At last we are beginning to see glimpses of a blue sky over the Niger Delta region. The stormy clouds have lifted: the blinding lightening has ceased and the clattering thunder has died down. This clement condition is possible largely because of the unconditional amnesty that President Umaru Musa Yar’;Adua granted repentant militants.
It came as a big relief when the likes of Henry Okah, Ebikabowei Ben ( alias Boyloaf ), Ateke Tom. Government Ekpemupolo (a.k.a Tompolo) and other militants accepted the amnesty programme. This development is a remarkable breakthrough for the government as sceptics never gave the pacification strategy any chance of success.
Indeed. the success that the amnesty initiative has recorded so far marks a turning point in the effort of President Yar’Adua to translate one of his seven-point agenda into reality. This much was acknowledged by the Director General of the European Union. Mr. Stefano Manservisi. while disclosing that his organisation had set aside 90 million Euros to support the post-amnesty programme. He said: “’This is indeed a very important turning point and we welcome it very much. We at the EC will urge the government of Nigeria to continue the effort of sustainable rehabilitation and reintegration of the former militants”. One cannot but agree.
The President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Ledum Mitee also captured the essence when he said that the amnesty “should be a process and not a one-off thing.” The major task now is to change the mindset of the youths who have become accustomed to using violence to achieve their goals. They must be made to appreciate the virtues of dialogue in conflict resolution. In addition, they must also recognise that there is dignity in embracing decent means of livelihood.
This cannot be achieved by giving the repentant militants red carpet reception in Aso Rock. Flying them into Abuja with presidential jets gives the impression that the government is glamourising militancy. Yes. the militants need to be appeased but it is wrong to cast them in the mould of regional role models. According to a former oil minister. Prof. Tam David-West the entire process was too razzmatazzed’ and politicised to give the profound event a real soul.
Again, we must not lose sight of the fact that amnesty is only a prelude to finding satisfactory solutions to the main cause of the crisis in the region. which is lack of’ development. It must, therefore be followed with several programmes that would rapidly and significantly transform the oil-bearing communities. The needed massive development should go alongside a well organised re-orientation. training and retraining programmes for the youths. Their bursting energies and world view should be properly channelled towards productive ventures.
The steps taken so far towards addressing the anomalous situation in the oil-rich Niger Delta seem to focus only on repentant militants or those who claim to be the ‘“kings of the creeks.” Unfortunately, this approach is defective and in fact counterproductive, as the army of unemployed youths in the rogion may be tempted to enlist into militant camps just to attract attention. Of course. they would aspire to be accorded presidential attention and royal treatment as is currently being given to the ex-militant leaders. To guard against another resurgence of militancy, there should be an all-inclusive re-orientation and empowerment of the youths irrespective of whether they were former militants or those who have always embraced the peace alternative.
Indeed, the re-orientation should not be limited to seminars and workshops in highbrow venues such as Abuja, Lagos. or other cities in the Niger Delta. To reach the youths at the grass roots, the training and re-training programmes should be taken to the schools, churches, town hall meetings and market squares in the villages and creeks. The recent post amnesty seminar organised by the Bayelsa State Government in Kaduna. though well-intentioned. took place in a wrong location. Obviously, that event was not meant for the youths of the Niger Delta. who should constitute the target audience of such a gathering. It can best be described as an ill-advised political jamboree, mainly for political heavy-weights. especially those of northern extraction. It nevertheless provided a platform for the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Mr. Dimeji Bankole to take swipes at Niger Delta political leaders. whom he accused of conspiring to squander the resources entrusted to them.
What the Niger Delta youths need now are programmes that would reshape them and make them better human beings., They should not just be trained and left to grope in the dark alleys of the unemployment market. The should he mentored to fully imbibe the habits of managing their own businesses successfully. This is very important as the President of National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria. Chief Lugard Airniuwu explains: “while training is just about knowledge, mentoring takes care of the total human being. It moulds and shapes the person’s beliefs and values. You use mentoring to lift the person to another level of confidence.”
The youths of the region should be made to see achievement-oriented and honest leaders of the region as their role models. Certainly not the militant leaders. some of who have used violent means to traumatise the nation. Yes, some of the ex-militant “generals” had good intentions when they started the struggle, which is to draw attention to the neglect of their region. Even then, they don’t have to spill the blood of fellow Niger Deltans to achieve their goal.
Credit must be given to the Non-Violence Training Programme for Youths initiated by the Niger Delta Development Commission. NDDC. in 2008. The scheme. which was introduced as part of the strategies adopted by a Think Tank on the Niger Delta is aimed at reforming the youths who may have resorted to anti-social activities as a result of unemployment.
What has been gained through the non-violence training must be sustained to ensure that the youths do not relapse into another round of violent behaviour. This can be achieved by making sure that they arc gainfully employed. There is no fulfilling the adage that the devil finds work for the idle hand.
The post-amnesty era requires a change of strategy to make sure that the gains of the struggle are sustainable so as to benefit the people in the creeks. Blowing up of pipelines inflicts more pains on the ordinary people. destroys the ecosystem and renders Niger Delta farmers and fishermen jobless as well as increase the level of diseases and other environmental hazards. It is not the kind of struggle the people bargained for. We want a struggle that will enhance the living standard of our people. a struggle that is intellectually-driven as exemplified by the late Ken Saro-Wiwa.
As has been generally acknowledged, the economic well-being of Nigeria rests squarely on the Niger Delta. President Yar’Adua puts it succinctly: “If government must succeed in its bid to secure the country, it must first secure the Niger Delta region”. And that is exactly what he has striven to do through the amnesty.
He was right when he said at a stakeholder’s forum last year that .” if the people can see that their leaders are honest they will understand, but once they see that their leaders are in power to make money. then there will be a problem·. Now. where are these Niger Delta political leaders, who can confidently and honestly thump their chests and say “1 am in government not to make money but to serve my people?
Leaders of the Niger Delta should not only talk about selfless service but should be seen by all to truly render such. That way, the youths of the region will look up to them as leaders worthy of emulation instead of regarding ex-militant leaders as their role models in the light of the special treatment they are receiving from the President.
Mr Agbu wrotes from Port Harcourt.
2023: Aso Villa, Not Sick Bay
Even as its clinic may possess some of the best health facilities a Third World state house can possibly afford, I still doubt that the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja was designed to cope with some of the serious medical conditions our leaders discreetly convey to the place.
Chapter IV, Part I, Section 131 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) spells out the requirements for election to the Office of the President. They are as follows: citizenship of Nigeria by birth; attainment of 35 years of age; membership of a political party which must be the sponsoring party; and education up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.
But even a possession of all these still does not qualify anybody who engages in any one of a plethora of some other never-dos, including presentation of a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Or, election to such office at any two previous elections. Or even failing to resign from a civil or public service position at least 30 days before election. Disappointingly, in all of the nearly one dozen of these extra conditions, only one directly pertains to a candidate’s health status. And what does it say? Quite simply put – that the person is not adjudged to be a lunatic or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind. Really? Not even through a mandatory professional psychiatric evaluation? Haba, Nigeria!
I still recall that, as a prospective student seeking admission into a unity school in 1974, I was required to present a medical examination report from a government hospital. Also, as a JAMBite five years later, I was requested to go for medicals at my university’s medical centre. And of course, I couldn’t have secured my present employment in the civil service without satisfying a similar condition. It is also common knowledge that this is equally applicable in reputable private sector organisations. So, how come students and workers in Nigeria are required to compulsorily undergo medical examinations to ascertain their fitness for the tasks ahead whereas no such condition is listed for a prospective occupant of the highest and most prestigious office in the land? Have Nigerians opted to remain this naïve or are we indeed a cursed people?
Even in the twilight of military dictatorship in this country, it was mostly a handover of power from one sick leader to the other. In short, of the seven Nigerian heads of government that have so far taken up residence in the Aso Rock Villa since General Ibrahim Babangida hurriedly relocated the seat of power from Lagos in 1991(after a serious jolt from the Major Gideon Orkar-led coup the previous year), only General Abubakar Abdulsalami and Dr Goodluck Jonathan had stepped in there looking healthy and also exited the place in seeming good health.
Babangida was already on record as having been seriously injured in 1969 when a battalion he led encountered heavy Biafran offensive during a reconnaissance operation somewhere between Enugu and Umuahia. He was said to have declined surgery to remove a bullet shrapnel from his knee. But several years later, while in the Villa, the self-styled Evil Genius was known to have alternately travelled to France and Germany to seek medical relief. There were several pictures showing when he got stuck in-between strides with his trade mark gap-toothed smile failing to hide the agonies of a Nigerian military president. It was really pitiable, to say the least.
Next was his successor, late Gen. Sani Abacha, whom the then radical Tell magazine on September 8, 1997 reported as suffering from liver cirrhosis – a serious condition that often results to death. While Abacha’s secret police went after the magazine’s editor, Nosa Igiebor, and members of his household, The News, another dare-devil publication, picked up from where the former left off – reporting how medical experts were secretly flown in from Israel and Saudi Arabia to tend the nation’s seriously ailing but still pretentious generalissimo. Even marabouts from some North African countries were rumoured to have been brought in to pray for him. He reportedly died of suspected food poisoning in the hands of some young Indian belly dancers in 1998.
Abacha was succeeded by Abdulsalami whose administration is still reputed to be the second military regime (after Obasanjo’s in 1979) to successfully complete a transition process and hand over power to a civilian democracy in Nigeria. For want of a trusted person who would serve to assuage the Yoruba over Abiola’s death while in detention, Obasanjo was literally released from certain death (sorry, prison yard) by Abdulsalami to run for election on the ticket of the new Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), after the demise of Abacha who had incarcerated him for joining his NADECO Yoruba brethren to criticise the late general’s regime. Frankly speaking, and to those who knew him while he reigned as military head of state, Obasanjo was still a shadow of his former self when he moved into the Presidential Villa in 1999.
Then entered Alhaji Umar Yar’Adua and, a little later, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) both of whose checkered medical stories we already know.
Now, with the 2023 General Elections fast approaching, there have been moves – even if still hazy – by individuals and groups touting the names of their political godfathers as promising presidential hopefuls. But I am seriously concerned that one or two of those names belong to persons who are already as old, sickly and looking worse than the incumbent president’s condition when he returned from his 50-day extended medical vacation in 2017. At that time, Buhari had looked rather too ghostlike that some Nigerians doubted their president and began to reconsider detained IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu’s Radio Biafra description of him as a surrogate Jubril from Sudan.
For me, and regardless of their professed leadership acumen, any seriously ailing Nigerian politician who conceals his affliction while campaigning to occupy the Aso Villa is like a confirmed HIV patient who opts to proceed on a raping spree. It is the height of corruption, criminality and wickedness.
Fellow Nigerians (yes, let me sound like them), there is no better time to wake up to this ugly reality than now. We’ve had it up to our neck. Thank you.
By: Ibelema Jumbo
The State As A Patient Bird
Jailbreaks: 3,906 Escaped Inmates still At Large, FG Weeps”, was a back page news headline of The Tide newspaper of Friday, November 12, 2021. In spite of the Federal Government of Nigeria weeping over the jailbreaks, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, at a media briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Media team in Aso Rock, Abuja, told Nigerians that “the state is a patient bird. You can run but you can never hide”. The minister said that about 4,369 inmates escaped from correctional centres from 2020 till date, following attacks by unknown gunmen, but that only 984 had been re-arrested.
Weeping is an emotion which expresses frustration and pains arising from helplessness, but it is of a serious concern when the weeping one has the might of coercion and compulsion. So, weep no more, ye strong and mighty! We are reminded by P.B. Shelley, of Ozymandias of Egypt, King of Kings, whose works suffered decay and despair. A peculiar challenge which managers of public affairs rarely consider seriously is the verdict of distant history. Neither would the engagement of the International Police (INTERPOL) obliterate the tears arising from weeping over escaped inmates.
Rather, what counts for a triumphant life, like Nelson Mandela would say, is the ability to turn personal liabilities and deficiencies into rewarding assets and lessons. Rather than weep over jailbreaks or have the patience of the bird of prey, managers of public affairs would do better by looking inwards, without bias or conceit, to pick out the realities on the ground which escape their attention. For us in Nigeria, there are many such realities which beg for critical scrutiny and revisitation, not weeping or bluster.
Jailbreak is one form of rebellion or protest over many lingering social injustices. For unknown gunmen to undertake such risky task of attacking correctional centres and causing inmates to escape, means that motives and stakes are quite high. Similarly, to expect the escaped inmates to surrender themselves all to state authorities, would be to expect too much from desperate rebels. Many would rather go for plastic surgery to wear a new look, or commit suicide, rather than submit themselves to state authorities. Even with the patience of the bird of prey and the cooperation of INTERPOL, many of the escapees would hardly be apprehended. They may laugh and mock!
In the first place, a large number of those in correctional centres are probably innocent of the alleged crimes that took them there. Similarly, a large number of Nigerians moving freely in the streets, with swagger and air of piety, are probably not as clean as they claim or pose. Having served as a police officer for several years, one is aware of the various malfeasance common in the justice delivery system as well as the threats, malpractices and temptations common in that sphere of the society. No amount of pretence or lip service can sweep away the rot and leakages in the society.
Secondly, despite the change of nomenclature from prisons to correctional centres, the Nigerian penitentiary has not been transformed, to reflect a positive change rather than punitive degradation of inmates. An ex-convict once described the entire Nigerian society as a “prison environment”, where foul can be fair and fair foul. Much had been said in the past about the unacceptable state of Nigerian correctional centres and the diminished rather than added value on the life of inmates after serving sentence. Neither does the “ex-convict” tag go even with a positive change.
One would make a strong suggestion to the Minister of Interior, before the end of his tenure, to carry out a discreet inquiry into the status of the Nigerian correctional centres, with reference to possible miscarriage of justice. If independent-minded persons drawn from among retired police officers, university academics, journalists, etc, can be engaged in such inquiry, Nigeria would be the better from the result of such exercise. Besides, there are many people held up in correctional centres for several years, either awaiting trial, or for such minor infractions for which they are going through gross abuses and dehumanisation.
Someone had said it long ago that correctional centres in Nigeria, like other developing countries, are meant for the underprivileged and endangered segments of society, while the elite enjoy exclusion. The few cases where the elite and political class are made to “face the wrath of the law”, they enjoy special privileges even while in detention. Apart from special privileges enjoyed by the class of elite who face the wrath of the law, there is also a wide difference and discrimination in food and custody. There was a gossip about an inmate whose food was always delivered from a 5-star hotel, daily.
There is nothing wrong with people of high status who fall foul to the law being given special privileges, in line with the honour they deserve. But everything is wrong with a society where criminality wears two faces, according to who is involved. Anyone who has examined crime statistics in Nigeria, vis-à-vis social status of convicts, would surely feel uncomfortable with the stark realities. Who are those that wallow in correctional centres; what are the most common criminal offences; what are the motives behind crimes, and what measures are taken to correct social deviants?
Weeping managers of public affairs would do better to correct unacceptable situations rather than issue threats to those who react violently to lingering social ills. Social ills are not corrected by denying their existence, covering them up or intimidating those who point them out or react violently when nothing is done to correct them. Surely, Nigerians would not be happy or fold their arms when they see abominable acts being condoned or covered up because of who is involved. Neither would they consider it just that protesters of acts of malfeasance by law enforcement officers, should be shot in the streets because they complained.
The impression which many Nigerians have, even when they do not say it in the open, is that there are two sets of citizens, namely: those protected by the law, and those exposed to the wrath of the law; thus making the law to become respecter of persons. A situation where some public and private individuals have several security personnel attached to and guarding each of them 24 hours, while a call for police help when armed robbers and bandits operate, takes a long time for a response, then people would wonder if all people are equal before the law. Are there not inmates in correctional centres who are there for being too vocal over unacceptable situations in society? Patient bird waiting for prey!
By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer in the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Trails Of Natural History
Natural history should be understood here to mean unbiased, undistorted and comprehensive records of all the experiences, including thoughts and deeds, of all creatures that have existed on Earth. Known as Akashic record in some cosmogony, such undistorted blueprints, as they relate to individual human beings, are stored in genetic memory bank which scientists call deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Human blood is the common physical fluid through which this indelible record is encoded and transmitted, generation after generation.
Humans, being endowed with a free will, by which means every individual has the freedom to make personal decisions and choices, are thus provided with a rudder as a navigational tool in the journey of life on Earth. Thus, whatever the contents of the blueprint that an individual comes into incarnation with, the duty and right for a free navigation through life remain as inalienable rights. So, with such rights every individual is daily adding, subtracting, adapting and moving forward, forced by personal experiences to acquire increasing recognition of the true realities of life. Bitter experiences teach better!
Therefore, the genetic memory bank which is borne via everybody’s blood system is a fluid rather than a fixed record, because what we call fate or destiny is alterable, not irreversible. By the exercise of individual freewill, the duty and right of free choices and decisions remain as everybody’s means of disentanglement or further entanglements, in the affairs and bargains of life. To say that everybody bears the trails of natural history, is to affirm that everybody carries the contents of everything pertaining to himself, spanning over thousands of years.
Emerging DNA technology will, no doubt, alter many strongly-held belief systems and ideas about human life; including the fact that Earth-life is a shuttle. A child born today is obviously not a new comer on Earth, just as records of such child’s previous embodiments can be readily dug out from the archives of natural history. Efforts in this new direction of exploring the apparently inexplicable mysteries of life are quite expensive to delve into. Pioneers and explorers in that direction seek neither publicity, recognition nor distraction, for obvious reasons, especially where ignorance is bliss.
Prejudice, myopia and conceit stand strongly against progress in this newly emerging DNA technology, not only because it does not offer cash or power, but more because of possible dethronement of many empires. For example, the science of cloning has advanced, veering into transmigratory controversies, with experiments of infusing the blood or breath of some donors or volunteers into a dying person, thus extending life-span. Alteration of personality and consciousness can also be made possible through such controversial practices and experiments. Dangerous aspects of such experiments include the creation of crude monsters as humans, with animal propensities.
Obviously, experiments in this line of research are done under utmost secrecy with intruders visited with ruthless penalties. Defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was noted for carrying out various unconventional research activities, especially in alteration of brain and personality postures. Prisoners of war as well as captured spies and secret service agents became ready guinea pigs for such unconventional brain research activities whereby humans were turned into zombies.
There were a few cases where surviving victims of such experiments later became themselves and took legal actions which had to be halted for security reasons, but with out-of-court settlements made. It also came to light how security vote which is not subject to public audit can be applied for unethical projects. Between 1952 and 1960, records of unethical research projects were systematically destroyed and obliterated, but with the methods of proceedings altered to reflect some semblance of transparency and accountability. Yet, motives for such explorations remain same, which include being a step above, and having an edge over contenders.
Keeping security, national interests and politics of survival aside, it is a healthy practice for individuals, organisations and nations to explore and seek to grasp the realities of life. Neither is it healthy or reasonable to remain caged and boxed up by the doctrines, assertions and dogmas of intellectual humanity and orthodoxy. It is of importance to note that human progress in the recognition of the truth and realities of life has been hindered largely by prevailing human institutions via narrow interpretations of the issues of human existence.
Natural history via carbon dating and DNA technology reveal much that an average person would describe as unacceptable. New fields of academic studies such as regression, anamnesis, altered states of consciousness, etc, which are common in some universities, would be rejected as appropriate in any Nigerian university. It is true that a number of academic studies, including phrenology, had been discredited and expunged from the curriculum, yet there are new emerging disciplines not common in conventional institutions.
It is also true that a number of research or study activities pander to human ego, vanity and tend to serve dark purposes, yet, there are more issues that remain vague and unknown to humans. We cannot doubt the fact that human consciousness is an ever expanding poll, neither can we drink up all the water springing up therefrom. But human dogma and conceit are worse than the impetuous drive to explore unknown realms of life. Galileo (1564-1642) who asserted that the Earth moves round the sun was imprisoned for five years!
Current awareness which is gaining grounds gradually is the fact that trails of natural history is not only real but can be readily explored and downloaded. Everybody is not only a carrier and bearer of the totality of his or her own record of existence, dating thousands of years, but such individual records can be downloaded. Unfortunately, contents of such records can be quite shocking, shaming and unbelievable if made available to the individuals concerned. The phenomenon of stigmata has been an inexplicable mystery to many people, but the truth can be shocking and revealing, of which a 1927 incident ranks high.
Keeping phrenology, palmistry and such stuff aside, the blood of every individual is a personal identity as well as gateway to personal archives. At least the aura radiating from individuals reveal a great deal about people, for those capable of perceiving such radiations. Neither can anyone hide or obliterate his personal identity. One grace which everyone enjoys is the non-disclosure of the contents of individual natural history, so that people would not hang from the fear of what trails them, unseen by them. Wise ones strive diligently to reduce dark burdens.
By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer in the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
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