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Late Saro-Wiwa And His Predictions

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Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged 15 years ago, on November 10, 1995. He was among the nine environmental rights activists and members of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) executed by the Sani Abacha regime on  charges of the murder of four Ogoni chiefs.          

The inhabitants of the Niger Delta have been at  the receiving end of decades of environmental pollution and ecological degradation caused by the multi-national crude oil extraction companies.

Ken Saro-Wiwa’s case was not different from the iniquities which bad governance had inflicted on Nigeria since 1962, when the central government started the usurpation of the autonomy of the federating regions.

Saro-Wiwa’s case has been singled out, because he was a young man who realised very early that there was neither an impact assessment nor any durable national policy protecting the interest of the Niger Delta especially the oil producing communities against the hazards of crude oil extraction.

General Yakubu Gowon who came to power as Head of state after General lronsi said in his maiden speech that the basis for Nigeria’s co-existence no longer existed. This statement amounted to a call for the break up of the country. The statement was unpalatable to the ethnic minority groups of the Northern and the Southern Nigeria. In their opinion, it would have amounted to an act of betrayal if the northern and eastern regions which in a coalition government had conspired in 1963, to create the Midwest region out of the old western region were to be allowed to form separate nations, carrying along with them the ethnic minority groups without their free, prior and informed consent.

Most of the consultative meetings held to stop the idea of Nigeria’s disintegration were held in Benin City, the Midwest capital between 1966 and 1967. They were attended by the likes of J.S.Tarka, Jolly Tanko Yusuf, Achimugu, I. Imam, Raji Abd ah and others from the North; Dr. Okoi Arikpo, S. U. Bassey, Ken aro- Wiwa, Dappa Biriye, Wenike Briggs and others from the East while from the Midwest were such top names like Chief Anthony Enahoro, Oba Akenzua, General David Ejoor, Timothy Omo Bare, S. L. Salubi and many others.

To allow the break up of Nigeria after the Midwest region has been created from the west was to Saro-Wiwa like sentencing the ethnic minority groups of the North and the East to eternal servitude.

As the crisis became protracted and General Odimegwu Ojukwu declared the sovereign state of Biafra, Ken Saro-Wiwa opted for the Nigerian side and was made the Administrator for Bonny division during the 30 months Biafra-Nigeria War. He served briefly after the war as a commissioner in River State under the administration of Diete-Spiff. He left the post in 1973 for private business of publishing and civil society activism.

In his view, “if a drunken and drug sedated driver is allowed at the steering wheel, it wasn’t just enough to start consoling and comforting the children and relations of passengers killed but the first thing is to withdraw the drunken man’s driving license and stop him from killing more people”

Saro-Wiwa saw Nigeria as a malformed state that needed total reforms. In Nigeria, the socio-economic malady was not just a problem of corrupt individuals in government, but the problem of a corrupt system.

After Ken’s death, the UN draft Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples has been adopted by the UN General Assembly, spelling out how to fight self-determination struggles without violence.

Article 3 of the Declaration says, “Ingenious people have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”

Many countries have started to adjust to the principles as spelt out by the UN Declaration by restoring self rule to the federating ethnic units.

I was privileged to know Kenule Benson Saro-Wiwa intimately. He was the foundation president of the Ethnic Minority and Indigenous Rights Organization of Africa (EMIROAF). I was with him during his last days in Lagos before he left for Port-Harcourt where he was arrested, tortured, tried and hanged. He no doubt had a premonition of his arrest and eventual death. Few days before his fateful departure from Lagos on May 19, 1994. He withdrew his personal “Will” from his bankers’ custody and updated it. It was a solemn occasion. I understood the ‘Will’ could not be implemented because the document was not returned to the bank before his arrest, trial and murder.

I visited him six times at the Bori Military Camp where he was detained in Port Harcourt between May 21, 1994 and November 10, 1995. He was always in high spirit. He would say, “I know even if I die for this cause the Niger Delta will no longer remain the same.

He predicted accurately that Nigeria will be a laughing stock before the rest of the world by the time he had finished with the country. A system that relishes in killing its talents while other countries are making use of the brains and services of their men and women has no future. On his death, the Commonwealth of Nations suspended Nigeria for its gross human rights abuses Since then all sorts of absurd things have started to manifest.

Ken was worried about the militarian society foisted on Africa by the colonialists. Athough by his elitist, western education background, he belonged to the privileged class, he was sensitive to the conditions of the poor in our society. He wanted a coalition of all the nationalities in Nigeria, big and small that would depend less on the use of coercion as the instrument of governance.

Saro-Wiwa argued that a system whose policies are specifically biased against the minority and the less privileged needed a fundamental restructuring. He therefore examined the concept of power in relationship to internal self-determination and drew the attention of the Nigerian rulers to the military distortion of the basic principles of federalism and ethnic sovereignty on which the struggle for independence was based.

At the outset of the Ogoni struggle for self determination, Ken was armed with the United Nations Charter, Conventions, Commissions, Declarations and Protocols guiding non violence movements. He fought the Ogoni struggle on the basis of information, rule of law, knowledge and spirituality while the Abacha regime that murdered him operated from the cruel platform of nihilism, ignorance, brutality, primitive arrogance and sadism

An outstanding representative voice of the down trodden masses in Africa, Ken knew the danger of confronting a primitive and corrupt system but he refused to be intimidated. He was one man who warned the Nigerian people about the imminent danger of a protracted militant struggle in the Niger Delta, indeed the entire country. As a messenger of peace, he came with a package of ideas on how to solve the problems without violence, but he was treated with disdain, mocked, tortured and killed. As we remember the anguish and torment Ken went through, our consolation lies in the fact that he fought for the upliftment of humanity and paid the supreme sacrifice for a just and worthy cause.

Ilenre is the Secretary-General, Ethnic Minority and Indigenous Rights Organization of Africa.

 

Alfred Ilenre

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Opinion

 Electoral Bill: Why Buhari Withheld Assent

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On 21st December, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari alarmingly declined assent to the long-awaited Electoral Act Amendment Bill through a letter to the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila. From the tone of the memo, Buhari exuberantly, largely aligned with the Act amendments except the clauses that provided for mandatory direct primaries for all political parties.
Discernibly, the president amid the rebuff acknowledged the energies, nonetheless urged the lawmakers to review the objected clauses, and also requested it be transmitted back for his assent after review. Least expected, Buhari’s major critic, Dr Samuel Ortom, Benue State governor, overtly backed the president’s decline of assent over the direct primaries.
Irrepressibly, the president’s action has continued to generate controversies in the polity with the civil society organizations (CSOs) threatening fire and brimstone and many public commentators seething over perceived mischief and insensitivity. On the whole, three categories of thoughts exist.
Whilst one backs the president against mandatory direct primaries, the second group; mostly from opposition parties, endorsed it. Then, the third category which includes Chief Nyesom Wike, Rivers State governor, admitted the flaws but argued that the assent ought to have been given, notwithstanding the defects, for a review later as Buhari handled the Petroleum Industry Bill (now PIA).
This idea isn’t bad. However, the big question is; what will be the fate if after giving assent, the anticipated review hits the brick wall? It must be carefully noted that the Electoral Act, if flawed, can set the polity ablaze unlike the PIB due to vast interests.
In the legislative zone, the experience is not different. While some accepted the development in good faith and progressively prepared for a critical review, the other side seemingly insisted on a supremacy battle to override the president’s veto. However, the leadership of the two chambers so far, astutely arrested the situation, and opted for wider consultations. Be that as it may, Section 59(4) of the 1999 Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended provides a window to override the president by the National Assembly where he withholds assent to a bill presented to him after 30 days.
Buhari’s divergence is the clause for mandatory direct primaries for political parties citing the financial implications on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor primary elections across all the wards. There are 8,809 wards in the federation. Buhari also argued that political parties must be given a free hand to determine how to elect their flagbearers within their strength, and also, that security factor must be put into consideration underlining that security agencies could be overstretched in ensuring hitch-free primaries which may overheat the polity.
Ostensibly, many frowned at Buhari’s objection — having vetoed the Bill earlier in 2018 ahead of the 2019 General Elections principally on grounds of wrong timing. In fact, a lawmaker while reacting on Channels Television fumed that a bill, overwhelmingly passed by the two chambers after legislative processes which he participated in was ‘insensitively’ rejected by the president; just one man. Logically, his concern was an ego thing, widely far from objectivity. Incidentally, that’s the rule of the game – democracy.
Besides, the oversight of the lawmakers is glaring as the reasons adduced by the president against adopting mandatory direct primary are compelling.
Possibly, the lawmakers didn’t look at it broadmindedly. For instance, if signed into law, it will require INEC to seek a larger budget on logistics and allowances to monitor primary elections across the 8,809 wards in the country for each political party to validly choose a presidential candidate. Let’s say 20 political parties plan to field presidential candidates respectively, it will require INEC’s workforce to go round all the wards for each of the registered political parties to ably elect a valid candidate which has a heavy financial implication. To conduct the 2023 General Elections alone, INEC demands a whopping N305 billion from the treasury.
Sensibly, for INEC to monitor the primaries of all the political parties across all the wards in the country, the task could push the commission’s budget up to many trillions of naira. Then, where there are security challenges that discourage public gatherings, people must notwithstanding embrace direct primaries at the risk of their lives or end up in an inconclusive primary election. In other words, failure to conduct direct primaries across all the wards may deny a political party an opportunity to field a valid candidate in any election.
Deductively, these arguments strongly suggest that mandatory direct primaries could spontaneously force smaller political parties into extinction due to financial constraints and also create unmanageable logistics and security crises.
Another strong fear is beating the time frame for primaries by political parties. As known, primary elections follow INEC’s timetable, and it is rare to find any political party that produced its candidate without internal squabbles which, most times, resulted in late primary election leaving members to resort to any possible means; direct, indirect or consensus to be able to field a candidate within time. If the law should exclusively endorse mandatory direct primaries, practically, it will lead to inconclusive primaries in virtually all political parties. Government is a team work and that’s the strong reason laws must pass through the two arms – Executive and Legislature.
In fact, the bureaucracy for INEC to mobilise workforce alone including ad-hoc staff, managerially allocate tasks can frustrate many political parties due to time. It will also put a heavier burden on the Judiciary to entertain frivolous lawsuits from wards where direct primary perchance didn’t hold by circumstances beyond the control of political parties.
Thus, primary elections should logically, remain flexible and at the discretion of political parties. To be emphatic, the financial implications on the treasury, overstretching security agencies, operability to political parties and also, overstraining the Judiciary are cogent reasons to reconsider the Bill in overriding public interest.

By: Carl Umegboro
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst.

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Opinion

Stop This Begging Attitude

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Are Nigerians all turning to beggars? What is going on? At every institution, many public places, you see well-dressed men and women subtly begging for money. I went to a shopping mall for a business transaction recently and at the gate was a well-dressed, cheerful security guard who zealously ushered me into the compound. I wanted to park my car at one end of the compound but he insisted that I should go another direction which truly was more spacious. And in my mind I was like, “what a dutiful staff?”
He was not done yet. As soon as I switched off my car ignition and was about to open the door to come out, he rushed and did it, smiling from one side of his mouth to the other, offering unsolicited information and a guide on my whereabouts in the facility. I sincerely thanked him, hoping all the VIP treatment will not be a subtle way of begging for gratuity.
Behold, I was wrong. As I made to step into the building, he whispered “Madam, no forget the favour way l do you oo”. I had just encountered another corporate beggar. A day before, I had a bitter encounter with one, a pump attendant, at a petrol station who called me names for refusing to part with my hard-earned money. Having enquired about the well-being of my family, admired my car and showered all unasked encomium on me, he expected a monetary appreciation which was not forthcoming and the next thing I heard was “stingy woman”.
They are everywhere. At petrol stations, banks, offices, both public and private hotels, you see a lot of people begging while on duty. At the airport, train station and in practically all-important offices in the country, “anything for the boys, your boys dey loyal oo”, seems to have become part of the official language.
Of course, this shameful attitude did not start today but it has taken a more serious, disturbing dimension in recent times. Many people, particularly the security personnel, front desk officers, customer relations officers have turned their duty posts to begging offices. They would always blame the current economic downturn for their unbecoming attitude which cannot be totally true because, at least, they are working and earning salaries, no matter how little.
What about the millions of people who are jobless and have no means of livelihood? Have they all taken to the streets to beg?
One thinks it is a social malaise which has a lot to do with our ethical values. A lot of people in the country value money and other material things far and above integrity, self-respect and self-dignity. And so, they will do anything, no matter how shameful, to acquire them.
A teacher once made an analogy of two families, one has four members and the other was a family of 11 people. Both families were given N200,000 each to spend for a month. According to her, half way into the month, the family of four almost exhausted their money and could hardly pull through till the end while the other family of nine comfortably made do with the amount they had and even had some balance. What was their secret? Prioritisation and prudent management.
Therefore, it is not so much about how much we make through our salaries, begging and other means but how we manage the money. There is hardly anybody in the country today that is not feeling the economic bite and the only thing that will help everybody both the low- and high-income earners is to set their priorities right and learn how to live within their income instead of hoping on tips from some “big men and women” and doing all kinds of ridiculous things to attract their attention and the crumb. And we forget that the so-called big men most times also have loads of financial responsibilities.
On the national level, we also have to consider the damaging impact of official begging and do something about it. Obviously, taking little tips from people would make officials skimp on their responsibilities, thereby making some unscrupulous elements have their way, exposing the country to avoidable vulnerability.
It is, therefore, imperative we must begin to build a new ethos that places emphasis on self-respect and dignity of labour. As part of the country’s 60th Independence celebration, the National Ethics and Integrity Policy was launched. It contains the nation’s core values of Human Dignity, Voice and Participation, Patriotism, Personal Responsibilities, Integrity, National Unity and Professionalism. All these values and how they will be practised to make for a better country and more cordial relationship among the citizens are thoroughly spelt out.
For instance, section 4.5.2.5, talks about Honour under Integrity states, “We shall at all times maintain uprightness of character, personal integrity and pride in ourselves as individuals, as one community, and as one nation. Therefore, in all spheres of life, we shall do what is demanded by our common values and laws that we hold to be true, in accordance with our national identity and in accordance with the values enshrined in our national laws and practices as one country. As Nigerians, we shall stand up to challenge those vices that impede the pursuit of our existence with uprightness. We shall celebrate those Nigerians who are upright”.
But then the big questions are: how many Nigerians are aware of this policy? What efforts are being made to educate the citizens on these core values? We have the National Orientation Agency, the Ministry of Information at various tiers of government, what are they doing to educate people about this code of conduct so that the people internalise it and make it a true guide for the citizens,
It is not enough that time, energy and resources were spent in packaging the booklet, let adequate sensitisation be carried out, using the media, both conventional and social media and other means of communication to reach to people at every nook and cranny of the country because many Nigerians are losing it when it comes to integrity and the time to get them back on the right track is now.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Shape Of Things To Come

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In monitoring and surveillance activities, there are two abbreviations that are given priority attention, namely: STC and DEWS, which stand for Shape of Things to Come and Distant Early Warning Signs. From aviation, to health and security industries, shape of things to come and distant early warning system are taken seriously, with appropriate precautionary measures sought and put in place immediately such alert features. Whatever may be the nature of issues concerned, various activities and organisations put precautionary measures in place, and people given some orientation on how to respond to alert.
The Tide, Friday, January 7, 2022, Opinion: Page 9, “That Buhari’s Interview”, by Calista Ezeaku, contained more information than an average reader would grasp. A President’s interview with a television house is obviously not a domestic affair, hence there was a detection and comment about “a close-minded approach to serious national issues”. It was not enough also that someone would say: “From the economy, to insecurity, killings of innocent farmers by terrorists … and other sundry issues, President Buhari honoured his calling as a president who has nothing new to offer”.
It is needful to add that the task of managing affairs that affect millions of people demands that when such a manager has nothing new to offer, what would follow should be an honourable resignation from the task. With regards to the tenure and performance of Buhari, distant early warning signals had long been ignored, denied or distorted, such that one man’s interests can override and become more important than those of millions of people who must bear the brunts of political amnesia.
Management failures do not always arise from wrong decisions and policies, but more often from the intrigues and shenanigans hatched and padded into a management system by a cabal or sapiental authority are not answerable to the masses but always cause great harms for which they are rarely held accountable, nor would the big boss have the courage to dismiss or detach himself from such political parasites. The result of this system of political administration is the installation of weak institutions and structures.
This is why a public analyst would observe and say that “all the abuses of powers by the governors are possible because of the flawed electoral system in the country”. From the refusal to allow for a state police as a complement to the federal police, to the lethargy involved in introducing a fraud-free electoral process, there are parallel forces in government that would not allow leakages and flaws in the system to be closed or checked effectively.
When “administrative banditry” becomes institutionalised, the result would be the situation which we experience currently in Nigeria. Since this anomalous situation had been going on, long enough for more and more Nigerians to know the tricks, it would not be hard to predict the nature of mass reaction to the malpractices. Especially when each federating unit which should be independent and able to have state police and manage indigenous resources cannot be allowed to do so, it is easy to see the shape of things to come in the near future.
For the information of obtuse members of the Nigerian ruling elite and the groups or institutions that shield and protect them in their malpractices, there are glaring signals that the Nigerian masses are wiser now. Even if new tricks are introduced to create a semblance of change from the old system, that would not be enough to avert the shape of things to come. There was a distant early warning signal that the movement of cattle and herders Southwards was a ploy to pursue some hidden agenda.
To quote Mrs Ezeaku again: “It is also worrisome that in this age, the president still believes that establishment of grazing routes would solve the persistent problem of farmers-herders clashes in the country”. Rather than admit that there was a definite hostility against farming communities in Southern parts of Nigeria by herdsmen, President Buhari told American audience that the issue was a cultural one, rather than acts of terrorism. Check all the antics and shenanigans, from Ruga to the quest for allocation of land and huge donations to patrons of cattle business in Nigeria by the federal government, it is easy for anyone to see and read the “handwriting on the wall”.
To have a mindset that all Nigerians can be fooled and bamboozled all the time, would be to cultivate “a close-minded approach to serious national issues. The worsening state of insecurity in Nigeria requires a more broad-minded approach to address the challenge. Not a few Nigerians suspect a possible re-enactment of the Afghan/Taliban experience in Nigeria, whereby a section of our security forces can be described as complicit. General T. Y. Danjuma raised such alarm long ago.
Recently, a Nigerian professor was quoted as picking holes with the observance of New Year on the ground that it is associated with Christian calendar. The idea is that since Islam has a different calendar and new year, the Julian Calendar introduced in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar, with 365 days in the year, should cease to be. The other alternative would be to recognise and observe the Islamic calendar alongside. Already, there is a similar move to make Friday a work-free day, like Sunday.
There are a few zealots and fanatics carrying these issues too far, to the extent of sponsoring terrorism as an act of proselytism, with recognition and implementation of Sharia law as a mission. This is where the influence of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) needs to be examined, to ensure that democracy and secularism are not placed in jeopardy.
There are glaring pitfalls which Nigeria must strive to avoid, if the nation must survive current challenges. There is a need to re-organise the security and intelligence organs of the nation, revisit the issue of the true federalism and ensure that no ethnic group or power bloc boasts of being Born to Rule. There is more to the glib talks about corruption than what we put emphasis on. To allow current imbalances and inequities to continue would be chaotic!

By: Bright Amirize

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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