Open letter to General Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR (3)

Fighting corruption in extractive states has always been a potent weapon to destabilise, subjugate and control the political community, the people and in particular members of opposing ruling factions. It was used in the British colonial administration to keep potential trouble-makers under control as were the cases against Emir Sanusi of Kano, Ahmadu Bello in the native authority system in the 1940s. In the Eastern Region, Azikiwe as Premier of Eastern Nigeria had used it against his close confidant, Mbonu Ojike who was indicted and removed as a Minister of Finance. Aggrieved by the shabby treatment of Mbonu Ojike, his colleague and friend Mr. Eyo Okon Ita, the Chairman of Eastern Nigeria Marketing Board and Financial Development Corporation had urged Azikiwe to rescind the indictment and sack of Ojike but Azikiwe angered by this affront called off his bluff by sacking him.

Being aggrieved Ita in league with Ojike petitioned against Azikiwe to British Colonial authority alleging that Azikiwe had appropriated Eastern Nigeria’s public funds to the tune of £2 million into his private bank, African Continental Bank. After several efforts to kill the petition, an inquiry headed by Foster Sutton was instituted and the commission report indicted Azikiwe but he refused to resign his office but rather called election to test his popularity. The crisis following Azikiwe’s indictment persisted until the British colonial mindful of not letting loose Azikiwe dissolved the government and called for elections and this political option became a precedent as the British merely looked the other way thereby allowing politics to hold sway over matters of corruption in public life. Of course, Azikiwe with his party won the election and formed government. But from then on, Azikiwe became a shadow of his former self having compromised his revolutionary credentials in 1948/1949/1950 when he compromised and succumbed to British stratagem of accommodation executed by Governor Macpherson who osmotically sucked him up in the vortex of the Zikist Movement revolutionary activities geared to overthrow Britain and drive them out of Nigeria without conditions.

So, when Azikiwe compromised, he betrayed the Zikist Movement and from 1950 Azikiwe became political history thereby affording Britain an open field to unfold its agenda of instituting a neo-colonial state in Nigeria. The Azikiwe political failure in 1948/1949/1950 gave rise to ethnic political parties like Action Group and Northern People’s Congress in 1950.

As said before, anti-corruption has always been a political joker and as a tool of blackmail and intimidation was effectively deployed by Nigerian government against opponents in 1964 when the Coker Commission of Inquiry was set up into the affairs of Western Region parastatals and at the end of the inquiry Awolowo was indicted and despite protests that the matter be politically resolved following the precedent of Azikiwe’s Foster Sutton indictment, Awolowo was rubbished but to legally shut him up something more sinister and ‘provable’ in court must be found. So the subversion and treason narrative was kicked up. Meanwhile, his lieutenant, Samuel Ladoke Akintola has been co-opted as an ally by the Northern People’s Congress and its central government while the Western Region was balkanized as Midwest was created in 1964 to further weaken the enemy. So, by 1964/1965, Awolowo has been effectively sidelined and rendered politically impotent but to make it certain that he did not rise to challenge the unfolding hegemony, a subversive activity linking him with treasonable felony to overthrow the Federal Government by force of arms unfolded. Justice Soweinmo tried Awolowo with his fellow confederates and many of them including Awolowo were convicted. Awolowo was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. The 1964 Awo Treason Trial and imprisonment enveloped the nation with deadly silence laced with ominous portents but politicians continued to assure all was well as only a petulant irritant has been put aside for the country to move forward.

The 1964/65 general election was a test of the efficacy of the political liquidation of one of the contestants to power-holding scheme of Nigeria. And so the alliance of Samuel Akintola, the erstwhile acolyte or protégé of Chief Awolowo with the Northern People’s Congress to form Nigeria National Alliance was put to test. Meanwhile, Azikiwe’s party, NCNC now led by Michael Okpara had cobbled up UPGA alliance with the rump of the destroyed Awolowo’s Action Group, more like casting lots over Jesus’ garment after his crucifixion. The power of success of electoral victory lay with the person who counts the votes not the voters. And so against all odds Akintola was declared Premier of Western Region while the NNA triumphed over the UPGA in the general election. The winners and losers settled down thereafter to rule but the Western Region was made “ungovernable” as Akintola and his Western Region were assailed with unmatchable violence called “Operation Wetie.” The nation was certainly stressed up when some soldiers led by your friend, Major Nzeogwu overthrew the Tafawa Balewa government killing prominent politicians and senior soldiers in the North and the Western Regions. The Nzeogwu gang’s exclusion of Eastern Region political and military leaders naturally drew suspicion and mistrust attracting to the Igbo the accusation of a quest to dominate Nigeria. The suspicion and mistrust simmered for long in the civil and military societies and the outlet for this accompanying anger by Northern Region was found in the General Ironsi’s government’s Unification Decree No. 34 of 1966 that abolished federal structure replacing it with a unitary system. Several riots culminating in the July 29, 1966 counter coup with its own pogroms against the Igbo were organised and executed in the North and Western Regions. This July 29, 1966 ushered in then Col. Gowon but was resisted by Col. Ojukwu, the military governor of Eastern Region. Several political means to resolve the crisis, especially the Aburi Conference in Ghana were made but the Aburi Accord was contested by both parties which disagreement led to the Biafra War of which you joined your compatriots to prosecute leading to the defeat of Biafra in 1970.

With the defeat of Biafra, there was no further discussion of the national problems that precipitated the Biafra War as you and your colleagues merely took control of the state and continued ruling on the contested constitutional structure and ruling scheme unfurled by the successful July 29, 1966 coup and the defeat of Biafra that settled whatever questions that arose or followed the July 1966 coup crisis.

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