On Friday, August 4, 2017, my Lagos-Accra flight touched down at Kotoka Airport at 7.30am and by 8am I had gone through the tables of very cautious officers of immigration, customs etc and was at the car park where Frank, the Uber driver, was on hand. My mission was dual: a speaking engagement and the wedding of my grandniece, Ijeoma Sweetie Ukposi, and Festus Otoo Ankrahin Cape Coast. First, I was struck by the population of little cars vis-à-vis SUVs: for every SUV, there were fifteen little cars and this also reflected at the car marts.
The journey to Cape Coast took three hours; it was a period of interesting observations and conversation with Frank, a Ghanaian. There were only two police checkpoints and they were proclaimed by giant billboards about one hundred meters away; at the first one, only one car was stopped and we drove past virtually unnoticed; at the second one, we were flagged down and one of the officers approached us, said “Charlie, how are you?” as he shook our hands heartily and added a courteous “safe journey;” I could virtually see all his thirty-two as they glittered in the morning light, contrasting with his healthy ebony skin.
I couldn’t but ask Frank: “is he your friend?” “No; why?” answered and asked Frank; feebly, I said “because of the way he greeted us;” “oh no, that’s how we are with them,” Frank answered.”And he called you Charlie?” I furthered; “everyman in Ghana is Charlie,” Frank added. “This is a human society,” I soliloquized.
Given the import of the statement “that’s how we are,” I pried more on the Ghanaian society: I learned that dating and marriage across religious hedgerow is a norm and Christians and Moslems jointly celebrate the religious festivals; assimilation in a community with every political and socioeconomic right is automatic after nine months of residence; power outage is a rarity and ample notice is given prior to it.
At the wedding of Ijeoma and Festus on Saturday, a cocktail of clergies adorned the altar of the Anglican Church: Rt. Rev. Victor Atta-Baftoe, Rev. Canon JWK DeGraft-Johnson, Rev. Fr. Theophilus Odametey, Rev. Mrs. Trudy Wright (a Methodist), Rev. Samuel Boateng and others officiated. Certain contents of the service supplicated to Mary for her intercession and some of the choristers and many in the congregation did the cross on their chest in the Catholic tradition; the Holy Communion was also a mixed grill. At the end of the ceremony, I approached the Vicar with my observation of ecumenism. He said it is the tradition in Cape Coast Diocese. Again, in soliloquy, I said “this is a human society where religion is not allowed to play a divisive role.”
On Sunday, August 6, a Nigerian driver took me on the return journey to Accra; we made it in two hours. Granted that the variables of weekday and weekend may have affected the duration of the journeys, the point remains that Frank obeyed every traffic rule; this is a telltale of the attitudinal disposition of Ghanaians vis-à-vis Nigerians. Chronicling the account of my journey to Ghana in 2004, I averred that, in terms of civility, Ghanaians were twenty years ahead of Nigerians; (The Tide, June 29, 2004:9) in this outing, I harbored the hope that that assessment would change; it did; but unfortunately, it furthered the gap. Ghana is a human society. Have we always been this way?
I was born at the staff quarters of UAC Beach at Alinso Okeanu in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA), Rivers State. As a major trading post of UAC, the Beach was a cosmopolitan with the Rest House as residence for the Europeans, UAC quarters for staff and ethnic neighborhoods (aka Ogbes) for Ijaws, Kalabaris, Mbieri (Ibos), Yorubas, Hausas and Abohs; the Urhobos lived in the bush where they processed palm produce; there were two churches (Catholic and Anglican) and a mosque.
Resultantly, our worldview was very wide; we joined the Moslems in celebrating Sallah, which we referred to as “Hausa Christmas” and they joined us in celebrating Christmas and Easter. Every face had a name and child upbringing was a collective responsibility; the adults reprimanded and, sometimes, corporally punished unruly children and the parents visited later and thanked the adult.
So the question is: where did the ethnic and religious divide come from? Interestingly, responding to a question by Aljazeera (May 9, 2011) regarding the sectarian crisis in Egypt, an Egyptian said thus: “when we were children, religion was never an issue; it is the criminal elements that make an issue of it.” This underscores the situationality of religion as a source of conflict. As it was in Alinso-Okeanu, Nigeria of the fifties, so it is in Ghana today; as it was in Egypt in 2011, so it is in Nigeria today. “What went wrong?”
Borrowing from the Egyptian quoted above: it is the criminal elements at the pulpits and political podiums that make an issue of religion and have led to the climacteric Nigeria is in today. The tragedy is that we have persistently refused to listen to the voice of reason, voice of cohesion; rather, we harken to the diatribes of religious and ethnic bigotry and that is a major reason we are where we are today.
Osai writes from Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Power Structure As A Monster
Politics becomes a “dirty game” when it serves a power structure, rather than people, the masses; in which case the “game” or activity becomes one-sided, demonic and monstrous. Bon Woke (The Tide 6/10/2021) would tell us that “Nigeria stood on a Tripod of North, dominated by Hausa/Fulani, West, the Yoruba and the Eastern Region dominated by the Igbo”. He went on to say: “It was indeed sad that every group only struggled to grab power for the benefit of their region …”
A power structure is comparable to an impersonal energy-reservoir, kept for use as a weapon of self-perpetuation in power and for attack against other contenders and opponents. Thus, such power, rather than be an instrument of service to people generally, becomes a monster programmed to identify, attack and destroy those who seek to grab or steal it away from its custodians. In a monarchy such power is represented in the person of the monarch, while in a pseudo-democracy the power is held in trust by a cabal, for selective benefit of a few people.
In the case of Nigeria, the military and state security agencies were co-opted into the game of power monopoly, whereby those who must serve the power structure must pass through the eye of the needle, via screening process. Agencies for such screening purposes are the awful guardians of the realm of power. Thanks to the process of gathering and keeping personal dossiers of radical elements who are capable of spoiling or undermining the game of monopoly. Power conservation can be guaranteed. Besides, state spin-doctors can handle others who make noise for settlement purposes.
The Catalogue of Mr. Woke contains a good deal of history of Nigerian politics of power, but one is not sure that Woke had personal experiences of the evolution of sapiental authority and power in Nigeria. When dark smokes began to gather prior to 1965, the Eastern Region of Nigeria was marked out as the last stumbling block to deal with, “after Yoruba land”, because of “their arrogant stubbornness”. Obviously Woke would not know such top-secret security issues!
Please, let nobody live under the illusion that the intrigues and power game which gave rise to the first military intervention in Nigerian politics in 1965 became a global combat of economic interests. Like Afghanistan, religion was coopted as a handy tool or instrument in the game of power, thus creating a nebulous power structure that has become a monster. The monster would apply its deadly claws on whoever would have the audacity to alter the power structure.
To be able to have a glimpse into the mindset and temperament of the guardians and gate keepers of the power structure requires special ability. In the Wednesday, October 6, 2021 edition of The Tide newspaper, readers are urged to revisit the following news headlines: “Prosecute Lawmaker Identified As Secessionists’ Sponsor, Reps Task Buhari”, “FG Not Treating Bandits With Kid Gloves” (Page 2) and ‘We’ve Over 30 Separatist Groups In S’East, Abaribe Admits” – Page 7. Buhari was quoted as saying in his 61st Independence Day anniversary speech: “We are vigorously pursuing these financiers including one identified as a serving member of the National Assembly”.
The President was making reference to “the recent arrests of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo” and ongoing investigations being conducted which enabled the government to identify sponsors of the secessionist groups. In a reaction to the President’s allusion to “serving member of the National Assembly”, a lawmaker on behalf of his colleagues, said: “The president in his speech, noted that one of us is sponsoring terrorism. That means we are prime suspects. He didn’t name that person”.
Then in a reaction to bandits allegedly being treated with kid gloves, the Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said that “banditry is criminality with no basis on religion or ideology”. The groups of criminals that Nigerian authorities decided to classify as bandits are not different from Boko Haram brigands whose activities bear obvious religious ideological body language. What is the “fallacy” or “fake news”, “misinformation” or “divisive rhetoric” being promoted by those who say that the Nigerian authorities show obvious leniency towards bandits?
The one-sidedness becomes more glaring in the declaration of IPOB as a terrorist group, whose agitation arises from a discomfort with a power structure that is considered monstrous. In the case of bandits, Boko Haram and Miyetti Allah cattle merchants whose activities are obviously hostile to peace and security, nothing is seen as terrifying! Who actually are sponsoring divisive rhetorics: those who agitate against a monstrous power structure, or those who hide under such structure to commit acts of banditry? It should be recalled that another separatist agitation reared its head from Bayelsa State, seeking some advice from British authority recently.
Add all these spates of agitations to the sound and fury from Southern and Middle Belt Alliance (SAMBA), then what becomes obvious is that the Nigerian structure needs urgent attention. Such urgent attention should be seen as needful where there is sincerity, rather than a situation where the deadly teeth and claws of a monster would become instruments of threats and intimidation. Niccolo Machiavelli, the classical consultant on power politics, did warn against possible backlash when the power game is taken too far, especially when the monster becomes a soulless zombie.
A clergy man warned Nigerians about a possible food crisis in the country and advised the people to stockpile food stuff in preparation for the crisis. Not even 60 per cent of Nigerians would have enough money to buy food for the next six months. But in power politics morals have no place in the permutations, rather, what matters most is the retention of power. In such do-or-die enterprise, consulting the wizard of the desert, Anhaki, is a handy option when agitations mount high. Another consultant in power politics, Robert Greene, would warn, in his 47th law: “In victory, learn when to stop”. Nigerians would cherish such respite.
If Nigerian authorities are not aware of it yet, agitations are mounting high since retired General and former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, gave a hint about “Islamisation and Fulanisation” agenda. Those who did not take that “alert” seriously before, are beginning to have a second thought. The use of cattle as harbinger in that enterprise is not lost to many discerning Nigerians. What of a report that indicted two ex-Governors, 10 military officers, 15 Emirs over banditry?
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
A Background To Radio Rivers
An article titled “History of Radio Rivers” by Baridom Sika chronicled the birth of Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation (RSBC) through Edict 78 of 1973 following which the implementation process of procurement and staff training commenced. Subsequently, on June 1, 1978, Mambo Tumbowei signed on the station as Radio Rivers; that was the beginning. This article presents a background to that beginning.
Reflexively reacting to the earthy percussion that introduced Se Acabo by Santana Band, a DJ on Radio Nigeria, Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), William Jumbo Street, GRA, Port Harcourt identified the African roots of the pulsating and compulsive multi-conga rhythmic patterns of the song. In a moment of music-induced madness, he leaned in on the microphone, crooned “Ubleke! Ubleke!! Ubleke!!!” and hailed his invisible multilingual audience in the call-response greeting that is peculiar to his community. That was in 1972 when Radio Nigeria was the only radio station in old Rivers State. The program, “Ship Ahoy”, was a mixed-music morning magazine presented in English Language.
As the DJ stepped out of the studio, his producer, the guitar-strumming and broadminded piper, Seniboye Itiye, roared an oral query: “You spoke your language in my program!!! You think we all understand your endless iyeiye greeting?” “I’m sorry sir; I got carried away by the music”, apologised the DJ. “Calm down; this is radio, not night club or afternoon jump”, said Itiye, reassuringly. Incidentally, the DJ was cofounder and bassist of Blackstones Band, which was the first rock band in the history of old Rivers State; the band’s imitative repertoire was heavily laden with the then evolving earthy and heavily percussive songs that characterized the dissident departure from the Mersey beat of the sixties. Following two and a half years of basking in flashlights and the youthful escapades of rock musicianship, the DJ and two other members of the band opted to return to school; he chanced in and sojourned on radio as a stopgap measure. The language glitch that morning was, therefore, a residue of his immediate past profession.
Mixed reactions came at the heels of that professional indiscretion: while he received raving reviews from his community, his colleagues at the station and the wider Rivers society frowned at what was considered a projection, propagation and promotion of parochialism. Unbeknownst to everyone, the Governor of Rivers State, Navy Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff was listening attentively.
One afternoon, the DJ and his Duty Continuity Announcer (DTA), the beautiful and brilliant Stella Amachree, left the studio in the care of a trainee DTA called Chima Okor and went to Catering Rest House within the vicinity for lunch. Returning through the street now known as Cookey-Gam Drive, they chanced on Governor Diete-Spiff strolling outside the confines of Government House. Expectedly, they stood still on the side of the street in deference to the Governor who, surprisingly, stopped astride them and inquired after their names. To their great delight, the Governor knew them and their radio shows. He commended them, spoke glowingly about their program “Shaft Corner” (a foursome that attracted national attention) and casually said “We should establish a radio station for Rivers State”; thereafter, he walked on.
Stella and the DJ practically flew back to NBC studios and narrated every detail of the encounter to their colleagues. The station, which was manned by Rivers State indigenes, went agog. Matthew Miesiegha, Bernard Graham-Douglas, Mike Oku, Steve Bubagha, Peter O.C. Adiukwu-Brown, Pat Ketebu, Ifiemi Ombu, Florence Olali, Cornelia Omoniabipi, Bobby Bikefe, Monima Kelly-Briggs, Emmanuel Dokubo, Chituru Wachuku, Boma Erekosima, Sunny Meshack-Hart, Tony Alabraba etc. were in high spirits. Given the antecedents of the governor in the sphere of human development, the news held the potent promise of a radio station to call their own. Ernest Ogbanga and others in the engineering department shared the excitement; even Florence Olali, who was feverishly preparing to join her betrothed in Germany, was not left out of it. And it came to pass that that spontaneous statement by a young man who was yet to turn thirty years morphed into public policy and Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation was created on August 24, 1973 through Edict No. 8. The rest is history.
While the following divergence belongs in another narrative, it is pertinent to mention that Radio Nigeria, Port Harcourt was a beehive of crazy but highly creative and fiercely focused fellows. Most of the DTAs, news writers and radio personalities keyed into the generational thinking educational policy of the Diete-Spiff administration and developed themselves. Bernard Graham-Douglas, Ifiemi Ombu, Emmanuel Dokubo and Tony Alabraba studied Broadcasting in the US; Mike Oku did same in Scotland. Stella Amachree studied Law in Oxford University, Peter Adiukwu-Brown read Metallurgy at Manchester University and Pat Ketebu read Accountancy in Scotland. And by the way, our dramatis persona also studied Broadcasting in the U.S. and, having graduated in 1975, became the first person in old Rivers State to take a degree in that discipline. Furthermore, as Senior Special Assistant to Secretary to the State Government, he accompanied his boss, Professor William Ogionwo, who represented Governor Melford Okilo at RSBC Headquarters on May 2, 1981 where and when Dafini Gogo-Abbey signed on the newly added FM Station, Radio Rivers 2.
The above episode lends itself to robust intellectual interrogation within the themes of leadership and human development. Without venturing into the academics of these two concepts, it is necessary to state that it took the visionary leadership of Diete-Spiff to conceive and establish a radio station for the State and create opportunities for people to be trained in the relevant fields. On the other hand, it took the desire for individual development on the part of our dramatis persona and his colleagues in NBC to tap into the opportunities presented by the policy to produce the workforce that eventually manned Radio Rivers. That is the constructive collectivism that births personal, group and national development.
Dr Osai is an Associate Professor in the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Banditry: Matter For Matawalle
Alhaji Mohammed Bello Matawalle is the Governor of Zamfara State. He came to power in 2019 carrying the symbolic umbrella of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. His election benefited hugely from the self-destructive internal squabble of the immediate past All Progressives Congress (APC) state administration led by Abdulaziz Yari.
Barely two years after being in the saddle, Matawalle was reported to have picked up a broom and switched allegiance to the APC. But what did not change for him was the need to tackle the growing menaces of banditry, kidnapping and animal rustling in Zamfara and, by extension, the North West zone of Nigeria. In fact, the state is now described as the new epicentre of these criminal activities after Katsina wore that toga about two years back.
Recall that the state government once ordered the halting of livestock transportation beyond the state’s borders. It also closed all weekly markets and illegal motor parks in the state. Trucks and other vehicles conveying food items into the state were subjected to verification.
Following the incessant abduction of school children for ransom, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had early last month ordered a two week shutdown of all telecoms network services throughout Zamfara State. This was extended into its neighbouring 13 and 14 local council areas in Katsina and Sokoto States, respectively. Kaduna is another state that has adopted the networks shutdown measure. The idea was to cut off any communication between the criminals, especially as it relates to leakage of information on military movements, co-ordination of criminal attacks and escape plans.
Earlier, in March, the federal government had banned all mining activities and declared a no-fly zone over Zamfara as the Nigerian Air Force and ground troops launched a massive attack on bandits in the area which, according to Defence sources, forced most of the criminals to flee and scatter.
The NCC intervention was only the replay of a strategy used in 2013 when the military requested a suspension of telephone and telecoms services to enable them effectively engage Boko Haram terrorists in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States. But in spite of the effort, the insurgents are still holding sway in the North East, especially having been joined by jihadists from their affiliate Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
In any case, I want to believe that the North East experiment yielded positive results; hence the government’s acceptance of its replication elsewhere. It should not just result in forcing the criminals to continue to relocate from one locality or state to the other. Again, it is worrisome that the current state of the Nigerian economy is already taking people six feet down such that nothing in the form of these extreme measures should be contemplated in the first place, talk less of being allowed to last any longer than necessary.
Truth is that some citizens in these troubled areas are caught between dying in the hands of bandits and suffering the excruciating economic pains they are now being subjected to endure under the new emergency measures. For them, there is no communication with the outside world, medical help is far to reach, food supply dwindles, prices of items have tripled where and when such are available, no banking services, no schooling for children, and general restriction of movement.
From the foregoing, it would appear as though the government in Gusau was doing everything within its power to identify and root out bandits and other criminal elements in the state. It is against this backdrop that one found disturbing a recent news report which seemed to suggest that the Matawalle administration was not serious with exposing bandits and their sponsors in the North West state.
According to the report, it would soon be two years since a panel set up by the state government to investigate the activities of bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers in the state submitted its findings, yet the administration had been reluctant to raise a white paper on its recommendations and possibly prosecute those indicted.
The source said that the 279-page panel report had mentioned two former governors of the state, 10 military officers and 15 emirs as being culpable in the crimes. In other words, these individuals allegedly colluded with criminals to kidnap, collect ransom or even kill their victims.
The panel held that 6,319 persons were arbitrarily and willfully killed; 3,672 kidnapped; N2.8 billion paid as ransom; 6,483 widows and 25,050 orphans left behind by slain victims. It also stated that 215,241 cows, 1,487 motor vehicles and motorcycles burnt. The report went further to reveal that the bandits operated 105 camps from which they launched their deadly attacks.
So far, the only action the governor has been credited with regarding the implementation of the panel’s recommendations was his suspension of the traditional rulers of Maru, Dansadau and Zurmi in a broadcast to mark this year’s Democracy Day on June 12.
If the figures stated above were compiled about two years ago, then one can imagine what the statistics would look like today. It beats me as to why Matawalle would single out only three emirs for punishment and remain mute over the fate of the rest suspects in the report.
The governor’s apparent inaction can only mean that his administration will continue to chase shadows while churning out executive orders that leave the hapless residents of Zamfara suffering the more. The federal government cannot even be called upon to take up the matter because the authorities in Abuja are also guilty of kid-glove treatment of Boko Haram sponsors and collaborators.
While the bandits sack villages and massacre people in their tens and hundreds, our military successes have come in fits and starts; often in the form of neutralising two or three armed bandits and allowing for as many as twenty to escape.
With the damning nature of the Zamfara report, I still wonder why the other besieged states in the region have not set up similar investigative panels. Surely, Matawalle needs to lead them on by carrying out full implementation of his panel’s recommendations.
By: Ibelema Jumbo
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