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Posts tagged ‘Herbert Macaulay’

A National Insult Rejected By Okey Ndibe.


Okey Ndibe

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




Hard View: Letter To My 5 Year Old Self Since Independence By Hannatu Musawa.


Hannatu Musawa

My Dearest Nigeria,

I’m writing you this letter fully knowing that you’re going to think everything I’m about to tell you is complete rubbish, because at the stage you are now, you’re a nation with so much promise and hope; a nation that is out to conquer the world. OK, right off the bat, I will tell you that your plans to conquer the world are not going to happen.

Today, 1st October, I am 53 years since independence and you are 5 years and I’m writing you this as a warning of things to come. For you, it has been five years since your illustrious children such as Herbert Macaulay and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe helped gain independence for you from the British colonial masters. And even though that journey was riddled with several road blocks, on the 1st October, 1960 when you were granted independence, you came out of it in the end with a hope for a very bright future. Oh what a time, what a time! I remember very fondly the pride on the faces of your young children, the hope in their hearts, the beauty that lay across your breadth, the envy of the world at the promise you held… Behold the giant of Africa; Behold Nigeria!

But as you read this letter, very shortly a chain of events will occur that will have such a disastrous and far reaching effect and give way to the circumstance that propels me to write you this warning letter today. This chain of events will start on the 15th January, 1966 in a military coup. I wish I could tell you everything to stop you making the same mistakes I did, but I can only say a few. The rest you have to figure out yourself. There is so much you need to know about the things you will be going through very shortly. Some of this won’t make sense for a long time. And some of it will go against everything you know about yourself. But it needs to be said by me…, by you.

In exactly forty eight years you are going to find yourself at the midst of a crisis; a crisis which, although created by your children and by you, could be quelled if you could give your children the will to fight for your survival. It is a crisis whose footprints are riddled in the scorching political landscape of your fourth republic; a republic that could come tumbling down based on the choices and route the elections of 2015 are going to take. It is a crisis that could spell doom for you; the most populous nation in Africa; a crisis that is being created by the selfish ambitions of individuals, leaders and former leaders to the detriment of 150 million of your brethren.

I know it may sound ludicrous to you now Nigeria but there is other hard truths to tell. You are going to be a nation that is reviled and mocked the world over and your children are going to harbor such a deep and innate hatred for each other, the likes of which created such catastrophe and pain during Hitler’s Holocaust and the sectarian massacres in Rwanda. Extremism will run so deep in the veins of some of your offspring that they would commit the most monstrous of acts against one another. Bigotry will eat at the heart of your very own that their spirit and soul will only exist in the dark corridors of loathing and hatred. Those of your decedents, whom you bequeath the mantle to lead your kingdom, will betray you in the worst of ways; they will bastardize their position and loot your treasures dry. Selfishness, greed, corruption, pain, poverty, suffering will come to define your children as a people and you as an entity.

You will be a 53 year old who will be immature and have no sense of direction. Your many years will be marked by nothing apart from nonsense, lawlessness, crumbling infrastructure and little power infrastructure. All you will be able to boast of at 53 will be dilapidated Schools and glorified Universities where strikes, violence and cult reign supreme. At 53, you will have no functional rail system, no credible election system and an elite force that cares little about the mass population in your space. As I write this to you, I can only boast of a few major achievements other than terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, stealing of public funds, rigging of elections, political instability and 419. Today, you are one of the poorest countries in the world despite the huge human and natural resources you have had at your disposal.

You will be seen as a tragic love story, looked upon as a pathetic entity and as a reprehensible excuse for a nation. As big and populated as you are, you will feel minute and unworthy whenever you face those that should not even square up to you and those who have not had the opportunities and resources that you have been endowed with. Africa and other nations in our continent will be suspicious of you. And if you look past what you may consider to be a cruel assessment by our continental siblings by myself, lives a hard truth that you must come to terms with before you can make right what is wrong within you.

When you look at your existence since 1914, you will see many of the mistakes you could have avoided and many of the bad choices that you made. As I stand here at the age of 53 since independence writing to you at the age of five, I don’t think either of us could have imagined we would be living a nightmare at the age of fifty-three after our independence.

When you get to where I am now, you will recall all the incidents that led you to where you are and you will regret that each incident wasn’t addressed and tackled there and then. In 1964, when we were doing well, we ignored the eruption of several crises such the fractionalization of the Action Group Party in the Western Region, the Census Crisis, the Electoral Crisis, Tiv Crisis and the agitation by minority people for greater autonomy and we swept those troubles under the carpet ignoring the fire they would ignite.
As I reflect, I remember the mess created by the toppling of the civilian government of Sir Abubukar Tafawa Balewa on the 15th January, 1966 in a military coup that was led by Major Chukwu Emeka Kaduna Nzeogwu.

When The Prime Minister, the Premiers of the Northern and Western Regions, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Chief Akintola were all killed, it was inevitable that the embers of ethnic nationalism and regionalism would be inflamed but we did nothing to mediate between our children then.  A lot of damage control could have been done then. Then there was the civil war. After the war when it was announced that there would be, ‘No victor and no vanquished’, we knew that the proclamation was complete rubbish. After all, how can groups of people go to war in which one group is decimated and they be expected to feel like a victor and not the vanquished? Again we did nothing to settle our children’s minds.

During the course of our development, when the military was playing Russian roulette with the leadership of the country by overthrowing each other, we never tried to heal the deep scars that the nation carried within the psyche of the individuals that participated in this macabre dance. Up until now, that dance is still being played with the same actors still actively participating and sabotaging each other in politics.

When the military promised to give way to civilian rule, yet annulled the freest and fairest elections we have ever seen, it was amazing that it never occurred to us how much the course of our route would be changed.
When we eventually had a constitution which was to guide our new democratic dispensation and within that constitution, no state was allowed to adopt any religion as the state law, many thought it was because we wanted to protect the country against the rise of religious extremism. Yet when some of our children went ahead to develop religion as a state law, we did nothing to remind them that civil aspects of religious law was already part of the state law because the Penal Code included civil parts of Shari’a law. Out of fear, we watched as some governors used religion to gain political favour and we kept silent when that seed grew to a point where people are justifying the mass murder and decapitation of fellow Nigerians in a misrepresented interpretation of faith.

When we drowned out the fighting and drama between our own children, in our own home, we gave way to the negativity of the few bad spawn within our midst. And this is what has shaped what I am and what will, in due course, shape who you will become.

I am giving you the chance that I never had. I am telling you that you have no choice Nigeria but to make yourself right, to battle your demons and heal yourself from within. To give your coming generations a fighting chance, you must desperately fight to escape what I represent today. I need you to realize the effect that my grown-up actions and the actions of our children will have on the next generation of Nigerians who watch and learn from the bad example I have set.

I know that you cannot get everything right and you cannot be perfection, but what is important is for you to try to be better than I am. You have got to get it together and fight for your future.

I understand that some of our children and even you sometimes think that the problem of Nigeria lies in the creation of Nigeria in itself. There is no doubt that the underling objective for the fusion of the Colonies and Protectorates that eventually made you a nation was purely economic from the point of view of the British colonialists. This has led to the view that Nigeria is a failure because she was cobbled in such a manner. But even as some describe us as ‘a mere geographical expression’, we should never subscribe to that view. After all, there are so many countries with great industrial, military, economic and political powers that were artificially created in the same manner. That has never been and will never be an excuse.
That is just the tip of the iceberg Nigeria. Like I earlier mentioned, I felt the need to write this to you because in 48 years’ time, you will find yourself in the middle to a crisis which may be the precipice of your existence. This should be your wake-up call. See the beauty and virtue of your differences and diversity and you will realize that your cup is half full.

My failures leave you with many valuable life lessons. Use this to your advantage in order to make sure that your greatest weakness actually turns out to be your greatest strength. I know it’s a tough one to swallow, but it will only be upon that realization that you will able to start turning things around. Even if the differences that represent us are not going to go away, once we learn to harness it, it will lead us from a rather self-destructive path to a highly productive one.

You must not let anything distract you and blind you to what’s really in front of you. And what really is in front of you Nigeria? You are. You don’t even know yourself yet. You think you know and you want to assert that you do, now that you’re a certain age, but you don’t. What’s in front of you is a whole world of mistakes and bad choices beyond your imagination. And my warning to you is to tread with caution.

Put yourself, and your growth and development first, grab the unity that you promised your children who were the forefathers. Unity… Yes unity! That is the key. If you dissect your innermost problems Nigeria, you will find that in the core of each and every one of your problems and mistakes lays the lack of unity and the religious, ethnic, tribal and regional dichotomy that drives our people and drives a wedge in our necessity of that unity.

You must teach your children that the unity of you as Nigeria must come before the unity of any tribe or region. It is only then that you and they will be able to objectively separate the good from the bad and ostracize the bad and uphold the good in the interest of the nation. It is only then that you can see facts clearly through clear vision not through bigoted and jaundiced eyes.

Everything you do, every thought you have, every choice you make creates a legacy that you will hold within your entity and that will come to define your history. It’s imprinted on you as a nation and on generations of your children and it affects you all in the most subtle ways; ways that you may never be aware of. With that in mind Nigeria, please be very conscious, be very careful and be very smart. Wish you the best for the next 48 years when we shall hopefully merge again as one. I will be watching with high hopes for you.

Forever with you always,
Written By Hannatu Musawa

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