for the disastrous collapse of the original Biafra!)

Furthermore, once they have returned to Arochwukwu, Umuahia Ibeku, Aba-Ngwa, etc., the citizens of the newly independent “Biafra” should be required to produce passports and legitimate visas each time they wish to visit any part of whatever is left of the dismembered Nigerian nation for business or pleasure, with strict customs controls to regulate the movement of goods and foodstuffs between the new Biafra and every other part of present day Nigeria.

Fair enough?

Interestingly enough, as any diligent student of Nigerian history is aware, there is no such thing as the “Igbo people,” because Igbo happens to be a language and not an ethnic group, just in the same way as Yoruba is a language, and not a tribe!

It so happens that most of the diverse folks who speak the Igbo language – Ngwa, Ohaffia, Wawa, Owerri, etc. – never actually interacted with each other on a regular basis during the pre-colonial era. In fact, some of the dialects that are spoken in certain parts of Ala Igbo are virtually incomprehensible in other Igbo-speaking lands.

Ironically, the often repeated complaint that Nigeria is an artificial creation of British colonialism would therefore also apply to any Biafran state that is formed out of an amalgamation of erstwhile antagonistic Igbo-speaking peoples, the more so as there are now many artificial traditional “kings” all over Ala Igbo, some of whom can be observed to be reigning under bizarre appellations like “Eze Donatus Ahamba 1 of Njikoka” or “Eze Jonathan Ndigbo 1 of Bende local community.”

Oh dear, why all these traditional “rulers” in Ala Igbo always “1”? Why no 2, 3 or 4?

Could it be that nobody in their different communities knows how to count beyond 1?

Or could it be that there have never been any traditional rulers in the history of Igbo-speaking peoples before the trend was initiated a few years ago, possibly to give the famous Nigerian actor Olu Jacob an opportunity of competing with the equally famous thespian Pete Edochie for the honor of winning the Nollywood absurdity prize for best traditional ruler role?

Anyway, the free cinema show of the long-awaited re-actualization of “Biafra” should be allowed to proceed unimpeded.

Hopefully, at the end of the entire process, the farce would have attained such proportions that we would all be encouraged to look forward to the next episode of this vastly entertaining farce.

Meanwhile, the law enforcement agencies would be well-advised to refrain from allowing themselves to be provoked into engaging in running battles with those who have declared their intention of shutting down the South-Eastern States on May 30th.

On the contrary, the new breed die-hard Biafrans should be allowed free passage into the nearest available beer parlors and pepper soup canteens in each of the South-Eastern States to celebrate the past, current or future Biafran independence to their heart’s content.