Nigeria: The Last of Africa’s Pseudo-Federations
the year of Biafra action...
2005 message for Biafrans...
We continue the process and struggle for the actualization of Biafra, re-vitalized by the definitive message of our people--the people of the nation of Biafra--that only Biafra can fulfill our natural human potential and our destiny; our effort sustained by the sobering understanding that Biafra is the only thing that keeps the hope of our people alive, a people under repression, oppression, persecution and enslavement by Nigeria and in Nigeria.
However long it takes, whatever it takes, we shall stay the course until the Biafran flag is raised and flies among those of other sovereign independent nations in the United Nations Headquarters.
New Year outlook for Nigeria
In his New Year message to the peoples living, suffering and dying in Nigeria, General Obasanjo, the president (credit to a massively rigged 2003 electoral event), promised the peoples that they are going to begin to reap the benefits of his thus far anti-people policies this year. But, there was a problem: he had forgotten that just a few weeks ago, at the end of 2004, he had warned the people that they would have to exercise a lot more patience before they would see the benefits of his so-called "reform programs," so-characterized because these programs were impoverishing an already deprived population. True to character, the General starts the new year in hypocrisy.
In any case, other prominent but honest and realistic Nigerians were quick to paint a more fitting picture, and here are some of the words and phrases they used:
"...need for Nigerians to work harder [in 2005] to free themselves from their 2004 penurious condition..."
"...the country’s socio-economic and political weather is so inclement that there would be nothing to cheer about in the new year..."
"...2005 would be a worse year for Nigerians, in terms of economic hardship and political crises, than the previous years.."
"...except a fundamental and revolutionary change takes place in the country, Nigeria may be heading for the rocks... “
"...At least, there is going to be a revolution..."
"...The situation in 2005 will be worse than it was in 2004..."
"...There is nothing on the ground now to show that the lot of the Nigerian masses will change for better in 2005...”
"...First, Obasanjo’s government must resign, because it is leading the country to a terrible situation. It will become worse unless the government resigns and hands over to an interim Government of National Unity...”
“...Without that (Obasanjo’s resignation), I don’t think there is any hope now...”
“...the continuation of perpetual crisis and absolute lack of peace in every part of the country..."
"...blamed President Obasanjo for fueling the crisis. “Obasanjo has no friend who can tell him anything that he would want to listen to. That has become a great threat to the survival of Nigeria as an entity. So the best thing, if we must save Nigeria, is for Obasanjo to resign now..."
"...We must take the initiative away from Obasanjo...”
"...but if Obasanjo is allowed to get away with what he is plotting, it may as well be goodbye to Nigeria...”
“...2005 will usher in a time for people to demand for their rights. Nigerians have witnessed years of submissive behavior and since they have been over-submissive, there has not been any positive reward for that submissiveness...”
“...In 2005, people will rise, legally and constitutionally, to demand for their rights and that will make the polity very vibrant...”
“...2004 was a very tough year for the people of this country. It was a year of poverty, a year of suffering for majority of Nigerians; a year of abuse of the rule of law and also a year of poor implementation of economic policies...2005 poses even greater economic challenge for the country ..."
"...2005 will be a year to right all the wrongs done on the people of Nigeria by their rulers..."
“...the present government may not be totally bad, but there are certain things that are basic to people’s existence and when you downplay such things you are bound to attract their wrath....”
"...we found that Nigeria has sown the wind and must be prepared to rip the whirlwind..."
"...God will this year expose all those who are deceiving the people of Nigeria, especially political and religious leaders..."
“...Our resources are being mismanaged, squandered by leaders..."
"...brace up for more challenges in 2005..."
"...that makes 2005 ominously pregnant..."
Judge for yourself!
New Year outlook for Biafra:
Great. Excellent, considering all of the above...
The reverberations of the unconscionable acts of mayhem directed against Anambra Biafrans and public property by armed partisans with links to one PDP faction while the Nigeria Police watched, aided, or looked the other way, spilled over to the New Year. General Obasanjo's hand in this was obvious and his name was written all over the incident as either a co-actor or enabler as he was seen to be protecting the ring leader in this unbelievable event. Serious as the situation was, "that, too shall [and did] pass," only to be replaced with a new crisis.
As predicted, General Obasanjo forced [physically, as learned from some quarters] the resignation of the PDP Chairman and took over leadership of PDP himself. This, too, was an unconscionable act considering that the Chairman's "sin" was pointing out to the General that his policies were endangering both the peoples living in Nigeria, the PDP party, and Nigeria itself, salient points which the peoples unanimously agreed with the Chairman on. The prediction was that since General Obasanjo accepts only sycophantic (empty, false) praise and has little tolerance for accurate feedback or opposition, he would move against the Chairman using all the instruments of government at his disposal: he did. This move makes General Obasanjo at once the President of Nigeria (the duties of which he discharges with dictatorial deportment) and now also the "president" of PDP. Since PDP is functionally the only party in Nigeria, making Nigeria a de facto one-party system, the General now owns both the party and the country, to do with as he pleases--which he has been doing.
Following this development, the peoples living in Nigeria were alarmed, but the usual empty threats of challenge started ringing hollow, predictably and expectedly, as all dissent was muffled, by intimidation or bribery, or hazing into falling in line, and both PDP and the country returned to business as usual--which amounts really to Obasanjo's business. Nevertheless, it was not too long before the next crisis was recorded.
The Inspector-General (IG) of Police was confronted with evidence of his participation and controlling interest / role in unexplained acquisition of huge funds which were moved through fronts and deposited in various banks. General Obasanjo extracted the Inspector-General's early retirement, but did not dismiss him from office. Recall that it was the General who picked the IG, and it was the same IG who, up till now, did all of General Obasanjo's bidding even when such was contrary to the stipulation of the constitution, or a violation of human and civil rights of the victims. It was later learned that General Obasanjo has asked that the investigation into this case of corruption and theft be curtailed and muffled. This is predictable: no one expects any trials or convictions--not under General Obasanjo, and especially not of his friends and cronies. But, in the light of the fact that General Obasanjo claims that he is carrying on and out an anti-corruption crusade, the hypocrisy is overwhelming. This is more than just hypocrisy on the General's part: it is sheer criminality to influence the process of legal investigations and impose his desires on the outcome as such. And, no one has the nerve to call the General on that. (Is that not the official job of an Attorney-General?). Back to business as usual, or rather, back to the General's business, of which the next one is the variously called National Conference or Political Dialogue--whatever.
In the middle of all this, General Obasanjo releases the conditions and agenda and make-up of the committee (all determined by himself) that will attend his version of what the masses clamored for as a Sovereign National Conference. There is wide-spread concern that the General yielded to popular pressure to convene a Sovereign National Conference, but is using the opportunity to push his own personal agenda which has no chance of tackling the real problems hobbling Nigeria. This did not stop the opportunists from jumping on the General's bandwagon, in order to collect their rewards and or find relevance for themselves--perhaps. Squabbling, squawking jostling and jockeying for position occupied the rest of the month as people fell over themselves in engagement with the General's planned and scheduled meeting. However, principled opposition remained, emanating from the original initiators of the call for a true Sovereign National Conference.
While all this was going on, General Obasanjo's private and personalized war against Biafra continued, and his direct orders to the Nigeria Police and the feared SSS (State Security Service) to seek and destroy any artifacts of Biafra wherever they may be found, and to find and destroy any person identifying with Biafra wherever he or she may be found, were being carried out with zeal. On January 20, the SSS and Mobile Police made a fool of themselves by going into homes in Biafraland and arresting mostly elderly people who couldn't run away fast enough, the offense being that they were going to "declare Biafra" on that day, according to the SSS. The arrested Biafrans have not yet been arraigned in court.
On the other hand, the court ordered the SSS to stop violating the civil rights Ralph Uwazurike, the leader of MASSOB, by the SSS forcing him into hiding for fear of unprovoked arrest and or his life.
When such a court proceeding witnessed the arrival of hundreds of Biafrans and MASSOBians in support of the MASSOB leader, the Nigerian Police panicked and used teargas on the otherwise orderly crowd of Biafran supporters, while arresting some of them, for what offense?
January has defined the line more: Biafrans know exactly where that line is, where they stand in relation to it, and what they must continue to do.
January also plunged Nigeria into deeper crisis, sharpening the image of General Obasanjo as a real dictator.
February started with a fresh dark cloud related to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Tafa Balogun (now forcibly retired as "punishment"), who was charged with money-laundering and fraud involving funds of unimaginable figures. By the end of the month, this cloud had been enveloped by yet another crisis-laden cloud, which is the typical rollercoaster experience of, and in, Nigeria; however, not before General Obasanjo himself confirmed, not just the charges but, the crime of the now ex-IGP, in a public event. And, not before General Obasanjo, on the same occasion, used this to praise himself by declaring that his anti-corruption campaign is working. General Obasanjo claimed that the ex-IGP was removed from office because of his crimes. Did anyone bother to remind the General that it was he, General Obasanjo, who decided on early retirement for the offending IGP? Oh yes, General: the ex-IGP was not summarily retired from office for his offense; no, you "punished" him yourself by asking that he take an early retirement. The ex-IGP was not even summarily "dismissed" (as claimed by the General) from his office for his crime. He was merely forcibly retired—a difference, detail and technicality which eluded(?) the bragging General. Finally, the Press was attentive to catch the General when they asked him about further investigation and prosecution of the ex-IGP: it was reported that the General declined to offer any further comments, as if to buttress previous Press reports that General Obasanjo himself was putting pressure on the investigating/prosecuting agency to back-off. Predictable; no surprises here at all.
Unresolved clouds swirled around—seemingly "small" but obviously significant clouds. For one, the case of the "MASSOB 53" detained in Lagos police detention centers since September 2004 is still unresolved, weeks after the courts have ordered their release on bail pending trial. Recall that the "crime" of this group was to attend an open and openly advertised soccer tournament whose trophy, a Cup, is named Uwazurike Cup. Ralph Uwazurike is the leader of MASSOB—Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra. The Nigeria police raided the soccer-event, manhandled and arrested these attendants and charged them with TREASON—no less—while keeping them in detention since then, in unconscionably inhumane conditions. Some points of interest here:
This case has been reported officially to the UN Human Rights Commission, and one report was officially faxed and also emailed to the UNHRC on or about December 24/25th, 2004. To date, nothing has been heard from the UN about the case, though there is a report that an UNHRC official had visited the Nigerian Police and praised the Nigerian Police for improvements in their Human Rights record. Imagine that!
Another cloud with MASSOB written all over it is the unfortunate drama unfolding in Biafraland where the feared Nigerian SSS (State Security Services—with the notoriety of the Nazi SS) was taken to court by the MASSOB leader to obtain an injunction against the SSS further depriving the MASSOB leader of his civil and human rights by the SSS virtually placing him under arrest and thus preventing his movement and as a consequence, limiting other freedoms, all outside of a legal or judicial process. Preliminary court judgment granted the MASSOB leader relief, pending further court trial. The case was postponed once because the judge failed to appear in court, prompting rumors that the judge lacked the courage to conduct the case (which the judge vigorously denied, by the way). The second time the case was postponed was due to the SSS / Police and the Government—the other parties to the case—failing to show up. You be the judge.
The pattern of Nigeria versus MASSOB is now clearly obvious.
We are still to get to the dominant cloud for the month, but not before recounting another travesty that is only possible in Nigeria. Nigeria needs a census very badly, because previous censuses were conducted very badly. Basically, the counts were deliberately manipulated by counting other-than-people; then, the results were manipulated by those in power to favor their own region, Northern Nigeria; and what was published as the result bore no resemblance to what the reported figures were, nor to what the true population count is.
This time around, help for census was given by the European Union (EU) in the form of funds, motivation or incentive on the part of EU unclear, but guess-able from later EU representative's action, a bitter reminder that the British government has always had a role in the flawed previous censuses in Nigeria. Trouble with the planned 2005 Nigeria census started when a leading Northern Nigeria Muslim State governor, speaking for the rest of the North, threatened that the North would boycott the census if the census data included Religion and Ethnicity. The Nigerian government immediately caved in and removed Ethnicity and Religion from the census questionnaire—this, without even consulting any other regions. Finally, when the slow-moving, politically naive (as compared to their Northern counterparts whose only dedication is to work tirelessly for the interest of the North, not for the interest of Nigeria as a whole) governors from the Eastern Region realized what had happened, and its implications, they then reacted by threatening to lead the East in boycott of the census exercise if data on Ethnicity and Religion were not included in the count. Predictably, this time around, the Nigerian government, under intense pressure from the North, refused to do the correct thing, which is to restore the census questionnaire to include these parameters as originally planned. Ominously, the EU representative took an official stand by playing down the omission of Religion and Ethnicity, in effect, acquiescing to an incomplete census just to please the Northerners.
While this is going on, and in case anyone is interested in what the "game" really is, consider that it is the same Northern Nigeria leadership who sent a strong formal protest to General Obasanjo concerning the composition of both the different categories of, and the entire, selected delegation to Obasanjo's National Conference (to be addressed later). What are the bases of their protest?
It is obvious, then, that parity in Religion and Ethnicity representation must be important, if not uppermost, in the mind of Northern Nigeria; and when they consider it to their advantage (or at least, unfavorably inequitable), they will demand Religion and Ethnicity accounting and accountability. Why then, one would ask, would the North vigorously oppose the inclusion of Religion and Ethnicity data in the census? And, just as important, get their demand?
While understanding the need for an accurate census, Biafrans have declared that they will boycott the current census because we do not want to be counted in Nigeria and as Nigerians: we are Biafrans, not Nigerians; all the more so since it is a foregone conclusion that this census, like all previous such exercises in Nigeria, will be rigged (the rigging has already started by the removal of Religion and Ethnicity questionnaire on the insistence of Northern Nigeria, even before the exercise has started); and there will be no one to challenge the fraud; and world bodies such as the EU would fall in line and rubberstamp the fraud, as such lending legitimacy to it. (The recent statements and stance of the EU representative validate this suspicion).
Biafra will boycott the census, even though, predictably, the Nigerian agency in charge of the census has threatened imprisonment for anyone that refuses to participate. "On the balance," that agency also threatened legal action and jail for anyone who manipulates the census exercise, to which we say, "Yea, right!" The activities of the INEC, the so-called Independent National Elections Committee, the agency responsible for the badly rigged 2003 elections, come to mind and inform our reaction. INEC was supposed to prosecute persons or groups tampering with the electoral process, but in essence, INEC was turned into a partisan agency to rig the elections in favor of General Obasanjo and PDP; and even when the General himself admitted knowledge of the fraud, nothing came of it. Nobody did anything about it. No world-body reacted appropriately, even after they learned of, and confirmed, the fraud in 2003. Why should anyone be surprised at this outcome and state of affairs—we are not: we know what we are up against? Biafra will do what it set out to do, in the interest of Biafra, because the world really does not care but for its own specific interest.
The so-called National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) hurriedly put on by General Obasanjo, after it finally dawned on him that the peoples of Nigeria were going to arrange a Sovereign National conference (SNC), whether he likes it or not, is the latest cloud enveloping the hapless peoples living, suffering and dying in Nigeria. While claiming that this conference will address and solve the problems of Nigeria, General Obasanjo crafted an agenda for this conference and also crafted it outcome, using selection to handpick delegates, bypassing the useless-anyway-National Assembly to fund or support his conference. General Obasanjo tried everything to sabotage the original groups spearheading SNC, including bribery, intimidation, blackmail, inducements, stealing their leaders, and even publishing their leaders' names on the list of delegates even though such leaders had indicated their full commitment to SNC, and that they would not attend Obasanjo's NPRC. Next, General Obasanjo unleashed his Nigeria SSS on these groups, and even though he presently claims that he and his government are not [no longer] against the groups planning SNC, it is common and public knowledge that General Obasanjo never lets go a grudge, and will use everything he has, including lies and treachery, and of course, all the instruments of government, to destroy his enemies or opponents, eventually.
General Obasanjo's NPRC is predicted to be a "rubberstamp" action legitimizing the General's own personal agenda for Nigeria. It is clear that the masses suffering in Nigeria want real solutions to real problems, not General Obasanjo's personal anxieties and their solutions. The delegates, because many belong to the cream of the society, argue that they are not a mere rubberstamp-body; but the immediate actions and statements of the Obasanjo-picked officials such as the Chair, Mr. Tobi, and the Secretary, Reverend Kukah, confirm the obvious; their later vigorous efforts to counter those first impressions which they themselves voluntarily and unequivocally gave, only constitute a distracting effort in futility. The masses will not be deceived again. The masses point out that it is the same "cream" that poisoned the broth under it. The selected delegates are busy claiming their pay and allowances and perquisites, and supporting and defending the conference and its source of their remuneration—General Obasanjo himself and his government. The people are not impressed, pointing out that previous dictators of Nigeria did call NPRC-type conferences and the subsequent reports were pocketed and never saw the light of day, even though, like this one, these conferences also had a pre-fixed (by the particular dictator at the time) agenda and "no-go" areas.
Speaking of "no-go" areas, no issue irked the population so much; and it was the formalizing of these no-go areas in General Obasanjo's inaugural (of NPRC) speech, and their subsequent vigorous defense by (the top officials of the conference, such as ), Mr. Tobi; and deliberate rationalization using blatant denial by Reverend Kukah, that unnerved the people. The result is popular support for the SNC, which is now being arranged by the opposition groups under the acronym of PRONACO, rather than Obasanjo's NPRC. Consider the list of General Obasanjo's instructed no-go areas:
Many have pointed out that these "areas" are precisely where Nigeria's problems lie, and are specifically the issues which a serious conference ought to address. Go tell that to General Obasanjo, Tobi, and Kukah, and the selected delegates. PRONACO understands already; hopefully SNC is planned with that understanding.
One is reminded of the story about Henry Ford and the "Model T" cars produced by his company in the early years of the automobile industry. Henry Ford, according to the story, said that the Model T buyers had the absolute and unequivocal freedom to choose what color of car they wanted—provided that color is black. The buyers humored him, then, because they had to meet their own empiric needs. In the year 2005, in the dysfunctional entity known as Nigeria, the masses could only respond to General Obasanjo as such, at their existential peril.
We conclude February 2005 by quoting from a pertinent article on this website, "Sovereign National Conference (With Honesty) 2004-2005" (http://www.biafraland.com/SNC_with_honesty.htm) from August 2004, having no confidence at all in General Obasanjo's NPRC, but hoping to hope in PRONACO's SNC:
What shall it be?
The problem with Nigeria is that new dark clouds eclipse the previous dark clouds, and the peoples are too overwhelmed to keep track of, or to remember, older clouds. The dark cloud of the day is always too suffocating, and trouble enough. What shall the next dark cloud be?
This month was dominated by events at Obasanjo’s NPRC. There are mixed signals. Attendees are happy to “feel important” (and of course, get paid more than the average person living in Nigeria will make in 5 years). Their enthusiasm has a hollow ring. The conference chairpersons are drawn from the same old and or famous persons who have operated (and ruined) Nigeria thus far. The committee dealing with democracy and government, for example, is chaired by a retired military officer—if you can fathom that. There are signs that the same ethnic and regional loyalties and pre-occupation that has been the character of Nigeria are at play, although conference attendees and officials insist that they will only do what is right for Nigeria as a whole, and that they are there to represent Nigeria, not their own sectional interests. Yea, right! There are also signs that Obasanjo and his government, through those appointed by him, are controlling the direction and outcome of the conference. This has always been the prediction. This was later reinforced by a report that when Obasanjo met with his kinsmen on the issue of the NPRC, he had asked them to support an agenda and outcome of the NPRC which would lead to his returning for a third term. While most Yoruba leaders rejected that, the Yoruba PDP governors were willing to toe the line and instruct Yoruba delegates as such. All predictable!
In other reports, Nigeria is scored very low on Human Rights and electoral systems—not surprising, of course. The persecution and arrest and detention of MASSOB members continues, with the feared Nigerian SSS (State Security Services) leading the onslaught. Keep in mind that MASSB (Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra) is a non-violent organization, and operates openly.
PDP is still trying its illegal action of trying to unseat the governor of Anambra. PDP leaders, notably, Anenih, had tried unsuccessfully to pressure INEC to do the unconstitutional act of removing the governor there. At least, for once, INEC was smart enough to point out that it has no constitutional or other powers or right to undertake such an action. Also, it has been learned that plans are afoot to change the PDP bylaws in such a way that Obasanjo becomes the functional, titular and executive head of PDP who will be directly in charge of day-to-day activities of the party.
While factories close down, and infrastructure—where tepidly existent—fails, Obasanjo and his government claim economic turnaround and miracles. The windfall from high prices of oil worldwide has not been declared and made transparent, and is of course, quite substantial; however, the price of all categories of fuel in Nigeria has also risen, since Nigeria depends on imports in this (and other areas). There is no protective cushion or meaningful subsidy for the impoverished peoples living in Nigeria, so the claim of improving financial fortunes for the average Nigerian is truly false. To hear Obasanjo and his government brag about the increase in foreign reserves is nauseating, considering that Nigeria’s external debt is also increasing; as is the windfall from crude oil and gas, yet, the masses have nothing to show for this.
To redirect focus from the misery of the masses, Obasanjo is shifting the debate and issue to “Corruption.” Typically, he will focus on others, but never on his own self and what he has done to condone and participate in corruption and its rabid effect in Nigeria. One incentive is to prove to his foreign gallery that he is doing something about the one reason used by the foreign creditors to deny debt-forgiveness for Nigera.
By the end of April, attention had shifted back to the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC)—Obasanjo’s adulterated version of what would have been a true Sovereign National Conference (SNC), 3 things were obvious:
The discovery that an Obasanjo Government-drafted constitution smuggled into the NPRC for discussion contained provisions to drop Igbo as one of the three official Nigerian languages, and the subsequent pushing of such a document, spoke for the level of open and unbridled provocation and hostility by Obasanjo and his government against the Igbo. When it went largely unchallenged by the rest of Nigeria, the Igbo elite, intellectuals and so-called leaders began to have a rethink, to take seriously the known fact that all along, neither Nigeria nor Obasanjo really care about the Igbo being re-integrated into Nigeria, except as conquered, repressed, despised, humiliated, dehumanized and exploited slaves. With this one stroke, Obasanjo and Nigeria once again have initiated the leavening process which will inexorably lead to Igbo fully and finally uniting behind MASSOB and joining the majority Biafran masses to get out of Nigeria. Not helping matters, but stoking and fanning the embers of hostility and enmity, is the insistence of Obasanjo and Nigeria that the planned Nigeria Census of 2005 will not include data on Ethnicity and Religion, which is clearly designed that way to shortchange the Igbo. Keep in mind that it was precisely on the basis of inequity in representation with regards to Ethnicity and Religion at Obasanjo’s NPRC that the North pressed and won concessions and redress from Obansanjo, well after the conference had started and membership closed.
Earlier in the month, the peoples living in Nigeria were preoccupied with the talk of corruption, ramped up by Obasanjo’s selective prosecution and vilification of mainly his chosen scapegoats and enemies, while at the same time protecting himself, his friends, and other powerful entities. While the people cheered to see Ministers and other high –ranking officials defrocked and taken to court, Obasanjo basked with glee in the false light of “foreign” approval. What the peoples living and suffering in Nigeria lack the sophistication to ask, and which has not escaped savvy foreing governments, is the fact that Obasanjo’s involvement in corrupt practices has not been exposed: by Obasanjo himself or anyone else—at least not yet. By mid-month, after the cheering had tapered off some—only then—the Nigerian Press began to fault Obasanjo for his crude way of handling the situation, completely without due process of law and propriety, and with selectivity, personal vindictiveness, and legal prejudice. Then, for a brief moment, the Press, through the statements of critiques, challenged Obasanjo to show transparency and prove his innocence of corruption by declaring his personal assets in public. It was even pointed out that Obasanjo’s personal farm, the Otta Farm, was bankrupt in 1998. Following his (s)election as the president in 1999, that Farm now declares at least multi-million dollar monthly profits. General Obasanjo has not answered the challenge, hiding behind the praise of his loud sycophants, and behind what he thinks is real approval by foreign governments, to whose gallery he is always playing.
Hidden under such big ticket-items as the above are little things that matter. Obasanjo’s personal obsession with power, a mark of the size of his ego, became evident when it seemed that his machinations for self-succession are faltering. He is now pushing for the formation of a Commonwealth ex-heads-of-state of Africa group, no doubt to wield power from behind when he is either thrown out or his term expires uncontested. This single-minded obsession has blinded him so much that he cannot realize that such a club would be an association of dictators—old thieves who looted and ruined their countries (still ongoing in some countries, unfortunately) and murdered the peoples under them. Obasanjo should not forget his ignoble role in Biafra, although he in fact counts that as credit to himself.
Then, a crack in the “God-Himself-put-one-Nigeria-together” much-exploited mantra-turned-armor of Obasanjo. In a rare admission, Obansanjo recently blamed the British for the acknowledged mistake of forcing various, different ethnicities and groups together as Nigeria, specifically the “amalgamation of Northern Protectorate and the Southern Protectorate” resulting in colonially-drawn boundaries that are the core of the problems of Nigeria (and the rest of Africa, by the way, if of the rest of the world where British colonialism held sway at nay point). He even suggested “boundary adjustments…” This new dawning also coincided with another significant admission of the error of putting Nigeria together as such by one of the British colonial officers who engineered and supported the process. In "Nigerian Lesson," made available to The Guardian in London, Peter Smithers, who was then Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State and the Secretary of State in the Colonial Office (1952-1959), now admits that it was a grave mistake, and that they did not have “the hindsight of Yugoslavia and the now defunct Soviet Union” to guide them then. He went on to recommend serious restructuring if Nigeria is to be salvaged.
If Obasanjo understood the above paradigms, it does not show, because his government has been extraordinarily busy harassing, persecuting, arresting, detaining without charge, and charging MASSOB (Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra) members with Treason. (And his ongoing, open onslaught against the Igbo is a validation of these known problems of Nigeria.) MASSOB’s agenda is restructuring, effective enough to bring sovereign status to the ethnicities so wronged by the admitted British “Nigerian Lessons” and the articulated amalgamation errors—articulated by Obasanjo himself as above. MASSOB’s agenda is being carried out with a deliberate non-violent plan, despite unthinkable and unconscionable violence meted to MASSOB members by Obasanjo and his government agents. Ironic, because MASSOB is precisely embarking on Restructuring, the solution proposed by Smithers representing the British, and insinuated by Obasanjo.
It won’t be long before the next crisis unfolds…
If you ask, “what crisis, this month?” you would be wrong. There were many. And, it wasn't long before they came, either. Let’s just mention a few.
By the end of the month, the whirlwind was about the report of the US National Intelligence Council on the sub-Saharan Region of Africa with the prediction of the
We couldn’t agree with the report more, except to add that 15 years is generous; a couple of years even is extremely optimistic.
Predictably, Obasanjo and other politicians who stand to gain all and gain most by the continuing pathologic existence of Nigeria went agog with denials and disparaging remarks against the US regarding the report. When grandstanding waned and a little reality set in, everyone could at least see that the report told us nothing new, in a way, because there is no sane person in Nigeria who is still willing to deny that Nigeria has serious and lethal problems. Predicting a total collapse and giving a time-frame for it, along with the present conditions, may have shocked Nigerians some, because they have never been willing to accept the outcome of the sickness and evil that is Nigeria.
But, Obasanjo was to use this selfishly for personal mileage, using it as blackmail and or sympathy factor, to stop the process of the impeachment-threat against him by the National Assembly who had earlier articulated almost a score of fact-based constitutional and other legal infractions and points against Obasanjo. Typical of Obasanjo, once he had used the foisted common enemy, the US, to disarm the National Assembly, he went on to mock them, make fun of them, and erase any lingering credibility the National Assembly might have had.
Obasanjo’s expansive ego and ideas of grandiosity surfaced again in the issue of Obasanjo’s private and personal presidential library which he insisted would have to be on the same level and caliber as the US Presidents’. Over 7 Billion Naira (120 Naira = $1) was collected in what was termed “private” donations. When it was pointed out that the so-called private donors were firms and persons who had benefited from Obasanjo-awarded government contracts and appointments, or those expecting to be so rewarded, Obasanjo still claimed propriety, insisting that it was all indeed private donations. One has to understand that among the donors were all the state governors—10 Million Naira each. Were does a sitting governor get that type of money to donate to this type of white-elephant project? We assume that it will come straight out of public funds.
Speaking of libraries, it is a fact that Obasanjo and the administrations before him have never done anything tangible to improve public education; rather, (they, and) he, most recently, have presided over the deliberate neglect and decay of institutions of higher learning in Nigeria, including universities. The facts are that no university in Nigeria today can boast of a functioning library; no educational institution can make that boast, either; it would be silly to even mention public libraries. Yet, out of sheer ego and selfishness, Obasanjo is spending this much money to erect an edifice to honor himself.
While on the Education issue, Obasanjo’s personal, private university, Bell University, was recently accredited by Nigerian authorities. Here is a sitting President who does everything in his power to neglect public universities, but spends time and energy funding and building his own private university.
So, one crisis after another… Obasanjo’s so-called National Conference (National Political Reform Conference) which was billed as a Nigeria-centric interest affair fell apart into the usual ethno-religious and North Vs South conflict of interests. The usual troublesome and pathologic tectonic shifts of ethno-central alliances to protect selfish interests and punish other ethnic groups emerged as the modus operandus, even when this would result in obvious and gross insensitivity to the legitimate needs of one ethnic group or another. The rest of the issues are decided along the lines of the predetermined desires of Obasanjo. Yet, the attendants pretend that the conference is making progress, in typical Nigerian-style denial.
Little things, but quite significant:
The court case of MASSOB leader, Ralph Uwazurike, seeking a permanent injunction against the violation of his civil rights by the Nigerian SSS, has been dragged on, without an end in sight. Meanwhile, the respondent, the SSS, continues its illegal and unwarranted harassment of Uwazurike, and destruction of MASSOB property, in brazen acts that defy court instructions.
MASSOB members were arrested by the SSS and the Nigerian police in church buildings and premises while they were holding meetings which did not disturb the public peace. The most egregious of acts are the arrests of members of MASSOB from their own private homes while they were holding meetings.
Recall the case of the “MASSOB-53.” Another month passed, another court appearance yielded no fruit as the judge was a “no-show,” for inexplicable reasons.
A spectacular success was scored by Biafrans when the pro-Biafran movements all over the world coordinated and carried out the non-violent WWD (Worldwide Demonstrations) in six major countries, including Austria, Canada, Gabon, Ireland, South Africa and Ukraine. The march was to not just highlight the unconscionable plight of Biafrans while remaining forced and shackled in one-Nigeria, but to seek support from the world for Self Determination as a basic, natural, self-evident human right, and also, as a UN Charter-enshrined right, while at the same time demonstrating the commitment and irrevocable plan of the Biafrans to actualize their own sovereign nation of Biafra independent of Biafra. Letters summarizing these points were handed not only to the countries, but for onward transmission to other countries and world-bodies including the UN, EU and the US. The success of the May 27 2005 WWD worldwide is reminiscent of the region-wide stunning effectiveness of August 26 2004 shutdown of Nigeria and dependencies by Biafrans massively acting out instructions by MASSOB to stay at home on that day.
Clearly, in a way that may not be captured by this chronicle, the month of May brought a boost in both pro-Biafra activities and Biafra consciousness, as well as the willingness of Biafrans to take an irrevocable stand, no matter what, for Biafra actualization.
The US National Intelligence Council prediction will certainly come true; current events—small and large—point to Nigeria’s collapse really soon. All it will take is one major uprising by the peoples living and suffering in Nigeria, and this could be precipitated by the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
June will surely bring plenty of straws!
The excerpt quoted below taken from an Editorial opinion of the title, “They have started again” of Guardian of June 6 2005 summarizes the mood of the people beginning from the end of the previous month.
“….Anyone who is still in any doubt about the future of present continuous events should read Dare Babarinsa's masterly documentation of the fall of the Second Republic in his book, House of War (Spectrum/Tell, 2003). The politicians were the architects of that implosion. They rigged elections. They killed and destroyed. They hijacked the instruments of power and turned them into tools of terror. For every man that was killed, more men were killed on the other side.
The purpose of history is to awaken memory and raise consciousness. In 2003, election monitors and observers reported that Nigerians had invented close to fifty novel methods of rigging. Since then, more sophisticated methods have been invented. More daring methods of political killing have also been introduced. Our politicians have started again. Before our very eyes, they are turning politics into a form of cannibalism. Are we going to stand by and watch helplessly?”
“…Are we going to stand by and watch helplessly?” was and is the rhetoric question. This is a significant call, coming from the media. Sadly enough, Obasanjo’s administration failed to understand the implication of this evidence of the apparent exhaustion of the patience of the long-suffering peoples suffering and dying endlessly and needlessly in Nigeria. This insensitivity might have been the result of no detectable mass action for the rest of the month, a statement not so much about popular inertia as about Obasanjo’s lack of touch with reality and social kinetics and complete underestimation of the people.
And the crises continued. Before addressing the major ones, let us deal with “little” things that are not so little. An obscure editorial in a Nigerian newspaper talked about rising food prices and their implication; supported by a letter to the editor on the same topic. Meanwhile, Obasanjo is still bragging about his and his government’s economic miracles and their dividends to the people. When someone savvy enough to write a letter to the editor is complaining about no longer affordable food prices, could you imagine how the masses are fairing? Especially if the leader says: “all is great!”
Meanwhile, the persecution of MASSOB and the Igbo by the police and SSS continues. Incidentally, when challenged by the Press (finally), the SSS and the Police could not point to any specific law that bans MASSOB (Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra) as they had claimed, a claim based on which they justify their crimes against MASSOB.
The month ended with a bizarre story (all true) wherein the erstwhile police boss, the sacked former Inspector General (IG) of Police, who is still in the hearing phase of his trial for financial crimes, wherein 92 other charges or so have been added, was manhandled by the police at the trial. During his ordeal, the ex-IG was roughed up, fell out of a moving police vehicle, and had a limb nearly run over. When he complained: “these people are trying to kill me…” or something to that effect, the ex-IG had gotten some of the flavor of the treatment that he and the police under his tenure had been meting out to the hapless masses of Nigerians, but especially to the Igbo, to MASSOB members, and to Biafrans. This ex-IG supervised the abduction and manhandling of a sitting governor in Igboland; supervised the use of police force to kill, maim, injure and intimidate voters from the East (Igboland, Biafraland) in order to rig the 2003 elections in Nigeria in favor of Obasanjo and his party, PDP. His police killed and shot at journalists covering stories, without provocation; they shot and killed unarmed peaceful protesters during labor action and disputes. The brazen selective killing, maiming and dispossession of Igbos and other Biafrans in Biafraland by the police intensified under his command, and continue to this day. He was part of the ongoing police occupation, police brutality and persecution of Igbos and Biafrans. At no point in all this was there accountability and no policeman was ever brought to trial for these offenses during his regime. Now, he is at the mercy of those whom he himself trained to kill and whom he supported in their brutal crimes.
How bad is the Nigerian Police? Consider that right there in the capital city, Abuja, police officers this month, in the year, 2005, killed anywhere from 6 to 16 Igbos. That there isn’t even an accurate count speaks volumes of the state of affairs therein. The police claimed that the victims were armed robbers, but the people knew different. Now, it turns out that following a minor fender-bender incident between a group of Igbos in one car and off-duty police officers in a private car, when the police officers found out that the others were Igbo, they shot and killed 3 Igbos on the spot. Then, they took 2 Igbos who survived the attack to the area police station and then, shot them to death there. Realizing that one of the Igbos had escaped, the police mounted a search for him the following day in the Igbo quarters of the city. In the process, the police destroyed Igbo property and killed more Igbos. It’s all despicable, but what happened next is an act of inhumanity unbecoming of a true human being. The one Igbo that escaped the initial attack was found by the police—he was wounded; he was handed over to the police officers who then shot him to death a short time later. Yes, they killed a wounded man—an Igbo man.
When the enraged Igbo community got wind of what was going on and protested, destroying the police compound, only then did a lopsided police inquiry start, wherein the acting IG refused to have any representation on the panel except for police officers. Initially, the involved police officers claimed publicly that they were shooting back at armed robbers. Soon, their story unraveled, and some began to confess. One of the involved policemen who initiated the confession was found dead under mysterious circumstances before he could testify. The police crime-photographer gave graphic details of the bodies and some of the acts he had witnessed. One of the killed, a young girl, actually had the gun placed in her mouth before her head was blown off by a police officer. As shocked peoples of Nigeria watched the unfolding story in bewilderment, Obasanjo’s government stepped in. The Nigeria’s Attorney General whose only claim to fame thus far was the charging and prosecution of 53 MASSOB members (who participating in a soccer tournament) for treason punishable by death, announced the disbanding of the police panel replacing it with a government inquiry. At least, the police confession is now public knowledge, seeing that Obasanjo’s government has never completed any inquiry—never mind, completed successfully—and or produced results in any crimes of the sort, including brutal high profile-murders, of which there have been many in the past.
We thus see the ongoing wholesale murder of the Igbo anywhere in Nigeria. We also see a complete paralysis of the Igbo in effectively addressing this ongoing carnage. Most Igbo politicians said nothing. The Senate said nothing, and the Senate President, who is Igbo, had an opportunity to address Igbos on the problems facing the Igbo in Nigeria, and his take is that Igbos needed to start their own banks and to pay more attention to banking; he said nothing about the incident and ongoing Igbo persecution. The National Assembly said nothing. Many Igbo so-called leaders said nothing. Igbo organizations such as Ohaneze and WIC (World Igbo Congress) said nothing. It was only Biafra Foundation (BF) and Biafra Actualization Forum (BAF) who, along with other pro-Biafran groups, using electronic forum discussions and mass mailings, and the Voice of Biafra International (VOBI) radio broadcasts, called on Igbo people—Biafrans to work for Biafra actualization after pointing out to them that this type of mistreatment of the Igbo has been going on all the time; that only a sovereign Biafra independent of Nigeria would put a stop to such problems. One has to ask again:
The big story this month was the falling apart of the Obasanjo conference, the so-called National Political Reform Conference (NPRC), whose final sessions were postponed. In spite of the fact that Obasanjo had specifically personally barred any discussion of the only serious problems that threaten Nigeria and Nigerians at this conference, it didn’t take long for the fracture-lines under a veneer-thin rug to surface and be felt. The sticky issue is Resource Control. The handling of the issue finally exposed the arrogance and intransigence of the North, their parasitic dependence on the Oil which comes from the Delta or so-called South-south, and their colonial mentality-type claims and relationship with the rest of the ethnic nations living in Nigeria. The level of their insensitivity to the deprivation of the Delta people was appalling, as was their lack of sympathy, never mind empathy, and denial of the environmental despoliation and ecologic degradation of the Delta region resulting from Oil exploration and harvest. On their part, the Delta stood their ground—which is the right, moral, social and political thing to do—insisting on at least 50% share of their own natural resources, even bending to ask for 25% now, increasing to 50% in five years. While the Northern delegates initially insisted on 13% (status quo) and grudgingly agreed to 17%, the Arewa Consultative Forum, the political wing representing the collective North, in unabashed, unwarranted and unjustified arrogance, demanded a down-grading to even less than 13%. To their credit, the Arewa Youth group saw no fairness, no equity and no justice to the demands and insistence of their Northern representatives and elders, pointing out correctly the predicament and the ownership rights of Delta people.
After the Delta walked out of the conference in protest over the offer of 17%, the North threatened not to return if the issue would be revisited on sham procedural grounds. Obasanjo, who teleguided the conference until forces bigger than he is, met his personal and not-so-hidden agenda for the conference, got behind the scene to salvage the conference, but using his own selfish desires as leverage. He would support the North and not revisit the 17%; but in return, he wanted the North’s support for a recommendation for a one-time six-year term for the presidency and governors, and he wants to be the first president to kick off this new regime. (The North already rejected these). With the Igbo delegates already in his pocket (recall that he hand-picked them, in the first place, through direct and indirect mechanisms which were roundly criticized at the time) and the Yoruba delegates not putting up any fight against him, their kinsman, all that is left is the Delta delegates: would he offer them a variation of the same deal as he offered the North, that is, his support for 25% derivation if the Delta would support the single six-year term? It is learned that he did.
Another intriguing thing is that soon after Obasanjo telegraphed his intent earlier in the month as regards the conference report and recommendations and it was understood that he was going to implement portions of the report with executive powers without legislative input, he changed his tactic. He sent out the Vice President to announce that the President, Obasanjo, would submit the report to the National Assembly for enactment into law. But, there is just one problem. The National Assembly had only recently stated that the entire conference was set up illegally and unconstitutionally, and that they would have nothing to do with it or with the ensuing report. And supposing they did accept to deal with the report; Obasanjo is then saying that they would just rubberstamp the content without debate or dissent? Another fine mess—as only it can be cooked up in Nigeria!
Obasanjo is faced with three choices: he can dismiss the conference, without a final report, or accept the controversial (“final”?) report before the walkout of the Delta. He can pocket the report and do whatever he pleases, like he had always planned. Either choice will do nothing to close, never mind treat, the now open and bleeding wounds. Any of the choices will still lead to the question:
“…Are we going to stand by and watch helplessly?”
July’s crises will clarify and address the question. It is entirely possible that July’s crises will render the Resource Control issue and Obasanjo’s conference completely insignificant, as has happened in the past.
It’s only the end of the first half of the year…!
And, so in fact did the issues of July “render the Resource Control issue and Obasanjo’s conference completely insignificant, as has happened in the past…” July was dominated by Obasanjo’s crusade for debt forgiveness for Nigeria, with the touting of victory and success for Obasanjo on this issue, as could be discerned by typical effusive praise and hyperbole for Obasanjo by his fellow politicians and usual sycophants.
For, Obasanjo wasted no time parading his much vaunted success in this area, based on the decision of the Paris Club to write off 60% of Nigeria’s debt. Not quite so fast, was the conclusion of a painfully tiny minority: look at the conditions for the touted debt relief. But, not for Obasanjo, nor for his political colleagues. It turns out that the conditions for the partial debt forgiveness make the result moot. Add to that the fact that Obasanjo’s next statement after “securing debt relief for Nigeria” is this:
Obasanjo, “wait a minute, ‘say what?’” No one challenged Obasanjo on that: his government was going to continue to borrow more money? (Never mind the fine details of the conditions of so-called debt relief, of which the summary indicates that Nigeria will end up repaying arrears which she thought she could just waive unilaterally). A “crisis” of a different kind, now: here Obasanjo had deceived the peoples clean, taken credit for a non-victory, tied the peoples more tightly in debt-knots, sold himself as a hero on that account, and no one was the wiser. Score “Genius” for Obasanjo. Score “Idiocy” for the peoples. Score “Crisis” for the system. This will yet prove to be a pyrrhic victory for Obasanjo.
Obasanjo’s conference, the so-called National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) was not entirely submerged. The conference ended up in shambles, with the South-south on permanent walk out, after prolonged postponements would not bridge the impasse. As predicted, Obasanjo had to accept the results of the inconclusive conference based on pre-boycott decisions, and other decisions taken after the boycott, to which the South-South were not signatories. But, true to type, this did not stop Obasanjo from claiming victory and throwing a lavish victory-party for the delegates to the conference (which, of course, was also boycotted by the South-South delegates). Talk of psychological denial or insensitivity or brazen arrogance or all of the above.
One thing for sure: it became clear that the arrogant and parasitic insistence of the North on grabbing a lion’s share of the natural resources of the South-South, acting as if it only deigned to dole out small portions to the owners of the resources, so enraged the South-south that it is now ready for self determinism, including secession from Nigeria, if only just to be able to manage its own resources and reverse decades of ecologic and socioeconomic degradation as a result of oil exploration in the region. The NPRC made most acute the fracture lines which have always been there, but which pretense, hypocrisy, treachery, connivance and submissiveness thus far have barely hidden from view. Another thing: Obasanjo played out his own card. Recall that he had a pre-conference agenda which he denied profusely, but which his agents kept trying to force on the conference. It turns out that Obasanjo approached the North to allow him what he wanted, and he would get an agreement from the South-South to return and complete the conference. Same Obasanjo went to the South-South and made a similar offer—promising to get a better derivation fraction if they would support his pre-conference agenda. It turns out he was rebuffed by both, so, his only recourse now is to use the Senate and or National Assembly to amend the constitution so that he, Obasanjo, can continue to be in office after 2007.
The fear of everyone is that Obasanjo will find a way to stay in power after 2007. The peoples are too weak to prevent him from doing so. And, even if Obasanjo manages to be pushed away, the aggressive nature of Babangida’s campaign for that post come 2007 compels a revulsion which is to be eclipsed by the more revulsive thought that Babangida would succeed, and there is nothing the peoples could do about it. Actually, the peoples can do something about it if they want. If Nigeria splits into its component ethnic nations, no one has to worry about Obasanjo or Babangida: neither will have a standing running for office in their respective nations.
The confusion and disarray of Obasanjo’s NPRC brought new life and credibility to the real and original Sovereign National Conference (SNC) which he had tried to preempt, with disastrous consequences. However, the commitment of SNC’s current leadership to truly address the faulty structure of Nigeria at the level of discussing separation along those fault lines is still questionable. Failure to take a firm stand on restructuring resulting in the disintegration of Nigeria, if need be (the need is definitely there), will also doom the SNC. Has anyone learned anything in Nigeria, about Nigeria?
The case of the “Abuja-6”—the six Igbos murdered by the police in cold blood and the attempted cover up—took a horrifying turn when the Federal government took it over with their board of inquiry. It was then that one of the police witnesses described how their officer killed the only girl victim by holding her head in his hands and wringing her neck violently. This level of wickedness and sub-human, even sub-animal violence is difficult to imagine. But, that’s the lot of the Igbo-Biafran in Nigeria today. In all this, characteristic of Nigeria, no one is even speaking of other collateral deaths. More Igbos died the following day, at the hands of the same police patrol, when the patrol went to Igbo quarters in search of the only escapee from the previous murderous night; and still more died later after the police retaliated against the Igbo for the latter setting the police station on fire in anger, by raiding the Igbo community, killing, wounding and maiming innocent Igbos, and destroying their property and homes there. No one is talking about that. No is there any serious search or bulletin out for one of the murdering police officers who escaped from police detention. This is Nigeria for you, and that’s the lot of the Igbo in Nigeria.
Food is still expensive, but thank God it is available at all: neighboring Niger to the north is not so lucky, because they have outright famine, so the Nigerian government’s attitude is that it could be worse for Nigerians.
The crackdown on MASSOB continued with renewed vehemence. Apparently, the Nigerian SSS has been chided by Obasanjo for its ineptitude in not recognizing the power and appeal of MASSOB, so, in response, the SSS out of control, going way-overboard in its persecution of MASSOB. The failure of the SSS and Obasanjo to learn from history can only be blamed for their brutal but futile response, which has only increased the popularity and membership of MASSOB, along with their determination and non-cooperation, as well as the popular support of Igbos and other Biafrans. Keep in mind that at no time has MASSOB lifted a finger to retaliate against the SSS and the Nigeria police who are doing the hatchet job for Obasanjo. MASSOB has remained true to its non-violence stand.
Instead, in defiance, MASSOB has introduced, supports and defends the new resurgence and use of Biafran currency for trade anywhere people are willing to use it—and Biafrans and a lot more non-Biafrans are in love with it and crave to use it. Next MASSOB has galvanized the people of Biafra to prepare to boycott the planned Nigerian census of 2005. This was not a hard sell, considering how obvious and brazen the plan of Nigeria to under-count the Igbo and other Biafrans is, which would be accomplished by not gathering Ethnicity and Religion data on the census, as the EU already indicated their support for however and whatever Nigeria wants to count (or not), no matter how flawed or unfair.
So, at the end of July, the North’s parasitism and selfishness and arrogance on top of that, is now clear. The Delta people have brought things to a head, so that the fracture formations can no longer be denied or wished away—thanks to Obasanjo’s back-fired plans using the vehicle of his conference. Everyone can begin to shed the pretense that Nigeria can be one or must be one.
MASSOB, the Igbo and other Biafrans are in full agreement now: only Biafra can protect them. Nigeria is totally rejected, if not openly, at least mentally and spiritually, although the physical adoption of Biafra artifacts over Nigeria’s in defiance of the brutal Nigerian security is an eloquent statement of rejection of Nigeria on everyday-level. Igbo and other Biafrans will boycott any attempt at census by Nigeria, no matter what. Boycott of 2007 Nigeria elections (if 2007 comes to Nigeria) by Biafrans is a foregone conclusion.Ready for August?
August 2005 in Nigeria was a challenge to write about because of ongoing convergence and divergence of issues--those few previously noted in previous months, and old and new ones--interwoven to such an extent that a summary was near-impossible. Things are coming to a head, and, it was all bad, really bad. Then, this Nigerian Newspaper editorial from the latter part of the first week of September captured the essence, prevalent sentiments, and mood in / of Nigeria, and packaged it together "nicely." Nicely packaged, yes; but the content of this accurate and representative report is anything but nice:
It is hoped that peoples living--suffering and dying--in Nigeria will now work out their separation into original constituent independent ethnic nations without resorting to violence. The enemy is Nigeria. The problem was always, and is, Nigeria. Let go of Nigeria, and then, these peoples will discover their real identities and their own nationhoods, there to begin the process of recovery and rebuiding, hence to get away from the choking "contraption of lies and deceits"...
Editorial / Opinion
Monday, September 05, 2005
A Contraption Of Lies And Deceits
"IT surprised me that the legacy I left behind has been rubbished. I laid a solid foundation before I left Nigeria." That is Clemens Westerhof, the Dutch coach who took Nigeria's senior football team, the Super Eagles, to its first outing at the World Cup, way back in 1994, United States of America. He added: "There is no excuse for a country like Nigeria with abundance of talents, to struggle with qualification in any football event be it world or nations cup." As he examines the precarious fate of Nigeria among African countries bidding for Germany 2006, Westerhof has every reason to be sad. He couldn't understand why a country like Togo that has been poaching players from Nigeria is on the verge of qualifying for the mundial, while Nigeria is now banking on a miracle as the only means to take it to Germany. Without doubt, the Westerhof years have so far proved to be the best for Nigerian soccer. The years produced great names who, even years after retiring, continue to ring exciting bell in the circle. They include names such as Rashidi Yekinni, Stephen Keshi, Daniel Amokachi, Samson Siasia, Emmanuel Amuneke and of course, Austin "Jay Jay" Okocha who, 11 years after Westerhof discovered him, remains the bedrock of the Super Eagles. In 1994, Nigeria's outing in the World Cup was good, definitely not a write off. We have seen now after two more World Cup competitions, France '98 and Japan - Korea 2002), that that debut outing is the best. Since then, the country has been sliding backward.
As it is in football so it is in other spheres of life. Helsinki 2005 proved that we are not faring any better in athletics. If we are sliding back in sports in arithmetical proportion, I have no doubt that we are sliding back in other areas: politics, economy and social life, in geometrical proportion. News around us, including those we see and hear as well as those we read in newspapers is so disheartening that I think we really should reopen the debate about the national question. It is easy for us to say that many developed nations went through our experience, learned and came out stronger. Whether the experience of those countries can be likened to Nigeria's is quite another matter. When developed countries like Britain and America fought wars, their pattern of development was clear. Their target, after the war, was also clear. And the methodology of achieving that purpose was discernible. It is not surprising that after years and decades of such purposeful existence, the developed countries arrived at their advanced stage. They have since sustained their leadership progress and growth at the world level in several spheres. On its part, Nigeria has fought a war and went through several crises, including June 12, 1993. It seems to me that after every crisis, we have somehow managed to assuage our immediate temperament without necessarily addressing the crux of our disagreement. Many of us, particularly the so-called leaders in government and the politicians, dread to even talk about the crux of our problems. They fear that starting a discussion of the fundamental issues may cause further divisions. This they cannot contemplate because they thrive on the country as presently constituted. They are experts at hunting with the cheetah and running with the hares, just so that they can eat from the two corners of their mouth.
The citizens in focus know the full import of their deeds. They have no remorse that their deceits and contraption will lead the country nowhere. They have no qualm as they watch the country take a step forward and then four steps backward. Each time there was a step forward, as when everyone agreed that power must shift to the South West (1999), or when we eventually joined the league of GSM users, this set of Nigerian would hail the country and the government at hand. The hailing would be loud and clear, to suggest to the unwary that the country has recorded no mean achievement, nay the first of its kind in the world and thanks to government. More often than not, the brandished achievements turn out to be largely hoaxes. It is like giving with one hand and taking double with the other hand. Currently, the Nigerian debt pardon issue from the Paris Club is an example of the deceit and contraption called Nigeria. What our leaders and politicians acclaim to be an unsurpassable achievement is blowing up right in their face. All of a sudden, we know that it is a trap to further enslave the country financially. Trust the Nigeria leaders. They can rationalise, explain things and philosophise to the effect that it is wrong for us to expect to win every time. If anything patently retrogressive happened, we say that it is an exception that should not discourage us. But our leaders have already lost hope and confidence in Nigeria. They preach Nigeria all right, but they practice something else. They use Nigeria largely to make money, legitimately and otherwise. Then they use the money to sustain their families in countries they know are safer. At the slightest sign of instability in this country, our people are already on the plane abroad, heading for sanctuary.
I don't know how long Nigeria can go as a contraption of dishonesty, greed, lies, distortion and often, evil. The general principle is that the good always catches up with the bad and that the truth shall prevail. That principle appears to be an exception in this country. Evil has triumphed over good much more than otherwise, with a resultant hunger, poverty, disease, Ignorance, despair and stupendous crime all over the land. No one from a sane community can read Nigerian newspapers for three days consecutively without losing appetite for food or becoming disenchanted with life itself. When you think one story is gory, wait for the next story in the next page. It is more loathsome, more ungodly. There is so much cheating in the land. People are using their ill-gotten wealth and political connections to commit heinous crime and unprecedented atrocities. Everybody has his price in all tiers and arms of government to pervert justice and perpetuate greed and evil. The other time, President Olusegun Obasanjo said there is corruption in the judiciary. He might have been talking about the uppermost section of the judiciary. Of course the statement is not altogether news. Judges of the courts of superior records had been sacked before on account of corruption. At the same time, people do not mind to destroy other people's character and reputation, again unjustly, and for selfish reasons. Many judges are clean in all the benches. But they seem powerless against the corruption endemic in the institution as a whole and which they see regularly among their colleagues. Yet they can hardly complain. Over the years, the executive arm of government has failed us. This was manifest in the days of Babangida and Abacha. Unfortunately, Obasanjo has been unable to stop the rot or to recover the lost confidence in the executive. Rather, the government has characterised itself as a pioneer of false reforms, so long as it can realise money to pursue selfish political agenda, without minding the increasing poverty such reforms are visiting on the masses.
It cannot be sufficient for the President to simply say he cares about the plight of average Nigerians when his deeds and actions suggest the opposite. The President set up a committee headed by Senator Ibrahim Mantu to proffer ways of ameliorating the suffering of the ordinary citizens occasioned by vagaries in the prices of petroleum products. The President failed to implement recommendations of the panel but went ahead to impose higher prices, and consequently greater suffering on Nigerians. He should know that the peace in the country is that of the graveyard, very ominous. In a few weeks' time, the peace is certain to be disrupted when the effects of the new price regime starts biting on other goods and services needed by the populace. Yet, the country is blessed with huge resources, both tapped and untapped. Given the kind of budget we have been operating by this government and also, given the amount of money that we know is being shared by top government personnel under one guise or the other, Nigerians do not deserve the punishment they are going through now. There is a clear failure of government at all levels beginning from the presidency and through the councils. None is pursuing public agenda but private interest. The level of unemployment and joblessness is high. Why are we complaining of high crime rate? The youths have to do something. In most cases however, the criminals are venting their anger and frustration on the society. They know the opulence under which some Nigerians are living. In their present state, they have no hope of working legitimately, or even securing any job, that can take them to half the height they dream for themselves. They then take to crime.
What is the solution? Your guess is as good as mine. I do believe we need a complete change of orientation, which we are unlikely to get with the old crop of personnel around. Nigeria is unwieldy as presently constituted. Where the President wields the kind of power and influence of Obasanjo, struggle for power is likely to be violent. Ditto for the governors. Our leaders at the national level have always spoken against disintegrating the country. Obviously, there is strength in number. But the strength is grossly lacking in balance and proportion. The president has lost opportunity to redress the imbalance through the political conference. Reports of the conference, which gulped more than a billion naira, are inconclusive and controversial. Even then, the government has no idea what it wants to do with it. And the National Assembly, which has always been averse to the idea, is not ready to touch the report with a 10-foot pole. It seems there is no way to move forward. We keep deluding ourselves. The police are not as interested in fighting crime as they are of lining up their pockets. One likely thing is that neither Nigeria nor the Police can change drastically for the better, in their present circumstances. We are likely to be going round a vicious cycle, until it dawns on the powers that be that this is a nation of contraption.
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September was not much different: new crises eclipsed unresolved previous crisis; larger crises trumped relatively smaller crises. The only wonder is how a “country” can teeter - totter for such a long time without the expected final fall.
On September 7, MASSOB once again demonstrated its full support by the whole of Biafra when hundreds of thousands responded to a call for peaceful protest against ongoing Nigerian police and especially SSS harassment of Ralph Uwazurike, the leader of MASSOB. As expected, the marchers were brutalized by the Nigeria police (5 MASSOB members killed; unknown number injured; unknown number arrested, detained and jailed), but they completed the march, and without any violence on their part; although the Nigerian police, in their lying tradition, falsely accused them of killing and injuring a policeman. The universal acceptance of the people of Biafra for the Biafra Actualization agenda thus was demonstrated once again; the resolve of the Biafran people in the face of stiffening and mindless brutality and hostility by the Nigeria police and SSS shows a thorough adoption of the destiny of the people as Biafra. The massive support for MASSOB and its strategy for Biafra actualization is a final testimony to the determination and commitment of Biafrans to actualize their nation of Biafra, sovereign and independent, and outside of Nigeria.
In the meantime, Nigerian masses, on their part, joined in the hundreds of thousands, the anti-fuel hike and anti-Obasanjo governance peaceful protests led by the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC). Each protest in different select cities in Nigeria drew even larger crowds. In Owerri, a core Biafran city, the masses were estimated in the millions. It was not just about the fuel price hikes, an anti-people and insensitive government policy (by now characteristic of Obasanjo’s style), a policy which further pauperized an already impoverished populace; it was more about the revolt against poor governance, and a statement to replace Obasanjo’s government.
The NLC-led protests were peaceful and were allowed by and even assisted by the Nigeria Police whose erstwhile acting head (now promoted to and confirmed as the Inspector-General of Police [IGP]) discovered and acknowledged that in fact, the constitution of Nigeria does indeed give the right of peaceful protest to the peoples. Prior to this, it was the IGP who, obviously as a favor to, and under pressure from, Obasanjo, outrightly refused any protests in Nigeria, and followed through by sending in lethal and brutal force to make the point. This is a significant development; but, once again, the selective application and enforcement of this civic right is glaringly obvious when the police harassed, arrested, jailed, injured and killed MASSOB peaceful protesters at around the same time, even though the MASSOB protests have been non-violent. The belief is that the police now had to manufacture false evidence to justify their action, leading to the trumped up charges against MASSOB of using weapons and killing a policeman, charges that were unsubstantiated and entirely ridiculous.
In the coming months, the NLC will up the ante and call for strikes, which, judging from the present response, is sure to draw crowds in support, sure to strain the newly found respect for the constitution on the part of the police, and sure to threaten Obasanjo and his regime into some nasty actions. Check in in October.
The “corruption crisis” continued. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) made a lot of noise regarding the directive received from president Obasanjo himself to investigate the president on soft (and almost silly, definitely puny) charges made against Obasanjo by one of the State governors, in a private letter between the governor and the president which the initiator, the governor, had not intended to be made public. While the EFCC and Obasanjo had hoped that this would prove that even the president is not above investigation for corruption, all it did was to question the impartiality and the ability of the EFCC to investigate the president to whom the EFCC has sworn absolute loyalty in so many words, after EFCC stated publicly that EFCC reports directly to the president and to no one else. Even the comatose Nigerian legal club pointed out that the proper authority to investigate the president is the Senate and or the National Assembly, rather than a commission appointed by the president and reporting to the president. Also, while the EFCC made noise about these puny charges, the substantial and serious allegations against the president made much earlier by a respected civil rights activist lawyer went un-investigated: the EFCC was reminded of this, but there is no reply. And, serious financial impropriety has been unearthed regarding at least one of the sons of Obasanjo residing in foreign countries (the US, in this case), despite spirited and high-handed efforts by Obasanjo’s men to cover up the issues: Obasanjo’s family members are the beneficiaries of Obasanjo’s financial dealings which involve monies and trappings sourced from the state and from Obasanjo’s positon as the president of Nigeria. All in all, while foreign governments tout Obasanjo’s so-called anti-corruption drive successes, most Nigerians have come to look at it as Obasanjo’s selective witch hunt against Obasanjo’s political and other enemies—enemies perceived as such by Obasanjo or real ones; hence, the current attitude of Nigerians to the anti-corruption exercise is dismissive.
The big ticket-crisis this month was Obasanjo, the president, fighting openly with his vice, Atiku. If clarity and honesty ever prevailed in Nigeria, this fight would have been seen as one result and manifestation of Obasanjo’s immaturity both as a person and as a politician. Obasanjo has a Napoleonic complex, nursing a grandiose self-image and ego as large as he is little. Obasanjo has come to treat Nigeria as his private and personal property (which is no different than the heady days of previous military dictators); he considers himself not just the sole “father” of Nigeria, but actually, as the “husband” managing his harem of multiple wives called Nigeria, who must express explicit and unquestionable loyalty to him, at all times, in every way. Obasanjo, a real-life polygamist, has experience.
While everyone now knows and thinks that it is Obasanjo’s secret plan to extend his tenure past 2007 which is fuelling the fight, few are willing to see deeper and see the whole crisis as the tantrum of a power-spoiled Dictator who is more interested in selfish and personal ego-gratification at the expense of over 100 million people. Many are willing to oblige him, in sycophancy, expediency, sheer cowardice and sometimes, ignorance. Thus, a dictator, autocrat, egomaniac and hypocrite is allowed to control the dysfunction and sickness known as Nigeria.
At the same time, the ineptness and crassness of PDP, Obasanjo’s party, is made obvious by the wrangling between Obasanjo and Atiku. The machinations of a political party, PDP, designed to rig elections in Nigeria which are still 2 years away, are obvious for all to see now. Controlled tightly by the president, Obasanjo himself, PDP is revealing to the world how a political party can be used as one man’s personal, private, individual instrument to subdue, subjugate and control a “country” of over one hundred million, if one can still call Nigeria a “country.”
The stupidest thing about all this is that Nigerians seriously think they have a democracy (“fledgling,” “nascent”—as the Nigerians love to describe it, deriving a thrill from the words, rather than from the idea of democracy itself—whatever); yet, Nigerians accept that Obasanjo has to choose his own successor—NOT the people, through the electoral process. So-called Nigerian political and other leaders and elite actually and seriously EXPECT OBASANJO TO HAND-PICK HIS OWN SUCCESSOR; yet, the same persons will harp about Nigeria being a democracy or working to build one. They miss the very basis and essence of Democracy. This must be “demo-crazy.” One wonders: do the foreign country-friends of Obasanjo try to educate him or point out simple things such as that to him? One knows that they do not talk to the peoples suffering and dying in Nigeria about such antithetical discrepancies.
On the eve of October 1, the original Nigeria Independence Day, every single report of reflections on Nigeria’s 45 years of Independence is negative, ascribing the worst to Obasanjo’s reign from 1999 to 2005. All, except for Obasanjo’s own self-assessment. There is no celebratory mood; it’s sadness, somberness, and despondency. As it should be!
We will see what October 2005 brings to Nigeria, and what Nigeria brings into it.