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Posts tagged ‘Chinua Achebe’

A National Insult Rejected By Okey Ndibe.


 

Okey Ndibe
Columnist:

Okey Ndibe

For those unaware of its source, I might as well state from the outset that the title of this column is not original. It’s adapted from a statement released last week by Wole Soyinka. The statement, which bore the Nobel laureate’s stamp of revulsion at moral impunity, chastised the Goodluck Jonathan administration for its bizarre line-up of 100 personalities worthy of honor at a ceremony marking the centenary of Nigeria’s amalgamation.

The centenary list, typical of such rolls in Nigeria, was a hodgepodge. It bracketed imperial personages, so-called “contributors to the making of Nigeria”—including Queen Elizabeth 11 of England and Lord Frederick Lugard, first British overseer of the forcibly amalgamated territory—with such notable nationalist fighters as Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and Anthony Enahoro. It squeezed Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Michael Imoudu, Aminu Kano, Kenneth Onwuka Dike, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, John Pepper Clark, Chike Obi, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Dagogo Fubara, and Moshood Kashimawo Abiola into the same tent as Sani Abacha. In an even weirder development, Mr. Abacha shows up—along with Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida—under the category of “Outstanding Promoters of Unity, Patriotism and National Development”.

How did we quickly forget that Abacha’s looting of public funds from the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria was a patriotic act? Or that he gave his cronies licenses to import toxic fuel into Nigeria because he so fiercely loved Nigerians and fervently desired their development? Or that Babangida’s annulment of the June 12 presidential election was a recipe for Nigeria’s unity?

Anybody who only followed the Aso Rock version of the centenary could have run away with the impression that Nigerians are ever grateful to the coalition of British merchants, bureaucrats, adventurers and royals who cobbled their country together—and named it Nigeria. But the deeper truth lies elsewhere. There were two sets of memory at play last week, two attitudes to Nigeria—a so-called nation bereft of a national spirit, a space that is unformed, ill-formed and malformed.

Those who preside today over the looting of billions of dollars of Nigeria’s resources may deceive themselves that the 100th anniversary of the amalgamation of Nigeria is an occasion for celebration. Many—I’d argue, most—Nigerians think otherwise. For several months, the Internet was abuzz with speculations that the legal instruments of amalgamation stipulated one hundred years as the event’s expiry date. With a great sense of expectancy, many looked forward to the formal cessation of the tragic, nightmarish, and blood-soaked experiment called Nigeria. Was the Jonathan administration unaware of this swell of hope that Nigeria should cease?

In the build-up to the centenary, the band of Islamist extremists known as Boko Haram carried out one of their most savage and outrageous attacks yet. They stormed a secondary school in Yobe under the cover of darkness, slaughtered 60 boys, and set their victims’ dorms on fire. In any serious country, one such act would forever scar the collective conscience, provoking a resolve of “Never again!” Not in Nigeria, a place where a human life is worth far less than a chicken. How did Nigeria’s “transformational” leadership respond to this latest callousness by Boko Haram? It responded in its accustomed soft, indifferent manner. It issued the same tiresome, obligatory condemnation of the carnage, nothing more. The Presidency did not consider the shocking abbreviation of so many innocent lives an occasion to devise and announce a bold, effective plan to assure the safety of all citizens, especially school children, in the Boko Haram-plagued, terror-infested areas. It was, as usual, a do-nothing stance.

But then the government did something even worse than habitual abdication. Apparently, Reno Omokri, Mr. Jonathan’s point man on social media, orchestrated a release that sought to link Nigeria’s suspended Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, with a spike in Boko Haram’s gruesome activities, including the Yobe slaughter. Apparently Mr. Omokri did not reckon with the fact that many Nigerians are quite adept at cyber intelligence, deft at the kind of detective work that can unmask those who exploit the seeming anonymity of the Internet to slander others. Mr. Sanusi is the Jonathan administration’s Public Enemy Number One. The sacked CBN Governor committed the unpardonable sin of telling the world that a major agency of the Nigerian state had failed to deposit $20 billion earned from crude oil exports. In response, the government accused Mr. Sanusi of squandering the funds of the bank he ran, awarding contracts without following requisite laws, and dispensing Nigeria’s funds as if they were his private treasury.

If Mr. Sanusi committed these crimes, I’d like to see him prosecuted, convicted and punished. I’d also like to see the administration account fully for the funds that Mr. Sanusi alleged to be missing. Here’s what the government doesn’t have a right to do: sending Mr. Omokri, its cyber warrior-in-chief, to concoct and disseminate horrific lies against Mr. Sanusi or any Nigerian. Unless Mr. Omokri can demonstrate that he did not mastermind the craven forgery, he ought to resign immediately. Or be fired.

It’s tragic that the Nigerian government, from the president to his aides, continues to fiddle while the country burns. It’s shameful that President Jonathan and Nigerian legislators prioritize a phantom war—going after gays—when the country is besieged by mindless, well-armed zealots who see unarmed Nigerians, including children, as fair game. How does the targeting of gays solve Nigeria’s infrastructural problems? Are gays the reason elections are massively rigged in Nigeria; public funds looted with depraved greed; our educational system a shambles; our healthcare system ghastly?

Nigeria fought a civil war that claimed anything from one to three million lives. It was a war to defend a British-made idea, to uphold the sanctity of a space wrought by British imperial fiat. The mantra was: To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done. To their credit, the British had an excellent reason for keeping Nigeria one. Nigeria was their largest holding in Africa (and their second largest anywhere, after India). It was a prodigious source of raw materials for British firms as well as a huge dumping ground for British-made goods. It made sound sense, from the British point of view, to keep Nigeria one.

As British rule ended, the Nigerian elite who inherited the spoils of the state adopted as an article of faith the idea that Nigeria must remain one entity. But they shied away from asking the hard questions. What’s so sacred about Nigeria? Why should we remain one? What ends are served by remaining one? What does Nigeria represent? And—if unity was not negotiable—then what must be the irreducible terms of our engagement?

I’ve argued before that a central part of Nigeria’s tragedy arises from the fact that the country fought a costly war, but has never permitted the lessons of that war to inform its conduct, to shape its ethos. It’s as if we went to war to defend the right of a few to continue to plunder, to continue to feed fat at the expense of the rest of us, to perpetually rig themselves into power, and to add their contemptible names to every roll of honor, even though they refrain from doing anything that is remotely honorable.

As Mr. Jonathan feted the so-called giants of Nigeria’s centenary, a different, oppositional narrative played itself out. The collective memory of the vast majority of Nigerians beheld Nigeria, not as a splendid monument, but as a sordid, wretched edifice. They saw what Mr. Jonathan and his ilk refuse to see: that the Nigerian state is a provocation, a moral affront, a failed, misery-dispensing state.

Soyinka captured part of the spirit of that deep split in the way Nigeria is regarded. He acted bravely by excusing himself from the insouciant official ritual that amounted to an insult to the outraged sensibilities of the majority of Nigerians. In a statement of renunciation titled “Canonization of Terror,” Mr. Soyinka called attention to the wasted lives of the students in Yobe. He drew our attention to “the entire ethical landscape into which this nation has been forced by insensate leadership.” He would not succumb to the summons to collective amnesia, the only condition under which an ogre like Sani Abacha would be invited to arise, ghost-like, to accept national veneration as a patriotic champion of Nigerian “unity and national development.” Stated Mr. Soyinka: “Under that ruler, torture and other forms of barbarism were enthroned as the norm of governance. To round up, nine Nigerian citizens, including the writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa, were hanged after a trial that was stomach churning even by the most primitive standards of judicial trial, and in defiance of the intervention of world leadership.”

In the end, Soyinka spoke for me—and I suggest, for many other enlightened people—when he stated, “I reject my share of this national insult.”

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe

 

(okeyndibe@gmail.com)

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Hard Knocks of Death By Somefun Oluwasegun Ayokunle.


So, Death comes to every man. There is no escaping it. It can only dillydally. This enigma! Good or bad, all meet the same end. They transit to the checkpoint of afterlife. Maybe we should take a break, most shy away from this stop. In irony, every man moves in the way of this path. Soon at the line’s end, they join the choir invisible.

Early this soon ending year, a popular and famous Nigerian writer went ever silent to this plane. This man’s writings saw him as one who was anti the Nigerian political and societal structure of leadership. His first widely published book, “Things Fall Apart” shot him into worldview. Immediately he left for his sole journey. Tributes poured in. He had just published his latest book, “There was a Country.”

To Nigerians, there was a man. His name was “Albert Chinuamulogu Achebe.” Death took him out swiftly with no protest or resistance.

This past week, Angel Death took us back memory lane, that it was still actively involved in its daily business of  taking lives when the bodies containing them have used up their time. Death performed an unexpected but expected move. It checked out a one-time president of the South Africa. The man was a source of inspiration to many. He was an icon, reported to have been the only living legend. He had a Noble Peace Prize to his feathers. He sacrificed an important part of his life in the fight for racial and humane equality for his country. He helped restore the once hellish torn country into a sense of paradise. This man as the reader should know was “Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.”

You must have seen the respect and tribute that poured in from uncountable sources especially from movers and shakers of economies and nations around the known world. Again, it all boils down to this sentence, “It is what a man has done that will speak for him when he has left the shores of this world to the place of no return.”

Daily, famous and unknown people die. The rich and poor die. Death respects nobody. It comes down hard.

What is the focus?

There are people who consider themselves with power, with influence, yet they have maybe forgotten that one day Death will knock them down on a cold ground with no help. Their money will be useless. Cabals in and out of the government, in and out of religion that move about as if they own the Nigeria and their soul will die. Their maker will take his breath from them. Less than a month, most would have forgotten they ever existed. They will become a memory gone awry.

Stepping into the plane of time with no end, many will realise that there is no second chance. That the issues they involved themselves in the world’s Hall of Fame on their test run life was petty compared with attention to Life. For those that belong to the Hall of Fame of the Sons of God, they shall awake in Life alike with God, their Father.

At the end, its only one life man knows. When Angel Death brings its hard knocks down on man, it is all a matter of how well you have lived in response to God’s benchmark. For the writer, man only exceeds this mark when he is in Christ and Christ is in him.

You may disagree.

Somefun Oluwasegun Ayokunle is a student of Electrical/Electronics Engineering from the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA).

You can follow him at
Twitter:@Oluwaegunsomef
Blog: http://samoluexpress.co.uk
Mail: oluwasegun.somefun@yahoo.co.uk

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Jonathan, Igbos, And The Second Niger Bridge By Frank Onia.


 

By Frank Onia, PhD

The standard criteria for decisions on infrastructural deployment include need, available resources, competing demands for finite resources, alignment with related infrastructure, incubatory foundation for progressive deployment, social benefits, political patronage, economic benefits, minimization of stress and hardship for the citizens, potentials for stimulating overall economic development, balancing considerations, replacement of obsolete infrastructure, need to embrace emerging and efficient technology, etc, etc. When viewed from an objective prism and against the backdrop of the itemized criteria above, it is long overdue to replace the Niger Bridge at Onitsha, which has verifiably and universally been identified as a deathtrap. This bridge was constructed in 1963, and is the ONLY link between the South-East of Nigeria and the rest of the country (towards the West). This bridge serves as the ONLY access point to Anambra, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Benue, and Plateau States, when you approach from Lagos, and, indeed, all the states that formerly constituted the Western and mid-Western Regions, as well as from Abuja and segments of the North.

It is trite to mention that this bridge handles the highest concentration of vehicular traffic in the country, and has served this purpose progressively and exhaustively for fifty years! The exponential growth in population and number of vehicles in the country in the past five decades have added to the pressure on the bridge, with the result that it is nearly collapsing, with the attendant risks for human lives, economic activities, mass psychology, and national development. Citizens from the Eastern parts of the country are the most itinerant in the country, with the evident implication that tens of millions of individuals make frequent trips to their homeland, relying on a safe passage through this same bridge. This assumption of basic safety has been denied them perennially for several years, and is currently being toyed with even further. The significance of this bridge is emphasized during the festive period at the end of each year, when millions of people are trapped and delayed at the bridge for several hours in what should, otherwise, be pleasurable commutes back home. As a country, we have witnessed this for several decades and have failed to do anything about it. When any attention has been paid to the need to replace and expand this bridge, it has been suffused with empty promises, vacuous platitudes, cheap politics, and exploration of the underlying potentials for corruption. The Obasanjo civilian administration played games with the need to replace this bridge for eight years, ensuring that new promises were recycled as elections approached. And, yet, nothing was done.

While the South East, as a Region, contributes very significantly to the development of Nigeria, especially outside Igboland, there is NO single Federal Government institution or semblance of infrastructure in the entire Region. Even though Igbos and their brothers from the South-South are among the most widely-traveled people in the world, there is NO worthy international airport in the larger Region, thereby forcing residents of the Region/s to travel to Lagos or Abuja, before they can travel overseas. Professor Chinua Achebe was involved in a ghastly motor accident near Awka, Anambra State, because he had to travel overseas from Lagos, even though he then resided at Nsukka in Enugu State. This accident cost him his limbs, paralyzed him for life, and hastened his relocation to the United States, where he died many years later.

There are thousands of others who have lost their lives in a similar manner; the additional cost and inconvenience involved in these unnecessary local travels are best imagined, as such travelers must stay in hotels, eat, utilize local transportation, and incur sundry expenses in (mostly) Lagos and Abuja, purely on account of a deliberate State policy to punish Igbo people for whatever reason, While Igbos easily dominate the trading and commercial sectors of Nigeria and West Africa, there is no discernible effort to dredge the River Niger at Onitsha, to enable port activities. The only federal “investment” on River Niger has been the deliberate channeling of the water to the Northern parts of the country, for irrigation activities, while the Onitsha end of the River has been drying up in the  past 20 years, thereby impeding fishing, subsistence farming, and overall economic growth. While Abuja, the North, and other Regions of the country, continue to attract comparatively-significant infrastructural investments and upgrades (for example, the hundreds of billions of Naira being spent to expand the access road from the Abuja airport into the City, as well as the scandalous budget of over N55 billion for the erection of a mere City Gate in Abuja), it is clear that holding the South East down is a Directive Principle of State Policy in Nigeria. No other conclusion is possible from the continued neglect of the Niger Bridge, and the criminal disrespect with which the belated redemptive measures are being packaged. It is noteworthy that the Federal Government funds projects in Abuja and elsewhere directly and does not charge tolls on those roads.

In a society like ours, ethnic agitation for legitimate attention is entirely understandable, hence the tone and tenor of this submission. When our statecraft develops to the stage of objectivity, justice, and fairness, then, possibly our micro-national identities may become muted. The Jonathan Administration has failed both the South-South and South-East by its singular failure to provide basic infrastructure in the two pivotal Regions. The fact that the so-called East-West Road remains uncompleted after all these years, while humongous budgetary allocations have officially been designated to its conclusion, should remain a source of embarrassment for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, well after his stay in office. Pray, how did a treasonous impostor like Mr. Ibrahim Babangida manage to utilize both federal funds (from oil sales!) and oil futures to build a new federal capital city in Abuja, when the man who literally owns the oil cannot construct the road leading to his hometown, even with a democratic mandate? Shame has only one definition.

As it pertains to the need to construct the second Niger Bridge, a categorical imperative, the same Jonathan Administration is being clever by half, by concessioning the bridge to that veritable purveyor impunity and corruption in Nigeria, Julius Berger Construction. This initiator and exemplar of corruption in Nigeria has since announced that the 1.8 kilometer bridge will cost them N100 billion to construct, as a justification for the sweetheart deal extended to them by Jonathan and his Administration, whereby Julius Berger will install three toll gates on that bridge in perpetuity, ostensibly to recover their “investment”. Knowing Julius Berger and Nigeria, this project will eventually cost N200 billion on paper, when completed. Julius Berger did not bring any foreign investment whatsoever when it left its decrepit office in Wiesbaden, Germany, to emerge on Nigeria’s shores 40 years ago, on the private invitation of the late Major General Shehu Musa Yar Adua, number two man in the erstwhile dictatorship of the perennial fumbler and dissembler, Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, which lapsed in 1979.

Let it be made clear that a bridge is a road with its foundation in water. Nigerians need to be aware that the same Julius Berger has just paid penalties to the United States Government totaling tens of millions of dollars for specific cases of corruption it perpetrated in Nigeria. The United States Government, which was not victimized, benefited by way of this penalty payment by Julius Berger, while this construction company that has been at the forefront of corrupting public officials in Nigeria for the past 40 years, neither paid any penalty or compensation to the real victim, Nigeria, nor is it being blacklisted or censured in any way.

Rather, successive Nigerian Governments continue to reward Julius Berger with heavily-inflated contracts, responsibility for maintaining strategic locations like the Aso Rock Presidential Complex and the National Assembly. The same company is constructing the new residences for the Vice-President, Senate President, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, projects that have already gulped close to N60 billion on paper even before completion. To deepen the culture of impunity and complete the psychological humiliation of the illustrious Igbos of Nigeria, the Jonathan Administration, which owes the South-East a second Niger Bridge as well as tangible federal presence, has mortgaged the entire East to Julius Berger by criminally acquiescing in the perpetual exploitation of the teeming people under a most suspicious and fraudulent Concession Arrangement. Where else in the country is a whole Region held prostate and captive in this manner? Where else is the ONLY bridge leading into a Region casually assigned to a criminal enterprise for the exploitation of citizens who have no alternatives?

In this, it must be stated that Jonathan and his Administration are playing a script already tested and fine-tuned by Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Governor Fashola of Lagos State, wherein residents of the Lekki axis have effectively been hemmed in and subjected to unnecessary and usurious toll charges each time they either access or exit their homes, despite the very significant contribution these residents make to the much-vaunted Internally-Generated Revenue of Lagos State. It is significant that the same Julius Berger is the partner to Messrs Tinubu and Fashola on the bridge toll exploitation project linking Ikoyi and Lekki Phase One. Yet another toll gate ensures that you also cannot get to Lekki from Victoria Island without feeding Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his crony, Fashola’s, insatiable greed and appetite.

It is very clear from this single example that both the PDP and the APC (seeking leprous and blind navigators) are the same in philosophy, orientation, and content; both are fraudulent and self-serving devices.

If our dealers must feel entitled to collecting both public revenue and IGR, and yet charge the citizens for token infrastructure provided in their areas of jurisdiction, all in an environment of opaqueness, arrogance, impunity, and absence of citizen input, it might well be better to sack all governments and share the revenue of the country among the citizens, who are perpetually burdened with the direct provision of basic services, for which Governments exist in the first place. In all of this, these dealers feel perfectly justified in magisterially cornering significant chunks of State resources under various guises, notably the poorly-christened Security Votes.

Regarding the second Niger Bridge, there is NO WAY that a 1.8 km bridge of the best quality, together with immediate access roads, will cost up to N10 billion, yet, we are told that the initial assessment for the bridge is N100 billion. Why must Julius Berger be the only company handling all these projects? What process leads to these awards and appointments? Why are competent and established construction companies all over the world being frustrated from accessing the Nigerian market by Government Officials protecting this small German company, with a small office in their home country? Are they not aware that the unrivaled access given Julius Berger’s engineers and staff is a grave national security risk? What is the role of the National Security Adviser and the DG-SSS, in guiding the government appropriately? Are people now so incompetent or corrupt that they neither know nor care that sophisticated Intelligence Collection devices are installed in all these sensitive locations, with the downloading and processing taking place at the Julius Berger Operational Headquarters at Life Camp, Abuja, under the able supervision of German Intelligence Officials – all of this intrusive and aggressive collection against Nigeria paid for Nigeria. What a country!

Given the identified urgency of the need to construct the second Niger Bridge, you would think that, in the absence of common sense in high places, senior government officials of Igbo origin would be easy and strident advocates of the Federal Government swiftly constructing the bridge as its duty to the people, with an apology to the citizens for the delayed implementation. Some of the referenced officials are the Coordinating, Supervising, and Overseeing Secretary to the Federal Government, His Massive Excellency Mr. Anyim Pius Anyim; the so-called Coordinating Minister of the Economy (in hubris-free English, the Minister of Finance), Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Viola Onwuliri; the Deputy Senate President, Mr. Ike Ekweremadu; the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha; the Chairmen of the Works Committees in both the Senate and the House of Representatives; the crisis-ridden and inflated Supervising and Coordinating Minister of Aviation and its Parastatals, Ms Stella Oduah; the immediate past Army Chief, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika; the recently-relieved Chief of Naval Staff; Vice-Admiral Dele Ezeoba; the Director-General of the so-called Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Mr. Emeka Eze – whose village roads have all been tarred by contractors executing Federal Government contracts; 15 undistinguished Senators from the South East; several dishonorable Members of the House of Representatives; the five state governors of the South-East; ex-this and ex-that, etc, etc.

Even if the objective case fails to penetrate thick skulls, surely the selfish and symbolic motive of garnering solid Igbo votes should impel the urgent construction of that overdue bridge. I say this because expectations have been grossly lowered in Nigeria, to the extent that a 1.8 km bridge could guarantee you bloc Regional votes. Mr. Jonathan could even extend the tokenism by naming the new bridge after Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, in a symbolic gesture of connecting the erstwhile Biafran heartland with the rest of the country. The identified officials are rather satisfied with having Julius Berger construct private homes for them in Abuja and their remote villages, in a well-oiled program of corruption, collusion, and compromise. The definition of shame has still not changed.

If all of this fails, what stops the Governors of the South-East from reducing their greed quotient by utilizing their so-called Security Votes (since kidnappers have taken over the Region anyway!) to construct this vital bridge for their people, and then heap the necessary propaganda guilt on the Federal Government that has been permanently negligent and wicked towards Igbos? The failure to do the right thing, and at the right time, is the bane of the Nigerian society. The complacency of the Nigerian society is yet a latent contributing factor to the charade that is called governance in Nigeria.

Let it be clear, though, that Julius Berger, or any other company so-called, should not be allowed to exploit the people under whatever Concession Arrangement involving a critical piece of infrastructure like the second Niger Bridge. Their so-called investment should and will come to nothing. A bridge built on a fraudulent foundation MUST fall. Citizens must begin to demand their due dessert from pretenders to the throne. A life of surrender, conditioned by endless prayers and exploitation by clerical purveyors of hope, will not suffice in this case.

Mr. Jonathan, his handlers, and cronies from the South-East and South-South still have very limited time to reverse themselves, as well as their deeply-offensive and odious ineptitude and policies, by directly and quickly completing the East-West Road and the second Niger Bridge, without further ado and delay. They could, as always, collect multiples of the real contract value as bribe; someday, the United States Government will extract penalties from the complicit Construction Company. In other countries where non-strategic infrastructure have been concessioned out, the Government acts as the protector of the citizens, setting standards, aggregating public interest, achieving optimal costs, minimizing waste, setting the tariff, and defining the time-frame for toll collection. In Nigeria’s case, both the Government and the so-called Concessionaires are a united usurious entity, exposing the citizens unduly to endemic exploitation. In any case, competing and several alternatives are provided before roads are tolled. Not in Nigeria. Our dealers will do well to study the Latin American model, to understand how this program works.

I have discussed with a wide range of Igbo professionals in Nigeria and overseas, and they are in unison regarding the egregious insult involved in the structure being proposed by Mr. Jonathan, his Minister of Works, and their Administration. They affirm that, rather than accept the so-called concessioning of the Niger Bridge, Igbos should be allowed to float a Municipal Bond or contribute among themselves, to construct the bridge. The implication of this would be a final severance of whatever psychological link Igbos have with Nigeria. It is common knowledge that Igbo people have typically taxed themselves to provide electricity, water, roads, schools, etc., in their communities, through a well-honed self-effort system. They can also construct this short bridge that will save their lives, without the involvement of their politicians and their mentors in Abuja. In the case of the second Niger Bridge, let it be made very clear that the Igbos will not forget or forgive the perpetuation of marginalization, exploitation, and insult under any arrangement that involves the erection of toll gates on that bridge. Indeed, that bridge shall not stand, under the Jonathan paradigm, and Mr. Jonathan will do well not to delude himself that he is guaranteed of Igbo votes in 2015.

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Nigeria’s New “MINTed” Hope By Okey Ndibe.


 

Columnist:

Okey Ndibe

During a brief trip to London last week, I was intrigued to realize that part of the news buzz pertained to Nigeria’s inclusion in a list of countries with prospects of becoming four of the world’s biggest emergent economies. The so-called MINT countries are Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. Jim O’Neill, an economist at the international investment firm, Goldman Sachs, popularized the acronym. He earlier coined the term BRICS countries, denoting Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which he rated a few years ago as some of the globe’s emerging economic giants.
On Thursday, Peter Okwoche of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) ended a short interview on my new novel, Foreign Gods, Inc., by asking what I thought about Mr. O’Neill’s rosy prediction for Nigeria.

Lacking the time to offer a detailed and nuanced response, I stated that Nigeria is endowed with extremely bright people, that the country is full of energetic and industrious men and women. By contrast, I added, the country has never been lucky in the department of leadership. To sum up, I invoked Chinua Achebe’s dire—but hardly contestable—conclusion that Nigeria has an amazing facility for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Nigeria’s economic policy makers are understandably giddy about Mr. O’Neill’s flattering prognosis. I’d caution the infusion of a high dose of chastening realism into the premature celebration. A sense of history demands nothing less than a sober—and sobering—confrontation of the facts. Achebe was no economist, but the central fact of Nigeria’s journey, as far as economic development is concerned, bears out the late writer’s dim take on his country. In a sense, we could say that Achebe was the sounder economist and Mr. O’Neill, in inflating Nigeria’s odds, the fiction-maker.

This is not the first time Nigeria has been mentioned enthusiastically in prognoses of dramatic economic growth. Again and again, experts, foreign and homebred, had foretold that Nigeria was on the cusp of becoming a stupendous economic miracle. Each new prediction or declaration would trigger its own surge of elation. Nigeria’s policy makers and their sometimes over-pampered partners in the private sector would go into a spree of premature celebration, as if the word potential was interchangeable with reality, as if promise were the equal of performance. Each time, in the end, the outcome was embarrassing. Rather than rise to its potential, Nigeria always somehow found a way to stay stuck in the mud of failure and mediocrity, continuing to romance its worst nightmares.

Nigerians are all-too aware of their country’s missed opportunities. Many years have been lost to wasteful, visionless squander mania. Rampant, unchecked corruption has smothered many a promising grand idea. For many discerning people, Nigeria has become a huge graveyard: a cemetery littered with betrayed dreams, dashed hopes, and asphyxiated aspirations. We’re all too familiar with many dud promissory notes that came with such flamboyant names or phrases as “Green Revolution,” “Consolidating the Gains of SAP,” “Vision 2020-10,” “NEEDS,” “Dividends of Democracy,” and “Transformational Leadership.”

Read Nigerian newspapers or watch any Nigerian television station and you’re bound to realize that there’s zero discussion of the things that matter. It’s all about one empty-headed politician decamping from one political party to another; one squabble or another between two politicians or two political parties; one hireling or another warning that presidential power must stay where it is, or must be transferred to a person from a different geo-ethnic sector, or it’s hell-in-Nigeria; some pastor or imam declaiming that God whispered into his/her ears that Nigerians must fast and pray more (even though most of the populace is already on poverty-enforced fasting). Much of Nigeria’s public discourse is taken up by a tizzy of political rants and faux piety.

Greatness never comes by accident, nor is it imposed by divinity on an unwilling people. A country, like a person, must prepare—be prepared—for greatness. It starts with dreaming greatness, imagining it, contemplating what it must take, and deciding that the venture is worth the risk, that we’re willing to invest the time, intellect and material resources to translate the dreamed into reality.

Do Nigerians dream big? In words, they do, but not in deed. In the 1960s through the 1980s, Nigerian “leaders” used to speak of “this great nation of ours.” But even they have abandoned that species of bad joke! Now, they speak of “moving the nation forward” or “delivering the dividends of democracy.” But the rickety molue they claim to be moving forward is in reverse gear, headed, any moment, for a jagged gorge. Ask any Nigerian official what “dividends” they have delivered and you’re bound to hear such fatuous lines as, “I purchased 100 tractors to mechanize agriculture,” “I don’t owe civil servants any arrears of salaries,” “I bought chalks for all elementary schools in my state,” “I have commissioned 500 water boreholes,” etc, etc.

It’s the 21st century, but very little of the language of those who run (that is, ruin) Nigeria suggests that they are aware of what time it is. They’re conscious of the world, of course, but only in a slavish, opportunistic way. They, their relatives and cronies are at their best when they travel in style to the world’s most dazzling cities: New York, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Beijing, etc. Once in these cities, they unleash their rank consumerist impulse, eager to bask in the most garish of each city’s sensual offerings. But it never occurs to them that the goods that make them swoon, the services they lust after are products of other thinking people’s imagination and work.

Meanwhile, back home, the masses are steeped in grim lives, trapped by ignorance and disease. Last week in London, a friend showed me a Youtube video of a brackish lake in Nigeria swarmed by thousands of sick, desperate Nigerians who believe that the stagnant body of water has healing powers. I was incensed by the spectacle, the hysteria of ignorance. Then it dawned on me: this is what can happen—what happens—in a country bereft of any healthcare system.

I’d like to hear Mr. O’Neill stipulate a recipe for Nigeria’s emergence into economic greatness. Nigeria has a high supply of thinkers, of experts in every field, including economic policy. But the hordes of unthinking, grub-obsessed politicians who dominate the political sphere are consistently threatened by expertise.

I don’t know of any country that rose to economic powers via fasting and prayers. And yet that’s the formula most treasured by Nigerian politicians who exhort their victims to fast and pray. Luck can only carry a person or a nation so far. And Nigeria has long exhausted its stock of luck, even if it somehow keeps borrowing some more.

The “N” in Mr. O’Neill’s MINT will become yet another mirage unless Nigerians find a way to reverse the toxic culture that validates corruption and venerates mediocrity.

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe

(okeyndibe@gmail.com)

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Slouching Into 2014, The Eve Of Nigeria’s Destruction! By Ogaga Ifowodo.


 

Columnist:

Ogaga Ifowodo

From the same poem that gave Chinua Achebe the title of the work that immortalised him, Things Fall Apart, comes this more foreboding sentence: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” The end of a year is traditionally a period of reflection and projection.  We look back in hindsight at the errors and failings of the dying year and promise to do better; to banish all missteps from the coming year. Like the proverbial Owl of Athena/Minerva of Greek mythology, we are supremely wise only in retrospect—by the pitiless backward glance.  As I participate in this ritual—after all, the capacity for retrospection and to learn from experience, is probably what best distinguishes humans from animals—my mind, unbidden, fixates on W.B. Yeats’s great poem, “The Second Coming.”

The first section of the poem, laden as it is with troubling images of a world unable to contain anymore the chaos and catastrophe laid unblinkingly bare by the hitherto unprecedented barbarism and carnage of World War I, also gives us those powerful statements borne of the most acute observation: “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” I don’t know, but maybe the sanctimonious carrying-on of former military dictator and (s)elected president General Olusegun Obasanjo, and the rather tepid response by President Goodluck Jonathan (why did he trouble himself?) has something to do with my mind’s unilateral musing on this poem. I make no judgement as to who might even qualify for “the best” among the tiresome writers of epistles supposedly driven to passionate intensity by nothing but patriotism and probity.

But perhaps it is the image of a blood-dimmed tide that unconsciously led me to brooding on this poem, and after a while, inevitably on Christopher Okigbo’s equally memorable verses of despair, “Come Thunder”— in his case, a prediction of the Nigerian Civil War that would claim his life at the tender age of 35—but more on this presently. Still mourning the murder of my friend and mentor, Professor Festus Iyayi—and now that we have photo evidence that he was shot straight through the heart at close range, showing that the automobile accident was merely a cover for a high-tech assassination, we must insist on a judicial inquest and charges of murder and conspiracy to murder soon after by the Kogi State Attorney-General—I dwelled on that image of a beast, half man and half lion, slouching towards Bethlehem (Nigeria? since we surely have surpassed Bethlehem in holiness?) to be born.

Only Yeats, who dabbled in the occult, consulted Ouija boards, and had devised a personal spiritual vision of the world symbolised by two intervolving spirals or gyres whose outward and inward spinning represented the unending tension between order and anarchy, might have explained with any clarity what his poem is really about. Yet the tension produced by its lapidary diction and the puzzling obscurantism of its private spiritualism makes the poem plainly unforgettable. Proof is that it is one of the most anthologised poems of all times in the English language. And the more I recalled each image, the closer to Nigeria’s “blood-dimmed tide” I found it to be; not less that phrase “somewhere in sands of the desert,” an image sustained by later mention of “indignant desert birds.” Could it be because the unending bloodbath in the north-east of Nigeria creates bright red trails to the Sahara, where beasts of human head and human body roam menacingly?

Okigbo, who may be indebted to Yeats, given what I now see as the structural similarity of “Come Thunder” to “A Second Coming”—both poems start with gripping images of the chaotic present and move on to prophecy, all in very clear diction, ending with lines that defy easy explication (in Okigbo’s case, “A nebula immense and immeasurable, a night of deep waters” and “the secret thing in its heaving / Threatens with iron mask / The last lighted torch of the century,” for instance), not to mention the private spiritualism of both poets (Okigbo’s less intricate or pronounced)—spoke of “The smell of blood already float[ing] in the lavender-mist of the afternoon” and of “The death sentence [lying] in ambush along the corridors of power.” Somewhere in those corridors, I insist, someone pronounced a death sentence for the assassination of Iyayi, and the direct involvement of a driver in the convoy of the Kogi State governor leaves a lot, an awful lot, to be explained!

Well, it is 2014, the eve of the year Nigeria falls apart, according to America’s intelligence experts and war gamers. Clearly, the falcon (our so-called leaders) can no longer hear the falconer (the people). I do not believe that doomsday prophecy, the US government’s disclaimers notwithstanding. It seems to me that Nigeria has perfected the art of recoiling from absolute self-annihilation when it stares down into the abyss from its precarious perch on the edge of the cliff. And with President Jonathan’s national conference/dialogue, as deliberately ambiguous as it is, we have the rope, the lifeline, to pull us away from the fatal plunge. I will, therefore, raise a toast to 2014!

omoliho@gmail.com

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

That Osu Caste May Die A Natural Death By The Rt. Rev.C. A. S. C.Hukuka.


By The Rt. Rev.C. A. S. C.Hukuka

It is on record that the gospel came to Igbo land more than one hundred and fifty years ago. Today we can boast of cardinals who are Igbos capable of standing for the office of a pope. The Anglicans have produced a primate and many denominations, have several Arch bishops, Bishops, whereas others have general Superintendents/Overseers and such high ecclesiastical offices.  In the academic world, we have world class professors and consultants; some are even advisers to the president of America. Legal Luminaries and medical practitioners of international repute abound. In the business world, our people have taken immeasurable strides.  All these are evidences of civilization.  Thatched buildings have disappeared so much so that some of our children do not know what they looked like.

The abolition of slavery was in our favor. The “white man” fought the abolition and enforcement of abolition on our behalf. They have since become history. Such vices like nudity and killing of twins have also been a historic event. But one idolatrous, barbaric and wicked practice still throws mud of shame to our faces – the Osu caste in Igbo land. Barbaric, because some people who are regarded as Osu don’t even know what it is? They just inherited the stigma. Idolatrous, because its origin is from idol worship – the ancient belief of our ignorant forefathers. Wicked because, we castigate and outlaw people who committed no offence – legal offence is not hereditary or transferable.

WHAT IS OSU

This is a very important question – what is an Osu? A young man asked his father that question and the father could not explain. The young man retorted, “Are you advising me not to marry an Osu girl yet you do not know what it is. This is wicked.” The father softly told him that he grew up hearing that they do not marry from Osu family and so they took it as a norm. Hopefully many readers may understand the origin of Osu from this write up. A few books and seminar papers have been written on this subject. What you will read from this write up is my  personal research and extract from such books written by personalities like Chinua Achebe, Ezeala Jol, Ogbalu F C, Arinze Francis, Obi Sebastine, Okpala Favour, Okigbo and Marnesschs  Ekere to mention but a few.

1 ORIGIN:

From every point of view Osu emerged from traditional religion. Somebody can become an Osu by dedication willingly or unwillingly. Prisoners of war, slaves or kidnapped people may be dedicated to appease an angry god to remove calamity from the land while some are dedicated as punishment for an offense they may have committed in the community. Others, in order to escape maltreatment, including being turned into slaves from powerful relations, dedicated themselves willingly by running into the shrine for protection. Those people become agents of the gods with marks and their hair uncared for.  There are still others who committed crimes punishable by death from the community, such people run to the protection of the deity and so lose every right of the society and serve the deity instead.

Others became Osu by marrying or sleeping on beds or having sexual relationship with an Osu. In some societies when one uses the same razor for barbing or eating with an Osu or helping to carry the corpse of Osu or cross the leg of an Osu. There are still others who became an Osu through suspicions and gossips. For example, if two women are quarreling and one calls the other Osu or even Ozu (death) which sounds like Osu; at later death, people will begin to associate that person with the Osu, and that’s it.

In some communities females born on Eke day (Mgbeke) or on Orie day (Mgborie) become Osu by traditional belief.

NATURE AND CHANLLENGES OF OSU CASTE

From what has been so far noted, generations who are ignorant of these cultural and idolatrous practices are today suffering from this stigma; whether their forefather willingly or unwillingly became Osu. It is wicked and very unfortunate. Moreover all those stories are antiquated and heathenish. In some parts of  Igbo land these people are not even today allowed to participate in government elections, much less town union elections. In other places, they don’t intermarry with those who are not. The later appears to be general in Igbo land.

I  make  bold  to  say  with  deep  disappointment  that  this  practice  is  a challenge to the enlightened  in  the  society  – the educated,  the traveled,  the Church as a whole, our leaders in the governments, our chiefs, Obis and Ezes, our legal luminaries, our senators and House of Representative members. What are we standing for? What is the church preaching? The “white man” fought against slavery and our fore fathers were liberated. Early Christians (still the whites) fought against the killing of twins.

Today many twins who would have been killed are making their marks in the society. The Americans have voted a black man to become their president, thereby removing the past obnoxious segregation  of blacks from whites. Why should we come back to our land to enslave our brothers and sisters? I call upon the church, the human right activists, the youth, the government and all that abhor victimization to rise in every quarter and act. Remember, that in some communities they are called Oru, Uchu, Ume. Whatever name, caste is caste and should be abrogated. In some communities it is an abomination for a wife/husband to see the corpse of his or her spouse. Our government abolished it officially since 1956 and put it into law. Let this law be enforced. I call on all those authors who had written against it to now join us to see the total eradication of Osu in our society through legal procedures and whatever possible way within the law and human right procedures. May I congratulate some town unions that have abolished it in their towns. Let the youth rise up, ignore wicked uncouth advices and marry whoever they love and ignore the societal pressure not to do so. When the youths do so Osu will become a thing of the past sooner than later. God will be glorified and our generation blessed.

We, the Igbos have come of age. We cannot continue to listen to fables. We cannot continue to dance to the wimps and caprices of the ignorant and barbaric cultures. We are known to be pragmatic, contributors of developments and advancements in diverse societies and enterprises. We cannot be associated with people who wash their outside cups whereas the inside is full of dirt. This is the time to show that we have fully come of age. Osu caste system and the like must go. Liberty, freedom and enfranchisement for all.

The Rt. Rev.C. A. S. C.Hukuka
(Bishop Emeritus, Anglican Diocese of Isuikwuato-Umunneochi)

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

BOOK REVIEW: Trying To Filch The Blessings Of The Idol Rich ‘Foreign Gods, Inc.,’ By Okey Ndibe.


By JANET MASLIN

Okey Ndibe’s razor-sharp “Foreign Gods, Inc.” steps into the story of a Nigerian-born New Yorker called Ike, just as everything in his life has begun to go horribly wrong. The only thing worse than Ike’s present situation is the plan he makes to remedy it.

Ike, whose name is correctly pronounced EE-kay, has an Amherst degree cum laude in economics. But his accent has kept him from finding a job. So he works as a cabby, with customers who call him “Eekay,” which means “buttocks” in Igbo. He has made a bad marriage to a woman who walked off with his savings, and debts now overwhelm him. The only thing he has of value is something of age-old mystical significance that is not exactly in his possession. And, intellect notwithstanding, he gets the bright idea of acquiring and selling it from a trendy article in New York magazine.

A friend sends Ike the article about an art gallery called Foreign Gods Inc., which gives this book its terrifically apt title. Only in mimicking a slick American idiom does Mr. Ndibe falter, and that’s probably to his credit. (From the fake New York magazine: “ ‘A summons to heaven doesn’t come easy or cheap,” says a gallery patron, referring to the place’s most expensive upper floor.”) But the gist of the piece is that a dealer named Mark Gruels traffics in deities from faraway places, which mean nothing but money to either him or his customers. As the book begins, Ike arrives at the gallery to see a tanned woman holding a squat statue to her breast, leaving Foreign Gods and getting into her BMW.

Ike is desperate enough to believe that Gruels will pay big money for Ngene, the powerful war god that presided over the Nigerian region where he was raised. Mr. Ndibe has his own memories of war to draw upon: He grew up in the midst of the Biafran war and was a Nigerian journalist and academic before coming to the United States, as a protégé of Chinua Achebe. He has had a distinguished teaching career and is the author of one earlier novel, “Arrows of Rain” (2000). But “Foreign Gods, Inc.,” which arrives early in January, will still have the impact of an astute and gripping new novelist’s powerful debut.

Not far into the book, Ike is on his way back to Nigeria with only one plan in mind: to steal what he thinks is an inanimate object and bring it back to New York. That scheme alone is evidence of how far he has strayed from his roots, and how much of a re-education awaits him.

At first, he is simply struck by the physical changes to his native land: Where did all those zinc-roofed concrete buildings with satellite dishes come from? But then the sense memories of the place begin to seduce him, and he falls into a swoon of reminiscence that would be enchanting, if it were not constantly interrupted by the harsh realities of his relatives and former neighbors.

READ FULL REVIEW HERE

Ngene the war god plays some mysterious role in all of this. Much of the village’s hardship dates back to the disruptive visit of a British missionary who was determined to teach the superiority of Christianity to Nigerian pagans. Even this takes the form of materialism, as the increasingly mad Englishman, Stanton, insists that his God is more powerful because he owns everything, while the Nigerian gods possess nothing. Nothing but the hearts and minds of their followers.

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

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