Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nigeria At Fifty: Our Independence Day

Written by Azubuike Madu
The independence of a nation as it should apply to us is holistic and marks a steady and progressive growth in all indexes of civil development the nation must experience. October 1, 2010 should mark fifty years of this independence and we should celebrate not just because of the name and the chance that we may have grown a little from what we used to be before the ‘independence day’, but because we have broken up from colonialism and the tendencies of colonialism that have kept our true identity, strength, effort, ideals, character, principles and unique style from leading our fortune, destiny and life as a nation.
Every year, the series of events that mark our Independence Day celebration must include some tribute to the freedom fighters of our country. Only people of the era of Zik, Awo, Bello, Eyo-Ita and Macaulay are mentioned as freedom fighters. They fought against the strong hold of the colonial masters, the Britons. They had their motivation. Today every celebration of our Independence Day is more like celebrating Easter (of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) without knowing why the day was or who was on the day, let alone believing the story of the day. So long as the day turns out to be a public holiday and there are monetary allocations to mark the celebration, so be it; HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!
I was at the British Council in Abuja a couple of days ago when someone in a group of five walked up to me for an interview. They wanted to find out, for research, the average opinion about development in Nigeria with 2015 as a year mark. I was asked, ‘What is working well in Nigeria?’ And I answered, ‘Nothing!’ Unfortunately that answer ended the interview prematurely because they needed ‘something to build on for further questions’. Only one interviewee out of ten got more questions than I got there because he said politics was working well. I wonder where he came from. To a question of where Nigeria will be in 2015, I answered ‘in West Africa, and we shall be far better than we are now.’ I believe this is the kind of sentiment many Nigerians carry. Every one is strongly hopeful that things will definitely turn around for our good and perpetual prosperity as a nation. The common man like me may not be able to explain how, but can say even at worst situations: Nigeria go better!
The generic concept of fighting for independence entails that the people are:

* Fighting for the sovereignty of their nation;
* Fighting against repressive policies and selfish leadership decisions that are unpopular and neither in the interest of the people nor for the good of the people, the land and posterity;
* Fighting to protect basic identity and principles of the people against foreign erosion and bastardisation.
It becomes a fight because the people under colonial rule become determined and earnestly seek the general good of their people in line with the generic concepts, without undue individualism. It is a fight because as much as they spend all their time, effort, spirit and material, they still maintain a strong hope for success. The story is history; most times they lose their lives in the struggle even when they know of the possibility. They pre-dedicate their struggle to posterity.
It is a fight because the colonial masters will not just leave. They must have spent a long time of their inhabitation to establish political, social and economic strongholds, and a system to perpetuate them in their colony. There must be a lot for them to lose if they just left. More than the habit of oppressing and lording over their subjects, they will lose politically, economically and socially as far as the colony is concerned. They will find it boring to account for their actions and decisions even in the service of the people. And their access to the resources of the people is unquestionable. I cannot agree less. It is fearful for a habitual bully to have a reason to negotiate at par with or be in the position to ask for help from his former subjects. This bully will therefore do everything within his reach to restrain and restrict his subjects from having or knowing anything about himself that might engender their independence. This is the fight!
Before 1960, there was concerted effort for the independence of our country. The independence fighters had their motivations. Their motivations were not far from the fact that they wanted a more people-oriented leadership that was indigenous with the full identity and character of the people.  They wanted a more sensitive and responsive system that will account for the people’s resources and efforts. They wanted a system that will totally guarantee the protection of the rights, aspirations and interests of the people while promoting the collective fortune of the people and the land. Even though they inherited a political arrangement from their masters, the basic things they applied for, they got. They got our sovereignty, social, economic and political independence from the Britons. Thanks to them.
Over fifty years after the freedom fighters applied for our independence, we brashly consider ourselves as very unfortunate. We still have the attributes of colonial subjects. Some say our misfortune is that we skewed off from the dreams and aspirations of the freedom fighters; others say we benefited more from our colonial masters and would have had more development if they stayed on. Still there are ugly voices that suggest that we are incapable and immature to conduct a suitable leadership for our collective good, to sustain or even build on the dreams, ideals and aspirations of our freedom fighters. The truth is that just as our fore-fathers mismanaged leadership in their hands by giving in to slave trade, leadership after 1960 was mismanaged. Our country has been in the hands of local colonial masters, for long!
Fifty years is golden. Yet our fifty years has with it a lot of mixed reactions. The ordinary man has not seen a substantial reason to celebrate. The common suggestion even as government has budgeted for celebration is that we should mark it by debating or creative conferencing. After all, in the past three years our president always led us into anniversaries of purposeless sober-reflection. Who are the celebrants and how many Nigerians are happy? What has changed? What have we become independent of? What really is better and positively different from the ‘bad past’?
 Just like our fore fathers, our colonial masters are not accountable to us. Their activities and decisions are to serve them alone even to the detriment of the people and the image of the entity they are identified with whose protection are entrusted to them.  Our rulers in the past years have grossly abused us. They have done to us evil beyond what foreigners would do to us.
How can one explain, even in the name of corruption, regular heartless trade off of our rights and development, and constant exploitation and abuse of our resources and collective identity? It is bone-drilling to imagine the kind of oppression and stagnation forced on us by colonial masters we have lately preferred to call cabal. People who loot vital resources from their homeland only to build estates and business empires all over the world – in Dubai, UK, America, Jamaica, the Caribbean, South Africa, the Gambia, Kenya, Sao Tome, everywhere! They have consistently driven our economy and national social status to that of third world while promoting other economies. The incidence of their activities gives credit to foreign health care service and foreign education among other things at the expense of ours. They deliberately take out our economy and jobs to other countries while we remain unemployed or underemployed. Wherever you have the best of services anywhere in the world, they are widely acclaimed chief patrons. Yet beyond four hundred metres radius of their country homes lays poverty in stark nakedness. From north to south, east to west of Nigeria, the signs are the same.
They say our education system was better than what we have now. What happened? They better fund foreign universities and send their wards abroad. Even when schools are set up for them in Nigeria, they are out of reach. They better run abroad for catarrh treatment than put our health sector in order. Our refineries cannot work because they have chains of inter-related business in the energy sector. The cabal! ‘What is working well in Nigeria?’ Nothing! Nothing works in Nigeria because we have been held down by the cabal.
Our immediate past president came into office screaming, ‘the cabal!’ He left office creating a fresh breed of cabal members. A close inspection of our history would reveal that this cabal emanated from the barracks. Our leaders thus far have been indisciplined military coupists and their associates. The Babangida era was the period of rigorous recruitment and implantation of cabal members in our bureaucracy. Our richest men today were made in the alliance. Our mediocre bureaucrats and administrators were constituted then and they keep the trend alive by keeping the objectives of the cabal alive. How else can we come out of this? This describes the difficulty we have in making progress. You cannot talk of fighting corruption without dealing with the cabal. You fight the cabal by ensuring a free and fair election, stopping senseless importations, achieving self sufficiency in petroleum products and power supply, providing basic infrastructure, uplifting agriculture and education, reviving our industries and creating jobs, boosting our health system, and strengthening our security and judicial system. They do not want these!
2011 has come and it is obvious we want our independence and the cabal has come with its assertion that ‘we lack leadership’, ‘no zoning equals unity crisis’, no one else is ‘mature’ save for him to lead this country to the ‘promise land’….. I cannot stand those ugly voices.
One scary thing for the cabal, which is the main fight in the issue of the propaganda of zoning et al, is the fact of our impending independence. If we get our independence, we can determine our development. The threat this administration has posed is not throwing up President Jonathan as a presidential candidate in the forthcoming elections, rather it is its determination for a free and fair election. With all their money and connection, they are so badly out-numbered that a common man like Ribadu will beat the old war horses squarely. In all the debate, Ribadu does not come from a zone. (Not a campaign for Ribadu, he is just different. Jonathan might be better than him. I have my reservations).
Now they must have a plan to spoil our peace if they cannot have their way. Someone is weighing the Kenya or Zimbabwe option because of PDP ‘family’. The music on zoning et al has changed because there is the likelihood that if President Jonathan does not represent PDP in a free and fair election, Buhari or Ribadu will take the day. Our concern is our independence. We strongly look forward to our real Independence Day after which we will always have cause to celebrate.
When they say that the founding fathers (cabal grand masters) agreed on zoning to give every zone a fair chance, they fail to state their resolution to keep us bound for the next ‘sixty years’ through perennial rigging and rape of our dignity as a people. Their argument of zoning and fair chance has emboldened the common man to ask: ‘Are there no new names and faces that can lead us purposely apart from tested expired men who have been on stage for decades?’ Until a new addition, 2011 presidential election is between Jonathan, Buhari and Ribadu. Their biographies seem cleaner and more appealing to their recruiters, the Nigerian masses. We are taking employment rights from the cabal. We will stand against rigging and we must be determined to attain our long-awaited independence. The time has come for us to declare our Independence Day.
In UNITY WE STAND! We have always believed that our heterogeneous country will work and be the best if we uphold other ideologies of our alliance above our different socio-cultural backgrounds.
Azubuike Madu's email contact is

Monday, September 20, 2010

Multi-Ethnic Greed: Why There Can’t Be A Revolution In Nigeria!

Written by Tony Ishiekwene

At a recent book launch, eminent legal icon, Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN, advocated a violent and bloody revolution as the only way-out of the mess and indeed hell, successive Nigerian leadership and their ally- a tiny segment of the private commercial elite have turned the country into.
For the erudite professor, after ruminating over all the ills plaguing the nation, caused largely by corruption and greed of the ruling class, no law, edict or moral suasion is capable of dissuading the ruling class from their path of perdition taking along with them the entire nation of 150 million people.

To some extent the professor may be right. A bird’s eye-view of the going on in all political office holders, be it the local government chairman and the councilors, the state governors and their state legislative assemblies or the presidency and the bi-cameral legislative houses, all you see is monumental greed cutting across all the states, religion and ethnic groups. Nowhere is spared, and the result is a living hell for the vast majority of Nigerians, old and young, men and women who try to eke out a living but a denied the chance to do by a very rapacious, kleptomaniac group of leadership who think the wealth accruing to 150 million people could be shared exclusively by less than a million political office holders and their cronies.

Successive Nigerian leadership have run down the Nigerian Airways, Nigerian railway, Nigerian Shipping line, The Nigerian Steel Mills in Ajaokuta and Aladja, State governors have run down state corporations under their watch using their stooges, as chairpersons of these government parastatals, in stealing, asset-stripping and selling off remaining state assets to their close private sector friends and the rest allowed to decay as carcasses, and yet nothing has happened by way of punishment or sanction to these thieves who caused misery to hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who became jobless by the excessive greed of a few, sending many to their early deaths. It costs far more to undertake any government project in Nigeria than in US, UK and other EEC countries, where labour costs is sometimes triple that of Nigeria, because of budget corruption and the over-inflation of budgeted expenditure through budget padding and similar corrupt practices with legislative approvals, thereby legitimizing such corruption. And so Nigerian legislators at both national and state levels are mere rubber stamp of corrupt budgets, and for their troubles they get massively inflated allowances, perks and exotic car gifts from the executives and no one cares about the checks on the other as envisaged by the constitution.

And so millions of Nigerian are plagued by troubling poverty and disease, mass unemployment of its able youth who have now become so helpless that young ladies have turned to selling their bodies both in Nigeria and abroad, whilst young men and women who cannot go into armed robbery or other criminal behavior for survival are forced to find any means to leave the shores of Nigeria- many dying in the Sahara deserts and the ones who manage to get through Morocco die in ramshackle boats trying to cross the Mediterranean sea unto Canary Island, Spain or Italy- all in desperation to seek a means of surviving the hell that the political elites have turned Nigeria into. And all these misery happening 11 years after democracy was supposed to have taken root and the massive petro-dollar wealth that has accrued to the country in the last 10 years. The people have nothing to show for it. Education is in tartars; Health and health facilities are in shambles; Roads are dead traps as thousands of Nigerians are killed and maimed yearly in road traffic accidents occasioned by lack of road maintenance. Yet a tiny minority of its political elite, current and recent past wallows in shameless stolen riches and flaunts extravagance to the very face of the Nigerian people they have stolen blind.

So in a sense all the conditions that should trigger a very violent revolution persist in Nigeria, indeed over the past twenty years or more, a revolution had been overdue. But yet, I am afraid to sound contrary to the distinguished law professor, that there will not be any violent revolution in Nigeria! Why won’t there be one? Because of multi-ethnic greed! Nigerians even those dying of the mass poverty and hellish conditions Nigeria has become- and these mass of deprived and impoverished Nigerians cut across all ethnic, religious and geographical zones- feel their chance or turn will come for the selfish “chop-I-chop” that turn-by turn “rulership” (for what we have in Nigeria is not leadership) of looting otherwise referred to as Zoning of political offices. The political elites across the country have so manipulated the minds of the ignorant Nigerian into believing that retreating into their ethnic cocoons and shouting “marginalization” of my zone or ethnic group would ensure their salvation. They convenientlyforget or refuse to understand that their state governors and local government chairmen and legislative bodies are stealing all the allocations meant for them, and that their enemies are more within than outside their ethnic zones!

You can see the hue and cry of a segment of Nigeria- the northern elite and their handymen thugs whipping war drums that “zoning” must be respected out of fear that the circumstantial president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan may contest the 2011 election and “win” it whether by hook or by crook. For them Jonathan should not throw his hat in the ring to contest the election in the banner of PDP- where “election” win is guaranteed or any other party for that matter as he could use the power of incumbency to snatch a “presidential election win.” Why would a political party zone a political position to an ethnic group or geographical zone for two terms of election? Whilst a zoning arrangement for a disjointed federation like Nigeria may serve some purpose in ensuring unity and bottled-up peaceful co-existence, it is an affront on Nigerians for a cabal in one political party- the PDP- to insist on one zone having two terms at a stretch. Implicit in this arrangement is the disrespect the ruling cabal has for the Nigerian voter who should decide who rules them; they are saying that the Nigerian people’s vote will never count, and that rigging and fraudulent imposition of their “chosen” ones will continue without let. Put this way, they argue, Obasanjo ruled for eight years, through two term of elections (1999 and 2003) largely via rigged elections and late president Yar’ Adua should have two terms of rigged election? What right has any group of persons, in whatever party, to inflict one incompetent, inept and corrupt leader over the people of Nigeria or a state for that matter because of a convoluted arrangement of zoning by a few equally corrupt and greedy party cabals?

I disagree with the views of former NBA president Olisa Agbakoba in the Guardian opinion column of 28th July, 2010 that “Federal character” requirement in public institutions to avoid cronyism and nepotism equates with “Zoning” of Presidency, or Governorship in the case of State governments. The essence of the quota system (Federal character) is to ensure that no one tribe or geographical zone predominate any public institution so that we do not have President, the Vice President and possibly the Senate president from the same geographical zone at any one time.  Section 14, subsection 3 of the Nigerian constitution both in letter and in spirit was never about zoning of political offices to any particular zone at any point in time. Zoning is undemocratic and is part of the corruption deal that the ruling Nigerian elite have adopted to cheat the ordinary long suffering Nigerians from getting credible, competent and honest leadership.

Yes there cannot be a revolution in Nigeria so long as the monies to be stolen by the political class and their private sector collaborators continue to flow in by the pumping of oil from the Niger delta and the petro dollars goes into the federation account for sharing among the indolent, inefficient and corruption ridden three-tiers of government- Federal, State and local government councils; and also as long as multi-ethnic corruption is allowed to thrive and things like zoning of political offices are endorsed by the ruling elites.
A transformation of Nigeria where the people get justice and a fair deal is still possible, without recourse to a violent revolution. I have changed my mind that we need a violent revolution, even though I would have welcomed one- (see my writing over a year ago, where I said a Revolution was inevitable for Nigeria: What I think may eventually change Nigeria for the good is pressure from both Nigerians and the international community, where the later are doing a good job of insisting on good governance and transparency and accountability in government. They have not just been talking but also acting in helping arrest irresponsibly greedy Nigerian rulers like Ibori, Alameasiegha, Dariye and their associates in looting state treasury. Also Information and Communication Technology would play its part in ensuring that there is nowhere to hide by rogue leaders that currently predominates Nigerian leadership.

Eventually a credible election where the people of Nigeria, through one-person-one-vote that counts, decides who their leaders become at all levels of governance will ensure that competent people with ability and integrity gets into government and will put the people first- ordinary Nigerians- before their wallets and those of their god-fathers and cronies, as has been the case in the past 50 years of independent Nigeria. Nothing lasts forever and the current field day the political elites are having will soon come to an end. It will not be by a bloodletting violent revolution however, it will be by a blood-less, quite revolution of ideas, innovative thinking and brain power!