Chido Onumah holds an MA in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. He was Director of Africa Programme, Panos Institute, Washington, DC, and former Assistant Editor of Third World Network's African Agenda magazine. He has worked as a journalist in Nigeria, Ghana, and Canada. email@example.com
Late last month, as a section of the country awaited the triumphant return of James Ibori, an ex-governor of Delta State, who was jailed, incidentally, in the UK for his egregious looting of his state's treasury while in office, the Nigerian media landscape was abuzz with stories about the mind-boggling salaries, allowances and other perquisites of office that elected officials and state functionaries in the country enjoy.
According to the report in Vanguard newspaper, forty-seven former governors from 21 states in the country, draw as much as N37.4 billion from the public treasury. There are twenty-one serving senators currently receiving pensions from government as ex-governors and deputy governors. There are also ministers in the current government who are receiving pensions as ex-governors. Of this group, Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of transportation stands out. I shall return to this. If you consider the fact that Nigerian senators and other elected officers are among the highest paid, if not the highest paid, in the world, then you can appreciate the outrage.
Of course, this story is not new. During the political transition two years ago, many state governors hurriedly signed or amended existing laws to give themselves fantastic pensions. Let's take two examples: In 2014, Godswill Akpabio, now a "distinguished" senator, while leaving office as governor of Akwa Ibom State, passed the Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Law which entitles a former governor and spouse in the state up to N100 million a year, and a former deputy governor and spouse up to N30 million, for medical treatment. If this is not slush fund, I don't know what it is. You can be sure that whether Mr. Akpabio and his spouse are sick or not, they will pocket 100 million Naira a year meant for their medical treatment. So, why would Mr. Akpabio, as governor, be interested in fixing the health sector in his state when he can rob the state to take care of himself and his family indefinitely?
Akpabio's law provides that as ex-governor, he and his deputy will receive pensions equivalent to 100% of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy, one house not below 5-bed maisonette in either Abuja or Akwa Ibom for the former governor and 500% annual basic for the deputy for accommodation. For transportation, he and his deputy will get one car and one utility car every four years. Add to this, a furniture allowance, every four years, that is 300% of annual basic salary. He will receive N5 million and his deputy gets N2.5 million for domestic staff. Akpabio is not done. He will get a car maintenance allowance that is 300% of annual basic salary, entertainment allowance, 100% of annual basic salary, utility: 100% of annual basic salary, and severance gratuity: 300% annual basic salary.
The Lagos State Governor and Deputy Governor Pensions Law of 2007, endorsed by ex-governor Babatunde Fashola, now minister of power, works, and housing, is even more lucrative. It provides that a former governor is entitled to six new vehicles (three cars, two back-up cars and one pilot car) every three years and a house in Lagos and another in Abuja, the country's most expensive housing markets. His deputy gets five vehicles every three years. They and their family members—you only need to invoke the governor's name to qualify as a family member—are entitled to unlimited free medical services. Their pension will be the equivalent of 100% of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy.
There is a furniture allowance for these former "excellencies" that comes to 300% of their annual basic salary every two years. House maintenance: 10% of annual basic salary. Interestingly, these former executives are entitled to a cook, steward, gardener and other domestic staff who are pensionable. Their security will consist of two State Security Service (SSS) operatives, one female officer, eight policemen (four each for house and personal security) for the ex-governor; one SSS operative and two policemen (one each for house and personal security) for the deputy. There is an additional 25% of annual basic salary for their personal assistant, car maintenance: 30% of annual basic salary, entertainment: 10% of annual basic salary, utility: 20% of annual basic salary, etc.
There is no name for this other than robbery. That it is sanctioned by the state makes it no less grievous than armed robbery. Of course, state robbery has no party affiliation. As it is for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) so it is for the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP). This robbery unites our political elite, no matter their party, religious or ethnic affiliations. Once they are in power, they use the instrumentality of the state to feed fat, robbing their states and the nation at will, and covering up their crimes in the name of the law.
Make no mistake, state robbery is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. It dates to the period before independence when the political elite who opposed British colonialism saw themselves as heirs to the throne of the departing colonialists. Therefore, after independence, very little was done to shake off the feeling of entitlement and bridge the gap that existed between the rulers and the ruled.
The emergent rulers at independence didn't see themselves as the representatives of the exploited and oppressed people of the newly independent nation but ordained successors and, therefore, entitled to all the British colonialists enjoyed, and more! That tradition has continued to the present. Essentially, what happened was that in the name of independence, the country replaced one form of oppression with another. But in exploiting Nigeria, even the colonial masters applied enlightened self-interest. They knew when to draw the line. They knew they had to keep the oppressed alive; not so their local successors.
I have given this background to show that we are currently up against a deeply ingrained worldview perpetuated by a mindless elite that feels it is God-sent and entitled to everything that the state can offer. Political office in Nigeria is essentially a feeding trough. While this robbery is going on, states refuse to pay salaries and pensions of citizens, some of whom put in thirty-five years of public service; infrastructure where it exists, continues to decay at alarming rate because, thanks to corruption, it wasn't built to standard.
Back to Amaechi. He was speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly from 1999 to 2007 and governor of Rivers State from 2007 to 2015. He most likely collected a sweet severance package as ex-speaker, that is, if he is not receiving outrageous pension. He is collecting mouth-watering pension package as ex-governor and currently collects salary, allowances and other perks of office as "honourable" minister of transportation.
Of course, Amaechi is not alone. Take ex-president Goodluck Jonathan. Let's ignore his public jobs as education inspector, lecturer, and environmental protection officer, before he was elected deputy governor of Bayelsa State in 1999. So, he is entitled to pension as deputy governor, governor, vice-president and president. It is probably the same for the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari. He is an ex-military administrator, ex-minister, ex-head of state, and retired general in the Nigerian Army. Same for David Mark, also an ex-military administrator, ex-minister, retired army general, ex-president of the Nigerian senate and still a sitting senator.
Relying on the law, as Bukola Saraki, president of the senate, wants us to do, these public officers are entitled to everything the state can offer. As one of the beneficiaries of this state-sanctioned robbery, Saraki told Vanguard, in response to public misgivings, that he could not act otherwise since he was acting within the provisions of the law. He said his "pension entitlements were being used for charity, especially for educational purposes, which he noted, have positively impacted the needy in his state". So, in the name of pension and the law, you rob your state of money that ordinarily should have gone to education and you give back the money as charity. Quite ingenious!
Do we still wonder why Nigerian politics is a do or die affair or why a governor today a minister or senator tomorrow? It is all about the politics of state robbery. In understanding the current decay, poverty and underdevelopment in Nigeria, the question we should ask is: what kind of system makes it possible for anyone to serve as governor for four or eight years and live a lifetime of luxury while citizens of his state wallow in penury. That system needs to be uprooted.
What is to be done? All of us victims must rise in one voice to bring a quick end to this exploitative state. The mission of this generation of Nigerians is to continue the glorious struggle of their forebears, overthrow the current order, retire, and consign these vampires, posing as statesmen, to the garbage heap of history!
On July 1, 2017, Canada, the world's second largest country after Russia, will be 150 years old. There is a year-long celebration of this milestone for a nation that prides itself on being one of the best, if not the best country in the world. Before the European colonialization in the early 16th century, Canada was inhabited by aboriginal people (the indigenous people of Canada). Canada's history of colonialism dates back to July 24, 1534, when French explorer, Jacques Cartier, in the name of King Francis I of France, set up a French colony in New France, the area colonized by France in North America. As conflicts between colonial powers raged, Britain would later supplant France and take control of much of what is Canada today.
On July 1, 1867, the British North American Act came into being. It led to the fusion of the colonies of Canada (later Ontario and Quebec), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia to form the semi-autonomous federal dominion of Canada. With time, other British colonies and territories joined with or were ceded to the new nation. From four provinces in 1867, Canada today has ten provinces and three territories. It wasn't until 1982 that the country became a fully sovereign state. It was that year that Canada eliminated the last vestiges of legal control the British Parliament had in the amendment of the country's constitution.
It is not for nothing that the country has been described as the best place on earth. According to a 2015 study by the Reputation Institute, "Canada is the top country in the world for studying, visiting, working, and living." It was ranked first for "best quality of life" by U.S. News Best Countries Ranking (2016) and named the "world's most welcoming country" by the 2015 Global Nation Brands Index. Beyond its picturesque countryside, tundra, prairies and beautiful snow-capped mountains that stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, Canada provides a breathtaking kaleidoscope of multiculturalism, diversity, inclusion and freedom that other countries can take a cue from.
Of course, Canada is not a perfect nation. No nation is perfect. Nation-building is not a tea party but a work in progress, no matter how old a country is. One of the most decentralized federations as well as one of the most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations in the world, Canada, a country of 35 million people, (2016 census) has continued to push the boundaries of what it means to be a modern nation-state.
Last week, as part of Canada's 150th anniversary celebration, the country's High Commissioner in Nigeria, H.E. Christopher Thornley, held a reception in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, for Canadians and friends of Canada in Nigeria. Ambassador Thornley spoke about Canada's "strong and enduring relationship with Nigeria, and commitment to continuing our friendly and productive relations for many years to come." He also spoke about Canada's "diversity and inclusiveness, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, youth, and the environment."
There are plenty of lessons Nigeria can draw from Canada. Like Canada, Nigeria is a member of the Commonwealth, an organisation of countries that were colonized by Britain. Of course, there is a difference in how both countries emerged—while Canada's three original British colonies agreed to come together to form a semi-autonomous confederacy in 1867, the Northern and Southern Protectorates in Nigeria were amalgamated by the British in 1914 to create Nigeria. From two protectorates to one country in 1914, Nigeria grew to three regions in 1946, four regions in 1963, 12 states in 1967 and today has 36 states. While Canada's expansion was through accretion and concession, that of Nigeria was through forced division. This difference notwithstanding, both countries have in common, diversity in terms of region, language, religion and ethnicity.
According to Ambassador Thornley, Canada is strong because of its differences, not in spite of them and is strengthened in many ways because of her shared experiences and diversity. Nigeria can look to its diversity, differences and shared experiences as sources of strength. Unfortunately, thanks to poor leadership, the country has managed to exacerbate its fault lines so much so that today it sits on the brink, racked by political instability, and ethnic and religious strife propelled by a greedy and bankrupt elite for whom enlightened self-interest means absolutely nothing.
"Inclusion is a choice," noted Ambassador Thornley. "This choice is guided by the many benefits that diversity can bring: higher rates of economic growth, better social cohesion and tremendous cultural and civic benefits. It has taken years of hard work for Canada to get to where it is today. Inclusion does not happen by accident, it happens because of choices. Decades ago, Canada chose to embrace a policy of multiculturalism and official bilingualism. The Government of Canada chose to welcome more refugees. Prime Minister Trudeau chose to have gender parity in Cabinet (because it's 2015)."
These are the ideals Nigeria should aspire to if we are to build a modern nation. We must make conscious efforts to build an inclusive nation; a society of equal opportunities and civic benefits; the alternatives are not pleasant. We must redefine citizenship rights in Nigeria. We must build a nation, like Canada, where every Nigerian can call every part of the country home. That conversation must begin now. Nigeria does not have the luxury of time!
In 2015, Canadians elected Justin Trudeau, a dynamic and progressive young politician as prime minister. Ambassador Thornley spoke eloquently about the role young people in both Nigeria and Canada can play in shaping their countries: "As we celebrate one hundred and fifty years of Canada, we remind ourselves that it is today's young people that will shape both the Canada and the Nigeria of the next fifty years. Canada understands the importance of engaging youth not only on issues that affect them directly, but on all issues of national and global importance. In fact, our Prime Minister, quite deliberately, chose to personally take on the role of Minister of youth to emphasize the priority his government attaches to it. Young people represent a generation of true global citizens. This has been helped by a world that is networked and connected like never before, namely through the use of new technologies and social media. The importance of youth is particularly pronounced in Nigeria, which has such a sizable population of young people. I have been impressed in the early months of my tour in Nigeria with the ideas, energy, and vitality of young Nigerians. The desire to build a better world is evident and inspiring."
Nigerian youth have ideas and energy. They are creative. But they must do more; they must be involved in reclaiming and re-inventing the country; they must realize that the power to bring about real change in Nigeria lies in their hands. Many of those who shaped Nigeria at independence were in their 20s and 30s and few in their 40s. They were the same people who plunged Nigeria into an avoidable and internecine civil war, mismanaged the post-war reconciliation, robbed the country of its resource, impoverished majority of Nigerians and brought us to the sorry state we are in today as a nation.
Nigerians can't continue to run the country with the same people and ideas that have failed in the last 56 years. Nigerian youth must rise to the challenge of their generation. Nobody will provide employment or quality education for you unless you create a system of equal opportunities and civic benefits. It is your country, your world and your time! I am, therefore, encouraged by the efforts of some young Nigerians like the economist and writer, Tope Fasua, who is rallying other young Nigerians for real progressive change under the banner of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) as the country heads into another general election cycle in 2019. There is Bashir Abdullahi II, the building engineer and social activist who sought me out a few weeks ago to share creative ideas for the social and political reconstruction of Nigeria as an inclusive and egalitarian society.
These are the kinds of new attitudes and approaches that Nigeria needs for her to survive. We must break from the past. We can't continue to run Nigeria in the same old ways and expect different results. Dear Nigerian youth, let no one tell you that you are not old enough to lead or that you don't have experience. Make your mistakes if you have to, but lead you must. Your glorious battle cry must be: dare to struggle; dare to win!
Nigeria must rethink its federalism. Like Canada, Nigeria must seek reconciliation with various groups within the country. Everybody matters! We must also elevate the debate around gender equality and empowerment of women. It is only the youth that can achieve this by collectively destroying the ingrained mistrust and prejudices of the past. Successive rulers—with jaundiced and parochial thinking—have failed the country. There is no reason for the current generation of Nigerians to toe the same line. There is no explanation why Nigerians born after the end of the civil war in January 1970 should see themselves as anything other than Nigerians first. That must be the attitude going forward; it is the only way we can get out of the current morass.
Last week, I was on Aljazeera's Inside Story to talk about corruption and famine in three African countries (Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan) and Yemen where, collectively, 20 million people are at risk of starvation. In Somalia, "a national disaster has been declared because of drought and about half of the country's population faces severe food shortages." In South Sudan, "famine has been declared in parts of the country and up to a million people there will soon run out of food." And in the giant of Africa, the UN says "400,000 Nigerian children face malnutrition. Close to 80,000 of them might not survive the next few months."
It was tragic as it was painful for me to find Nigeria in the same league as these other countries that have a long history of natural disasters and civil wars. Nigeria's problems are purely self-inflicted. There is no reason any child in Nigeria should go to bed hungry much less being malnourished; no reason for millions of Nigerians to be refugees in their country. It is this retrogressive paradigm of governance that has defined Nigeria since independence that our youth must interrogate.
The challenge before Nigerian youth, therefore, and the lesson they can learn from a country like Canada is how to build an inclusive nation, home to millions of people from diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, living together in harmony and bound by social justice, equity, the rule of law and a common national ethos.
It is the bounden duty of this generation of Nigerian youth to rescue Nigeria from the tragic hamster wheel the country has become.
By Austin Emaduku
The Managing Director of Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Chief William Makinde, speaking on Quest FM on Tuesday, 6th September, 2016, made a very serious point regarding the relocation of oil servicing companies from Delta State that should be a take home for every true lover of the Niger Delta. His major point was that we created the state of insecurity that chased away the companies that would have provided employment for our teaming unemployed youths.
This is the immutable truth that our so-called agitators and those who applaud them have failed to see. There is on the rise, a culture of laziness and self-destruct that has permeated and continues to bedevil the Niger Delta region, especially Delta State.
I can recall the mid-80s to the early 90s when Warri, the economic hub of Delta State was home to hundreds of oil companies. Oil production was at its peak and many of our young men and women were engaged in one form of employment or the other: technicians, fitters, welders, caterers, security guards, etc. It was in this era that catering, a hitherto disregarded profession in this area came to the fore.
Several catering schools sprang up to train careers to fill the need of the catering companies that catered for the countless oil companies that operated offshore and they were legion. Even security companies became sophisticated and people were no longer ashamed to take on security jobs as they were now well kitted and the pay was good. The economy of the area boomed. Night life and recreational activities which are indicators of economic buoyancy of the citizenry thrived.
Female night workers, popularly called club girls, could visit any of the night clubs, pick up an expatriate oil worker of any nation and take him to her one room apartment in a face me I face you apartment and spend the night in peace. That white man would wake up in the morning take a cab and go back to his place of abode without any fear or may even decide to spend the weekend without a care for his safety. Club girls were known then to turn down advances from black men whom they nicknamed "si kro kro" for lack of dollar power during club nights until the early hours of the morning when it became clear that there would be no white customers to catch. Such were the exotic tastes of even prostitutes! How times have changed.
Enter the dragon! From nowhere, in the name of resource control, greedy politicians seeking leverage in national politics empowered and encouraged criminal groups to cripple oil installations. This graduated to kidnapping of expatriate oil workers for ransom and then vandalization and bombing of pipelines.
There was a time in Warri when you walked into a roadside bar and you would see an "Oyibo" man drinking beer. They had black friends, co-workers, whom they visited at home. But with the advent of unthinking militancy, the companies started relocating one after the other. Those that remained bought up our security and made us second class citizens in our land. You need to observe these expatriates hold up traffic during rush hours.
While our gun wielding uniform security operatives clear traffic for them –sometimes flogging us – we are made to spend needless hours in traffic just so that they can pass. While there is shortage of security for our homes and neighborhood, our expatriate friends have no such worries. Even the almighty Nigerian Army has been reduced to "maigad" – personal security men – status at the residents of the expatriates. You dare not loiter around their abodes or else you get the usual bloody civilian treatment.
Where has all this left us? A teeming horde of lazy jobless youths who think the surest way to easy wealth is intimidation and violence. They are even against the development of their own communities. Anyone who has attempted to create a road, draw electricity or site a building project in any of our commutes will know what I am talking about. "Deve" collection has driven away many investors from our clime as well as hampered and led to the folding up of many business concerns.
The evil that we created has come full circle. In the absence of white men to kidnap, these so called agitators have turned on our wives, daughters, and mothers who are daily kidnapped, and violated.
How does bombing and polluting the already degraded environment help the Niger Delta cause? How has the harassment and intimidation of investors helped the cause of the region? Instead of acting with tact to protect and preserve our environment, we have contributed in no small measure to its destruction. Instead of agitating to create wealth and employment, we have chased away employment opportunities.
Now let me say this to the so-called Niger Delta agitators who blow up oil pipelines and pollute the already over devastated environment. You are like the mad man who in an attempt to solve problem of rats in his house, set the house on fire only to sleep out in the rain. You are worse than the Boko Haram of the North-East. At least, for the Boko Haram, there is a religious hope of heaven and dream of conjugal bliss with seventy virgins, but for you, your religion has already condemned you to a life of damnation in hell, for the faith you profess is against rape, arson, stealing and murder. And for those who profess the African traditional religious faith, yours is even worse, for the gods of Egbesu, Agbejugbele, Igbe or whatever god you serve does not wait for the afterlife to mete out retribution.
Until we create a conducive atmosphere for investment to thrive we will continue to be jobless. The DESOPADEC MD put it succinctly when he said, until a white man can walk freely from NPA, Warri, to Enerhen junction in Effurun, without fear of being kidnapped, investors will continue to run away from our region and with them the prospect of employment and general economic boom.
Mark Zuckerberg recently came to Nigeria, freely walked on the streets of Lagos and jogged on Eko Bridge without security escort. This is the kind of environment that encourages investors and employment creation and not an atmosphere like the killing fields of the streets of Lebanon.
I challenge all "Waferians" with memory to cast their minds back to the mid-80s to early 90s before the agitation that drove away the companies and tell me when the region was better off: before or after the agitations? What gains has the so-called militancy brought us if not strife, tears and pain? Besides making billionaires of a few, what gains have the years of criminal militancy disguised as agitation for freedom the region?
Niger Deltans, it is time for us to think.
Austin Emaduku wrote from Ekete, Udu LGA, Delta State, Nigeria.
N.B. Article forwarded by Chido Onumah
By Adagbo Onoja
In his latest book entitled, We Are All Biafrans, Chido Onumah offers a very powerful discourse of Nigeria by imposing on the observable claims of marginalisation by every other group against the Nigerian State the metaphor of Biafranism. Every other group is selling that narrative about its own place in the Nigerian set up. In other words, they are doing what the Igbos took to a very high level in the late 1960s by declaring sovereignty, a move to which the Nigerian State responded by declaring a police action.
The rest is now history. 'Biafran' in that title is thus a loaded metaphor in the hands of the author, an unrepentant advocate of the renegotiation of Nigeria but not the secessionist which some readers imagine him to be, either because of the coincidence of his book with the renewed agitation for Biafra or from what the title of his book, particularly the word Biafra has come to denote in popular consciousness in Nigeria.
Of course, the agitation of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) makes it the second time the Igbo cultural identity would be associated with contesting the Nigerian State although some people argue that this time around, it is the Biafranism of the 'Generation Text'. Members of 'Generation Text' have no idea of the horrors of the 1960s.
Whether the 'Generation Text' explanation of this phase of Igbo irredentism is true or not, it still makes the Igbos the most Biafranist group in Nigeria. That should throw up the why question. What might be there in the Igbo gene to account for the dialectics of Igboness in Nigeria: the unchallenged warriors of the Nigerian space in territorial terms but the quickest to get sucked into homeland insularity at the slightest provocation? How could so educated, so successful in business and so globally mobile and established an ethnic group misread the Nigerian text every now and then?
It is a question that would always be open to debate. Three major explanations remain most often the case. Taken in no particular order, there is the argument that Igbos are reacting to what they perceive as punishment for challenging the Nigerian State. There could be a different list now but around the late 1990s, those who were very educated in this would articulate the case of systematic marginalisation by saying, for example, that the Igbos are the exception in terms of a city which when shut down amounts to shutting down Nigeria. That is, they have no Lagos, Kano or Port-Harcourt which corresponds to the South-West/Yoruba, North/Hausa-Fulani and South-South.
Those who argue this agree that Onitsha is an emporium but would say that Onitsha does not have the strategic value of Kaduna or Oshogbo. There is no export free zone, airport, power plant, refinery or educational institution of stature in the east, it is pointed out. And they say that it was the anger over this that certain institutions such as the Institute of Management Technology, (IMT), Enugu and even Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, were built. With respect to citing of industries, there is a strong feeling that the now moribund Aluminum Smelter Company at Ikot Abasi was originally earmarked for somewhere in the East. And that it is the powers that be that removed it. And then the biggest of the sense of marginalisation: Igbos having five states. As far as this is concerned in the popular Igbo consciousness, population and landmass can go to hell.
As with perceptions, these claims do not have to be empirically verifiable to get an Igboman worked up and ready to swear marginalisation. In social life, what is perceived is what moves men to action. As such, very few are interested in linking claims of marginalisation to its plausible contexts. Of course, the war is an explanation. The historical tendency to 'punish' those who took up arms against the state cannot be dismissed but so also can it not be dismissed that the same Nigeria made room for an Igboman to become the Vice-President under a gentle president and a very organised party in terms of sharing of projects.
Recall that when the Yorubas complained in 1981 that nothing was going to them, Chief Adisa Akinloye, Richard Akinjide and other members of the regional caucus put them to task by calling a news conference and disclosing all the projects and appointments that had accrued to that region. So, what might have happened to the Igbos under NPN?
The second thesis says that the Igbos are stuck with a collective self-understanding whose non realisation makes them angry with Nigeria. No one is sure what that could be. Contributors point to the discourse of the Igbos as the Jews of Africa. The notion of 'Zik of Africa' is supposed to capture this dream of Igbos being the most industrious of the lot and, by implication, those who would be the most prosperous as a collectivity.
Theories are never correct or incorrect as such because theories could pull surprises in time and space. As such, we might still have to wait for a more serious study of this thesis as to whether to dismiss it or not. But one question that it would attract is how one ethnic group in any country in Africa could, in and of itself, break out of the iron curtain of under development enveloping the entire continent, a continent which is basically still the playground of the powerful?
Lastly, there is the argument that explains why Igbos are still Biafrans in the Igbos never having run an empire. In an empire, you are either the conquered or the conqueror. Whichever one it is requires knowledge of the management of power. That is, knowledge of how to ensure that the conquered remains in acceptance of their reality or, if you are the conquered, then the knowledge of how to organise resistance, negotiate accommodation on some issues and fight your way on others. Products of empires are, therefore, assumed to be more adept in such attributes. In other words, it is not required that an ethnic group must have run an empire before the colonialists came around but empire teaches a lot about the complexity of power, its negotiation and its consolidation.
Empire is about what the wise Africanist professor of power would call the layers of the onion. The 'layers of the onion' analysis tasks the power operator to look into each layer of the larger entity in contestation. It could reveal what the grand concepts can never reveal. The argument here is the Igbos who have always lived as republicans lack the patience of their empire minded co-operators on the Nigerian scene – the Yorubas, the Binis, the Kanuris, the Hausa Fulanis, the Jukunawas and what have you. Unlike their Others, Igbos have never come under the authority of any other groups until the colonial encounter.
In Achebe's Umofia, every man was a sovereign. He needed the solidarity of the community, age grades and circle of friends but he was a self-referent player in each of those networks, not a non-person in their dynamics. In other words, the past might be weighing heavily on the present for the Igbos in Nigerian politics.
The point has been made about how theories are neither correct nor wrong as such because the theory that is discredited by the evidence of today could provide the most powerful explanation by the evidence of tomorrow. There is, therefore, nothing to quarrel about in respect of each of these three theories regarding current Igbo return to Biafranism. The claim of neglect might be easier for people to grasp although that could equally be the weakest explanation.
The real question would seem to be how it happened that no force, no tendency and no stream of consciousness in Igboland could enforce a binding narrative of the perceived situation of the Igbos and impose such on national politics? The Igbos are not too weak in the politics of discourse and by which it could have made its narrative to be heard globally. Why an IPOB strategy and the associated risk of deepening the perception that Igbos cannot be cured of the Biafran virus?
Perhaps, there is a generational challenge here. It is possible that the time has come for the Chido Onumahs to take up these issues at the level of the language game. This is not to overthrow the old guard but to enrich the struggle they have waged so far. It is a challenge that arises not for just our intellectual workers and activists of Igbo origin but everyone within the Onumah generational bracket because Nigeria itself is in a dangerous vacuum in terms of a discourse of the country that can move the average Nigerian.
Imagine an Arab Spring type revolt in Nigeria today. It would be nothing but pure anarchy because there is no referent narrative that would guide it and it could degenerate quickly into aimless bloodshed rather than a purposive exercise towards the realisation of the slogan, 'Another Nigeria is Possible'.
It is not very often that I find myself writing a tribute considering that ours is a country where heroes and heroines are in short supply. But I couldn't allow this particular occasion to pass without reflecting on what Edwin Madunagu, popularly called Eddie by friends and comrades, means to me, to Nigeria and the international socialist movement. Eddie has been described by one of his contemporaries and closest comrades, Biodun Jeyifo, Harvard University's Professor of African and African American Studies and Comparative Literature, as "the greatest materialist historian and archivistof socialism and the Left in Nigeria's political history".
Edwin Ikechukwu Madunagu was born on May 15, 1946, in Ilesha, in present Osun State. He attended Obokun High School, Ilesha, and later studied mathematics at the universities of Ibadan and Lagos. He taught mathematics at the universities of Lagos and Calabar before he and other radical lecturers were sacked in the late 70s by the egotistic military dictator, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, for teaching what they were not paid to teach. Eddie has published many works, including The Philosophy of Violence (1976); The Tragedy of the Nigerian Socialist Movement (1980); Human Progress and Its Enemies (1982); Problems of Socialism: the Nigerian Challenge (1983); The Political Economy of State Robbery (1984); The Making and Unmaking of Nigeria (2001); and Understanding Nigeria and the New Imperialism (2006).
In The Nigerian Left: Introduction to History, Eddie says of himself: "I am a Marxist and a socialist and have been so since 1973. I am also strongly influenced by anti-sexism, humanism and revolutionary internationalism. I have remained committed to what Karl Marx called the categorical imperative, that is the struggle to overcome all circumstances in which the human being is humiliated, enslaved, abandoned and despised...As I have said publicly on several occasions, this commitment comes before everything else, including family, ethnic group and nationality."
I wanted this tribute to coincide with Eddie's 70th birthday on May 15, 2016, but the vicissitudes of life in Nigeria made that task practically impossible. Ever since, that responsibility has weighed on me. Last September, during a conference in Calabar, I made out time, as I always do anytime I am in Calabar, to visit Eddie and his spouse, Comrade Bene. Such visits, even if for an hour, are usually tutorials in radical politics, history, political economy and the struggles of the working class and the "wretched of the earth" in Nigeria.
During that visit, I had asked Eddie what he planned to do on his 70th birthday. The short answer he gave was, "Nothing". And then he muttered something to the effect that he would be doing a lot of reflection. It occurred to me that I had posed the wrong question; and that instead of asking Eddie what he planned to do, I should have confronted him with what we planned to do in return for what he has done us, particularly those of us he worked with closely as students at the University of Calabar. I immediately made efforts to bring together some of our comrades in the radical student movement for whom Eddie was a towering source of inspiration and support to do something to honour him. Unfortunately, that effort did not yield the desired result. But it is not too late!
Twenty year ago, in 1996, when Eddie turned 50, I wrote a tribute and journeyed to Calabar to join friends and comrades in celebrating this iconic newspaper columnist, mathematician, author and socialist internationalist. I first met Eddie on the pages of The Guardian newspaper where he maintained a must-read Thursday column for almost three decades before I met him in person. Eddie was among those – others were Profs Biodun Jeyifo, Chinweizu, Godwin Sogolo, Femi Osofisan, Olatunji Dare and Onwuchekwa Jemie – whose writings in The Guardian shaped the thinking and writing of many of my generation. Humanist per excellence, Eddie brought panache and mathematical meticulousness in explaining even the most complex of historical, political and ideological issues. I not only read Eddie religiously, I made sure I preserved all his writings, first in hard copies, and subsequently in soft copies when The Guardian joined the Internet revolution.
Ten years ago when Eddie turned 60, I was away in the US. As his birthday approached, I contacted Comrade Bene, herself a radical socialist and feminist activist, a founding member of Women In Nigeria (WIN), Girls' Power Initiative (GPI) and now a retired professor of botany, on the possibility of putting together Eddie's articles into a book to mark his birthday. Comrade Bene jumped at the idea. But there was the little problem, considering the shortness of time, of how to compile and type Eddy's articles in The Guardian spanning 21 years.
What I told Comrade Bene next was music to her ears. I informed her that I not only had copies of Eddy's articles from when he joined The Guardian in 1985 but that I also kept soft copies from the moment The Guardian went online. That effort culminated in the publication of a 573-page book titled Understanding Nigeria and the New Imperialism: Essays 2000-2006, a collection of Eddie's articles in The Guardian edited by Prof Biodun Jeyifo, Prof Bene Madunagu, Kayode Komolafe and myself. That intervention spurred my interest in documenting my own essays which appeared first in The Punch in 1991 and subsequently with Eddie's encouragement in The Guardian and much later in other newspapers and online platforms. The result has been three published works of essays: Time to Reclaim Nigeria (2011); Nigeria is Negotiable (2013), and We Are All Biafrans (2016).
Understanding Nigeria and the New Imperialism is a book I find myself referring to each time I want to understand the many problems confronting our country and our world. On page 338 of the book is what I consider one of Eddie's most endearing reflections on the Nigerian crisis – a tribute to Peter Ayodele Curtis Joseph – which was an essay in The Guardian of June 27, 2002, under the title, "To Remember and to Honour". Eddie wrote, "Of all the contemporary social developments that currently sadden me, one of the most painful is the disconnection of Nigerians, especially the younger ones, from their own history, including the history of their own immediate environments. I can put my finger on a number of interconnected factors responsible for this historical connection. Our educational system pays little attention to our history. Most of the current generation of teachers are products and carriers of this deficiency, so what do you expect from the new products? Our media, print and electronic, from time to time, put out historical materials and programmes. But many of them are disgustingly eclectic, distorted and full of errors of fact and sequence. Our post dependence history is short, just 42 years. But you are asking for a heart if you dare ask any final year undergraduate or young politician to name, in historical sequence, the regimes that this country has had since independence."
Thanks to social media and the rise of religious fundamentalism, among other factors, the condition Eddie described above has worsened in the last decade. Young Nigerians are not only disconnected, they are tragically disinterested in the history and future of the country as well as in socio-political events that shape their material conditions. And when they attempt to "confront" these issues, what you get is what Prof Biodun Jeyifo describes in the foreword to the book Understanding Nigeria and the New Imperialism, as "a dialogue of the deaf and the damned". Of course, this attitude is not limited to our youth. As Prof Jeyifo notes, it finds expression "within the community of Nigerian radicals and leftists and the broader community of the national intelligentsia – of all shades of ideological opinion".
Essentially, what Prof Jeyifo is saying in describing Eddie's vast and complex body of work is that he (Eddie) shows us that "no meaningful conversation exists" among Nigerians about the future of the country. "What we have is a dialogue of the deaf and the damned. A dialogue of the 'deaf' because interlocutors and disputants in our national conversation don't take the time to listen at all to one another, let alone hear one another as the same issues, the same ideas are repeated and recycled again and again. And a dialogue of the 'damned' because we seem headed for a catastrophe that we might not survive this time around as we survived – after a fashion, at least – our Civil War of 1967-70."
"The eloquence, clarity and force with which he advances (his) theses mark Eddie out as perhaps the revolutionary conscience of our generation," notes Prof Jeyifo. In a country in crisis like ours, it is the likes of Eddie that we should turn to for guidance. Sixteen years ago (May 4, 2000), in an essay in The Guardian on the Biafra agitation titled "Settling accounts with Biafra",Eddie wrote, "The young Nigerians now threatening to actualise Biafra should forget or shelve the plan. In place of 'actualisation' they should, through research and study, reconstruct the Biafran story in its fullness and complexity and try to answer the unanswered questions and supply the missing links in the story. This is a primary responsibility you owe yourselves: you should at least understand what you want to actualise. If 30 years after Biafra, you want to produce its second edition, you need to benefit from the criticism of the first. History teaches that a second edition of a tragic event could easily become a farce – in spite of the heroism of its human agencies. On the other hand, those who enjoy ridiculing Biafra – instead of studying it – are politically short-sighted. My own attitude to Biafra is neither 'actualisation' nor ridicule. I propose that accounts should be settled with Biafra."
In another essay titled "Sovereign conference or civil war?" (March 16, 2000), Eddie observed: "Nigeria has been reprieved from civil war several times in the past decade. The point is that this reprieve cannot continue indefinitely. Sooner or later history may give Nigeria what the powers-that-be have been reckoning." If Eddy were still active as a columnist, I wonder what he will make of the depressing news that in a country where the minimum wage is N18,000 ($50) a month, a career soldier, a serving general, in the country, could save enough money to buy not one but two houses in Dubai, one of the swankiest real estate markets in the world.
There are many today, even in the midst of mounting despair and alienation, grinding poverty, hopelessness, terrorism and violence, inextricably linked to the renewed onslaught of capitalism, who still have doubts that a post-capitalist world is possible. To such people, I recommend this extract from a tribute to Eddie by Prof Biodun Jeyifo (The Nation, May 15, 2016): "Let us put away the fears, the worries of the faint-hearted among us that socialism is dead in our country and our world. Indeed, without being in the least complacent about the challenges ahead of us, let us rest assured that prospects for a post-capitalist era of political, economic and social justice for the vast majority of our people in Nigeria and the peoples of our planet are as good now as they were more than forty years ago when, in the Anti-Poverty Movement of Nigeria (APMON), we first became, instantly and forever, lifelong comrades in working class activism."
Apart from my father, perhaps no other person has had as much influence on my life as Comrade Edwin Madunagu and I am proud not only to be associated with him for three decades but to be his protégé. At 70, Eddie spends his "retirement" running the Calabar International Institute for Research, Information and Documentation (CIINSTRID), a free research institution and public library of the Left, which he set up in 1994 in collaboration with other comrades.
I conclude this homage to Eddie by returning to Prof Jeyifo's tribute. "It so happens that the prospects for a post-capitalist future are indeed much brighter in many other parts of the world than in our country at the present time," he wrote. "But we are part of the world at large, thanks in part to global capitalism. No comrade that I know understands and appreciates this contradiction better and keener than Edwin Madunagu."
There is nothing more to add other than to say that the mission of the generation of Nigerians under 40 is to renew the progressive, radical and popular-democratic traditions of struggle in Nigeria which Comrades Eddie and Biodun Jeyifo (who turned 70 on January 5, 2016) exemplify. You betray that mission at your own peril!
Since the public presentation of the book We Are All Biafrans and the intervention of a former vice president of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, who chaired the event and delivered a speech titled “Restructuring for Nigeria’s national unity” – a speech I recommend to everyone interested in the unity and survival of Nigeria – the issue of restructuring Nigeria and negotiating its unity has once again taken the centre stage of national discourse.
No less a person than President Muhammadu Buhari has had to weigh in on the debate. During his Eid el-Fitr message to Nigerians on Wednesday, July 6, 2016, he was reported to have said: "I assure them (in reference to the Niger Delta 'militants') that when we were very junior officers, we were told by our leaders, by the Head of State, Gen. Gowon, that to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done...we never thought of oil. What we were after is one Nigeria. Please, pass the message to the militants that one Nigeria is not negotiable. And I pray they better accept it. The constitution is very clear...I assure them there would be justice."
Before President Buhari's admonition, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, had noted during a parley with The Punch on Tuesday, June 28, 2016: "I am on the side of those who say we must do everything to avoid disintegration. That language I understand. I don't understand (ex-President Olusegun) Obasanjo's language. I don't understand (President Muhammadu) Buhari's language and all their predecessors, saying the sovereignty of this nation is non-negotiable. It's bloody well negotiable and we had better negotiate it. We better negotiate it, not even at meetings, not at conferences, but every day in our conduct towards one another."
The opinions of these two prominent Nigerians reflect the two divergent opinions on the issue of restructuring Nigeria or negotiating her unity. I had planned this article – that was before President Buhari's remarks – as a cautionary note to the Left, progressives and genuine patriots in Nigeria. I believe they are the only ones predisposed and sincerely open to solving the current crisis. Regrettably, this is one issue that has divided the Left, progressives and patriots in Nigeria. This division has defined the kind of response – ranging from obfuscation and doublespeak to outright denial and combativeness – that has made it impossible to have a coherent national narrative and action plan. Since those who ought to speak out and act have maintained criminal silence and indifference, they have yielded the space to conservative analysts of every hue, hypocrites, blackmailers, anarchists, and fifth columnists.
So what are the issues in contention? There seems to be a general agreement, even among those who brought us to this near-tragic end, that Nigeria is not working for Nigerians. However, and this is where the divergence of opinions sets in, Nigeria is not working not because it is not workable, but because it has been rigged to fail. Take the issue of the civil war (1967-70) which President Buhari alluded to. That war was fought in part because of natural resources (oil specifically). That was the driving force of the so-called federal offensive and to some extent it also defined the geo-politics of what would become the secessionist Republic of Biafra. After 30 months of fighting and millions of lives lost, there was a "negotiated" settlement. A truce was declared with the catchphrase "No victor; No vanquished."
Unfortunately, 46 years after the end of that internecine war, low-intensity conflicts by state and non-state actors are raging across the country, from Boko Haram in the North-east, Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and Arewa People's Congress (APC) in the North-west, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other groups in the South-east, the Niger Delta Avengers and Bakassi Strike Force(BSF)in the South-south to the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) in the South-west and potential avengers in the North-central. What this tells us is that that war didn't really end and hasn't ended. What then do we do to fix Nigeria? The simple answer would be to return to the negotiation table.
To be clear, Nigeria has always been negotiated. The problem has been that the "victors" or those who control power at each round of negotiation have unilaterally defined the structure and politics of the country going forward. Again, I return to the issue of oil. Before independence in 1960, this was the "sharing" formula for crude oil revenues: Oil producing states (region) retained 67.4% of revenues, thefederal government got 20%, non-oil states (regions) got 12.6%. After the civil in 1970, the regime of Gen Yakubu Gowon through Decree No. 13 "negotiated" a new formula: Oil producing states retained 45% of revenues, the federal government got 55% while non-oil states got 0%.In 1975, the regime of Gen Murtala Muhammed in another round of negotiation through Decree 6, came up with this formula: Oil producing states would retain 20% of revenues, the federal government got 80% and non-oil states got 0%. In 1976, Gen Obasanjo, then military dictator, in his omniscience, gave oil producing states 0% of revenues while the federal government got 100% and the non-oil states got 0%.
President Shehu Shagari who came to power in 1979 brought a bizarre twist to the "sharing" formula. He retained the Obasanjo formula of 0% allocation to oil producing states and 100% to the federal government to be shared in this order: 50% shared equally among states, 40% shared based on population and 10% based on land mass. By 2000, during the reincarnation of Gen. Obasanjo as civilian president, a new revenue sharing formula was negotiated which gave oil producing states 13%.
As Prof. Yakubu Aboki Ochefu notes in the introduction to the book Nigeria is Negotiable, "Beginning from the Berlin West Africa Conference of 1884-85, the 'negotiated' existence of what eventually became Nigeria in 1914 (unfortunately, negotiated without the input of those who would eventually become Nigerians) has always been a part of its historical experience. Under British colonial rule, the economic and administrative structures of the country were continuously rejigged until independence in 1960.
"Between the official versions of the decolonisation history that gives a prominent role to our nationalist heroes for winning independence from the British, to others who believe in the 'conspiracy theory' of decolonisation, the process of how the region with the least democratic credentials ended up as the driver of a new democratic enterprise epitomizes aspects of the negotiated experience. As a country on its 'third missionary' journey to a truly democratic nation, the fundamental questions of nation building that began over 100 years ago have not been fully and or properly answered. We must collectively negotiate to ensure that we retain the map (of Nigeria) but change the way we exist under that map."
On April 22, 1990, a group of young Nigerian army officers – mainly from a section of the country (the same army President Buhari told us last week fought to keep Nigeria one) – attempted to overthrow the military regime of Gen Ibrahim Babangida. While that abortive coup lasted, the rebellious soldiers excised five states of the federation – Sokoto, Borno, Katsina, Kano and Bauchi. That coup and the excision order were popular and well-received in many parts of the country. Clearly, if that coup had succeeded, the aftermath would have been another civil war. Gen. Babangida responded to that mutiny by dividing Nigeria into 30 states from 21 (just as Yakubu Gowon divided Nigeria into 12 states from four regions in 1967 to weaken the Biafra secession).
Having told ourselves a few historical home truths, let us quickly avail ourselves of one more opportunity to reclaim Nigeria. When people call for restructuring Nigeria, they make the call for a reason. And it should not be dismissed peremptorily. The rulers of the country use every opportunity to speak about the unity of Nigeria and hardly do anything to build or enhance that unity.
I don't think the issue really is about the unity of Nigeria. Undoubtedly, many Nigerians want to live in a united Nigeria. It is important, therefore, that we do not conflate the issues. The call for restructuring Nigeria has nothing to do with the "dissolution" of Nigeria. You can believe that "Nigeria is non-negotiable" and still support the call for restructuring the country. That call is basically about building an inclusive and equitable nation; one in which your worth and position are determined not by where you come from or your religion; a nation founded on a popular constitution validated by "we the people".
On a final note, let me emphasize that restructuring Nigeria has become a "categorical imperative" for the country. It is either we restructure or perish! Restructuring Nigeria is not an elitist concept (even if it is sometimes used by sections of the ruling elite to negotiate power) neither is it about splitting Nigeria. We can restructure (or negotiate) Nigeria without changing the internal map of the country; it is more about resource control rather than resource allocation; more about devolution of power and, therefore, responsibilities. It is about enhancing citizenship rights and the existential confidence in the country.
Of course, restructuring Nigeria is not a silver bullet or cure-all for our problems. But we can't take on our problems as a nation without a generally acceptable and workable structure. In a sentence, we MUST "re-federalize".
I had a few sleepless nights last week. It had nothing to do with the searing heat in the country or the epileptic power supply by Nigeria's eternally dysfunctional electricity company. My discomfiture had to do with the report about the heist at the Nigerian Air Force. The dizzying allegations of sustained robbery by the officers in charge, though not completely surprising, left me breathless. I ruminated on the trial of Alex Badeh. I reflected on the figures, did the math, and was driven to despair.
I then asked myself the same question I asked a few years ago while researching grand corruption in Nigeria and the looting of the Nigeria Police Force by an ex-Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun. From all accounts, Mr. Balogun was a pathological criminal who rose to become the chief law officer of Nigeria. By the time he was forced to retire in January 2015, he had stolen billions of naira belonging to the Nigeria Police in what would go down as the most barefaced stealing spree by a public officer in Nigeria. The question I posed was: what kind of country or system makes it possible for public officers to loot their establishments so easily, ceaselessly and shamelessly? To understand the Badeh and Balogun syndrome, this is the question every sane Nigerian ought to be asking. I shall return to this.
Alex Sabundu Badeh, 58, until his retirement last year was a four-star flag officer of the Nigerian Air Force who served as the 18th Chief of Air Staff (October 4th, 2012 – January 16th, 2014), the 15th Chief of Defence Staff of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (January 16, 2014 to July 13, 2015), and Commander of the Presidential Fleet during Olusegun Obasanjo's presidency, according to a Wikipedia entry. He was born in Vimtim (a town sacked by Boko Haram in October 2014) in Mubi Local Government Area of Adamawa State, North East Nigeria, into a family of peasant farmers.
Fast forward to Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The trial of Badeh began at a Federal High Court in Abuja where we were told that as Chief of Air Staff, Badeh made N558.2 million ($2.8 million at the official exchange rate of N197 to a dollar) monthly from the salary account of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), an account we were informed predated Badeh's tenure. N558.2 multiplied by the 15 months that the diversion lasted (between September 2012 and December 2013) comes to N8.3 billion. We know that not all of that money went to Badeh. He had to settle the boys, perhaps going as high as the ministry of defence and the budget office of the federal government! But whatever the balance, as Chief of Air Staff, Badeh was a stupendously rich man. I don't know any business, not even that run by Bill Gates or Warren Buffet that boasts of that kind of return on investment in 15 months.
Badeh's loot, we understand, was the leftover after salaries and allowances of workers from NAF had been defrayed from the N4 billion received monthly and it was conveniently earmarked "for general administration for the office of the Chief of Air Staff". And he administered it in the interest of the Badeh clan. Badeh bought a retirement home for N1.1 billion, a deserving prize for his trouble in ending the war against Boko Haram. He bought a commercial plot of land for N650 million and paid N878 million for the construction of a shopping mall and another N304 million to complete the mall. When his sons wanted to own houses, he bought a house worth N260 million for his first son, renovated it with N60 million and furnished it with N90 million. And when his second son turned down a house worth N340 million, he ordered that a second house be bought for N330 million to compensate for the indiscretion of his man Friday.
"The amount in most cases was usually converted into US dollars by the Finance Officer at Nigerian Air Force Headquarters, Abuja. Thereafter, it is brought to the Director of Finance who in turn takes it to the Air House which is the official residence of Chief of Air Staff at the Niger Barracks," revealed a prosecution witness, Air Commodore Aliyu Yishau (retd.), who said he served as former Director of Finance and Account of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF). You still wonder why the country has a foreign exchange crisis.
Badeh obviously had no business being in the Nigerian Air Force or building a career as a pilot trained at the expense of Nigerian tax payers. But this is Nigeria, a country of anything goes, where perverse actions perpetually multiply and endure as instruments of governance. Badeh, of course, is not alone. The man who succeeded him as Chief (Thief?) of Air Staff, Adesola Nunayon Amosu, a retired Air Vice Marshal, has been indicted in the arms procurement scandal during his tenure. One of the criminal deals involved the procurement of two second-hand Mi-24V helicopters instead of the recommended Mi-35M series at a cost of $136.9 million. The second-hand helicopters were allegedly not operationally airworthy at the time of delivery while a brand new unit of the same helicopters costs about $30 million. On November 13, 2014, two officers were killed when the Air Force chief allegedly pressured them into flying one of the unserviceable helicopters which crashed in the North-east region.
According to reports, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has seized houses and other properties belonging to Amosu, Air Vice Marshal J.B. Adigun, the immediate past Chief of Accounts and Budgeting of the Nigerian Air Force, and Air Commodore O. O. Gbadebo, who was the Director of Finance and Budget at NAF. When Amosu's wife, Mrs. Omolara Amosu, was arrested by EFCC operatives, the sum of N3 billion was allegedly traced to her bank accounts. She has voluntarily returned N381 million in three tranches of N180m, N101m, and N100m.
Amosu's putative boss, ex-National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (retd), alongside Shuaibu Salisu, a former Director of Finance and Administration, Office of the National Security Adviser, Aminu Babakusa, a former General Manager, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Acacia Holdings Limited, and Reliance Referral Hospital Limited, is currently being prosecuted by the EFCC on a 19-count charge bordering on money laundering and criminal breach of trust to the tune of N13.5 billion. A committee set up to investigate Dasuki's office indicted more than 300 companies and individuals, including serving and retired military officers. In one case, the committee found out that a company, Societe D'Equipment International, was overpaid to the tune of €7.9 million and $7.09 million.
True to form, the trial of Dasuki could not continue last week because he refused to show up in court. But he doesn't have to. The important thing is for the trial to go on and if he is found guilty, bundled to jail. I am reliably informed that the rot in the military is far worse than what we have experienced with our politicians. And that is saying a lot considering the criminal proclivities of Nigerian politicians. We have seen a bit of the rot in the Air Force. We await the revelations from the Army and the Navy.
If you want to understand why Nigeria is not working, why we are a fourth rate nation, look no further than the Dasukis, Badehs, and Amosus of Nigeria, their compatriots in agbada (the grand boubou) and their partners in wigs. People like our billionaire judges, like Olisah Metuh, Stella Oduah, and Bukola Saraki, the Teflon President of the Nigerian Senate who is currently standing trial for false asset declaration and for repaying his personal loans with state fund. There are others like Ikedi Ohakim who as governor of Imo State paid $2.29 million cash for a property in Abuja, Ahmed Sani Yerima, Mohammed Danjuma Goje, Abdullahi Adamu, George Akume, and Josuah Dariye – executive scoundrels who have found refuge in one of the most disreputable institutions in Nigeria – the Senate. Not even the colonial masters could have damaged this country the way these men and women who claim to be Nigerians have done. Indeed, it's a safe bet that the legendary unfeeling colonial chieftain, Lord Lugard, will weep no end if he were to return to the house he built in 1914.
Clearly, these thieving individuals like their alter ego, the fiendish late military dictator, Sani Abacha, have no concept of a nation of people. Their moral universe is limited to family and friends. That is why their politics, to paraphrase radical scholar and activist, late Prof Eskor Toyo, is reduced to a grabbing game, a cake sharing contest. So, for example, while Abacha was head of state, pretending to love Nigeria and working to uphold her honour and glory, he, his family, and accomplices were busy looting the country and stashing the loot where their hearts were: Switzerland, Liechtenstein, etc. In just one instance, in December 1999, the Swiss government announced the freezing of $550 million in different banks belonging to Abacha and his family, former National Security Adviser Ismaila Gwarzo, and Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (current Governor of Kebbi State). It is simply impossible to know exactly how much Abacha and those around him stole from Nigeria in the five years of his tyrannical rule.
There are many Abachas, Dasukis, Badehs, Amosus and Sarakis in the system, people who "pledge to Nigeria my country, to be faithful, loyal and honest", yet they will steal from the same country at every opportunity. But why are millions of Nigerians who bear the brunt of the licentiousness of our thieving public officers not outraged? There is no outrage because most of us will behave the same way if we found ourselves in the shoes of Abacha, Dasuki, Badeh, Amosu or Saraki.
And the reason is simple: "Much of what passes for corruption is not simply a matter of greed but rather the byproduct of legislators or public officials who feel more obligated to family, tribe, religion or ethnic group than to the national community and therefore divert money in that direction." That was Francis Fukuyama writing about the relationship between nation building and state building in his book, Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy. Thesebandits in uniform and agbada, according to Fukuyama, "are not necessarily immoral people, but their circle of moral obligation is smaller than that of the polity for which they work".
Savagery rears its head when we believe something that belongs to us is stolen, when anyone comes into our small circle of moral obligation. So, somewhere in Aluu, Rivers State, four undergraduates are lynched and burnt by mortally offended fellow citizens for allegedly stealing laptops and cell phones; somewhere in Lagos a woman is beaten and sexually assaulted by an incredulous and bloodthirsty mob for stealing pepper; in Ondo State, a man is mercilessly bludgeoned to death by "irritated angry youth" for being gay; and somewhere in Kano, a man is set free after more than two decades in prison for allegedly stealing a transistor radio. Yet each time Dasuki, Badeh, or Saraki appears in court, oozing splendor, they are not tailed by "ordinary" Nigerians mocking and jeering but by a throng of well-heeled lawyers, friends, associates, and family members. These high-profile supporters know that it is not only Dasuki, Badeh, or Saraki that is on trial.
What they seem to be saying is, "That is the way the system works. Only a fool would want to be law abiding in a patently lawless society." So, Dasuki, Badeh, Saraki, and company, can sleep comfortably at night knowing full well that there is a chance that in the end they will be free to enjoy their loot. As a people, we have imbibed the dictum that when evil is commonplace it becomes a tradition. That is the case with corruption in Nigeria. Corruption is a national tradition. It has been with us since independence, got worse through many military regimes and became a directive principle of state policy in 1999 when the military again foisted one of their own, Olusegun Obasanjo, that exemplar of everything wrong with Nigeria, on a hapless nation.
It is for this reason that these indicted public officers, rather than going to court to prove their innocence, shout "persecution" and "political witch-hunt" at every opportunity. You can't really blame them! Why should they be punished for upholding tradition? It is for the same reason that we have not heard a word from the military high command or from retired military officers, including ex-heads of state, on the revelations about our military.
Knowing how powerful the thieving class is in Nigeria, President Buhari should be praised – I can't think of any politician who would have done this – for his courage and political will. Of course, the issue goes beyond President Buhari to the question posed at the beginning of this essay. As long as Nigeria remains the way it is, public office will be nothing but sinecure for self-serving individuals.
We need to create a country where there is no incentive for Nigerians to steal from Nigeria. No sane person steals from himself. When people feel ownership of this country, we won't see the high incidence of wanton pillage of public fund currently going on at all levels and in all sectors.
In the interim, let Nigerians who suffer the effect of corruption pick up the gauntlet and act. After all, the enfant terrible of Rivers State and now Honourable (emphasis mine) Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, once remarked publicly that he and other thieving politicians get away with murder because Nigerians have not risen to defend their patrimony by stoning those who gratuitously steal from them.
This piece is an excerpt from an upcoming book: We are all Biafrans – A Participant-Observer's Interventions in a Country Sleeping Walking to Disaster.
The recent visit of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa to Nigeria presented an opportunity to rehash the view that Nigeria has not been given its due recognition in Africa. Of course, as expected, Mr. Zuma in his speech to the joint session of Nigeria's National Assembly did touch on Nigeria's role in the fight against Apartheid and its historical role in Africa. According to Mr. Zuma, "The people of Nigeria provided unwavering support and solidarity to the people of South Africa to unseat the last bastion of colonialism in Africa and enable us to attain our freedom."
In what appears to be a veiled reference to attacks on Nigerians in South Africa he noted, "I would like to remind especially the youth in our two countries, of the role that Nigeria played in the struggle for liberation in South Africa. Nigeria was very instrumental in establishing, in the 1960s and the chairing, for 25 years, the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid, and further hosted a UN anti-apartheid conference in 1977. From the mid-70s, Nigeria and its people also hosted some of the exiled freedom fighters from South Africa, with numbers increasing after the Soweto Student Uprising in 1976."
It appears, however, that beyond these formal platforms and speeches eulogizing Nigeria, the image of the country as a "powerhouse" deserving of respect, particularly in Africa, is simply lacking. We must again refer to the repeated xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa and, of course, the way Nigerians are perceived and treated in other African countries.
This brings us to the other side of the debate: whether Nigeria has asserted herself enough to be taken seriously in Africa much less the world. This is what a new book, The Media Imagination in Nigerian Foreign Policy seeks to address. Written by Adagbo Onoja, a former media aide to Sule Lamido, Nigeria's foreign affairs minister between 1999 and 2003, the author weaves three aspects of his persona into this book – journalist, academic, and participant-observer in Nigeria's foreign policy – to highlight what Nigeria has still not explored: the postmodern media.
Described on the blurb by one of the academic assessors as "empirically rich, pugnacious here and there", it would be interesting to see how the myriad of its potential readers react to this book. And they would range from newsrooms across the world assessed on their coverage of Nigerian foreign policy to the civil society that has a whole chapter in the work and then to African statesmen, the great powers, former ministers of foreign affairs and other key actors in Nigerian foreign policy as well as those called "intellectuals of statecraft".
It would be interesting to see too what readers also make of sharp assertions as the one by Professor Sam Egwu of the University of Jos (UNIJOS) who remarked in the Foreword that "The critical role of the media in the projection of great nations historically provides a warning that the media imagination matters and that the foreign policy elite ignore the media imagination as a power resource only at the perils of the country."
In many respect, this book is a welcome development not just in media discourse but in framing a comprehensive and workable foreign policy for the country. When it comes to Nigeria, the expectations are really high – both within and outside the country: "The Giant of Africa", "the most populous country in Africa", "the largest concentration of Black people in the world". Unfortunately, the country and its leaders have not come anywhere close to fulfilling the potentials of the country.
Divided into three parts with seven chapters, the book focuses on two main issues: "what the media does to Nigeria's image and how Nigeria might derive strategic advantage from the media imagination". Contrary to the generalized belief that Nigeria's media image is all negative, this work shows that there is also the idea of Nigeria as "the pivot on which Africa and much of the world turn", a discourse with tremendous constitutive implications which Nigeria has not explored.
Subsequently, the image of a looted and mismanaged country afflicted by a litany of woes: corruption, high degree of poverty, HIV/AIDS infection, a dysfunctional society, authoritarian democracy, criminality, and scams, has overwritten the positive possibilities. Essentially, the author is saying that our foreign policy has underachieved partly because Nigeria has left the discursive articulation of herself unattended by way of her engagement with the media as a power resource. While Nigeria does not seek to dominate other countries, as the author noted, its "asymmetrical diplomacy" or the articulation of foreign policy objectives on the terms of externally framed meaning of the world has left gaps between foreign policy and domestic interests or needs.
For me, this focus by the author on the media imagination in Nigerian foreign policy is the kernel of the book; that is, the strength of the book is the understanding and application of the power of the media in pushing a narrative of Nigeria within which other foreign policy interests can be realized. This is a refreshing perspective that the framers of Nigeria's foreign policy may do well to listen to. Very few writers and academics in Nigeria have bothered to explore this angle in foreign policy discourse. The work is equally authoritative. As Comrade John Odah, one of those who needled the author to complete the book, was reported in the acknowledgement, very few people with critical orientation have had the opportunity to ply the Nigerian foreign pitch at the level of a close political rather than career aide of the ministers of foreign affairs.
The question emanating from Onoja's critical ability and close contact with the implementers of Nigeria's foreign is: how systematically has Nigeria seized the media imagination as a power resource? In answering this question, the author argues that the media as a power resource in Nigeria's foreign policy can at best be described as work in progress. He concludes by noting that the Nigerian State has not deployed the media the way it deploys the military, diplomacy, intelligence and similar instruments of state power.
The solutions: deliberate development of media infrastructure "with capacity to tell the Nigerian story on a global scale", taking advantage of the advances in media and information technology, and building a crop of media practitioners with an "Afrocentric appreciation of history". I think these are brilliant interventions. The shortcoming, if any, of this book is how to put some of these ideas into practice or better still why have these ideas not started taking roots after more than two decades since the postmodern media became a reality? How, for example, can Nigeria build a crop of media practitioners with an "Afrocentric appreciation of history" when history is not taught in Nigerian schools, much less an Afrocentric sense of it?
But beyond our disdain for history is a more fundamental question of the character of the Nigerian nation or state which the author ignores. The author's lack of attention, considering his pedigree as a progressive scholar and activist, to the fact that Nigeria is an "unformed entity" and that this has a direct bearing of its foreign policy is difficult to fathom. It is not just for nothing that Nigeria has no coherent and workable foreign policy. I think there is a way in which the geo-politics of Nigeria has impacted the way Nigeria projects itself or responds to international issues. There can't be any genuine understanding of what ails Nigeria, including its foreign policy woes, without a focus or an understanding of the nature of our federation.
In all, this is a provocative book and if we want to understand why Nigeria remains an African paper tiger, then we must turn to the 228-page The Media Imagination in Nigerian Foreign Policy, just published by theCentre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD).
This book will stir interest and debates and I think it should. As Dr. Chijioke Uwasomba of the Dept. of English, Obafemi Awolowo University notes on the blurb, it provides "students of international politics, foreign policy analysts, diplomacy, media practitioners and the sensitive general reader a critical entry point into the media in foreign policy formulation and implementation in a post-colonial state like Nigeria".
Late last month, President Muhammadu Buhari sent two executive bills to the National Assembly that border on the government's commitment to strengthen the fight against corruption. The two bills are the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill (2016) and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill (2016).
Coming this early in the life of the administration, and in the heat of the government's momentous anti-corruption campaign, the submission of the two bills was not an ordinary government business. It was symbolic; it signposted, to some extent, the future of the war against corruption and the much needed political will to deal with this canker which hitherto had been lacking.
For many years, the bane of the war against corruption was the lack of commitment and political will at the highest political level to fight the menace. It is no wonder therefore that many enabling laws enacted to solidify the war against corruption, money laundering and other financial crimes, or to increase transparency in the system, remained almost comatose.
Ideally, the two new anti-corruption bills should not only excite interest but accepted with garlands and fanfare as another commitment by the executive and also another weapon in the arsenal to take down one of Nigeria's greatest maladies. Unfortunately, the new money laundering bill leaves a lot to be desired.
The new bill seeks to repeal an existing Money Laundering Act, "make comprehensive provisions to prohibit the laundering of criminal activities and expand the scope of money laundering offences", according to the letter from President Buhari read by Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
Daily Trust of February 3, 2016, reported that with the bill now before the Senate, President Buhari "has set machinery for the establishment of Bureau for Money Laundering Control (BMLC) to tackle money laundering related cases in the country".
First, there is a Money Laundering Act (first enacted in 1995 and amended in 2011) of which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is the co-coordinating enforcement agency. The current Money Laundering Act is also not known to have any fundamental flaws. Why then do we need a NEW Act and a NEW Agency? It is quite disturbing that the new bill seeks to establish a NEW anti-corruption agency to implement its provisions, if passed into law.
One wonders why a law that has been implemented for several years will now warrant formation of an independent agency to enforce it, more so when there are anti-corruption agencies empowered by the law to bring the Money Laundering Act into force.
Both the ICPC and EFCC laws have extensively covered financial crimes bordering on money laundering. In specific terms, the EFCC Establishment Act has listed the Money Laundering Act as one of the laws that the EFCC can enforce, under its powers. In fact, so central is this Act to the activities of the EFCC that it is the first to be listed in Section 7 (2) (a) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004, before others such as the Advance Fee Fraud and other Related Offences Act, the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act, as amended, and the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act 1991, as amended, among others.
According to Daily Trust, "The Bureau, when established, would ensure that all designated businesses and professions comply with the provisions of the Money Laundering Act and exercise supervision." This task is something that was and is still being done by government agencies such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the EFCC. There is therefore nothing new that the BMLC will do in this regard.
Perhaps the framers of this new bill do not know, or have chosen to ignore, the existence of the inter-agency Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) which has the statutory mandate of registering all designated non-financial business. The SCUML "works in collaboration with the EFCC (the coordinating agency for Nigeria's AML/CFT regime) and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) – the national repository of financial disclosures of cash-based transaction reports, currency transaction reports and suspicious transaction reports." It can't get any better! Since its establishment in 2005, SCUML has taken the campaign and indeed enforced the registration of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), hotels and real estate business, car dealership, and other real sectors of the economy.
Clearly, a provision in the proposed money laundering bill has given some clue as to those pushing this agenda and the purpose. Daily Trust reported that, "The Bureau would be run through an advisory board to be headed by a chairman who will be appointed by the president on the advice of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice." One can sense a level of self-aggrandizement to the detriment of the public good.
This new bill, obviously needless as it is, highlights the long standing rivalry that exists between the EFCC and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. And this rivalry is most probably being fueled by top civil servants who endlessly keep looking for more power and perquisites outside their legal means.
Similar machinations took place during the tenure of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua when the then Attorney General, Michael Aondoakaa, went all out to pocket the EFCC. In the last dispensation, spurred by vested interest, the 7th National Assembly, predictably acting the same script, worked so hard to make the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) into a standalone agency. There is no difference between that distractive move and the current one on money laundering.
This move appears to be a clear affront to the work of the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies; perhaps, an attempt to weaken existing anti-corruption agencies to satisfy certain powerful personal interests.
The last thing the Buhari administration needs now that the anti-corruption war is gaining some traction is to get bogged down by this rivalry. This is one distraction it can ill afford. What benefit is it for the country to keep creating agencies at a time of acute financial stress, particularly for a government mouthing cuts in cost of governance?
All the relevant laws to fight corruption and economic malfeasance are there. The government only needs to empower the agencies mandated to enforce these laws and where necessary amend such laws if there are any deficiencies.
By Chido Onumah & Godwin Onyeacholem
Slowly but steadily, the ultra conservative wing of Nigeria's largely self-absorbed and callous elite is spoiling for a fight. And it's all about the renewed war against corruption which has induced in this group an emotion that can only be described as culture shock. As a result, the unconstructive and clearly combative reaction to a development that ordinarily should be applauded and encouraged by anyone who means well for this country is no less unexpected.
Now that it appears that the war against corruption is getting some traction, unlike in the past when only minions were arraigned and convicted and the big crooks got a let off or at best a slap on the wrist if summoned at all, the game has changed dramatically in the last couple of months. The powerful and the mighty who are the major looters of the commonwealth are not just being invited; they are getting the grill of their lives and their big toes are beginning to feel the pain of a new clamp down from an inspired EFCC led by a reputed no-nonsense cop, Ibrahim Magu.
Magu's new leadership zeal is telling in its redefinition of the mode of operation which has triggered a heightened momentum for change in a way that has never been seen at the nation's prime anti-graft agency. On a daily basis, the hitherto 'untouchables' are now being poked with the hard questions in EFCC interrogation rooms; the so-called 'sacred cows' are being prepared for onward transfer to what would turn out to be their slaughter slab for the ultimate rite of humiliation. And more than ever, the prospect of a good number of the politically exposed looters and fraudsters and their collaborators ending up in jail soon enough seems very bright. This is heart-warming in a country which until now has been a terribly misgoverned space.
Yes, the class of elite to which we referred above also wants change, but this is not the type of change they are prepared to accommodate. A change that upsets the applecart (pardon the cliché) in such a decisive manner as to not only dismantle all forms of corrupt practices, but also seek out their perpetrators, name them and shame them by ensuring they end up in prison is certainly not what they want to welcome with open arms.
Therefore, members of that group are not folding their arms to let the EFCC roll over them. They are well-heeled, thanks to their fraudulent escapades. So, they are fighting back both stealthily and furiously, enlisting the services of all individuals and groups that can help them scuttle the fight against corruption. To that extent, they have gone as far as recruiting an equally retrograde faction of the bar, pliant members of the bench, a mercenary arm of civil society, gold-digging religious leaders, a tractable media that is also notorious for hatchet jobs and, above all, an unreceptive and docile public.
And it is easy to identify them. For example, they are manifested in a Chief Judge who recently warned magistrates to stop approving requests from EFCC to detain suspects for interrogation. Curiously, this judge did not cite any known law to back his directive. They can be seen in very senior lawyers who collect dubious briefs to defend persons known to have looted public funds, manipulate the court process on their behalf and scream rule of law.
They are revealed in a well-known Pentecostal pastor who urged government to focus on other areas of development instead of fighting corruption, which he claims constitutes only 20% of the country's problems. They are exposed in phony civil society groups who go about accusing government of violating the rights of persons currently being tried for corrupt practices. You will find them in a nonagenarian who has repeatedly blasted President Buhari and scoffed at his anti-corruption war; and among members of the public who have joined the looters and their supporters to pronounce that the more than $2billion arms scam is an invented story aimed at dealing with members of the opposition party and, therefore, is a 'distraction.'
These are the kind of people the EFCC must contend with. One forecasts that in their desperation they will go all the way to rubbish the institution and its leadership. Don't be shocked if suddenly a report surfaces in the media dubbed 'Exclusive,' brashly claiming to have unearthed a massive scandal involving Magu, the EFCC boss. The purpose will be to destabilise and make him lose focus. But he must remain resolute, for having come this far in this war, there will be no plausible excuse to reverse the gains.
The anti-graft campaign can only be meaningful if the real thieves in the society, the big men who have ensured that our soldiers don't have guns to fight insurgency, hospitals lack equipment, children can't go to school, electricity supply is epileptic, petrol queues continue, basic infrastructure is non-existent, are made to pay for their criminal acts by being marched to jail one by one. And that will just be the beginning of the change that this government talks about, and one of the many that Nigerians expect.
Let there be no doubt. We believe in and are committed to the rule of law. But the rule of law can't be a basis to let loose on society men and women whose transgressions are no less than armed robbery, murder, terrorism and allied crimes that more often than not are not bailable offences.
Then there is the issue of selective prosecution, which has been the battle cry of every scoundrel who has found himself in the corridors of power, a comfortable alibi for many certified criminals to avoid facing justice. Our response is, let anybody who is accused answer "his father's name." People who have been accused of corruption should be proud to clear their name and "put the government to shame" if they have nothing to hide.
Finally, we think the government and the EFCC should expand the war against corruption. The mandate of the Commission, for example, gives it power to look beyond the mindless looting by the political class and their collaborators to other equally sinister criminals, including influential civil servants, who have made a killing in the name of public service. They own all the choice property – most of them lying fallow because Nigerians who are not corrupt can't afford the rent – in Abuja and other parts of the country which has become a veritable avenue for money laundering.
Now is the time for the EFCC to assert itself!