Last week, the movement for the restructuring of Nigeria got more converts from an unlikely quarter. Some 16 youth groups in the North rose from a meeting late on Tuesday to declare the unwillingness of the North to continue in a Federation that has the Igbo Biafra as part.
The groups, which met in Arewa House, somehow the symbolic throne of the Northern establishment and which gave the meeting added significance, were actually more far-reaching.
As if they were the appointed deciders of the fate of Nigeria, which has been hanging precariously on a balance for more than a century, they gave till October 1 for every Igbo Biafra man, woman and child in Northern Nigeria to leave for the ‘Republic of Biafra’.
Next day, some Northern elders including Governor el-Rufai of Kaduna who said they were taken aback by the action of the youths dissociated themselves from the quit notice and even called for the arrest and prosecution of members of the groups.
Nothing happened. Instead, the youths returned a day after to reinforce their declaration. For opposing the declaration, Nasir el-Rufai and Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State were isolated for some tongue lashing. A statement signed by spokesman of the Northern youth coalition, Mallam Abdulazeez Suleiman said: “we are particularly disappointed by the treacherous positions assumed by Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai and Kashim Shettima who in pursuit of their blind ambition for the vice presidency chose to side with secessionist Igbo against the interest of peace-loving Nigerians.”
The statement said there was nothing altruistic about the position of el-Ruffai and Shettima on the quit notice because both governors “are openly known to be waiting in the wings for President Muhammadu Buhari to die so they can further their plot to seek the presidency.” Specifically on Shettima who spoke on beh: “Shettima has disconnected from reality as he gets intoxicated by immoral wealth and property acquisition at the expense of people of the state suffering the devastation of Boko Haram.”
This was what Robert Louis Stevenson described in Treasure Island as ‘quarrel among the pirates.’
Somewhere in-between, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris entered and ranted angrily. He made it look as if hell was about to break loose on those boys.
He ordered the commissioner of police in Kaduna State to investigate and arrest leaders of the Northern youth groups.
He said: “As commissioners of police and assistant inspectors-general, we have the responsibility to stop this group of persons from carrying out their threats.”
Again, nothing happened! Instead, another Northern elder, apparently of a different hue and shade, came with a position to underscore the suspicion that the youths did not act alone.
The name of the elder is Prof. Ango Abdulahi, who is also spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum.
Overall, he revealed a disturbing overlap in the thinking of the Northern youths and Northern elders.
He said: “The northern youths are voicing their anger and frustration over the irresponsible behavior of Igbo youths and elders.
The Igbo elders cannot pretend or say that they do not know the history of this country. We all know how the first coup was hatched against the north. We know who masterminded that political coup and the aftermath. But we the northerners endured it and carried on as if nothing happened in the spirit of brotherhood.
That was why in the Second Republic, an Igbo man, Chief Alex Ekwueme, became a deputy to President Shehu Shagari. I have never seen a country where there was a civil war and somebody from the
part of the country that waged the war against the nation became a leader in the country so quickly.”
As if in a lecture theatre back in his days at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria and the entire Igbo Biafra race sat in front of him as his students, the agric scientist ruled: “The Igbo Biafra should remember that politics of democracy is politics of election, not agitation.”
By the way, Prof Ango Abdullahi was the vice chancellor of ABU between 1979 and 1986. For more information about him, read the history of ABU between 1979 and 1986. Meanwhile as undergraduates in the 80s, we used to sing one song and it went thus: When I remember ABU, water run away my eyes O, ayeee, ayeee, water run away my eyes O.
The song was a dirge created by us at the University of Calabar to commemorate the killing of innocent students by police in ABU in 1986 under Prof Ango Abdullahi as VC. I wouldn’t know if Unical students still sing the dirge in memory of the slain students of ABU.
Back to the Igbo Biafra quit notice. It is beginning to look like the bombardment of uranium or hydrogen atoms. You can only determine the beginning, the end is eternally unpredictable. More youth groups from different geo-political and ethnic belts have issued statements on the same subject matter of residency in Nigeria or Biafra. In fact, for clarification, it has just been said that the North does not include the region of Nigeria comprising Benue, Plateau, Kwara, Nassarawa and Niger States otherwise known as Middle Belt.
Youths from this belt have issued their own statement saying, “if Arewa youths are sending away Igbo Biafra from their states, we in the Middle Belt are ready to offer them accommodation in our land, which is an inheritance from God and nobody will take it away from us, for them to continue with their life and business.”
They tried to push home the point that the MASSOB/IPOB agitatiom is only a metaphor of the injustice in the Nigerian arrangement. Hear them: “Middle Belt has been at the receiving end of this inequitable arrangement in which our people in Southern Kaduna, Southern Bauchi, Southern Borno, Southern Kebbi, Adamawa are under constant alienation and annihilation.
Therefore Middle Belt strongly stands for the reconstruction of Nigeria, not only restructuring. We’ll join hands with Southern Nigeria to actualize it.” Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) spoke in a similar tone.
“The Arewa Youths that spoke lack the mandate to speak for all the people of the north, and, certainly not for Southern Kaduna people. We insist that all Nigerians have the right to live and carry out legitimate affairs in all parts of the country” SOKAPU said.
It seems therefore that youths and elders in the north exist in ideological cells and even in matters that are seemingly exclusively north, achieving a workable consensus could be difficult. Enough to say more people than just members of MASSOB and IPOB are angrymwith the state of things in Nigeria.
The question to ask therefore is, where on planet earth, did the Arewa youths get the inspiration to ostracize only the Igbo Biafra from the union and then hope to build a better Nigeria with other stakeholders? As of today, Nigeria has no stakeholders because nothing is at stake for anybody.
For instance, Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), which can also be called the Southwest, is also not a willing stakeholder in the Arewa project. Gani Adams said so.
The South-south geo-political zone, which seems to always have good reasons to agitate, is improving along that trajectory. Now there is a strong mention of the Republic of Rondel (Region of the Niger Delta) in the latest wave of agitation, which started after the Kaduna Declaration by the Arewa youth groups.
In a nutshell, there is big confusion in the land.
The North cannot even hear itself not to talk of hearing the South. The South cannot hear the North either. And here finally is the Nigerian Tower of Babel. The only discernable voice in the deafening staccato is the 2014 Confab report which President Buhari has said he will not touch even with a long pole. He must change his mind and not only touch but open and work with the report.”
The North cannot hear itself not to talk of hearing the South. Anarchy is loosed in Nigeria, the brain child of Britain.
A system where chaos and confusion reign!
Nothing could have prepared the Rivers State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and, indeed, the entirety of the National body of the APC for the shocker they received on the occasion of Mr. President’s visit to the Niger Delta for the much anticipated flag off of the clean-up of Ogoni land and other impacted communities in the Niger Delta.
Whilst one can agree that the event, which had Vice President Yemi Osinbajo representing Mr. President, was no less a success with the representation, it obviously did not have the intended political effect it was anticipated to have, had Mr. President been physically present.
The reasoned absence of Mr. President for undisclosed cause although a big blow to the APC, necessitated the public appreciation of the event as a serious governmental intervention rather than a partisan and political occasion as it was made to look by the Party.
It had been said in closed quarters, and was also a reasonably well known fact, that the APC in Rivers State was poised to use the momentum generated by the symbolic flag off of the clean-up of Ogoni by the physical presence of the President for political gains, especially as regards the inconclusive and pending Senatorial election in Ogoni.
But Mr. President’s presence by proper representation did not gain the desired traction and could not, in the Party’s plot, translate to political mileage. The incident was an unforseen or, perhaps, unintended accident as the visit did not resonate with the locals in the way the Party would have wished.
In the real sense, however, one would say the APC asked for too much when it desired to make ‘njakiri’ and political mischief from a well thought out intervention by the Federal Government. Perhaps, Mr. President saw through the plot and decided to stave off political heat that could have been re-ignited by such a plot or that the elements that had always favoured well-meaning sons and daughters of Rivers people, was again on their side. No matter what, however, the APC suffered a big blow.
Funny enough, regardless of how the APC plays down the debilitating effect of Mr. President’s represented presence at the flag off ceremony, their silence since the event, and for good reason, would continue to speak volumes in utter disappointment and regret. But had stalwarts of the Party, some of whom are officers of the Federal Government and some of whom, quite queerly, have senatorial portfolios without being elected, worked in concert with the State Government that had partnered the Federal Government to ensure a thorough clean up of impacted communities and played down on partisan politics, perhaps there would have been mutual benefits this morning. Unfortunately that doesn’t appear to be the case with the crestfallen mien of APC partisans.
Today’s headlines and for the annals of history is that at a time of great political strife, there was such a man as Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, who put aside divisive considerations to support the clean-up of Ogoni and the comprehensive development of Rivers State. This is the story that history books will tell. At that time, little or nothing will be known of APC partisans. Governor Wike stood for Ogonis as he would stand for other people of Rivers State, in spite of concerted attempts to deny him the role, and that, friends, is the mark of statesmanship beyond politics or partisanship.
The very last of the cards, the most important card, has been played by the APC and the plot was neither regained nor sustained. It’s game over.
Rivers State finally moves beyond politics to be positively impacted by governance. The lesson for all is that Mr. President would rather address issues of governance or nothing at all than condescend to parochialism and vain politics. I believe, the point is made and well taken.
Let’s make progress
Prof Itse Sagay, one of the most opportunistic enablers of the corrupt regime of Mr. Rotimi Amaechi in Rivers State, seems to have finally found the courage to step out of his closet. In a widely reported statement yesterday, Sagay launched a bitter and completely unwarranted attack on the justices of the Supreme Court judgment for affirming Barrister Nyesom Wike as the duly elected Governor of Rivers Statement.
Prof. Sagay alleged, without any shred of proof, that “Everybody knows that people like Wike climbed into the governorship seat over dead bodies and over blood of human beings. There were no elections, they wrote the results; the evidence is there’’.
For a trained lawyer, Prof Sagay has obviously lost his sense of irony. He criticizes the legally sound and unanimous judgment of the Supreme Court, by resorting to the silly and unsubstantiated hearsay mindlessly peddled by the APC. In the twilight of an unremarkable career, is Prof Sagay seeking to be the dubious originator of the sick jurisprudence of “Everybody Knows”, even without evidence?
Is the Supreme Court no longer supreme in its judgments? Why is Sagay re-litigating a settled matter in the streets in such a disgraceful manner? Prof Itse Sagay may wish to re-read the history of the people of Rivers State. We never give up our sovereignty.
We condemn this carefully orchestrated campaign of calumny launched by the APC and its cowardly surrogates against Nigeria’s justice system, which is the bedrock of our evolving constitutional democracy.
Working with other Nigerians and our sister states in the Niger Delta region, the government and people of Rivers State will continue to defeat the dark political fundamentalism of the APC.
We call on the international community to restrain the All Progressives Congress from its desperate attempts to politically dominate our people and plunder the resources of our land.
That it is an open FACT that a medical doctor and a traditional ruler were kidnapped in the face of renewed violence in the state. Gov. Okowa has shown enough inability to provide adequate security for Deltans which is why trigger happy agitators in Effurun and other parts of the state are wrecking havoc on innocent citizens with little or no solution by Okowa as Chief Security Officer.
It has become obvious that Chief Sunny Onuesoke, the self acclaimed Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, is worried about the dwindling popularity of his principal in recent times.
In his latest onslaught on the convener and Director of Strategic Political Communication of Rescue Delta Media Group of Delta State All Progressives Congress, Dr. Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe, Onuesoke accused him and the APC of consistent attempt to ridicule the efforts of government and the governor in the management of state affairs and financial resources.
In response to Onuesoke’s wailing and unfair criticism of Delta APC, the RDMG wishes to state as follows:
1. That it is not possible for the APC and her media team to praise or commend Governor Okowa and his administration when it is glaring and obvious that poverty and criminality have escalated since May 29, 2015 till date.
2. That it is an open FACT that a medical doctor and a traditional ruler were kidnapped in the face of renewed violence in the state. Gov. Okowa has shown enough inability to provide adequate security for Deltans which is why trigger happy agitators in Effurun and other parts of the state are wrecking havoc on innocent citizens with little or no solution by Okowa as Chief Security Officer.
3. That Delta State at the moment is owing a whopping N1.5 trillion and the governor failed to clearly articulate how these debts will be paid so as to guarantee prosperity and development in the three senatorial districts. Over N5 billion is devoted to service debts monthly in Delta State. What a pity!
4. That Okowa and his kitchen cabinet refused; for reasons best known to them, to probe the Delta power IPP project which sunk over N80 billion of state government financial resources.
The company, DavNotch Nigeria Ltd, and former Speaker Victor Ochei were paid N25 billion upfront towards the actualization of the power project but nothing happened on site till date. APC DELTA demanded from Okowa to probe this scam and high level corruption. Onuesoke said since Okowa did not award the power IPP contracts it will be unconstitutional for the governor to probe the looters. And yet he says Okowa is not confused!
5. That the fraud associated with Asaba International Airport construction and upgrade contracts awarded so far should undergo forensic audit so as to expose the monumental fraud therein. But alas, Mr Onuesoke preferred to attack our request by saying that APC and its media team have no right whatsoever to request for probe of over inflated contracts and looting of Delta State funds through upfront payments for contracts not executed.
7. That the sacked 3,000 young workers of the Delta State government by Gov. Okowa is in total conflict with his “PROSPERITY FOR ALL DELTANS” electioneering campaign slogan. APC Delta consistently urged Okowa to recall these frustrated and hungry workers back to work. In response, Mr Onuesoke on behalf of the state government said that our request is irresponsible and unconstitutional.
8. That we told the governor to probe DESOPADEC and Chief Williams Makinde over the alleged reckless looting and mismanagement of the commission’s funds as a result of series of protests by youths and leaders of beneficiary communities across the state. Again, Onuesoke preferred to say that our position is irresponsible and unconstitutional.
9. That we told Deltans and Okowa administration that the STEP, SMART, etc so called prosperity programmes of the state government are bedeviled with falsehood and corruption and that those undergoing the KANGAROO training are starving to death and uncared for. Again, Onuesoke carpeted the APC saying that the trainees were in paradise; only for the S.A. to Governor Okowa on Political Affairs, Kent Okiemute Kigho to rush to Songhai camps to calm the nerves and rising temper of the frustrated youths.
10. That we said the series of problems facing the Okowa administration ranging from corruption to fake empowerment training programmes without hope of adequate funding of participants to establish small scale businesses after training is a pointer to the fact that Gov Okowa lacked vision, confused and without moral integrity to govern the state.
11. That Gov. Okowa blunt refusal to probe corruption in the state agencies, commission, ministries, department and parastatals is a strong indication that the governor is not only corrupt but also lost focus and bereaved of ideas to move the state forward. This again irritated Onuosoke and called APC and Dr Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe all sorts of unprintable names.
12. That the sack of the democratically elected Chairman of Uvwie LGA, Engr. Henry Baro by the state governor in connivance with the DTHA Speaker, fractured constitutional provisions and that the panel constituted to probe the alleged financial allegations against the Uvwie Chairman ought to present its finding to resolve issues raised.
Till date and after eight months Okowa’s panel failed to submit any proof of financial fraud against Baro. The crisis is escalating and becoming a threat to public security. This also is one of the lapses in Okowa clueless leadership and tyranny in the state.
Yet, Onuesoke says Okowa actions and tyrannical government cannot be questioned by Deltans.
12 (b). That Law faculty of DELSU is about to collapse as NUC is set to withdraw accreditation. Okowa is doing nothing about it until the students are provoked to violence and demonstrations. Yet Onuesoke says APC and Dr Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe observations are useless and irresponsible!
12(c) That OKADA riders are in pains and agony over huge taxes and annual ticket fees (N135, 000 per annum) to operate. We decided to ask Okowa: “Where is PROSPERITY FOR DELTANS?” Again, Onuesoke countered out outburst saying that the state government must tax Okada riders to generate revenue to develop the state.
Whereas Okowa failed to probe and recover the over N80 billion SCAM in Delta Power IPP project. Poor OKADA riders are the only hope of the state government to generate revenue. What a pity!
Mr Sunny Onuesoke should be reminded that not everybody sees Okowa and PDP administration from his own perspective. What is uppermost to Deltans is job creation, deconjestion of the Labour market, infrastructural development, quality health care, free education at all levels in the state, good roads, clean environment via environmental services, economic growth and quality living standards for all and sundry.
It is not enough to steal the peoples’ mandate, it is very important that resources of the state are properly managed to impact on the living standard of Deltans. Deltans are wondering why Okowa is deaf and dumb to calls for transparent leadership.
The acute corruption and looting of the state resources must stop and a probe panel inaugurated to investigate alleged financial frauds in DESOPADEC, Asaba International Airport construction and upgrade, the State Revenue Board, Delta State power IPP project and other cases of alleged misappropriation of funds.
Until Gov Okowa take decisive and proactive steps to expose corrupt public officers in various department and agencies, the credibility of his administration will remain questionable.
Mr Onuesoke wailing and firebrand press statements and releases; attacking APC and Dr Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe will continue to be exercise in futility.
Gov Okowa is confused, frustrated and lacks moral integrity to provide good governance in Delta State.
Deltans will have to wait a little more for APC to lay a solid foundation for development and socioeconomic remodeling of the State.
* Onokuta is the Deputy Media Director of Rescue Delta Media Group. He writes from Asaba, Delta State and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the last three years, Chief Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd.), has been on a collision course with incumbent President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR. Never in the history of our country have we had a protégé so vilified by his benefactor. I have penned five pieces on the Obasanjo/Goodluck tussle including: Obasanjo & Tambuwal Salvo; Obasanjo and his Book; Obasanjo vs. Jonathan; Obasanjo vs. Rogues & Armed Robbers.
Obasanjo at 77 yrs. Old (supposedly officially born on 5 March 1938), seems unable to control his tongue (See James 1:26 & James 3:5-6) and his penchant for attacking our current President. It is also clear that he has no respect for the office of the Presidency. When he recently tore his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) membership card, he was just concluding his journey of exit that started with his resignation from the position of Chairman of the Board of Trustees of PDP.
What we will address here is his statement that “I don’t want to be politician anymore, but rather a Statesman, within and outside Nigeria.” Obasanjo has ascribed to himself the title if a Statesman. So, it is important that we decipher what a true statesman is and whether the agbada of Statesman can fit him or if he should just be content with his traditional Yoruba agbada.
As I stated in a previous piece, “The jury is still out as to whether or not he should be considered a statesman. This may be because of his penchant for making statements when a true statesman may have chosen to remain silent or restricted his statement to a closed-door meeting.”
He had previously stated that he was staying away from politics. Who or what exactly is a Statesman because Nigeria desperately needs true statesmen especially now. How do you define or know a real statesman? It is not a badge or something written on foreheads. It definitely cannot be a title you ascribe to yourself.
The dictionary defines a statesman as a “a person who is experienced in the art of government or versed in the administration of government affairs” or “a person who exhibits great wisdom and ability in directing the affairs of a government or in dealing with important public issues.”
While sometimes the word politician can be used synonymously with statesman, the clear dictionary distinction will be that, generally a politician “is a seeker or holder of public office, who is more concerned about winning favor or retaining power than about maintaining principles.”
Also, the free dictionary states that someone who acts in a statesmanlike manner is someone who is “a disinterested promoter of the public good.”
American Congressman Forbes posted on Christian Coalition website on October 13, 2014 that “True statesmanship depends on a commitment to lead by principles and values. Perhaps more than that, it depends on the ability to come together to build consensus, not a patchwork of compromises. True statesmanship births a desire for common ground. If we posture ourselves as statesmen, we come to the table with respect for each other, an open mind to ideas, and an understanding of each other’s unwavering principles. Statesmanship requires hard work and respect. It is not the easy way out. But it’s necessary if we want a healthy, thriving, functioning government.”
Six is the biblical number of man as he was created on the sixth day by Almighty God. Also, at least six qualities and attributes of a statesman can be extrapolated from Congressman’s Forbes statement and the dictionary definition. A statesman must: (1) have commitment to lead by principles and values; (2) able (ability) to build consensus; (3) desire for the common good; (4) respect for others; (5) open minded to ideas; and (6) understanding (wisdom) of other people’s views.
Can we say Obasanjo has respect for others and can or did he lead by principles and values. If so, what were his values? Obasanjo was fond of mocking his estranged former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and making other “I dey laugh” statements. Can he build consensus. His romance with the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and constant criticism of President Jonathan, did not build consensus, but may have rather stoked the flame of conflict and disrespect for the president. We are also aware that Obasanjo essentially endorsed the Presidential candidate of APC when he spoke to The financial Times, although he tried unsuccessfully to deny it in a subsequent interview with another media house. So, he still remains a politician.
A recurring decimal in our Nigerian politics is the issue of corruption. There are several insinuations that Obasanjo regime was very corrupt, continuing the military style looting of our national coffers. Other yet to be substantiated allegations includes his disappointment that he is not being allowed to hold sway in the Jonathan administration. Nonetheless, Obasanjo can at least be credited with establishing the Independent Corrupt Practices & other related Offense Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). On the other hand, the Jonathan administration has reduced corruption significantly by plugging administrative holes in the system that allowed for fraud in the civil service, pension benefits management and fertilizer distribution. This includes the recent elimination of over 62,893 ghost workers that has saved Nigerians 208.7 billion Naira and still on-going. Shouldn’t a Statesman point out these positive factors in the current administration? We know an opposition politician will not acknowledge this or any other giant strides of the President.
From the foregoing, it is clear that Obasanjo cannot wear the agbada or shokoto of a Statesman. He should continue to wear the traditional Yoruba agbada that befits a specious politician.
*Rev. Atawa, a public affairs analyst and media consultant writes from Asaba.
I was driving in my private car along Nnebisi Road, Asaba and got to the Federal Medical Centre Roundabout where there was the ubiquitous police checkpoint in those dark old days.
It seems now like such a long time ago. The gun-toting policeman stood at the centre of the road and ordered me out of my car. “Your particulars!” he barked at me.
I calmly presented him my vehicle license and insurance certificate. “Wetin dey your booth?” he thundered again, in what was probably his most intimidating voice. “Nothing,” I replied, meaning that I had nothing in the booth that could be of any interest to him even though I had no idea what, precisely, he was looking for. Anyway, he ordered me to open the booth of my car which I did and he took interest in the only package inside.
It was actually the old car battery which I had changed and had forgotten to drop at home. It was left in the carton with which the new battery was packaged. I explained this to him.
He then asked me for the purchase receipt and I was really getting exasperated but I managed to remain calm. Another car pulled by and the driver came out and rushed to me. “Honourable, what is the matter?” He asked, and before I could respond, another car had pulled by again to ask the same question.
Sensing that he might have picked on the ‘wrong’ person, the policeman asked me to go. As I drove off, I mused that this is what ordinary citizens go through on a daily basis. At that time, I was a serving Commissioner in the State and had chosen deliberately to run an errand in my private car rather than use my official car with the green license plate that would have provided me express passage through all police checkpoints.
For me, it was a way of reminding myself that one day, I would no longer be a commissioner or public officer for that matter and would have to deal with this situation. It was some kind of psychological therapy against being carried away by the privileges of high office.
Beyond this my personal odyssey, I was also concerned about why things had to be that way. I discussed this with several friends in government and realised that I was not alone in my fears. Indeed, several of them would not venture out of town without a car that carried green number plates for fear of police harassment. It also accounted for the apparent desperation to remain in public office at any cost.
Many of my friends would not mind any particular public office as long as it came with a green vehicle license plate. That was how much the police harassment was dreaded.
Over time, I also came to realise that my public office carried some other enormous privileges that would seem incomprehensible to people in better organised societies. I recall, one particular occasion, as I was sitting in my office in Abuja, my phone rang and it was an old university classmate.
He had just been held at a notorious police checkpoint near Warri over some inane vehicle particulars different from the usual vehicle license and motor insurance which they called ECMR. Apparently completely flustered as he had an appointment to keep in Port Harcourt, he remembered that he had a friend in Delta State Government and placed the call to me.
Unknown to him, I was no longer in the Delta State Government but at the Presidency which appeared even better. After explaining his situation, I asked him to pass the phone to the police officer who was gracious enough to agree to speak to me. I introduced myself as the Senior Special Assistant to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and asked what the problem was.
Suffice it to say that my classmate was promptly let off without further ado and he called back to express his gratitude.
When I reflect back on this episode and similar such episodes now, I am thoroughly bemused. In the first instance, the policeman had no way of knowing who was at the other end of the line.
More importantly, what had my position in government to do with his holding my friend if it was for a genuine offence?
Yet, he responded to the apparent authority from the other end of the line and let him go. I could very well have been a confidence trickster in that particular encounter and the result would have been no different.
I know a lot of friends who had to put up all kinds of stickers on their car windscreens in order to achieve free passage through Nigerian roads. NUJ, Police, the Armed Forces, Police Community Relations Committee, PCRC, were especially popular, whether the car had anything to do with these entities or not was immaterial.
The point was that each person had to design all sorts of subterfuge to get by and they simply continued to adapt. People learnt to tell lies to stay out of police trouble even when they were ordinarily innocent.
It took an act of courage and vision of one man to bring all this to an end. The Acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed D. Abubakar, a thorough-bred police officer saw clearly the damage that the police operations at the checkpoints were doing to the fabric of our national life and morality and with a flourish brought it all to an end.
If this revolution which he has started is sustained, I daresay that many public officers would no longer desperately cling to public office for fear of losing their cherished green motor vehicle license plates.
This also buttresses the fact that one right policy at the appropriate time can have an immense transformation of how society functions. It is therefore necessary that we re-examine our existing practices, laws and systems as some of them unnecessarily criminalise us.
Indeed, it is the societal response to some of these laws and practices that manifests to a very large extent, as endemic corruption in our country today.
Clement Ofuani, wrote from Asaba, Delta State.
That was the elucidating statement of Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, in his inaugural address, titled “The New Dawn”, as the President-Elect of Nigeria on May 29, 1999 in Abuja; a statement which depicts the widespread apathy of the public towards government owing to the totalitarian gangsterish approach of the succeeding military Juntas in Nigeria, particularly the despicable Abacha Regime that inhumanly dragged the country uncontrollably towards the precipice of a total collapse of all government machinery, before the divine intervention that halted the horrifying drift.
However, 13 years into the then new-found democracy in Nigeria, Obasanjo’s espousal of the need to restore public trust and confidence in governance of the country has become even more relevant with the unfortunate recurring policy somersault of government.
But what is government? Yes, it may sound elementary to seek a definition of the ubiquitous term. However such common words as government, democracy and representation, etc have been taken for granted so much that a greater population of the public do not know the positive or negative impact of the application of the terms in the life of the people.
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of the English Language defines ‘Government’ as “a particular system or method of controlling the activities or the manner of controlling a country; the group of people who are responsible for controlling a country or state.” The foregoing definitions imply, therefore, that government is a systematic approach by the people to rule or govern themselves; a systematic methodology to adequately harness the potentials of the earth by the people for their survival.
In the Greek world, it was possible for all the citizens of Greece to gather at the market place to formulate polices and to decide on how best to execute such decisions for their betterment. However, with the growth in population, it became increasingly necessary to adopt a more practicable and efficient system of formulating such policies since it was observed that less would be accomplished with all the citizens gathered for such an assignment. Hence, a few citizens were chosen to represent the entire citizens in the process of policy formulation and implementation in the country.
That was the beginning of representative government which is basically democratic in that the representatives who could be upheld or removed must be elected on specified terms by the people to ensure the will and welfare of the people. Therefore, government in its theoretical configuration is totally under the control of the people who have and exercise the ultimate power.
But how answerable are representatives of the people to the people, particularly in modern democracy? This question has been a serious subject of political debates across the world. However, George Orwell’s satiric novel, Animal Farm, says it all: “All Animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
Once elected, measures are hurriedly put in place by the representatives to hand-twist the people. Government machinery, such as the armed forces, the police and other Para-military forces which are supposed to protect life and property of the people are turned against the people by their representatives, thereby making the people to live a life of continuous deprivation in a world of opulence and wealth of their representatives.
Politicians in some climes exhibit cult- like approach in their relationship with the people. First, the organization of political parties has resulted in the elected representatives being primarily responsive and answerable only to the parties they belong, since the parties decide through primary elections who to be elected into government, while the people merely queue up in any election to give credibility to the election of the already chosen representatives.
The case becomes even worst, talking about a ruling party which wields the power of incumbency detrimentally against all other parties, using government resources at its disposal to hoodwink the people into electing only its candidates. The anti-government activities of the Maoists in India, the Mau-Mau of East Africa and the Niger Delta militants in Nigeria, to mention but a few, are clear manifestations of the people’s frustration at the inhuman breach of the political contract between the people and their government.
Now look at appointments into government. In a bid to hush some sections of the society, questionable characters who are known to be never-do-wells in their communities are most times appointed into government to hand twist their people in the political equation of the country.
Such personalities had never been known to have contributed anything meaningful towards the development of their communities; instead, they flaunt their sudden wealth to the chagrin of their poor people. The only time such people show some remorse is when an election is approaching; that is when they throw parties, cook good food and give some ill gotten money and exotic wine to the unwary people to curry their favour in their choice of who they should vote for .
And such complimentary appointments are legion in government, resulting in bloated political work force and being a major drain in the government’s coffers. The recurrent expenditure of most modern economies far outweighs their capital expenditure owing to the inordinate quest of the ruling parties in such political climes to accommodate as many party loyalists as possible in government. Hence, the resources for the general development of the society are selfishly shared among a few, while the generality of the people are left with barely enough to manage a life of deprivation.
That explains why some governments adopt propagandist approach in their information dissemination to the public. In a bid to mis-inform the public into believing that government is responsive to the plight of the people, media practitioners are lured from the ethical foundation of the Journalism profession of adhering to the truth at all times.
The sensibility of the people are daily a-washed with phantom projects of government . While some governments strive at all costs to maintain a positive image, they never tell the public of their failure:, it is always achievements, achievements and achievements in the air!
But there is a limit to which people could be fooled. Such deceptive attitude is far becoming a theatrical demonstration of the uncanny nature of mankind to impoverish the majority by the few; the people, therefore, most times no longer believe the pronouncements of their representatives in government. This is unfortunate since some governments, with genuine intentions to improve the lot of the people, are equally not trusted by the people.
A serving civil commissioner for information in one of the states in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria once said that the best publicity of government is when the implementation of government’s policies and programmes impact positively so much on the people that they wish the government to continue to govern them; and not the other way round, when the people only hear that billions of Naira had been spent on some white elephant projects that would not better the lots of the people, or worst still, when nothing is on ground to show that government exists at all.
It is against this backdrop, therefore, that government at various levels need to as a matter of urgency, keep to its contract with the people. While the executive arm of the government should formulate and execute people-oriented policies and programmes, the legislature should perform its oversight functions by cautioning the former each time it goes beyond its bound in its political contract with the people; the judiciary should also be forthright in the interpretation of the laws of the country; it should checkmate institutional corruption , and ensure the welfare of the people through upright dispensation of Justice. Of course, the media (the Forth Estate of the Realm) should shun the crumbs from the tables of those in government and adhere strictly to the ethics of the Journalism profession by publishing and airing the truth at all times.
Let’s conclude, therefore, by accepting the incisive statement of Mr. Bourke Cockran, an Irish–American, who believes that “There is enough for all .The earth is a generous mother; she will provide in plentiful abundance for all her children if they will but cultivate her soil in justice and in peace.”
Johnson Ebigide, a Journalist, writes from Asaba, Delta State.