With the late Oba Folagbade Olateru-Olagbegi III’s rites of passage completed, the race for the selection and enthronement of another Olowo of Owo has started in earnest. I understand many princes from the royal family are interested in ascending to the throne. I used to think there were three ruling houses – Olagbegi, Ajike and Ogunoye until the current scramble began and those who “know” the history of Owo began to educate green horns like us. I learnt now that Olagbegi and Ajike are from the same source (father) while Ogunoye is distinct. If that is the case, then, it could mean that Owo has two ruling houses.
In recent history, the Olagbegis have reigned thrice, one of them, Oba Olateru Olagbegi, actually reigning twice – before Oba Adekola Ogunoye II and again after Oba Ogunoye had joined his ancestors; the reason being that Oba Olateru Olagbegi II’s first reign was truncated as he was removed from the throne. He made a triumphant return to complete the second segment of his reign. Growing up, I had seen the photograph of Olowo Ajike Atobatele, decked in full-length regalia made of beads, hanging on the wall in the house of Pa Cornelius Imolehin, husband to my mother’s elder sister. I understand Oba Ajike Atobatele was so-called because he was rich and had attained the status of an Oba before he became one. In my lifetime I have seen only three Olowos – Olateru Olagbegi, Adekole Ogunoye and Folagbade Olateru-Olagbegi.
I never met Oba Olateru-Olagbegi but saw him from a distance. I, however, interacted with some of his children and but for the mindless division that viciously paralysed Owo in those days, I would probably have married an Olateru-Olagbegi. I was privileged to run into Oba Ogunoye once when he came to our school, Owo High School, to see the principal and later governor of old Ondo State, Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin. The principal was on his usual checks around the classrooms. The Oba beckoned on me and ordered me to alert the principal to his presence. I gladly ran the errand. Oba Folagbade I also saw from a distance when he attended programmes at the Redeemed Christian Church of God campground on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Some of the princes jostling to become the next Olowo are known to me. An Olagbegi who is said to be interested is an ardent reader of my “On the Lord’s Day” column in the Sunday Tribune. An Ogunoye said to be interested was my classmate at Owo High School. At Owo High School, three Ajikes were my schoolmates, with one being my classmate.
I wish Owo will choose the right person as Oba! In those days, Ifa would be relied upon heavily by the Omolowos or kingmakers. These days, however, things have changed. Yinka Ayefele told us in one of his songs that Ifa these days shouts Alleluya (“Ifa n ke Alleluya”). Not only does Ifa shout Alleluya, it would also appear that Ifa also recognises and has need of dollars, euro and pounds sterling; not to talk of Naira. There is nothing Nigerians have not corrupted, Ifa inclusive. So I will not be surprised if Ifa collects bribes these days. This will not be peculiar to Owo from what we have heard or seen where Obaship tussles have taken place. Some kingdoms are spared much of these troubles; for examples the Ibadan chieftaincy title before former Governor Isiaka Ajimobi tinkered with it, and the Benin dynasty where the next Oba is known and the succession process lends itself to little or no controversy at all. But where princes must compete and struggle; where there are multiple ruling houses; and where whose turn it is, is subject to vagaries, permutations and manipulations, it can be battle royal and survival of the fittest.
Money will play a part. Connections will also come to play. Coincidentally, the Ondo State Governor Rotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (SAN); his Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Adekola Olawoye SAN (my senior at Owo High School), and the Chief of Staff to the governor, are all from Owo. Putting heads together and with the Omolowos (kingmakers) putting the interest of Owo first, they should be able to give Owo the very best.
Of course, kingmakers are not relevant all seasons; this is the season of their relevance and the period when they “eat”. While nobody grudges them that, they must take care to “eat” responsibly. Nothing divides and sets Owo on fire more than partisan politics and Obaship tussle. When one reinforces the other, the catastrophe that ensues is better imagined than experienced. I have seen Owo burn in the past. I do not want to see it burn again. I have seen Owo hopelessly divided such that even children who couldn’t understand what was afoot suffered irreparable losses for the sins of the fathers. “The fathers ate sour grapes and the children’s teeth are on edge”. Thank goodness God has said never again should such proverb apply again. May it not apply again in Owo.
Owo may not have been completely healed from the self-inflicted wounds of the past but it would appear to me that much progress has been made. We must therefore bend over backward and ensure that the hands of the clock are not turned backward again.
Owo need peace. Owo needs development. Owo needs justice. A town which used to the first among equals has regressed on the altar of self-immolation. It will take decades of hard work and unity of purpose to bring back its last glory. This is not a task for an individual, be it governor or Oba. The quantum of resources and efforts needed to develop a community cannot be supplied by an individual. If any prince promises that he will single-handedly develop Owo, take that promise with a pinch of salt. We have heard such in the past. It did not materialise and does not seem likely to materialise any time soon. What Owo needs is an Oba who appreciates the place of unity and cohesion in the development process. Owo needs an Oba who is humble, honest and passionate about placing the people first. Obas reign these days, they rule no more.
There is no more subject-ruler dichotomy or master-servant relationship. All are free-born and none is subject to another. All must therefore be treated with respect and courtesy. All must be courted not commanded. If anyone prostrates for you, it is a mark of respect which you will only keep if you work hard to earn it. In this modern age, it is no longer an entitlement.
We itemised that Owo needs peace, development and justice. It must flow in this order: When you do justice, you have peace and it is in a peaceful environment that development becomes possible. Little wonder, then, that scripture commands us to let justice flow like a mighty river. In selecting a new Olowo, let those charged with the onerous responsibility take this admonition seriously to heart. May the good Lord help them!
Weird happenings all over the place
A Court of Appeal judge reportedly walked into a church and took the law into her hand; allegedly disrupted on-going service and assaulted worshippers – actions even a lay man knew he or she must not engage in, no matter the justness or correctness of his or her case. On all fronts, impunity runs amok these days! Virtually every one is above the law – from ordinary herdsmen to those in the corridors of power. And the more ordinary people see that the big men and women trample the law and go unpunished, the more they, too, will follow suit. Soon, very soon, this place will become one big jungle. The other side of the coin, however, is to ask whether the church building in question complied with extant regulations. And what peace efforts were made at both ends? None, I dare to say, is above the law.
AIT is back but…
My sister, Funke Egbemode, President, Nigerian Guild of Editors and MD, New Telegraph newspapers, usually has the right words for an occasion; and so, she aptly described the National Broadcasting Commission shutdown of AIT/Raypower as “unbelievable” and “unacceptable”. I cannot find a better description! Short but sharp – and straight to the point! APC/Buhari administration is full of unbelievable, embarrassing, and shocking actions and statements. This is not the first and is not likely going to be the last. Talk of the leopard being unable – unwilling – to change its skin! Thank God the television and radio stations are back but the other side of the coin, as usual, is to ask whether the rights of others – especially workers’ – are being protected at AIT/Raypower. Give others their rights if you must claim yours! Why use people to make money but deny them their wages? It is written, pay the labourer his wages before the sweat on his brows dries up. Is that not in their bible?
Why and how history defines who we are (6)
THE KINGDOM OF BENIN: A QUINTESSENTIAL REMINDER OF THE IMPORTANCE OF HISTORY INTRODUCTION
History and experience tell us that moral progress comes not in comfortable and complacent times, but out of trial and confusion.
Last week, I started my discourse on the Kingdom of Benin. I have so far shown comprehensively, on the origin of the Benin Kingdom, demonstrating how the kingdom started in 900s, when the Edo people settled in the rain forests of West Africa and how it was later annexed by rampaging merchantilsitic British Colonialists in 1897. Today, I shall continue and beam our search light on what made this Kingdom stand out from other contemporary Kingdoms and Empires.
THE GOLDEN AGE
In 1440, Oba Ewuare, also known as Ewuare the Great, came to power and expanded the borders of the former citystate. It was only at this time that the administrative centre of the kingdom began to be referred to as Ubinu after the Yoruba word and corrupted to Bini by the Itsekhiris, Urhobos and Edo people who all lived together in the royal administrative centre of the kingdom.
The Portuguese who arrived in an expedition led by Joao Afonso de Aveiro in 1485 would refer to it as Benin and the centre would become known as Benin City.
The Kingdom of Benin eventually gained political strength and ascendancy over much of what later became Midwestern Nigeria; then Bendel State; and now Edo State. The Oba had become the mount of power within the region.
Oba Ewuare, the first Golden Age Oba, is credited with turning Benin City into a city-state, from a military fortress built by the Ogisos, protected by 50ft deep moats and walls.
It was from this bastion that he launched his military campaigns, furthered his conquests and began the expansion of the kingdom from the Edo-speaking heartlands. A series of walls marked the incremental growth of the sacred city from 850 AD until its decline in the 16th century.
To enclose his palace, Oba Ewuare commanded, the building of Benin’s inner walls, an 11-kilometre-long (7 miles) earthen rampart girded by a moat 6 m (20 ft) deep; great thorough fares and nine fortified gateways.
This was excavated in the early 1960s by Graham Connah. Connah estimated that its construction if spread out over five dry seasons, would have required a workforce of 1,000 labourers working 10 hours a day seven days a week.
Ewuare also added great thoroughfares and erected nine fortified gateways. More excavations later uncovered a rural network of earthen walls 6,000 to 13,000 km (4,000 to 8,000 mi) long, all of which would have taken an estimated 150 million man-hours to build and must have taken hundreds of years to build. These were apparently raised to mark out territories for towns and cities.
Thirteen years after Ewuare’s death, tales of Benin’s splendors lured more Portuguese traders to the city gates.
At its height, Benin dominated the entire trade along the entire coastline from the Western Niger Delta, through Lagos to modern-day Ghana. It was for this reason that this important coastline was named the Bight of Benin.
The present-day Republic of Benin, formerly Dahomey, decided to choose the name of this Bight as the name of its country.
Benin ruled over the tribes of the Niger Delta, including the Western Igbos, Ijaws, Itshekiris, and Urhobos, amongst others. It also held sway over the Eastern Yoruba tribes of Ondo, Ekiti, Mahin/Ugbo, and Ijebu. It also conquered what eventually became the city of Lagos hundreds of years before the British took over in 1851.
The state developed an advanced artistic culture, especially in its famous artifacts of bronze, iron and ivory. These include bronze wall plaques and life-sized bronze heads depicting the Obas and Iyobas of Benin.
The most well-known artifact is based on Queen Idia, now best known as the FESTAC Mask after its use in 1977 in the logo of the Nigeria-financed and hosted Second Festival of Black & African Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77).
By the late 1400s, the capital of Benin, Benin City, was already a large and highly regulated city.
Europeans who visited were always impressed by its splendor and compared it to the major European cities at the time.
The city was laid out on a clear plan, the buildings were reportedly all well-kept, and the city included a massive palace compound decorated with thousands of intricate metal, ivory, and wood plaques (known as the Benin Bronzes), most of which were made between the 1400s and 1600s, after which the craft declined.
In the mid-1600s, the power of the Obas also waned, as administrators and officials took more control over the government.
The first European travelers to reach Benin were Portuguese explorers under Joao Afonso de Aveiro in about 1485. A strong mercantile relationship developed, with the Edo trading slaves and tropical products such as ivory, pepper and palm oil for European goods such as manillas and guns.
In the early 16th century, the Oba sent an ambassador to Lisbon, and the king of Portugal sent Christian missionaries to Benin City. Some residents of Benin City could still speak a pidgin Portuguese in the late 19th century.
The first English expedition to Benin was in 1553, and significant trading developed between England and Benin based on the export of ivory, palm oil, pepper, and slaves.
Visitors in the 16th and 19th centuries brought back to Europe tales of “Great Benin”, a fabulous city of noble buildings, ruled over by a powerful king. On his part, the Oba began to suspect Britain of larger colonial designs and ceased communications with the British until the British Expedition in 1896-97, when British troops captured, burned, and looted Benin City as part of a punitive mission, which brought the kingdom’s imperial era to an end.
A 17th-century Dutch engraving from Olfert Dapper’s Nauwkeurige Beschrijvinge der Afrikaansche Gewesten, published in Amsterdam in 1668 says.
The king’s palace or court is a square, and is as large as the town of Haarlem and entirely surrounded by a special wall, like that which encircles the town. It is divided into many magnificent palaces, houses, and apartments of the courtiers, and comprises beautiful and long square galleries, about as large as the Exchange at Amsterdam, but one larger than another, resting on wooden pillars, from top to bottom covered with cast copper, on which are engraved the pictures of their war exploits and battles. Another Dutch traveler was David van Nyendael, who in 1699 wrote an eye-witness account.
Military operations relied on a welltrained disciplined force. At the head of the host stood the Oba of Benin. The monarch of the realm served as supreme military commander. Beneath him were subordinate generalissimos, the Ezomo, the Iyase, and others who supervised a Metropolitan Regiment based in the cap ital, and a Royal Regiment made up of hand-picked warriors that also served as bodyguards. Benin’s Queen Mother also retained her own regiment, the “Queen’s Own”.
The Metropolitan and Royal regiments were relatively stable semi-permanent or permanent formations. The Village Regiments provided the bulk of the fighting force and were mobilized as needed, sending contingents of warriors upon the command of the king and his generals. Formations were broken down into sub-units under designated commanders.
Foreign observers often commented favorably on Benin’s discipline and organization as “better disciplined than any other Guinea nation”, contrasting them with the slacker troops from the Gold Coast. Until the introduction of guns in the 15th century, traditional weapons like the spear, short sword and bows held sway. Efforts were made to reorganise a local guild of blacksmiths in the 18th century to manufacture light firearms, but dependence on imports was still heavy. Before the coming of the gun, guilds of blacksmiths were charged with war production-particularly swords and iron spearheads.
(To be continued).
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
“I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all.” (James Baldwin).
I thank Nigerians for always keeping faith with the Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project, by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb., Ph.D, LL.D. I enjoin you to look forward to next week’s treatise.
• Follow me on twitter @ MikeozekhomeSAN
After you say ‘I Do’
What happens if, as a man, after you had proposed or as a woman, after accepting a marriage proposal you saunter into somebody that is the exact description of your dream life partner? What will you do? Perhaps it happens after your wedding, how will you feel about it? Before you respond, read these true-life stories:
Recently, a Pastor sought my intervention in a family squabble between a man and his wife. The wife is a member of his church while the husband, I was told, do show up occasionally or whenever there’s any special programme. After listening to both parties, I asked the man a couple of questions; his answers provided the pointer to the root of their conflict. Further probing questions eventually revealed the reason why the man was feeling like the eight-month-old marriage was ‘hasty’ and actually a ‘mistake’ on his part. He was ‘no longer interested in the marriage’ for reasons best known to him alone. It took expertise to make him open up to me; by this time, I had excused the wife to allow a ‘man-to-man talk’. You care to know his reason? Please read on:
There’s a lady in his place of work who is the exact description of his kind of a woman. She was employed into the company after she lost her job at a new generation bank in the wake of economic downturn early in 2016. Interestingly, the lady in question, still unmarried, found a friend in him as they relate freely, warmly and seamlessly. The friendship became highly treasured to him that he can’t wish it away; more so, he had dreamt of a lady that has a striking semblance to her a few years back. The wife later confirmed that he had told her about the dream before they married. He decided to marry after waiting and scouting for two extra years without seeing any woman that came close to his desire. His wife was his ‘Option B.’ Therefore, when the ‘real woman’ appeared, regardless what the consequences of his action might be, he wanted to quit his marriage!
A lady had accepted marriage proposal from her fiancé shortly before she went for her national youth service. At the orientation camp, she met a handsome, fair guy on whom she instantly had a crush! She was ready to throw off her engagement ring if this Adonis could look in her direction. Apart from his physical appearance matching the desired look of her dream man, the guy was a law graduate while she read accounting. Interestingly, she had made her fiancé promised that he would read law after they are married even if it is on part-time studies because she had wanted her husband to be a lawyer.
What finally sealed her conviction while on a date with her crush was when he asked if she will like to live overseas because he’s a British citizen by birth and his parents and siblings live in the United Kingdom but he has chosen to stay and practice in Canada afterwards. Meanwhile, a two-year plan with her fiancé was already in place as she had hoped the two years savings would be enough to make them relocate abroad after wedding. Yours sincerely, that was the beginning of a dramatic break-up that got both families rattled.
Several people have tall dreams about the look, profession, nativity, age, complexion, religion, social status and academic background of who their would-be spouses should be. There are those who decide based on dress sense, eloquence of speech, dancing skill, culinary ability, proficiency in the bedroom games and spiritual fervency. Somehow, people make their choices but the interests of their partners do not count when their preferred choices emerge even when it’s practically too late.
Are you having a similar experience or challenge at the moment or you know anyone passing through unexplained issues in his/her relationship? In my findings through personal encounters with such folks, there are symptoms that are manifest in the conducts of people having divided interests or shifted attention in their relationships:
λ The first symptom is that the disgruntled partner becomes intemperate. He/she will complain about everything, every time and everywhere.
λ Two, the partner will become unduly hostile, easily provoked, ready to magnify simple or joking matter to a serious issue. They become frenetic about every issue be it minor or major.
λ Three, the ‘unhappy’ partner will often threaten to quit the relationship/marriage or abandon the home by blaming the spouse for everything including cockroaches or lizards found in the vicinity.
λ Four, the irked partner will be staying late outside more than necessary. Traffic, heaps of urgent jobs at work, breakdown of the vehicle on the way home are common excuses at the beginning.
λ Five, the partner will begin to skip meals, especially dinner many times a month by giving tiredness or because he/she had a lunch at work as an excuse for loss of appetite.
λ Six, the partner will always express regret over the marriage at every point of minor argument.
λ Seven, the about-to-quit partner will no longer appreciate his/her spouse; rather, will choose to compare the spouse with some other ‘angelic or faultless’ spouses out there in a provoking manner.
λ Lastly, the partner won’t like to welcome a third party or family intervention or peace meeting from any quarters until the situation is way beyond easy resolution.
Let me assure that a confused situation like meeting a preferred choice after you say “I do” is not beyond remedy. Through counselling, frank talks, family intervention and prayers sanity would prevail. However, sometimes it is better to allow the disgruntled partner to quit. Otherwise, apart from making the home hellish for the spouse where neglect, malice, provocation, abuse and assaults will reign, if care is not taken, the emotional storm might result to an unpredictable end.
Living with Jonathan’s nemesis
“I am the most abused and insulted President in the World but when I leave office, you will all remember me for the freedom you enjoyed under me” – Goodluck Jonathan in 2014
Since 2015 any sign of adversity befalling any Nigerian who directly or indirectly contributed or showed excitement in the political downfall of former President Goodluck Jonathan is easily seen as retributive justice. Such unfortunate condition is usually viewed as a downfall caused by an inescapable agent. The common word easily used to describe such state in political circle is nemesis.
According to dictionary explanation of nemesis, it is a cause of punishment or defeat that is deserved and cannot be avoided.
This word has continued to play up with the way and manner most of the persons who wittingly or unwittingly facilitated the coming to power of President Muhammadu Buhari or who contributed to the downfall of Goodluck Jonathan Presidency in 2015 are biting their fingers. Buhari Presidency has become such a regret mission for many and Nigerians have not failed to always look back to remind them of their roles in bringing the situation to fruition. As events unfold it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the Jonathan nemesis theory being bandied about.
Rather than look at every event from the point of its current origin, Nigerians have preferred to link every action to the past of the thespians involved.
When activist publisher Omoyele Sowore conceptualized his #RevolutionNow idea he was actually responding to the state of the nation where all the ingredients that make for a nation state were vanishing. He was retorting to a very glaring inability of the government in power to respond adequately to the challenges on ground and instead was creating them.
As the young man watched his beloved country go down without any sign of anybody working towards arresting the drift, he thought of starting something. His idea and dream was actually revolutionary but his scope for its execution was pedestrian. Revolution couldn’t have been as simple as just producing a WhatsApp message and throwing it to the cloud without any structure or proper coordination. Nigeria state is not a student union parliament where everybody is virtually on the same wavelength. The effect was to show when the bureaucracy came for him and ended the project at least for now.
If it was a real well coordinated revolution, taking away the dream ring leader would have been the catalyst for the subsequent actions and reactions. For example, when Boko Haram was created, the government operative then thought that eliminating their leader Mohammad Yusuf would mark their end but instead it became the fuel that inflamed the fire for nearly a decade now with thousands of souls wasted and a whole geo-political region of the country destroyed.
Because the Sowore revolutionary dream failed at least for now, discerning minds are trying to decipher the reason why and are asking the pertinent question. Whether the Sowore project was really a revolution or just blackmail stuff with mercantile underhand?
This idea joggling then brought them to the Jonathan nemesis theory as Sowore was at the forefront of those who actually collapsed the Jonathan structure and paved the way for the reigning King. Irrepressible social media actors and actresses have divulged Sowore’s past bringing to the fore all he did that facilitated the coming to power of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Buhari. Sowore was actually on marble to have said that President Jonathan era was and would remain the worse in the history of Nigeria. To now turn around trying to create a revolution against a baby he helped to midwife into existence rightly called for the ensuing joshing on him in the social media.
In truth Sowore is not alone in this finger biting and teeth gnashing regrets for helping to bring President Buhari to power. Many prominent Nigerians are in it. Our own ebullient Baba Obasanjo has since rerouted his caustic letters he used in chasing away Jonathan to Buhari but it appears the letters have no much effect this time, apparently because the current addressee is not the reading type and may not have read any of it. To say that Obasanjo is not regretting his role in bringing Buhari to power would be like saying that American elites are not regretting Donald Trump Presidency.
The likes of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Governor of Kano State Rabiu Kwakwaso who massively supported Buhari coming against Jonathan have all long apologized publicly expressing regret for their political misadventure.
Even among the activist community, Sowore is certainly not alone in this Buhari mishap. Our highly revered Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, human rights activist lawyer Femi Falana and our dear Obiageli Ezekwesili have all seen their political reasoning put to question with the Buhari/Jonathan discernment. Perhaps the literary giant Soyinka would be more pained against the backdrop of the certificate scandal unfolding around his 2015 preferred candidate against a PhD holder. But realistically they have to see whatever agony they are going through in Buhari presidency as a prize for poor political judgement and learn to cope with it as a Jonathan nemesis.
The undisputed truth remains that the fallout of Buhari presidency has evidently put to question the political shrewdness of these hitherto heroes who have been influencing our political thoughts and directions for years.
At this juncture, there is absolute need to underscore the fact that the analysis in this musing does not in any way give a pass mark to Jonathan Presidency, not at all. After all if his administration had not lowered governance to such embarrassing level, the frustration would not have led to all these nosedives. It was his regime’s steep downward plunge and dramatic deterioration that led to that dangerous power grab regrouping that has now turned into a clear political disaster.
If our leaders had been more circumspectly and not driven by ego and personal aggrandizement in handling Jonathan’s weaknesses or even taken time to do some laboratory analysis of the person they were choosing in his place, maybe today’s grieve would have been averted.
The political tragedy of all these is that sincere and judicious criticism of regimes is suffering. Rather than see and digest issues from points and contents, the populace now indulge in comparison. Obasanjo writes a letter whose body totally captures the heart and minds of the majority but the attention instead is on asking him ‘are you not the one who brought him’. Sowore looks at the distasteful happenings in the land and moves even if unrealistically to stem it, the people who are victims of this vile rule turns and instead of providing support to him begins to herald his role in the coming to power of the tormentor-in chief. Erudite Soyinka furiously berates Buhari and compares him to the nation’s late maximum leader Gen. Sani Abacha, the people respectfully possibly because of his age says to him, ‘Prof, but you supported him?’
Until we get it right and escape from this malady of poor leadership circus, we may continue to leave in the nemesis of rejecting a lesser evil.
Clearly, our situation now in this country has become like that of Old Testament story when the people of Israel told God to give them King like other nations, that they are tired of Judges as their political heads, their creator subtly reminded them the implications of what they were asking for but they insisted and he gave them King Saul and what followed is now both scriptural and political history.
Similarly, Nigerians saw in President Jonathan a weakling and desired a strong leader, a military General who will take the security challenges headlong. Few voices that tried to remind us of the yore were drowned by the backing of respectable leaders like Obasanjo, Soyinka among others including the civil society groups. Here we are now bemoaning from all corners as the chicken arrived home for roosting. What a confused nation we really are.
Corruption is a ‘minister’ in Nigeria
Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), raised the alarm last weekend in Kaduna during the graduation of 328 intelligent superintendent cadet-trainees at the Nigeria Defence Academy. He spoke about the ferocity of corruption and how it was killing the economy of Nigeria. Even though he stated the obvious, one would have thought that given the present APC-led Federal Government’s “avowed commitment” to combat corruption, the rewards ought to have abated this endemic scourge. But five years on, since this government came on stream, we seem to be drifting in different directions, leaving substance and chasing shadows, in our anti-corruption fight.
I can understand the pressure on Ibrahim Magu, a man who has remained in acting capacity for four years now. I can also understand the politics of politics that has made his confirmation a subject of sustained horse-trading amongst the power oligarchs around the corridors of power. But the subject matter remains the same: corruption is eating deeper into the mainstream of our nationality.
Fighting corruption with corruption has its own telling contradiction on a system and the expected impact it ought to have in checkmating the growing incidences of it. While the APC-led Federal Government rode on its so-called anti-corruption mantra to get itself into power, it has looked the other way each time there are copious cases of corruption amongst its leaders and chieftains. From the leadership position to the followership buffer zone, there are inherent contradictions that are making the anti-corruption crusade not to gain the maximum traction. First, the president’s refusal to make an open declaration of assets has rubbed off on the seriousness of the crusade.
The President of the country should have done what the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, did with respect to open declaration of assets. The governors in Nigeria ought to be taking inspiration from a president whose handlers easily call “man of integrity”. Aside from Governor Makinde, I am not aware of any governor who has publicly declare assets. If a man so reputed for possessing a large dose of morality and integrity could not publicly declare assets, what else should we expect from lesser mortals in the political power corridors? The blatant refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to declare his assets publicly has set the tone for the contradiction in the anti-corruption crusade.
If the APC leader seen with bullion vans in his compound could not be interrogated and arraigned for money laundering, I am just wondering why the EFCC would shout blue murder over the $2 million allegedly found with one of Atiku Abubakar’s lawyers, and his son in-law, Babanlele. If the parameters for assessing corruption intent are anything to go by, applying selective amnesia on similar cases, easily kills the objective, motive and level playing field which anticorruption crusades are known for. A critical anti-corruption crusade is one that is blind to all persons no matter the relationship they enjoy with those who control the levers of power.
An anticorruption crusade is one that applies the rule, without exception. Any fight against corruption must be devoid of sensationalism and media trial. It must be a fight that applies the rule of law and not the rule of man. It must be a fight that derives its loyalty from the constitution and to the constitution. It is a crusade that sees everyone as equal before the law, from the president to the ordinary Nigerian on the street. Once, an anti-corruption crusade fails these basic tenets, it amounts to mere sloganeering, and certainly not a fight against corruption.
I used to think that when a nominee for any appointive position is said to be undergoing security check and screening, that it is an opportunity to run due diligence on such an individual to ascertain his suitability for such position. I had thought that the “eagle eyes” of the security goons would help to unravel hidden and dirty details of such nominee to prevent him or her from securing such position. I was sold to such belief until I realised that former Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun “passed” through security screening without any detection of her “oluwole” (scammed) National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) certificate.
When the exposè dominated the public space, I was arguing with my inner mind that Kemi Adeosun was being unnecessarily harassed until she capitulated under the weight of compelling evidence. And later took the exit door in the full glare of a government that prides itself as anticorruption fighter. Who is fooling who? Not done, the same security screening could not unravel the fact that Adebayo Shittu, former Minister for Communications, did not carry out the mandatory one year NYSC programme, yet he was “screened” as suitable for ministerial position. Nothing else should remind us that all these oversight functions are products of corruption.
If a security agency could not unravel such fraudulent practices, it tells of the level of rot in our system. Not done with bizarre themes in a government of anti-corruption, some of the latest nominees for ministerial position, are persons who still have questions to answer with the relevant anticorruption agencies. There are ministers-designate who have questions to answer with EFCC.
They have no business being part of a team to deliver the anti-corruption agenda of President Buhari. But in a country of sins without sinners, I am told that political patronage mostly favours those who spend illicit funds to install a government. While the anti-corruption crusade of this government has become a huge joke, those nominees have become mere jokers.
The only pain is that it is the ordinary Nigerian on the street that suffers the contradictions and hypocrisy of the system. I have really wondered aloud why it was difficult for President Buhari to make good choices from the 200 million Nigerians without recycling old brigades and persons with cases to answer with EFCC. While the APC-led government easily derides the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for being responsible for the heist in the system, the declaration by Ibrahim Magu at the weekend that corruption is still killing Nigerian economy, shows that the practice has not abated. It means that corruption is still prevalent in the country.
It means that the present effort of government and its own internal contradictions, are just a drop in the ocean of corruption. Just imagine what difference it would make to the anti-corruption fight if President Buhari declares his assets publicly, and directs all his ministers to follow suit. He would have set the right tone for a holistic fight against a scourge that has left us prostrate.
To state euphemistically that corruption is a minister in Nigeria is to understand the position which corruption occupies in the scheme of things in Nigeria. And to use corruption to fight corruption is to miss the point altogether. Government must live above board and be transparent in its conduct. Government must insist on the right approach to combat corruption and reduce the incidences of monopoly, which is often subjected to abuse by public officials. It must be ready to take punitive action against persons irrespective of their party affiliation or the position they occupy in the society.
The law must not be a respecter of anyone no matter his religious status, ethnicity, political stature or financial muscle. The law must be law. And it must apply across board from the president down to the ordinary person on the street. A lawful society is one that courts civilisation and globalisation.
A lawful society guarantees freedom of speech for the citizens as well as promotes constitutionalism. We cannot afford to be caressing incompetence and cuddles nepotism, and pretend to be building an egalitarian society with equal opportunities for all. Leadership of the country must know when to play politics for the sake of politics, and when to be nationalistic for the sake of our common identity. We need transparent government. We need openness in government to create the right atmosphere for confronting corruption and other financial crimes. This present approach and indices are a bile in the dish.
Buhari’s shocker that reshaped JAMB
hree years ago, Prof. Is-haq O. Oloyede was appointed the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB). This announcement was made precisely on 1st August, 2016. The appointment was greeted with a lot of expectations given the strategic position the Board occupies in the education sector.
True to the vision and expectations of those who nominated him, Prof. Oloyede from the outset stated that his mandate was to build on the legacies of successive Registrars of the Board. His appointment should be seen against the consensus within government circles, as enumerated by the then Minister of Education, that there was a necessity to rebrand the Board for improved performance in terms of delivering credible and fair assessment.
Armed with this resolve, the new Registrar launched a five-point agenda. Chief among which was the need to partner with relevant stakeholders to develop a robust technological infrastructure that would ease the operations of the Board and boost organisational efficiency.
However, it was not until much later that we were to gain valuable insights into the aptness of the four philosophical underpinnings of his convictions, which if imbibed by a nation, are capable of taking her to the Promised Land. These four attributes are highlighted as follow:
Patriotism: The veritable antidote in addressing the plethora of national challenges we see today is to develop a very robust system that would produce very patriotic leaders who will see the responsibilities placed on their shoulders as a clarion call to render selfless service to the fatherland. By so doing, any vestige of allegiance to tribe, religious or self would be annihilated.
The love for one’s name: Attachment to one’s name and the fear of such a name being besmirched if one does something wrong is a great quality in leadership. A man that fears nothing, including whether his name is dragged in the mud, is one that should not be placed in any position of responsibility.
Courage: One of the greatest attributes of leadership is to be courageous in taking critical decisions. As such, unless one is courageous, one may not be able to alter the status quo. This is because daring to change the status quo in a corrupt society is to incur public opprobrium and attract flaks from all quarters. As such, to dare to do things differently is to incur the wrath of the corrupt. It is, therefore, a truism, as asserted in a presentation recently by Prof. Oloyede, that in taking the decision to do the “abnormal”, public officers who desire to change the usual narrative should know that they will suffer infamy and censure of those who thrive in an atmosphere of dishonesty and underdevelopment. However, he had always maintained that whoever desires to make any positive change must not only be angry with the status quo but also be sufficiently equipped to deeply reflect on and consider all options including the possibility and reality of change-induced resistance. This is obvious because most landmark transformational policy directions are often rejected out of hand by the public, thus it will take a courageous leader to stick to his guns by not allowing the fear of backlash or possible removal from office deter him from his noble path.
Determination: This is a consistent desire to make an impact irrespective of whether support is available or otherwise. Most times, one’s effort is not appreciated but the determination to achieve a set goal should always keep one going.
It is the culmination of all these qualities in Oloyede, the uncommon transformer, that has helped in greatly repositioning what is today known as the sanitised Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board.
As we celebrate three years of Oloyede’s iron-clad determination to imprint his name on the sands of time, we call on Nigerians from all walks of life to see his numerous efforts as his patriotic contributions to national development.
Never has someone done so much to arrest a systemic rot as has been done in the last three years by the Oloyede-led management of the Board. Oscar Wilde probably had Oloyede in mind when he said: “You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.”
Oloyede had committed many “sins” in the last three years of his stewardship in JAMB than he had probably “committed” throughout his life as a transformer. This is because doing things properly is seen in our clime as challenging the status quo. Yet, Nigeria is highly endowed with all that she needs to become a superpower. For instance, she has multitudes of very intelligent people who are knowledgeable in all aspects of nation building. The problem is that many of these people are not ready and determined to challenge those daunting and highly-ossified societal norms. Change is daring the status quo to do things differently and more importantly, producing positive results.
The Board has become the darling of many public examination bodies globally owing largely to its giant strides in many fields. The nature and extent of its service delivery could only be likened to those obtained from private concerns. This is largely owing to the board’s long-term and strategic perspectives on good governance and human capital development coupled with a good grasp of Nigeria’s heterogeneous complexities.
As a manifestation of the foregoing, the Board, in the last three years, has increased the number of CBT centres from 300 to 700 to ensure proximity of centres to candidates as well as for ease of examination administration. It has also revolutionised the registration process such that candidates initiate the process at their own convenience by just sending their names to a code; introduced telcos as vehicles for the conduct of examination without necessarily using the Internet; introduced mock examinations to give candidates the opportunity to have a hands-on experience on the computer and above all, he renegotiated all processes involving third parties thus yielding surplus to the tune of N20 billion which was promptly remitted to the federal treasury. When the remittances were made, some vested interests raised issue with the humongous remittances not knowing that Section 22(2) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) mandates the Board to make such remittances. Perhaps they would have prefer the money stolen.
The Board would not be daunted as it sees such a step as its patriotic duty to the nation. However, it is saddening that this uncommon display of patriotism was not employed as a unique opportunity to interrogate other systems and proffer lasting solutions to burning national issues.
Meanwhile, commendations to the Hon. Minister of Education would very much be in order for his uncommon courage of appointing very credible individuals as heads of parastatals and agencies under the Federal Ministry of Education. It was this support that makes these remittances possible in the first instance. Mr. President should also be commended for taking keen interest in the affairs of the Board particularly monitoring the remittances which led to his prompt directive for the slash of the registration fee from N5,000 to N3,500.
Furthermore, the Oloyede-led management of the Board also ensured that 90% of the service hitherto rendered by contractors is now offered internally by staff thereby guaranteeing the sanctity of the Board’s examinations. This is an apt demonstration of the fact that in every organisation there is always capacity if the right atmosphere exists.
In conclusion, the whole essence of celebrating Nigerians who have distinguished themselves in their various fields is to encourage many others to do same as well as put the records straight for posterity. If they had done otherwise they would have been rightly castigated as well. As such, the system should not only be seen as punishing wrongdoings, it should also celebrate and reward intelligence, hardwork and creativity. The remaining years of Oloyede leadership look very promising. Changing a system is like entering a shopping mall, for every choice in the mall, there is a price tag and Prof. Oloyede having made his choice is determined to pay the price.
λDr. Benjamin is the Head of Media, JAMB
Why and how history defines who we are (5)
In the last four parts, I have been able to demonstrate why and how we must study history. By way of summary, history must be taught across schools so that the new generation is well guided and prevented from committing the mistakes of the past.
THE KINGDOM OF BENIN: A QUINTESSENTIAL REMINDER OF THE IMPORTANCE OF HISTORY
While in primary school, I was taught the history of great historical figures such as Vasco Dagama, Mungo Park, Clapperton, Lander Brothers, Booker T. Washington, Prince Henry the Navigator, George Washington Carver, Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Mary Slessor, Lady Nightingale, the Slave Trade and the Abolitionists, etc. I had earlier, in part 2 of these historical series named specific teachers that taught me history in primary school between 1964 and 1969. They fired the embers of my knowledge of the indispensability of history in human affairs.
However, some other historical personalities and historical facts that I have already dealt with, or yet to treat, were taught me in secondary school, not primary school. In this categorical are Kingdom of Benin, Oyo Empire, Mansa Musa, Songhai Empire, Haile Sellasie, Kanem Borno Empire, the Asantes, Fantes, etc. I have decided to write exclusively on the Benin Kingdom today. I have, therefore, decided to devote more time to this unique Benin Kingdom. Very proudly also, I am the ENOBAKHARE OF BENIN KINGDOM and I sit comfortably in the pantheon of the highest league of High Chiefs of Benin Kingdom, in the Oba’s palace, called EGHAVBONORE. Our leader is Chief Sam Igbe, the Iyase (traditional Prime Minister of Benin Kingdom).
In this prestigious group you find the Eson of Benin Kingdom, Chief Amos Osunbor, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri and the Esama of Benin Kingdom, Chief (Dr) Gabriel Igbinedion, etc.
ORIGIN OF THE KINGDOM
The kingdom of Benin, or Benin Kingdom, or Benin Empire, or Edo Empire, are one and the same reference to a large pre-colonial African state of modern Nigeria. The Benin Kingdom, which began in the 900s when the Edo people settled in the rain forests of West Africa, was one of the oldest and most highly developed Empires in the coastal part of West Africa until its annexation by the British Empire in 1897. By the 1400s, the people of Benin Kingdom had created a very wealthy kingdom with a pre-eminently powerful ruler known as the OBA. This Oba lived in beautiful palaces decorated with shining brass.
These people who lived in small family groups, and who began to cut down trees and make clearings in the forests, gradually developed into a great Kingdom. The Kingdom was called “Igodomigodo” and was ruled by a series of Kings called the “Ogisos” (Kings of the Sky). The first Ogiso was called Ogiso Igodo, was wielded much influence and gained popularity as a good ruler. Upon his death after a long reign, Ere, his eldest son succeeded him. About the 12th Century, a great battle for power erupted between the warrior crown prince, Ekaladerhan (the only son of the last Ogiso) and his young paternal uncle. Ekaladerhan was sentenced to death as a result of the act of the first Queen (who was barren) deliberately changing an oracle’s message to the Ogiso. The Palace messengers, who were directed to carry out the royal instruction to execute Ekaladerhan, had mercy on him and set him free at Ughoton near Benin. The death of Ekaladerhan’s father ended the Ogiso dynasty. The people and royal King makers preferred their late King’s son, Ekaladerhan, as their king.
The exiled prince, who had by this time changed his name from Ekaladerham to Izoduwa (“I have chosen the path of prosperity”), sojourned across forests and found his way to Ile-Ife in Yorubaland. Ekaladerhan arrived Ile-Ife at a time the Yoruba oracle had pronounced that their king will come out of the forest. Thus, when Ekaladerhan arrived Ile-Ife, he was promptly and warmly received by the native people and given the title of Oni Ile-Ife Imadoduwa (now known as Ooni of Ile-Ife Oduduwa). The elders of Benin led by Chief Oliha, mounted a search for the banished Prince Ekaladerhan, to return home and ascend the vacant throne. But, he could not return to Benin due to his advanced age, and the fact that, as he argued, a king cannot leave his Kingdom. He told the messengers that since he had seven sons, he would direct one of them – Oranmiyan-to go with them and become their king.
Oranimiyan was fiercely resisted by Ogiamien Irebor, one of the Palace Chiefs. He therefore took up his abode in the Palace built for him by the Elders at Usama (now a coronation shrine till date).
Soon after his arrival, he married a beautiful lady, Erinmwinde, daughter of Ogie-Egor, the ninth Enogie of Egor, by whom he had a son. After residing there for some years he called a meeting of the people and renounced his office, remarking in vexation, Ile-Ibinu (“ile” means land, “binu” means anger; and thus the kingdom was called Ibinu, which was mispronounced “Bini” in the 15th and 16th centuries by the Portuguese). This was out of frustration as he often expressed that “only a child born, trained and educated in the arts and mysteries of the land could properly reign over the people”. He arranged for his son, born to him by Erinmwinde, Eweka, to be made king in his place, and returned to Yorubaland thereafter. His son the new king was soon found to be deaf and dumb, and so the elders appealed to Oranmiyan. He gave them charmed seeds known as “omo ayo” to play with, saying that to do so will make him talk. The little Eweka played with the seeds with his peers at Egor, his mother’s hometown. While playing with the seeds, he announced “Owomika” (meaning “I captured it”), when he struck the only remaining he took this as his royal name. Thus, he gave rise to the tradition of the subsequent Obas of Benin spending seven days and nights at Usama before proceeding to announce their royal names at Egor. Eweka, taken from “Owomika” thus started a dynasty that now bears his name. Oranmiyan went on to serve as the founder of the Oyo Empire, where he ruled as the first Alaafin of Oyo. His descendants now rule in Ile Ife, Oyo and Benin.
EXPANSION OF BENIN KINGDOM
By the 15th century, Benin had expanded into a thriving city-state. The twelfth Oba in the line, Oba Ewuare the Great (1440–1473) would expand the city-state’s territories to surrounding regions.
It was not until the 15th century, during the reign of Oba Ewuare the Great, that the kingdom’s administrative centre, the city of Ubinu (or Ibinu), began to be known as Benin City, by the Portuguese, a pronunciation later adopted by the locals as well. The Portuguese would write this down as Benin City. Benin’s neighbours, such as the Afenmais, Esans, Ika, Ijaw, Itsekiris and the Urhobos, continued to refer to the city as Ubini up until the late 19th century.
Aside from Benin City, the system of rule of the Oba in the empire, even through the golden age of the kingdom, was still loosely based upon the Ogiso dynasty’s tradition, which was military protection in exchange for pledged allegiance and taxes paid to the royal administrative centre. The language and culture was not enforced, as the empire remained heterogeneous and localized according to each group within the kingdom, though a local Enogie (or Duke) was often appointed by the Oba for specific ethnic areas.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
“Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” (Harry S Truman).
I thank Nigerians for always keeping faith with the Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project, by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb., Ph.D, LL.D. I enjoin you to look forward to next week’s treatise.
Keep your man, there’s no spare (2)
As unmarried women desire husbands to have their own homes, conversely, a horde of married women are looking for windows of opportunities to quit their marriages. That’s the irony of life! Reasons for those who want to quit their marriages are as divergent as the challenges facing the individuals.
Last week, I counselled women to work harder in order to keep their homes as ‘perfect’ men do not exist anywhere. This advice was premised on the fact that largely many women lack the spirit of tolerance, perseverance, submission and wisdom to handle marital issues. If some experiences and regrettable actions of some women are anything to go by, many broken homes would have been salvaged.
I know a number of women who confessed to being misguided or wrongly advised by friends, siblings, parents, and even spiritual guardians as reasons for quitting their marriages prematurely. They regretted trusting in those whose advice (perhaps not intentionally) led to their exit out of their marriages over reconcilable issues, only to feel like a fish out of water afterwards.
“I’m wiser now. If I had been this exposed to the reality of life, I would have kept my marriage. I was very intolerant of my husband’s bossy attitude and demands for perfection. I felt he was becoming overbearing as his penchant for details were suffocating to me. I told him we’re equals and partners and so he should limit his level of control over me since I’m not his maid. I shared my worries with a couple of friends and they encouraged me to reject his imposing attitude. At some point, they advised me to leave him for some time to make him sober, thinking he would come begging. Sir, that’s how I lost him. I even decided to return he refused saying he didn’t send me away in the first place,” a single mom sent this as her response to last week’s article.
Men are practically the same in many respects. Just as it rains where you are, so it rains elsewhere. If you leave your husband over a trivial matter(s) thinking another man will be better, it will surprise you that the baggage you are likely to meet in your fantasied relationship might be worse and unbearable than where you are coming from.
The truth some people refuse to admit is that the woman runs the home. The woman is the anchor of every family. She is the mother to her husband and children. She is the reason the man is classified as responsible or otherwise. She is the multiplier of her husband’s seed and the vine of his family. A man’s house becomes a home only when a woman comes in. A man is deemed responsible in the society and in the eyes of the law when he’s married. The woman owns the home. Truly the man is the head being the major provider for the needs of the home as well as the shield of protection for the family but the woman is in charge. More importantly, the headship is a divine ordination that is non-negotiable with anybody. The Word says “A wise woman builds her home (with godly character) but the foolish pulls it down with her hands (bad, ill-tempered manners). Proverbs 14: 1.
Men have their own problems, too. Not every man is worth marrying as a husband. Such a man is a nightmare and bad market for his unfortunate wife. There are men who are violent, stingy, irresponsible and incurable cheats. There are men who are hostile and uncaring to their wives but could do anything to take care of their children. Also, there are men who are terrible all-round: they’re bad fathers, loveless husbands and irresponsible men. Women who are unlucky to marry any of these categories of men would survive only by the grace of God and by being economically independent.
If your husband is not abusive or violent, he’s not a criminal, he’s not a ritualist and he’s not an impotent, my dear sister, you can still handle his case with wisdom, prayers and good counsel. A praying woman would settle the account of her husband on her kneels. I know a woman, a retired health worker, whose husband had taken to court for divorce four times! Today, the bed-ridden sick man is being taken care of by the only son the woman had for him. She’s a 63-year-old woman of an exemplary character.
While I do not seek to massage the ego of errant men, the truth is that an average man would cheat. Quitting your marriage because your husband cheats on you is not worth it. The same man could end up being a man of God later in life. Men do tell lies; but they claim that they tell lies for three reasons: to protect their homes/relationships; to show respect and honour to their spouses/partners; and to avoid shame or ridicule that may arise from their indecent conducts.
Women should deplore their weapons of high spiritual profundity and power of prayers to protect, support and change their men. Women are more sensitive and discerning than men; women are not as carefree or lackadaisical like some men; and women are more frugal and accountable in managing resources than many men who are profligate in spending.
Prioritise your home above other things. God will give you a better man than your husband if he maltreats you beyond what you could endure. God will send a comforter of a man into your life if indeed you’re a victim of his wicked acts or constant abuse. You will enjoy a better marital bliss elsewhere if he sends you packing unjustly or you quit to save your life from a dire situation. God will always defend the helpless in all situations.
From Last Week . . .
I received a barrage of scathing responses from some readers for daring to counsel women that they should work on their weak points and character flaws so as to keep their marriages. However, there are those who believe that women also have a role to play beyond finding faults in their men. Some people asked whether women in abusive marriages should stay put at the expense of their lives. My point is that women should not quit on account of “petty issues” that could be wisely resolved” and not life-threatening issues.
Revolution: Are we ready?
“The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.” – Che Guevara
What is revolution? In simple explanation, based on the various intellectual works of renowned political scholars, revolution is when the ordinary people of a country often referred to as masses come together with a common objective of bringing down an unpopular and draconian government. The question then is do we have ordinary people who are not happy with the government now in this country? Yes. Do we have an unpopular government? Yes. Do we have a draconian government? Yes, especially with what is happening to Omoyele Sowore, for just using the word revolution. Then the final question: are we ready or can we carry out revolution as a people now? It is difficult to give a straight answer to the last question because of the peculiarity of Nigerians as extremely docile and gullible people.
Why did President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration panic when an activist journalist and politician Omoyele Sowore said he was mobilizing the people for a #RevolutionNow movement that was scheduled to kick off on Monday August 5, 2019?
The nation’s secret police, the Department of State Services (DSS) even took Sowore away 48 hours to the scheduled mass movement, saying that by conceptualizing and coordinating such movement he has crossed the lines. In security parlance, if you cross the lines anything including death can come your way. Response from security when you cross the line can be violent and brutal. The least you can probably get under such circumstance is to be put to death or in prison through judicial pronouncements.
In the case of Sowore they chose the lesser one probably because of the nature of government system in operation that even legalizes dissention and protests by the people as a way of expressing their disapproval of a government and their actions. Moreover it’s the court not security that will determine if lines are really crossed.
Expectedly, the action of the DSS is backed by their sister force the Nigeria Police who alongside the Presidency are saying that Sowore’s action of calling for a revolution amounts to a violent overthrow of an elected government which is treasonable and also a terrorist act. We however need to note that all these are definitions given to Sowore’s action by the same system he is confronting so you cannot expect much objectivity in their narration.
But the human rights community has however not kept mum on the development. They have cried blue murder with the aging activist and the only Nigeria Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka comparing the government’s behaviour to the nation’s dark days when late military dictator Gen. Sani Abacha held sway in the 90s. Also, the leading human rights lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) point by point demolished the action of the DSS and the Police as ultra-varies and crass show of power and unconcealed violation of fundamental human rights of the citizens.
He even went further to show how in 2015 President Buhari then as a leading opposition leader called for revolution and hired him [Falana] as lawyer that sued the then Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government and got a favourable judgement barring Police or any security agency from disrupting peaceful protests of the people against establishment. The court then, according to him, went further to direct that in such circumstance of protests, the Police as part of their responsibility should provide security for both the conveners and protesters. But what did we see last Monday, a clear violation of this judicial directive with well-armed combined team of military, police and DSS chasing away protesters across the country with Federal Government excitedly celebrating it.
The reason why this government is jittery at the mere mention of revolution is because the government is alienated from the people and gets threatened by even its own shadow.
Even before the 2019 general election the administration knew that the gap between it and the people were widening. While the populace endured the situation with the hope of throwing them away through the ballot, the abracadabra election came that did not allow the will of the people to prevail. Predictably, the outcome of the election created further gulf between the people and the administration.
The apparent confusion in the government system that is underscored by the uninspiring cabinet just assembled after long wait, plus the continued bloodletting of innocent souls across the country was provocative enough for the Sowore #RevolutionNow Movement to act.
Knowing very well what happened last February at the general election, it was therefore annoying this government reminding Sowore and his group that the only way to change a democratically elected government is by ballot.
Perhaps the shocking development from the revolution issue is the level of mobilization of security agents, the Police, the DSS and the military to quash the planned protest.
If these bodies – Police, the DSS and the military – had shown similar energy, zeal and toughness in tackling the menace of herdsmen, banditry, and kidnapping ravaging the country, the level of distraught among the populace would not have reached their desiring a revolution. A television watcher after seeing the combined security team attack unarmed protesters in Lagos had this to say: where were all these people when herdsmen took over our highways?
The last time the country witnessed such level of security mobilization against an unarmed civilians was when the Nigerian Army took their python dance to the South-East in search of Nnamdi Kanu and his separatist group, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) in 2016.
The same road the government followed then in creating a monster out of a harmless Kanu by incarcerating him is the same route they are following now trying to create out of Sowore for expressing his fundamental right of free speech and association.
On the road to this musing I took time to study 10 foremost revolutions in history: Chinese communist revolution, Iran revolution, Haitian revolution, Industrial revolution-global movement that turned Europe around, 1848 revolution, Cuban revolution, Xinhai revolution – the 1911 revolt that led to the collapse of Qing dynasty in China, the French Revolution – that led to series of decade of social and political reforms from 1789 to 1799, the American Revolution of 1765 that led to American independence from the Great Britain and the Russian revolution that ended Russian Empire.
I also took a reading at some latest revolts in Africa particularly in Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, and Tunsia that led to the Arab Spring. The Egyptian revolution was the one President Buhari recommended for the country in 2014 when he was disturbed with political happenings in the country, but four years after he occupied the commanding seat and the situation even got worse, he now orders the incarceration of anybody thinking or using the word revolution. What a double standard? However, after my study of both the old and the new era revolution I have come to an undeniable fact, that this country is not yet ripe for revolution. Revolution is not a press conference matter where you announce its starting date nor is it an apple waiting to fall when it is ripe; in fact real revolution is as unpredictable as the arrival of an earthquake.
All notable revolutions are driven by passion for an answer to a challenge. In this land such does not exist, why because two heavy cogs are tightly holding revolutionary wheel from moving, they are religion and ethnicity. So long as we remain one country called Nigeria, we can only record pockets of uprising driven mostly by division among the greedy elites over sharing of loots and frustration due to hunger but none will ever develop into a revolution. If we have deep thinkers in this regime and among our security operatives, they would not have tried to create mountain out of molehill by escalating Sowore’s use of the word revolution. Now they have only enriched the profiles of the activist and further impoverished the already not too good democratic status of this regime.
Notwithstanding that however, Nigerian leaders need to note this: that those who refuse to heed the wise counsel of Mahatma Gandhi that non-violent revolution is the transformation of relationships that eventually end in the peaceful transfer of power, may have to contend with John F. Kennedy’s reminder that those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent one inevitable. Why not, you can only with your human power and might jail revolutionaries but certainly not their dreams which are the revolution itself. God bless Nigeria.
Radicalizing the South-West…
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable – US President John F. Kennedy: Remarks on the Alliance for Progress, 13 March, 1962.
Hereditary bondmen! Know ye not (that) who would be free, themselves must strike the blow? – In: Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom, 1855.
Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they… As long as a people is compelled to obey, and obeys, it does well; as soon as it can shake off the yoke, and shakes if off, it does better; for, regaining its liberty by the same right as took it away, either, it is justified in resuming it, or there was no justification for those who took it away…The strongest is never strong enough to be always master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty – Jean Jacques Rousseau in “The Social Contract” (1762).
Dissent is the highest form of patriotism – Whether attributed to US President Thomas Jefferson or historian Howard Zinn.
To start with, have you seen how the APC/Muhammadu Buhari administration retreated, tail between its legs, over the El-Zakzaky bail issue only after the Shi’ites turned violent? The amateurish way Buhari has handled the Shi’ites portends grave dangers. First, the government got itself boxed into a corner by the Shi’ites. It had to find a way of escape through the courts. The judiciary has further confirmed its new-found notoriety as lackey and errand boy of the executive. It is now beyond dispute that our judges are willing tools in the hand of the Executive. They have thrown their independence to the dogs. Pity! Now, not only the Shi’ites but other groups with an axe to grind know they will not get Buhari’s ears until they, too, put his back to the wall.
This government does not value the language of peace. The only people it respects are those who talk with it in the streets. More importantly is the fact that the amount of literature that has filled the internet on the Shi’ite versus Sunni, Fulani versus Hausa divide has debunked government’s own narrative of why it is going for broke with the Shi’ites whereas more dangerous groups like the Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen are getting kid-glove treatment from it. Unfortunately, government has been unable to debunk the Shi’ites superior argument that government’s high-handedness has little to do with national security but more with the fight-to-the-finish between two fanatically religious groups (Sunni and Shi’ite) and the now sharpening-up fight-to-the-death between Fulani overlords bent on keeping their hitherto Hausa vassals under subjugation and the growing militancy of the Hausa and other Northern minorities to overthrow Fulani suzerainty and reclaim their independence. So it is religious as well as political struggle. Nigeria is merely the grass on which the many elephants in the North are conducting their battle for supremacy. We now have a better understanding of the issues involved; thus helping us to make informed commentaries as well as take decisions that will better safeguard our individual and collective interests.
George Santayana says those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeating its mistakes. Unfortunately, it has also been posited that history teaches that human beings hardly learn from history. Human memory, says Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf or My Struggle), is so short that you have to tell them the same “truth” again and again. Is it not said that those who drive people from the open space of discussions drive them into cellars (closed places) where revolutions are made? Hence Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong admonishes “…letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend…” Where dissention is forbidden and freedom of speech criminalised, we have a society in regression, a process that has been on in Nigeria for decades, beginning seriously with the silencing of human rights activist and convener of the Ogoni Bill of Rights, Ken Beeson Saro-Wiwa. Vile dictator Sani Abacha had thought the judicial murder of Saro-Wiwa and his comrades would silence agitations in the Niger Delta – but it only radicalised them the more. Faithful, then, is the saying that the tree of liberty is watered with the blood of tyrants and martyrs alike. Today, the Niger Delta swarms with militants so much so that elections there wear the full regalia of war! But for the wisdom of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua ably assisted by the then VP Goodluck Jonathan who came up with the amnesty programme, this country might have gone up in flames.
Failing to learn from history is why Boko Haram has become the Frankenstein monster that it is today. Just like they thought the killing of Saro-Wiwa would signal the end of the Niger Delta struggle for better living standards, they also thought killing Boko Haram’s leader without uprooting the insurgency would do the trick. As our people would say, they only turned Boko Haram into a snake that was wounded but not totally killed, only for it to return with a vengeance. Did you read the Wall Street Journal’s account of how 1,000 of our soldiers were buried peremptorily in unmarked graves in Maiduguri? When I read Festus Adedayo’s account (Sunday Tribune, 4th August) of how the death of his brother-soldier in Sierra Leone was casually broken through a letter – and nothing more – I remembered, also, my cousin, Brother Fasasi. A man cannot be more handsome! The last we saw of him was when he came to say goodbye after he joined the army at the 133 Battalion, Owo in those civil war days. Few days after, they were drafted to the war front. He never returned! It is not the Army alone that treats its members cavalierly; it appears to cut across. I remember when Rosaline’s father died after having served the police for over two decades. To collect his entitlements, his colleagues in the same pensions department where he last served demanded bribes from Rosaline who, as the eldest child, just finished Form Five! She was aghast to see that those making such demands were colleagues who drank “burukutu” with her father. They pleaded for understanding because, according to them, the same treatment awaited their own families at their own demise. What a system! And what a people!
But we digress! The Presidency gloats because it thinks it has “succeeded” in scuttling the “RevolutionNow” movement’s planned nationwide protests. It should bury its head in shame! There is no better way of understanding how little-minded our present rulers are than this. If it has chalked up any “victory” at all, it should be told that it is pyrrhic and will soon turn into ashes in its mouth. Unfortunately, they are creating problems not only for themselves but for future governments and generations of unborn Nigerians, just like Abacha did with Saro-Wiwa and Umaru Yar’Adua did with Boko Haram’s leader, Mohammed. The destruction that Boko Haram continues to visit on Nigeria would have been avoided if their insurgency had been better handled. Nigeria at the moment suffers from similar pig-headed policies and mindless intransigence by Buhari. He has made the Boko Haram crisis worse through a security architecture made up solely of his Fulani tribe and Sunni religion that has performed abysmally below expectations. Yet, he will not tinker with it. He has created another monster in the Fulani herdsmen who, on the Global Terrorism Index, are the world’s fourth most deadly terrorist group. Tribe and religion have become Buhari’s Achilles heel. Rather than deal decisively with insecurity caused by Fulani herdsmen and others of their ilk, our own Nero fiddles while the country burns. To disabuse the minds of many that the murderous herdsmen are not doing his bidding, Buhari has to deal with them decisively. He should not be bent on gifting them with colonies, RUGA, etc. when he should be treating them as the vile terrorists that they are.
The South-West used to be quiet before the murderous herdsmen came – There were no Niger Delta-fashion militants and there were no South-East-fashion secessionist group like IPOB. The invasion of the South-West by murderous herdsmen has changed the equation. Not only is the South-West now restive, the various extant militant groups there are being roused from their slumber by the government’s insensitivity to South-West sensibilities, interests and concerns. This cannot but be dangerous. Have you noticed that the South-West’s intelligentsia, who were prominent in the epic June 12 battle, are already in the trenches? Learning from June 12, I think the South-West will prefer to fight and win this battle as it did June 12 – but if the avenues of peaceful protests are shut, like the Buhari administration is doing, then, the grim prospects would be either to surrender or pursue the project through other means.
LAST WORD: I smell revolution in the air! Let the “REVOLUTIONNOW” protests continue! Set the captives free!
Buhari, mass action and Sowore’s revolution
“I as a retired General and a former Head of State have always known about our soldiers. They are capable, they are well trained, patriotic… brave, and always ready to do their duty in service of our country. But in the matter of this insurgency, our soldiers have neither received the necessary support nor the required incentives to take on this problem. The government has also failed in any effort towards a multidimensional response to this problem leading to a situation in which we have now become dependent on our neighbours to come to our rescue. “Let me assure you that if I am elected president, the world will have no cause to worry about Nigeria as it has so recently, that Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa. We will pay sufficient attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service. We will give them adequate and modern arms and ammunition to work with. We will improve intelligence gathering and borders patrol to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels. We will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development and promoting infrastructural development, job creation, agriculture and industry in the affected areas. We will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester. And I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front.”
The above statement formed part of the elaborate speech of President Muhammadu Buhari in February 2015, in Chatham House, London, at the run down to the presidential election of that year. He was indeed voted into office as President, and the rest, as they often say, is now history. Reviewing that well written but badly delivered speech, after a term of four years, it will be sufficient to say some of us were sold a dummy to buy into the Buhari candidacy project.
Taking inspiration and insight from what obtains today, the Buhari presidency has become a huge disappointment, a hypocritical emanation, a phlegmatic leadership and harbinger of poverty and hunger on a populace that remains detained by general inertia. The scenario he painted above has assumed a horrifying dimension because of poor leadership response and near absence of intelligence gathering that always overwhelm the security agencies to react rather than be proactive on issues of crimes and criminalities. Taking off on his disputed second term, I am yet to see the “comprehensive economic development and promoting infrastructural development, job creation, agriculture and industry, in the affected areas”.
Instead, President Buhari has deepened hunger, poverty, dislocations, disconnections and deprivations in such whimsical manner that tends to suggest crimes now rule the space in Nigeria rather than governance. Reading through Buhari’s submissions in that August presentation at the UK Chatham House gives me cause for worry.
First, since he was voted into office, all the issues he raised from welfare of soldiers to the purchase of ammunition and modern equipment, have grown to gargantuan level. Soldiers are being killed almost on a daily basis. Kidnapping has become the fastest growing industry in Nigeria. Armed robbery and banditry have consistently remained in the front burner of security discourse.
The population of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) has remained all-time high, growing almost at a geometric proportion and spreading across states that were hitherto unaffected by insecurity concerns. The ferocity of herdsmen killings and kidnappings is threatening the very foundation of a country that has endured its fragile unity and delicate balance. Different geopolitical groups are now threatening to resort to self-help since government appears helpless and unable to arrest the drift. The level of insecurity in Buhari’s Nigeria is the worst in the history of the country.
Rather than urgently respond, government’s utterances, often times lead in the wrong direction. Second, the palpable fear in the geopolitical space is not a good incentive for democracy and democratic practice. There are too many arrests and detentions of persons seen to be critics of the government. Once a supposed democratic government becomes paranoid to criticism, it wears the garb of autocracy with all the vestiges of prependalism and militarism. A militarised political atmosphere does not yield to robust interaction and constructive engagement. It only yields to pretentious acquiescence.
Third, since the last time we heard of the Tucano fighter jets deal in the United States of America, I am not sure this government has made a deliberate effort at purchasing other ammunition and equipment that would have made the insurgency fight more utility-driven. The Tucano jets are not likely to reach us until 2021 when President Buhari would have been on his mid-term phase.
His Service Chiefs have not shown enough gravitas and understanding of the asymmetric nature of this insurgency. For the first time in a long haul, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Buratai stopped short of saying he could no longer trust his troops. Only last week, the Wall Street Journal, such a responsible, credible and reputable journal, gave a damning verdict on the unethical practice of the military which it accused of carrying out mass burials especially at night. The Wall Street Journal gave graphic details of a practice by the military, that has its own implication for the plights of soldiers in combat with the insurgents.
Expectedly, the Army denied the allegations. And while that has not simmered, Omoyele Sowore was arrested and detained by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) on Saturday, 3rd August, over call for a revolution that would put paid to a lot of the halitosis that presently stares us in the face.
What Sowore is calling for is not new to Nigerians. General Buhari called for mass action in 2003 after he lost the presidential election. Part of that mass action exercise included civil disobedience and public protests in Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos and some North-Central states. As a chieftain of the National Democratic Party (NDP) at that time, I actively participated in that mass action alongside General Buhari, Late Ikemba Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, Balarabe Musa and a host of other chieftains of opposition political parties. At the Mabushi Roundabout in Abuja, we met a detachment of policemen, battle ready and fiery looking, poised to stop our trail. For three days, we sustained the action just to drum home the import of a failed and heavily rigged general election. In 2011, General Buhari reportedly made inciting statement to warn the government in power of the consequences that awaited it, if the elections were rigged. The popular statement of “monkeys and baboons will be soaked in blood if the elections were rigged” became a common refrain. After the elections, there were total breakdown of law and order. Over 800 persons were reportedly killed after the election and about 10 corps members who participated in the election also lost their lives.
The government set up a committee headed by Sheikh Ahmed Lemu and the outcome partly indicted General Buhari, while linking his statement to the reason why there was mass protest. In 2014, at the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC), there were series of mass protests to drum public support for the new party.
The subsidy removal protest, fuel scarcity protest and a host of others were carried out to register the party’s displeasure over the under-performance of the then Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government. The Chatham House outing of General Buhari in February 2015, was part of the larger schedules of activities to mobilise Nigerians to vote out the Jonathan administration. In all of these engagements, General Buhari was a recurring decimal.
He was not only involved on the street protests, he occupied the front roll. This is why I find the present panicky measures of the Buhari-led government a bit curious. Under a democracy, the people have the right to voice out their resentments in whatever form provided they do not take up arms against constituted authority. Sowore has only called for civil disobedience to register the growing displeasure with a government that has failed abysmally to deliver on its promises. The government economic policies, if any, are dehydrating while the political correctness of its actions are usually suspicious. Infrastructures across the country are in parlous state, while the psyche of the average Nigerian has been affected by hopelessness. The Buhari-led presidency has remained clueless and showing copious signs of incompetence.
Rather than be role models to our West African neighbours, we have become butt of ridiculous jokes across the African continent. Our borders are porous more than ever before. The unwholesome activities of herdsmen and killer gangs are becoming the ugly stories of a decadent country in search for escape routes. Hunger is prevalent in the land. Poverty walks on the streets, insecurity is the visible roadmap you see on the landscape while unemployment has gotten to an alarming magnitude. Nigeria has become one huge country governed by rudderless leadership clutching at every flotsam to keep the ship of state afloat.
The problem of the Buhari presidency is President Buhari. He is neither leading from the front nor the back. He is caught at the middle of nowhere boxed up by a cabal that dictates the power pendulum. Aside from being reclusive, his approach to contending with issues are too cocooned in the inner fortress of Aso Rock conclave. He needs to reach out. He needs to visit states, engage with the people and their leaders, and create platforms for robust interaction. Rather than invite traditional rulers to Aso Rock, such a jamboree, if you ask me, I would expect the president to visit the homes and states of those traditional rulers and directly interact with the people. When the people cannot connect to their president, they get swayed by all manner of lies and concoctions often handed down to them by their selfish leaders. They manipulate their followers and create stories that would serve the egos of political buccaneers and economic predators.
After the elections, even though still in dispute, I expected to see the President going round the country for the needed moral healing, to assuage the people, that he means well. But once a government becomes a monologue, anything goes. This is why a call for a people’s revolution becomes a veritable platform for a hopeless populace to get a tinge of opportunity to let out bottled steam. That way, the government will be forced to give greater attention to their ugly plights and inhuman conditions. If this government had performed, nobody will be calling for protest, but failures and frustrations must naturally motivate mass action.
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