In three pieces, we talk about Nigeria, starting with
(i) a newspaper article in the Financial Times;
ii) a comment by Samuel Obukwelu, former UN staff; and
iii) an analysis by Basil Enwegbara , founder of the Africa Institute of Technology, USA
Too dangerous for silence' in Nigeria
By Michael Peel
Published: January 12 2005 02:00 | Last updated:
January 12 2005 02:00
Benson Chuks Nwosu, a legislator in eastern Nigeria's
Anambra state, treads carefully through concrete
rubble, mangled metal and exposed nails to take his
seat on a row of 11 chairs laid out with incongruous
This is how the Anambra house of assembly has operated
since politically motivated thugs set it ablaze in
November. The sessions take place amid the blackened
bare walls of the debris-strewn hall, which is dappled
by afternoon sunlight streaming through the caved-in
"It is, right now, a lawless country," laments Mike
Chike Balonwu, the assembly's speaker. "We are in a
state of anarchy."
The destruction, more reminiscent of a west African
war zone than a nation in its longest period of
civilian rule since independence, has distilled a
widespread sense of a government and country in
An extraordinary public political dispute between
President Olusegun Obasanjo and Audu Ogbeh, chairman
of the president's People's Democratic party, took
another twist this week when Mr Ogbeh announced that
he would resign.
He had told the president in a letter last month that
the country, Africa's most populous nation and largest
oil producer, could be drifting towards yet another
mili tary coup against an unpopular government. "In
life, perception is reality and today, we are
perceived in the worst light by an angry, scornful
Nigerian public for reasons which are absolutely
unnecessary," he wrote.
The Anambra legislature was destroyed during a highly
targeted three days of violence in Awka, the state
capital. The attackers ransacked many buildings
including Government House, the judicial headquarters,
the independent election commission and the state
broadcasting company. State government officials and
others say police did nothing to stop the rampage.
Anambrans inside and outside government say the
violence was carried out by supporters of Chris Uba, a
powerful businessman who is a backer-turned-enemy of
Chris Ngige, the state's
People's Democratic party governor.
Mr Ngige's supporters say he is being punished for
trying to resist Mr Uba's attempts to control
political appointments. Emeka Okeke, an aide to Mr
Uba, denies the allegation and says his boss has
nothing to do with the troubles.
Many prominent Anambrans say those behind the violence
operate with impunity because of their high-level
Chinua Achebe, the renowned author, publicly turned
down a national honour in October in protest at the
government's "silence, if not connivance" regarding
the problems in his home state. In a letter, he told
Mr Obasanjo that Nigeria under his rule was "too
dangerous for silence".
Like other violent Nigerian disputes - including those
in the oil-rich Niger Delta - the Anambra situation
has highlighted a breakdown in political legitimacy
dating from controversial national elections in 2003.
In Anambra and at least 11 other of the country's 36
states, European Union observers said the polls were
seriously undermined by ballot fraud and intimidation.
Mr Ngige's critics accuse him of failing to respond to
the concerns and of making a cynical deal to secure Mr
Uba's powerful backing.
Mr Obasanjo has said the election problems have made
him reluctant to support the governor. In a letter
last month replying to the criticisms of Mr Ogbeh the
president said he was "horrified" when the Anambra
governor admitted privately that the poll was fixed.
The governor and his rival were like two armed robbers
who conspired to loot a house and then fell out, Mr
Some PDP members and independent observers see this as
grand hypocrisy. They say Mr Obasanjo benefited hugely
from the fraud in the governorship poll, which was
held alongside the presidential election.
"If it's a moral crisis for Ngige, it's a moral crisis
for the president," says one senior PDP official.
Many Nigerians say the election fraud was symptomatic
of a culture of political gangsterism that has
strengthened since the end of centralised military
rule allowed state governors and other local leaders
more political power and direct, near-unaccountable
control over about half the country's oil revenues.
At the Anambra legislature, Mr Nwosu and a fellow
house of assembly member examine the cracks in the
walls and speculate whether they reach down to the
foundations. Asked what he thinks the assaults on
Anambra say about the state of civilian rule in
Nigeria, Mr Nwosu replies: "It is in a dicey situation."
No. 2 by Samuel Obukwelu
The President Tells a Governor to Resign?
"President Olusegun Obasanjo has urged the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to get Governor Chris Ngige of Anambra State to resign from office on account of revelations that he did not win the April 19, 2003 governorship elections."
When I read the above statement, I could not believe it. That the President is telling a Governor to resign is, to put it mildly, unconscionable. From what is going on in Nigeria, it looks as if the situation will get worse before it can get better.
The President did not conduct any election. He was elected like any governor, or any member of the National or state assembly. The determination of the validity/invalidity of any election result rests squarely on the shoulders of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC). If the Governor's election was skewed, the President should be worried because there is every possibility that the result of his election in Anambra may be questionable too. I am sure that Chris Uba will sing again.
It is more embarrassing for the President to call for the resignation of Anambra State governor, Dr. Chris Ngige, when he, the President, is fully aware that the case is now before the electoral tibunal. Is the President, indirectly, trying to influence the decision of the tribunal? Where is the independence of INEC and, I hope the Tribunal is paying deaf ears to the President's utterances?
What the President should have done is to call the attention of INEC to Uba's statement and, request the Chairman of INEC to investigate. The problem is that the President has not shed his military uniform. He still talks as if he is commanding the rank and file of the military. It is unfortunate that the President's advisers vetted the letter he wrote to the PDP chairman, Mr. Audu Ogbe, because it has tremendous legal ramifications. That letter is an indictment of INEC and, I can assure you that it will do everything to exonerate itself.
The fundamental mistake made by INEC is allowing one contestant, in any election where there is a dispute, to be sworn-in before the case has been judiciously and expeditiously decided. Since the Governor has been sworn-in, if he resigns, what are the options available? The case will be a fertile ground for legal rangling. Quite interesting! Chapter VI, part II of Nigerian Constitution 1999 is very explicit on resignation of a Governor.
The gubernitorial case in Anambra State is one that can make Nigeria or break her. All the legal luminaries in Nigeria will pitch their tents in Anambra state because this is where Nigeria will test the strength or fragility of the 1999 constitution. This is where Nigeria will actually know whether they have three INDEPENDENT arms of the government, namely; The Execuive (Presidency), the Legislature and the Judiciary.
It is unfortunate that the President has opted for cheer leaders instead of Advisers and Ministers. In Igbo land, there is a story that once upon a time, there was a chief whose name was, "Eze Onye Agwanam" (classically translated as, "The Chief who does not want to be advised"). One day it happened that his long flowing dress collected some feces and, as he walked along, people were laughing, but he thought that his subjects were admiring his clothes. But then, when the stench from the feces became unbearable, he started asking his his aids where the odor was coming from, but they did not answer. Eventually, he discovered that his clothes were all messed up. He then began to chastise his aids, but they reminded him of his name and, that kept him quiet. Immediately, he dropped that name. I pray that the President changes his attitude and manners very soon, or he will go the way of "Eze Onye Agwanam." President Obasanjo was elected in 1999 after God had given him a second chance, when he escaped being executed by the late President Abacha. Nigerians felt that he would understand their problems much better than any leader since President Buhari. Nigerians used words like God-fearing, Father, Sympathetic and Understanding to describe General Obasanjo. Even though the Nigerian constitution bars any ex-convict from contesting in any election, Nigerians forgave him and removed that obstacle for him. Now, their hopes are completely shattered. However, he can rescue himself if he can just think before he talks, instead of the other way around. All the sycophants who are egging him along are just leading him astray and, making a fool of him at his back.
I applaud the Governor of Anambra state, Dr. Chris. Ngige, for dismissing the President's call for him to resign and, his determination to allow the Electoral Tribunal to render its verdict. That shows maturity.
Samuel Obukwelu, Sr.
The Nigeria We Call Our Country
By Basil Enwegbara, 01.11.2005 , This Day
No Nigerian has been pained by what Nigeria has become today more than the Nigerian from Anambra State, like myself. It has now become so dangerous that it has gone beyond a matter of democratic experimentation. The stakes are now so high that it is no longer a matter of the old finger pointing and emotional blood flowing that tend to disappear with time. Now is the time that we must come together to re-examine what it is that we are all pursuing in this fractured republic we call our Nigeria. It is now time for us to be bold enough to look one other in the eyes and say: "yes, this fractured Nigeria is still worth saving and dying for" or "no, we don't need to continue wasting one another's invaluable time and resources, saving the unsavable."
There is no better time than now for us to ask ourselves these four fundamental questions: Does Nigeria really exist in our minds and hearts as its citizens? Do we really love Nigeria beyond what we can easily grab from it as individuals or as groups? Has this fractured republic outlived its usefulness, and now needs to be retired for the sake of our children so that they never go through what we are going through today? Can democratic experimentation survive in Nigeria without a renewed and mediated dialogue, dialogue based on great civility?
Let's begin with our brothers and sisters from the Niger Delta: Is it worth saving a country that has for decades left them with only economic and environmental nightmares as their oil is exploited by far distant others? What will our Igbo brothers and sisters say about a country they feel has marginalized them since the end of the civil war? Okay, if the anguished Igbos aren't ready to call it quits, how about our northern brothers and sisters? Aren't they too nursing suspicions and fear against their southern brothers and sisters, and vice versa? Have our Yoruba brothers and sisters forgiven and forgotten the traumatic outcome of June 12? If the doubts in all these factions are not convincing enough, why can ? t we hear what Nigeria's numerous minorities -- our brothers and sisters, who for decades have been kept away from the Nigerian project -- have got to say? Do we have any genuine reasons to continue to persuade them to remain part of this failed enterprise, called Nigeria?
Let us turn to where the real headache lies -- that is, the ruling class. Has it ever occurred to anyone that it is now time to ask our leaders why they have shown such hatred for the country under their care? Shouldn't there be a limit to sheer desire for self-aggrandisement by men and women in whose hands the destiny of millions of people lies? But before we can discuss how future historians will judge them, can't we discuss whether they really understand the pain they have unleashed on an average Nigerian as they pursue "what is in there for me in Nigeria," even when that means bankrupting the country? In other words, for how long can we as a people watch haplessly, while our leaders take comfort in an endless conflict over, who, among them controls the reins of power and the resources of the state? Wasn't Cicero (106 -43 BC) right, when he proclaimed that the noblest Romans were the men whose whole lives were spent in service to the state, while the men whose ambitions were wholly private or narrowly personal interests, were just the small men of Rome?
All you need to do is to take a look at how large and bureaucratic the engine of government has become, to understand how our leaders have misconstrued what democracy is all about; that it is all about meeting the needs of the people, through whose power they were elected. What other justifications can they possibly have for distancing themselves from the daily realities of the Nigerian people, whose interests they are supposed to represent? Aren't we where the Romans found themselves that forced them to conclude that either the kings were forced out of Rome or Rome, in no distant time, would become weak and worthless?
To forget where the other danger hovering over our head lies, is to forget that ours is supposed to be a republic. So, if we believe that Nigeria is really a republic, then, why do all these sectarian kingdoms and oligarchies continue to dominate our political, economic and religious landscapes? Aren't these parallel governments undermining our common desire to build sound and sustained democratic institutions? How would we expect democratic institutions to live side by side undemocratic institutions and democracy to manifest?
If the ruling class, have not caused us enough headaches, what about our troubled business class? For how long do we have to live with the menace of pursuit of wealth at all cost? To what extent will these "small men" be allowed to continue with the abuse of our collective moral and ethical values? Aren't they too Nigerians, eager to see the success of the republic?
While there is no gainsaying that men and women born into great poverty must do everything possible to escape the horrors associated with it, can't we do so honourably, without giving up our basic moral responsibilities? Or have we forgotten that a civilized society is one that is always guided by some baseline ethical and moral standards? Can a society that takes great pride in adoring "moneybags, ever uphold human dignity in its citizens? Can honesty and fairness ever become the yardstick for measuring success? Let us share Mr. Mikhail Khodorkovsky's recent misery of the raw pursuit of material wealth. Here is a Russian oligarch, who, while in jail on charges of fraud and tax evasion came to his painful discovery: "I have realised that wealth on its own, especially vast wealth, in no way makes a person free and wealth opens new avenues, but it enslaves your creative faculties and takes over your personality." And a man worth over $15 billion, like Mr. Khodorkovsky, has finally come to the realization of what great philosophers like Plato have always told us century after century: "The rich rise in social esteem, the virtuous sink".
Does our nightmare end here? What about the traumatizing humiliations we have to contend with as our leaders reduce a great nation like ours to its current beggar status? Can any one, honest to himself or herself point to the man or woman he or she knows, who has lived a successful life out of begging? Or is this culture of begging another colonial legacy? What a tired story!
Yes, colonialism has had its footprint all over the country. But it also had its same footprints all over countries like America, India, South Korea, and even China, whose economies are today the world's powerhouses. How come they were able to overcome these horrors of colonialism and we did not? How can we continue to blame colonialism for everything that has happened to us? Or shouldn't there come a time in a people's history, when men and women of great foresight and courage rise to the challenges facing their nation, rather than take solace in blaming others for every problem they encounter in life?
It is exactly this inability to take responsibility for our own failures that has made it extremely difficult for a country like Nigeria to witness real development. Or how can one expect development to strive in such a reckless and corrupt society like ours? Doesn't development require some level of discipline, sacrifice, and focused commitment on the part of the people seeking it? There is no doubt in my mind that it is the seed we sowed since independence that we are reaping today; it is the seed of our decades of wholesale shortsightedness.
No wonder when any Asian nation, once poorer than Nigeria makes it into the industrial club, we always send an army of delegates to go and find out how this new entrant made it, while Nigeria did not. But how do we expect to make the same transition without first asking if there is really anything wrong with their efforts to continuously fight us off? Have nations done everything to rise above other nations only to turn around and bring them on board? Or else, how can these nations maintain their lead if they do not have a strategy to undermine potential competitions? Without this advantage, how else can these nations continue to keep alive the flow of our raw materials in exchange for their finished products?
Moving from one failure to another, we now see how history is growing impatient with our fractured republic. It is reminding us all that no society led by a corrupt, self-serving, raw power-seeking elite will ever see the great light of justice and prosperity. It is reminding us that no nation unloved by its citizens, no matter how vast its resources may be, will become great. It is reminding us that Nigerians will never witness peace and stability if they are not courageous enough to come together and seek answers to their inherent problems of the state. History is also reminding us that the rescue (if there is anything to rescue) will come only by when the masses coming together to reclaim what belongs to them. If the peasants of ancient Greece could successfully bring themselves out of their sheer economic and social imprisonment, simply by joining hands together, isn't time today's tormented Nigerian masses, whose pitiful lives have no place in the business of their leaders, followed the footprints of history?