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Posts tagged ‘Okey Ndibe’

Aliyu Gusau: The Real Evil Genius Returns By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo.



By Rudolph Okonkwo

Sometime in the late 1980s, Okey Ndibe wrote a cover story for the African Guardian magazine where he labeled the then military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Maradona- after the Argentinian football player. Ndibe did so for the way Babangida dribbled the political class with his transition to nowhere.

The tag soon entered the psyche of the military president. In early 1990s, Babangida had become so cocky that he declared in a newspaper interview that he was an evil genius. The Nigerian political elite and the hordes of commentators bought into it. But as President Goodluck Jonathan would say, “that’s not korrect.”

The real evil genius of Nigeria is Gen. Aliyu Gusau, retired or not.
I came to that realization after a piece on Gusau by Dr. Perry Brimah compelled me go back and re-read the Wikileak cables where Gen. Gusau, as the National Security Adviser under President Olusegun Obasanjo, was blabbing in front of American Ambassador to Nigeria. Gusau’s encounter with the ambassador says a lot about the man and his regard for Nigeria, a country that for the last 30 years he has played a major role in what it is today. His mastery is in using the intelligence he is in possession of to get what he wants from people in power. His only failure is in his inability to translate it into his ultimate goal- being the Oga Kpatakpata at the Top.

For the record, the primary reason for Gusau’s return is President Jonathan’s last ditch effort to placate Babangida and Obasanjo, all friends and allies of Gusau. With Gusau in place, he hopes to also assure the North that their interest will be taken care of while he runs out the clock for another 4 years when power will definitely return to the north. As is always the case, the interest of Gusau is being interchanged with the interest of the North.
As Gusau prepares to return to power as a possible minister of defense, I looked back at something that I wrote about him and others like him over 14 years ago. The piece is called, “Aliyu Gusau and other Untouchables.” It’s telling that in Nigeria, the more things change, the more they remain the same.


Behind every throne, the philosopher says, there is something bigger than the King. The Nigerian presidency is a throne presently occupied by Olusegun Obasanjo. But behind that throne are people who are bigger than the King. None of them has been on the spotlight lately as Lt.-General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau. He belongs to the exclusive club of the Nigerian untouchables. Currently, he is under attack by a section of the Nigerian media and he is fighting back with great fury. And when an untouchable fights back, it is not a pretty sight.

Mohammed Gusau is Nigeria’s National Security Adviser. He was the Chief of Army Staff during Shonekan’s Interim National Government of 1993. Just like many people around Obasanjo, he has been on Nigeria’s political scene for a while. He was a royal friend of Babangida who was retired by Abacha. He is credited to be the man who “sold” Obasanjo to the north. Before Gen. Babangida paid the famous courtesy call to Otah farm, General Gusau was the forerunner.

As the National Security Adviser, General Gusau is one of the most powerful people in Nigeria. He knows what ordinary Nigerians do not know. He is in control of both the military and civilian intelligence network, so he can make things happen. And he does with impunity. He knows who is writing fake checks and who is wearing dirty underwear. He knows who is sleeping with another man’s wife and who is stealing Nigeria’s money. He knows a lot. Obviously, more than the King, Obasanjo, knows. That is why he is something behind the throne that is bigger than the King.

One of his special assignments in this current administration is the recovery of public funds stolen from Nigeria’s treasury by past governments. Whether that assignment includes looking at the activities of his friend Babangida from 1983 – 1993, we may never know. By all indication, Gusau is on the heels of the Abachas. Like everything Nigeria, Gusau’s problems seem to be coming from all the complications that follow anyone who ever dined with the devil. And in his case, he dined with a short spoon.

As Nigeria’s security agencies uncover loots and fingerprints, the Nigerian press uncovers footprints. Sometimes, the footprints of the untouchable are seen in areas where the devil stepped on. Which is not totally unexpected considering the fact that the untouchables have the habit of hanging around the devils. In defense of the Nigerian press, the press like the police does little profiling. It also believes that birds of the same feather flock together. The press thinks there is no smoke without fire. That is the premise from which the press begins to work until stories are confirmed and published or unconfirmed and discarded. So it is not difficult to understand why a sector of the Nigerian press will begin by labeling Gusau as the ring leader of the cabal trying to impose Obasanjo on Nigeria and ended up calling him the principal actor trying to destabilize Obasanjo’s administration.

Nigerians are beginning to discover that the man Babangida embraced is more dangerous than the man Abacha did. I would first have as heroes men Babangida rejected before I would accept those Abacha rejected. Abacha was crude, evil and insane. He surrounded himself with sycophantic fools who displayed their pathetic ignorance. The same could not be said of Babangida. He was tactical, evil and cancerous. He surrounded himself with intelligent idiots who displayed their criminal foolishness. In the long run, it would be proved that friends of Babangida did more damage to Nigeria than friends of Abacha. Abacha’s men took away our cash but Babangida’s men took away our cash and something more expensive- our soul.

So the tragedy of General Gusau goes back to the tragedy of his master, Babangida. Like most men around Obasanjo, he came in with heavy luggage and it is beginning to wear him down. Surrounding himself with a legion of untouchables was Obasanjo’s first mistake. Those Warren Christophers of Nigeria, those Henry Kissingers of Nigeria who ought to have retired into private life are busy parading themselves along Nigeria’s corridors of power with all their luggage as the untouchables. The Asiodus, the Ciromas, the Ogbemudias. Men, whose names I learnt in Social Studies classes in primary school are the same names that my children would be learning. And it wasn’t that they did such a wonderful job in the past to warrant a return journey. When Babangida brought in Philip Asiodu to serve in his Interim Government, the press asked Asiodu how he felt about the enormous task facing him. Asiodu told the press it was just a routine assignment.

To the untouchables, the Nigeria project is just a routine assignment. They have been there, and they have done that. On pieces of papers where Nigeria’s money were signed away, their signatures abound. They know the system very well. They have traveled the road many times. They are well connected. They were there when it all began. There is nothing really that anybody can do to them. They can blackmail. They can open a can of worm nobody wants to open. They can pull the right strings and people will start falling down. Yes, they can. They have all the apparatus of state power in their hand. Each day the untouchables spend around the corridors of power, they are busy covering their footprints.

Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, publisher of ThisDay newspaper now knows what it means to look for and discover the footprint of an untouchable along the unholy path of Nigeria’s public life. The paper has the audacity to pursue stories about possible links between Aliyu Mohammed Gusau’s Paris account and the loots recovered from the Sani Abacha family. They were looking at possible kick-backs in the 12 billion naira paid to Julius Berger before Obasanjo visited Germany and if it is responsible for the current in-fighting between government officials. The paper was also looking at Vice-president Atiku’s claim that retired Generals were behind Sharia crises.

How dare you ask questions about the untouchables? For that reason, Obaigbena has to explain to the State Security Service (SSS) the circumstances behind an unsettled bill of $23, 407.39 owed to Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, in Washington DC during IMF/World Bank meeting with Nigerian officials in DC. Mr. Obaigbena has since stepped aside as the publisher and Editor-in-Chief of ThisDay while he fights to clear his name. He would be fighting amongst others, the National Council on Privatization (NCP) who he claimed owe his company, Leaders and Company Limited $150,000 for co-ordinating dinner/briefing of the 1999 World bank/IMF annual meeting held at Marriott Wardman Park House.

If there is a non-criminal way of qualifying Abacha’s name with the word credit, it is in relation to the untouchables. Abacha, in his brutal nature, showed no respect for the untouchables. He dethroned Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki. He put Obasanjo in jail- something Babangida only dreamt of. He also put Yaradua in jail. A move that even shocked Yaradua himself. And he succeeded in replacing the old untouchables with his cronies whom he devoured, as he seemed fit.

The first goal of any Nigerian that hopes to contribute to Nigeria’s development is to get ready for a battle with the untouchables. These symbols of Nigerian entrenched power must be demystified if the new breed will have any chance. Until we sweep them all out of power, into retirement, there would not be any change in attitude. The greatest danger the untouchables pose to the Nigerian nation is that they are contaminating another generation of Nigerians who are struggling to find their way into positions of responsibility. That is the deepest cuts of them all.


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


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.


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.


Oshiomhole’s Leadership Qualities In Nigeria: A Model For The Country By Dr. Wumi Akintide.

By Dr. Wumi Akintide

As I gather my thoughts for my new year resolutions, it just crossed my mind to take a look back in time and to show how bad leadership has been a major drag on the progress of Nigeria for much of our 53 years of independence. I want to begin this piece with a self confession about what I need to do better in 2014. I get regular feed backs from fans of this column around the world and I am grateful for them. While the great majority admit and thank me for sharing my thoughts with them, a respectable minority including one or two of my trusted friends and confidants have wondered aloud if I could make those articles shorter. It is a correct observation I plan to work on in the new year.

I am not a trained journalist. I do have some journalists I so much respect for their lucid language and brevity. Three of them include a gentleman named Sonala Olumhense who proudly won “the journalist of the year award from Sahara Reporters on December 21 at their well attended Christmas Party in New York. The other two are Okey Ndibe and Rudolf Okonkwo. They all can write and their articles are never as lengthy or wordy as mine. I have become their student  for the most part, and part of my new year resolution is to emulate them more in 2014 and beyond. I crave your indulgence to let this be the longest article for this year. It is a promise I mean to keep. So help me God.

I make this confession because I have come to realize that “To err is human and to forgive is divine.” Above all I have come to appreciate that the closest that any human being will ever get to perfection as observed by Sigmund Freud, is to admit his or her mistakes. I see Governor Oshiomhole as fitting that bill even though many of you may disagree with me. Many have criticized Governor Oshiomhole of Edo State for losing his cool in the public and openly humiliating a Nigerian widow in Benin for breaking the Law by turning his government’s newly constructed road in Benin into a market place thereby creating a public nuisance. In a moment of frustration or desperation, the Governor, a former trade union leader and activist lost his cool and uttered a few words that are beneath the dignity of office.

For that infraction, the Governor has been ridiculed for weeks in newspapers and on the Internet and television studios around the world for abusing his power in pretty much the same way like the news media came down very hard on Pastor Oyedepo the General Overseer of Winners Chapel in Nigeria for arrogantly and physically abusing a member of his congregation. The nation and the whole world including Pope Francis would be shocked to see such a brutal and judgmental display of power on television cameras by a cleric who should have exercised more restraint if he was of the same mindset with the new hope who cautioned pastors to not judge others.

What I take away and what I hope the readers of this column would take away from the two incidents is how the Governor and Pastor Oyedepo have reacted to public criticisms of their horrendous abuse of power. Governor Oshiomhole did not waste time admitting he did something wrong while Pastor Oyedepo defended his right to so intimidate the little girl who dared to tell the pastor what he did not want to hear. You may disagree with how Governor Oshiomhole had sought to get some political mileage out of what he did to correct the mistake, but I would be the first to submit to you that the Governor did the right thing and he set an example in magnanimity and a heart-felt admission of guilt not easy to find among most African leaders with the possible exception of Madiba Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere and Murtala Mohammed who demanded from the press to hold his feet to fire if he departed from what he had promised the nation on taking over from General Yakubu Gowon. That kind of compassion is not something Nigerian politicians and leaders are  noted for. Once in power, most of our leaders act and behave like “tin gods” who are above the Law. I will give a few examples of such leaders in Nigeria and how few of them have handled what many of their subjects or victims would have considered a clear abuse of their position and power.

Once upon a time in Akure, my home town, there was a Deji of Akure named Odundun Asodedero who reigned from 1882 to 1890 as documented in my “Lion King and the Cubs” a biography of Kabiyesi Deji Adesida Afunbiowo the First which has sold more than 200,000 copies as of last Saturday. Deji Odundun once ordered one of his wives beheaded for sharing a joke with him in the bathroom. He gave the order because he could, but worse still, he ordered the woman’s head delivered in cold blood to the parents of his wife to show them he had the power of life and death. He got away with the murder because Pax Britanica and the Rule of Law had not yet taken hold in our own neck of the woods in Nigeria at the time.

Oba of Benin, Ogiso Overamen demonstrated the same feudalistic power in 1897 when he ordered his traditional troops to attack the British invaders who wanted to enter Benin during his “Igue” festival when the city was not supposed to welcome or entertain any foreign elements. Due to some bad communication or foolhardiness, the Benin Expedition led by one Captain Philips ended in total fiasco for the Oba who was captured and exiled to Calabar where he died almost changing the course of history in Benin City before “Afinju Oba Ado Otolu Apara” Eweka, the father of Oba Akensua came on board.

The very same year, on June 22, 1897 Oba Adesida Afunbiowo the First was crowned the Deji in Akure after two futile attempts at getting the nod of the king makers.

3 months after his coronation, the Anglican Missionaries came to Akure followed in quick succession by the emissaries of the colonial Government based in Lagos. Oba Adesida who was a very knowledgeable and versatile Ifa consultant had consulted his Ifa because he had learnt some useful  lessons from what had just occurred in Benin. His Ifa had revealed to him to expect some foreign visitors but that he must welcome them to his domain with open hands and not antagonize them. He was assured their coming was going to forever change the fortunes of his town and his own tenure on the throne like no other Deji before him. As sure as death, the white visitors came and Oba Afunbiowo did precisely what his” Orunmila,  Ifa Atererekaiye, o soro dayo” had told him. That simple obedience to Ifa, the only God he knew and devotedly worshiped had laid the foundation for what Akure later became in the history of Ondo State starting with her initial elevation from provincial headquarters, to state capital and later on in 2004 to the 8th Millennium Center for Development in Africa. Oba Afunbiowo the First came about his oriki or popular cognomen in Akure dialect, “Aga a morire, O toye gboro, O m’oyinbo goke, Iwerepe gbara re gba igi oko, Olori alade a jiwajiwa Ileke, o tori ileke d’oluku Oyo, O beri omo sa gongon t’Oke Eda ro do.”

Oba Afunbiowo became the longest reigning Deji in all of Akure history with his 60 years on the throne and another 46 years added by three of his direct children and one direct daughter and 3 great grand daughters as Regents in Akure. The individuals include Deji Agunsoye Ademuagun Adesida, the first educated Deji and attorney who succeeded Afunbiowo for 16 years from 1957 to 1973, followed by Deji Otitubiosun Adelegan Adesida who reigned from 1975 to 1991 and Deji Ataiyese Adebobajo Adesida who reigned from 1991 to 1999 followed by his daughter, Princess Adeyinka Adesida who reigned as regent from 1999 to 2005 the previous Regents included Princess Adetinu Famotua who succeeded her father in 1957 before Ademuagun came on board. The next was Princess Adebusola Oduntan Odunlami who succeeded her learned Barrister father in 1973. The next was Madam Aina who succeeded her father Deji Otutubiosun Adelegan Adesida for less than a year in 1991. The next Regent in line is going to be” Omo Oba to nfase mutin,” Kabiyesi Princess Adetutu Adesida a licensed Pharmacist in Houston, Texas who is going to take a leave of absence from her big job in Texas, United States to answer the call of duty like all the previous Adesidas before her.

The first “non-omo-ori- ite” Deji Adebiyi Adegboye Adesida Afunbiowo the Second who in 3 years on that throne has done what no Deji  before him has ever done in Akure history made his transition 24 days ago. He built a new Palace all by his own effort and he took to his grave the chairmanship of the Ondo State Council of Obas. The chairmanship was among the many firsts he has recorded in his short but epoch-making tenure in that office. The written history of Akure is by and large the history of the Adesidas on the throne of Akure any way you slice it. The only time in 2005 Akure ever attempted to alter that succession to the Deji’s throne has ended in regret and disaster with the imposition of the so-called Osupatadolaa the Third who cannot tell us when Osupatadolaa the Second ever reigned in Akure. The classification as the Third was a ruse. Nothing more nothing less. You are free to double-check this information from the list of the 46 Dejis who have so far ruled in Akure as listed in the Lion King and the Cubs” which is there for anybody to buy and read. The deposed Deji who is now begging for forgiveness he has always denied others got kicked out of that office by doing something no Deji has ever done in 900 years of Akure history.

I am not making up the story. I am only documenting what happened for generations yet unborn in the interest of History.

Now talking about abuse of power and compassion, Deji Afunbiowo the First was exemplary. As narrated in my “Lion King”, Deji  Afunbiowo belonged to a different kettle of fish as compared to Deji Odundun. Deji Afunbiowo had fallen  in love with “Otubeji , O dumosa luku Aiyegbe” the fiancee of one of his Palace servants named Tapere Famotua. “Adumosa” an Ado-Akure beauty born and raised at  Itaogbolu had come on a visit to Akure Palace to cheer his fiance, Omodeowa Famotua who was taking part in the “Owa Oropo” annual festival, which was  the Akure equivalent of the New York or the Boston Marathon in those days for those of you who know Akure history very well like i do. Who says the black race is inferior to the white race?  Akure has been having her own marathon race hundred of years before you ever hear of the New York Marathon. I can tell you that.

Deji Afunbiowo saw the lady in the crowd and he sent for her like he had the power to do. Without knowing the lady had come to cheer up her boy friend, Kabiyesi made his irreversible pronouncement as the “Ka bi o ko si” meaning nobody challenges your authority or reverse your order. That was how the stunning beauty from Itaogbolu became his Olori (queen) from that moment forward to the total frustration of Omodeowa Famutua who could not say a word because his lord and master has spoken and he was in no position to hold a contrary view. Kabiyesi had what he wanted. He married Adumosha and within a short time he conferred on her the high title of the “Eyelua” of the Oloris in Akure because the Eyelua was an “Afinju Adaba to njeun lawujo Asa” meaning “the gutsy and fearless dove that feeds among the eagles in the wild” Be ni o.Egun Mogaji ni Eyelua. She was an exemplary woman of distinction on her own merit. The woman  naturally rose to prominence very quickly among her peers in the Palace because she quickly captured the heart of Kabiyesi but Kabiyesi became worried after he knew he had snatched the fiancee of one of his Palace servants. He was a Deji who valued loyalty and service like no other Deji n Akure. He therefore decided to do what many of the religious people of nowadays label as “Restitution” even though the man was never a born-again Christian and he never saw the four walls of a school talk less of a University, but he was a very selfless and compassionate Deji of all times who obey the Biblical injunction of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

He admitted his mistakes pretty much like Governor Oshiomhole. He decided to compensate Pa Famotua after  profusely apologizing to him for taking his fiancee. He decided to give his own first daughter, the impeccably beautiful  Mama Tinuade Adesida in marriage to Pa Famotua. He did not stop there. He gave Pa Famotua freedom from his burden as a palace servant and a slave in the Palace up to that point. That was how Famotua  changed from a commoner to become a nobility or a Duke and the husband of a “crown princess” in Akure till tomorrow. That was Oba Afunbiowo at his best. There would never be another Deji like him from now to eternity. God knows it and Akure people know it.

Now let us compare what Afunbiowo had done to what the deposed Deji who is now begging the Ondo State Governor to please reinstate him, even before the last Deji’s funeral rites have been completed and his first daughter, Princess Adetutu crowned as the next Regent of Akure according to Akure tradition and custom. If the deposed Deji had learnt his lesson by now, he would have thought twice before displaying such a poor judgment and lack of traditional restraint to say the least. It was the wrong step to take at a time Akures at home and abroad are still mourning the last Deji and wanting to investigate what killed him and who could have been responsible for taking out his life like “a candle in the wind” while the ovation was loudest and before he has had a chance to spend just one night in the majestic Taj Mahal he has built with his own sweat and blood which the deposed Deji now wants to inherit. “Haba! O ti o. Ki t’Esu ko”.

I trust the Akure Council of Chiefs under High Chief Oteru Oba Ode. O mori J’Oloja mo dade” James Olusoga to do the right thing, I trust Governor Mimiko, the peoples’ Governor to not allow the desperate individual to dent his image in Akure. The less we speak about the full implications and ramifications of what the deposed Deji has done, the better for him and all the aspiring candidates to the Deji’s throne as we speak. We would cross the bridge when we reach it for Heavens’ sake. If the deposed Deji was a leader like Oshiomhole, he would think twice before doing what he was publicized to have done. It’s that simple.

Akure and the whole of Nigeria would need to  go back to his record on the throne and what he did to deserve his exile to begin with. Forget his indiscretions in claiming to be the reincarnation of Deji Odundun. Forget his indiscretion in giving a bounced post-dated check to the king makers before he fooled them into in recommending him as Deji-elect to the Ondo State Government. Forget his suspension, removal and humiliation of arguably the best Olisa Akure has ever produced. I am talking of Olisa Otutuleyowo the Second, retired Colonel, Elijah Folorunsho David whom I am proud to call my In-law and my childhood friend and whose record in that title is second to none above board if you discount his undiplomatic streak of talking and acting like a soldier who meant what he said and said what he meant without fear or favor by appearing to rubbish or tarnish the reputation of the Adesidas in Akure while he had the power. That was his problem in retrospect, but he was a very good Olisa without any question in my mind and all things considered.

Forget the the deposed Deji going around repossessing lands that his predecessor on that throne had sold and canceling any contracts or deals they have signed as Deji-in-Council.  Forget his failure to honor the memory of the greatest Deji  in History when he turned down the invitation to be the royal father at the formal launching of the book honoring the life and legacies of that Deji. Forget the shabby treatment he gave to the Oloba of Oba-Ile, a fellow traditional ruler for giving new space to Hausa Tomatoe traders the deposed Deji had banished from Alafiatayo market in Akure because they could not pay him the inflated royalties he had wanted them to pay him. Forget the shabby treatment he had given to the same Akure Council of Chiefs he is now begging to take him back. Forget his failure to stand up to the Alaiyede of Ogbese when the Alaiyere, the late Bale Olatunde Ogunsuyi he himself has installed in his Palace was disrespected by the present Alaiyede of Ogbese when he instigated Akure North Local Government to not pay the salaries and allowances to her daughter who served as regent of Alayere following the death of her father, Bale Olatunde Ogunsuyi, the shortest reigning Alayere who reigned for only a day or two after his conferment of the title by the deposed Deji.

Kabiyes, the  Alaiyede and retired Professor of Law, Oba Peter Oluyede had claimed that Alayere title was no longer under the Deji of Akure and the new Alayere after Bale Olatunde Ogunsuyi had sided with the Alaiyede saying that the Alayere owed no allegiance to the Deji of Akure because the authority of the Deji does not extend to the Akure North Local Government as deposed by the Alaiyede of Ogbese. The question now begging for answer is how can any candidate with any claim or linkage to the Alayere throne now come forward to claim they have a right to contest and be crowned a Deji in Akure when the rubber meets the road?  What goes around comes around. Now that the Deji’s throne is vacant, we are now waiting to see how this observation is going to play out. The Olu abo of Ilu Abo Bale Oluyemi Falae who did not at any time gang up with the Laiyede to rebel against the Deji and the Olugunshin of course are the only Bales in Akure North Local Government who can stand tall now and claim they have always been loyal to the Deji of Akure.

Forget all the indiscretion of the deposed Deji when he gives chieftaincy titles only to the highest bidder in Akure regardless of those candidate’s entitlement to those titles. We all knew what he did to Yemi Oluwadare, a former President of Akure National Students Union in the United Kingdom when he was just a floor member. Mrs. Gbonjubola Adesida, the wife of Prince Raphel Adesola Adesida was the first and original Iyalode of Akure when he was installed by Deji Otutubiosun Adelegan Adesida. Akure will not forget how the deposed Deji had refused to recognize Gbonjubola as such because the deposed Deji was only looking out for the highest bidder.

Compared that to what Afunbiowo the First had done when he made late Kole Oluwatuyi the Second as the Olisa of Akure without taking a penny from him because he had wanted to compensate him because his own father, a devout CAC believer like late Olubadan Akinyele of blessed memory,  had died within 3 months of his becoming the Olisa. Deji Afunbiowo the First who never went to school for one day had valued education so much that he persuaded his Akure Council of Chiefs to let Kole Oluwatuyi succeed his father without giving any bribe to anybody because he wanted an educated Olisa to be his second-in command.

That was how Olisa Kole Oluwatuyi the Second became” Olisa Abejoye” in Akure history till tomorrow. Let anyone speak up or prove me wrong  with their facts if they have them. Nigeria is in big trouble because nothing is documented. The way we are going an Igbo man with enough cash to throw around, could,one day, be crowned an Olisa, or Odopetu or Sao or even the Deji in Akure because our value system has been bastardized by Corruption. If you remember that Otun Maiyegun of Ibadan was Orji Uzor Kalu, the former filthy-rich Abia Governor who could, one day, become the Olubadan, you will understand what I am talking about. The deposed Deji would have no qualms allowing an Igbo man to become a High Chief in Akure if the price is right. Ofei Day Spring and Chukwuemeka I grew up with in Akure and who have married Akure daughters and get children from them could tomorrow claim they are descendants of Osupa and Odundun or Obabirin Eyearo the first female Deji in Akure History and they may seek to be crowned a Deji or a high chief in Akure if light weights like the deposed Deji ever get a chance to be crowned a Deji one time too many in Akure. That is just the truth.

The deposed Deji is asking Governor Mimiko to reinstate him forgetting what he did. It is true that Olowo Olagbegi regained his throne after Olowo Adekola Ogunoye, after 25 years in exile. The deposed Deji ought to have known that he could not even tie the sachet of the shoes of Olateru Olagbegi talk less of claiming parity with the great Oba. He would be living in self fantasy and self delusion to compare himself to” Igi Nla” Ekun w’olu Olowo Olateru Olagbegi whose first son Kabiyesi Folagbade, a lawyer by profession, was Chairman of the Ondo State Council of Oba to issue a suspension order banning the deposed Deji from attending the meeting of Ondo State Council of Obas even before Governor Mimiko was forced to act on the scandal by forces beyond his control at the time because he thought the deposed Deji could help his political fortunes in the state capital.

Olowo Folagbade Olateru Olagbegi had acted that way because he argued the deposed Deji had disgraced the institution of Obas in Nigeria by going to the market square to go beat up his wife. If the deposed Deji thinks Nigerians and Akure people at home and abroad have forgotten that, then I have an island to sell to him in the Pacific. That the wife he had sent to her grave is no longer around to plead her own cause should give Akure king makers and his Osupa Ruling Line embracing Odundun descendants food for thought. I believe their current Chairman, the highly respected Dr. Adebimpe Ige Aladejana Ogunleye, who fought for the creation of the ruling line more than anybody, dead or alive, would not fail to factor that observation into his decision when it is time to nominate candidates for the vacant stool. We would all be watching from the sideline.

While it is true that Governor Mimiko is rumored to have granted a general amnesty or pardon to ghost workers who have have fraudulently claimed salaries in Ondo State, it will be very naive of the deposed Deji to expect the same kind of pardon, given the enormity of his traditional transgression. I love and care a lot about Governor Mimiko, but I have some misgivings about what kind of message he was sending to Nigerians if it is true he has granted that clemency as rumored on the internet. It would even be more egregious if he entertains the request from the deposed Deji or give it any serious consideration.

I make all these digressions to further emphasize and underscore my respect for Governor Oshiomhole for having the courage of his conviction to admit he fumbled, big time, by saying what he said to the poor widow. He has acquitted himself creditably in my judgment, however, by taking steps to correct his mistakes and finding a more cost-effective way to rehabilitate the woman. If most of our leaders have been so inclined, Nigeria would not be in the mess she has found herself now under President Jonathan.

I recall Obasanjo after taking over from Murtala Mohammed going to an official appointment somewhere in the North and taking out the whip to teach one Nigerian a lesson he would never forget. Obasanjo who is well known for his crudeness, clearly abused his power and authority that day, but he got away with it, and he never for once apologised to the nation or his victim for what he did. That Oshiomhole would go out of his way to openly apologize to the woman before television cameras should be seen as a sign of progress and I applaud him for it. He is letting the whole world know he is not perfect and that he can lose his cool just  like anyone of us.

What the poor woman did was wrong. That she was a widow was no excuse for her to do what she did because two wrongs don’t make a right. A two term Governor who is not seeking re-election could easily have ridden out the public criticism but Oshiomhole did not do that. He did the right thing and he should be commended for it.

As I compare what he did with how our current President has literarily ignored all the criticism he has so far received on Oduahgate, the public example shown by Oshiomhole has loomed larger than life in my book. It is common knowledge that President Jonathan and his first lady have been sending hoodlums and assassins after Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State as confirmed by the Nobel peace laureate, Wole Soyinka. The problems in Rivers state today are all the brain child of the President and the first lady who are clearly abusing their powers of incumbency to intimidate a weaker opponent or their perceived enemies as insinuated in Obasanjo’s 18 page letter to Mr. President.

The Governor of Central Bank, Lamido Sanusi has written volumes on how the NNPC has misappropriated billions of dollars in oil money which has not been fully accounted for. President Jonathan who says he is fighting Corruption is looking the other way and his body language as suggested by the current Speaker of the House of Representative and as corroborated by Obasanjo is a proof that Jonathan has lost all his credibility on fighting corruption in Nigeria and he should be ashamed of himself. He cannot have the courage to fire Stella Oduah or Madueke the Oil Minister when his own first lady is guilty of worse corruption, which is common knowledge in Nigeria.

Governor Oshiomhole is trying to teach his other colleagues in Government how to be a good and responsive leader and I support him one hundred percent. Nigeria of yester years was far superior to the Nigeria of today. Our leaders in Government and the Civil Service are worse off today than our past leaders. I can tell you that because I have seen it as an insider in my 25 years service to the Federal Civil Service before checking out of Nigeria. The little story I am about to tell  as I end this piece, would convince you.
I served in the Federal Ministry of Education as Secretary to the Ministry’s Tenders Board from November 1969 to February 1974 before my posting to the Federal Ministry of Finance while Obafemi Awolowo was Federal Commissioner for Finance and Deputy Chairman to Yakubu Gowon in the Federal Executive Council. As Secretary to the Tenders Board, I wielded a lot of power and could easily have made millions from Federal contractors looking for accomplices to bribe their way to getting lucrative contracts. I was then serving under one of the 4 most powerful Permanent Secretaries in the Federal Civil Service at the time. The 4 were Allison Ayida, Philip Asiodu, Eme Ebong and Ahmed Joda.

The Tenders Board at Education was under the purview of responsibility of Ahmed Joda. Next to me in the chain of command,  was the chairman of the Board, one Mr. Soyode, a heavy-set man who was Deputy Permanent Secretary to Ahmed Joda. Part of my duties as Secretary was to do the shortlist of contractors whose quotations the board had to consider for the award of any contract.

I did my home work thoroughly and I refused to shortlist any of the contractors who had come to offer me bribe. I refused to take not because I did not like money but because I thought it was a wrong thing to do. Unknown to me the particular contractor has offered my chairman his own bribe and he took it. When we got to the meeting, my chairman has assumed the particular contractor had to be on the list to be considered. He got terribly upset with me because the contractor’s name was not on the list. I tried to explain to him as best I could, my reasons for black-listing the contractor but the man didn’t want to hear a word from me. He summarily called for adjournment. And the next thing I saw was a query from him accusing me of dereliction of duty and recommending to Ahmed Joda to fire me.

Whao! My antennas went up. I was furious and livid knowing what must have happened behind my back. Ahmed Joda called me to his office asking me to defend myself and I knew he was not playing. I asked him to give me 24 hours and I went to town showing why I have blacklisted the particular contractor whose quotation was the highest because he knew he had the chairman in his pocket. I presented the photo copies of the money the contractor had offered me and I named the guy that brought the envelope. I told the guy he had to sign for me that he gave me the cash and he did. That was all I needed to prove my innocence. I taped my discussion with the contractor without his knowledge because I had a premonition I might have to defend myself. I provided all the evidence I needed. They were simply overwhelming for Ahmed Joda. I am glad the man is still alive and can testify to what I am saying.

When my response reached his  desk, he read my submission, summoned his Deputy Permanent Secretary, showed him my response and he dressed him down in my presence while asking him to write to me a special letter of apology and another letter of commendation on me to be copied to the Cabinet Office where the late Osemawe of Ondo, Oba  Fesatus Adedinsewo Adesanoye was then Permanent Secretary. It was my finest moment of my career in the Federal Service. That was how I got my promotion to Senior Assistant  Secretary in the Federal  Civil Service. That was how I became a close friend of Oba Adesanoye till he died. He was the Chairman when I established and launched in Ondo State in 1994, an Educational Foundation to immortalize the contributions of my late father, retired veteran of the Second World War, Sergeant Akintide Gbangba  of blessed memory.

I would never for the rest of my life forget Ahmed Joda from Girei in Adamawa State. The great man is retired now but he is one of the unsung heroes of the fight against Corruption in Nigeria. Rather than fire me, he had his Deputy Permanent Secretary humiliated and transferred to another Ministry because he told him in my presence he would have done the same thing to me had I been found guilty. That was then in Nigeria. What obtains today under President Jonathan is a different ball game.

I could not help but write this article eulogizing Governor Oshiomhole for setting a great example in the kind of leadership we all wish to see in Nigeria as we say good bye to 2013 and as we all hope that the American prediction of the break-up of Nigeria  in 2015 should not materialize, just like is currently happening in South Sudan where Corruption has become the “fons et origo” of the downfall of that country.
Need I say more?

I rest my case. Happy New Year till we see again in 2014. All the Best.

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

Mandela: A Lesson in Greatness and Grace By Okey Ndibe.


Nelson Mandela

Okey Ndibe

Last Thursday, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma stood behind a podium and addressed his country. “Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding President of our democratic nation, has departed. He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20h50 on the 5th of December 2013. He is now resting. He is now at peace.

“Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world.”

There was no tinge of hyperbole in Mr. Zuma’s announcement. It would be quite difficult to inflate who Mandela was, what he represented. If anything, President Zuma’s speech was a model of graceful, self-assured understatement, wholly befitting the character and nature of the man whose passage Mr. Zuma so movingly announced.

Instead of “Our nation has lost its greatest son,” Mr. Zuma might have said “Our continent,” and he would have been right. Indeed, he could have said, “Humanity has lost its greatest son” – and few would have argued with him. It’s hard to find any other political or social figures of the 20th century deserving of being bracketed with Mandela. The man South Africans endearingly called Madiba – a mark of eminence in the late leader’s ethnic group – towered above most of his fellow giants of our time.

By all accounts, Madiba Nelson Mandela was a transcendent human, peerless in dignity and integrity. He was a beautiful soul, part of that rare species sent, once in every long while, to dwell among us. Part of his mandate, it seemed, was to offer the rest of us a glimpse of the magnificent heights that are possible for humanity.

In 1994, Mandela assumed office as South Africa’s first-ever elected president. That achievement was almost unprecedented in history, one of the few times a man would bridge the wide divide between Prisoner and President. Mandela’s investiture as president was the amazing culmination of years of struggle by blacks to achieve full citizenship in their nation. That struggle had been marked by much violence. Since the late 1940s when the doctrine of racial segregation known as apartheid began to formalize itself, the machineries of state power – the police, secret police, and the military – had targeted the forces opposed to that state-sanctioned, anti-human policy. Many anti-apartheid activists, blacks, whites and coloreds, were tortured, assassinated, detained, jailed or forced into exile. Most of the victims had little or no public visibility. No newspapers, magazines, radio or TV told their stories. It was as if they suffered anonymously, their agonies unremarked, their graves unmarked.

Yet, many other crusaders against apartheid were recognizable, in South Africa and beyond. They included Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, Ruth First, Steve Biko, Walter Sisulu, Helen Guzman, and Chris Hani. Of these, Mandela’s narrative would ultimately achieve centrality, seizing the world’s imagination. That Mandela became representative in this way did not imply that he and he alone waged and won the war against apartheid. Instead, his story managed to contain themes or elements of the broader, collective struggle. These themes included intrepid defiance, a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice, the ceaseless deployment of the intellect to expose and denounce the self-evident evils of racial injustice, and the projection of undying hope in the dawn of a new South Africa.

Not even the most inveterate of Mandela’s critics would question his extraordinary commitment to the cause of the anti-apartheid struggle. Fewer still would deny the severity of the personal price he paid. He spent twenty-seven of his 95 years in prison, many of those years in extremely harsh conditions. On several occasions, the apartheid regime had offered a condition or two to end his incarceration. If Mandela would pledge to end his advocacy for black equality in South Africa, he would be let go. Each time, Mandela rejected the bait.

In doing so, he stayed faithful to his ideal. At his sentencing in 1964, an unremorseful Mandela had delivered a speech that must rank as one of the most rousing by any prisoner of conscience in history. “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination,” he told the court. Then he continued: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” With those words – as well as other words he uttered before and after being jailed – Mandela proved himself “President of the Republic of Morality.”

Mandela was a radical, but not in any predictable sense of that word. He was a revolutionary, but not of the kind that exhorted aggrieved mobs to take up machetes, spears and guns and set upon their oppressors in an orgy of blood-letting. Instead, he embraced the radical idea that any wrong, however grave, could be forgiven.

In 1994, after South Africa’s made him the custodian of state power, Mandela could have embarked on a witch-hunting spree, seeking out and punishing erstwhile tormentors of black South Africans. He could have declared an open season on the privileged white minority. Instead, Mandela envisioned a post-apartheid South Africa devoid of bitterness and recrimination. He sought to start rebuilding his society on the foundations of racial harmony and a shared dream.

He inspired the Truth and Reconciliation initiative as a key step in healing the festering sores of the apartheid era. Whether that initiative was a great success, or merely a formula for masking injustices, remains an ongoing debate. To his credit, though, Mandela was not beholden to a soft, sentimental, naive notion of forgiveness. Instead, he insisted, as a first and imperative step, that those who committed crimes against their fellows must step forward to confess, abhor their crimes, and ask for forgiveness. No question, it was a far from perfect way of addressing the tortures, deaths and myriad injustices of apartheid. But there’s no denying that the policy’s largeness of heart and nobility helped South Africa to avert the prospect of a blood-soaked transition.

History will be kind to Mandela. Generations yet unborn will be inspired by the vision and generosity of Mandela, a man whose lined, affable face, sparkling eyes, and sunny, avuncular smile made him one of the globe’s most recognizable faces. His lean, athlete’s physique seemed to bespeak his discipline and moderation, an ascetic lifestyle.

How do you capture in words the sheer moral majesty, ethical splendor, and grace of a man who spoke with the clarity of a prophet and the deep humanity of a healer? How extol a man who realized that personal freedom was inadequate, if not a dud; that true freedom lay in laboring to free others shackled by power, ignorance, poverty or disease? How does one fete a man who spoke eloquently about the nobility of forgiveness – and then matched his words with action?

To a world fixated on vengeance and retribution – with a certain punitive conception of justice – Mandela brought the gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation. On a continent whose “leaders” are wedded to the idea of their indispensability, where every ideal is subordinated to the desire for perpetuation in office, Mandela had the disciplined restraint to limit himself to a single term in office. Nobody ever accused him of (ab)using his office to accumulate a personal fortune.

On learning about Mandela’s death, South Africans, Africans, and the world stood still to mourn the fall of a veritable human Iroko. For years and decades to come, long after rapacious crooks who pass themselves off as leaders have been buried and (instantly) forgotten, the world will continue to celebrate Mandela’s fine life, shining ideals and transforming legacy. We won’t soon forget how lucky we were that an exceptionable man called Nelson Madiba Mandela dwelt among us, enriched our lives, in fact elevated and defined our time.


Farewell, Madiba!


Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe


Tonye Okio: President Jonathan’s Critic Has Been Arrested By Sabella Ogbobode Abidde.


Tonye Okio
By Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Sir Tonye Okio, a noted critic of President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Henry Dickson of Bayelsa State, has been arrested.

According to publicly available information, Mr. Okio was arrested on Saturday April 28, by officials of the Special Investigation Bureau (SIB) of the Nigeria Police and summarily taken to Yenagoa, where he is being detained in solitary confinement over his comments — comments deemed critical of poor governance, corruption, and the hubris and excesses of government officials.

On Facebook and other social media, Tonye Okio wrote extensively about the need for moderation, accountability, and the human and infrastructural development of the country.

He was also very active on the Ijaw Nation Forum (a forum for Ijaw worldwide) where he championed the plight of the downtrodden and vigorously condemned the searing poverty and underdevelopment of the Niger Delta.

What brought him to the attention of the Police, the State Security Service (SSS) and other security and intelligence services, was his constant but honest criticism of President Jonathan and Governor Dickson.

That he is from the same region/state with the President did not dissuade him from speaking the truth, or be less critical of wrongs and the rut that has come to characterize his home state and country.

In addition to being a torn on the flesh of the President, many see his arrest as part of the “house-cleaning exercise” by the Goodluck Jonathan camp.  This argument is plausible because Mr. Okio is an ally of Governor Timipre Sylva.  In today’s Bayelsa State, many known allies and supporters of Chief Sylva are being persecuted.

According to the information found on the pages of the Nigerian Current website, this is the chronology of events as they happened:


  1. On Saturday, October 26, about 15 men, including plain-clothes Special Investigation Bureau (SIB) officials and those attached to the Police Mobile Force (otherwise known as kill-and-go Police), invaded the Abuja residence of Tonye Okio in three vehicles (one Prado Jeep and two Police Escort vans) and forcefully seized him. Thereafter, they took his iPad and the mobile phones of himself and his younger sister;


  1. After getting their target, he was taken to the headquarters of the Abuja Command of the Nigeria Police. He stayed with his abductors who claimed they were trying to arrange a flight to take him to Yenagoa via Port Harcourt International Airport.


  1. When the flight arrangement failed, the police decided to take Tonye by road. They left Abuja about 4:00 pm Saturday and arrived Yenagoa about 1:00 am on Sunday, October 27. He was taken straight to the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Nigeria Police where he is being detained illegally;


  1. The Police authorities claim that Tonye Okio will be charged for allegedly writing on his Facebook page recently that an unnamed South-South Governor was recently caught in the US with 5 million USD. Tonye denies the charge;
  2. Since his detention, Sir Okio has been denied access to visitors. Police sources say they have been given stern instructions by the Bayelsa State Police Commissioner Hillary Opara, to deny that Tonye Okio is at the State CID;


  1. In addition to the regular police that man the gates of the State CID, the surroundings have been taken over by Mobile Police men, numbering about 10, apparently because of the high value detainee;

In the recent past, Professor Okey Ndibe, a noted public intellectual was detained in Nigeria for doing what democracy, decency and patriotism demands of him. Since Okey Ndibe was first harassed, many critics and public intellectuals have been warned to desist in their criticism of President Jonathan and his administration.

We also know this to be the case in Bayelsa State where Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, Jonathan’s surrogate and apologist, have been harassing and tormenting critics and opponents. This is a state where everyone must toe the line. Dissension is not allowed. Critics and criticism are not welcomed.

President Jonathan and Governor Henry Dickson must stop this idea that “You are either for us or against us.”  Persecuting and prosecuting critics must stop. Sending “attack dogs” after opponents must stop. Investigating and spreading lies against perceived opponents and critics must also stop. In other words, private and public witch-hunting by government and its agents must stop.

If Tonye Okio abridged the law, then, charge and prosecute him before a legally constituted court of law. Even so, the rule of law must not be personalized. We are however confident – very confident — that he is being intimidated and terrorized because of his politics.

Power is fleeting, it is transient. It is therefore futile and reckless to get drunk on power. And so we call on President Jonathan and Governor Dickson to commence the immediate release of Sir Tonye Okio. If law abiding citizens like Mr. Okio are being harassed and illegally detained, then, no one can be safe from the tyranny and ruthlessness of the state and or federal government.


Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Montgomery, Alabama


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

The Curse of “Foreign” Rulers By Okey Ndibe.



Okey Ndibe

Last week, I tried to sketch out the minor, desultory drama that culminated in my failing to speak at a convention of the Anambra State Association-USA in Tampa, Florida. Had I spoken, my speech would have been shot through with ideas ingested, adapted or borrowed from two of Nigeria’s best writers, and heroes of mine, Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe. I had recently been rereading the two writers’ works, Soyinka’s prison memoir, The Man Diedand Achebe’s slim but provocative political treatise, The Trouble with Nigeria.

It was in the former’s work that I encountered, many years ago, two lines that, to this day, strike me with their aphoristic pithiness and fierce moral power. The first, perhaps the most famous sentence in Soyinka’s account of his experience in solitary detention during much of the Nigerian civil war, goes, “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.” The second: “Justice is the first condition of humanity.”

It is fair to say that those two stipulations have continued to inform my moral posture, certainly my take on the big and small dramas of Nigeria’s sad, saddening biography. For any citizen to choose to be silent, especially when principled speech acts are called for, is to (at least unwittingly) cooperate with those who degrade and dehumanize others. Speech, and particularly speech deployed to confront, condemn and combat injustice, is, at bottom, a moral duty. Humanity, properly understood, is impossible in the absence of justice. That is Soyinka’s particular bequest, as a writer and social actor.

Achebe’s book – a booklet, really – is a fascinating model of a sharply observant intellect delving into the heart of a people’s malaise in a decisively economic style. The power of the volume lies not so much in the originality of his insights as in his ability to light on just the right anecdotes that illustrate – in fact vivify – the tragedy of a country that, in his memorable phrase, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

As I read The Trouble with Nigeria for the umpteenth time, I came away with two strong impressions. One is the fact of Nigeria’s resilience; the other, a sense of awe at the poignancy and currency of Achebe’s trenchant remarks, a realization that his declamations remain startlingly pertinent and relevant, that they bear eloquent testimony to the continuing toxic nature of our choices.

Achebe’s book was published in 1983, a time so suffused with a sense of pervasive dysfunction and impending doom that nobody was really surprised when the military struck, knocking down a rotten “democratic” edifice run by self-indulgent politicians. Of course, the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida would go ahead to re-enlist some of the worst elements among the dethroned and disgraced politicians, creating a military/civilian tag team that set astonishing records in impunity, ineptitude and corruption.

Many a page of Achebe’s booklet teems with sentiments that could have been provoked by today’s disheartening political events. The book, he stated in the early pages, “calls on all thoughtful Nigerians to rise up today and reject those habits which cripple our aspirations and inhibit our chances of becoming a modern and attractive country.” At the time, his entreaty was deemed utterly urgent. There was the perception that Nigeria was running out of time. Today, those crippling habits that impeded the country’s aspirations are still very much in existence, only more virulent.

The author of The Trouble asked – a question that resonates even more powerfully today – “Why do the good among us seem so helpless while the worst are full of vile energy?” In a chapter titled “False Image of Ourselves,” Achebe juxtaposed two statements made in 1979, one by then (West) German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, the other by then Nigerian dictator General Olusegun Obasanjo. Here’s what the German leader said about his country: “Germany is not a world power; it does not wish to become a world power.” It was an advertisement for modesty, if not national self-effacement. By contrast, Obasanjo projected a hubristic portrait of his country. Nigeria, he said, “will become one of the ten leading nations in the world by the end of the century.” Achebe weighed in, categorizing the former statement as “a sober, almost self-deprecatory attitude,” and the latter as “a flamboyant, imaginary self-concept.”

The end of the 20th century came and went. Nigeria, far from ascending to the ranks of one of the world’s ten leading nations, became one of the world’s metaphors of disaster, a country that frequently haunts lists that measure the worst social indexes around the globe.

Nigerian governors and presidents, mediocrities though they are, bask in extravagant praise. They call themselves, and cause their flatterers to address them as, icons. Few Nigerians are content to be known simply as a president, a governor, or a local government chairman. No, they must be “executive president,” “executive governor,” or “executive local government chairman.” They inflate themselves as having “totally redefined governance” and “totally transformed” the country, state, or local government. Yet, let them (or their spouses) have a headache, and the first thing they do is rush to such places as Germany, Spain, France, the UK, the US, or Canada – places whose leaders, presumably, have yet to decode the magic of “totally redefining” governance or “totally transforming” their spaces.

As Achebe pointed out, “[o]ne of the commonest manifestations of under-development is a tendency among the ruling elite to live in a world of make-believe and unrealistic expectations.” It was perhaps a matter of poetic fate that Obasanjo, who had prophesied Nigeria’s top-ten leap by the end of the 20th century, was shepherding Nigeria as that epoch dawned. Under his watch, Nigeria took several critical steps backward. He pledged to Nigerians, “on my honor,” that they would start enjoying “regular, uninterrupted power supply” come 2012. What he gave instead – perhaps, the only thing he could give – was a regular, uninterrupted supply of reckless political power. He presided over Nigeria like an emperor. He decided which governors needed to be removed and how; arrested members of state assemblies who were slow to do his (impeachment) bidding; and sent soldiers to raze locations like Odi or Zaki Biam in state-ordered murderous orgies.

For me, one of the most salient of Achebe’s piquant observations in his booklet is the suggestion that Nigerian rulers, like many of their counterparts elsewhere, “do not live in their country.” As I surveyed the roll of those who have governed Anambra State (as well as many other southeastern states), it dawned on me that most of them lived outside the state prior to running for governor, and promptly fled to Abuja or Lagos the moment they handed over.

It is an awful, anomalous situation, akin to the curse of being ruled by foreign powers. Perhaps, then, one of the keys to finding effective leaders for Anambra (and elsewhere) is to search among those who are prepared to call the state home after they exit office.

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe



To Speak Or Not To Speak By Okey Ndibe.



Okey Ndibe

I used to believe that Nigerians who reside abroad – especially those in North America, Europe and the UK – were, on the whole, more likely than their home-based fellows to act as catalysts for positive change and good governance in their trouble-prone natal country. There was, I admit, no solid logic behind my conjecture. I never imagined that foreign-based Nigerians were molded from some different clay. I guess it was, in the final analysis, all about hope. I hoped – I dare say that I felt entitled to hope – that those of us living and working outside of Nigeria were spared the real and perceived pressures that often push our compatriots back in Nigeria to sacrifice moral values at the altar of “survival.”

I had imagined that those Nigerians domiciled outside the country of their birth were uniquely positioned to see more clearly the impediments to their country’s realization of its potential. And that, having seen it, that they would be fervent advocates of transparency and accountability, and anxious to set high expectations for their country’s public officials.

In time, I became aware of the naivety of my supposition. I came to realize that, regardless of their location, many Nigerians are susceptible to the same “pressures,” and prone to infection by the same virulent contagion. The pressure is often a desperate desire to be counted among those who are “doing well,” or – as it’s expressed in Igbo – “ndi na eme ofuma.”

What exactly does it mean, in the Nigerian parlance to be “doing well”?

Last weekend, I was in Tampa, Florida, ready to explore that question. The Anambra State Association (ASA-USA) was holding its national convention in the city. Through a high school classmate of mine, the officials of the association had invited me to speak at the event. Since the carrier of the invitation has been a close friend from my teenage years, I did not, at first, insist on a formal, written invitation.

Yet, shortly after arriving in Tampa last Wednesday, I could sense that something was amiss. In so many words, two contacts told me that some officials of ASA-USA were worried about what I might say if given a platform at the convention. It was as if these officials had realized, too late, that I have a reputation for speaking my mind. If they had a choice, it occurred to me, they would rescind the invitation. I had the hunch that it would come to that. I was told that ASA-USA’s president, Allison Anadi, would not sign off on my speaking until he met with me. I could discern no purpose to the meeting beyond a curiosity about what I was going to say, and the tone of it.

I was not going to have any such meeting. I believe that, in any gathering of morally noble men and women, nobody would be anxious for a sliver of a moment over what I (or anybody else, for that matter) might say, or the tone of its delivery. If anybody in ASA-USA’s jamboree in Tampa was jittery about what I might say, it spoke volumes about them, not me. I have a rather public record of what I stand for, the values I champion and celebrate. Yes, I do speak my mind, and without apology. And no, I don’t permit anybody else to dictate or shape what I say. If that made any officials of ASA-USA uncomfortable, I could not help it.

At last, I told my friend that I would not venture anywhere close to the venue of the convention unless I received a written invitation stating that I was scheduled to speak – and detailing time and duration. Instead I received a dodgy email. ASA-USA let me know that they felt “privileged and honored to invite you to the 2013 National Convention of ASA-USA as our guest/active participant.” That was it. I was no longer a speaker; I was a “guest/active participant.” I would never have left my base and travel to Tampa on those terms. I communicated my unwillingness to be seen at the convention.

Again, through my friend, I received an assurance that Mr. Anadi was willing to give me a speaking slot – on condition that I first discussed with him. I was having none of that. I stayed away.

On one hand, I found it interesting that the idea of my speaking at a convention of ASA-USA left some people all twisted up. On the other, I found their disquiet altogether justified.

The association is mired in a lawsuit over issues of accountability. A splinter group has filed a lawsuit in California alleging that some officials took “donations” from some politicians, but failed to give proper account. Had I spoken, I would have touched on that issue. I am dismayed that too many Nigerian diasporic organizations, even those that seek to scrutinize politicians back home, neglect to live to impeccable standards.

Besides, the organization put on the agenda the presentation of “a special recognition and leadership award to His Excellency the Executive Governor of Anambra State Mr. Peter Obi for his exceptional support to ASA-USA, diaspora community and for exemplary good governance and leadership.” This is nothing personal against Mr. Obi, but I regard such awards as hollow. In fact, they are a tribute less to exceptional leadership than to a profound culture of low expectations. Anambra State has not had the fortune of “an exemplary” governor – not Chukwuemeka Ezeife, not Chinwoke Mbadinuju, not Chris Ngige, and not Peter Obi.

It’s sad to see Mr. Obi’s handlers count among his achievements the donation of buses, computers, and desks to schools. Point to one serious location in the world where such approach to statecraft is held to be praise worthy. In handing out so-called leadership awards with abandon, organizations like ASA-USA help to fertilize the culture of low expectations. The givers of such awards leave the impression that, despite their exposure and education, they hardly grasp what it means for a leader to be declared outstanding.

Like the rest of Nigeria, Anambra State is a crisis zone. The climate of insecurity is often so dire that newly-weds have taken to celebrating their traditional wedding in far-flung cities like Lagos, Kaduna, and Abuja. Nobody has been able to answer how 19 or more corpses came to be floating down the Ezu River near Amansea. Few, if any, jobs are being created in the state. Throngs of jobless graduates drain out of the state, many ending up in miserable unemployment elsewhere in Nigeria. There’s no question that some of these hopeless graduates succumb to the lure of crime.

The state’s problems are complex, and are of a piece with the larger tragedy that is Nigeria. They are also the kind of problems that engage the vision, enterprise and resourcefulness of truly great leaders. When – if – such a leader arrives, he or she will invest time and energy in finding solutions for the scourge of pervasive insecurity, grinding poverty, infrastructural aridity, environmental degradation, and the absence of employment opportunities. Such a leader would hardly advertise the kilometers of roads s/he has built, or the number of computers, desks and buses donated to schools as achievement. Not in the 21st century!

I was going to touch on these questions as a way of addressing what I see as an increasingly misshapen idea of “ime ofuma,” what it means to be “doing well.” These days, the phrase “ime ofuma” (“doing well”) has become an Igbo/Nigerian shorthand for material accumulation. It doesn’t matter whether one has betrayed some sacred trust in the depraved quest for riches, some people still intone, in an accent of admiration, “So-so and so na eme ofuma/is doing well.” In the face of such feculent culture that holds up conspicuous acquisitiveness and mindless consumption as the exemplars of achievement, I was going to propose that service, disciplined adherence to ethical standards, and a commitment to leaving your space a tad better than you met it remain my unyielding standard for declaring somebody as “onye na eme ofuma” – one who is “doing well.”


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