Monday, 21 April 2014
Issues of Religion, Politics And Socio-Economic Violence In Nigeria: A Catholic Response
Introduction: The Principal of Immaculate Conception College (ICC) Rev. Fr. Ofuegbu came to my home (next door to the college) to invite me to deliver this lecture and I did not hesitate in accepting his request. How could I, when as a form one (1) student in 1954 and, in 1958, the pioneer, some would say, first Head boy or Senior Prefect of the College, I am expected to lead by example as one of the first ‘products’ as it were, of the College. I am particularly grateful to Rev. Father Stephen, Rev Fr. Jones and, above all, Father Joseph Donnelly all three of the Society of African Missionaries (SMA) who, I am proud to say, moulded my character and those of others who were privileged to have passed through ICC to make us useful citizens of our country and pride to our alma mater.
This topic titled: Issues of Religion, Politics and Socio-Economic Violence in Nigeria: A Catholic Response, provides me a wide ocean to navigate. I have drawn from my experience as a child in Jos, Northern Nigeria, where I became proficient in speaking the three major languages: Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba in that order and I had to leave and return to my native Benin for secondary school education and to learn Benin or Edo language.
I began my career as a teacher here in Benin for six months before enlisting in the Nigeria Police Force as a Cadet Sub-Inspector in 1959 thus providing me an opportunity to be occupied with the law in Nigeria for the past 54 years. This is not a thesis of a university professor or the submission of a senior Counsel before the Supreme Court but an innate understanding of a stake holder in the Nigerian Project. As a stake holder, I see the Nigerian project in terms of what Nigeria is or should have been having witnessed the lowering of the Nigerian flag at the Race Course later re-named Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos on October 1, 1960. My strengthened understanding of Religion, Politics and socio-economy in Nigeria was enriched by week 12 of the year 2013 when we were blessed with a new Pope, a new Archbishop of Canterbury and the sad event of the death of Iconic author of “Things Fall Apart” Prof. Chinua Achebe. I have in this paper singled out Wole Soyinka to state that confraternity and cultism are now different from what the Laureate and his colleagues founded when the Pyrates Confraternity was birthed.
He became a Noble Laureate in 1986. I have suggested that we need to recognize that Liberal democracy and full blown Sharia are strange bed fellows and that the “invisible government” in Nigeria may be responsible for the unresolved murders in our country. Finally, I stressed the need to transform this invisible government the way the Council on Foreign Relations in America was transformed if we must have one, establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission either temporarily or permanently and re-write our Constitution with fewer provisos especially on the Chapter dealing with Human Rights to reflect a Federal system devoid of unitary “ambushes” thus ensuring the Freedom of Religion based on 100 years of living together as a country. In this way, Nigeria should be able in my view to narrow the gap between her and the developing countries of India and Brazil.
Violence Without Boundaries
On March 12, 2013, the Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Bello Adoke SAN were shown on national television engaged in serious argument and being prevented from engaging in fisticuffs. It turned out that both high officials had a disagreement over the AGF’s handling of the investigation into the death of one Olaitan Oyerinde who served as Personal Assistant to Governor Oshiomhole. The Daily Trust on Monday, March 13, 2013 reported the incident thus:
“Oshiomhole, Adoke almost came to blows over Oyerinde murder
Edo state Governor Adams Oshiomhole and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Mr Muhammed Adoke almost came to blows yesterday at the presidential villa over handling of prosecution of Oshiomhole’s aide, Olaitan Oyerinde. The public officers were at the Council Chambers of the Villa before the commencement of yesterday’s Council of State meeting. The incident occurred when Adoke approached the governor and joked about the wrongful referral to him by Edo State Attorney General of the ongoing prosecution of the suspects in the murder of Oyerinde, who was killed by assailants last year in Benin City. But the governor took exception to Adoke’s statement, arguing that the matter was referred by the Police to the AGF contrary to the claim by Adoke. Oshiomhole rose on his feet from where he was seated and charged towards Adoke only to be restrained by Governor Ibrahim Dankwabo of Gombe state and Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta state. Oshiomhole accused the Justice Minister of not showing reverence to the office of the governor and this resulted into a heated argument. This incident happened in the presence of journalists and former Head of State. Gen Yakubu Gowon, ex-President Shehu Shagari and Chief Ernest Shonekan before the arrival of President Goodluck Jonathan. Oshiomhole told newsmen later that he was angry because Adoke had trivialized a murder case that he (the governor) was committed to unraveling. He said that if Adoke could not respect him as an individual, he should respect the office he occupies because he was duly elected unlike him that was appointed.” [Emphasis supplied.]
Although this is an unfortunate incident there is a very good lesson to learn from it
What is clear from this disagreement is that ordinarily, the Governor of Edo State and the Attorney General of the Federation both products of Liberal Democracy, are supposed to be on the same side of a political ideology – Democracy and Rule of Law. Unfortunately, because of ideological and party differences in the country they had to disagree on how best to handle such a heinous crime as murder. The Attorney-General was on one side of the ideological divide - the ‘invisible government’ while Oshiomhole was on the side of the victim. This, in my view, is the bane of Nigeria and there is in my view an ideological war that has been ravaging Nigeria since the amalgamation of 1914 has made the needed unity of her component parts into one country not only very difficult but impossible to realize.
Two Ideologies in one country, one Visible and the other Invisible
Before independence (1958 to be precise), Sir Henry Willink who was chairman of the Commission appointed to inquire into the fears of the minorities and the means of allaying them referred to this ideology as “a system of rule and of society of which an important ingredient is the operation of Muslims law”. Since the amalgamation of 1914, the two ideologies have operated side by side in Nigeria. First, this ideology was promoted and enhanced by colonialism and indirect rule. At independence, Democracy and Rule of Law coupled with Muslim law co-existed until the Zamfara full blown sharia law, that was copied by eleven other states, which placed a wall between liberal democracy and sharia. This dual system was considered necessary by the colonial government and promoted to aid the system of indirect rule imported from India to the North but later extended to the South. Lugard wrote that “the policy of the Government was that these chiefs should govern their people, not as independent but as dependent rulers” with the British as the indirect rulers and the Emirs as the direct rulers or the other way round. With respect to education Lugard wrote: “the natural suspicion and dislike with which the Christian government was first regarded by the Muslims rendered it inadvisable, even if it had been possible to embark on any educational effect at first”; he went on to say that
“Government did not interfere in the indigenous Koranic schools, in which reading and writing in the Arabic and Ajemi character, and memorizing passages from the Koran formed the curriculum. They (the Koranic teachers) were estimated at some 25,000 with over a quarter of a million pupils. These Koranic schools had produced a literary class known as ‘Mallamai’, learned in Arabic and the teachings of the Koran and commentaries from whose ranks the officers of the Native Administration, the Judges of the Native Courts and the exponents of the Creed of Islam were drawn. They are a very influential class, some of them very well read in Arabic literature and law and deeply imbued with the love of learning”.
This, no doubt, explains why about 100 years later, we now have Boko Haram translated as “Western Education is sacrilegious” and the mallamai’ using the almajiris to protect their religion and profession. After colonialism and the adoption of Democracy and Rule of Law at independence in 1960, a conflict of two ideologies developed and this not only led to rivalry but also an ideological war and the introduction of an “invisible government” for the rule and protection of Muslim law - Sharia.
No Un-Written Crime
There is a trait among us Nigerians which is our penchant for ignoring rules and written agreements, a situation whereby we ignore written words for unwritten customs, which mean different things to different people. In his book titled In Our Days Dr F. A. Ajayi SAN recalled an argument which took place at the Constitutional conference of 1958 thus:
“Chief Rotimi Williams said by virtue of that provision no one would be liable to be punished for an offence on the ground that he has committed a contravention of some provisions or the other as Sharia law is not written down as criminal code in any form but late Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu quickly interjected that the statement betrayed what he termed the “ignorance” of Chief Rotimi Williams as a non-Muslim because, the Alhaji went on, all Muslims knew that Sharia law is a “written law” [page 424]
This led to a constitutional provision – section 21(7) in the 1960 Constitution that states that no Nigerian shall be punished for a crime unless under a written law. Later, in our constitutional development, we added “that no Nigerian can be discriminated against by circumstance of his birth” which, in effect, means that no Nigerian is a bastard.
The Genesis of the bad Blood, between the North and South
In the book titled “My Life”, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto wrote in the chapter dealing with crisis in Lagos of how an attempt to cajole the North into independence was resisted. With the benefit of hind sight, the North was correct in resisting call for independence in 1956 made by Chief Enahoro’s motion of 1951. As a matter of fact, the South itself was not ready and one now wonders whether Nigeria was ready for independence in 1960 when it was eventually granted on a ‘platter of gold’ according to Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. The motion for independence moved by Chief Enahoro in 1951 generated bad blood between the Northern and Southern leaders. Sir Ahmadu wrote “I then made the shortest speech that I have ever made and possibly one of the most important: I rise to associate myself with the last speaker. The mistake of 1914 has come to light and I should like to go no further --- I was very angry and so were we all”. He went on:
“We never liked our sojourn in Lagos and this had been worse than usual. The Lagos politicians had certainly gone out of their way to stir up trouble for us. We found that it was by no means over when we pulled out of Iddo station. Whenever the train stopped, we were surrounded by angry crowds of demonstrators. Even when we slowed down by village crossings we were assailed by boos. I was warned before I left Lagos that it would be unwise for me to leave the train, but I was not going to be cooped up for fear of a lot of scallywags of railway employees. I got out at each stopping-place to stretch my legs. W e hoped that when we crossed the border that we should be all right, but all the way up to the line even to the last station before Kaduna, the railway people and Southern elements gave us no peace.” [page 134]
“We were all not only angry at our treatment but indignant that people who were so full of fine phrases about the unity of Nigeria should have set their people against the chosen representatives of another Region while passing through their territory and even in our own. What kind of trouble had we let ourselves in for by associating with such people” [page 135]
Sir Ahmadu Bello further considered a break up but gave up the idea noting that:
“Two days before this meeting – this is, the Saturday (18th May 1951) – trouble broke out between Kano City and Sabon Gari, the area outside the walls occupied by ‘native foreigners’ (mostly Southerners). This was the culmination of a series of incidents in the past few weeks which had had their origin in the troubles in Lagos. While the Action Group in Lagos had been the prime mover, they had been supported by the NCNC. Here in Kano, as things fell out, the fighting took place between the Hausas (especially from the ‘tough’ suburb of Fagge) and the Ibos; the Yorubas (of the Action Group persuasion) were, oddly enough, out of it. Very large numbers were involved on both sides and the causalities were severe in numbers, though not in proportion to the crowds involved. The rioting went on all through Sunday and into Monday morning: peace was reluctantly accepted by the combatants, though they were in fact very tired by then. In the end, there were 31 deaths and 241 wounded. The number of police injured was very small and no troops were employed, though we had them standing by.” [Pages 136 - 137]
My suspicion is that the disturbances were in retaliation of that by the Action Group from Lagos to Kaduna against the NPC members. Unfortunately, the Igbos had to bear the brunt because they were about 100% Christians while the Yorubas have a large number of Muslims. Today, we now know the danger of organizing criminality at local level with the attempt on the life of innocent Emir of Kano Alhaji Ado Bayaro. It may be pertinent at this juncture to recall that in the Niger Delta, some politicians aided by a sitting President, organized some youths, armed them with sophisticated weapons in police uniform to intimidate the populace and rig the election in 2003. This they did successfully and fictitious figures were entered into electoral forms even though no real election took place. After the elections, these youths were abandoned with their weapons. Their frustration led to the wanton kidnappings and later full blown militancy from which Nigeria is yet to recover. These are examples of ethnic based and state sponsored violence that has done Nigeria no good. This has to stop for a peaceful Nigeria.
Culture as an Impediment to Modernization
Apart from the war between democracy and the system of rule and society of which an important ingredient is the operation of Muslim law, there are cultural hang-ons which make leadership in Nigeria (indeed in most African countries) very difficult. Daniel Etounga Manguelle in his piece titled “Does Africa Need a Cultural Adjustment?” in the book Culture Matters wrote in part:
• “The African works to live but does not live to work. He demonstrates a propensity to feast that suggests that African societies are structured around pleasure. Everything is a pretext for celebration birth, baptism, marriage, birthday, promotion, election, return from a short or a long trip, mourning, opening or closure of Congress, traditional and religious feasts. Whether one’s salary is considerable or modest, whether one's granaries are empty or full, the feast must be beautiful and must include the maximum possible number of guests.” ---
• “A society in which magic and witchcraft flourish today is a sick society ruled by tension, fear, and moral disorder. Sorcery is a costly mechanism for managing conflict and preserving the status quo, which is, importantly, what African culture is about. Therefore, is not witchcraft a mirror reflecting the state of our societies? There is much to suggest this. Witchcraft is both an instrument of social coercion [it helps maintain and perhaps even increase the loyalty of individuals toward the clan] and a very convenient political instrument to eliminate any opposition that might appear. Witchcraft is for us a psychological refuge in which all our ignorance finds its answers and our wildest fantasies become realities” ---
• “Witch doctors surround African presidents, and nothing that really matters in politics without recourse to witchcraft. Occult counselors, responsible for assuring that authorities keep their power by detecting and neutralizing possible opponents, have power that the most influential Western advisers would envy. The witch doctors of¬ten amass fortunes, and they sometimes end up with official designations, en¬joying the direct exercise of power.” ---
Mangelle went on to consider how we can welcome these weaknesses. He wrote:
• “We must however, destroy all within us that is opposed to our mastery of our future, a future that must be prosperous and just, a future in which the people of Africa determine their own destiny through participation in the political process. In doing so, we must be mindful that culture is the mother and that institu¬tions are the children. More efficient and just African institutions depend on modifications to our culture.” ---
• “We must go to the heart of our morals and customs in order to eradicate the layer of mud that prevents our societies from moving into modernism. We must lead this revolution of minds-without which there can be no transfer of technology-on our own. We must place our bets on our intelligence because Africans, if they have capable leaders, are fully able to distance themselves from the jealousy, the blind submission to the ir¬rational, the lethargy that have been their undoing. If Europe, that fragment of earth representing a tiny part of humanity, has been able to impose itself on the planet, dominating it and organizing it for its exclusive profit, it is only because it developed a conquering culture of rigor and work, removed from the influence of invisible forces. We must do the same.” ---
Let us examine the points raised by Manguelle. In Nigeria, the serious issue of Amalgamation of 1914 is now being turned into a feast and money making affair rather than for conducting a forensic constitutional and historical audit of the 100 years of our amalgamation. Witchcraft and voodoo still flourish and today, we are still being ruled by tension, fear and moral disorder. It is not only witch doctors that now surround some of our leaders, priests, pastors and imams have joined in the business and have amassed fortunes including private jets. I agree completely with Manguelle that we need to join Europe and America to “develop a conquering culture of vigour and work removed from the influence of invisible forces and invisible government and the operation of non-democratic and unwritten laws”.
Confraternity to Cultism
I have made these observations because a Nigerian leader must be able to appreciate the web he or she has to navigate, a factor which makes leadership in Nigeria unique. I was privileged some years ago, as counsel representing the National Security Organization (NSO) and the Police at the Justice Akanbi Judicial Commission on students’ riots over 20 years ago in some universities to learn firsthand, how cultism evolved in Nigeria. A brief reference to the object of three “cult” groups in Nigeria will show that they had lofty objectives and ideals. Yet, their modus operandi are heinous, evil, deadly and murderous. Dr Ogaga Ifowodo in his paper titled: The Transmogrification of Confraternities into Violent Secret Cults in Nigerian Universities wrote:
“The Pyrates Confraternity or the Seadogs, the oldest. It was founded, according to the history published on its website, to combat class privilege or elitism, affectations or the blind aping of British colonial culture and social mannerisms, tribalism, discrimination, convention or stasis, and social injustice of any kind. Its members also sought to live by the code of chivalry — to defer to and protect the weaker sex (presumably from gender discrimination as well, although this is not explicitly stated). In other words, its primary concern was to do whatever it could to ensure that the first university college in Nigeria would produce thinkers and visionaries and not yes-men and women dying to cast themselves in the image of the coloniser. --- The only possible cause for apprehension about their activities, which were carried out in the open, was, perhaps, their frightening insignia of skull-and-bones. This spelled danger to “the ordinary undiscerning observer,” as they acknowledge, but it was meant to symbolize a lofty idea: “a constant reminder” that all mortals will, in the final analysis, be reduced to bones. And, that while still in body, flesh and spirit, they are enjoined to “do whatever you can now for the sake of humanity.” The logo was, in addition, a symbol of the Pyrates’ radical egalitarian humanism: after death, when all has been turned into dust and ashes, skulls and bones will not be differentiated and we would be remembered only by our deeds while alive. As far as manifestoes and rationales go, theirs has to be one of the most admirable.
Buccaneers, founded in 1972 at the University of Ibadan, we find similarly stirring sentiments. Again, in its own words, the Buccaneers are a confraternity of “men who seek (sic) very high morals and a vision to contribute meaningfully to society … [and] to provide exemplary leadership for the larger community.” Its objectives include the denunciation of “oppression, corruption, tyranny, human rights violations and all forms of societal abuse” and an abhorrence of “non-progressive conventions that are detrimental to the societies we live in.” By using the plural “societies,” Buccaneers imply that this is an aim that extends beyond Nigeria to any society anywhere in the world in which a member might live at any point in time. --- The Supreme Eiye Confraternity was founded on the idea of Afrocentricism; that is, a focus on Africa as the primary source of its beliefs and practices.
The Eiye Confraternity was founded in 1965 at the University of Ibadan by students described as “patriotic and visionary,” according to its own history, “with a commitment to excellence, desire to make positive impact on the socio-political psyche of the student populace and Nation at large.” At its inception, it went by the name Eiye Group but became the Eiye Confraternity four years later. The founders of the Eiye Confraternity, we are informed, “believed strongly in the espousal of the traditional African teachings towards human and spiritual excellence against the backdrop of colonial subversion of the African mind.” The confraternity claims to believe “in the traditional teachings of the ancient African oratorical practices and NOT Voodoo.
the Neo-Black Movement, more popularly known as Black Axe, merely expressed the same idea in the more overtly political concept of Pan-Africanism, an ideology of race-wide, and so trans-continental, liberation of mind, body and territory. It was formed at the University of Benin in 1977, according to the objectives stated in its organ (accessed online), The Arena, to “promote activities that will encourage Black people towards the full exercise of the human spirit, the re-awakening of all its Inventive, Creative and Moral Capacities”; “stand against all acts of racial contempt and conflict, exclusion, discrimination and intolerance”; “engage in researches on African traditions and culture;” “internalize and evolve realistic approach (sic) towards providing solutions for Africa's problems;” and “enhance and promote the image of Black people all over the world.” Not surprisingly, the Confraternity was formed in the heat of the euphoria surrounding the 2nd Festival of Black Arts and Culture in Nigeria, more popularly known as FESTAC ’77.
De Norsemen Kclub, otherwise known as Vikings. According to the official website of the Vikings, its objectives are to direct the energy of its members towards economic development in all spheres of national and international life; wipe out unemployment, unproductiveness, and poverty, “first on board our ship, then the nation at large”; establish respect for human dignity and sanctity of human life; encourage labour and intellectual industry; preserve the environment from degradation and the promotion of national and international peace; uphold “God as the Foundation of our ship” and abhor in its totality all ethnic, religious, racial and status discrimination. They also struggle to protect the oppressed and the weak of the society by promoting “corrective measures for defence of the masses against all social vices militating against its progress,” such vices as deprivation, corruption, injustice, victimization, and undemocratic measures. As if these goals were not clear enough, the Vikings reiterate their “main objective” as the “fight against sacrilege, vandalism, smuggling, hoarding, trespass, touting, conspiracy, pilfering, terrorism, and insubordination, extortion, impropriety, kidnapping, piracy, intrusion, hijacking, quackery, bunkering, banditry, political extremism, false alarm, and guerrilla warfare.”
Despite the lofty objectives projected, their actions and the promotion of cultism are different as they encouraged riots, murders etc. and have converted these confraternities into cults.
Conversion to Cultism
A secret society is organized around the principle of exclusiveness and secrecy. It places very strict limitation on recruitment and screens its activities from the public gaze. For a criminal society or illegal groups operating underground, secrecy is the condition of the group’s existence and this is maintained as far as possible over the whole range of its activities. The majority of secret societies are exclusively or predominantly male. They admit only men to membership though they often allow women roles in a subordinate association. This is true of tribal secret societies, in the preservation of religious and political functions that are considered vital to the well-being of the tribe. Ogaga Ifowodo wrote:
“the military regimes’ patronage of the confraternities as allies against the resistance the military was unable to crush on the campuses. Basing his view on findings by another scholar, Rotimi rightly points out that confraternities were not violent at all when they emerged in the 1950’s. That was until they were “high-jacked” by military governments who were anxious to consolidate their hold on university students who challenged their authority. By the time of the 1988 anti-fuel price hike, whose flashpoint was the University of Jos, it had become clear to General Babangida that virile student unionism posed a potent threat to his power. Consequently, confraternities, whose activities had become less open the more violent their squabbles became, were employed as a ready and willing reactionary force to “neutralize” student unions and their “anti-government activities.”
What is clear to me now is that the military regimes after 1975 operated both “visible” and “invisible” governments concurrently with the latter handling the “dirty” jobs.
Wole Soyinka as Role Model
I was in Lagos recently when Professor Wole Soyinka was honoured with the First Awolowo Prize for Leadership. The Nigerian Tribune of Wednesday, March 6, 2013 wrote in part:
“When despotism threatened to seize the land in the guise of electoral rascality in the First Republic, Soyinka’s courage was on display in challenging the puppet government of the Western Region and its unimaginative minders outside the region. For this, he was detained and put on trial. Before and after the civil war started, Soyinka exemplified bravery in refusing to leave the business of war to the assumed ‘practitioners’. He fought his own civil war against the verbiage of violence-prone actors who refused to see reason in a peaceful settlement of fundamental differences among a people united by fate. In the post-war years of military rule, he deployed literature in deploring bad governance, wastage, and unreason.
In the Second Republic (1979- 1983), Soyinka joined the more ideologically leftist People’s Redemption Party (PRP) in providing an alternative to the political consensus organised around the dominant conservative and progressive tendencies in Nigerian politics. As the Republic degenerated into an orgy of corruption and violence under a chronically inept leadership, Soyinka utilised his artistic flair in expressing contempt for, and mobilising the people against, the inanities of power.
In the post-Second Republic era when military marauders sought to end Nigeria’s history with their inflationary despotism, Soyinka returned to the barricades, in prose and politics, in organising for the possibilities of democracy and national revival. Both at home and later in exile, he was the conscience of the nation, lashing out against minuscule despots and their murderous assaults, while mobilising global public opinion to end the juvenile totalitarianism that the soldiers attempted to impose on Nigeria. In all these years, Soyinka embodied a gigantic validation of human freedom. Justice, he poetically insisted, remained the first condition of his humanity.
Since the start of the Third Republic, despite advancing years, Soyinka has remained steadfast in leading a movement not only for the survival of democracy, but also for the fundamental restructuring of the federation to ensure Nigeria’s continued survival as a corporate entity. While questioning the basis of nation formation, both in theory and in practice, as Obafemi Awolowo also eloquently did, Soyinka, like Awolowo, remains an unquestioned believer in the limitless possibilities of a well-governed Nigeria.
Soyinka opposes the violation of human spirit and human solidarity in attacking the subjection to vicious deities by wild religionists, and the banality of evil as manifested in autocratic rule. He challenges the spread of ignorance masquerading as the multiplication of educational opportunities in a country that has lost both a basic understanding of the university idea, and the organizing idea of knowledge production. He opposes the imposition of crudity and spite as the directive principles of governance, and stands up to glorified murderers who occupy the highest offices in the land, while standing with the afflicted and the affected in many the zones of discomfort and grief around the word. Soyinka is the epitome of the thinking man as a citizen of the world.
The Nigerian Tribune felicitates the incomparable mind that is today being honoured in the name of the departed, but matchless, leader. [Emphasis supplied]
Wole Soyinka as one of the founders of the Pyrates is a living legend who should be emulated by all confraternities and not only the Pyrates Confraternity. Those who suggest that this transmogrification is as a result of the “ideological” war going on in Nigeria may not be off the mark especially when government prefers vigilantes to state police and empower party stalwarts and militants as leaders as opposed to honest and decent Nigerians in prosecuting a relentless war against Democracy and Rule of Law. Wole Soyinka wrote on Thursday 25th March 2013 “that Nigeria is on the brink and President Jonathan must take proactive steps that would prevent the Nation from going into another round of civil war”.
Week 12 of 2013
Week 12 of 2013 is a momentous year for Christians all over the world. It signaled the election of Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio as Pope Francis on Tuesday March 19, 2013 and the enthronement of Most Rev. Justin Welby as the Archbishop of Canterbury two days later.
The epochal event was reported by CNN thus:
“When Jorge Bergoglio stepped onto the balcony at the Vatican on Wednesday March 13, 2013 to reveal himself as the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, he made history as the first non-European Pope of the modern era, the first from Latin America, the first Jesuit and the first to assume the name Francis.
The new pope then quickly made another kind of history, breaking with tradition in his first public act before the 150,000 people packed into St. Peter's Square. Rather than bless the crowd first, he asked them to pray for him.
The willingness by Francis to dispense with tradition was interpreted by a Vatican spokesman as a sign he will be willing to chart his own path in other ways.
We have a pope who probably upset some people tonight by not following the formula," the Rev. Tom Rosica said.
The pontiff also broke with another tradition by refusing to use a platform to elevate himself above the cardinals standing with him as he was introduced to the world as Pope Francis.
He said “I'll stay down here," reported Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "He met each of us on our own level.”
Francis, wearing white papal robes, appeared on a rain-soaked night to the throngs shortly after being elected by cardinals in what apparently was the fifth round of voting on the second day of the conclave.
As Pope, Bergoglio takes the helm of a Catholic Church that has been rocked, in recent years, by sexual abuse by priests and claims of corruption and infighting among the church hierarchy.
The 76-year-old Bergoglio, who served as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, is the first Pope to take the name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, revered among Catholics for his work with the poor. St. Francis is viewed as a reformer of the church, answering God's call to "repair my church in ruins."
The pontiff is considered a straight shooter who calls things as he sees them, and a follower of the church's most social conservative wing.
As a cardinal, he clashed with the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over his opposition to gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives.
What's in a name?
Bergoglio's selection of the name of Pope Francis is "the most stunning" choice and "precedent shattering," Allen said. "The new pope is sending a signal that this will not be business as usual."
The name symbolizes "poverty, humility, simplicity and rebuilding the Catholic Church," Allen said.
St. Francis of Assisi was born in 1181 or 1182 the son of a rich Italian cloth merchant, according to the Vatican website.
After "a carefree adolescence and youth," Francis joined the military and was taken prisoner. He was freed after becoming ill and when he returned to Assisi, Italy, a spiritual conversion began and he abandoned his worldly lifestyle.
In a famous episode, Christ on the cross came to life three times in the small Church of St. Damian and told him: "Go, Francis, and repair my Church in ruins," Pope Benedict XVI said, according to Vatican's website.”
In Pope Francis first homily he said in part:
“It is indeed this love that urges the Pastors of the Church to undertake their mission of service of the people of every age, from immediate charitable work even to the highest form of service, that of offering to every person the light of the Gospel and the strength of grace. This is what Benedict XVI wrote in his Lenten Message for this year (n.3). “Sometimes we tend, in fact, to reduce the term “charity” to solidarity or simply humanitarian aid. It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelization, which is the “ministry of the word”. There is no action more beneficial – and therefore more charitable – towards one’s neighbor than to break the bread of the word of God, to share with him the Good News of the Gospel, to introduce him to a relationship with God: evangelization thus becomes the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person. As the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI wrote in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio, the proclamation of Christ is the first and principal contributor to development (cf. n. 16).” [Emphasis supplied]
He has since his enthronement demonstrated that he is the pope of the people and for change.
105th Archbishop of Canterbury
I was fortunate to have been invited to the enthronement ceremony of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. I knew Justin Welby by reputation some years ago; he as an Executive of Elf Petroleum Paris and I, a Local Non- Executive Director Elf Nigeria Limited. He was part of the team for conflict resolution in Coventry Cathedral with my friend, Canon (Dr) Stephen Davis who helped to resolve the Niger Delta militancy. It was quite an experience to be part of the 2,000 people inside the Cathedral. In the British Guardian newspaper of Friday, March 22, 2013 Sam Jones and Nick Hopkins had this to say:
The name’s Welby, Justin Welby – risky trips
During his time at Coventry Cathedral, the oil man-turned-cleric focused on conflict negotiation and reconciliation, travelling to some of the world’s most dangerous places – Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and the Palestinian territories – to broker deals and seek peaceful solutions. As a recently published biography reveals, the Archbishop’s globetrotting adventures began in 1981 when he and his wife, Caroline, joined the Eastern European Bible Mission and embarked on a trip to help Christians persecuted under communism. The couple, who had been married for two years, loaded bibles into a secret compartment under the floor of a specially adapted camper van and drove to Nicolae Ceausescu’s Romania where they posed as tourists to carry out their smuggling mission. The trip was a taste of things to come: 21 years later, Welby became co-director of international ministry at Coventry Cathedral with Canon Andrew White, who is now the Chaplain of St George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad. In May 2003 the two men drove from Jordan to Baghdad where they met the Coalition Provisional Authority, the transitional government after the invasion of Iraq, in Saddam Hussein’s old Republican Palace and decided to reopen St George’s. The archbishop’s later missions took him to Nigeria, from where he twice phoned his wife to ask her to pray for him as he felt he was in mortal danger, and where he was once told that the price on his head stood at $30. “I couldn’t decide whether to be insulted or afraid,” he said later. Despite his humorous dismissal of the danger, those close to him dreaded the trips, with the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, admitting: “My heart is in my mouth every time he goes to Nigeria.”
On his homily at the inauguration – he said among other things.
“For more than a thousand years this country has to one degree or another sought to recognize that Jesus is the Son of God; by the ordering of its society, by its laws, by its sense of community. Sometimes we have done better, sometimes worse. When we do better we make peace for our own courage to be liberated, for God to act among us and for human beings to flourish. Slaves were freed, Factory acts passed, and the NHS and social care established through Christ-liberated courage. The present challenges of environment and economy, of human development and global poverty, can only be faced with extraordinary courage.
In humility and simplicity, Pope Francis called us on Tuesday to be protectors of each other: of the natural world, of the poor and vulnerable. Courage is released in a society that is under the authority of God, so that we may become the fully human community of which we all dream. Let us hear Christ who calls to us and says “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid”. ”
He concluded this by saying
“There is every possible reason for optimism about the future of Christian faith in our world and in this country. Optimism does not come from us, but because to us and to all people Jesus comes and says “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid”. We are called to step out of the comfort of our own traditions and places, go into the waves, reaching for the hand of Christ. Let us provoke each other to heed the call of Christ, to be clear in our declaration of Christ, committed in prayer to Christ, and we will see a world transformed.”
I also wish to recall what Pope Francis said to wit:
“the Catholic Church will be a compassionate NGO (Non Governmental Organization) when it focuses on its primary religious mission”.
Unfortunately, in Nigeria today, most, if not all NGOs, have become PGOs – Pro-Government Organizations that seem to relegate to second place their primary missions.
Chinua Achebe: Obituary of Nigeria's renowned Author
Chinua Achebe of Nigeria who died at the age of 82, was revered throughout the world for his faithful depiction of life in Africa. He wrote about the effects of colonialism and its aftermath as well as political corruption and attempts to introduce democratic reforms. Chinua Achebe said that any good story or any good novel should have a message and a purpose. His first novel - the groundbreaking Things Fall Apart, published in 1958 - dealt with the clash between Western and traditional African values - and how traditional norms and values had been undermined. Translated into more than 50 languages, its focus was on the traditions of Igbo society in south-eastern Nigeria, where he grew up. "The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart," one of the characters said. He wrote his novels in English and defended the use of English, a "language of colonisers", in African literature. After he won the Man Booker International Prize for his work in 2007, he told the BBC that African literature was important for the wider literary world, and for African states themselves. "What African literature set about to do was to broaden the conception of literature in the world - to include Africa, which wasn't there. "The stories we tell, are intended to help us solve the problem of this failure that has overtaken the early sense of joy and happiness when Africans became independent and received their self-determination." As a boy growing up in colonial Nigeria he excelled at school. According to the AFP news agency, he described his parents as early converts to Christianity, with his father becoming an Anglican religious teacher and travelling the region with his mother to preach and teach. Achebe later won a scholarship for undergraduate studies at what is now the University of Ibadan and became fascinated with world religions and traditional African cultures. After graduation, he worked at the Nigerian Broadcasting Service and soon moved to the metropolis of Lagos, where he met his future wife, Christie Okoli. They married in 1961 and went on to have four children. Nelson Mandela said Chinua Achebe (l) "brought Africa to the rest of the world" He gained worldwide attention for Things Fall Apart, which was published two years before Nigeria gained independence from the UK in 1960. As well as writing novels he was also an academic. In 1975, his lecture - An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness - became the focus of controversy, for its criticism of Joseph Conrad as "a bloody racist" and was later published. Former South African President and anti-apartheid fighter Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail, once said that in the company of Chinua Achebe's novels "prison walls fell down". He also said that he was the writer who "brought Africa to the rest of the world". Much of his work reflected his belief that his own country had failed to realize its potential. After a car crash in 1990 which left him partially paralyzed and in a wheel chair, Achebe moved to live in the US - only returning to Nigeria infrequently. But he continued to write his novels, poems and essays and, in his later years, was an outspoken critic of the Nigerian government. He has twice turned down the offer of a title Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic, once in 2004 from Nigeria's then President Olusegun Obasanjo and again in 2011 from President Goodluck Jonathan. "What's the good of being a democracy if people are hungry and despondent and the infrastructure is not there," Mr Achebe told the BBC in 2004, explaining his decision. "There is no security of life. Parts of the country are alienated. Religious conflicts spring up now and again. The country is not working." Last year, he published a long-awaited memoir about the brutal three-year Biafran war - when the south-eastern Igbo region tried to split from Nigeria in 1967. He had acted as roving Cultural Ambassador for Biafra at the time, but for more than 40 years, he remained silent about his war experiences. More than one million people died during the conflict and, in the book, he accused the UN of standing by, like Nigeria's government, as Biafra was crushed. "You see we, the little people of the world, are ever expendable," he wrote.
Culled from BBC London
May his gentle soul rest in peace. Amen.
Evangelism is the highest expression of love so says Pope Francis as evidence of ‘my brother’s keeper’. You love the other man so much so that you want him to be saved “The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard. And they invited people of every era to enter into the joy of their communion with Christ.” And Whoever is called ‘to teach Christ’ must first seek the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus’, he must suffer ‘the loss of all things… in order to ‘gain Christ and be found in him’, and ‘to know him and the power of his resurrection, and [to] share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible [he] may attain the resurrection from the dead” and as lay apostolate the burden of evangelism is more on us, in my view than the priests and the religious, we meet non-Christians, non-Catholic in our daily lives like the early Christians – our brother’s keeper, our honesty etc. endears others to us which make them join us and be like us. The burden becomes heavier in the Nigerian setting because one needs to appreciate not only the situation but what gave rise to it. Thankfully, you have five examples of leadership before you; Professor Wole Soyinka, Pope Francis – 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and Chinua Achebe and of course Nelson Mandela. They are role models and worth emulating.
The Invisible Government
I have alluded to this form of Government where in I suggested that the military operated two Governments one Visible the other Invisible. It is my contention that the Invisible Government is still in operation to this day. As a matter of fact, it seemed to have taken roots with the overthrow of General Yakubu Gowon in 1975 and Shehu Shagari’s Government in 1983. The sole objective of the Invisible Government in my view, is to use all means possible to convert Nigeria into a country with “a system of rule and of society of which the important ingredient is the operation of Muslim Law”. I was fortunate recently to listen to the great orator, Maitama Sule at “The Patriots” meeting when he referred briefly to the “Invisible Government of America” as those who made sure that the spiritual aims and objectives of the founding fathers remain relevant. I was also able to lay hands on the book titled The Invisible Government by Dan Smoot. In the foreword, the author wrote:
“The meeting which the Council on Foreign Relations arranged in the Soviet Union, in 1961, was more important than President Kennedy’s meeting with Khrushchev, because I am convinced that the Council on Foreign Relations together with a great number of other associated tax-exempt organizations, constitutes the invisible government which sets the major policies of the federal government, exercise controlling influence on governmental officials who implement the policies; and, through massive and skilful propaganda, influences Congress and the public to support the polices.
I am convinced that the objectives of this invisible government it to convert America into a socialist state and then make it a unit in a one-world socialist system.”
The Council on Foreign Relations of America in 1961 failed to convert America into a socialist’s state united in one world socialist system. Today, the Council on Foreign Relation is very influential in the promotion of Capitalism, Democracy and Rule of Law not only in America but throughout the world.
In the case of Nigeria, the invisible government has dual objectives
(a) To protect and defend the advantages enjoyed by the north since amalgamation. In particular the balance of power which weighs very heavily and in some cases unfairly in favour of the north, such as representations at national assembly, revenue allocation and federal character application.
(b) To convert Nigeria to an Islamic state and then make it a unit of one-world Islamic system. As a matter of fact, Nigeria by choice is a Muslim state having voluntarily applied for membership of the Organization of Islamic States. The invisible government is to ensure that Nigeria remains an Islamic state through and true
It has become very clear to the world that liberal democracy and political Sharia cannot co-exist peacefully in our country. Some of us have long suspected that the overthrow of General Gowon in 1975 was ideological because the officers who overthrew him were northern officers who participated in the Civil War when he was Commander in Chief. In other words, they were comrades in arms. There is no doubt that the coup plotters were also motivated by ambition and lust for power but the overriding reason was ideological. In his book Beckoned to Serve Shagari wrote:
“Muhammad Carpenter was Nigeria’s Ambassador to Italy at the time the coup took place at the end of the year 1983. He said that during that year, he was able to gather very authentic information about some suspicious movements by some highly placed Nigerians who had been passing through Rome from London en route to Egypt and one or two Balkan countries. Most of these travelers who were frequently in transit at Da Vinci Airport, Rome were senior military officers, serving and retired, together with a well-known Nigerian business tycoon. Ambassador Carpenter, with the help of his security agents, was able to trace their destinations as well as the purpose of their journeys eastwards. He gathered that these people were planning a coup against my government. Towards this end, they had chosen the Egyptian style of military coup in which the plotters used General Mohammed Neguib as a scapegoat to achieve their ends. He alleged that these conspirators had carefully studied Colonel Abdel Nasser’s style of military coup and military rule and were determined to implement same in Nigeria. He gave me the names of those involved but regretted that he was unable to do this at the right time because he could not trust anyone except himself to convey this information direct to me. Unfortunately, however, the military struck before he could find an excuse to come home to Nigeria and report the matter to me.”
[Page 470] [Emphasis supplied]
One therefore suspects that the conduct of the AGF in the Oyerinde case is a continuation of the protection of the policies of the invisible government which has been responsible for the unresolved murders of some prominent Nigerians including one of the predecessors of the AGF-
Chief Bola Ige SAN. The Arab Spring has shown that even in Arab countries, democracy is a threat to Rule of Islam and the conflict in these countries suggest that we must appreciate the futility of experimenting with a multi-religious country when developed countries, over the years, have opted for secular states especially after fruitless and futile wars fought for years over religion. There is need, in the circumstance, that we must not only respect section 10 of our Constitution - “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion” but promote and enforce same. We are very fortunate to be alive in this Year of Faith and the advantage of Pope Benedict XVI pastoring of the world, who showed us Catholics (and indeed humanity) how and when to retire. This, to my mind, is the beginning of change in the Catholic Church. Then came Pope Francis a Jesuit. The Jesuits always identify with the poor and, in the case of Nigeria, where 70% of the people are poor, the gesture is to be appreciated. Poverty has also been identified as one of the reasons for the present insurgency of Boko Haram. Therefore, a Catholic Priest with three jeeps in Nigeria sends a wrong signal to the Catholic lay faithful and the world.
There was no pre-independence unity among our founding fathers
From my experience and study I have come to the conclusion that there was no unity among our founding fathers. They disagreed as to the date of self-government and as a result, the east and west got self-government before the north. They disagreed on the police in the hope that some form of regional police might be established. They disagreed on the special status of the federal capital city if Lagos. The north was determined that Lagos should never return to the west and had support of the east. The north also objected to federal funds used for education and health for Lagos, a large police force and fire brigade. The Lagos town council seemed to want to evade most of the liabilities that fall on normal town councils. The minorities question was discussed and no agreement was reached and had to be referred to a commission, the Willink commission. They disagreed on revenue allocation and the matter was also referred to a commission. Tafawa Balewa was appointed prime minister without consultation by governor general. Ahmadu Belo wrote:
I retained the leadership of the party and did not hand it to him on this occasion: they do not understand that the premier of any Region is not any way subordinate to the Prime Minister: our paths are ,in fact, quite separate and our functions do not overlap: in the Regions the Prime Minister is only concerned with his Federal matters and not with Regional affairs. He is, of course, a welcome and an honoured guest.”
So where was the national unity being trumpeted by some orators. Nigeria was three countries at independence and remains so, with only the Yoruba’s accepting their faith with the minorities, while the Hausa Fulani still believe and worked for one North. The Ndigbo calculated the mistakes of the past at being assimilated wherever they lived, now Ndigbo must retain their identity while at the same time try to assimilate minorities. Ndigbo that did not have a House of Chiefs at independence now have more traditional rulers than the rest of Nigeria put together with Eze-Ndigbo outside their ancestral home and as far away as Ghana. We need to come together to promote unity of nation and purpose.
Religious Leaders as Traditional Rulers
I remember telling Father Cyril Ofegbu, Principal of ICC and the Brother Seminarian with him that we Catholics need shepherds not traditional rulers. I think I should explain. In the book titled: My Life Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto while discussing Northern Administrative System stated that “the Committee noted that the appointment of Chiefs-in-Council as Native Authorities, under the Native Authority Ordinance, would, in no way, affect the traditional status of an Emir as the religious head of his Emirate.”
[Page 77] [Emphasis supplied]
As one of those who helped in the rebirth of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), I am in a position to state that we tried to ward off the influence of some Islamic traditional rulers who wanted to elevate some pastors and priests to the status of traditional rulers. Those of us who were privileged to be shepherded by Irish Priests and Bishops, found this new status of Priests and Bishops as “traditional ruler” wrong and uncharitable to say the least. Once this status is conferred, they are first co-opted into the invisible government as PGO and thereafter paid to keep quiet or turn blind eyes to the excesses of the operatives. This went on until recently when Boko Haram activities became impossible to ignore.
Fortunately, events in the country today show the fundamental difference between the two religions: one loves death by way of “martyrdom” that takes along with the suicide bomber countless lives of innocent victims, the other preaches love of neighbor on earth, as our Father in heaven loves us. The problem is not in the grassroots, but with those in charge of affairs .The Catholic Church and Christians must therefore be the grassroots not on the side of those at the helms of affairs.
Soldiers and the Country’s Wealth
It is most unfortunate that soldiers became rulers of Nigeria, and we all know that what soldiers do best is to conquer and loot. They had conquered Nigeria and they are now looting. A classic example is the Benin Expedition of 1897. Notwithstanding the fact that the British soldiers came from an advanced Western country, when they conquered Benin, they went into the Palace of the
Benin Monarch and looted ivory, artifacts and other precious objects and took them to their country. Officers of the Nigerian Army during the Civil War, broke into the Central Bank in Benin and stole money. The Police Commissioner who reported the looting was among the first victims of the purge of 1975. The first Petroleum Minister did not ignore those from his state in the Petroleum industry, he was succeeded by another from Kano and he did the same. When a South/South person became Minister, he gave himself (not to a third party) an oil block. The Nigerian loots and sends his booty outside thus making all Nigerians poorer. Those who are looting our oil or involved in bunkering are like the father who is stealing his assets and selling them in the hope of living a better life than his wife and children. The real problem with Nigeria is the ideological war going on and in war corruption is an accepted instrument which explains why Nigeria is very corrupt. The invisible government operating side by side with the democratically elected government is another problem. Members are mostly unelected, traditional and religious leaders all sworn enemies of democracy all in the promotion and protection of the system of rule and society of which an important ingredient is the operation of Islamic law.
Women and Education
In Nigeria and elsewhere, the emancipation of women is the best gauge of the political and social progress of a society. Even now, the Nigerian man will be unable to stand on his own without the woman who is the backbone of our society. Women farm most of our crops and therefore must have access to agricultural training, credit, technical assistance and protection from abuse, assault and degradation. To achieve this, there is the need for the education of boys and girls in qualities that engender progress, imagination, decency, creativity, professionalism and competence, a sense of responsibility, duty and the love for a job well done.
A Catholic Response
• First, all Catholics must understand the problem of the country and not accept the fables and fantasies peddled by non Christians and non democratic institutions. This explains why this presentation is long and detailed.
• Second, the Church hierarchy must ensure that this ideological war does not degenerate to a situation where the church has to apologize later as was done with respect to Nazi Germany, Argentina’s dirty war and South African Apartheid. The church must come out squarely in favour of democracy and rule of law and not prevaricate to blur the issues.
• Third, the Christian policy of no retaliation must continue and the security and intelligence community must be purged of anti democratic elements and the Church must also promote section 10 of the constitution that prohibits the adoption of any religion as State religion.
• Finally for the individual catholic, I have gone the full mile in the political history of Nigeria to show how and why things got out of hand. It is very difficult for individuals to overcome ideological issues. Therefore Catholics, Christians and men and women of good will must come together to fight the twin evil of insecurity and corruption, products of the ideological war. We Catholics must not promote the cliché “if you can not beat them join them’. We cannot be part of evil. If however we are in a position of authority we must do our best in accordance with the teaching of the church as salt of the earth.We must not use our position to enrich ourselves at the expense of others.
Truth and Reconciliation
The Oputa Panel was set up by the Executive to identify victims of gross human rights violation. Unfortunately it was sabotaged through its denial of needed funds as well as the Supreme Court decision that the Federal Government had no right to set up Commissions of Enquiry. This fact notwithstanding, the Commission went ahead to provide an inconclusive report because the principal actors – the military Heads of State refused to appear before the Panel.
The fact that the Military was responsible for Nigeria’s transition to democracy is, in my view responsible for the difficulties the Country is now experiencing in its application of Democracy. Had the Oputa Panel completed its work, a lot of those now in the Executive and Legislature would have left the scene, and a new set of Nigerians would have emerged to guide the nation to
true democracy and rule of law. It is very clear from the above presentation that the talk of unity among our founding fathers Zik, Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello were mere fables. They were only united when they agreed to work together for self government and the exit of the British Administration. The Sardauna wrote in his book thus:
“The Parties had, in truth, little divergence in policy: they were all working for self government and the exit of the British Administration. There were no clefts based on matters of principles, as there are between the British Conservatives and Labour Parties”.
This was all on the surface because deep down below, there was hatred and bitterness. They plotted against each other from the Enahoro’s motion for independence, the harassment of NPC delegates by Action Group thugs, the orchestrated riot in Kano, the Detention Act immediately after independence, the promoted Regional Assembly crisis in Western Nigeria which led to the State of Emergency, the Western regional election of 1964 and ‘operation wetie’. The pogrom in the North and the civil war were all plots by political parties in the struggle for supremacy which, today, have translated to ethnic and religious wars and in addition to ideological war which helped in the strengthening of the establishment of an Invisible Government.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission apart from identifying Human Rights Violation has to include Reparation, Rehabilitation and Amnesty for individuals who apply for pardon. To this end, we can conveniently close one Chapter and open a new one with untainted players rather than continuing with business as usual.
On a visit to Accra in 2009, US President Barack Obama insisted that what Africa needs are strong institutions and not strong men.
“Obama said no country is going to create wealth if the leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or if police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No person wants to leave in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, now is the time for it to end, Africa does not need strong men it needs strong institutions.”
In the past, Nigeria has had strong men, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Sardauna of Sokoto. Unfortunately, they could not withstand military takeover. Hear what the Sardauna said in his book:
“The political parties in the South were more highly developed than were ours; further, they were more ‘party minded’. The advantage to the party was their first consideration, and the advantage to the country a second, and quite a long way back too: we were still working as a whole and looking at problems as a whole. The Southern parties were, in
fact, though they would not admit it, the followers of prominent individuals. Their business was to ‘boost’ that individual and do all they could to put him into national leadership and power.” [Emphasis supplied]
This policy breeds godfathers and frustrates the promotion of strong political parties.
Four years after writing this book, Sardauna became for the NPC what Zik and Awolowo were to their parties. Our diversity should be seen as a blessing from God. We must all, without exception, work to build a Nation where no man is oppressed. Above all, we must love our neighbors as ourselves because the benefits that accrue to us as a united people far outweigh our gains as a divided people.
One can say with a measure of certainty that all Nigerian democratic institutions require strengthening the Legislative, Executive and the Judiciary the three arms of government. In the case of the Legislature, the Commission require men and women knowledgeable enough and willing to promote rule of law. Nigeria needs men and women of impeccable integrity not ex-bandits or ex-militants. The same applies to the Executive where massive corruption must be reduced if not eliminated. Corruption and inefficiency has, so far weakened our security apparatus and institutions such that the country is being gradually brought to its knees. The Judiciary must be strengthened to withstand the pressure of the Legislature and Executive and must not become part of the impunity of the post military era.
On reconciliation, we need to learn from Nelson Mandela. He was jailed for 27 years and once released he told his jailers ‘let bygone be bygone’ and together they worked for the common good of South Africa and the world.
One may wonder why this exhortation to young Nigerians who are yet to be involved in the governance of Nigeria. My answer is that for more than 20 years, some Nigerians (including my friends and I have been clamouring for change. We have been labeled activists and we are beginning to sound like worn out gramophone records. But we must continue because you, as leaders of tomorrow, need to be armed with the required knowledge to combat the situation as knowledge which is power has evolved Democracy as the best form of Government.
I want to take this opportunity to inform lawyers or would be lawyers that well trained lawyers in common law jurisdiction embrace by training the spirit of human right and rule of law. This explains why lawyers in the main are champions of this principle. It also explains why we have Mahatma Ghandi, Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Nelson Mandela and of course Peter Benenson the founder of Amnesty International and many others. Unfortunately for us in Nigeria with dual ideologies lawyers seem to have lost the spirit of protecting human right and rule of law as exemplified by Prof Wole Soyinka, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Gani Fawehinmi SAN, Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti and to a lesser extent Olisa Agbakoba SAN and Femi Falana SAN. Lawyers in Nigeria need to appreciate that the responsibility for the promotion and protection of human right and rule of law fall squarely on their shoulders especially Attorneys General of all the state of the federation and the Attorney General of the Federation. All Nigerians must be prepared to sacrifice their lives for the protection of human right and rule of law because Nigeria is worth dying for voluntarily. We need to come together as a people to promote the unity of our nation.
I am constrained to use the unfortunate confrontation of two eminent Nigerians Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, one of the most respected State Governors and Bello Adoki SAN my brother in the profession to illustrate the invisible ideological war in one country. As the saying goes ‘all is fair in war’ and in the ideological war repression, bribery, corruption, insecurity, tribalism, religion, are all instruments in the Nigerian ideological war.
There is the urgent need for Africa’s cultural adjustment, whereby we live to work, where magic and witchcraft no longer flourish, where witch doctor, occultist and preachers do not surround our president. In addition we need to return to confraternities from cultism especially as thousands of cultists still occupy positions in the legislature, executive and the judiciary. In Government institutions, in Non-governmental Organization (NGO) including religions and various denominations and in the private sector.
Lord Harcourt’s metaphor on amalgamation as ‘the marriage between a well conducted youth of the north and a southern lady of means ‘reflects the social and constitutional rights of the north and south in the ninety nine years of amalgamation. The north became polygamous in 1939 when the south was broken up into East and West. The north has introduced ‘harem’ politics in the
equation, and the husband and his two wives have made it impossible for a limited family. There
is a need for the well conducted youth to be humbled and more flexible in his dealings in which he regards himself boss even though he contributes far less in the upkeep of the family which includes minorities of the north, east and west . The overbearing conduct of the northern youth is making the marriage difficult. Nigeria has 36 states and one Capital territory, not a tripod or Wazobia.
We can reduce corruption, by increasing productivity and becoming more “modern”. Open society that limits state power. The gains in such action include more democracy, rule of law and individual freedom. Democracy which entails political opposition, freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary fosters potentially powerful corruption-reducing, mechanisms. Opposition parties have an interest in exposing corruption in government in order to win elections. In a democracy, a ruling party or government that fails to initiate reform may lose elections. One-party states, on the other hand, lack such incentives.
All Nigerians must therefore join hands to promote democracy and rule of law for the future of Nigeria as a nation and, at the same time, frown at those who promote any other form of government whether visible or invisible.
Thank you for your attention.
Registered Trustees are:
Prelate (Dr.) S.C. Mbang; Cardinal (Dr.) John Onaiyekan; Bishop (Dr.) Mike Okonkwo; Archbishop (Dr.) Patrick Ekpu; Archbishop (Dr.) Anthony Obinna; Solomon Asemota Esq., SAN; Elder Saidu Dogo; Rev. Jesse Adamu and Professor J.M. Otubu. H. I. Ize-Iyamu B.L. Secretary