By Festus Adedayo
Like a prude confronted with sexually explicit images, the world didn’t hide its shock at Nigerian-born American professor, Uju Anya’s negative comments last week on the late British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. The world had waited with bated breath at manifest indications that Elizabeth’s last hours had come. Amid this apprehension, the associate professor of Applied Linguistics, Critical Sociolinguistics and Critical Discourse at Carnegie Mellon University launched her salvo. It came in the form of a tweet that brimmed with bile and hate. She had tweeted: “I heard the chief monarch of a thieving, raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating”. It was a bazooka that upset and shook the world out of its sanctimony.
Billionaire Jeff Bezos, the world’s third richest man, had an immediate riposte for Anya. “This is someone supposedly working to make the world better? I don’t think so. Wow,” he had written. Not one to be cowed, Anya launched another diatribe at both Bezos and the now-confirmed-dead 96-year-old monarch. “If anyone expects me to express anything but disdain for the monarch who supervised a government that sponsored the genocide that massacred and displaced half my family and the consequences of which those alive today are still trying to overcome, you can keep wishing upon a star,” she tweeted. Uju was apparently making reference to the 1967–1970 Nigerian-Biafran war during which time the British Empire, supporting Nigeria, supplied arms and ammunition that helped Nigeria vanquish Biafra. About one million people reportedly died in the needless war. For Bezos, Anya had a harangue: “May everyone you and your merciless greed have harmed in this world remember you as fondly as I remember my colonizers”.
Uju is apparently an against-method academic. Born of a Nigerian/Trinidadian origin, her parents lived in Enugu, Nigeria and her father’s embrace of the African polygyny fractured the wedlock, necessitating her Trinidadian mother to flee to America with her and siblings. A self-confessed lesbian, Uju got legally separated from her husband in 2017, even as she publicly announced her against-the-grain sexuality.
While Uju may be considered to have stepped off the borders of humanity by wishing another creation “excruciating death,” the facts of her grouse are in the public domain and need not be glossed over. An analysis of Anya’s tweet reveals three key elements in her accusations against the British Empire, viz theft, rape and genocide support. There is none of these allegations that historical renditions, especially by African and Africanist scholars, have not levelled against British colonisers.
Apparently, because of her vested interest in Nigeria, Britain overtly supported Nigeria in the civil war and indeed supplied arms and ammunition to Nigeria. Thousands of Igbo had been killed in the 1966 pogrom with Britain, the immediate past suzerain, lifting no finger. The Harold Wilson government, through its lackey high commissioner in Lagos, David Hunt, was unapologetically against Biafra. As the war raged, 1.8 million refugees sprang up in Biafra, many of whom were living skeletons, kwashiorkor-stricken kids. Karl Jaggi, head of the Red Cross at the time, had estimated that about a million children were killed by hunger and bullets but Red Cross saved about half a million through its intervention.
With the help of BBC correspondent, Fredrick Forsyth, the terrifying pictures of skeleton-like children appeared on British TV and unsettled Britons, leading to a lack of appetite as those figures disrupted the flow of their dinner meals. The hitherto covered grim situations of the war, which Wilson had shielded from the British people’s view, sparked outrage and revealed Britain’s complicity in the genocidal war against the people of Nigeria. Queen Elizabeth was so powerful that if she indeed desired that the war should not be fought by both youthful soldiers, Yakubu Gowon and Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, no blood would be shed by both parties.
Before Anya, Forsyth had revealed this complicity and connivance by Britain’s top echelon of power. He had written, “What is truly shameful is that this was not done by savages but aided and assisted at every stage by Oxbridge-educated British mandarins. Why? Did they love the corruption-riven, dictator-prone Nigeria? No. From start to finish, it was to cover up that the UK’s assessment of the Nigerian situation was an enormous judgmental screw-up. And worse, with neutrality and diplomacy from London, it could all have been avoided”. The truth is that, if Britain and her monarchy had insisted that the Aburi Accord, struck by the two leaders in Ghana, be observed to the letter, there would not have been the bloodshed that eventually occurred.
Britain was stung by allegations of vicarious complicity in the multiple deaths. It became clear that it either did not seek an armistice between the warring countries or it failed in its peremptory bid to reconcile them. Dr Akanu Ibiam, former governor of the Eastern Region, disclaimed the Knight of British Empire (KBF) bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth in protest of the UK’s biased involvement in the war. To further show his protest, Ibiam reportedly renounced his English name, Francis. So many other people protested the British complicity in the deaths of the people who later became re-assimilated into Nigeria.
What in Harold Wilson and David Hunt’s actions showed that they did not mirror the mind of Queen Elizabeth and her desire for the deaths of a people who, a few years before then, were her subjects, under the British colonial umbrella? A people who had now taken on the new name of Biafra? If the debonair queen didn’t stop Wilson from supporting the war on Biafra, why does anybody want to spare her of history’s unkind jab for the colossal deaths during the Biafran war?
Facts of history do not see Britain and ipso facto, Queen Elizabeth, as benevolent but cruel conquistadors. Till today, Britain’s foundational roles in the socio-political woes Nigeria currently faces have not ceased from jutting out of remembrancers’ lips. The 1914 amalgamation was done by Britain for the business pleasure of the empire without any regard for the future of Nigeria. The Royal Niger Company, a mercantile company formed in 1879, was chartered by Britain in the 19th century for this purpose. It became part of the United Africa Company which was used for the purchase and formation of colonial Nigeria. Through the activities of the company, Britain fenced off Bismarck Germany from the acquisition of Nigeria and it enabled this colonial empire to establish firm control over the lower Niger.
In Kenya, Britain’s conquistador role was no less benumbing. Between 1952 – the year Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne – and 1960, a revolt of the Kikuyu tribe against British rule reigned. The war was fought over three issues – the expulsion of Kikuyu tenants from settler farms, white settlers taking over lands and Britain’s failure to ascribe political representation to Kenyans in their own land. In the uprising, 32 white settlers and about 200 British police, as well as soldiers were said to have been killed. More than 1,800 African civilians were also killed. The number of Mau Mau rebels killed was put at around 20,000. When Britain hunted and captured the leader of the uprising, Didan Kimathi on October 21, 1956, it signalled the beginning of the move to grant Kenya its independence. Kimathi was executed by hanging in the early hours of February 18, 1957, at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.
Many of the empires under British suzerainty will also remember Britain and the Queen with grim-laced hearts.
Thus, while we stricture Anya, we should not gloss over history. By our human convention and norm, Anya tripped over the borders. The convention is for us to beatify fellow residents of this human space who transit mortality for immortality and their earthly sins are forgiven them. Our laws are no less guilty as even criminals undergoing trial have their cases discontinued. But should we allow the dead to escape that easily?
Britain dealt unkindly with her empires like merchandise and forcefully and unjustly expropriated their natural endowments as mercantile do. In the process, many lives were lost and futures railroaded. While many of those Mephistophelean activities of Britain took place before Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne, as the monarch that the rest of the world has known in the last 70 years, she should be a recipient of the assets and cruelty of her recent forebears. Methinks this was what Anya tried to say but which, either due to her unbridled anger and lack of diplomatese, she failed to pad with niceties – as the world wanted. Attempts at suppressing the angst against the past, rather than placating offspring of those whose kindred blood was spilt by African rulers, in connivance with colonial authorities, have boomeranged. Treating them dismissively and dressing them in derogatory words like “dot in a circle” has led to the metastasis of the hate and curated angry characters like Anya and Nnamdi Kanu.
The culture of not speaking ill of the dead is ancient and perhaps spans the whole of humanity. Africa has carried this culture on its head, probably more pretentiously than the rest of the world. History has however not allowed us to close our eyes to the evils perpetrated around us, even by ancient African monarchies who are the precursors of the current kings. From Sunni Ali Ber, the first king of the Songhai Empire and 15th ruler of the Sunni dynasty who conducted a repressive policy against the scholars of Timbuktu; Askia the Great, emperor of the Songhai empire; Shaka the Zulu; Idris Alooma; Benhazin Bowelle of Dahomey; Menelik II; Mansa Musa of Mali and down to some of our ancient Alaafins of the old Oyo Empire, as well as their chiefs like the wicked Bashorun Gaa, Africa too does not have a sparse supply of despots. Today, we paper over these excesses in history, just as we are doing with the kings and queens of England.
The British monarchy and some monarchies in the world are realising that modernity may make it hard for them to continually assert the fiery powers of their fiefdoms as they did in times past. This, I think, is the most enduring manifestation of the monarchy superintended over by Elizabeth II. Under Elizabeth as queen, though the monarchical power is huge and awesome, it was dressed in a ceremonial robe. The political power, on the outward, was then made to look like the decider of the destinies of Britain and its erstwhile colonies. This however does not remove the fact that the monarchy was an umpire of bloodshed and tears in colonial territories some centuries ago.
The realisation of this wave shift in power was espoused by the author of the celebrated Yoruba classic, Igbi Aye Nyi – Life swivels like a wind – Chief T. A. A. Ladele. Written in 1978, Ladele, an Okeho, Oyo state-born history teacher at Durbar College, Oyo and pioneer headmaster of Baptist School, Iwere-Ile, was one of Nigeria’s early writers. In, Igbi Aye Nyi, the 1920-born writer sought to teach us all about the ephemeral worth of political power and the un-enduring texture of raw brawn. Set in a town called Otolu at the outset of colonial incursion into Nigeria, Oba Bankarere, the Otolu king, in concert with his sons, inflicted huge terror on his subjects in his excessive wielding of power. He flaunted the wealth that accrued from power and defied all known societal norms. Two of Oba Bankarere’s subjects however rose to save the sanity of the traditional institution and the lives of the people. In the end, the colonial government waded in to curtail these excesses in a manner that rubbished the king and curtailed his outlaw sons.
That culture of defending the dead, even when we know their excesses while alive, is what the rest of the world seems to be espousing with Queen Elizabeth’s transition. While I agree that wishing evil on the living as Professor Anya did was not tidy enough and sounds very inhuman, I am not against her dwelling on the perceived soft landing for the genocide that Britain, under the Queen’s watch, gave the Nigerian war. By not treading this path of beatifying the dead, in spite of themselves, Professor Anya and travellers on her kind of boat have received flaks on their persons. Some even went to the extent of deploying Anya’s sexuality to attack her and a queer character said that because she tweets positive comments on LP’s presidential candidate, she epitomizes the negative character some online rats ascribe to the candidate. Yes, Africans cannot stand same-sex relationships, but the fact of our global existence is that the biology of some people is misdirected towards such sexuality, in spite of themselves. There are so many citizens of the globe who share our admirable opposite-sex biology but whose minds are as odious and repugnant as the sewer. So why beatify the latter and incinerate the former?
To my mind, the culture of beatifying the dead with a blanket of “a life well lived” is self-serving. Most of the time, we spread this omnibus blanket as a shawl on the disreputable lives lived by the dead simply because we all dread what the world would say when we too exit the world. This was aptly explained by the late Ilorin, Kwara state Dadakwada maestro, Odolaye Aremu, who sang that no one can predict who will be free of being drenched by rain that is yet to abate. He had expressed it in his lyrics: “Ojo ti nro ti o da, Olohun lo mo iye eni ti o pa”.
The way to go is to let whoever lives their lives miserably be apportioned strictures commensurate with their measly lives and those who live life as puritans be so accorded at their departure. We have taken this apportioning of blanket beatification on the dead to such an absurd level that it encourages evil doers to bask in the warmth of their evil broths. This does not discourage the living from evil. While it is nice to beatify Queen Elizabeth as it is being done all over the world for her recorded great footprints while alive, let non-conformists like Anya freely dwell on the misgivings they have about her too. They should not be made victims of unfavourable censoring or censure.
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PDP And Allegory Of The Sick Lion, Wise Fox
Traditional Africa had anecdotes and allegories configured to explain autocracy and how autocrats always met their waterloo. One of them is the story of the lion, the king of the jungle, and the tortoise. After years of tearing its animal victims into shreds, its mane soaked in their innocent blood, the lion became too senescent to haunt for games. Stricken with old age, diverse infirmities and unable to put food on his own table, the king decided to get food by subterfuge and trickery. Always by himself and soaked in myriad thoughts and stratagems for many nights and days on what to do, one day a thought sidled into his heart. Excited at its workability, he laughed at himself in a huge roar. His strategy was this; he would pretend to be so infirm that he could not go out hunting, courting the attention of other animals.
Thus, lying prostrate in his den and feigning old age sickness, he got emissaries to broadcast the state of his infirmity round and about the forest. As the message got to them, the animals debated the prospect of visiting him after the debilitating havoc he had wrecked on their peers and forebears. The majority of opinions was, however, that being the king of the jungle and desirous that when they themselves had advanced in age, younger animals would come to pay obeisance, they should, at their convenience pay the king get-well-quick visits.
Thus, one after the other, animals of various hues paid the king a visit in his supposed infirmary. One after the other, the king made a barbecue of their fleshes. While the Yoruba version of that cautionary tale of despots’ wickedness and notice of caution in relating with them says that it was the tortoise, some other African climes say it was the Red Fox – species devoured by lions – who, himself an animal full of guiles, suddenly “borrowed himself brain,” as the Nigerian street lingo says. He then decided to satisfy the majority’s decision to pay the king obeisance and empathetically wish him a quick recovery, but at the same time, decided to be a whiff wiser. So Fox/Tortoise, sensing that though the entrance of many of the beasts into Lion’s den was all that was seen their return was scant, discovered a trick which he decided to spin. He presented himself at a respectful distance from a cave by the hill that led to the den of the King and shouted that he was around. The Lion in turn peeped out queasily and bade him come into the cave. “I am not so well,” the Lion dragged the words like an infirm, “but why do you stand without? Pray, enter within to talk with me”. “No, thank you,” the Fox/Tortoise replied, sarcasm lacing his voice. “I noticed that there are many prints of feet entering your cave, but I see no trace of any returning”.
For traditional Africa, the takeaway from that allegory is simply that, he is wise who is wary of and alerted by the misfortunes of others.
Southern Nigerian members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) most probably haven’t heard of this allegory and the note of caution that laces it. Or they think it is absolute bunkum, a cock and bull story of the Stone Age era that should not detain a modern mind. But how wrong they are! The problem is that it is the beginning of autocracy that is known, not many people live to see its twilight.
If you have been following the spat in the PDP since the conclusion of the party’s presidential primary, it is probably the irritancy of the guttural voice of Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, that you will notice. Wike has been shouting from the rooftop since the end of the primary to trumpet his grouses with the emergence of the Wazirin Adamawa, Atiku Abubakar, as the party’s presidential candidate in the 2023 election. Like a blacksmith vociferously hammering a hammer on the hot metal on a singular spot, Wike has drilled down on this allegation of injustice against the south, most times verging on boredom. Critics have accused him of selfishness, asking whether he wasn’t the same person who forced his kinsman, Uche Secondus, to scamper off the chairmanship position of the PDP. And that he superintended over the emergence of Iyorchia Ayu – a man he jolly well knew of his Siamese dalliance with Atiku – as his replacement.
I think those are genuine queries that are within the orbit of genuine criticisms. However, it behoves genuine lovers of the place of justice in society and the quest of the southern part of Nigeria not to play slavish position in the Nigerian polity to let us collectively, as the Yoruba will say, drive away the fox first and then come back to accuse the poultry farmer of carelessly placing his fowls where the Kolokolo – the Fox – would readily have the fowls for supper. The Kolokolo’s cognomen is, an animal that devours both the bone and the meat.
Where to begin to conduct the interrogation of the spat in the PDP is to look at Nigeria’s immediate history. By 1998 when General Sani Abacha suddenly died and Abdulsalami Abubakar took over the mantle of military headship of Nigeria, southern Nigeria had sufficiently, by all means conceivable, alerted the world of northern Nigeria’s unfair hegemonic leadership. This, the south said, had been in place since Lord Lugard soldered the southern and northern protectorates together in 1914. If you pore over the literature of pre-colonial Africa, you would see that Britain, egged on by its trade interests, unjustifiably brought the regions together. Alaafin Lamidi Adeyemi III – God rests his soul – once told me that his great grandfather, who reigned during this time, told the British that what they did with amalgamation was comparable to unfairly assembling lions, impala, goats, foxes and buffaloes inside the same pen.
Through the National Democratic Coalition’s (NADECO) activities and consistent blackmail of the northern military hegemons, in 1999, the south was able to get that atypical equation of two southerners being on the ballot box in the presidential election. Our fathers – Nubuisi Kanu, Bola Ige, Abraham Adesanya, Ayo Adebanjo and many others indeed — had the opportunity to write the constitutions of the PDP where they were its first tenant and the Alliance for Democracy (AD) where they eventually settled for. They had earlier fought strenuously to get the clause of rotation of power between the south and the north enshrined into the 1999 constitution as a cure for the malady of northern autocracy. Having failed to get this etched into national law, they effectively got it into the constitutions of the political parties under their watch. That is why, to date, the PDP has as its aims and objectives in article 7(g) the “promot(ion of) an egalitarian society founded on freedom, equality and justice” and in 3(c) “adhering to the policy of the rotation and zoning of the party and public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness”.
Former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, was a foundational member of the PDP and was a signatory to this constitution. Last week, the southern wing of the party, after a meeting in Port-Harcourt, announced it is pulling out of the presidential campaign team. In a bid to disclaim the move as self-serving, Abubakar issued a release hoisting himself as a firm believer in the rule of law. To my mind, there was no doubting the fact that the PDP presidential candidate was playing the ostrich, simplicita.
In a release he entitled ‘Let us join hands and move on with the task of nation building’, Abubakar said: “On the calls for the resignation or removal from office of our national chairman, however, I must reiterate what I have said severally in public and in private; the decision for Dr Iyorchia Ayu to resign from office is personal to Dr Ayu and, neither I nor anyone else can make that decision for him. As to the calls for the removal of Dr Ayu from office, however, I will state that, as a committed democrat and firm believer in the rule of law and democratic tenets, and our party being one set up, organized and regulated by law and our constitution, it is my absolute belief that everything that we do in our party must be done in accordance with, and conformity to, the law and our constitution”.
Atiku was dead wrong. First, a decision for Iyorchia Ayu to resign from the chairmanship of PDP isn’t personal to the Benue-born ex-senate president. The decision has, as its foundation, a moral imperative. It should have been driven by a moral consideration, rather than the meanness of a vulture. Moreover, the PDP as an institution is implicated in that selfish and self-centred decision too. Indeed, it is a slap on the PDP’s constitution. Reducing the decision, which the PDP unambiguously worded in its constitution, to a personal decision, is a slap on the face of the party. It is not only simplistic, it manifests as the usual attempt by hegemons to queue behind a finger in their usual play on emotion and the gallery.
With due respect to the PDP candidate, he cannot, in flagrant disobedience to the principle of equity, fairness and justice, on one hand, stomp upon the party’s constitution by abetting non-zoning of the office of the chairman, and in another breath, hoist that same disobedience up as the reason he won’t abide by it. It reminds me of Robert Thouless’ Straight And Crooked Thinking, a timeless and classical manual on how to use clear, rational thinking and logic to win arguments, no matter how emotionally charged the topic in question may be. Thouless is also an analysis of fallacies in arguments. Atiku’s escapism, albeit in a blanket of the kind of reasoning that Thouless disdains, can be likened to a young man accused of killing his father and mother. When the accused was sentenced to death and entered his allocutus, he pleaded that the court should be merciful to him as he was an orphan!
When Wike claimed that Atiku’s arrogance adrenaline is daily pumped up because some characters in Aso Rock were supporting him, a Fulani, to take over the Nigerian presidency from his Fulani kinsman in 2023, the arrogance of power is all that you see. It is the same arrogance that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is exhibiting by impudently picking its candidate and vice from the same religion. In both instances, the consistent core of justification of the actions of their barons is that the people do not matter.
At the root of the crisis rocking the two big parties is infidelity to Nigeria’s established codes of unity and fairness. The APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket is violent opportunism which targets the famed multi-million Muslim votes of the north, in impudent disdain of the Christian community. PDP’s northern concave of a presidential ticket from the north, a party chairman from the north and other key officers of the babanriga-wearing extraction, is a subversion of its own constitution and impunity that damns the consequences of the southern rejection of marginalisation.
If Atiku Abubakar thinks less about subverting his party’s own constitution, he will subvert the will of the people he claims fires his zeal for office without batting an eyelid. This was the beginning of the Muhammadu Buhari disease that has become a pestilence in Nigeria today. If leaders fail in minuscule matters, it is an indication that faltering in major matters is fait accompli.
As I said earlier, traditional Africa’s take-away from the allegory of the Lion King and the Fox/Tortoise is that he is wise who is wary of and alerted by the misfortunes of others. If the PDP claims that its fascination with Aso Rock is to right the wrongs of the Buhari years and yet, this same political party wrongs rights of others within its own party with impunity, it should be a dis-advertisement to the electorate; a red flag, if you like. The Fox/Tortoise in that allegory was wise enough to see that the beasts who entered Lion’s den did not return alive. Southern Nigeria should deploy that same wisdom to interrogate why it is difficult for the “democrat” Atiku Abubakar to respect a common rule of equity and fairness.
I can see Ifeanyi Okowa excited that he will serve as an anchor for the south once PDP clinches power in 2023. He should spare some time to go receive tutorials from Yemi Osinbajo on how a huge pack of cards of hope can collapse in one’s very before under a principal with a shut tribal mind. Osinbajo should be one of the most frustrated human beings in Nigeria today. Okowa and all those who believe that all the injustices against the south in the PDP should be left till 2023 and be sorted out once Atiku becomes president, will have their hopes shattered once the Fulani assume power again. By then, they will realise that inside Atiku Abubakar’s vein runs that same blood of clan and tribe that made Buhari what he is.
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Worry Less About Nigeria’s Problems
By Ehi Braimah
Rotarians from around the world – including Rotary International President, Jennifer Jones, and her spouse, Nick Krayacich, a medical doctor and Rotarian – gathered in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire recently for the 4th All Africa Zone 22 Rotary Institute which held from September 5 – 10at Sofitel Hotel with the theme, “Imagining the future of Rotary in Africa.”There are over 45,000 Rotarians in Africa but the strategic goal is to grow membership to about 60,000 by 2025.
We departed Lagos with Air Cote d’Ivoire’s propeller aircraft and after about 90 minutes, we landed at Felix Houphouet-Boigny international airport in Abidjan, the country’s major urban centre and economic capital on the Atlantic coast.
Cote d’Ivoire gave us a warm welcome in the spirit of their traditional “akwaba”. What immediately strikes you at the airport is the welcoming ambience of the terminal: a clean and air-conditioned environment. The immigration personnel were polite although we struggled to communicate in French and English languages.
As we left the airport and cruised along the boulevard into the city, the green areas were unmistakable. It is evident the government is serious about “protecting the environment” which is one of the seven areas of focus in Rotary.The trees that line the roads in the city provide an enchanting picturesque view.
Electricity supply was steady and regular and at night, Abidjan glowed under bright street lights from pole to pole. Each time we were on the road, I strained my eyes searching for potholes but I did not find any. Although you will not find exotic architecture and modern buildings as we have them in most of our cities, I enjoined my stay nonetheless, and learnt a bit of the French language.
But the price of petrol is high, compared to what we pay in Nigeria. It is the equivalent of N735 per litre while diesel sells for N615 per litre. The exchange rate of the CFA, the local currency, is roughly CFA670 to one US Dollar, which is not too different from our exchange rate back home. It is safe to say the CFA and Naira are on equal standing.
With a population of about 27 million, Cote d’Ivoire has an average annual GDP growth rate of 6% and depends heavily on the agricultural sector for most of its revenue. The West African country ranks among the world’s largest producers and exporters of coffee, cocoa beans and palm oil. From my experience, the people take life easy; they are not in a hurry to accomplish any task.
On our return journey, we also flew Air Cote d’Ivoire; this time, in a Boeing aircraft, that arrived Lagos late into the night. There were other flights by the national carrier departing Abidjan for other destinations including Abuja. By the way, the capital of Cote d’Ivoire is Yamoussoukro, 216 kilometres away from Abidjan.
Since the days of the defunct Nigeria Airways which boasted of an amazing fleet that enjoyed global acclaim, we have been struggling to get another national carrier up into the skies. It is only Air Peace that comes close as a substitute.
Even when British billionaire, Sir Richard Branson, floated Virgin Nigeria in 2004 as a joint venture between Nigerian investors and the Virgin Group, the idea was frustrated by undue interferences by politicians and government officials. He felt we are very unserious people and wrote about his experience in one of his books.
But before I’m accused of de-marketing Nigeria, just pause and think of where Virgin Nigeria would have been by now as our national carrier. When we cut our nose to spite our face, that’s what we get: no result or poor outcomes.
Will Nigeria Air, the proposed national carrier which has gulped billions of Naira, be able to take off and restore our national pride?Last year, there were discussions that potential technical partners for Nigeria Air included Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines. So what has happened to the project?
This is just one example of the monumental failures we have recorded over the years with different administrations in different sectors. Because the problems are many, we must learn to worry less to avoid depression and hospitalisation. What we must do is to eat the rice and ignore the stones as a deliberate strategy to survive the difficult times and stay alive.
Everywhere we turn to, the story is the same: “life is tough” has become a constant refrain. From the scarce foreign exchange to the egregious theft of crude oil in broad day light and the security challenges on a scale beyond belief, these issues explain why some of our best and brightest brains are leaving Nigeria in search of greener pastures – a phenomenon now popularly known as “Japa”.
To be clear, I’m not against those who are emigrating if they can afford it. After all, diaspora remittances average about $22 billion annually.
In spite of these problems, Nigeria remains the giant of Africa. I agree that there has been a comprehensive failure of leadership at all levels for as long as we can remember but we should console ourselves, even if we have to pretend that things are alright. Take interest in the numerous video skits in the social media and have some fun – on empty stomachs. It isn’t funny. Yes, I know but what should we do? Get cracked up with hilarious jokes!
“Tough times,” according to Robert Schuller (1926 – 2015), an American Christian televangelist, motivational speaker and author, “never last but tough people do!” But in resolving the conundrum and pointing a way forward out of the gloom surrounding us, every Nigerian has a role to play. One way of doing this is through citizen engagement and advocacy.
Be a volunteer and do something. Learn to do the right things always and it starts with basic things like obeying traffic lights or switching off your mobile phone in the aircraft when you are asked to do so before take-off.We must learn to take responsibility for our actions and accept the consequences that come with those actions.
Building the “right values’ is critical for national development; this is a responsibility for everyone, especially parents, religious leaders and teachers.
For those who think Nigeria will be overwhelmed by these challenges, it is not going to happen.
There is no country in the world without its own challenges but when we wrap our heads around religion, region and tribe, we cannot think straight although we pretend all is well. It is difficult to make any meaningful progress when we play the ethnic card in national politics, but the good news is that Nigeria will rise again.
I’m confident because Nigerians are doing great things around the world. With Nigerians such as Prof Akinwunmi Adesina who is the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB); Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Director Generalof the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Amina Jane Mohammed as Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations since 2017, there’s hope for Nigeria and I’m proud to be a Nigerian.
We cannot give up on Nigeria; it is the only country we have. You would have noticed that power supply has improved in most parts of Nigeria. That is a sign of good things to come; we must change the way we think and behave for Nigeria to work for us.
There is a new awareness for social services to improve generally. Isn’t that a good feeling? How on earth do we think Nigeria will go down and under? I repeat: it is not going to happen. More and more Nigerians from all walks of life are speaking up for a better Nigeria and I’m happy about it.
Each time I tell my children that there was a time the Naira was stronger than the US Dollar, they don’t believe me but it is true.With 80 kobo, you could buy one US Dollar when Nigeria was swimming in petro-dollars. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) once borrowed money from Nigeria and I’m not making up this story.
So, what happened to us? Our sad story is a classic case of mismanagement of our resources. For example, Nigeria could have achieved in 15 years what Dubai achieved in 30 years in terms of infrastructural development and destination marketing. Dubai is a city that grew out of a desert under our watchful eyes. The irony is that Nigeriansspend our scarce foreign exchange in Dubai at the drop of a hat.
It is not too late to reset our development agenda that will create wealth and prosperity for the greatest black nation in the world. This should be the number one priority of the next administration because Nigeria can make huge successes in exporting global food brands in addition to revenue from tourism.
Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng)
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2023: Roman Malady And Nigeria’s Romance With Madness
By Wole Olujobi
Professor Adebayo Williams will never cease to inspire me. The urbane grandmaster of elegant prose was a literature mogul and polished “curator” at Ife comparative literary arts gallery who once in our Literature class while dissecting Chinua Achebe’s Okonkwo in “Things Fall Apart” drew our attention to the truism that every Rome has its own moment of madness as a compulsory side-effect of its moments of sanity, surmising that in every society’s psychology of madness, there is always a method to the malady and a logic to that insanity.
In history, Roman Empire was an all-powerful fiefdom that drew the awe and respect of the world. Abroad, her citizens called the shots in the powerhouse of decision-making in world’s affairs. That period was the most glorious moment in Roman history with its military and economic might, as her citizens revelled and regaled in the imperial essence of the unipolar governance process that the entire world accepted as a fate and without challenge until the moment of malady crept in when some Roman potentates imported a method of tyranny to ruffle the masses that were the powerhouse of the Roman authority.
William Shakespeare, an English writer, poet and playwright in his epic play, ‘Julius Caesar’, drew our attention to the blossoming Roman history and how human foibles overwhelmed the ruling elite who turned their cudgels on the masses through whom they drew authority, prompting rank rebellions that ranckled the once robust amity that hitherto defined the cause and course of the successes of Roman Empire.
In that dramatic masterpiece, Shakespeare paints an animating simulation of struggle for power and its monopoly in the characterisation of the Roman Army General, Julius Caesar, who, according to history, declared himself dictator for life in 44 B.C, which didn’t go well with many top Roman politicians, including Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) and wealthy Marcus Crassus. It was that struggle for power that claimed Pompey’s life in Caesar-contrived exile in Egypt.
Fearing that Caesar would become king and a tyrant to boot, a group of senators conspired to end his life. And so on the Ides of March (March 15, 44 B.C.), the senators and Pompey’s disciples, led by Gaius Cassius Longinus, Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus and Marcus Junius Brutus and all other remnants of vital elements in Pompey’s garrison command with revenge of Pompey’s death burning in their heads, drew their daggers and stabbed Caesar 23 times at the Capitol, ending both his reign and life as he fell bleeding onto the Senate floor at the feet of the statue of Pompey.
Caesar had earlier pursued Pompey to Egypt for the latter to meet a disgraceful death by beheading in the hands of Egyptian Prince Ptolemy after earlier severing relationship with Crassus, the Rome’s richest man and one of the tripod in Rome’s first Triumvirate of Caesar, Crassus and Pompey.
In that true life story, Caesar had appropriated the hangover from the hostilities between him and his competitors (Pompey and Crassus) for power over whom he triumphed.
Of course Caesar had his own hubris known to himself. He traced his bloodline to the origins of Rome and claimed to be a descendant of the goddess Venus through the Trojan prince Aeneas. That arrogance and excessive pride turned him to a hell kite, plotting to liquidate whoever stood on his path to greatness. Caesar himself had once admitted: “If I fail, it is only because I have too much pride and ambition.”
In that play also, Caesar shows his pride and contempt for human dignity when he refuses the petition to pardon Publius Cimber who is spending time in a forced exile orchestrated by Caesar. Turning down contemptuously the entreaties by fellow Roman noblemen pleading clemence for Cimber, Caesar says: “I spurn thee like a cur (dog) out of my way.” That was part of his undoing.
And in pursuit of absolutist agenda, Caesar and his armies pursued Pompey to Spain, Greece and, finally, Egypt where Caesar received Pompey’s severed head after he was killed by Egypt’s Ptolemy in fear of Caesar’s invasion of Egypt in pursuit of Pompey under Egypt’s protection. Ptolemy had reasoned that harbouring Pompey being pursued by Caesar to Egypt might create hostility between Rome and Egypt. Pompey was therefore killed by Ptolemy to please the invading Caesar’s army and his body was taken back to Rome and buried at the foot of the Capitol.
Caesar later led his army back to cross the Rubicon River into Italy, triggering a chain of civil wars between his supporters and those whose blood of Pompey lived in them back in Rome.
In the chain of coups and counter-coups led by factional groups aftermath of the excesses of Caesar, Roman Empire, owing to the excesses of her noblemen, collapsed progressively until other power blocs emerged to whittle down the Roman authority and influence on the entire world, and thus emerged the fall of the Roman Empire.
The collapse of the Roman Empire is a living testimony to the tragedy of human history as the falcons could no longer hear the falconers in the theatre of wars fuelled by enlightened self-interest and unbridled ambition to enjoy monopoly on the levers of power.
Back home here in Nigeria, the spirit that drove Roman malady has since seized the nation’s political soul, which has now become the sauce of Nigeria’s madness. In a country that stands on a shaky foundation as a nation and is always constantly setting up traps of disunity by her leaders over scramble for power, a stage is being set for a cameo that can make or mar what remains of a fragile federating configuration that harbours untrusting and distrusting confederates. And the method to that malady is through political terrorism fuelled by ambition’s unbridled ladder to lord it over the rest of the equally ambitious sections of the country.
In retrospect, Nigeria’s moment of sanity was the euphoria that greeted the nation’s independence in 1960. Shortly afterwards, the Julius Caesars of Nigerian politics emerged in rebellious competition and accoutrements as a method to mark the beginning of malady that would rankle the essence of the liberty. June 12 brouhaha marked the climax of the Nigerian elite’s struggle for power as the nation boiled over MKO Abiola’s death in controversial circumstances before General Olusegun Obasanjo from the South was manicured to give Nigeria a semblance of confederation between 1999 and 2003, after which a power sharing time-table schemes were fashioned out for peace to reign among the power elite.
But a few years down the line, the power merchants have started rolling the clock back, devising a monopolistic scheme that will throw up Caesar, Crassus and Pompey in a war of attrition that will topple the very foundation of the nation’s unity, all arising from the same existential hubris that places the importance of one man or region above the others.
The hubris is already drawing the riveting cholers of Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike and fellow governors down South, who are now fuming, alleging conspiracy and contempt for the South by PDP’s northern power elite led by Atiku Abubakar.
Already rallying support for Wike are Southern power elite while Northern leaders, who hold all the strategic positions in PDP, bear the flags in their column of solidarity in aid of their brother Atiku, the trend that is fast threatening the fragile unity of the country, so much so that today, there are Southern People’s Democratic Party and Northern People’s Democratic Party (apologies to Chief Bode George), all arising from the combustion over which section of the country should produce the President, which the power rotation scheme by both APC and PDP had sought to address at conception.
Possibly having the premonitions of the present harakiri, and to address the national distrust for enhanced amity, the two main political parties, APC and PDP, had devised stabilising means to maintain sanity in power sharing scheme by adopting power rotation and “allocation” between the North and South. By that arrangement, both parties will produce their presidential candidates from the same region during an election year, and wherever the victory goes between the parties, one region is pacified until power rotates to another region in the subsequent election.
But by a stroke of self-interest fuelled by crass rebellion against the spirit of nationhood in breach of a cardinal principle of political stability in the polity, that arrangement came under threat when one of the political parties (PDP) went against its own rule of power rotation scheme between the North and South in picking its presidential candidate.
What is more, in the party’s primary election to select its presidential candidate, an aspirant from northern part of the country, Aminu Tambuwal, in contrived capitulation, stepped down for his tribesman Atiku to brighten victory chances for his kinsman when it appeared that the opponent from the Southern region (Wike) was on the verge of picking the ticket, according to the party’s constitution on power rotation.
That singular act of treating a Southerner (Wike) like a cur marked the method to the disunity malady that has plagued the nation over the years. Everyday, the fire rages, and the nation seems set for the tenterhooks. Here is the real fear and conundrum of crossing the Nigerian Rubicon with the prospect of stoking the cauldron of war.
Conversely, APC, led by all its Northern governors, opted to remain the conscience of the nation in the dialectics of history of power rotation by picking its presidential candidate from the South to maintain stability and cohesion in driving its development agenda. Ever since, APC’s candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, leading top APC politicians across the nation, has spent more time meeting top national leaders across board and religious groups to forge amity and tolerance in the run up to the February 25, 2023 presidential polls while PDP leaders are throwing darts at one another, belching fire and brimstone and stoking the fire of disunity to set the nation on the path of collapse.
Now that the PDP’s leadership conspiracy in one moment of losing common sense threatens to blight the peace and unity of the nation, it will only take sheer grit and common sense among common, innocent Nigerians to rebuke the elite’s conspiracy and rebellion by reversing the malady to prop the nation’s sanity for growth and development.
The peace wand to that chaos and the alchemic assay to tame that malady is the 2023 presidential poll, to move power down South to wake a consciousness already established by the likes of the visionary Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for a pan-Nigerian spirit that holds promise for peaceful cohabitation, to take Nigeria to the Promised Land. This Rome metaphor must be tamed to ensure that Nigeria does not collapse.
* Olujobi writes from Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State
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