Archive for June 2019

Is South-East still part of Nigeria?

June 22, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

The All Progressives Congress (APC) went on an ego trip last Tuesday. In its triumphant statement on the emergence of its candidates as the presiding officers of the National Assembly, the ruling party boasted that “the landslide victory by APC candidates was a triumph of democracy and party politics over the brazen lawlessness of anti-democratic forces that are nestled in the opposition party.” But on a closer look, it is actually the APC and its government that deserve pity for nourishing the seed of discord, autocracy and exclusion in Nigeria.

The ruling party’s discriminatory handshake against the South-East in the current political dispensation, for instance, has gone beyond the elbow. Currently, we have a situation where the heads of the three arms of government are from one region – the North.

President Muhammadu Buhari is from the North-West. Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, is from the North-East. Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, is also from the North-East.

At the election that produced the National Assembly leaders last week, the South-West and South-South managed to get some positions. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, is from the South-West. Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, is from the South-South. Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, is from the North-Central. The APC which zoned these positions did not think the South-East deserved any position.

The emerging trend in the Judiciary is disturbing. Like the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the President of the Court of Appeal, Mrs Zainab Bulkachuwa, is also from the North-East. Of the 12 new Appeal Court justices appointed last year by Buhari, only Hon. Justice G.O. Kolawole from Osun and Hon. Justice Ebiowei Tobi from Delta State are from the South. The rest are Northerners. The South-East is completely left out. 

In the security agencies, the exclusion is complete. With the exception of Chief of Defence Staff who is from the South-West and Chief of Naval Staff who is from the South-South, the rest are from the North. They are Minister of Defence, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, National Security Adviser, Inspector-General of Police, Director-General of State Security Service, Controller-General of Customs, Comptroller-General of Immigration, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Commandant-General of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

If not for the vigilance of Victor Umeh who represented Anambra Central Senatorial District in the 8th Senate, Buhari would have succeeded in foisting three Northerners and one South-Westerner as board members of the EFCC. The Senate suspended the confirmation of the four nominees late last year after a rowdy session. It was Umeh who pointed out that among the nominees, there was nobody from the South-East and South-South. 

Perhaps, the people of the South-East are not educated. Or they are not qualified. Or they don’t belong to Nigeria.

As they say, injustice to one is injustice to all. In 1999, Nigerian people recognised the injustice done to Moshood Abiola who won the June 12, 1993 presidential election. Thus, they made way for the South-West to produce the president of Nigeria in the person of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.  

Obasanjo served his two terms with an eye on merit and federal character. After him came ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua, a Northerner. Yar’Adua acquainted himself well as far as balancing appointment is concerned. Goodluck Jonathan, who succeeded Yar’Adua, also made attempts to have a good mix of the various zones in the federal hierarchy. This was when the PDP was in power.  

But since 2015 when power changed hands, the APC chose to run a government of exclusion. The usual refrain is that the South-East did not vote for the party. And so what!   Are there no Igbo people in the APC? Is there no senator or member of the House of Representatives from the South-East in the ruling party? Did the APC not gain more votes in the South-East in the 2019 elections than it did in 2015? And is politics of exclusion the best way to woo the zone to its fold?

Surely, some people somewhere will be saying, it serves them right. Some will lampoon Ndigbo for not being politically correct or sagacious.  

But, is it not better to believe in something and stand by it than being fickle because of ephemeral political positions? Igbo people are republicans. The majority of them don’t kowtow to any godfather. And many of them refused to jump onto the APC wagon in 2019 because they could not see the perfidy going on as governance in Nigeria and reward it with their votes.

The hypocritical aspect of governance in Nigeria is that there are different standards for different regions. The North is seen as an educationally disadvantaged zone. Candidates from the zone are given preferential treatment in admission into unity colleges. If you are from the South, you must score very high to gain admission. That is federal character principle at work.

But when it comes to political appointment, the zone that is educationally disadvantaged becomes the bride. The federal character principle changes to unitary character principle.

Since the APC-led government has deliberately schemed out the South-East zone from holding any major political position, it should not bother coming to campaign in the zone in 2023. It may as well pick its presidential candidate from anywhere. It has declared itself an enemy of the South-East and should not complain when the time for reckoning comes.

My main worry now is the survival of Nigeria as an entity. When you continue to push people to the wall, one day they will resist. One day, they will say enough is enough. One day, they will cover their faces and tell truth to power.

This is the time Igbo intelligentsia should put on their thinking caps. It is a time for serious brainstorming on how to rescue this abused zone. It is a time to re-enact the strategy that made the region survive 30-month civil war and economic strangulation by the Yakubu Gowon government. It is a time to tell the powers that be that even without them, the zone will survive.

Re: Dictatorship moves to next level

Thanks Casmir nwannem’oma. On “Dictatorship moves to next level,” you made my day. Having followed your column for over a year, you have remained resolutely constant on your Nigerians’ interest representation. This is what the late communication guru, Prof Frank Ugboaja, would call journalistic excellence. Write the facts as they are – “The Truth”. Please keep it up.

Elder Michael Ofuluchi, Lagos, +2348036081559

I concur with you that dictatorship which is peculiar to Muhammadu Buhari moves to next level. Not up to one month into his 2nd tenure, we observe with dismay the muzzling of the press as if he is still a khaki boy who dealt with the press via obnoxious Decree 4. He even dealt with a veteran journalist called Vera Ifudu. Left for Buhari alone, you can see the evils associated with his government but you should not talk. Who are you to say that his war against corruption is selective? Who are you to raise a voice against the terrorist activities of Fulani herdsmen? Who are you to say that his appointment is lopsided and that he has contravened S.14 (3) of the Constitution? Let him know that a King who said nobody should tell him his faults has some faeces on his cloth after defecating. Of course, nobody will tell him that he is carrying some shit around.  

Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno, +2348063730644

Thank you for lampooning the next level dictators! I am quick to add that since 2016, more than 3,641 people died in the states of Kaduna, Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa and Zamfara. The killings are product of farmers/herders clashes, banditry and ethno-religious clashes, which are pointers to the status of Nigeria as a failed nation. Thank you once more.  

Anonymous, +2348033078724

Comrade Igbokwe, I fear lest you may be the next on target for this hard piece. I call it hard because the president will not believe that what he has been saying to the ruling party since he started POLITRICS can be replayed for the world to hear, even his party. I salute your courage; people like you in the media world can make the world a better place to live.

Anonymous, +2348067805400

I believe APC will not take their next level too far with what they are intending to do to silence the opposition and the media. The beauty of democracy is opposition and media. APC should carry everybody along.

Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Full blown dictatorship is being consolidated. Every opposition must be silenced. Indeed, we are in a democracy without democratizing. All the principles of democracy like Rule of Law, respect for opposition and freedom of the Press have been abused using State Institutions! Nigeria may not survive this era! As succinctly opined by eminent Achebe, there was once a country!

Okwudili Abasili, 08033073871

Oh yes, “the power of the people is stronger than the people in power”. Well delivered. I think the man talked about 7% and 95%. Or was it 97% and 5%? Google it. What he said didn’t add up. That is our “president” for you.

Kanayo Esinulo, 08033009112

Please my brother, always do quote the lord of Manor correctly. He didn’t say “95percent and 5percent” but “97percent and 5percent”

Anonymous, +2348168997097

God bless your efforts. Keep it up. One day, Nigeria will celebrate you.

Anonymous, +2348101050819

First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, June 17, 2019.

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Dictatorship moves to next level

June 22, 2019

Casmir Igbokwe

President Muhammadu Buhari has never hidden his dictatorial tendencies. He exhibited it fully as a military ruler in 1984. Being a General then, he could be pardoned and his sins overlooked. But as a civilian President, it is difficult to fathom why his government still behaves as though we are still in the jackboot era.

The suspension of Daar Communications Plc by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is the latest in the attempt to gag the press and subdue Nigerians from expressing their views on national issues. The NBC alleged that Daar Communications, owners of Africa Independent Television (AIT) and its sister radio station, Raypower, committed broadcasting sacrilege. It said in the last two years, it had summoned the management of the broadcast stations on several occasions following monitoring reports and complaints from concerned Nigerians.

According to the regulator, AIT and Raypower gave room for hate speech, divisive and inciting comments in discussion of national issues in breach of the provisions of the NBC Act and Broadcast Code. Some of the alleged inciting statements especially on the programme called ‘Kaakaki Social’ include: “Nigeria is cursed,” “we declare the independent state of Niger Delta,” “Nigeria irritates me,” “this country is gradually Islamizing” and so on.

Daar Communications had earlier called a press conference to alert the world to what it was facing. The Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the company, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, alleged that the broadcast stations were being persecuted by the NBC on instructions from the Presidency. According to Dokpesi, the NBC had imposed several fines on AIT and Raypower for their political commentaries. This, he noted, was despite the fact that media organisations used editorials and commentaries to communicate their positions on issues of public interest.

Before the hammer on Daar Communications, the NBC had similarly shut down Joy FM in Jos and Ekiti Radio/TV stations for allegedly violating the broadcasting code.

This is nothing but a throwback to Decree 4 of 1984 which suppressed press freedom. Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thompson were the major victims of this obnoxious decree. For publishing a report which the then military junta headed by Buhari considered embarrassing, the two journalists were clamped into detention for eight months.

Today, military dictatorship is no longer fashionable. Democracy rules the world. And what epitomises this democracy is rule of law and free speech. Nigeria is a state party to international human rights treaties. Article 19 (1&2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protects people’s right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through any media.

Since Nigeria prides itself as a democratic nation, can the powers that be truly say that they observe the tenets of democracy? Can they beat their chest and say they don’t haunt and hunt journalists and opposition politicians for expressing their views?

Impossible! Like the Tonton Macoutes of Haiti who committed human rights abuses and suppressed political opposition, Nigerian security agents and their collaborators oppress the people they are paid to protect in fawning obeisance to the people in power.

Late last year, the police, for instance, invaded the residences of the former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the then Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, just to scuttle the defections of some Senators and members of the House of Representatives from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Simply put, this government is intolerant of opposition. The other day, Buhari said Abuja residents were necessary evil because they voted for the PDP. After the 2015 elections, he said he would not treat those who gave him five per cent of votes the same way he treated those who gave him 95 per cent. This is not what is expected from a statesman and father of the nation like him.

The worst is that even when the courts grant someone bail, the government decides the ones to obey and the ones to ignore. The leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheik el-Zakzaky, is a typical example. The former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, is another. The Federal Government has refused to release these people from detention despite court orders. And we claim to be a democratic nation.

No matter what the apologists of this government want us to believe, the way and manner the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, was removed leaves much to be desired. They tarred him with the brush of corruption because of alleged false asset declaration. But worse corrupt acts swirl around the corridors of power without anybody bathing an eyelid.

Last week, President Buhari met with the former Gombe State Governor, Senator Danjuma Goje, and Senator Ahmed Lawan. The two senators were eyeing the senate president’s seat. Lawan is the choice of the ruling party for that position. Soon after the meeting with Buhari, Goje stepped down for Lawan. Pronto, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) stopped its eight years investigations of Goje over a case of N25 billion fraud. It handed the matter over to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation. 

Please don’t ask me how the case will end. The National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, once told Nigerians that whoever joined the ruling party would have his sins forgiven. And if you are against them, the federal might will come against you.

I pity Oshiomhole. Now, he talks to his party men as if they are pupils. Recently, he threatened to suspend the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, from the party if he failed to inaugurate the board members of federal agencies and parastatals under his ministry within one week. Last week, the APC initiated moves to investigate Senator Lawal Shuaibu for airing his views about the leadership style of the National Chairman. They called it investigation, but from the tone of the statement released by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, last week, it is obvious the so-called investigation is a mere formality. Senator Shuaibu is already found guilty even before investigation commences. It was dictatorial tendencies like this that gave birth to a splinter group in the APC called Reformed APC (R-APC) led by Buba Galadima.

The Federal Government and the ruling party should stop playing the ostrich. Rather than suppressing free speech, it should identify the root causes of the country’s problems and try to tackle them from the root.

Some of these problems are insecurity, corruption, poverty and ethnic cum religious divisions. These problems have always been there. But they appear to be exacerbating by the day. There is too much bitterness fuelled by inequalities in the land and nepotism in appointments. Some sections of the country feel marginalised and alienated from the scheme of things. On top of that is the fear of the Fulani herdsmen who appear to have taken over many states. Kidnappers, terrorists, armed robbers and sundry criminals assault Nigerians every day. So far, there is no effective solution from the government.

Closing down media houses and clamping journalists into detention will not solve these problems. AIT and Raypower did not create the divisions in the country. They are not part of the kidnap syndicate in the country. They are not even privy to the rigging of the 2019 elections and they did not ask anybody to demonstrate against the government. Their only crime is giving voice to the voiceless and lending their shoulder to the oppressed to cry on.

It is wicked, therefore, to punish them for phantom crimes. It is inhuman to try to throw many breadwinners who earn their living in the company out of jobs in these austere times. Since we cannot create jobs, why should we close the few ones that have managed to survive the harsh realities of our business environment on flimsy excuses?

Life is about balance and varieties. All the television and radio stations cannot be the same. While the Nigerian Television Authority and Radio Nigeria are busy dishing out government propaganda, the AIT and Raypower can give us alternative views. When alternative views are suppressed, the major viable option is anarchy. Is that what the government wants?

People have failed to realise that power is transient. You are there today dishing orders. Tomorrow, you may not be there. Your legacies will be the only thing that will speak for you.

A one-time American President, Thomas Jefferson, said were it left to him to decide whether they should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, he would not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. That is why it is called the Fourth Estate of the Realm. It is there to checkmate the excesses of the government and not to romance it. Good enough, the shut stations have reportedly resumed operations following a court order.

As Algerians, who recently held a series of protests against 82-year-old former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika would say, “The power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”

First published in the Daily Sun of June 10, 2019.

Between Herdsmen’s Terrorism And Fulani Radio

June 3, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

I was moved to tears. And the reason was the account of a Nigerian woman in Diaspora who was on a visit to Nigeria with her husband and nine-year-old daughter. According to the story, which has gone viral, some gunmen suspected to be Fulani kidnapped them on their way to Ibadan via Akure-Ilesa Road. The five of them in the vehicle faced traumatic experiences for six days in the hands of the kidnappers, who appeared to be well organised and operating different camps. At a point, the husband was asked to choose between his wife, daughter and himself who would face the pangs of rape. The whole story was like a horror film. After their release, the family bid goodbye to Nigeria and vowed that neither they nor their corpses would see Nigeria again.

There are many similar kidnapping incidents in different parts of the country. Some victims come out alive to tell their stories. Some others are not that lucky, as they die in the kidnappers’ den. Some part with huge sums of money to regain their freedom.

For farmers in different parts of the country, the terrorism is of a different hue. They engage in needless fight with herdsmen. In Plateau, Benue, Enugu and some other places, thousands of people have lost their lives to such fights. The killings are all over the place. Many Nigerians can feel it. People are alarmed, dejected and frustrated.

So far, President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have no clue on effective solutions. We keep hearing tough statements, which eventually turn out to be hot-air balloon.

Look at the reported plan to establish Fulani radio, for instance. The aim is to reach Fulani herdsmen wherever they may be. Why is the Federal Government not asking them to return their AK47 rifles? Why is it not talking about prosecuting them for crimes against humanity? And why is it not talking about sending troops to the forests, where they operate, to flush them out? It is pathetic.

As it is now, will the Federal Government blame other ethnic groups if they ask for a similar radio for their people? Would it be wrong for the Yoruba to ask for a Yoruba radio for Oodua People’s Congress (OPC)?  Would it be a bad idea to replace Python Dance with Igbo radio for the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)? Or even Ijaw or Urhobo radio for Niger Delta Avengers? After all, what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.

The Federal Government may as well consider setting up a television station for better control of the herdsmen. Just as we have viewing centres for major football tournaments, we can have some viewing centres strategically located in areas where herdsmen usually move in droves. It will not only serve as a form of entertainment for them, it will also keep them busy and prevent them from engaging in kidnapping or in unnecessary fight with anybody.

We can even buy data for them. They have phones with which they communicate. Since social media is the reigning thing now, it will be wonderful if they can be on Facebook and Youtube without spending much on data. Can you imagine the effect seeing the photo of his cow on Instagram will have on an average herdsman? Or having a group chat on WhatsApp where they deliberate on an important message from the President or Miyetti Allah leaders?

It was the administrator of the defunct East Central State, Ukpabi Asika, who reportedly told people envious of his perceived successes then that “onye ube ya ruru ya racha” (let anybody whose pear is ripe enjoy it.) From his actions, President Muhammadu Buhari appears to be a good student of Asika. The Fulani pear is ripe now and he appears to be helping them to lick and enjoy it with relish. I know whoever is in power helps and makes things easy for his people. But do we need to do it at the grave expense of others? Do we need to do it to endanger the corporate existence of the country? Do we have to appoint heads of security agencies and other important agencies of government from a particular section of the country and even block our ears to complaints from well-meaning people?

Simply put, we are degenerating. Some people and groups are outraged at what is going on. A Yoruba group is calling for a referendum on self-determination. Some Niger Delta groups have threatened to declare a republic. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has raised his red flag over what he calls Fulanisation and Islamisation of the present regime. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has done the same thing. Even Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has lent his voice.  And we have continued to pretend that all is well.

I have not forgotten the IPOB. Last Thursday, members of this group caused a stir in the country. Even some parts of the world felt their agitation for the actualisation of Biafra. When I watched a video of some white people dancing with IPOB members in a foreign country and chanting Biafran solidarity songs, I wondered why the Federal Government has not thought of also establishing an Igbo radio to reach these agitators wherever they may be in the world.

Come to think of it, these IPOB members no longer hear any other language outside Biafra. In spite of intimidation, harassment, detention and killings by security agents, they remain undaunted in their quest for the sovereign state of Biafra.

Every May 30, they issue a sit-at-home order to honour their fallen heroes. This year’s was no exception. In different parts of the South-East such as Onitsha, Aba and Nnewi, people remained indoors in obedience to the order.

IPOB’s media and publicity secretary, Emma Powerful, boasted that if the level of solidarity with the direction and philosophy of IPOB was sustained, the feared Fulanisation agenda of Aso Rock would be successfully repelled.

Ours is gradually degenerating to a lawless society where might is right. In Nnewi, Anambra State, some misguided Biafran agitators reportedly attacked a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Festus Eziamaka, last week. Five people, according to media reports, were feared dead after the attack. Fr. Eziamaka’s crime was that he attended a morning mass that day, contrary to IPOB’s order. The parishioners under Eziamaka, who is the vicar of St. Jude’s Parish, Nnewi, could not stand and watch their priest manhandled. They challenged the attackers and fighting broke out. The reverend father himself was rushed to the hospital unconscious.

Let us stop deceiving ourselves. We cannot make any headway until we restructure this country. I don’t see Buhari doing it. But we cannot relent. We will continue to say the truth until liberation time.

Re: Ridiculous permutations for 2023 presidential race

Casmir, why the over-flogging of a non-existent issue? Amaechi can only speak about 2023 standard-bearer of his party, the APC. What happens in other parties is totally outside his control. Will PDP pick a South East candidate? Who says Atiku or Kwankwaso will not contest to be PDP candidate in 2023, even if APC picks a South East candidate? In a multi-party setting, every party works to win the next immediate election. No party will zone at the risk of losing the main elections. Was the Presidency ever zoned to Jonathan, or to the South-South?

– Chris Chibuko, +2347016864363

May I refer to your article, “Ridiculous permutations for 2023 presidential race”, and to state that Ndigbo were schemed out by Yoruba that lured us into declaring Biafra with a promise to declare Oduduwa Republic. The Yoruba even coined the word Naira, which a school of thought interpreted as “Never Allow Igbo Rule Again”. We are architects of our problems because the Igboman can marginalise another Igboman more than what other tribes can do to us. Recall that Ekwueme was about to defeat OBJ during PDP primary before it was alleged that Jim Nwobodo dislodged him because of old issues they had between 1979 and ’83.

– Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno (JP), 08063730644

Those who started early politics for 2023 general election are not wishing Nigeria well. It is total distraction to this new government. INEC should suspend any politician who begins early campaign for 2023 elections.

– Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Hi. Your critical analysis about the south-easterner ruling the country is in order because the Igbo are one of the major tribes in Nigeria and they have paid their dues. However, there’s a missing point. Nobody gives you political power on a platter of gold, especially in our country; you must fight for it as a group, or as an individual. Therefore, I implore you to educate the political gladiators from the South-East to form a common front and fight the battle head-long. Rhetoric cannot and sympathy sentiment cannot produce an Igbo President; rather, form an alliance and they shall overcome whatever the stumbling block. But, in fairness, equity and justice, the Igbo deserve to rule the country.

– Babayemisi, 07011770768  

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, June 3, 2019.