By Ehi Braimah
It would appear that the meeting of Southern Nigerian governors recently in Asaba under the auspices of the Southern Nigeria Governors’ Forum (SNGF) and their communiqué stirred up a hornet’s nest. The issues highlighted at the meeting were not exactly new but this time, they got the attention they wanted. The news of the Asaba Summit went viral instantly – at the touch of a digital button.
First, it was a bi-partisan summit which meant that there were common interests at stake; it didn’t matter whether the party symbol was a broom or umbrella. Except we refuse to admit it, there is no difference between the two parties – they are two sides of the same coin. As the governors spoke with one voice on national issues which are constantly tearing us apart, some analysts argued that these governors can only bark and they do not have the capacity to bite.
Now, the governors of Northern Nigeria also hold their meetings to discuss issues that affect the region. Why should we have separate meetings in the first place if we truly want a “united country”? Two separate meetings by the governors of Northern and Southern Nigeria is the equivalent of “two countries” co-existing side by side within the same country.
These two regions have also been further sub-divided into six (geo-political) regions, although it is not recognised by our constitution. Governors of these six regions also hold their meetings leading to my second thesis of “six countries” within Nigeria. Let’s be clear, I’m not in any way canvassing for the break-up of Nigeria. No, I don’t think that is the answer to our multi-faceted problems but the idea of “two” or “six” countries means we have a problem which we have to address. We have simply refused to take advantage of our diversity which ought to be our greatest strength.
We have been holding round table dialogues, the most recent being the 2014 National Conference convened by the Goodluck Jonathan administration. When the session opened in April 2014, 492 delegates from every section of Nigeria took part in the plenary and committee deliberations.
The late Justice Idris Kutigi chaired the conference which lasted for slightly over four months. All cadres of society ranging from professional groups to market women, youths, traditional rulers, and political parties’ officials to labour unions’ representatives discussed over 600 contending issues and made their recommendations.
But is it surprising the report was not implemented after all the billions of naira spent at the conference? It portrays us as a wasteful country which is actually a recurring decimal. Some people say Nigeria is jinxed and any idea or proposal that would move the country forward is usually dispatched to the cemetery and buried for life.
No one has told us why the conference report has not been implemented since it was submitted to former President Goodluck Jonathan but my view is that Nigeria would have been the biggest beneficiary because the report of the proceedings and recommendations were excellent.
The Southern governors have again called for a national dialogue which is a good thing; we cannot stop discussing the issues that affect us which is clearly a smart way of reducing social tension in the land. If that conference were to hold today, what would happen to the report?
One of the things the governors asked for at the Asaba Summit was devolution of powers. This was also a key outcome of the 2014 National Conference but suddenly, calls for “re-structuring” of the country made headline news. What is the difference between “devolution of powers” and “re-structuring” or do they mean the same thing? Our constitutional law experts should explain to us.
If we cannot design a leadership framework with “shared values” that would serve as the glue holding everyone together irrespective of region, tribe and religion, then Nigeria will continue to be a “mere geographical expression” without any purpose. That was how the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, once described Nigeria.
Can we also describe Nigeria as a rolling stone that gathers no moss? We are not building the country of our dream because of sectional interests which do not cohere with national interests. The starting point of the great renaissance for a “New Nigeria” is to discard “me, myself and I” orientation. It retards
progress. Mutual suspicion and lack of trusting relationships are responsible for the quest for territorial advantage which has manifested in separatist groups now threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria.
It is why Nigerians have been told to have a “Plan B”. If you are unhappy with what is happening in Nigeria, make your plan to relocate elsewhere. Again, this is not the solution; we cannot run away from our problems. If all the governors of the 36 states are sincere with themselves, they should come together and discuss the Asaba Summit agenda and communiqué.
The issues discussed at the Summit are at the heart of our current crisis putting the country on edge. The meeting was convened mainly because of the deteriorating security situation in the country to “harmonise their positions”. Non-state actors have used these issues to oxygenate their calls for self-determination.
If we design a workable leadership model, it will help us focus on those critical issues raised in Asaba by the governors. They include national dialogue, devolution of power, state police, equitable allocation of resources and federal appointments, open grazing and so on. You really cannot fault the governors’ position on these issues. It is now clear why the governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, boycotted the meeting – he had other ideas, chief of which was decamping to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and he was not ready to offend his friends in the northern establishment.
The southern governors affirmed that they believe in the unity of Nigeria. That declaration set the tone for their meeting and they hit the bull’s eye with it. We are better off together as one country but our leaders and political elite should immediately hit the re-set button for Nigeria to work for everyone. They know in their hearts that they have failed us. Leaders are the conscience of society and they have their jobs well cut out for them.
But where there is no fairness, equity, social justice and respect for fundamental human rights, the union will be troubled 24/7 and the task of nation building will be difficult. The North versus South dichotomy I referred to earlier is the only plausible explanation for the comment made by Abubakar Malami, the attorney general and minister of justice, relating to the ban on opening grazing in Southern Nigeria.
How could Malami in good conscience compare the ban as announced by the Southern governors to banning the sale of spare parts in Northern Nigeria? I’m still scratching my head to be sure Malami didn’t utter those words. If he did, then we have a big problem on our hands. The reaction to Malami’s comment
by Ondo State governor, Chief Rotimi, Akeredolu, was blunt and damning. He gave the attorney general the full length of his tongue, even daring him to go to court and thus signaling a new dawn at SNGF.
I think our political leadership should understudy Rotary’s 4-Way Test principle of the things we think, say or do: 1) Is it the truth, 2) Is it fair to all concerned? 3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4) Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
If we can assimilate these principles at all levels, especially as civics subject taught right from primary and secondary schools, it will be helpful as a national orientation tool. We are in dire need of the right values – especially among our youths — that can build strong institutions. This is because the moral fabric of our society is dirty and rotten – we cannot remain like this forever.
The leadership model on my mind, in addition to having “shared values” and applying Rotary’s 4-Way Test principle, is standing on a tripod: 1) the rule of law must prevail at all times; no one should be above the law, 2) exemplary leadership, and 3) building trusting relationships. This was the position of Ambassador Ogbole Ahmedu-Ode when we discussed the security challenges in the country recently at our Editorial Meeting.
This model should be the standard for all chairmen and councilors in all the 774 local government areas, governors, FCT administration officials, law makers in the states houses’ of assembly and national assembly, civil servants at all levels and appointees in ministries, departments and agencies.
Building social capital means when the government says something, it will be trusted. Right now, this is not the case. Nigerians do not trust any government in what they think, say or do neither are they inspired in any way, so they have accepted their fate in their own hands. If our political elites do the “right things”, Nigeria will become a better place. It is possible, so let’s do it!
Braimah is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)
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Ambode: Humanist At 58
By Bolaji Adasofunjo
If you dissect the whole teachings of the philosophical school called humanism, though it looks like its opposite, it is almost synonymous with that biblical exhortation which asks man not to lay treasures for himself on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, said the exhortation, man should lay his treasure in heaven where neither moths nor grasshoppers can eat it. However, while this biblical exhortation hammers on spiritual immortality as a result of sowing seeds in the house of God, humanists ask humanity to lay their treasures in the hearts of human beings, which can be seen, hinting that there lies immortality.
It will appear however from the standpoint of logic, that when a man lays imperishable treasures in the hearts of his fellow man, since man is the creation of God, he is laying his treasures in heaven. Going by this logic, if former governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode’s four-year strides as the governor of the state are a measure of humanist philosophy, then he has laid his treasures in heaven and has achieved immortality in the hearts of the people of Lagos State.
Born June 14, 1963 at the Epe General Hospital, to the family of a man called Festus Akinwale Ambode and his wife, Christianah Oluleye Ambode, the young boy, one of the ten children of his father, was to later light the lamp of development in a state ranked as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.
Today marks Ambode’s 58 years sojourn on the surface of the earth. The elder Ambode equipped the young Akinwunmi with the paraphernalia of leadership from the outset. Sending him to acquire the golden fleece at Jude’s Primary School, Ebute Metta, Lagos State where he studied between 1969 and1974, he also proceeded to the Federal Government College, Warri, Delta State, a sojourn that took him till 1981 when he proceeded to the University of Lagos (UNILAG). From that same 1981 to 1984, he was in UNILAG where he studied Accounting and graduated at the age of 21. Not only did the precocious Akinwunmi bag a Master’s in Accounting from the same university and an Hubert Humphrey fellowship at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, in no long time, he became a chartered accountant at 24.Diligently honing his academic and professional fecundity, he attended most of the best schools in the world among which are; Harvard Kennedy of School Of Government, Cranfield University, United kingdom, INSEAD-Singapore, Wharton Business School, Philadelphia.
After observing his compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at The Central Bank of Nigeria in Sokoto and assured that the civil service was the lush ground to groom leadership potentials due to its civil underpinning, Akinwunmi joined the Lagos civil service where he began in 1988 as Assistant Treasurer at the Badagry Local Government. Thereafter, in 1991, he was posted to the Somolu local government as the council’s auditor and in later years, he became the Council Treasurer of same Somolu Local Government, where he had held the financial forte previously. At another time, he served at the Alimoso council and in 2001, his mastery and wizardry in financial matters came to the ears of the powers-that-be and he was promptly made the acting Auditor General for Local Government of Lagos State and later confirmed by the Lagos State House of Assembly. By January 2005, he was elevated to the post of Permanent Secretary in the Lagos State Ministry of Finance. In all these merry-go-round appointments, how was Akinwunmi to know that providence was taking him through the mills, so that he could understand the pains of grassroots people, have a feel of their wants and emotions, preparatory to undertaking an assignment of consequence in the people’s lives?
Strides-wise, Ambode chose not to rest on his oars. This probably was why he was appointed the state Accountant General in 2006, to handle portfolios of all financial activities in the state, with over 1400 accountants in the state service under his administration. As if he and making strides were Siamese twins, Akinwunmi revolutionized the State Treasury Office, (STO) with his midas touch, changing the old patterns of Lagos State finances, budget, management and planning. He was the unsung hero behind the phenomenal raise in the ante of the Lagos financial performance within this period. This caught the attention of development analysts as he lifted the state’s budgetary performance to an annual average of 85%.
The most fitting acknowledgement of Ambode’s intellect and understanding of the Lagos State financial, social and developmental needs was his choice by the Lagos political class to run for the office of the Governor of Lagos in April, 2015. In that election, wherein he campaigned for and ran on the ticket of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) Ambode defeated his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) closest rival, Jimi Agbaje by 150,000 votes. Basking in the grips he had acquired on Lagos and the goodwill that it attracted to him, Ambode’s firm hold on the economic trajectory of Lagos and the thirst for Lagos to continue to consolidate on the financial gains of the previous years were some of the indices that delivered the governorship to him.
During his gubernatorial campaign, the man who was fast morphing from a civil servant imbued with a tradition of subordination to higher authority, being heard but not seen, into a politician, made use of his metamorphosis. He introduced panache into the electioneering process and made the youths to catch their fun while listening to “warring politicians.” His posters were surfeited with a cliché built on his understanding of Lagos, its economy, finance and people. Many have spoken about how he changed the mantra of electioneering, diverting it from the usual cliché that had no bearing on the aspirant’s past and trajectory. Ambode believed that in his own trajectory, his daring ideas and credentials, lay his success at the polls, so he deployed them to the highest advantage.
For him and this manifested quite tremendously in his campaign posters, he documented all his credentials and cognitive experience, perhaps asking anyone who doubted them to do a double check. Apart from documenting his educational credentials, Ambode also articulated all his trail-blazing catapults to the top of his career within the span of 27 years of his civil service career in Lagos State as well as his entrepreneurial journey in the private sector. Sounding like a fairy tale, the posters painted the iconic image of a positively queer man who entered the civil service at the age of 21 and rose, by dint of his mental endowment, to the zenith of the service as Accountant General. He literally challenged his rivals to be bold enough to subject theirs to same scrutiny. In a Nigeria where politicians shroud their past from the world’s glare, Ambode was telling an unusual story and perhaps pointing at the rout to go. His posters were distinguished by the mantra, LET MY EXPERIENCE WORK FOR YOU. Some analysts have said that it was the acceptance by the electorate, which came thereafter, his audacity to tell his own story for the world to hear, which propelled his political enemies and the opposition into spinning the unfounded allegation of his dual nativity.
In four years that his administration held forte in Lagos, Ambode brought on board panache and a can-do spirit that was not alien to Lagos and which set him apart as a man to beat. He bombarded Lagos with so many monumental developmental projects, which instantly made the State of Aquatic Splendor to become a construction yard. Virtually in all the local governments of the state, constructions went on simultaneously.
Development of Lagos became his locus of operation and in this regard, he bestrode Lagos like a colossus. It was such that, within four years, his strides dwarfed all his predecessors’ combined especially when one considered the twin impact of recession and dwindling oil price to close to $20 at that time. Tireless and with an eye on history, he was quoted several times as mouthing the need to attain immortality in the hearts of Lagosians by his developmental efforts. This must have been why he operated a governance model that touched virtually all the facets of the lives of Lagosians. Till today, his strides are yet unsurpassable as they are benchmarked as indices and measurement for good governance. A few of those developmental efforts are the iconic annual 5-Zone One Lagos Fiesta, his transport lay-bys and traffic control management model, the Bus reforms and terminals, the Aboru-Abesan bridge, Ajah-Jubilee Bridge, The Abuel-Egba bridge, the Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps model, pedestrian crossings, 576 completed world class roads, functional security architecture that he bestowed to Lagos, the infrastructural transformation of LASU, revamping of LASEMA rescue unit, the jetties and water ferries, healthcare model and Ayinke House Revamp, Airport road construction, the world class Oshodi terminal, the Epe re- development and Chalets, the DNA Forensic Laboratory, Oshodi Safety Arena, the Imota Rice Mill-The biggest in Africa , Lake Rice, the iconic transformation of Alimosho roads leading to Ota in Ogun State, the 5 Lagos theatres, the Pen Cinema bridge, his Lagos Marathon, the Ojodu-Berger transformation, the artistic monuments that he dotted around Lagos, the over 6,000 Housing units, his Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, transport buses, light- up Lagos initiative, the Onikan Arena, The J.K Randle Centre and a lot more that made him to stand out among those who have administered Lagos or those who will administer it in years to come. Till today, the people of Lagos still speak of the Akinwunmi Ambode titanic achievements and remember him with profound nostalgia.
It is doubtful whether, even though the shenanigans of the political class denied him a second term, this same set of people can succeed in obliterating his memories from the hearts of the people he labored for. He impacted the lives of the ordinary citizens of Lagos in a way that ardent humanists alone could. For instance, while constructing the Johnson, Jakande, Tinubu (JJT) Park at Alausa, the model, which he parodied and eventually got, actualized, was the re-development of that park to become a world-class leisure park. After the commissioning of the park, Ambode literally turned it into the hands of the people by opening it to all despite being few meters away from his living room in the seat of power in Alausa, Ikeja. In a rare display of humility, the governor took his children to the park to have a feel of the facility with other fun-seekers at the park. Today, he appeared to the users of the park like the man who saw tomorrow due to his remarkable foresight. Even his biggest critics in their cocoons do say ‘’Ti egan ni e, Ambode se ise l’eko” meaning, with all honesty, Ambode worked in Lagos State.
As multi-faceted as his strides were, perhaps because of his civil service background, Ambode was content with the belief that blowing one’s trumpet was immodesty of the highest order. He preferred his strides to go ahead of him into the hearts of the people. As if he knew that in the hearts of the combines, forces who were displeased with his sagacity and “excessive” embrace of the common man on the streets, would not allow his government to endure, Ambode slaved every hour in his 48 months period of being in government as if the last day would be his last in office. He made stupendous inroads into the hearts of the people, so much that the lingo in Lagos is that, after the Late Action Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, no one had attempted to best his performance in Lagos.
As Ambode marks his 58 years on earth today, his fare in Lagos as governor should be a torchbearer to those who queue on the side of the people. They can surely be denigrated, despised and muzzled out of their vision and mission for the people but in the long run, they remain iconic in the eyes of history and in the hearts of the people they served. Happy Birthday to the peoples’ Governor!
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Buhari’s Dot-In-A-Circle and Makinde’s AK-47
By Festus Adedayo
Was it better that President Muhammadu Buhari remained unapologetically deaf to all entreaties to address Nigerians or open a window into his mind and reveal a cesspit of foul-smelling hate? Peradventure there were still nationalistic remnants among his coterie of admirers, after last Thursday’s interview the president granted Arise TV, they would be at the crossroads. Their dilemma may jolly well be addressed by a famous Maurice Switzer quote whose authorship had before now been a subject of controversies. Was it authored by Abraham Lincoln or celebrated humourist, Mark Twain? Anyway, Switzer, in a book written in 1907, had said, which I tinker with for the purpose of this discussion, that, “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought an ethnic bigot (inflection mine) than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”
If anyone was undecided whether Buhari was at the roots of Nigeria’s worsening ethnic crises in the last six years or so, that Arise TV interview removed all doubts. It revealed a president whose mind is a fertile breeding ground for viral ethnic divisiveness, an infection that is without any possible hope of redemption.
The interview brings an urgent need to conduct a psychoanalysis on the man at the Villa. I did and the result was prim, grim, and unsavoury. That perhaps was one good the Arise TV interview did for Nigerians. It ventilated the innermost recess of the mind of one of the most reticent closet presidents in Nigerian history.
With the interview, we were obliged the opportunity to scrutinize the hidden crevices of President Buhari’s mind. The white apparel he wore was apparently a deliberate ploy to associate purity of mind to him. It attempted to hide the disgusting sewers his inner being harbours. Presently, the maggots began to wriggle out, in the form of huge bile and rank hatred for the Igbo ethnic stock and crass disregard for the myriad other nationalities that make up the geographical expression called Nigeria. The disgust sipped out of every pore on his gangly frame.
While the world, in that interview, saw a feeble Muhammadu Buhari, what a deeper scrutiny would reveal is a re-sprouting Milton Obote, a notorious Ugandan despot and a Buhari who sees anyone but Fulani as the British saw Mau Mau fighters in colonial Kenya. Obote was a two-time Ugandan leader who led his country to independence from the British in 1962 and served, first as Prime Minister from 1962 to 1966, President, 1966 to 1971, and after his Idi Amin ouster in 1979, Obote ruled Uganda again from 1980 to 1985. In 1983, Obote of the Oyima clan of the Northern Ugandan Lango ethnic group exacerbated ethnic tensions in Uganda and launched a bloodcurdling military expedition called Operation Bonanza which resulted in the death of approximately 100,000 to 500,000 Ugandans.
Asked about separationist agitations in Nigeria’s Southeast, Buhari beamed that cynical smile of his, laced with a hidden serpentine venom, and said arrogantly, “That IPOB is just like a dot in a circle. Even if they want to exit, they’ll have no access to anywhere. And the way they are spread all over the country, having businesses and properties. I don’t think IPOB knows what they are talking about. In any case, we say we’ll talk to them in the language that they understand. We’ll organize the police and the military to pursue them.”
In the president’s manifestly narrow reading of the Southeast geopolitical zone, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) approximates the Igbo nation that owns assets all over Nigeria. This reminds me of the gory narrative of the Kenyan Mau Mau war. The rebellion of Mau Mau Uprising raged from 1952 to 1960. It was waged in the British Kenya colony between the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA) populated by Kikuyu, Meru and Empu people of Kenya, against the white European settler overlords.
Just like Buhari, to the British, every Kenyan was a Mau Mau who merited being mowed down mercilessly. Headed by a guerilla fighter called Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi, the moment Kimathi was captured on October 21, 1956, it was obvious Britain had extinguished the Mau Mau uprising. In that spiteful summation of the Igbo uprising, Buhari was further alienating a people who only needed a sense of belonging and equity in Nigeria.
How else can a president, whose mind is this poisoned with venomous hatred, be told that just as there are criminals among his Fulani stock, so also are there outlaws in Igbo land who believe that violence opens the trough of peace? The sad thing is that, as Buhari exhibits this crude hatred for Daniel Kanu and his Igbo people, his baseless venom grooms a generation of dangerous sympathizers to the IPOB cause, just like the killing of Mohammed Yusuff is the precursor of the subsisting Boko Haram insurgency.
In Buhari’s unguarded ire, the Igbo have come to see his selective criminalization of the Southeast as a manifestation and continuation of the First Republic Hausa-Fulani hate and pogrom against their people. Buhari is, through this hatred, promoting Kanu beyond his relevance.
With the benefit of hindsight, President Buhari’s dot-in-a-circle theory is a product of a lazy mind and a narrow reading of the historical trajectory of secessionism in Nigeria. First, he forgot that a sentence, like a whole, is not complete without a full stop, which is a dot. By that very fact, Nigeria needs his so-called dot-in-a-circle to turn full circle.
Again, what he and his commissars hounding the Igbo out of Nigeria should know is that the separatist agenda is lawful and not criminal. Indeed, the United Nations recognizes it as a fundamental human right. Over time, that mantra of Nigeria’s unity being non-negotiable has been dissected to be void and a refrain only on the lips of suppressors of people’s rights.
Northern Nigeria is historically known to be the region that first threatened to secede from Nigeria when the Northern delegation to the 1950 Ibadan Constitutional Conference warned that “unless the Northern region is allotted 50 per cent of the seats in the Central Legislature” it would ask for separation from the rest of Nigeria on the arrangements existing before 1914. Again in 1966, it attempted to secede from Nigeria through its Operation Araba. It is obvious that, due to the manifold injustice, inequity, and oppression of the Buhari government in the last six years, separatist calls have risen to a proportion that is unprecedented in history.
At the core of those calls is this administration’s equivocation of seeking peace when it dishes a broth of injustice to the other partners in the Nigerian federation. In the Southwest today, separatism is gaining traction. If Buhari hounds that dot-in-a-circle Southeast out of Nigeria, he will do well to know that this petulance will open similar doors of secession to other ethnic groups that have been reduced to slaving partners in Nigeria’s pseudo-federalism. This was perhaps the sense in that statement attributed to Immortal Obafemi Awolowo when he allegedly said that if Odumegwu Ojukwu’s Biafra was allowed to secede, the Yoruba would have no other option than to follow suit.
One other slant of Buhari’s Arise TV interview which revealed the nocturne enveloping his mind is his obsession with the Niger Republic, Fulani herders’ grazing route, and his narrow reading of the serious security concern in the land. These three issues are a continuation of his dogged and relentless defence of his Fulani kin. His simplistic explanation of incineration of billions of Nigeria’s patrimony into the construction of a rail line from Lagos to the Niger Republic is a sickening logic that bears every imprimatur of his Fulani ethnic group’s notorious disrespect for international boundaries. How vast can Niger Republic’s crude oil find be to constitute such a humongous threat to Nigeria’s economy, such that Nigeria had to now scamper to please this imaginary oil god with such monumental infrastructural project?
A la the President, because his Fulani, Kanuri and Hausa cousins reside in Niger, Nigeria must abandon its suffering people to please Niger? If this reasoning is not otiose, I wonder what else is.
In the interview, Buhari merely regurgitated Abubakar Malami’s lazy thesis of constitutional human rights for cattle. He confirmed that he ordered the AGF to exhume the grazing routes gazette of the 1960s, just to find a legal justification for the rapacious quest of his Fulani kin to turn the whole of Nigeria into their cattle ranch. “What I did was ask him to go and dig the gazette of the First Republic when people were obeying laws. There were cattle routes and grazing areas. Cattle routes were for when they (herdsmen) are moving up country, north to south or east to west, they had to go through there,” he said. Then, he lapsed into the solipsism of a 20th century animal husbandry where straying cattle’s herders were arrested and ordered to pay fine by the Khadi (judge). With that kind of reasoning, one shudders to discover that a human being could indeed live in the 21st century and remain anachronistic like a Stone Age provincial overlord!
To confirm that the president’s thinking is actually frozen in the Antarctic glazier, as against the norm in a supersonic 21st century, Buhari is still fascinated with that antiquated cattle rearing model he was born into. He does not give a hoot if the whole country is propitiated to the god of rampaging Fulani herdsmen. He romanticized his cattle-rearing model thus: “People were behaving themselves and in the grazing areas, they built dams, put windmills, in some places, there were even veterinary departments so that the herders are limited. Their route is known, their grazing area is known.”
Unapologetically, like a conquistador bent on acquiring territories and demanding vassals, Buhari magisterially proclaimed that “those who encroached on these cattle routes and grazing areas will be dispossessed in law and try to bring some order back into the cattle grazing.” The fact that countries like Brazil and Argentina which have larger herds of cattle practice a modern ranching system which gives them humongous economic and environmental benefits matter little to our President who proudly declares himself a herdsman in the ilk of his marauding brothers!
The pertinent question to ask is, what part of the world still retains a leader like Nigeria’s whose mind reeks this disgustingly of ethnic impurities? Why is Buhari this stubbornly and illogically obsessed with this antiquated grazing model, in a world that has since left this Acheulian culture mindset? If Buhari was this much in love with the exhumation of the past, how come he didn’t ask that the 1963 constitution be exhumed?
The other leg of Buhari’s tripodal assault on logic in that Arise TV interview was how he simplistically dismissed the raging Fulani herders’ killings that rocks Nigeria. To Governor Samuel Ortom, whose state Fulani herdsmen have turned into a mobile mortuary, he had this doggerel: “The governor of Benue said I cannot discipline the cattle rearers because I am one of them. I cannot deny that I am one of them.” No solution, no apologies. He then went further to tell the story of how two governors of the Southwest visited him. “Two governors from the South-west came to tell me that the cattle rearers in some of the forests are killing farmers while their cattle are eating their crops. I told them you campaigned to be elected and you are elected. I told them (to) go back and sort out themselves,” he announced, pretending to forget that in the kind of obtuse federalism we practice in Nigeria, governors neither control the Police nor the Army! There were insinuations that he was referring to Governors Seyi Makinde of Oyo and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo States.
Last week, Oyo State literally went up in flames, drenched in tears. Igangan, a town in the Ibarapa area of the state, was visited by one of the most visceral carnages ever by Fulani herders who had apparently come for reprisal against their eviction from the land. Properties, including the palace of the town’s monarch, were set ablaze by these sons of perdition. When the quake settled, about 15 people lay dead. Governor Makinde, amid weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth of the natives, visited and soberly accepted responsibility for the killings. “We failed you,” he said, his voice soaked in melancholy. Though the counterfeit federalism practiced by Nigeria has castrated state governors security-wise, reducing them to window-dressing sissies, Makinde’s acceptance of responsibility was seen as a mark of leadership.
In the true sense of it, that apology should have come from Buhari as the man who failed woefully to protect the people. Not only didn’t he show any remorse, but no word of apology also came from him to Igangan. It was as if in Buhari’s mean veins, no blood but cow milk flows. That is why his attempt to shift responsibility above is sadistically lame and laughable. Igangan people and all victims of herdsmen are no less man than Buhari’s Fulani killers. They are only hamstrung by legally blocked access to AK-47 which the killers wield. That AK-47 request made by Makinde is a direct test of statesmanship for Buhari who holds the knife and the yam on the control of violence. If he is not for the aggressor in the fight against terror, he should grant the request of the Oyo State governor then watch if Igangan will ever happen again.
Those who accuse the governors of failing to provide security for their people, a tame and puerile route which Buhari also trod by that his hypocritical comment, is not being fair to them. If Makinde, Akeredolu, or Ortom, for instance, acceded to the request of arming their people with AK-47, this Fulani presidency will give them the Zamani Lekwot treatment. Do you remember how that General was almost executed for allegedly arming his people in the Zangon Kataf war?
Thank God, elders of the land like Olusegun Obasanjo, Abdusalami Abubakar and others are said to be meeting and will visit Buhari presently. Buhari has morphed dangerously and can use his obsessive hate for others and malicious Fulani clannishness to set Nigeria on fire. Yoruba always ask that elders should wade in, at a critical moment like this, lest a loony make barbecue of the remains of his deceased mother. The Buhari government is in the autumn of its relevance. The symbolism of the end is all we see – leaves are falling and it is haunted by literal death. As same Yoruba will say, the Buhari market is at the edge of its tethers, winding up and leaving only remnants of those who display their wares – oja ti tu, o ku pa’te pa’te.
(Published by The Cable, June 13, 2021)
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Aburi Ghosts, Asaba Secessionists And Waffles In High Places
By Festus Adedayo
When you listen to Nigeria’s Senate President, Ahmed Lawan’s skewed submission on Southern governors’ meeting in Asaba, Delta State last week, you will realise that people in high places too are not immune from marketplace waffles. Miniature logic can proceed from the minds of huge, prarchute-like babanriga wearers after all. More importantly, from the tragic Lawan ill-logics, the much talked about January, 1967 Aburi Accord will present to you as the quintessential Julius Caesar’s ghost promising to meet its nemesis at Philippi. Finally, you will find out that Nigeria is trapped inside this pit being because it lacks critically thinking leaders.
After the assassination of Caesar, Shakespeare depicts him appearing like an apparition to his friend, Brutus and telling him “thou shall see me at Philippi.” Literati say, killed before the maturation of his dreams, Caesar’s ghost was predicting further evils. Buffeted on all fronts by a Federal Government that has become pallbearer of her citizens and a Nigeria under Buhari that has transmuted into a funeral parlour, the fifteen Nigerian governors had gathered to halt the Nigerian burial party. For two days – January 4 – 5, 1967 – fifteen high-ranking Nigerians had similarly gathered in Aburi to deliberate on a Nigeria that was about to kiss the canvass. Why they chose this town in the Akuapim South Municipal District of the Eastern Region, South of Ghana that was famous for its Botanical Gardens and the Idwira Festival is yet unknown.
The 15 Aburi conferees were: Chairman of the Ghana National Liberation Council, Lt.-General Joseph Arthur Ankrah, who was the then Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and chairman of the occasion; Lt. Colonel Gowon; Ojukwu himself; Major Mobolaji Johnson; Lt.-Col. Hassan Katsina; Lt.-Col. David Ejoor; Commodore Joseph Edet Akinwale Wey; Colonel Robert Adebayo; Alhaji Kam Salem and Mr. T. Omo-Bare. They were supported by bureaucrats like N. Akpan, Secretary to the Military Governor of the Eastern Region; Alhaji Ali Akilu, Secretary to the Northern Military Governor; D. Lawani, Under Secretary, Military Governor’s Office, Mid-West; P. Odumosu, Secretary to the Western Military Governor and S. Akenzua, Permanent Under-Secretary, who later became the Oba of Benin.
By then, it had become obvious that the legs of the dead body the British haphazardly buried in a 1914 makeshift grave had begun to jut out embarrassingly. The Hausa-Fulani oligarchy had come full throttle in its arrogant belief that Nigeria was its to subjugate. Its military wing, which rode on the crest of a July, 1966 revenge coup, was effectively coordinating this conquest mindset with clinical precision. Before then, Northern Premier, Ahmadu Bello, concluding that progenies of Uthman Dan Fodio could not effectively compete with the south in western education-propelled leadership, had arrived at the need to strengthen Northern hold on the military. Secession from Nigeria in July, 1966 through Operation Araba then became the immediate response of the north.
Togo had given Murtala Muhammed, Theophilus Danjuma and the putschists of July, 1966 the blueprint and the path to tread. This it did with its first coup d’etat in any French and British African colony since the wave of independence hit Africa in the 1950s and 1960s. Thus came the killing and ouster of Sylvanus Olympio as a model fitting for example. Aguiyi-Ironsi, beneficiary of an earlier revolutionary coup of January 15, 1966 led by Kaduna Nzeogwu, had bungled the opportunity to strengthen Nigeria on the path of her diversity and plurality. He sunk Nigeria further into an amorphous unitary rule. Olympio, Prime Minister of this tiny French neighbor of Nigeria’s, had shortly after midnight on January 13, 1963, been woken from sleep by soldiers who broke into his presidential home. By dawn, Olympio’s gruesomely mutilated body was discovered by Leon Poullada, America’s U.S. Ambassador, who saw it lying about three doors from the embassy building.
By June, 1966, Ojukwu and the East had confirmed the hostile and imbalanced administration of Nigeria under scions of the oligarchy in khaki. He saw how Eastern Nigerian resources constituted a huge chunk of the federal purse and its skewed deployment to the North. Igbo living in the North were subjected to a vile massacre typical of the bloodletting by 16th century Ethiopian Zimba cannibals. Joa dos Santos, a Portuguese priest living in Southeast Africa, had told the horrific story of how a warlike Zambesi tribe he called the Muzimba kaffirs, “had not only (eaten) the men they kill in war, but sell the surplus in market.”
The massacre of Igbo, labelled the 1966 anti-Igbo pogrom, was in that Muzimba kaffirs mould. It was a series of butchering committed against Ndigbo living in Northern Nigeria from May of that year which got to its peak on September 29. A total of between 8,000 and 30,000 people of Igbo descent were estimated to have been butchered like Sallah rams. This prompted about a million of their kindred fleeing back to the east. It was apparently a reprisal against the killing of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and Northern Premier, Ahmadu Bello a few months before. Pictures of the remains of Bello suddenly sprung up on the streets of the North, with Nzeogwu heaving his military jackboots on his head. This was after Bello’s flight to the bosom of his harem, a move that couldn’t rescue him from the bullets of a man who went by the Kaduna middle name.
With Ojukwu sharpening the machete of war in a bid to fight to redeem his people from the hands of the feudal North, the July, 1967 Aburi meeting was thus a last opportunity to reverse the slide into war. As has been written copiously by scholars, the Aburi Accord was a template for national redemption which, if faithfully implemented, would have saved Nigeria in 1967 and probably avoid the calamity of today. Since the governance structure was skewed in favour of the North, the agreements reached were basically to return Nigeria to true federalism, with devolution of powers being its overarching motive.
Among others, the Accord agreed that the Army be reorganized to restore discipline and confidence in the military and that military governors should have power over military formations in their regions. Also, commissioners of police were to be responsible for maintenance of peace in their domains and Area Commands under Area Commanders corresponding to existing regions should be created. After Gowon had agreed to all these in Ghana, it was reported that Akenzua had gone back to tell him that the Accord meant confederation and by implementing it, Jack was on the verge of signing off Nigeria. Scholars have also said that Akenzua was just a puppet and the real forces pulling his strings were from the UK High Commission and other western powers who stood to lose their patrimony were Nigeria to break up.
All those however became history with Nigeria plunging into a fratricidal 30-month war estimated to have cost three million people. The obstinate failure of Gowon to implement the agreement is held to be one of the major reasons why Nigeria has known no peace thereafter and why, 54 years after, the system could throw up a Buhari as president, a man whose obstinacy and arrogance of power is decidedly worse than Yakubu Gowon’s.
Asaba, it will appear, is a miniature Aburi aimed at preventing Nigeria from going into war. Virtually all actors in the macabre drama called Nigeria are today agreed that vultures and hyenas of war are howling, thirsty for blood and cadavers of the living. Even the Buhari beatification choral group has come to accept that Nigeria is at the precipice. We may not agree on the way forward but that Nigeria is about to go the way of falsely-soldered-together strange bedfellows, is not in doubt.
Swap the dates from July, 1967 to May, 2021 and you will see that the firmament retains same red colour. Calls for secession are ten a dime on Nigerian streets. The Nigerian Army has been so thoroughly emasculated that a ragtag insurgent army is killing its troops like chickens. In the first quarter of 2021, 400 people were reported to have been killed by Boko Haram. Ask parents of abducted Greenfield University, Kaduna whose wards kidnappers are as asking for multiple of millions of Naira whether Nigeria is at war or in peace time. Your guess would be as good as mine. Erstwhile peace of eastern Nigeria has been violently busted by “Unknown Gunmen” who are apparently stronger than an effeminate Nigerian state in the hands of Buhari. The cheapest commodities in Nigeria today appear to be death and blood. Hunger is wracking the bellies of the people so rudely as the economy groans in throes. Everywhere you go, it is weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The Asaba conferees, like those gathered in Aburi, could see further descent into bloodshed. They asked for restructuring, tenets of which look like the Aburi demands. Cynics knew however that with a government of the deaf that administers Nigeria now, the Asaba conference will never produce any meaningful fruits. Never however could the governors have expected Lawan to so narrowly view the horror that is today’s Nigeria. While fielding questions from State House correspondents last Thursday, like Gowon who put on the lens of myopia and thus saw only secession in the Aburi Accord, for Lawan too, restructuring approximated a dismemberment of Nigeria.
“I believe that as leaders, those of us who were elected must not be at the forefront of calling for this kind of thing because even if you are a governor, you are supposed to be working hard in your state to ensure that this restructuring you are calling for at the federal level you have done it in your state as well,” he waffled.
Since taking over power in the revenge coup of 1966, the North has so cleverly tampered with the structure of Nigeria, through demographics and allied institutional maneuvering, so badly that no other region can take any consequential decision about restructuring Nigeria, except with its imprimatur. This was apparently what emboldened the Fulani, serially fingered in the dastardly murders across the country, to audaciously talk down on the rest of Nigeria. On Friday last week, the murderously militant wing of the Fulani, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, through its National Secretary, Alhassan Saleh, threatened that Fulani would be the first to leave Nigeria, while insulting the rest of us. And nothing will happen, because Buhari, his fellow Fulani, is in power.
“Herders are insignificant when it comes to problem of this country, are they the ones looting the treasury? What damages (sic) are they causing to this country? Compare to the criminal activities of ‘Yahoo’ boys, kidnappers, political looters, bandits in power, vagabonds in power like Governor (Samuel) Ortom, do you think if there is no oil money, all these things will be happening? Today we are ready, let them divide the country; let them not wait till tomorrow. We are better prepared than any ethnic nationality. So we are ready, let them divide the country, let us die, we that don’t have the oil,” he had thundered.
Lawan’s waffle was to be followed by a similarly colourless doggerel, this time from the jokester in Lugard House, Lokoja, Yahaya Bello. Speaking last week on a Channels Television’s programme, Politics Today, Bello said that by seeking a restructuring of Nigeria to douse the tension in the land and calling on Buhari to address the people, his governor counterparts from the South were heating up the polity. Ostensibly, by asking Buhari to at least come out to address Nigerians by himself and not via proxy, the governors reasoned that he would be assuring all that he could still speak coherently, widespread belief of his cognitive hamstring notwithstanding.
“When we are talking of security, unity and national cohesion of Nigeria, as leaders and politicians, we should be careful about the words we use…When it is titled or when it appears as if you are fighting President Muhammadu Buhari, our father and our President, we are all getting it wrong because we got to where we are today as a result of maladministration of successive administrations,” the groveller-for-presidential-office governor said. This is a Bello under whom Kogi is a replica of Haiti’s Papa, Baby Doc tyrannical enclave and where the bridge that collapsed in his state recently euphemistically symptomizes governance that had fallen.
They said a people is deserving of its rulers. How did we deserve the trio of Buhari, Lawan and Bello, acting in cahoots with many other short-sighted rulers, whose reasoning is diametrically different from the rest of Nigerians’? Does Nigeria deserve frozen reasoning, like ones glazed in the Antarctica, which oozes out of her leaders? Why is it that the rest of Nigeria sees ominous signs of collapse, a Nigeria twirling on the precipice, while what the leaders see is north, Federal Hausa-Fulani Government, positions at the top and how they can rule till the morning of Armageddon?
Forty Years After Bob: Was He Greater Than Peter Tosh?
Last Tuesday, the world marked the 40th anniversary in the grave of foremost Jamaican music legend, Robert Nesta Marley, popularly known as Bob Marley. He had died of melanoma cancer on May 11, 1981 at the University of Miami Hospital And Clinics, UHealth Tower, Miami, Florida, United States. Born to a British World War soldier, Novan and mother, Cedella Booker, on February 6, 1945 at his maternal grandfather’s farm in Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica, his death at the age of 36, placed side by side his global fame while alive and even much more in death, has buoyed that cliché that life is not how long but how well.
Tomes of works have been done on his magnificent stardom and impact on the transformation of the raw Jamaican Ska chant into a global musical brand that it would be a rehash doing that here. A major intellectual engagement however has been the argument: who is the greatest between him and his friend, brother and later sworn enemy, Peter MclnTosh, popularly known as Peter Tosh?
In terms of global acceptance, exposure and spread, there is no doubt that Marley is and was the toast of the world. While Tosh was still peaking in his native Jamaica, Marley had received a head start, principally from the early exposure given him by Christ Blackwell, the British owner of the international record label, Island Records. Blackwell’s choice of Marley among the trio of Bob, Peter and a recently deceased colleague of theirs, Neville O’Rilley, popularly known as Bunny Livingstone, has been put to racism and marketing strategy. While the trio, in 1962, decided to form a band which they named The Wailers, Peter was said to have taught the duo how to play the guitar. In their a little more than a decade of being together, The Wailers became a huge commercial success. The New York Times referred to them as “the most popular and admired of all reggae groups” and the band sold more than 250 million albums worldwide.
They however all went their ways in 1974, partly due to Blackwell’s preference for a mulatto Bob who would appeal to the western market, ahead of the two other weed-smoking, outlaw-looking musical urchins. Peter and Bunny had been shocked when, at their maiden UK tour organized by Blackwell, they had been confronted by the advertisement of their band as Bob Marley and The Wailers, as against their erstwhile The Wailers. Peter was to later lament that he “taught him how to play guitar and now they say he’s king of reggae.”
Peter was everything that Bob was and even more. For years, many people did not identify the raw talent and artistic bravura combined in the works of the 6.4 feet dreadlocked singer. This was due to his perceived arrogance and diffidence. For instance, immediately Bob died, Tosh had shocked the world in an interview where he claimed that Bob had peaked while he was decorating the stage. The truth is, Tosh was too assertive, too hot to handle and never hid his disdain for what he called Babylonian lifestyle of hedonism. Tosh believed in marrying words with action. Towards the latter part of his life, he cut a queer image of a revolutionary ready to carry arms. With his imposing height as he adorned a black beret, with a guitar that had the shape of an M16 assault rifle, Tosh didn’t mince words in projecting the narrative that he was a musical militant. He told those who underrated him that he was “like you are steppin’ razor” and asked, “don’t you watch my size” as “I am dangerous!” In comparison to others, Tosh said “I’m the Toughest,” an apparent reference to the trained karate belt holder that he was. He was once asked by an interviewer why he never smiled and he said that since he sang revolutionary song which was not love song, nor a tea party, he saw no reason to smile.
While they were both very spiritual, Peter was more. He was a strict Rastafarian, obeying its injunctions of not mixing with menstruating women, observing its strict dietary prescriptions and believed in doing good to his fellow man.. Apart from pursuing a path of goodness to his fellow man, his lyrics are laced with biblical quotations. Of the three original Wailers, though he didn’t have much education, he was the most cerebral. He could chant endlessly, quoting biblical verses with baffling mastery. The Mystic Man was perhaps the avenue Tosh used to showcase his spirituality the most. He had proclaimed his mysticism in that he doesn’t “drink no champagne…I don’t sniff them cocaine (as it) choke(s) brain… I don’t take morphine (dangerous)…I don’t take no heroin… I man don’t eat up your fried chicken…I man don’t eat up them frankfurters…I man don’t eat down the hamburger…I man don’t drink pink, blue, yellow, green soda” and the reason, he said, was because he was “a man of the past, living in the present and walking in the future.”
In terms of the depth of their songs, Tosh was deeper. He was what could be regarded as a linguistic gymnast and a poet. In his songs, you would encounter raw poetry, with alliterations and virtually all the figures of speech. The word “oppressor” Tosh called “downpressor,” imputing that those who committed such a heinous crime of oppression against blacks should not be dignified with any lifting up. The manager, to him, was the ‘damager’, the judge, a ‘grudge’, the system was ‘shit-stem’ and the Prime Minister, the ‘Crime Minister’ who ‘shits’ (sits) in the ‘House of Represent-a-t’iefs’.” Christopher Columbus was Christopher ‘Combulus’ and Alexander the Great was, “Alexander So Called The Great.” In one of his vinyl he entitled Here comes the judge, just like in Downpressor man, Tosh demonstrated how, on the last day, in the presence of “The Most High Jah,” oppressors of blacks on earth would face the wrath of providence, running to the rocks “but the rocks will be melting.” A great word user that he was, Tosh had told a 40-000-strong audience that he was not a man of peace as “peace” was “the diploma you get in the cemetery” because on the tombstone, it is written, “Rest in Peace!”
While both ex-friends sang Get up, stand up, a song which the trio of erstwhile Wailers sang individually, they made mockery of Christian and Islamic religion, in both religions’ transference of succor for man to an unseen creator. The song asked man to seek redemption here on earth and proclaim that man was tired of the ism and schism of dying and going to heaven in Jesus name because “the mighty God is a living man,” a reference to Haile Selassie whom Rastafarians worship as God. Tosh’s own version of the song, which though wasn’t as high-tempoed and popular as Bob’s, is however unique for the introduction of a slow tempo into it. Same theme was also in Coming in Hot where Tosh demonstrated the fieriness of his song. Like the gun guitar image of a tough militant that he created, the lyrics of this song compared the ferociousness of the Tosh brand to a gunshot or explosives.
While Tosh was assassinated on September 11, 1987 after he had just returned to Jamaica from a US business trip and was relaxing by watching a TV satellite show at home with his common law live-in-lover, Marlene Brown, Marley had succumbed to cancer. Gunmen, led by Dennis “Leppo” Lobban, one of Tosh’s ‘boys’ whom he sustained as part of the communal Rastafarian injunction of brotherly co-existence. They had stormed his house at Barbican Road residence, St Andrew, Jamaica at about 7.30pm on this day. Within a twinkle of an eye, the gunmen had put a full stop to his 42-years of existence. At first, talks were rife that Marley’s wife, Rita who controlled his estate, had a hand in Tosh’s murder as the original Wailing Wailers friends of Marley made a legal claim to his multi-million dollar Tuff Gong studio on Hope Street in Kingston. This was exacerbated by interviews granted by the lone survivor of the triumvirate, Bunny who accused Rita of being a Jezebel and that Peter was actually sleeping with her while married to Bob.
While Bob Marley’s adaptation of Emperor Haille Selassie’s speech at the OAU in 1978 into a song he entitled War, attempted to rouse blacks from their mental slavery and dependency on the west, Tosh’s own Arise black man conjured the Socratic credo of “Man, know thyself.” It was one of the strongest messages from any musician wherein Tosh spelt the need for the black race to unite and fight for equal rights. Deploying violent imageries, Tosh also predicted that the end of mental slavery was near and attacked those who didn’t see this, stating that “heaven becomes your grave.”
At personal comparative level, this writer has severally claimed that Tosh was a greater talent than Marley. Though many of their endowments verged in each other, the former was far more endowed than the latter. No one can however dispel the fact that the duo contributed immensely to what is today reggae music, as well as their yeoman roles in the deployment of music as a liberation struggle weapon.
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