The Sun News » Capital Matters - Voice of The Nation Wed, 05 Aug 2015 02:17:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Emir Ado Bayero was our friend Mon, 09 Jun 2014 10:47:37 +0000 I first met the powerful and revered late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, at close quarters in April of 2010, in Bauchi ]]>

first met the powerful and revered late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, at close quarters in April of 2010, in Bauchi where I went to honour the invitation of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, to me to deliver the keynote address at the quarterly meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC).

The Sultan, as the head of the Nigerian Muslims, is also the co-chairman of NIREC with the CAN national president. That was the first day I came very close to the traditional institutions of the North, even though the subject had always been of interest to me.

In Bauchi, I found myself in the company with the most important traditional leaders, who had come to keep the Sultan company, being as he is, their leader in a double capacity – as the head of the Sokoto Caliphate as well the head of the Muslim umma in the country. Thereafter, and since these last four years, I have worked and related closely with the Northern traditional institution and largely come to understand not just their workings but also, and more importantly, their huge salutary roles and contributions, which the society can only downplay or ignore to its peril.

Within this period too, I have come to understudy and comprehend the centrality of the traditional institution to the development, security and progress of the people and have sadly come to appreciate that most of the novel problems that now bedevil the Northern societies and its people are largely attributable to the curtailment of the authorities and roles of the traditional institutions in the affairs of the people.

Because of its ability to mutate and adapt to the changing vagaries of the times, the traditional institutions in the North, especially since the birth of the Sokoto Caliphate at the turn of the 19th Century, have continued to make themselves relevant to the needs of their people. Hence, even with the onslaught and intrusion of the colonial and post-colonial powers, the Northern traditional institutions have continued to prove indispensable, to the extent that the colonial overlords saw that it would have been insane to do away with them. The attempts and the continuing efforts of the military regimes in Nigeria to abridge the authority and influence of the traditional institutions have only worked to the extent that the government, which pays the piper and, therefore, believes that it must also dictate the tunes.

Beyond that, even the most powerful state governors know that in real terms, they do not command anything near the respect and honour enjoyed by the key traditional rulers. Time and time again, that fact has been proved and reinforced by events on the ground. In 1982, the then radical governor of Kano State, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, had challenged the authority of the Emir of Kano by elevating other lesser emirates to the status of the supreme authority level of the revered Kano emir. In that process, the state went into an instant conflagration, which resulted in the loss of several lives and torching of many public structures. That was a big object lesson as to how far the government and its agents should not go in their challenge of the traditional institutions.

Whatever anybody can say against the traditional institutions, they still enjoy the more trust of the people over and above that which the citizens extend to the governments of the day. In spite of the huge efforts to keep them away from the levers of power and authority, the traditional institutions in the North have remained more focused and, therefore, better respected than the governments at different levels. Is it for nothing that even after serving as a president or governor, he still regards a traditional title or turban, as the crowning glory of his achievement?

It is leaders like Alhaji Ado Bayero, the late emir of Kano, who demised last weekend, after 51 years on the exalted throne of his fathers, that have brought such integrity, dignity and colour to the traditional stool that has made it a thing of envy and a sought-after measure of supreme achievement. It was not necessarily the length of Bayero’s reign that made his life and times very significant but rather the way he traversed the times and space in the understanding of the great responsibility, which his position carries. Even though it came at a very ripe age, his death still struck fears and brought a sense of foreboding to many because of the fear that there might be a storm after the calm.

Emir Ado Bayero was a ruler of great moderation, who understood the delicate balancing act that should be applied in the art of leading a multifarious society that is in a flux. Kano as a melting pot, which paints a true picture of a true Nigerian microcosm, can only endure and cater to all under the guardianship of a man with the wisdom, metropolitan mindset, large heart and open-minded exposure of the late emir and that was why Kano, until the very recent times, had remained a veritable bubbling home for all.

It has been said anywhere in Nigeria that Ndigbo do not feel at home in Nigeria is hardly fit for human habitation. At the news of the death of Alhaji Ado Bayero last week, many Igbo people started putting together their bags and baggage for a possible exodus homewards, being that the emir they trusted, for many solid reasons, was no more. Many were afraid that a Pharaoh that no longer knows Joseph might appear on the traditional landscape of the busy commercial city and curtail both their safety and freedom. They had reasons to suspect that one of the hottest contenders to the revered throne is a man about whom many gory tales of recent cruelties are still being told.

Many foreigners – by that, I mean the Igbo population, which forms the next largest group after the Kanawa indigenes – have largely felt at home because of the late emir, who they saw as their friend. Over 95 per cent of the Easterners today in Kano must have come thereafter Ado Bayero had been enthroned in 1963, but almost all of them have heard how the emir, within two years of his coming to the throne, had become a very close friend of the then Lt. Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who was the commander of the newly established 5th Battalion of the Nigerian Army.

This is not a place to give the details of the dynamics of that deep friendship nor on how much it contributed in saving the many Igbo lives during the national disturbances of 1966, which resulted in the loss of many Igbo and Eastern lives in the North. Suffice it, however, to say such contributions must have been weighty enough to have warranted that when the Ikemba Nnewi returned from his 13-year self-exile in Cote d’Ivoire at the collapse of Biafra in 1970, the first place he travelled outside Igboland was to Kano to visit his old friend, the emir. I might even be in a position to say how much that friendship never attenuated all through the time that I worked for the Ikemba for over two years after his return from exile, but this is not the place for that.

It was not also for nothing that Alhaji Ado Bayero was made the chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, at a time when that institution, which was the physical and intellectual furnace of Biafra and at the time the scars of the civil war were still fresh. The timing of the military authorities that appointed him must have banked on his very friendly disposition with Ndigbo as well as the deep trust, which they harbour for him would enable him to play the required role, as the best reconciliation agent between the Igbo intelligentsia and the rest of the country. He must have largely succeeded.

To great and knowledgeable people like the late Ado Bayero, symbolic gestures are very important in life and he made a very significant one a few years ago. In spite of his not very healthy disposition, the late revered emir of Kano made a supreme sacrifice by being physically present at the funeral celebration of his late friend, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, two years ago. He could have attended the funeral events at any other location, but he carefully chose to be at the Enugu event which marked the official funeral event of the Igbo people led by their Ohaneze. In other words and in the interpretation of some of us, who were members of the funeral committee, Alhaji Ado Bayero was sending a message of continued solidarity and arms of comradeship to the Igbo people. The emir was saying, in other words, that, my friendship started with Ojukwu but it is now with all of you.

The arm of friendship of the Emir of Kano was gratefully accepted and he is being mourned by all those who knew what he lived and died for, especially as there were very desperate and dangerous people who were unhappy about what he stood for – peace for all and sundry. When a daring attempt was made on his life two years ago by those who were suspected to be Boko Haram failed to claim his life, it must have been Allah’s way of showing approval for his long reign that enthroned peace and stability as well as the amity between the different peoples, to the extent that during those long years he reigned, there are people who now claim Kano as their homes – not knowing where else to claim.

Alhaji Ado Bayero, the 13th Fulani emir of Kano, was a man of peace and of knowledge. And as the holy book says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”. There is no doubt, therefore, that he rests in the bosom of his maker in heaven.

Prof Dora, the thornbird?

There is this story about the Australian thornbird, which has a very melodious song, which it renders once in its lifetime. The thornbird renders this song at the closing hours of its life.

It perches on a branch of the Australian thorn tree and starts to sing this very melodious song, which attracts the attention of other birds and other animals in the bush. So strikingly melodious is that swansong that all those that are inevitably magneted to its charm must pause and listen.

Having done with the song, the thornbird impales itself on one of the long thorns on the branch and dies.

The lesson and the moral of the life and times of the thornbird inevitably become that great things that are good enough to attract attention are achieved at the price of great sacrifice and pain.

When the death of Professor Dora Nkem Akunyili was announced last Saturday, the story of the Australian thornbird was the first thing that came to me. I immediately recalled how she had performed her last public act at the National Conference with a speech  that dripped with patriotism. It was a great effort rendered with much pain and sacrifice. There were not many people, who saw the message she was trying to deliver; a few others noticed it only belatedly. Dora knew that she had only a few moments to live.

A few days before she was taken to India from where she finally flew away, I spotted Professor Akunyili at the premises of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church at Maitama where she had gone to adore the Blessed Sacrament. We exchanged pleasantries and she assured me that she was recovering. Even though I hardly believed her, I wished her well and muttered silent prayers for her.

It was evident that Dora, like the thornbird, passed her last hours in pain and sacrifice. Those last moments of penance were donated to her God and country. To all of us!

May the memory of Professor Akunyili never fade or die!

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The road to Azumini Mon, 01 Apr 2013 00:00:07 +0000 The day before the Easter – known as the Holy Saturday – and the Easter day itself have a reputation as days when people should not adventure very far afield. That is why not many people would casually fix a bustling event to which they expect many guests and hope that such an event would [...]]]>

The day before the Easter – known as the Holy Saturday – and the Easter day itself have a reputation as days when people should not adventure very far afield. That is why not many people would casually fix a bustling event to which they expect many guests and hope that such an event would become a resounding success.

But that was the big gamble that the family of the late Sir Dick Emuchay of Azumini of the Ndoki kingdom of Ukwa East LGA in Abia State took this last Saturday. They also got away with what many people would have regarded as a costly gamble, not without many worthy reasons. Azumini is not on ‘the way’ to anywhere, so if you go to Azumini, you intended to ‘go there’; you didn’t just branch in from somewhere else.

The ancient trading outpost that was a beach head for the export of palm oil produce (and I heard it had played the same role earlier for slave trade alongside Opobo and Igwenga, now re-baptized Ikot Abasi) through its reputed and serene Blue River creek, is a community steeped in rich history, which would take many pages to tell, but this is hardly the time and place to do that now. Suffice it to say that I journeyed to Azumini last Saturday, like an incredible crowd who had thronged there from all the cardinal corners of the globe to perform a very significant, if simple rite of passage.

Azumini’s recent history, and in fact, that of the Ndoki kingdom or the Ukwa zone would be incomplete – and some would daresay, empty – if the name of late Sir (Dr) Dick Emuchay was not stamped at its centre. In fact, Alhaji Baba Dahiru, the representative of Governor Ibrahim Dankwanbo of Gombe State at the ceremony jokingly wondered why Azumini would not be renamed as ‘Emuchay Town’. But that represents how, even to outsiders, their experience with the community revolves around the present and past Emuchays.

Dick Emuchay was born in 1919 in Abak, in today’s Akwa Ibom State and attended the best institutions of those days – Government College, Umuahia; King’s College, Lagos and Higher College, Yaba before proceeding to University of St. Andrews Scotland and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He practised medicine briefly in the United Kingdom both as general practitioner and house surgeon before coming back to Nigeria to provide service to his own people.

Even though it was with his stint as an administrator that his later-day acquaintances were wont to associate him, Dr. Emuchay lived the best part of his life, and until his death in 1995, as a man dedicated to the rural areas, identifying with their daily lives and aspirations. If he had chosen on return from UK to operate from the cosiest offices in Lagos or Port Harcourt, he would have easily done so, but it was to the rural people that he always returned.

In that way did he become the senior house surgeon as well as the medical officer in charge of rural areas, Aba between 1955 and 1959. He was also the medical officer in charge of General Hospital Degema in today’s Rivers State between 1958 and 1959. The epitome of his love for and commitment to the rural practice and specifically to his home community came in 1961 when he established a cottage hospital in Azumini and became its medical superintendent.

That was his love of his life and his later establishment of the Group medical Practice at No.1 Emuchay Close at Ogbor Hill at Aba was an adjunct and support to the Azumini Cottage Hospital. After the civil war, Dr. Emuchay became the chairman of the East Central State Public Service Commission between 1972 and 1976, and when Imo State was carved out and he moved over to the new state to perform the same function till in 1982. He left that position to become the first pro-chancellor and chairman of the governing council of Imo State University (now Abia State University, Uturu) till in 1985.

The federal government of Nigeria recognized his contributions to nation building in 1986 through the most deserved conferment of the Member of the Federal Republic (MFR). Incidentally, in 2012, one of his sons, Ambassador Okechukwu Emuchay, for contributing enormously in other ways through sterling services to Nigeria and his people, was also decorated with the same award of MFR by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The throngs of the high and mighty as well as the ordinary people who trooped to Azumini last Saturday in great numbers was a fitting tribute and acknowledgement of what the Emuchay brand has meant to all of us, even beyond the shores of Nigeria. Even on such a difficult day and judging from the fact that Azumini is not easy to access, people of different complexions voted with their feet from different parts of the world. Most defied challenges to ensure that they came to be counted among those who were there on the day the Emuchays celebrated the past and invited us all into their present and the future.

The business at Azumini last Saturday was two-fold. It was the formal launching of the Sir Dr. D.W. Emuchay Foundation under which varied rural community projects would be undertaken because that was where his wife and children knew his heart lay. In other words, the Emuchay family had invited the world to witness and contribute to the institutionalization of the “legacy of community engagement, enrichment and empowerment through the establishment of the Sir Dr. D.W. Emuchay Foundation”, as the mission statement clearly pointed out.

As a way of ensuring that the Foundation was immediately delivering on its promises, the foundation stone was also laid the same Saturday for the Engineer Acho Emuchay ICT Centre and Academy, just by the reputed Blue River in the town. Engineer Acho who died on May 8, 2011 had an exceptional passion for ICT and possessed the same level of love and passion for the rural areas which their parents passed on to all the children of the Emuchay Clan.

Therefore, the centre is being built to embody and give life to this passion which would ensure that both his love for ICT and its capacity to touch on the people he loved make an identical impact through community capacity building. All present looked forward to the day in the near future when the centre would catalyze the capacity building and empowerment of the local youths and the elderly through ICT. Speaker and after another at the star-studded occasion, extolled the vision and foresight, which informed the activities of the day.

President Olusegun Obasanjo who laid the foundation stone for the ICT Centre, both in his natural humourous and serious minded statements, was effusive in the praise of the late and living Emuchays, pointing out the aptness of the project which they are embarking upon. As other speakers like Senator Abaribe (who chaired the occasion),

Senator Adolf Wabara, representatives of SGF Anyim, Ambassadors Tom Aguiyi Ironsi, state governors and other dignitaries, too numerous to mention, President Obasanjo pointed out the need for such capacity building as, according to him, mineral and natural resources were no longer as important, in the current scheme of things, as the possession of intellectual resources which have made nations like Japan and Germany great today.

President Obasanjo is always at his best at such occasions where, through his humourous interjections, he leaves behind object lessons for all to note and see. He did not fail to remind all that he had left other very important engagements like the 80th birthday of his friend, Chief Emeka Anyaoku to come to Azumini first. He had flown to the Uyo Airport from where he came by road to Azumini, in order to underscore the importance he attached to the projects as well as his personal respect and recognition to the organisers.

He singled out Ambassador Okey Emuchay, MFR, Nigeria’s consul general in Johannesburg, South Africa, who seemed to be the largest nectar that drew most of the distinguished visitors to the event, without underplaying the role and impact of this other siblings, Azu and Ndu. Obasanjo is not a man who minces words and extolled the performance of Ambassador Emuchay at his post, which has easily singled him out as the best to have occupied that position since it was set up – a fact that made the president honour him with a national award last year.

If Obasanjo was able to place the Azumini event highest on his scale of preference, amidst his very crowded programme for the day, as to have come there first, instead of going to Obosi to honour Anyaoku, some other dignitaries, had thought otherwise. The Abia State Governor, Chief T.A. Orji had decided to attend other events first and by the time he raced to Azumini to ‘receive’ President Obasanjo into his domain, the former president had come, done his part and departed.

But the former president found great company with the likes of Senators Abaribe and Wabara; Hon. Eziuche Ubani, Hon Peterside who represented Governor Amaechi of State and unveiled the Sir DW Emuchay seal on behalf of the government and people of Rivers State with a ‘token’ sum of N10 million. President Obasanjo was also received by a motley of guests from all over the world especially guests from South Africa who had also come in their numbers and who, in their spoken and unspoken words, paid effusive tribute to the Emuchay impact on their lives and circumstances.

The bishop of Johannesburg was also among the distinguished guests that crowded the large arena where the event was hosted. The goodwill enjoyed by the Emuchays knows no precedent and that was what must have encouraged them to host such an event on such a difficult day. Their friendship and their ever outstretched arms of solidarity and comradeship were richly recompensed at the event as guests told of challenges they encountered on their road to Azumini.

The story of two diplomats who had set out from Abuja on Good Friday, had taken seven full hours to get to Lokoja and had arrived Azumini at 4.30am on the Saturday of the event was a metaphor of what others had encountered. Yet the road of Azumini remained crowded with friends and well-wishers who came through the Enugu, Port Harcourt and Uyo airports, with those who drove in from all parts of the former Eastern region and were undeterred by being delayed by soldiers and police personnel in Abia state who mounted checkpoints and stopped road users till the end of the well-enforced environmental event on the last Saturday of every month.

Everybody came to get an opportunity of redeeming the many IOUs which they owe the members of the Emuchay family. Some even recounted of how they used to salivate as they awaited the appetizing jollof rice which the matriarch of the family, Lady Emuchay (the Adaugo Abia) used to bring to them in the different high schools they attended with her children. My personal testimony is that the Emuchays are next to none in their capacity to build and sustain relationships even when they have nothing material to benefit from such relationships. They have enormous respect for people, institutions and positions and never fail to exhibit courtesy and good manners.

There is no doubt that Sir Dick Emuchay and his wife were great experts in bringing up their children in the best human traditions and with the fear of God. It shows and shines out like the brightest star. Those who see the Emuchay children as successful, professional, competent and focussed should never fail to look back at their roots. Those legacies were what the world trooped to Azumini to celebrate, last Saturday. As we drove back to Enugu after a most fulfilling day, one of my friends in the car reasoned: “you can now see why our friend Okey is the most efficient and most natural diplomat in the world”.

The other one quickly countered, “he should get an opportunity to do what he does outside our shores here…” Is that a wish or suggestion? (Lest I forget, I must congratulate President Jonathan for what has happened to the Enugu-Umuahia-Aba road since I plied it two years ago. It took me two and half hours to drive from Enugu to Azumini on Saturday; in May 2011 when Engr. Acho died, it took me six hours. We must not always criticize the government; we should also applaud it when necessary).

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Beyond Alamieyeseigha’s pardon Mon, 18 Mar 2013 07:10:24 +0000 Apart the election of the 266th pope by the College of Cardinals at the Vatican last week, the other event that occupied public attention and raised several decibels of noise in Nigeria, was the executive pardon granted the former governor of Bayelsa State and the erstwhile principal of the president.]]>

Apart the election of the 266th pope by the College of Cardinals at the Vatican last week, the other event that occupied public attention and raised several decibels of noise in Nigeria, was the executive pardon granted the former governor of Bayelsa State and the erstwhile principal of the president.

In the exercise of his constitutionally guaranteed prerogative of mercy, President Goodluck Jonathan extended executive pardon to Chief DSP Alamieseigha who was convicted and jailed for money laundry offences during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

The government announcement had it that apart from DSP Alamieseigha, other notable Nigerians, especially generals who had been implicated in a coup d’etat under the administration of General Sani Abacha, as well as a few other civilians from the North, also received presidential pardon.

The act attracted instant public furore that sent the aides of the president into a confused scamper to the extent that they ended up building what would have been a puny molehill into a gargantuan mountain. And in the attempt to ‘defend’ the act, presidential information managers ended up making such blunders that were not necessary in the first place.

For instance, the ever-garrulous Dr. Doyin Okupe, in one of his several outings, declared that the pardon extended to Alamieseigha equated to that which earlier administrations had extended to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

Such patently cheap and false comparisons only ended up cheapening the office of the president. For, was it too hard for Okupe to have appreciated that while the ‘crimes’ of Awo and the Ikemba were political, that of Alamieseigha was of a criminal nature. If, however, Okupe was referring to the ‘pardon’ extended to Generals Diya, Adisa and Olarenwaju as relating to that of Ojukwu and Awo in their political nature, he only ended up compounding the gaffe nature of the entire imbroglio.

That was because it was publicly canvassed soon after the release of the pardon list that the president had been led to commit an unforgiveable error of judgment.

As it turned out, the generals whose names were contained in the presidential pardon list had, indeed, already been pardoned by the administration of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, 14 clear years earlier.

Was it therefore possible that a sitting president would be allowed to commit such a blunder while he has a battery of staff working for him on every issue? While also defending the act, Dr. Reuben Abati had told the world, on live television that the executive pardon was usually effected after considering the application from the beneficiaries by the committee of the prerogative of mercy that is chaired by the attorney-general and which advises the president, thereafter. His contention, therefore, was that it was that committee, headed by the attorney-general that had advised the president to extend the pardon even to the ‘beneficiaries’ who had been pardoned years ago.

Or was that it was the Diyas of this world whose pardon by Abdulsalami had been duly gazetted, that had sent fresh applications to the Jonathan administration, begging to be pardoned? Indeed, these aides belittle the office of the president at the same time as they take us all for imbeciles.

Having said that, apart from the blunder of including the names of those who had enjoyed executive pardon earlier, I cannot see what the president did wrong by pardoning Chief DSP Alamieseigha. The exercise of the prerogative of mercy remains what it is – a prerogative of the Executive authority – for which it owes none an explanation or apology. The dictionary definition of ‘prerogative’ remains: “a privilege restricted to people of rank; an exclusive privilege or right enjoyed by a person or group occupying a particular rank or position…”

It would, therefore, be unbecoming of us to dictate to the president on how he would discharge or use such a privilege which is enjoyed by leaders over the world, including those nations which are now trying to meddle into the internal affairs of Nigeria on this regard.

Having held that the president has the right to extend executive pardon to whomsoever he pleases, it must be submitted nevertheless that the outrage which the Alamieseigha pardon in bringing about is understandable.

Nigerians have watched with mouths agape in utter consternation, case after case of confounding corruption in the country which seem to be enjoying the condonation from the high places, to the extent that Nigerians have started to rule the present administration as that under which most corruption has and is taking place since our national independence in 1960. Most Nigerians seem convinced that in spite of the regular lip service of the government to a commitment to the fight against corruption, corruption has been tolerated and accommodated under the current dispensation more than ever before in the history of the country.

But that is a topic for another day. When, therefore, Nigerians rail against the pardon granted to one of the few men in high places that was convicted and punished for corruption in recent times, it is because they suspect that the government was confirming what they had suspected, that it has nothing against corruption.

What was more; the case of Alamieseigha had implications that reverberated beyond our shores. He was arrested and incarcerated in the United Kingdom but had, in a caper that would have made James Bond look like an amateur, jumped bail and skipped from the reaches of the eagle-eyed British officials into Nigeria, where he was tried and jailed. If again, the West became indignant, it might not be because they are intent in meddling in Nigeria’s internal affairs, but rather because they believe that while exercising his prerogative of mercy, President Jonathan might have trampled their own sensibilities underfoot.

Having said all that, we must admit that there are many parts to every story. We must concede that in the conduct of the affairs of the State, those in the helm of affairs are always in a better stead and at a vantage position to see the bigger picture better than the rest of us out there, who might often be tempted to interpret most government actions from narrower perspectives.

It is also not true that every government action is taken from a selfish or self-serving standpoint. In other words, we should sometimes give the Jonathan administration the benefit of doubt that it might have acted in good faith and in public interest in its recent exercise of the prerogative of mercy as it concerns the former Bayelsa governor. We should also admit that from its vantage position, there are certain actions which a government takes that are informed by superior, security and other considerations that would never be available to us, the ordinary people on the street. The Alamieseigha pardon could be one of those circumstances. One recall that ex-Governor Alamieseigha had fallen foul of President Obasanjo’s wrath on account of his undisguised leaning towards Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a fact that had placed the Bayelsa governor on a clear collision course with the president.

Beyond that, Alamieseigha was never an Obasanjo’s favorite because he was not one of those who always accepted Obasanjo’s imperial prescriptions, line, hook and sinker. I remember the occasion when, while on a state visit to Bayelsa, Obasanjo had off-handedly declared that the civil war was about the Ijaw oil and that if Biafra had succeeded, Ndigbo would have killed off Ijaw people for their oil.

Governor Alamieseigha had openly disagreed with such a wicked and reckless suggestion! Even though the political memory of Nigerians is often short, it need not be that short as to have forgotten the extent to which President Obasanjo labored to get the Bayelsa chief executive into a net.

Have we forgotten how the EFCC, then a lightening rod of the president, had rounded up the members of Bayelsa State House of Assembly and compelled them to impeach their governor? Having been thus deprived of his immunity, it was not hard to throw the man into jail.

Or, are we saying that placed on the balance, that Alamieseigha was the only governor at the time that deserved the fate that he suffered at the time. If, as an innocent bystander and a distant observer at the time, knew that much, it is obvious that President Jonathan, as the man on the spot, should have known the intimate and intricate facts from very close quarters, having been closely involved.

We cannot also pretend that to have forgotten the enormous influence which Alamieseigha had wielded over the restive elements in the Niger Delta to the extent that he was (and is still) being referred to as the governor general of the Ijaw nation. It is to be expected that as a retired military officer, the man must have had a deep inkling into the dynamics of the militancy in the Niger Delta, and realistically, he must have played big roles in the success of the amnesty programme in the Niger Delta which today has a direct bearing on the increased oil exploitation and by extension, on the national economic buoyancy.

It would be safe to assume that if Alamieseigha had not been patriotic, he could have, in his anger against Nigeria, thrown spanners into the wheels of the efforts to find accommodation with the restive elements in the creeks. In the same token, it would be safe to assume that he must have played great roles in attenuating the militant rage in the area, given that his words have largely remained law, as the all-time role model in the area. He, could have, if he had elected, opted to play the Henry Okar, in the affairs of the nation.

If this line of thought is pursued, it should easily be seen why the pardon granted to Chief Dipreye Alamieseigha was appropriate, expedient and relevant.

It is obvious that if truth be told, the president must have been paying him for what must have been his roles in the stabilization that has taken place in the Niger Delta. Also being human and a politician, President Jonathan is bound to take deft political steps that are aimed at strengthening his position at a time when he is about to embark on a political battle of his life – to wit, the stake for 2015.

While it is not for me to pass judgment on the propriety of Jonathan’s stake for 2015, it is at least honest to say that he has the constitutional right to make that stake, and to that extent, commonsense demands that he should start putting some supporting structures in place. Especially at this time when he is being buffeted from all sides by Northern elements that are also legitimately after his office, the president, as the saying goes, is putting his friendship in constant repair.

He is putting his political house in order. With his political homestead being effectively eroded in the South West by the emergence of a strengthened opposition from the APC, with the cracks in his erstwhile fortress South-South occasioned by the ‘rebellion’ of the likes of Governor Rotimi Amaechi, it would be foolhardy of him not to strengthen his flanks. With the ageing of such war horses as Chief Edwin Clark, the placement of such ‘generals’ as Alamieseigha in the political centre-stage makes a lot of political and strategic sense.

There is no time that Jonathan needs strong commanders for his political power battles than now. With the effective alienation of the likes of President Obasanjo, the enthronement of the likes of Alamieseigha and Anenih becomes a powerful statement that no masquerade stays on the dancing stage forever. It is also a signal that Jonathan is ready and priming for the expected battles ahead, and his opponents better get ready.

For me, even though the presidential pardon issue was mismanaged with the inclusion of people that had been pardoned, its import can never be downplayed; nobody should also deny the president the right to exercise a prerogative which is exclusive to him, in order to satisfy everybody’s perception, which is even impossible.

However, if I were one of those who advise the president, I would have advised him to maximize the benefit of that act. I would have advised the pardon Major Hamza al-Mustapha alongside Chief DSP Alamieseigha, as that would have had a maximum political impact.

Having repudiated the demand for amnesty for Boko Haram from very powerful voices in the North, to the applause of many, the president should have extended pardon to Major Al-Mustapha, who as a Kanuri comes from the same ethnic stock as most Boko Haram militants and who is a role model to most youths in the North.

A freed Al-Mustpaha might even be a great asset in bringing to the negotiating table of the hardiest of the Boko Haram militants- and with his intelligence background, could have some of the keys which might unlock the security dilemma of the government. As things stand now, it is not even late or out of place to pardon Mustapha, whose trial and incarceration, largely, like Alamieseigha’s case, has a huge dose of political content.

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The Idris Wada example Mon, 07 Jan 2013 00:00:37 +0000 At the twilight days of last year, the auto convoy of Governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada, was involved in a very ghastly road accident, which cost the life of his aide-de-camp and inflicted very serious injuries on him, including a fracture of his hip bone. The accident took place between Ajaokuta and Lokoja [...]]]>

At the twilight days of last year, the auto convoy of Governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada, was involved in a very ghastly road accident, which cost the life of his aide-de-camp and inflicted very serious injuries on him, including a fracture of his hip bone.

The accident took place between Ajaokuta and Lokoja as he was reportedly returning from an official assignment. Contrary to the ‘natural’ expectation of Nigerians from what had become the fashion, Governor Wada did not order for an air ambulance to instantly fly him to a hospital in Germany, which has recently become the medicare haven of Nigerian leaders – big and small – since the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua spent his last days in a Wiesbaden Hospital.

He rather ordered for a helicopter that took him to a hospital at the Garki II section of the Abuja Federal Capital City. There, he was stabilised, operated upon and had his fracture fixed. Two days later, he was taken back to Lokoja, his state capital, where he was spotted and photographed in his office. A few days later, he was spotted again at the Abuja hospital, when he returned for a post surgical assessment.

While he was undergoing treatment at the hospital, his chief media aide, Mr. Jacob Edi, and the medical chief of the facility, Dr. Ogedengbe, informed the world that Wada had expressly declared that he did not want to be taken abroad for medical attention but had rather opted to be treated in Nigeria, on account of the great confidence that he reposes in our own doctors and in their capacity to perform as well as the best anywhere in the world.

Today, Wada is said to be convalescing well and that his fracture is healing properly, even for the person of his age, thanks to the expertise of the doctors, who had handled his case and his psychological disposition. I am commenting on this incident that would have looked ordinary and simple, for many weighty reasons, especially because we should not regard it as being that simple and ordinary, if only for the object lessons and precedent it carries along.

The lessons for me are heavier than most things that have happened in Nigeria since the return of the so-called democracy or specifically speaking, since the end of the military era of governance. I quickly recall that in 2007, during the electioneering campaign, the two major presidential candidates, Umaru Yar’Adua of the PDP and Atiku Abubakar of the ACN, were almost simultaneously ferried abroad to be treated for ailments that could be adequately managed at our local dispensaries.

While the UMYA camp announced that their principal had been taken to Germany to be treated for flu, the Atiku camp announced that the then vice president, who was campaigning to become president, had sustained a sprain on his knee while exercising at his gym. When because of those simple ailments, the two men, who would be president had gone abroad for treatment; the lesson was loud and clear: they did not have any confidence in the medicare system of the country they wanted to lead and did not intend to do anything to change the situation.

It was, no surprise, therefore, that President Yar’Adua stayed more in foreign hospitals than he stayed in the State House. Even before then, the Obasanjo administration that had reigned for the eight previous years had treated the health delivery system in the country with such disdain that the example of the Abacha era, which had seen to the construction of the National Hospital in Abuja was put in quick reverse mode. Since the UMYA era, it has become both a state policy as well as a status symbol for Nigerian leaders of every hue to scoff Nigerian medical facilities as they troop to offshore hospitals at the least opportunity, at public expense.

Not to be outdone, the ordinary people who can afford it have also followed their example in droves and today, offshore medical facilities, especially in India, have become the first medical port of call for most Nigerians, while our own hospitals remain scorned, scoffed and abandoned in utter dejection. It does not matter that most of the doctors, who attend to Nigerian patients in those foreign hospitals, are Nigerians as well as doctors, who are less experienced and qualified as Nigerian doctors. It is not difficult to see why Nigerian leaders and policy makers have left our health delivery system as well as our educational system in such a mess.

It is simply because neither they nor members of their families patronise our hospitals and schools. It also hardly matters that just a little percentage of the funds that are expended on this huge avoidable financial haemorrhage can adequately fix our medical and educational institutions. But what it boils down to is that most of our leaders are not only foolish; they are unpatriotic and irresponsible. It is even more saddening that other nations are feeding fat on this official stupidity.

These days, it is easier than ABC to obtain Indian visas because the Indian government welcomes and feeds fat on this idiocy, which drives Nigerians to flock to India to seek medical attention for even simple ailments. You simply need to make a telephone call to the Indian High Commission for someone to come rushing to any location to arrange for you to be freighted off, like buffoons, to India for treatment.

Every other country, even Ghana, now benefits from the stupidity of Nigerian leaders, which compels them to leave our institutions in comatose situation while in search of those abroad. Recently, I stumbled on an online advert of Egyptian hospital, looking for Nigerian chefs that would be preparing meals for their bustling Nigerian patients. While in Cape Town, during my last trip there, I went to a restaurant run by a Nigerian couple that is making a great fortune. The restaurant is part of a facility that caters for Nigerians, who have come to attend hospitals in Cape Town.

I was happy that it was run by Nigerians – by a Bayelsa-born doctor that is married to an enterprising Nnewi lady. But other thousands of foreigners make a kill daily off other Nigerians on medical tourism. Yet, we lack the resources to run the simplest things we need at home. But last week, Governor Idris Wada showed that not every Nigerian leader has an inferiority complex, is foolish or unpatriotic.

There is nothing special about the Cedar Crest Hospital at Garki II Abuja where Wada asked to be taken beyond the fact that it is run by very dedicated and well trained Nigerian doctors. Such brilliant team of consultants – Ogedengbe, Biodun Ogungbo and Mahmoud Felafay – are also found elsewhere in all parts of Nigeria but are denied support and patronage by both the government and the elite of the society. Yet, on the notice board there, you will see that the facility enjoys the clientele of the best corporate bodies and multinationals in the country.

And like those corporate citizens, Governor Wada, must have known and become convinced that Nigerians are the best in anything they put their minds in and that is why, in his belief in Nigeria, he also believed in the products of our system. I am certain that the information available to the Kogi State governor about the capacity of Nigerian medical practitioners is not exclusive to him but is also available to most of us, but it is his faith and patriotism that have made the difference.

Most Nigerians, who are in a position to know, are aware that the Garki II facility exists but would rather go abroad, for the status symbol it confers on them and for the resources it rakes in for them. But for Wada, knowledge is power and he exhibited it adequately.

He must have learnt that the young men at Cedar Crest Hospital can match any doctor in the world in the management of complex orthopaedic cases and can also hold their own in trauma management, neuro- and corrective surgery, he went there and got results at a little fraction of what it would have cost if he had gone abroad. I have a personal public testimony to make about what Governor Wada must have experienced.

On last December 23, my cousin’s wife and their seven-year-old son were travelling to our town in Anambra State from Abuja. Between Lokoja and Ajaokuta (near the place where Wada’s car crashed a few days later), they collided with a trailer, which mauled their car. The woman was killed instantly while her son and the driver sustained serious injuries. After different runs through the Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja, and University Teaching Hospital, Ilorin, the young and dying Stephan ended up at the Cedar Crest Hospital at Abuja on the New Year Day.

I was opportuned to be at the facility last week when that my seven-year-old nephew was taken almost dead to the same hospital around the time that Wada returned for his post surgery assessment. My nephew had sustained multiple fractures on his two thighs and on his right arm, in addition to deep cuts on the head and face; he came out of the theatre on January 2 after multiple surgeries and within 36 hours, the young battered boy was speaking, eating and communicating.

By the time you would be reading this piece, the only problem we would have would be how to explain to him the whereabouts of his mother, who, we had told him, was on a journey. I am sure that not many of those hospitals where our big and mighty flock to abroad can perform such a feat. My extended family might not have access to public till nor have we stolen public funds but we can still pool resources to afford the best medicare for Stephan abroad, but like Wada, we also have faith in Nigeria and its institutions.

Governor Wada is obviously aware and knows about one Dr. Wada, who is a well- known and very successful medical practitioner in Abuja, a reputed consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, who has made his mark in fertility techniques and management. In our own case, we also know a Professor Clement Ezechukwu, the current provost of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital College of Medicine, Nnewi, who has left his mark in Paediatrics and left remarkable imprints on research and management of children’s diseases, to the extent that his services are sought around the world.

There are other Nigerian doctors like them, vegetating in Nigeria but staying put because of the love of their country instead of emigrating to ‘better climes’ where they would work with better facilities and less for better conditions of service. Nigeria is really a very unfortunate country and the citizens even more so. A nation and a people so gifted have been dragged to the pit by those who they have elected to lead them to the Promised Land. For, what will it take to equip our hospitals with only a fraction of what is spent in the search for medicare abroad?

What will it take to put a smile on the face of our educational system with only a meagre percentage of what we squander in the search of education abroad? Are there no people of conscience amongst those we have elected, who are capable of asking reasoned questions? What is it in our genes that deadens the conscience and blunts the vision of every elected person in Nigeria? What is it in our system that immediately obliterates the humanity of our people once they come to a position of public reckoning?

Too many questions; so few answers! But before we find answers that do not seem to exist, I wish to call on Nigerians to applaud and extol the example of Governor Idris Wada of Kogi State in this rare dramatisation of patriotism and belief in Nigeria – feats that are becoming extinct in the people we call our leaders today in the country. Some people might wish to play down this gesture and might even wish to impute motives to it. But let us not forget that people are a result of their environment and upbringing.

If, therefore, Wada, knowing that his other colleagues, like Governor Danaba Suntai of Taraba, would have headed abroad, but had opted, instead, to stay here and if need be, die amongst his own people, then, he deserves our salute, our applause and our prayers for a quick recovery. Thanks, Governor Idris Wada, for making us realise that even from the Sodom and Gomorrah that has become the Nigerian leadership at different levels, we can still find, at least, one Lot and his household. On behalf of long suffering Nigerians, I wish you a quick recovery… and a happy New Year.

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Who needs a tattered police? Mon, 17 Dec 2012 00:00:11 +0000 Two events of last week unnerved me to no end and both revolve around the Nigeria Police. Somehow, they happened towards the end of the year, when, as a routine, I usually write about the Police because of its central nexus with the festive season during which the issue of security is most paramount in [...]]]>

Two events of last week unnerved me to no end and both revolve around the Nigeria Police. Somehow, they happened towards the end of the year, when, as a routine, I usually write about the Police because of its central nexus with the festive season during which the issue of security is most paramount in the minds and affairs of the citizens.

The first was the kidnap of the 82 year-old mother of Nigeria’s super minister from her home in Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State. The next was the statement credited to the Attorney General/Minister of Justice to the effect that the Police had brought about “7,198 extra-judicial deaths in the last four years…” Before I am carried away from the right trajectory of my mind, let me state from the onset that since I came into close contact with the happenings, prospects and challenges of the Nigeria Police, since during the days of its IGP, Ibrahim Coomassie, during the Abacha days, I have never hidden my sympathy for the Police as the most-used, but yet, the most sinned-against institution in this country.

To that extent, I have never also hidden my appreciation of the uphill efforts of the officers and men of the Police to remain sane, in spite of the fact that the physical and psychological humiliation and maltreatment to which the force has been subjected, are more than enough to make every single policeman and woman raving crazy. But, I must go back to last week. Professor Kamnene Okonji, the queen mother of the Ogwashi kingdom was abducted by a gang of kidnappers and taken to an unknown location. As should be expected, such a high calibre crime immediately ignited a flurry of high powered activities from the government and security agencies; the citizens expected that the Police would be mobilized to carry out the search and recovery of the victim and the arrest of the villains in the saga.

It has become quite evident that because of the high incidence of kidnapping cases in the recent times, the Police have systematically build-up its experience as well as intelligence and logistics capacities, within its meagre means to face up to the crime of kidnapping and related ones. At least, the nation is aware that the Police is now building up an anti-kidnapping unit as well as that for terrorism. Even a child knows that kidnapping is better combated and busted through intelligence gathering rather than through boot stomping.

It was, therefore, with bewilderment that the people learnt that army troops had been deployed to Ogwashi-Ukwu, where in one fell swoop, they were said to have arrested 63 people for questioning over the old woman’s kidnap. The outcry nationwide was that such overkill was a clear misapplication and misuse of resources because an invasion by stomping soldiers should have no business in the solution of a kidnap case unless where the police had requested for the help of the Army where superior firepower was required. Even we idle civilians could not visualize such a situation in that case, and we were borne out when on that very day, the woman was released unharmed. We might not know all the details but it was obvious that it was the rampaging soldiers that had freed her.

The first thing that came into mind was that the government of the day seems to have lost faith in the ability of its own Police to perform duties that should be routine for it. Last time, I wrote about the situation when the SSS had usurped the powers of the Police by investigating and making arrests in the homicide case involving the murder of Comrade Oyerinde, the principal aide to Governor Oshiomhole of Edo State. The usurpation of Police duties now seems to be routine in the Jonathan government for the obvious reasons that I will discuss presently.

I was also struck by what looked like another deliberate attempt to humiliate the Police and set it on a collision course with the public, which it is working for when I read an account in the Thisday newspaper of December 11, where the Attorney General, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, was alleged to have claimed the Police had committed over 7000 extra-judicial murders in the last four years. The claim immediately reminded me of a similar one, earlier this year, by Professor Chidi Odinkalu, the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, who had failed woefully at the time, to provide concrete substantiation.

In my alarm, I immediately contacted the Police spokesman, Mr. Frank Mba, to explain to me how the Police would respond to such an accusation made by such a man who should know. In a swift reaction, Mba informed me that, in fact, on the same 11th December that the story was published, the AG, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, had sent a letter which he personally signed to the Inspector General of the Police, MD Abubakar, explaining the circumstances and insisting that he had been quoted out of context. Mba further explained to me that the AG’s letter had disowned being the source of the subject of the publication as well as of the so-called statistics used in the story, saying that he had merely quoted the statistics from another source.

For the avoidance of doubt, I was informed that the letter had read in part that, “The publication under reference especially the statistics quoted in the rider to the caption was erroneously attributed to me. I only quoted the report of the ‘Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria (NOPRIN)’ which stated that: “the reckless use of arms by security agents had resulted in 7,198 extra-judicial deaths in four years across the country. More recently, the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission opined that this approximated to the summary execution of well-over 2,500 detainees”. The AG’s letter was said to have continued thus: “…I was therefore not the source of the statistics as published.

It is also instructive to note that I followed the above quoted words with an observation that the Police have stoutly disputed the figures in question. Consequently, the impression given in the publication that I was the source of the statistic is not only misleading, but also capable of passing me off as one engaged in plagiarism…” The learned senior advocate was also said to have concluded by writing that the purpose of his explanatory letter to the IGP was to “…correct the misleading publication” and to assure the IGP of his confidence “in the operational capability of the Nigeria Police Force at all times”. Even though the letter might have momentarily assuaged the IGP and the Police leadership, it would have still have been necessary for the AG’s office to widely circulate these sentiments which had brought great damage to the image and integrity of the Police Force that is currently taking giant strides to improve its image while soliciting a better understanding of its heavy predicament from its largely cynical publics.

The AG should perform this tepid mea culpa act more publicly, especially as the boss of one of his parastatals, the NHRC, had made the same unsubstantiated accusations only recently. Again, it is hard to excuse such an experienced and intellectually robust AG for not showing adequate rigor or sensitivity, by presenting such a keynote address in the first place. But then, knowing how such things happen, the speech might have been scripted by one of the minister’s “activist” aides and who might have come from the academia, and that under his very tight schedules, the minister might have just delivered it off the cuff by just trusting the judgement of those who had scripted it, without having seen or read it earlier.

The speech might have, in fact, been written from the NHRC, whose boss holds such an unsubstantiated view. These things happen very often. But, if Adoke had expressed his confidence in the Police and its current leadership with which, I hear, he enjoys a mutually shared respect, it does not seem that the administration which he serves feels equally disposed or that his sentiments are shared. The proof of that is that both the Executive and legislative branches of this government do not seem to see any need to lift the Police from its current tattered condition, and that is obvious from the state of deprivation and frustration in which the Police has been abandoned, in spite of the obvious horrendous fresh responsibilities that are staring it in the face.

It was learnt that from the over the N200 billion which the Police ministry had proposed for the Police in 2013 budget for its overhead and operational needs, the government slashed it down to less than ten billion naira. The same government which expects police personnel to battle terrorists, kidnappers and robbers with almost bare hands and without bullet proof vests is proposing to build the residence of the vice president with N14 billion. Since he got to the headship of the Police, the current IGP, Abubakar had been begging and pleading that police recruits be paid just the paltry monthly salary of N50,000 (just 300 dollars!!!) and the appeal has continued to land on deaf ears.

Yet, these are the men and women who are expected to risk their lives day and night for us, rent and pay for accommodation for themselves and their families as the government does not provide barracks; these are people who should also need to send their children and wards to good schools like the rest of us. And we expect them, to, unlike the rest of us, not to be corrupt. And if those basics are not available, your guess is as good as mine, as to the quality of tools they have for their jobs. In spite of all that, MD Abubakar has managed to convince his colleagues to dismantle checkpoints which he said would be replaced with police patrols. However, this has remained only a pipe dream as a very senior police officer confided in me that patrol vans get only ten litres of fuel a day (or is it a week?) and that is what the Police can afford.

The patrol teams have no alternative than to park their patrol vans by the roadside, mount stop-and-search check points and in that way, the much dreaded checkpoints are returning through the backdoor. The truth is that the IGP cannot afford the patrols he promised only last Easter even though he has vowed the checkpoints would not return. We can keep complaining about the problems of the Police even as the majority of citizens fail to see that given their nature, Nigeria Police of today can be considered as miracle workers. Yet, the only thing standing between them and becoming a world class force is the selfishness and cluelessness of those who are in positions to make a change but fail to do so.

About a third of the Police is currently deployed to giving personal protection to the big people in the society, yet it is these people who enjoy a round-the-clock protection of the Police that have the power to better the lot of the force for the good of all. It is those in executive arms who can initiate policies to equip the police better and build their operational capacities. It is the legislators whose persons, homes, offices and families that the police protect and guard that have the power and authority to legislative better deals for the Police. But none of these have thought in those directions because in their myopic views, and as the French say, “après moi, le deluge”, once they have got their protection with the best things that the Police can afford, the rest of the country can go to blazes with the remnants from a tattered Police.

However, I often shudder at the short-sightedness of our people in power. The fact that true security could only be assured by a satisfied and satiated polity is very alien to their understanding. Enough can never be said about the need to make the Police more capable and better equipped, as doing that is merely commonsensical. However, as our leaders are anything but commonsensical, a few voices in the desert must continue to keep the clamour alive, till, who knows, a Daniel might come to judgement. It is in that spirit that I identify with and invite all stakeholders of goodwill to also identify with every effort to make the Police better for the benefit of us all.

It is also in that spirit that I call on all my readers to identify with the first-ever National Summit on Security Challenges in Nigeria which will take place at the International Conference Centre, Abuja on January 8th and 9th, 2013. With the theme of “Addressing Nigeria’s Security Challenges for Sustainable Peace and Development”, it would be a good place to tackle the overdue issues that border on finding ways to build our security the way it should be, like other saner nations of the world.

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The bitter truth about EFCC Mon, 03 Dec 2012 00:00:35 +0000 Last week, my friend and kinsman, Dr. Livi Obijiofor, in his column, “Insights” poured out his venom against what he saw as the ‘hopelessness’ of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, under Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde. In his piece, entitled, “A hopeless EFCC and corrupt judiciary’, Obijiofor sounded very upset that EFCC has not slammed the [...]]]>

Last week, my friend and kinsman, Dr. Livi Obijiofor, in his column, “Insights” poured out his venom against what he saw as the ‘hopelessness’ of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, under Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde. In his piece, entitled, “A hopeless EFCC and corrupt judiciary’, Obijiofor sounded very upset that EFCC has not slammed the big crooks in government, public service and business who have held our nation hostage through corruption but had, instead, been catching and locking up people the columnist regarded as “small criminals”.

The immediate origin of Obijiofor’s anger was the appearance of the EFCC boss, before the Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, for budget defence and during which, in response to the queries of the senators, he outlined his challenges and the different constraints of his agency. Obijiofor, while seeming to agree that the EFCC’s capacity to act to the level that he and most other Nigerians have expected, nevertheless, believed that EFCC should have done more. In one of his summations, the writer opined that, “the achievement record of the agency has not given the public the confidence that the EFCC is moving in the right direction”.

My take is that this wrath against the EFCC is rather misplaced and that instead of railing at the causative factors that have shackled the feet of that agency, we seem to be blaming the victim. It is akin to wanting to crucify the messenger when we detest the message, which is the complaint of the EFCC that its capacity to perform has been severely curtailed by the antics of those who drive the judicial process in the country. The columnist reported the fact that Mr. Lamorde had lamented that he was being frustrated by the judicial process, citing an instance of a case that the agency has been prosecuting since 2006, and which has gone to the Supreme Court two times on just interlocutory injunctions. Obijiofor was not impressed with such and other instances of the problems of the agency. And that does not seem objective to me.

However, those who are conversant with the near-impossible course of the fight against corruption in Nigeria, need to acknowledge that EFCC, even with its current challenges, deserves our applause especially when we consider that its counterpart, the ICPC, has hardly got off the ground, even as its bosses have continued to express their concern and frustration. That should be one of the reasons why the performance of the EFCC should be seen in a better light.

The first thing to consider is that when the EFCC was set up, Nigeria was still being reluctantly weaned from its military past; the marshal ways of doing things still lingered. Matters were not made better by the fact that President Obasanjo still largely ran the country like a military dictator; that was the era when the EFCC was a lightening rod of the administration. That was also when the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s Office looked at Obasanjo’s body language and acted accordingly and swiftly against the corrupt enemies of the country, who also largely translated into the enemies of President Obasanjo. That is hardly the case today, when President Jonathan would rather that 1000 criminals escape justice than one innocent person convicted.

Even during the Mallam Nuhu Ribadu era at EFCC, most of the fiery achievements which were later disparaged as being high-handed were made possible because of the nature of the supervising government at the time, which placed scant consideration on human rights, due process and rule of law. While it would be very dishonest to say that those who came under Nuhu Ribadu’s hammer at the time  did not deserve what they got, the fact remains that such methods can no longer be replicated these days as the course of democracy advances. Those who invented democracy had intended it for societies of honest and saner humans, but never had in mind that it would be practised by societies that are run by crooks and brigands of such primitive systems and societies that exist in Africa.

No matter how much the EFCC might want to defend itself, many of its activities during the Obasanjo era fell below expectations of an agency that is operating under the so-called international best practices. Under the current dispensation of the EFCC under Ibrahim Lamorde, a lot of water has gone under the bridge in the fortunes and circumstances of the agency and Lamorde himself has been a witness to all that, having been there from the beginning. Like an old broom, he should understand all the nooks and crannies of the agency, the anti-corruption fight and definitely knows what is possible and what is not. If therefore, today, he is no longer able to invade a home or office of a suspect, break down doors and wardrobes and drag out a suspect, while he is clawing and kicking, and lock him away for as many weeks or months he wants, it is because we are now singing a new song of rule of law. Those days and methods that produced the types of results that the ordinary Nigerians applauded have become things of the past for obvious reasons. Today, nobody can drag former IGP Balogun on the ground like he was in those days of ‘active EFCC’.

Today, the EFCC has been literary caged by the so-called demands of democracy which it had set out to protect through the elimination of corruption because ordinarily, democracy should be tantamount to transparency in activity and conduct. However, when corruption and graft are the oxygen on which Nigerian democracy thrives, then any agency that is empanelled to fight it becomes the first victim. Because corruption always has a way of fighting back, as it is doing very effectively now in Nigeria, the EFCC and its very frustrated operatives have become the first victim of the different arms of the government. In the first place, the earliest bouts of weakening, which the EFCC received was in the hands of the Executive arm, which should have been its greatest protector. However, Nigerians are living witnesses to its travails under the erstwhile Attorney General, Mr. Mike Aoandoakaa, who set out to effectively  demystify and weaken the agency. The agency never recovered from the onslaught it received at that period, under the camouflage of the Yar’Adua administration when the rule of law mantra was touted. Till today, the codes set out by Aondoakaa for EFCC still stand.

If the Executive had whittled and continues to whittle the capacities of the EFCC, the Judiciary arm of the government seems to have driven the last long nail into its coffin. An activity of the state is a division of labour. As much as the EFCC would want all its suspects arraigned, tried and convicted or acquitted in a matter of days and weeks, the matter is not in its hands or that simple. Those who accuse the EFCC of prosecuting and convicting only small time criminals are being very unfair to themselves and to the agency. Those convictions were obtained because such small fries lacked the capacity to hire a coterie of big time lawyers who engage in endless judicial gymnastics at the courts, with the brief of their clients who bring out tonnes of their dirty money to corrupt the system and fund their lawyers to embark oon what might be regarded as legal but clearly unpatriotic and ruinous to the sensibility of the nation.

In this process, compromisable judges are allegedly suborned to grant endless injunctions and permit lengthy adjournments during which the suspects roam about free, spurning public opinion and flaunting their corruptly gotten wealth in the face of the public, or escape abroad to joust while their lawyers stay endlessly in court. Under such circumstances, what does anybody expect the EFCC and its operatives to do? The EFCC has continued to do its job diligently by inviting, interrogating, investigating and arraigning very big suspects who are promptly granted bail and turned loose by the courts. The EFCC cannot and dare not do more than it is permitted to do by law. It is easy to notice the frustration of the agency from the complaints of Mr. Lamorde at the National Assembly two weeks ago.

The fact remains that it is in the interest of the entire nation that the EFCC be afforded the leeway and capacity to work. The entire nation becomes a piece of rubbish before the international community as Nigeria continues to go down annually in the nadir of world consideration because of corruption. A London court convicted and jailed James Ibori on the same counts as those on which an Asaba court had acquitted him of all the charges. If the EFCC could not get a conviction against Ibori in Nigeria while the same man was jailed elsewhere on only some of the heavy duty and well presented charges which EFCC had against Ibori in Nigeria, then it is clearly not the EFCC, but the Nigerian judiciary and system that should be blamed. Ibori, in London was prosecuted by the EFCC in conjunction with the London Metropolitan Police!

Today, while the ordinary Nigerians hope and urge that EFCC should be empowered to become more powerful and result-oriented, the powers that be bend backwards to frustrate even the best of efforts the agency can manage in the face of its obvious deprivations. The legislative arm of the government has not been the best friend of the EFCC, either because its members have often fallen victim of the agency’s eagle eye and so, the National Assembly tends to see the agency as an enemy. That must be why all the suggestions of the anti-graft agency for legislative inputs into ways of making its activities more effective have fallen on deaf ears. Has the EFCC not continued to ask to be given special status that would enable it speed up its prosecution through the enacting into law special courts and tribunals for corruption?

Has the EFCC not pleaded for special powers to confiscate assets and property of suspects before the end of prosecution as that is bound to deprive the suspects access to such suspected ill-gotten wealth with which they continue to fight the system? How can the EFCC perform more effectively if it is not enabled with such enabling laws through adequate legislation? And if the National Assembly would neither provide such laws nor make more funds available to the agency for its expanding roles and activities, what would be the justification for expecting wonders of Ibrahim Lamorde and his staff?

It might be convenient for writers like Livi Obijiofor to continue to badmouth and harangue the EFCC for what they believe is the inadequate performance of Mr. Lamorde and his people. But rather than just pass judgement arbitrarily, we should remember that it was the same man who had been there right from the start as the hands-on person of the agency’s tasks as the director of operations, even in those days when the political situation enabled the EFCC to operate with alacrity and was applauded. It is the same Lamorde who is now directly running the show. If he had been incompetent, the system would have thrown him out during all these ten years.

So, if we feel that the EFCC is no longer attracting such headlines as it used to through its performance of the past, we should, as intelligent people, be more analytical in our deductions. There are definite clogs on the wheel of the progress of EFCC which seem to be deliberately – if mischievously – erected to frustrate it. Rather than throwing undeserved abuses at the agency, we should rather urge the institutions and interests that are tying this very important agency down, to undo their mischief. And if the legislative houses cannot pass laws to enable the EFCC fight corruption and free our nation, then let them pass laws legalising corruption and other related crimes.

The nation believes that the National Assembly holds all the aces in this and other matters, but the public also suspects that the National Assembly has an interest in making the agency a lame duck. The cases of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and the current disgraceful conduct of Hon. Farouk Lawan, where it has been obvious that the House was protecting its own, speaks volume.

The different arms of government keep paying lip service to the fight against corruption. Let them prove it by arming the agency that was set up to wage that war by strengthening its hands. Let the government stop acting like the wicked old man who set out a child to the market with a basket of salt only to make the rain to fall when the child had got on his way.

Ibrahim Lamorde and his staff at EFCC are mere victims of circumstances and not incapable of delivering on their mandate.

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After Ikemba, the wilderness… Mon, 26 Nov 2012 00:30:36 +0000 Today, November 26th, marks exactly one year that Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi and the erstwhile general of the Peoples Army of the defunct Republic of Biafra, and by those tokens, the late leader and icon of the Igbo people of Nigeria. When he passed after nearly one year of hospitalisation in London, it looked as if the entire ]]>

Today, November 26th, marks exactly one year that Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi and the erstwhile general of the Peoples Army of the defunct Republic of Biafra, and by those tokens, the late leader and icon of the Igbo people of Nigeria. When he passed after nearly one year of hospitalisation in London, it looked as if the entire Igbo race would be consumed with grief, even as the entire nation, led by President Goodluck Jonathan rallied around them to give him a funeral that was unprecedented and only worthy of gods.

The amount of grief and activities that were demonstrated by Ndigbo at Ojukwu’s death last year created the impression that they would continue to immortalise his name and memory and would embark on legacies that would ennoble and ensure that he did not lead his people in vain. However, a mere 12 months later, all those wishes have all evaporated like woeful and unanswered prayers.

Apart from perhaps the main gateway avenue that leads into the South East from the Onitsha-end of the infamous Niger Bridge, that was named after him at the instance of President Jonathan and Ojukwu’s political godson, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, the former Biafran leader seems to have been forgotten even before the expiration of the one-year mourning period reserved even for heroes of lesser kind. None of the pretensions of other state governors of the South East as they stomped about in self-glorious capers during his funeral, where they uttered high-fallutin promises of the immortalisation of the Biafran leader have never materialized.

To make matters even worse, the only things Nigerians are likely to hear about the Ikemba that would draw the headlines as from tomorrow would be the crises that would likely emanate from his family members as they jostle and scramble over property rights that the Ikemba in life never respected nor cared for. Unfortunately, even before this time, the most improbable of sources of such disgraceful noises was his own wife, Ambassador Bianca Onoh, the last wife of the Ikemba who is at least two years younger than hero’s first daughter, Miriam. Not a few Igbo people covered their faces in shame, when less than one year of their hero’s passing, his wife was already raising issues over ikemba’s property with the members of the larger Ojukwu property in national newspapers.

If that came that early, it would be expected that before long, newspapers would be selling their copies with reports of legal gymnastics over the property of the late Ikemba. As that starts happening as they are bound to, Ndigbo and their politics would become the butt of all the national jokes through to the race towards 2015 and beyond. Yet, all the time I worked as a very close aide to the Ikemba, there was not an iota of evidence that he placed any premium on property or material acquisitions, as all the time, he never left me in any doubt about his preference for ideas and legacies as the only non-perishable assets that would always span over time and space.

It was not for the property and buildings (that he never owned in any case) nor for the physical things like roads or edifices that he constructed during his reign that his people revered and worshipped him like a god; it was rather his sacrifices, his courage, his unflinching determination to lead his people through fire and brimstones that made him what he was in the eyes of the people. Today, nobody can point out a street or an avenue that he had constructed; he didn’t even build a good house in his country home, as is expected of every Igbo man.

Yet, no Igbo man has ever or is likely to be (in the near future) revered like him. All the time that I worked for him – and I said that much in the book I wrote at his death – that his insistence on and wish was that there should exists central idea(s) that would keep Ndigbo together so as to ensure that they would always keep their eyes on a collective goal and mission, for their present and the future of their children. In that process, even though I worked for him under situations that were difficult and circumscribed for Ndigbo, yet the Ikemba never tarried or tired in trying to work out something for the benefit of the people who called him their own, and had made untold sacrifices in such quests.

He had stayed in politics in order to create a focus and a rallying point for his people, and as an instrument with which to reach out and make friends with the other Nigerians for the benefit of Ndigbo. He never sought nor fought for self-glorification and never sought to use anybody for self-aggrandisement. He had hoped that at his passing, those who worshipped at his feet would continue from where he had stopped in the task of making Ndigbo a respected and self-respecting race in the comity of Nigerian compatriots.

Let me say it again, and yet again: that no matter how much they want to misapply his name, the Ikemba was never a champion of another Biafra after its collapse in 1970. Otherwise, why would he be vying to become the president of Nigeria, which he often did, if not to point out a direction to his nationally-minded people? Yet, just a few weeks after his passing, the platform under which he had hoped to rally Ndigbo as a launching pad for respectable interaction and negotiation with the other Nigerian groups was soon torn apart by the very people in whose hands he had left it. Overnight, the leaders of APGA placed the platform on a slaughter slab, sheered it apart, leaving the different parts as worthless parts of a stolen and dismembered vehicle.

If APGA has been rendered as useless and dysfunctional as a lorry with flattened and burst tyres that would drive nobody anywhere, Igbo political and opinion leaders have become the classic example of the biblical Tower of Babel where the discordant voices and multifarious nature of quests and directions have made Igbo political followership a veritable fishing pond for the sharks. To make matters even worse, nobody takes them seriously anymore in any sphere of national endeavour.

And yet General Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu died only one year ago, and this early in the day, the falcon can no longer hear the falconer as anarchy has been unleashed on his turf. The most noticeable – and the most ruinous thing – about Ndigbo, especially as we lead up to 2015, is their tendency to play politics with their hearts rather than with their heads. That was exactly what the Ikemba had often preached about and had in the process, maintained that a wiser and more astute person plays politics with his head.

For, as he had often preached to me: “for those who play politics with their hearts, politics is a tragedy, but for those who play it with their heads, it is always a comedy”. That has been why, according to him, other Nigerians have always found a way of laughing after every political milestone, while Ndigbo would always be brooding and accusing others of having marginalised them, when, in fact, we would have marginalised ourselves through bad, selfish, emotive choices that we always make, believing that some people should have come along and ‘dashed’ Ndigbo political booties.

As the race for 2015 heats up, other group are making their calculations and weighing their options but Ndigbo are naively hoping to become the president in 2015 without any iota of preparation, and that other Nigerians would unanimously come along and say to them, “Ndigbo, please come and take the presidency, because we think it is your turn…” Such thoughts and beliefs clearly translate into political imbecility. While other groups are thinking of alliances and regrouping, Ndigbo are further atomising the existing structures they have.

If you query their strategies, they would regale you with hundreds of proverbs that they would never actualize. Should it not have made some sense even to a child that the best and easiest basis for political strength and alliance would have been that between APGA and PPA, after which they would start looking outwards from a position of strength. But that would never happen because like two stubborn goats who would not cede the right of passage to the other on a narrow path until both plunge into a deep ravine, none would accept a subordinate role for the overall benefit of their followers. In the face of fading ideological basis for political parties in Nigeria, other groups are cooperating on non-partisan basis and crossing political carpets in order to ready themselves in accordance to permutations they are working out, still Ndigbo have continued to act like the impertinent lizards that ruined their own mothers’ funeral.

Look at the rumours currently making the rounds that some interest groups are trying to woo back Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu into the PDP. Instead of people seeing it as a positive move for Ndigbo to enjoy greater relevance in the ruling party, from where the next president would likely emerge, they are said to be taking steps to frustrate it. There can be no greater political myopia. For Ndigbo to have the type of relevance they require to launch a meaningful pitch for the presidency, they must do it from within a national platform, which neither APGA in its disarray nor the putative PPA can provide. Nor even from an opposition party as the ACN which has been effectively ‘colonized’ by the political rivals of Ndigbo.

You might not like Orji Uzor Kalu for any reasons; but politics is not a love game. It is rather a game of the capable and of possibilities. In spite of the recent political casualties sustained by OUK in his last race for the Senate where he lost due to inadequate calculations, not even his worst enemies can deny that today in Igboland, he is the politician that enjoys all or most of the indices of power. Apart from being perhaps one of the wealthiest Nigerians alive through traceable business interests all over the world that span through mining, banking, aviation, shipping, media, etc, he is also one of the most internationally connected businessmen from Africa and most likely capable of financing any idea he supports.

OUK is said to be currently employing over 25,000 people in his business conglomerates, perhaps the largest in Africa. Again, he is one of the most charismatic politicians and the other equally approachable and unpretentious political actor in Nigeria might be Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, who like OUK, had also amassed enormous fortune before coming into politics. There are those who are worried that those two men are not working together at uniting the current splinters in Igbo political household.

Yet, it is in Igboland that such prophets are not revered. Even OUK’s current efforts, through the Njiko Igbo platform, is often scoffed by some other political heavyweights instead of joining hands with him. Rather than receive the acknowledgement from his Abia home base, his political godson, the current Abia governor, who OUK enthroned onto the gubernatorial stool, has not found the wisdom in working towards the larger interest of Ndigbo though the support of his estranged godfather. The irony of Igbo politics is that those who are said to be working against the OUK’s embrace of a national platform through the instrumentality of PDP’s quest for national reconciliation are those who are least qualified to do so.

Gov TA Orji, who recently chased away ‘non-indigenes’ from his state’s public service is hardly someone to reckon with in the wider sphere of Igbo politics and can hardly constitute any threat to anybody’s political interest. However, all that is a mere aside to the more urgent need for Igbo political actors to eschew selfishness and myopia and come together to build platforms that are larger and beyond their selfish and atomistic political interests. It is only by so doing that even their own interests could be guaranteed.

The Ikemba Nnewi must be turning in his grace as he watches the current self-serving, but destructive, antics of Igbo political players in the ongoing national manoeuvres for group and sectional relevance. It is this type of selfish and prebendal practices that rob Ndigbo of their most deserved rights, like the creation of the sixth state in the zone, on which most of the country is agreed on principle.

However, right before our very eyes, the aspiration would be frustrated and done to death as the political actors would find it difficult to agree on the particular state to be created, as most of them are said to have started nursing the idea of getting particular areas carved out, where they would become the undisputed lords of the manor. The memory and name of the Ikemba will live forever in the hearts of those who understand what he lived and died for, not those who merely wish to misappropriate his name and legacy for their obtuse and vainglorious pursuits.

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