Friday, June 23, 2017

Swan Song Of The Iroko: The Life, Time And Works Of Chinua Achebe: The Lessons For Nigeria

By Professor Umelo Ojinmah

(Paper presented at the Memorial Symposium in Honour of Professor Chinua Achebe by Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) on 20 May 2013 at International Conference Centre, Abuja)
*Chinua Achebe 

 Preamble
There are few writers that their lives and works have been studied as much as Achebe’s. His novels, especially, Things Fall Apart is standard reading in many high schools in America and Europe, including Germany, and all over Africa and Asia. I know that my work on Achebe was excerpted and is used in a text, Novels for Students Vol. 33 Ed. Sara Constantakis (2010) for high school students in America

Most of us here have critiqued one of Achebe’s work or the other.  Achebe has influenced writers from all over the world – Europe, America, Australia, and Asia. The New Zealand Maori writer, Witi Ihimaera, acknowledges that he was influenced by Chinua Achebe. He became one of the most famous indigenous writers of the Maori nation and has, himself, influenced a new generation of Maori writers. As editor of the African Writers Series, Achebe edited and mentored a host of African Writers including Ngugi Wa Thiong’0.  Elechi Amadi in a recent interview accepted as much, that they all were influenced by Achebe, which is one of the reasons he is seen as the father of African Literature. Growing up, many of us never knew how books are made. For us, Shakespeare was that nebulous but wonderful writer who weaved magic with words that our teachers asked us to memorise. It was Achebe that made us realise that writers were flesh and blood like us; that is what Achebe did for so many people, bringing literature to life and kindling our interest in writing.

 I: Life and Time 
When  Karl Maier’s This House has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis was published in 2000 there was the usual hue and cry by Nigeria’s elites and politicians on what they saw as the denigration of the Nigerian state. Coming seventeen years after the publication of Achebe’s The Trouble with Nigeria  (1983) it was amazing that despite the obvious kleptocracies of those at  leadership positions at both state and national levels that have stunted development of the Nigerian state, people still shouted themselves hoarse about the conclusion of Karl Maier’s This House has Fallen. A conclusion that Chinua Achebe had drawn and foretold seventeen years earlier. 

Although this paper celebrates the life and achievements of Chinua Achebe, as a writer and social critic, in the light of the furore generated by There was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra and the level of discourse that it has precipitated, I was tempted to jump into the fray, but I quickly realised that what was happening was, in fact, what Chinua Achebe wanted. To draw attention to those issues raised, debate them, criticize them, but definitely not ignore them or sweep them under the carpet). Chinedu Aroh writes that “Achebe … feels the forty-two years the book took him to release shows the seriousness therein. According to Pourhamrang Achebe ‘had to find the right vehicle that could “carry our anguish, our sorrow ... the scale of dislocation and destruction ... our collective pain’’’ (cited in NewsRays, 2012, 40). 

The only sad note, particularly for Achebe scholars, is that the people who should be debating these issues are not; the leaders and government functionaries whose actions impact on the lives of the citizens. For it is for such people that There was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra was written, so that we do not continue to play the ostrich as a nation. Achebe’s death has brought out all manner of critics and pseudo-critics. Recently, Odia Ofeimun, in his interview with Ademola Adegbamigbe and Nehru Odeh, under the guise of reacting to Chinua  Achebe’s  There was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra took a hefty swipe at The Trouble with Nigeria thirty years after its publication claiming that:
We loved him so much for what he wrote that we hardly ever challenged some of the most contentious positions in his novels and in his non-fiction writings. Achebe said many things that are thoroughly wrong and that we ought to have contested very sharply and strongly.

Ofeimun states that “The trouble with Nigeria is not just bad leadership. That is the first bad point” yet by the time he had summed up Awolowo’s credentials he said “Now, it is good never to forget that what saved Awolowo was not just leadership….” Basic English lesson teaches us that when you use expressions such as “…was not just…” it presupposes that leadership is NOT excluded but included. Of course, it also means that there are other things that make up the qualities being advocated but the important thing is the acknowledgement that leadership is included.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Nigeria: Tales From The States

By Paul Onomuakpokpo
When former President Olusegun Obasanjo described state governors as emperors last year, the gibe at the messenger tended to dim the message . The riposte was not only from the supposedly traduced state governors, but also other citizens – he was not qualified to speak on such a matter because he equally operated as an emperor while he was a president. Again, continued the reprimand, why would he not consign his epistolary obsession to the federal level and avoid interfering with the goings-on in the states?
*Some Nigerian Governors 
But we must admit that Obasanjo was only reminding us that as citizens, we have not demonstrated enough diligence in monitoring how the states are run because we are preoccupied with the activities of the government at the centre. After all, it is the reports on these activities at the federal level that hug the headlines on the front pages of newspapers. And because we do not pay enough attention to them, these state governors easily pass as poster boys of good governance. This is the case as long as these states do not have opposition parties that can let the larger society know the poor governance that goes on there. Yet, the citizens live in states where their lives are impacted either positively or negatively by the performance of their state governments.
Thus, it is necessary for us to be troubled by the mismanagement and brazen theft of state resources that go on as governance in most of the states of the federation. In most cases, the governors set up the states to fail by not allowing council elections so that they can keep on appointing those who would do their bidding as caretakers and manipulate elections for them. These caretakers are then sustained by doling out part of their statutory allocations to them to spend as they like without any question from the state governors.

Monday, June 19, 2017

How APC Betrayed Buhari

By Joe Igbokwe
I was shocked to the marrows when I heard that some APC Senators asked the National Working Committee of the Party led by the National Chairman of the Party Chief Odigie Oyegun to prevail on President Buhari to drop all charges against Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct corruption trial before they stop sabotaging the presidency. Words failed me when it dawned on me that this potentially dangerous demand is coming from some APC Senators who are supposed to be the agents of change we promised Nigerians while seeking their mandate in 2015.
*Buhari, Tinubu and Saraki 
I reflected on the event of the past 24years from 1993 when we elected Chief MKO Abiola to bring hope to Nigerians and how he was crushed and decimated by demonic and satanic forces after five years struggle to defend and sustain the mandate. Time and space will not permit me to recall the quantum of energies expended to defend the mandate for five years, the wars, on the streets, the casualties including MKO Abiola and the late wife Kudirat Abiola, and many others, the damage to the national project, the devastation of our economy, the balkanization of the political entity called Nigeria, the alienation by the international community making Nigeria a pariah nation, and the ethnic division it visited on Nigeria.
After killing Chief Abiola in July 7, 1998, the same satanic and demonic forces still bent on decimating Nigeria further decided to foist PDP and retired General Obasanjo on Nigerians. In sixteen years, from 1999 to 2015 the same forces wasted huge resources running into hundreds of billions of dollars earned in times of oil boom. The unconscionable looters and unrepentant thieves diverted and stashed away these huge resources into private pockets. These funds have been traced to private accounts both at home and abroad, traced to real estates both in Nigeria and abroad, and traced to farms and some buried underground. The rest is now history.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Osinbajo And The Troublemakers

By Paul Onomuakpokpo
It is a predictable path that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has taken in his response to threats that are nibbling away at the nation’s unity. Unfortunately, this path has consistently failed to engender national healing and boost the prospect of fidelity to the vision of a united people. For, what our leaders like Osinbajo are unable to successfully disguise is their insincerity in responding to the overarching challenges of our contemporary society.
*Yemi Osinbajo
His was a response cast in the mould of a warning to those who are fomenting trouble that poses an egregious threat to the peace of the nation. At a meeting with northern leaders over some northern youths who have given an ultimatum to the Igbo in their region to relocate, he vowed to crush troublemakers. Since Osinbajo did not say that the warning was specifically directed at the northern youths, we must not limit it to them in order to appreciate its futility. We must appropriate troublemakers as all those who have grievances against the state since the northern youths only responded to the position of some aggrieved youths in the south-east.
The current threat to the nation’s unity is not what could be wished away by threatening fire and brimstone. It requires a more rigorous examination before proposing a solution. As Osinbajo himself rightly observed, disagreements are bound to exist in any union. But what he did not acknowledge is that the Nigerian nation has failed to adopt an enduring mechanism for resolving these conflicts. Again, why should disagreements whose source can easily be located and resolved permanently be allowed to fester as the Nigerian nation is doing ? In this case, what plague the Nigerian nation are not just conflicts that are inevitable in a union. They are rather crises the country and its leaders have refused to resolve because they benefit from them.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Nigeria: All Is Quiet On The Western Front

By Dare Babarinsa 
Let me start with a confession. I have not read the manifesto of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. However, I had expected that one of the new grounds the party would cultivate is the abandon forest of constitutional reforms. So far, it has shied away from this. Indeed, some of the pronouncements of its red-cap chiefs suggest that it is militantly opposed to any form of constitutional amendment.
*MKO Abiola
We may recall that President Muhammadu Buhari, before he was halted by illness, had said on national television that he would have nothing to do with the reports of the Constitutional Conference brokered by his pliant predecessor, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
It is not out of point to regard the APC as the successor-political estate of Chief M.K.O Abiola, the great man whose sacrifice formed the cornerstone of our struggle against military rule. Indeed when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn-in as the elected successor to General Abdulsalami Abubakar, many of the leaders of the struggle regarded him as an undeserving beneficiary of Abiola’s great struggle. It is a fact of history nonetheless that Obasanjo had suffered as much as, if not more, than most of the leadership of the opposition. It was not surprising therefore that Obasanjo paid scant attention to the call for the restructuring of the Federation. As President, he played his game as an advocate of a strong Federal Government. He and members of the military class, especially those who spent their youths fighting in the Civil War, are suspicious of the call for constitutional reforms. They fear it might spiral out of control. I disagree.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Now That Nigerianism Has Failed!

By Abraham Ogbodo
Last week, the movement for the restructuring of Nigeria got more converts from an unlikely quarter. Some 16 youth groups in the North rose from a meeting late on Tuesday to declare the unwillingness of the North to continue in a Federation that has the Igbo as part. The groups, which met in Arewa House, somehow the symbolic throne of the Northern establishment and which gave the meeting added significance, were actually more far-reaching.

As if they were the appointed deciders of the fate of Nigeria, which has been hanging precariously on a balance for more than a century, they gave till October 1 for every Igbo man, woman and child in Northern Nigeria to leave for the ‘Republic of Biafra’. Next day, some Northern elders including Governor el-Rufai of Kaduna who said they were taken aback by the action of the youths dissociated themselves from the quit notice and even called for the arrest and prosecution of members of the groups.
Nothing happened. Instead, the youths returned a day after to reinforce their declaration. For opposing the declaration, Nasir el-Rufai and Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State were isolated for some tongue lashing. A statement signed by spokesman of the Northern youth coalition, Mallam Abdulazeez Suleiman said: “we are particularly disappointed by the treacherous positions assumed by Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai and Kashim Shettima who in pursuit of their blind ambition for the vice presidency chose to side with secessionist Igbo against the interest of peace-loving Nigerians.”
The statement said there was nothing altruistic about the position of el-Ruffai and Shettima on the quit notice because both governors “are openly known to be waiting in the wings for President Muhammadu Buhari to die so they can further their plot to seek the presidency.” Specifically on Shettima who spoke on beh: “Shettima has disconnected from reality as he gets intoxicated by immoral wealth and property acquisition at the expense of people of the state suffering the devastation of Boko Haram.” This was what Robert Louis Stevenson described in Treasure Island as ‘quarrel among the pirates.’

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Nigeria: You Can't Kill The Igbo Spirit

By Dan Amor
Multiculturalism has been the subject of cover stories of most international magazines including Time and Newsweek, as well as numerous articles in newspapers and magazines across the world. It has sparked heated jeremiads by leading American columnists such as George Will, Dinesh D'Sousa, and Roger Kimball. It moved William F. Buckley to rail against Stanley Fish and Catherine Stimpson on "Firing Line." It is arguably the most hotly debated topic in the civilised world today- and justly so.

For whether one speaks of tensions between Hasidim and African-Americans in Crown Heights, or violent mass protests against Moscow in ethnic republics such as Armenia, or outright war between Serbs and Croats in Yugoslavia, it is clear that the clash of cultures is a worldwide problem, deeply felt, passionately expressed, always on the verge of violent explosion. Problems of this magnitude inevitably frame the discussion of multiculturalism and cultural diversity even among leading intellectuals across the world. Yet, it is unfortunate that, in Nigeria, the vexed issues of racism, nationalism and cultural identity are downplayed by our commentators and analysts because some think that they and their tribes are not directly affected.
Few commentators could have predicted that one of the issues that dominated academic and popular discourse in the final decade of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century- concomitant with the fall of apartheid in South Africa, communism in Russia, and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union- would be the matter of cultural pluralism in our secondary school and university curricula and its relation to the "Nigerian" national identity. Repeated experience and routine violations of the rights of minorities and the Igbo nation in Nigeria attest to the urgency of the scattered, and often confused, debates over what is variously known as cultural diversity, cultural pluralism, or multiculturalism. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Nigeria: Breakup, Northern Style

By Paul Onomuakpokpo  
With northern youths giving Igbo residing in their region an ultimatum to quit before October 1 or face dire consequences, the agitations for the dissolution of the Nigerian union are fast reaching frenzied heights. What obviously provoked the rage of the northern youths were the ceaseless agitations for self-determination by some indigenes of the south east. Such agitations being championed by the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) culminated recently in the shutting down of the major towns of the south east on May 30 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the quest to create a Biafra Republic out of Nigeria.
President Buhari, Sultan of Sokoto,
Sa’ad Abubakar
Of course, the northern part of the country, like other regions that make up the Nigerian nation, has the right to respond to the clamour for secession by the Igbo. But what is intolerably scandalous is that the approach they have adopted amounts to self-sabotage. For, it rather portrays them as a people who are not really interested in responding fully to the demands of restructuring of the polity but are rather only motivated by greed and the envy of the success of the Igbo.
If the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar’s claim during his visit to the south east that the Igbo easily become objects of hate and annihilation because of their success were a Freudian slip, the position of the northern youths do not disguise their hankering after the wealth of the Igbo. If the northern youths were really interested in restructuring, the first step they should take is not to give the Igbo an ultimatum to leave their land. Even if Nigeria breaks up today, this does not give the northern youths the right to seize the property of the Igbo. Are the Igbo war criminals or their property are proceeds of corruption that the northern youths would seize them? The Igbo are free to live and own property in any part of the world, including the north as foreigners if the country breaks up.
Besides, it is not only the Igbo who have been asking for a redefinition of the terms of the existence of the Nigerian nation. The south south and the south west have also called for the same purpose. It is ludicrous for the northern youths to single out the Igbo for intimidation and possible liquidation as if other people were comfortable with the injustices upon which the nation has been built for decades. They should not think that after allowing the Igbo to go they would continue to feed off the resources of the south south.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Buhari, Please Don’t Die Before Me!

By Steve Onyeiwu
Buhari and I are in a race of death. I hope and pray I win that race. As transient humans, we all embark on the race to death right after sliding from our mother’s womb. How long it takes to run that dreaded race depends largely on exogenous factors beyond our control. Religious people believe that the more pious and God-fearing you are, the higher the probability that your race to death would be protracted. In other words, you’ll be competing head-to-head with the likes of the famed and biblical Methuselah. 
*Buhari
But secular folks argue that the duration of the race to death depends on a combination of factors that include genetics, life-style and serendipity. The latter may be influenced by God, spirituality and “providence.” For these reasons, I may well die before Buhari, though he is far older than me. As an inherently unpredictable phenomenon, some of those who have been overly obsessed with Buhari’s death may die before him. Death can also be a biased umpire that fulfills some people’s wishes, but dashes other people’s hopes. While some politicians who are prematurely positioning themselves for 2019 have been cheering Buhari to run faster on the death track, many other compassionate Nigerians pray for his quick recovery.
Right from when he began receiving treatment in London early this year, endless news about Buhari’s death have been circulating around the world. Some say he has a terminal disease. Quack doctors have looked at his photos and conclude that he is chronically ill. Some medical doctors who should refrain from diagnosing a disease by perusing a patient’s visual outlook, without conducting blood, X-Ray, MRI, colonoscopy, physical and other vital tests, have jumped into the fray, declaring that Buhari is a lost cause! But they forget that even the best doctors in the world cannot look at photos and diagnose a patient’s ailment, let alone provide a prognosis for the patient’s survival.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Lai Mohammed: An Unmanageable Mistake!

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye
When President Muhammadu Buhari announced the people he has selected to occupy some of the most strategic positions in his regime, there was understandable uproar across the country. Nigerians looked at the profile of these fellows and wondered what could have motivated their choice, what exactly in their credentials qualified them for such sensitive positions.
 
*President Buhari and Lai Mohammed

Ordinarily, Buhari would have simply ignored such an outcry, but he surprised Nigerians by volunteering an explanation. These, he said, were the people who had stood by him through the stressful years of his various unsuccessful attempts to become president. As he moved from one party to another in his quest to actualise his ambition, they stuck with him, undiscouraged by his growing history of failed presidential runs. So, this was the time to "reward" them for their steadfast loyalty. (These are the people now loosely referred to as Buhari’s "Kitchen Cabinet," or more recently, "the Cabal" in Aso Rock, whose activities Nigerians have learnt to monitor with considerable apprehension.)

Buhari's preference for cronyism which mostly celebrates mediocrity at the expense of merit and expertise (an odious, counterproductive practice that has sufficiently advertised its predictable dividend in his regime's very dismal performance in the last two years) is, however, not original. In the unmissed Olusegun Obasanjo regime, appointment into public office was celebrated as an invitation to "come and eat." And not a few in that wayward regime, and the ones that followed it, did really overeat and became horribly obese, as evidenced by their mysterious humongous   accumulations!

In decently-run countries, people see appointment into public offices as sacrifice to their nation. Some, driven solely by love for country, quit high-paying jobs to take these positions whose statutorily fixed salaries compel them to undertake drastic readjustments in their lifestyles by shedding some luxuries that were easily guaranteed by their former salaries. Their country men and women celebrate them as patriots and heroes, and they leave public office with their heads held high, and their names boldly engraved in their country's Hall of Fame.  

But in Nigeria, the story is different. That is why it should be understood that while for many months Nigerians waited for Buhari to announce his list of ministers, thinking he was busy carefully searching for the best hands to do the very significant and urgent   reclamation job crying for attention at such a very critical period in our nation's history, the man was, no doubt, busy considering whom to "reward" with what position. When the list was eventually released, it greatly disappointed and shocked many Nigerians leaving them wondering why it took the president all those months to come up with such hope-depleting appointments. The most demoralising confirmation that little or no imaginative thinking went into the making of that list, however, was Buhari's decision to "reward" Mr. Lai Mohammed, the industrious chief propagandist of his party, with the office of the Minister of Information. Although, I had learnt very early to grossly moderate my expectations of the Buhari regime, I never in my wildest imagination expected that the president would fall so cheaply into such a brightly advertised trap.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Ambode, CAN And The Lagos Pastor

By Paul Onomuakpokpo
A democracy fiesta which began nationwide some days ago climaxed last Monday. Lagos strove to outdo other states with its Lagos My Success Story through which it celebrated those it considered as the exemplars of its exceptionalism. But the nebulous character of the concept became a source of excoriation for the state government in so far as it neglected some people whose successes constituted the excellence of the state.
*Gov Ambode
But this is not what has imbued the memory of the past few days with an unforgettable quality. Rather, it is the fact that the period unveiled a Lady Macbeth in the Lagos State house and that while the state government was valourising democracy which privileges the will of the people, it was at the same time serving one of its residents a robust measure of authoritarianism.

Nnamdi Kanu, Biafra And The False Premise

By Femi Fani-Kayode
In a short contribution titled "Biafra Without Our Consent?" which appears to have gone viral on social media, a social commentator wrote as follows:
*Nnamdi Kanu
"I think the current generation of 'Biafrans' are the most funny people I have 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 extremely high.

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Buhari: Where Is The Change Promised?

By Martins Oloja 
This is not a time for speaking in tongues. It is a time to tell President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) and all the governing APC chieftains that two years should be enough to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, as someone once put it comically too, there is neither a tunnel nor light in the country where mediocrity is daily nurtured by sycophancy. 
*Buhari

Indeed, a season of sycophancy is here again and the cheer leaders and mega sycophants who are members of a mega party called AGIP (Any Government in Power) will heap mega praises on the Buhari administration for dealing decisively with corruption and insecurity in the North East. And we in the media will readily assist them in propagating the ‘monumental achievements’ in the last two years. In fact, their consultants within the media have begun the journalistic legwork. And from tomorrow (May 29, 2017), we will be reading balanced stories with headlines such as “Knocks, Kudos For Buhari’s Two Years In Office”. In the end there will be more “kudos” than “knocks” for the 'wonderful' administration, an idea no force on earth could have stopped in May, 2015. We are indeed in an era of sycophancy that has shaped massive mediocrity everywhere we go in the country.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Biafra At Fifty

By Ray Ekpu
It was on May 30, 1967 that Col. Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the military governor of Eastern Nigeria, declared that region the Republic of Biafra. A few weeks later, Col. Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria’s head of state, declared war on the secessionist territory. The war dragged on for 30 horror-filled months until the Biafrans threw in the towel in January 1970. Gowon announced a three-point programme of Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction. A few days ago, Biafra became 50 and was marked with a solemn seminar titled “Memory and Nation-building: Biafra 50 Years After.” It was well attended: Olusegun Obasanjo who commanded troops in that war and later on became head of state and President of Nigeria; Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who was in primary school then but is now the Acting President of Nigeria; Ahmed Joda who was one of Gowon’s super permanent secretaries at the time. He headed the Muhammadu Buhari transition committee in 2015. John Nnia Nwodo, the President of Ohaneze Ndigbo, a former minister of Information and a scion of the famous Nwodo family; Professor Ebere Onwudiwe, a well-known political scientist and public intellectual.

There were several others, most of them young Igbo intellectuals who were probably not born during the war. There was nothing substantial or divergent to be expected from a group like that. It was largely a gathering to do some introspection on the lessons of the war and why Biafra as an idea has not gone away. It was an exercise in admonition and not quite a forum for soul searching. But it was worth it because since the end of the war things have not moved swimmingly either for the Igbos or for Nigeria. There have been renewed agitations for the actualisation of Biafra as a republic. The agitators have been harassed and detained by security agencies but there is no let-up in the agitation.
Today’s Biafra is a lingering echo of the Biafra of 1967 and of the fact that many years down the road many Nigerians feel excluded from Nigeria’s dinner table which means that we have not been able to build an inclusive, consensual union that caters for all interests fairly, equitably, and in a fashion that is not perceived as discriminatory and sectional. When the Federal Government sites amenities and makes appointments in a manner that is nakedly discriminatory then that is the real spelling of exclusionism. Exclusionism is a reflection of bias and lack of trust which leads in turn to reciprocal bias and lack of trust. That is not bridge building, not nation-building.
When Gideon Orkar did his coup some years ago against the Ibrahim Babangida government he said he was carving some states out of Nigeria. Such an attempt at fissure was a product of accumulated frustration with the state of the union. Since then not much has been done by elected politicians at the Centre to give a new and sincere approach to nation-building and inclusiveness as articles of faith.

Friday, May 26, 2017

50 Years After Biafra: Reflections And Hopes

By John Nnia Nwodo
1. I am grateful to Shehu Musa Yar Adua Foundation, Ford Foundation and OSIWA – the co-sponsors of this event for your kind invitation. I commend your foresight in convening this conference, the first major conference discussing Biafra outside of Igboland. Nigeria. In hosting this conference the Yar’Adua Centre, which is best known for promoting national cohesion, honours the legacy of a great patriot: Shehu Musa Yar Adua. He died building bridges of understanding across our nation. I salute his family and associates for sustaining the legacy of Shehu through the works of this Foundation.
*New Biafran Leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, taking the oath of  office as the Head of State of the Republic of Biafra (May 1967)
2. It is significant that you have chosen to harvest sober memories of Biafra. By so doing, you help us to wisely situate today’s talks of Biafra in the proper context: namely, as an opportunity for nation building; and not – as an invitation for invectives or recrimination.
3. 50 years ago, Nigeria faced disintegration by the declaration of the Republic of Biafra. Biafra was born out of the political crisis which engulfed Nigeria at that time. The crisis began with the struggle for leadership in the Western Region of Nigeria, the declaration of state of emergency in the West, the coup of January 1966, the counter coup of July 1966, the pogroms, the declaration of Biafra and the commencement of a police action that turned into a three years civil war.
4. I hope that our gathering today may contribute to the body of knowledge or body of lessons from the war. Lest we forget, there is wisdom in the words of George Santayana that: those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. That is why I thank you for the chance for us to collectively remember, reflect, hope and seek ways to build anew.
5.My most heartfelt reflection is that in the Nigeria-Biafra conflict, we can and should acknowledge the sacrifice – in blood, suffering and toil – by millions of citizens on both sides of that divide. They shared a common hope for their sacrifice: namely, that out of that war, we shall build a nation where no man is oppressed. The only difference was that for one side, Nigeria was that nation. For the other it was Biafra.
6. Let us spare a thought for every victim of that conflict and the crises before that: the leaders and the soldiers, ordinary men, women and children. Each one loved life; had hopes and dreamt dreams. They died prematurely and often, painfully.
7. For those of us that survived the war and others who came afterwards, we are both heirs to the sacrifices of fallen brethren. Let us commit ourselves today and always to their hopes for peace and justice. Anytime that we are violent, anytime that we are unjust in the exercise of our public trust, anytime we lower the ideals of this nation, we betray them; and we act as if they died in vain. As we honour their memory, today my worry is not only about the rising feeling of marginalization of Igbos or any other group but that our nation may emerge from this conflict a more united and prosperous country.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Nigeria: How Government Steals From The Poor

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Thursday, May 18, 2017 started for me in a very special way. First, I got a distress call from a young single mother of three children who ekes out a living by hawking fresh fruits somewhere in Wuse Two, Abuja.
This call came at about 8 am the moment I settled into my office desk to begin the day’s work. The purpose of the call was to report that armed operatives of the Abuja Environmental Authority seized her articles of trade and arrested her late last night. She was forced to cough out five thousand naira before she could be left off the hook, but the men went away with her entire business wares.
This lady, by name Miss Evelyn, has a toddler she still breastfeeds in addition to the other two children who are in public school even as she relies on the petty trading to take care of them the best way she can. She wept uncontrollably and urged that our group should intervene so her wares could be released. But our effort was fruitless.

Emir Sanusi And The Aborted Probe

By Paul Onomuakpokpo 
With the abrupt termination of the probe of Emir of Kano, Mallam Muhammad Sanusi 11, we have been denied the opportunity to witness a shamefaced confirmation or a smug rebuttal of the allegation of financial sleaze against him. Is the allegation that he mismanaged N6 billion of his emirate a mere canard peddled to sully his hard-earned reputation? This remains unresolved. It was the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-corruption Commission that first started a probe of Sanusi before the state House of Assembly launched an investigation into the same matter.
*Emir Sanusi

The investigations were provoked by his trenchant criticism of the northern establishment. He drew the ire of his highly conservative leaders when he accused Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari of not only failing to take action to check the outbreak of meningitis but for regarding the affliction as a direct comeuppance for his people’s violation of divine stipulations against fornication and adultery.
It is by no means a surprise that Sanusi has been embroiled in another controversy. For him, controversy is a veritable staple of life. Therefore, if controversy does not come on its own, Sanusi courts it with aplomb. Then the approbation follows. He is seen as one of the enlightened people from the north who could speak truth to power. It was a controversy that he triggered by accusing the Goodluck Jonathan government of corruption that led to his removal as Central Bank governor.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Nigeria: Very Rich, But Very Poorly Managed

 By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye
A few years ago, we had a very important and urgent need to be in Kumasi very early the next day. It was already midnight (Nigerian Time, but 11pm in Ghana), and we were still in Accra, surrounded by its brilliant lights and soothing serenity (there was not the faintest hint of any generator sound anywhere), wondering what to do.
Obasanjo and Buhari
But a Ghanaian who was with us did not seem to share our worries. He simply told us to hit the road, that in the next three hours, we should be in Kumasi.
I looked at him with surprise and disbelief. Who was sure nobody had hired him to lure the three of us into a well-laid ambush by violent robbers? When I expressed my concern about armed robbers, his answer was sharp: “There are no armed robbers!”
When later I repeated the concern, he said something he quickly realised he should not have said, but which Nigerians need to continue hearing no matter how painful we find it: “I have told you… no armed robbers! This is not Nige…!” He cut himself short. It suddenly occurred to him that he had gone too far in his bid to emphasize that point.
When I called a Nigerian friend in Ghana and he reassured me that the long journey from Accra to Kumasi was safe, we hit the road. At the one or two places where very friendly policemen stopped us, they merely looked at the vehicle and waved us on with their torches, without the slightest hint that they wanted a bribe.

Saraki, Dogara And Corruption

By Paul Onomuakpokpo
Lest we miss a vital opportunity to reflect on the anti-corruption campaign, we must put the positions of Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara on the inveterate plague in the proper perspective. It serves no good to the anti-corruption campaign and the nation’s development in the long run for their views to be dismissed in a huff simply because of a phalanx of allegations that have portrayed the duo and other members of the National Assembly as not immune from corruption.
 
*Saraki and Dogara 
Saraki is facing prosecution at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for corruption. The citizens are riled by other senators’ apparent complicity in the alleged sleaze of their leader because they have waited in vain for the lawmakers to evince a sense of moral repulsion against identifying with him whenever he goes to the tribunal or court over his case. Underpinning the outrage is that if they were not as corrupt as their leader why should they even allow him to preside over the affairs of the upper legislative chamber? Why not replace him and avoid him like a plague as long as the trial lasts? Also, Dogara has been accused of budget padding, a brand of corruption that reportedly entails the manipulation of a fiscal plan to the detriment of the wellbeing of the bulk of the citizens. But unlike the case of Saraki, the allegation of corruption against Dogara seems to be escaping from public consciousness.
Dogara and his colleagues have been able to squelch and banish the ex-chairman of the House of Representatives Appropriation Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin, who made the allegation against him into political wilderness where he now flails, flounders and screams, striving to draw the citizens’ attention to the corruption in the lower legislative chamber. But nobody seems to hear him.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Is Nigeria Really Too Weak to Break Up?

By Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo
One common trend which I have noticed in human beings is the inability for people to leave their comfort zones and confront the hard facts of their existence, even when such facts of life are so pressing and yearning for attention. It is like the rodent which was consumed by an inferno when it failed to leave its comfort zone despite being warned earlier by the fleeing lizard. At a point in the history of the Jewish nation, the people abandoned the statutes of their God in pursuit of other gods. Every warning issued by the prophets of old seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.
*Dr. Nwankwo 
God in his infinite mercy raised Amos, the shepherd of Tekoa to call the nation of Israel to order and warn them of the divine judgment that must fall upon the nation unless they turn from their evil ways. But even with all the warnings by Amos, the children of Israel refused to leave their comfort zones - they had fallen so deep into apostasy and deluded themselves that all was well. In the 6th Chapter of the Book of Amos, the prophet bemoaned the inability of the Israelites to leave their comfort zones and embrace righteousness, and in a state of exasperation he declared “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came”.
This has been the nature of man since the ages. Even in the family setting, when we are confronted with what I may describe as uncomfortable truths; it is convenient for us to deny it. We derive joy in deluding ourselves and pretending that all is well. We refuse to face the reality because we are afraid that the truth will destroy our comfort zones and deny us the grandeur which falsehood brings. We are always happy to indulge in such denials rather than confronting squarely those problems whose existence we deny. Because of this, we hardly make any move forward. 
If you situate the foregoing to Nigeria, you will begin to appreciate the relevance of this discourse. In Nigeria, we delude ourselves that all is well even when the facts on the ground suggest otherwise. We dismiss all suggestions to restructure the country as the ranting of a misguided few, yet the country draws closer to the precipice daily. We dismiss any alarm of cataclysmic uprising in the country because we are too consumed in enjoying the luxury of our loot; and have perfected the art of using the machinery of the state in pauperizing and oppressing the vast, helpless many. We trust in our wealth and chariots and in the security we have placed around ourselves and our mansions. If this were not so, Sule Lamido, former Governor of Jigawa State would not have had the courage to assert that Nigeria is too weak to break up because according to him “members of the elite are united in preserving their advantages over the masses irrespective of their differences of tribe and religion”. It was for this kind of mindset that Amos declared “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion…” 

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