Monday, November 30, 2009

Exclusive: Nneka Talks Music, Message, and Spirituality

Flavor Wire Exclusive

At Coachella a few years back, the ever-feisty M.I.A. asked a packed house of sweat-soaked admirers, “Where my leaders at?!” Good question. Surprisingly few artists today have stepped up with the decisive political or spiritual message that M.I.A. was asking for.

Recently, 27-year-old Nigerian tour de force Nneka — who already has a loyal following in Africa and Europe — made her US debut at Joe’s Pub in NYC, which she followed with a few shows with the Roots. And while it’s still too early to compare her to political/musical messengers like countryman Fela Kuti or Bob Marley, she’s becoming a formidable figure in global music. She calmly rocked the room with her soul-filled voice, championing a strong message of love, unity and political justice from her forthcoming album Concrete Jungle.

As soon as the lights came up, I wanted an interview — even though I’ve only done three in the nine years since I co-founded Flavorpill. A few days later, I sat down with Nneka, a captivating figure who shared some lessons on music, life, spirituality, meditation, and love.

Lesson 1: Don’t be a hypocrite.

Nneka: I have struggled; I mean in the first place, standing on the stage and singing about change or singing about false prophets or bad politicians, pointing a finger. There was a time where I would just point the finger and I would forget to look at myself. And, for me, to be able to make a change in the world, you have to be part of that change. You have to be honest with yourself, because if you’re not honest with yourself, and if you’re not in touch with your spirit, then you’re not able to make any change at all. I believe in the spirit world, and that everybody’s connected. There’s not just this one. And not just what we hear. There’s something beyond that. And that is what makes change possible. So that is what I’m talking about. If that is numb, or speechless, that world, then nothing works automatically. I [have] caught myself lying many times, saying things and not practicing, speaking about jealousy, and at the same time, I am hitting on somebody else.

And the sickness is the healing. That is what I’ve learned. If you are aware of your sickness, your mistakes in other words, your illness, then you know what you need, what medication you need to heal. And that is actually, that is what we need in this world. We know what is worrying us, that’s what we say in Nigeria. We know what shackles us and that is exactly what we need to heal, to grow, to progress.

Lesson 2: Take what you’ve learned back home.

FP: In this chaotic time in the world, is change really happening?

Nneka: Yes, especially through the fact that a lot has happened in the last two years in the world. Even in Nigeria, in Africa, people are becoming more conscious of, “Hey, you know, it’s high time that we stand on our feet.” We have everything that it takes to make this continent a better place. And I see that there are many people right around my age, especially people who are into poetry, or literature or music, and of course people who have also traveled out of Africa before and spent some time overseas. And when they come back home, mostly those people, I notice, bring change back home, to make a change back home. And I think it’s positive, I think, in the world as well as musically, people are becoming more conscious of the fact that, listen, if I’m standing on this stage, you can’t just feed the masses with ignorance and stupidity. So, there are a couple of artists that I have met lately, even Nigerian artists, who are now more conscious about what they say and feed the masses with. You know, normally Nigerians are very into entertainment, and — not only Nigerians alone, but Americans, as well. They like to sing about the party, forget your life, forget your soul — which is good, I’m not saying not to enjoy your life — but it’s also important that you don’t lie to yourself, that we don’t lie to ourselves. I think that change is taking place.

Lesson 3: Always be present.

Nneka: Sometimes when I’m on stage, I know that people are having fun, but then the real thing is not being transmitted. And then I’m a bit angry with myself, and at the same time angry with my band, because when I see that they are not in touch with themselves, with their spirit, and we’re not with each other on stage, then I know that there’s going to be blockage in the transmission, spiritually. Although people are jumping and screaming “Oh awesome!” But then I’m like, “Hey, no way.” So it’s important that I do everything with my heart — that I stand on stage, that I do my music from the depth of my heart, for me to be able to transmit that message of love.

Lesson 4: Don’t be afraid to pause and regroup.

Nneka: Sometimes it’s very bizarre, what happens on stage. I just stop. I just stop, and sometimes my band does not understand me, because they are professional people, if you notice they are all in their forties and upwards — except for the keyboarder who is like, my age. And sometimes he himself does not understand me too. I just go like, “Stop, stop now. We need to connect, we need to.” So I take a break, I go into myself, briefly, in five minutes, and I explain to the audience what is happening. And then I make them aware of what I think they should receive. And sometimes it works and sometimes it does not work. Like when I’m on tour, two months on the road and at times I get very tired, performing. And sometimes you just, you just do it. I don’t like that feeling, where I just have to do what I have to do. It hurts me to do music like that, you know? It’s like a job. And in that rare moment where music becomes a job, that is like pressure on your head, then I don’t want to do it. I need to take my distance to find, or to rejuvenate, you know, to go back to where we started. Regardless of whether you’re a musician or someone cleaning the streets, or drives a bus or a teacher, president, etc you have to passionate, you have to believe in what you do, it has to be something that’s important to you, otherwise it’s just a job. And you poison people by not being happy with yourself, not being happy with the job you’re doing. It might look good from the outside, but inside is scattered and poisonous. It’s like baking bitter bread. It’s from the Bible. Do not bake bitter bread. You have to do it with love. If you’re not feeling it, you drop it and you go and look for something you can be passionate about.

Lesson 5: It’s good to question your beliefs sometimes.

Nneka: I used to be a very strong Christian, talking about religion and institutions. I used to be a born again Christian, and I used to be very, very strict. Until eventually, when I went to Germany for the first time — I realized I suffered in my religion before that, kind of. I would deprive myself of living — certain things, you know. Getting to know myself, reading in between the lines of the Bible. I would just read the Bible the way it is and that’s what I would take and just finish. I would never ask myself any questions. Until I had the freedom to understand that I can question the Bible, read in-between and use the wisdom that I have, or that I have acquired to find something new, to find something that is easy for me to live with. I mean, believing in God is not that easy, but it should not be a burden. So I’m getting to know about religions like Islam; I really love Buddhism and Hinduism. I’ve had a lot to do with African traditional religion as well, which I think is the most reasonable one to me at present. But at the end of the day, all religious directions, whether Hinduism or Buddhism, Islam, or whatever, at the end of the day they’re like different rivers that flow into one big ocean. Sometimes we go in another direction, I don’t know. It’s all about love. At the end of the day, what counts is love. And we all know how to love, no matter where we’re coming from, no matter what we have been through. Since we have a conscience, since we have an ego, since we can see I and you, since we have the skin that separates us from one another and that brings us in touch with one another, and we know what is good for us, we know what is good for the world, and we know how to love. So I think the most important thing is love. Love yourself because if you don’t love yourself you can’t love anybody.

Lesson 6: Don’t doubt yourself because of the time it takes to change.

Nneka: It’s difficult to [snap] to change the world like this in the blink of an eye. It’s impossible. You could basically also ask me why politics doesn’t make the world a better place. Like, why can’t we just live without war? And all I can say is to speak for myself. You always have to do everything you do in love and honesty. All the answers to the questions you are going to ask me today is love. It will sound so stupid. It will sound so unreasonable. But if you really go deeper, then every answer to every freaking question that anybody would ask you is love. It’s easy, so easy. Even I’m realizing it now, again. And fear, that is the biggest enemy of human beings. The most important thing is that you remove your doubt and that you trust. So, like yesterday I was drinking this Yogi Tea before I went to bed. And I felt like my day was, I wasn’t really filled, despite the fact that I had performed that day, I was not really content with myself, I’m like what have I done today? Why am I here? And I doubt a lot. I doubt myself a lot, I doubt God at times a lot. I’m not aware of it but I became aware of it yesterday again, before I went to bed. And I don’t believe in the small messages in Yogi Tea — but I had this tea bag, and no, I don’t normally drink tea before I go to bed — but it’s written on the satchel: “You will never find happiness if you continue to doubt.” And it’s true. It’s true, man. I’ve been living in misery because I always doubt myself. And because I doubt my potential, I doubt the fact that I can change something, I doubt the fact that when I stand on stage I know – hey you’re standing on the stage now. And you can give, you can change by doing it with love. Do not doubt yourself, as long as you do it in honesty and in truth, then it will be of an advantage to the people, it will make a positive impact on them.

FP: So, what happens when we become these fearless warriors?

Nneka: We have to build an army. I need you, you need me, we need each other. We cannot fight without ammunition. I mean, what soldier goes to war without a gun? And that is when that change can take place. I mean change in a positive way.

Lesson 7: Listen to others first.

Nneka: My music is the most sacred aspect of my life. Where I’m at now is learning to listen to people. That’s the most important thing to me, now. Not to listen to myself, always. And not to think while other people are talking to me. Thinking of the next — you know what I mean. So calm down, listen, and do not think of what to contribute to the conversation. Listen first. That’s where I’m at now.

Lesson 8: Stay connected.

Nneka: Just let go. They say, in Nigeria, a hand is only useful with its five fingers. If one comes off, then it’s a problem for the rest. I mean it will work, but it won’t be as fast as we should be. So we have to be connected.

PH Water-Front Saga : We don’t want homelessness – Senator Sekibo

A Vanguard Interview

The plan to demolish water-fronts in Port Harcourt is not new. It first gained currency under the tenure of deposed governor Celestine Omehia. The government gave security reasons as one of the major factors behind the plan. The issue seemingly overheated the state. While this was on, the Supreme Court sacked the government and installed Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as governor.

One of the first steps he took when he came on board was to suspend the planned demolition, an action that was greeted with wild jubilation in all the water fronts in the state capital. Two years down the line the government is back with the threat to demolish the waterfronts otherwise referred to as slum settlements in the state capital. Security and the need to develop the area in tune with contemporary habitation standards have been thrown up as some of the driving forces behind the proposed action.

However, the Okrika Ijaw that claim ownership of most of these water fronts remains suspicious of government’s motives. In this interview with Jimitota Onoyume of Sweet Crude, Chief James Tari Sekibo, a second republic Senator and Chairman, Okrika Divisional Council of Chiefs and Wakirikebese Council of Chiefs, an umbrella body of all Okrika people, he speaks extensively on the position of the Okrika people.

Occasionally during the interview he reads from what he claims are historical documents to support the position of his people.


What is your stake in the proposed demolition of water fronts in Port Harcourt?

It is fairly a long story. Our stake started before 1913 when an agreement was signed with owners of areas that the colonial government wanted to acquire. This whole thing started with the discovery of coal in Enugu. And they wanted an outlet to export the coal from the country to overseas. They decided to establish a port and railway terminals. So the colonial masters came and spotted the present Port Harcourt municipality as the most suitable site for the said port to be established. And slightly up a little to be railway terminals, to start from Enugu down to Port Harcourt. So by 1913 an agreement was signed between the Okrika and the Ikwerre people.

Ikwerre this time refers only to the Diobu, Ikwerre, Orogbum, Orogbale, Oroije now called ogbunabali area. Compensation was paid to the communities. Precisely on 18 May 1913, that was when the agreement was signed by the deed between the Okrika people.

On 18 May, 1913 by deed between the chiefs and head men of Okrika Ijaw and Diobu communities for and on behalf of themselves and their people on the one hand and Sir Alexander George Boyle, the Deputy Governor of the colony and protectorate of Southern Nigeria for and on behalf of his majesty, the King of England, the area presently known as Port Harcourt was acquired by the colonial authorities. This deed is registered as 16/211/7 (old series), Calabar, former kept at the lands registry, Lagos, later lands registry, Enugu but now in the lands registry, Port Harcourt.

The Okrika Ijaw towns and villages affected by this deed are namely, Biekiri, Abokirir, Belemaka, Akainkoroma, Azuabie, Abuloma, Toinpirima (present right wing of Marine base, Okrika water fronts and cementry waterfronts), Fiyenemika, Iyoyo Ama (present Rex Lawson waterfronts and Egbema waterfront) Atubokiki, Igbisikalama Ama (present Baptist waterfront, Enugu waterfront, Tourist beach and Ibadan waterfront), Idango Ama (present left wing of Marine base, Koko polo sharing boundary with Amadi ama), Fimie, Amiejobodiema, Gbelabo Ama, (present Elechi beach, Abonnema wharf and Njemanze), Okuru town, Amadi town, Amango Ama (present NPA wharf, Witt and bush waterfront and Bundu waterfront) Okujagu, Kuroseidiema Ama (present Bille waterfront, Bonny water front, Nembe waterfront and Abuja estate waterfront) Eresofiari, Misiba, Duointa and Banisuka.

On the other hand, the Ikwerre communities affected by the deed are Diobu, Omoeme, Omoamasi, Omobiakani and Oginiba

Thereafter, the Ikwerres sought to set aside the deed of 1913 by filling a suit against the Attorney General. That suit was dismissed. Dissatisfied with the judgment of the lower court, the Ikwerres filed an appeal to the West Africa court of Appeal. On 9th June, 1952 the West Africa Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. This case is reported as Chief Joseph Wobo and nine others vs. the attorney general in 14 WACA 132

Again, Diobu dissatisfied with the judgment of West Africa court of Appeal, the Ikwerres appealed to the judicial committee of the Privy County in England. The appeal number is Privy Council Appeal NO. 18 of 1953. The Privy Council on the 30th day of October, 1956 dismissed the appeal.

In all the judgments the sanctity of the 1913 agreement was repeatedly affirmed and confirmed. However, on the 2nd of May, 1928 a supplemental agreement to the 1913 principal Port Harcourt agreement was signed between the Diobu Ikwerre, (specifically Abali and Ogbum Diobu) and the then Deputy Governor of the colony and protectorate of Southern Nigeria, as contained in the written instrument number A 17 vol 1 of 2nd May, 1928 which varied the terms of the 1913 principal agreement from sale to payment of annual rent of five hundred pounds in perpetuity.

The Okrika Ijaw people who gave 53% of the Port Harcourt land in the 1913 agreement felt cheated. When they got to know about the variation as contained in the 1928 agreement and went to seek redress in court in suit no PHC/45m/76. The court ruled that since at least one other party to that agreement has been benefited by a revision of compensation payable, the plaintiffs ought in equity to be treated in the same manner. Accordingly, the Okrika Ijaw and the Okrika Ijaw Port Harcourt aborigines were paid arrears of N105,000 at the annual rate of N1,500 from 1913.

For the avoidance of doubt, certain sections and interest groups in Rivers state have still repeatedly denied the historical dual ownership of Port Harcourt.

It must be noted that the Ikwerres that took part in the alienation of Port Harcourt with their Okrika counterparts still posses, control and alienate their lands that were the subject of the deed. They have continuously done so without any challenge from government even though their forebears had alienated their land on 18th May 1913.

For the immediate development of Port Harcourt, some of the area occupied by the Okrika Ijaw people in their various villages were required. This led to the inhabitants being displaced without any concrete attempts at a resettlement programme for the displaced inhabitants.

Origin of waterfront communities:

The Okrika Ijaw inhabitants, otherwise called the Port Harcourt aborigines of the various villages affected by the deed of 18 May, 1913 were not effectively resettled. The Okrika Ijaw inhabitants of these villages were predominantly seafarers and depend on the seas, rivers and creeks for their livelihood.

With dogged determination to confront and overcome their state of homelessness by sheer industry, dedication and hard work, these displaced Okrika Ijaw inhabitants began to reclaim the various waterfronts adjacent to their original villages by cutting Chikoko mud from the mangrove swamps and depositing same on the adjacent waterfronts to drive back the water and create new land to build new homes. This is the genesis of the Okrika Ijaw waterfront communities

Naturally the original names of the villages of these early Okrika Ijaw inhabitants as contained in the 1913 Port Harcourt agreement became the names of these new adjacent waterfronts settlements, for example Okrika waterfront is Toinpirima. Various non indigenes found it more convenient to call these waterfronts by the names of towns to which people depart or streets next to these waterfronts, such as Bonny waterside, Bille waterside, Nembe waterside etc etc., instead of the original name like Toinpirima.

Between 1913 and the present day, successive generations of Wakirike people have lived in these waterfront communities, investing time, labour capital and billions of naira to develop properties therein. These properties have passed from generation to generation.

In these waterfront communities there are organized structures and leaderships, for example, there are Ama Chairmen, Polo Chairmen, Chiefs, community development committees, youth bodies, women bodies etc.

I want to make it clear that Okrika people are not against development in Port Harcourt in particular and Rivers state in general. We are in total support of providing modern facilities and amenities for the citizenry. We are opposed to any large scale , social , economic and habitation dislocation of our people and communities by way of demolition of the waterfront communities in the name of development or urban renewal without any alternative fore their relocation.

We suggested to the governor that he should in conjunction with the leadership of the various communities and the Chiefs of Wakirike, redesign and restructure the various waterfronts communities with minimal disruption of lives, dislocation of people and demolition of properties.

The issue of resettling the displaced Okrika Ijaw Port Harcourt aborigines since 1913 must be addressed by sand filling the various mangrove swamps in and around Port Harcourt develop same and relocate the inhabitants of these waterfronts communities to these developed sand filled lands.

Retain and recognize the original names of the various Okrika Ijaw towns and villages as contained in the Port Harcourt agreement of 18 May, 1913, just like the Ikwerre towns involved in the said agreement. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander

We want to see the plan. This is because there are already structures that were demolished by this government like the University of Port Harcourt Teaching hospital, (UPTH) in town which was a former General Hospital, where as a young doctor I did my housemanship, and they promised to build a befitting high rise hospital with partnership with a Canadian firm, nothing there yet. The Cultural centre was demolished too and it is lying fallow. With all these we want to be sure of government good intentions. We don’t want homelessness to be created for us.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Igbo should stop marginalisation cry –Ohakwe

By Henry Umahi and Willy Eya, Sun News Online

Despite the dwindling fortunes of the nation, Mazi Tony Ohakwe, publisher of Maritime Voice, a specialized maritime newspaper, is one of those who believe that Nigeria has a bright future. He is confident that under President Umaru Yar’Adua, Nigeria would soon be reckoned with among the comity of nations.

Speaking with Saturday Sun, Ohakwe, who is also the President-General of Imo State Towns Development Association, gave President Umar Yar’Adua a pass mark in his assessment of the administration.

His remarks : “I think the president has performed fairly well but the problem is that Nigerians are always in a haste for results. But they should remember that the former Katsina governor met so many problems on ground. I would say without fear of contradiction that Yar’Adua is on the right track and he is gradually doing everything possible to put his acts together. Some Nigerians may like to judge him based on the nation’s epileptic power situation but the problem did not start now. His predecessor, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was in power for eight years and he could not fix the nation’s energy sector.

With all the noise on the Independent Power Projects, the Obasanjo administration failed to do anything positive in the power sector. By now, we ought to have been generating sufficient power.
If Ghana is celebrating 10 years of uninterrupted power supply, by now Nigeria should be celebrating at least two years of our own uninterrupted power supply. But we have to be patient with Yar’Adua who has promised that by December this year, Nigeria will be generating about 6000 megawatts of electricity.

I can tell you that once we are able to fix the power sector, other things will fall in place. It will be the beginning of our economic boom. It does not need re-emphasizing that all sectors of the economy depend on the power sector. Ohakwe also lauds Yar’Adua for allowing opposition to thrive and giving other arms of government the latitude to perform their functions.

‘On assessment of Yar’Adua politically, we have noticed within the parties that there is now a healthy opposition. The opposition now operates without any fear of harassment, intimidation and such other vices that are against the growth of democracy. The National Assembly members now carry out their jobs without any interference. They operate independently of the executive arm unlike in the immediate past administration under Obasanjo. So far, I think Yar’Adua is on the right track”.

But how can Ohakwe reconcile his optimism with the perception by many Nigerians that the administration is too slow to trigger off a change in Nigeria?
“Let us look at it sector by sector. Let us start from Yar’Adua’s effort to reform the nation’s problematic electoral process. The Justice Uwais panel on electoral reform panel set up by Yar’Adua has completed its assignment and the report is already with the National Assembly .

It is the National Assembly that should now fine-tune the reform and not the executive. On the power sector, I said before that Yar’Adua inherited the problem from Obasanjo but he is already making effort to improve the sector.
In the education sector, it is the same story under Obasanjo who was always fighting with the Nigeria Labour Congress . At several times, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was always on strike. But I want to say that if strike by ASUU can bring a permanent solution to our education sector, let it be. My only appeal is that the union should remember that Yar’Adua also inherited the situation.

I am not an apologist of the present administration but I am only trying to look at the situation objectively. I have never worked for the government and I have always being on my own. I thank God that a seasoned comrade, Adams Oshiomhole, the governor of Edo State intervened in the ASUU and federal government deadlock. You can imagine that at the height of it, some students of the University of Abuja attempted to kidnap the Education Minister, Dr Sam Egwu. There were several other crime committed during the strike that were being ascribed to students. We all know that an idle man is a devil’s workshop.

Maintaining that there seems to be some hope in the area of political power balancing, Ohakwe volunteered: “ You can see today that the political parties have level playing ground. If not, how can somebody in Ondo State who is not of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) win the governorship seat even in the tribunal? In Edo State, it was the same thing. I want to say that the political problems we are having today are caused by the elite. They are the major problem of the nation and not the down trodden.

All we need to do in Nigeria is to put the right amenities on ground. Today, we talk of bad roads but under Obasanjo, one minister allegedly spent about N300 billion on roads but where are the roads now? Would you now blame the state of roads in Nigeria on Yar’Adua’s administration?”
As a stakeholder in the South East geo-political zone, what is Ohakwe’s view of the future of Ndigbo in Nigeria?

“I would say that the future of the Igbo nation is very bright. I hate to hear people from my zone talk about marginalization. Before the civil war, Ndigbo were in control in Nigeria in all sectors. The Igbo had a say in politics, economy, business, education and any thing you can think about. It may interest you to know that before the war, the Igbo were even leading in the Nigeria Stock Market. The late Odumegwu Ojukwu was the first president of the Nigeria Stock Exchange.

So, the Igbo were doing so well but since the end of the civil war, our people developed inferiority complex. So they started feeling that they were defeated and that they were no more wanted in Nigeria. I know there were so many policies initiated by the federal government that were drawing us backwards but of recent, I want to say that our future is very bright if only we can put our house in order.

The major problem of Ndigbo now is not being together and speaking with one voice. If the Igbo nation can come together today and say look, I do not care if you are from Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi Abia or Imo, let us see ourselves as one”, he said.

He added that Ndigbo should re-strategize to hit top spot again. “To be a formidable force at the national level, we must begin to see ourselves as one. If we adopt that strategy, nobody can deny us our rights but because other tribes have known us as people who can’t speak with one voice, when it comes to political issues, they have a way of dividing us.

They know that when they dangle a carrot, we will rush at it and in the process get divided. So, the only thing that is lacking among Ndigbo is that we lack the culture of oneness and sense of unity unlike other ethnic regions. You can see that when it concerns an issue of national importance, the South West, South South and North would speak with one voice unlike the South East. Look at the case between Cross River and Akwa Ibom. They handled it with maturity. If it were to be in Igbo land, it would have led to ethnic clashes or even war. An ordinary party congress in Anambra State, look at the level of crisis it has generated.

“If you look at the people that usually criticize their governors, it is mostly the Igbos. We are good at washing our dirty linens in public. Most of our governors are performing better than their counterparts in other parts of the country but it is our own that everybody would hear about. People from the North for instance would go home and secretly advise their governors but Igbos would go to the pages of the newspapers”.

He scores the Imo ste governor, Ikedi Ohakim high in performance.
“I would say that Ohakim has done well given indices and parameters of assessment. One area he has done well is in the area of road construction and rehabilitation. I am from a community called Amucha in Njaba local government and we have had for long a very bad road network. It was Shehu Shagari sometime in 1981 that promised he was going to rehabilitate our road but he never did. It was in Amucha that we had the worst erosion case which attracted the president in 1980 or thereabout.

Subsequent administrations came and never did anything to our road. Even when we had a governor, Achike Udenwa from Orlu Senatorial zone, a good governor that did very well but the road was not rehabilitated under him. But Ohakim under six months did a lot for the people of Imo State. From statistics, he is reported to have done more roads than any governor in the past. Also, an area he has done well is in creating awareness in industrial development.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

YSU Students Headed to [Imo State University] Nigeria


A group of Youngstown State Univeristy students are headed in January to Nigeria, some to learn, some to help. But that's an expensive trip, so the criminal justice and nursing students are trying to raise some money with an art auction.

"The plane ticket is what costs the most money," said Pamela Schuster, YSU nursing professor. "So it's $1,200 for a plane ticket, and after that, it will be minimal expenses but probably another thousand or so or a little more."

Schuster said she hopes to raise money at the auction to lower costs for students wanting to make the trip. She also said the nursing students will set up and run a medical clinic.

"We bring local health care providers," Schuster said. "We bring doctors, nurses, pharmacists and bring health care to poor and underprivileged people."

But a 'once and done' trip isn't what the university is hoping for. While there, professors hope to establish a relationship with a Nigerian university. The relationship with the Imo State University will be YSU's first partnership in Africa.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nd'Igbo -- What's In A Date?

By Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

For the Igbo, prior to 29 May 1966, three important holidays were high up on their annual calendar: the Igbo National Day, the iri ji, or the New Yam Festival, and 1 October. The latter was the day of celebration for the restoration of independence for peoples in Nigeria after 60 years of the British conquest and occupation. Or, so were the thoughts predicated on this date’s designation…


The Igbo were arguably the one constituent nation in what was Nigeria, again prior to 29 May 1966, who understood, fully, the immense liberatory possibilities ushered in by 1 October and the interlocking challenges of the vast reconstructionary work required for state and societal transformation in the aftermath of foreign occupation. They had the most robust economy in the country in their east regional homeland, supplied the country with its leading writers, artists and scholars, supplied the country’s top universities with its vice-chancellors and leading professors and scientists, supplied the country with its first indigenous university (the prestigious university at Nsukka), supplied the country with its leading and most spirited pan-Africanists, supplied the country with its top diplomats, supplied the country’s leading high schools with its head teachers and administrators, supplied the country with its top bureaucrats, supplied the country with its leading businesspeople, supplied the country with an educated, top-rated professional officers-corps for its military and police forces, supplied the country with its leading sportspersons, essentially and effectively worked the country’s rail, postal, telegraphic, power, shipping and aviation services to quality standards not seen since in Nigeria … And they were surely aware of the vicissitudes engendered by this historic age precisely because the Igbo nation played the vanguardist role in the freeing of Nigeria from Britain, beginning from the mid-1930s. The commentator, Sabella Ogbobode Abidde, couldn’t have been more emphatic in summarising the thrust of the Igbo mission during the period:

The Igbo nation ha[s] attributes most other Nigerian nationalities can only dream of and are what most other nations [are] not. The Igbo made Nigeria better. Any wonder then that the Igbo can do without Nigeria; but Nigeria and her myriad nationalities cannot do without the Igbo? Take the Igbo out of the Nigeria equation … and Nigeria will be gasping for air.


The Igbo’s break with Nigeria occurred catastrophically on 29 May 1966. On this day, leaders of the Hausa-Fulani north region (feudal overlords, muslim clergy, military, police, businesspeople, academia, civic servants, other public officials and patrons), who were long opposed to the liberation of Nigeria (there were no comparable clusters of political, cultural, ideational, religious, national or racial groupings anywhere else in the Southern World, during the epoch, which had a similar, unenviable disposition of hostility to emancipation from the European occupation of their lands as the Hausa-Fulani leadership), launched waves of premeditated genocidal attacks on Igbo migrant populations resident in the north. These attacks were later expanded to Igboland itself, boosted particularly by the robust participation in the slaughter by the Yoruba, Urhobo, and Edo nations of west Nigeria as well as others elsewhere in the country.

The Yoruba support for the genocide, for instance, was a squelching cadence of opportunism. The Yoruba had been outmatched by the Igbo spectacularly in the 1930s-1960s’ Igbo-Yoruba classic, competitive “preparatory drive” to develop the high-level humanpower and ancillary resources required to run the post-conquest state after the British departure. They therefore viewed the outbreak of the mid-1966’s Igbo mass killings as welcome season to “avenge” their “loss” during the great rivalry of those three decades, clutching unto any bomb or missile available to lob, remorselessly, into an Igbo home, Igbo school, Igbo shrine, Igbo church, Igbo hospital, Igbo office, Igbo market, Igbo farmland, Igbo factory/industrial enterprise, Igbo children’s playground, Igbo town hall, Igbo refugee centre … Benjamin Adekunle, one of the most fiendish of the genocidist commanders of the time had no qualms, whatsoever, in boasting about the goal of this horrendous mission when he told a 1968 press conference, attended by journalists including those from the international media:

… We shoot at everything that moves, and when our forces march into the centre of I[g]bo territory, we shoot at everything, even at things that do not move.

Between 29 May 1966 and 12 January 1970, Adekunle and his extended trail of genocidist hordes, starting from the sabon gari-killing fields’ launch pads that were Igbo homes and churches and offices and businesses in north Nigeria to the “centre of I[g]bo territory”, 400 miles to the south, did murder 3.1 million Igbo people – a haunting tally which indeed includes those slaughtered during the Adekunleist “everything that moves”-targeting, duly promised in the infamous press briefing. As for the outcome of the “things that do not move”-assault category, the genocidists were hardly off target. Their gratuitous destruction of the famed Igbo economic infrastructure, one of the most advanced in Africa of the era, is indescribably barbaric. This was followed, subsequently (post-January 1970), by the genocidists’ implementation of the most dehumanising raft of socioeconomic package of deprivation in occupied Igboland, not seen anywhere else in Africa. The brigandage includes the following: seizure of the multimillion Igbo capital asset in Igwe Ocha/Port Harcourt and elsewhere; comprehensive sequestration of Igbo liquid asset in Nigeria (as of January 1970), bar the £20.00 (twenty pounds) doled out to the male surviving head of an Igbo family; exponential expropriation of the rich Igbo oil resources from the Abia, Delta, Imo and Rivers administrative regions; blanket policy of non-development of Igboland; aggressive degradation of socioeconomic life of Igboland (As if another empirical reminder is yet required to underscore this obviously grave situation at stake, I observe, as I write these lines, the following breaking news item flashing on my monitor from the Lagos Vanguard [Monday 16 November 2009]: “Journalists in … Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, [Enuuwgu] and Imo [central Igboland administrative regions] have threatened to embark on hunger strike to protest the bad conditions of federal roads [there]. They regretted that the failed roads [have] claimed many lives and property worth billions of naira.”); ignoring ever-expanding soil erosion/landslides and other pressing ecological emergencies particularly in northwest Igboland; continuing reinforcement of the overall state of siege of Igboland …

These latter measures, which inaugurated phase-III of the Igbo genocide, constitute one of the five acts of genocide explicitly defined in article 2 of the December 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: “deliberately inflicting upon the group conditions of life designed to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. We mustn’t fail to add, finally, that these measures were drafted and implemented largely by Yoruba economists and lawyers led by Obafemi Awolowo which included, ironically, Sam Aluko who, along with all members of his family, enjoyed the generosity of a political asylum in Igboland when his life was in serious danger during the vicious intra-Yoruba political violence of the early 1960s.

The Harold Wilson-led British government of the day underwrote this devastating stretch of genocide militarily, politically and diplomatically – from its early conceptualisation, liaising continuously with the Gowon-Mohammed-Danjuma genocidist cells of the Nigeria military at varying stages between January and May 1966, to the savage, spiralling aerial, naval and ground onslaughts on encircled Igbo population centres (the “shooting everything”-raging inferno) especially between March 1968 and January 1970. London’s strategic goal in supporting the genocide was to “punish” the Igbo for “daring” to spearhead the termination of the British occupation of Nigeria. This foundational genocide of (European) post-conquest Africa and the worst in 20th century Africa would probably not have occurred without British active involvement. It is inconceivable that a contemporary British government would continue to delay any much longer in offering its unreserved apology to the Igbo for Britain’s role in the execution of this genocide and pay reparations to the survivors.

29th day of May

29 May 1966 is undoubtedly the most tragic day in the annals of Igbo history. It was a day that the Igbo were subjected to an overwhelming violence and unremitting brutality by supposedly fellow countrymen and women. The atrocity was clinically organised, supervised and implemented by the very state that the Igbo had played such a crucial role to liberate from foreign conquest and occupation. This state, now violently taken over by murderous anti-African sociopolitical forces, had pointedly violated its most sacred tenet of responsibility to its Igbo citizens – provision of security. Instead of providing security to these citizens, the Nigerian state murdered 3.1 million of them. The anthem for the genocide, broadcast uninterruptedly in Hausa on Kaduna radio and television throughout its duration, was unambiguously clear on the principal objective of this crime against humanity:

Mu je mu kashe nyamiri

Mu kashe maza su da yan maza su

Mu chi mata su da yan mata su
Mu kwashe kaya su

(translation: Let’s go kill the damned Igbo/Kill off their men and boys/Rape their wives and daughters/Cart off their property).

Yet, this 29th day of May 1966 is also the Igbo Day of Affirmation. The Igbo people resolved on this day, the day that marked the beginning of the genocide, to survive the catastrophe. This was the day the Igbo ceased to be Nigerians forever – right there on the grounds of those death camps in the sabon gari residential districts and offices and rail stations and coach stations and airports and churches and schools and markets and hospitals across north Nigeria. They created the state of Biafra in its place and tasked it to provide security to the Igbo and prevent Nigeria, a genocide state, from accomplishing its dreadful mission. The heuristic symbolism defined hitherto by 1 October shattered in the wake of this historic Igbo declaration. For the Igbo, the renouncement of Nigerian citizenship was the permanent Igbo indictment of a state that had risen thunderously to murder its people. The Igbo could not have survived the genocide if they still remained Nigerian. They rightly chose the former course of their fate and not the latter which they cast adrift. Consequently, Nigeria collapsed as a state with any serious prospects for the future. Despite the 4 murderous years of siege, the Igbo demonstrated a far greater creative drive towards constructing an advanced civilisation in Biafra than what Nigeria has all but wished it could achieve in the past 40 years. Nigeria gburu ochu; Nigeria mere alu. Surely, Nigeria couldn’t recover from committing this heinous crime – this crime against humanity.

29 May is therefore a beacon of the resilient spirit of human overcoming of the most desperate, unimaginably brutish forces. It is the new Igbo National Holiday. It is a day of meditation and remembrance in every Igbo household anywhere in the world for the 3.1 million murdered, gratitude and thanksgiving for those who survived, and the collective Igbo rededication to achieve the urgent goal of restoration of Igbo sovereignty.

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of Biafra Revisited (African Renaissance, 2006)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Is The Igbo Language Becoming Extinct?

The Guardian [Letters]

SIR: The language of a people is their identity. We are gradually watching the Igbo language decline. In the West, the scenario is a different ball game altogether because the Yorubas are doing a lot to preserve their heritage and it is quite commendable. Children of Yoruba descent born and bred beyond these shores speak the language with so much gusto whereas their Ibo counterparts residing in Nigeria cannot speak passable Igbo language.

Parents are culpable because they are not concerned whether their children speak it or not. If this trend continues, the language will definitely become extinct with the passage of this generation. According to Michael Omolewa, 'no greater injustice can be committed against a people than to deprive them of their own language'.

Everybody comes from somewhere and the ability to identify with your people should be a mark of honour and source of pride. The English language is neither our mother tongue nor our first language. It is a borrowed language, a legacy of our colonial masters. It is the language of commerce, governance, education, etc. English undoubtedly today is Nigeria's Lingua Franca. The neglect of the Igbo language has become so bad that even moviemakers nowadays hardly produce Igbo films.

The number of Igbo films in the market has drastically reduced. As a matter of fact you hardly find them. Time was when I tried getting some for a friend abroad only to meet with disappointment at the film market. Even blockbusters such as Living in bondage, Ikuku, Taboo and Circle of Doom are no longer available. This calls for a reawakening and positive action.

Professor S. O. Unoh of blessed memory in his book 'Topical Issues in Communication Arts' posited that "Language is part of the cultural heritage that is handed down from generation to generation and it is one of the major vehicles of cultural expression. He went further to say that, 'a culture is a totality of a people's experience and language is part of culture'. The responsibility of jealously guarding and preserving our heritage is a collective venture and a task worth achieving.

The customs and traditions of a people distinguish them from others. Gone are the days when children were instructed or reprimanded before strangers in the local language. Everybody, even those with minimal education who otherwise would be more comfortable and better off speaking Igbo often make caricature of the English language in order to impress their peers. This is not necessary if we understand who we really are. We should be proud of our various dialects and languages.

Government should make it compulsory for local languages to be taught not only in government-owned schools but also in the private schools. This way, a child would have a basic knowledge of their language which will eventually evoke interest as time goes on. If those abroad who haven't set their feet on our soil could so well speak their native language, no excuse is tenable enough not to achieve the same feat here.

Ozioma Ebirim (Mrs.),

On Ojukwu and war

By Obi Nwankanma, The Orbit/Vanguard

WHEN Odumegwu-Ojukwu sneezes, the nation catches cold. That is to be expected. General Ojukwu showed his paces in war. He led one of the most famous wars of the late 20th century. General Ojukwu led the people of the former Eastern Nigeria with its majority Igbo population in a war in self-defence when they became targets of a genocidal rage.

Easterners declared secession and founded the Republic of Biafra; and for three years, fought for their lives and proudly defended their republic, but exhausted by the onslaught, lost Biafra and returned to Nigeria after the treaty that declared “no victor no vanquished” by the federal government led by General Yakubu Gowon. Nigeria, I daresay, has never fully recovered from that enterprise.

All men of conscience who fought in that genocidal war recoil from its memory. War is sweet music only to those who have never witnessed it. Only this past week, General Akinrinnade, one of the field commanders on the Nigerian side of that war publicly confessed his regrets for fighting the civil war. As a child of war myself – a war survivor – war is nightmare.

The Igbo say, “Oji oso agbakwuru ogu, amaghi s’ogu wu onwu” – simply put: those who hurry to war never stop to think that war is death. This is axiomatic and so true. General Ojukwu knows this axiom, and indeed has frequently cautioned against war and recoils from the experience. But the same Igbo, true to their dualist episteme also say, “anaghi aso mgbagbu eje ogu!” – again to put it simply: the fear of death and self-sacrifice does not prevent one from fighting a just war.

In other words, only a just war, and not a war of blame is worth the act in the Igbo cultural unconscious, because for the Igbo, war by all its implication is a great violation of the sacred law of the earth, at the end of which a necessary rite of cleansing – “ikpu aru” must be performed.

I am of course speaking about the “true” Igbo – not this generation of the Igbo who neither understands nor perhaps even values what it means to be truly Igbo, and have thus abandoned the ancient and sacred ways of the Igbo. This, of course, is a different question. But let me return to Ojukwu. Recently the General uttered what ought to be seen by all people who have ears as a timely warning.

Ojukwu used the metaphor of war. He would lead another just war, he says, in defence of the legal and democratic rights of the people, and in defence of the ethic of freedom enshrined in the notion of democracy and the ballot box. General Ojukwu was quoted on this matter after he addressed a press conference on what he perceived was an emergent shenanigan in attempts to use all manners of intrigue to undermine the democratic rights of people in Anambra state following Andy Ubah’s case, and arising from what people like Ojukwu perceive to be a potential abuse and corruption of the court process.

While some have called this use of the courts “ridiculous” others have seen it as within Andy Ubah’s constitutional rights to appeal to any court at anytime to seek interpretations and legal clarity. This right is precisely what Ojukwu vowed to defend in another war if it came to it: the right of a wider constituency and not for self-seeking politicians or processes that put to risk the foundations of the commonwealth. Ojukwu’s use of the terminology of war drew immediate reaction.

His adversary in the last war, Yakubu Gowon for instance, suddenly found his tongue, which everybody thought had been swallowed by the cat, except when he prays for Nigeria and such matters. He would, he told reporters, meet Ojukwu square feet by square feet on this matter of another war. Well, up yours Jack Gowon! That’s what Ojukwu is likely to say on this matter of meeting Jack Gowon again at war.

I think what we should have between Ojukwu and Gowon is a properly refereed boxing match at the national stadium. But on this matter of leading another resistance, Ojukwu is again right. He has called attention, in very prescient ways once more, about the dangers of using might to upturn the democratic will of Anambra people.

His synecdochal use of the terms of war merely reflect the mood of people, particularly in the East, but generally in Nigeria who have watched as their electoral rights have been abused by the use of force.

What General Ojukwu is telling Nigerians clearly is that Anambra state is a flashpoint in the emergent electoral scenario; that the PDP which since 1999, has used all kinds of illegal methods to retain power in Nigeria, through electoral fraud, intimidation, the use of corrupt judges, gerrymandering, violence, and so on, may finally bite more than they could chew with the current mood in Anambra state.

Among Ojukwu’s traducers are people like Ilochi Okafor, a former Law professor and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who has boldly called Odumegwu-Ojukwu “a security risk,” and who has followed in the lockstep of other cheerleaders in calling Ojukwu names and threatening him, and blackmailing him with history: perhaps it is all politics.

But in the incendiary mood of Nigerians, and in their anger towards the government and the ruling party, and the endgame politics of certain participants who call themselves “stakeholders” in Anambra politics, the politics of Igbo land, and the politics of Nigeria, something is about to give, and Ojukwu has again courageously given voice to this possibility.

Instead of knee-jerk responses to Ojukwu, perhaps it is time to listen carefully to his considered views. A summary of that view simply is for all these ambitious men to take a look around them and read the tea leaves: things are not likely to remain as simple as in the past in these coming elections. Anambra state is likely to prove the first test of will between Nigerians who want a transparent democratic transfer of power and a political Mafiosi which wishes to use methods of intimidation to arrive at power.

The situation in Anambra might prove to be the catalyst to some uncontainable force of anger; indeed much repressed anger by people who have been long restrained because the last war took an incalculable toll on their will for another war. But there comes a time when people, irrespective of their disdain for violence are compelled to rise and say, “No! in Thunder.” That time, says Ojukwu may just be here and now. We better listen.

15 Responses for “On Ojukwu and war”
Emeka (London) says:
November 15, 2009 at 6:19 pm@ Rotimi, what is that you scribbled below? Gowon is…blah…blah…blah…
I tell you what, a five year old son could do better. Young man, go get your head unwind from the tale-by-moonlight stories your educated but ignorant elders induced in you. If dont know, research. But if cant research nor learn, then keep quite!

That was vintage Obi Nwakanma; he is always a delight to read. Unlike other brown envelope collecting Igbo journalists who are wont to call a spade a fork in other to be in the good books of the ragamufins calling themselves ‘Igbo leaders’ and their pay masters in Abuja, in Mr. Obi, we can always trust to find a journalist that could articulate and put forward the thinking of the majority of the Igbo people.
As for Ojukwu’s timely warning, it’s only a blind person that could not have envisaged the danger Andy Uba’s mis-adventure potend for not only Anambra State but the whole of Nigeria had he succeeded. Only God knows what the headlines would have been reading now had those honourable men of law allowed themselves to be used.
Talking of those paper tiger faceless Igbo crumb-pickers and their Nigerian counterperts who foolishly went for Ojukwu’s jogular for once again seeing beyond his time, I had rather direct them to go make an unbiased and detailed research as to what contributed to causing the Nigerian civil war. Because, if they do (including some ignorant ones who contribute on this forum), they will discover that unlike the cock-and-bull stories their parents must have taught them about the cause of the war, that apart from the pre-meditated massacre of Igbos in northern Nigeria, that another contributory factor to the war was the pre-war political crisis which engulfed the then Western Region, occassioned by the protracted and often bloody rivalry between Awolowo’s Action Group supporters and Akintola’s ruling party followers. It was this regional political rivary which later slowbald into what was then known as the ‘ wild wild west’ crisis. It was to avoid a situation where the killings, looting and political thuggery could spread to other parts of Nigeria that Nzeogwu and co were forced to terminate what was becoming a truly lawless First Republic.
For even though Nzegwu’s coup was foiled by Aguyi-Ironsi and other senior military officers, the latter was himself killed in a counter-coup led by Murtala Muhammed. Thereafter, started the indiscriminate slaughter of Igbo military officers in the barracks and innocent civilians on the streets in the north and west of the country. Feeling abused and unwanted, Ndigbo naturally decided to seek refuge in their part of the country by collectively deciding to secede. Following deafening call for secession from Nigeria by the Easterners, the then Eastern Consultative Assembly, being the body governing the then Eastern Region with Ojukwu, voted unanimously On May 26, 1967 to secede from Nigeria. Ojukwu, in carring out that order officially declared the Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967. The Federal Government, led by Yakubu Gowon in response sent troops who attacked the Biafrans from the town of Garkem (close to Nsukka) on July 6, 1967. It was from thence we ended up with what is known today as the Nigerian-Biafran war, which started on the above date and ended on Januray 15, 1970.
I have decided to chronicle the above events leading to the civil war so to put paid to the lies being peddled by Ojukwu’s detractors to the effect that Ojukwu single-handedly declared a sovereign state or that the Biafrans. Just as it is lack of knowledge of Nigerian history which makes some Nigerians to suggest that the Biafrans “started the war”. Nothing could be far from the truth.
Ojukwu being a major player before, during and after that unfortunate conflict obviously knows that if the Anambra crisis is not handled with care, that it might lead to another national crisis; just as a mere quarrel between two Yoruba brothers (Awolowo and Akintola) ended up heating the polity to the extend of costing Ndigbo and other Nigerians humanly and otherwise.
So for someone like Gowon, who, like Ojukwu, lived those dark days of Nigerian history to misread what Ojukwu was implying, or to be so blind not to see the larger picture Ojukwu was portraying, means that Ojukwu is still ahead of Gowon in seeing vision today as he was when they signed the unimplemented Aburi Accord, which could have, apart from preventing the war, woud have also given the confederating Nigerian units (as agreed in the Aburi Accord) a road-map to individually and collectively pursue its goals. Sadly, it is lack of a clear-cut road-map such was outlined in the Aburi Accord and later the Ahaira Declaration by the Biafrans which is lacking amongst the Nigerian ruling class. The result is the arrested development which Ngeria has found itself since after the war ended.
If truth be told; Gowon has a lot to learn from Ojukwu, just as the Nigerians has a lot to learn from the rag-tag and malnourished Biafrans, who, despite the odds, were able to hold the Nigerian government and its western backers spell-bound for three good years. One could only imagine what the result could have been if the lonely Biafrans had the financial and military support the Nigerians had from from the west…Your guess is as good as mine.

As for the judgment itself, all I can do is to join all peace-loving and progressive Igbos to say: Our enemies has been exposed, defeated and shamed, and has been forever consigned to the dustbin of history.
kelly says:
November 15, 2009 at 5:34 pmRotimi
You sound like a bastard?, you are trained by a woman i am sure, while your father is busy marrying here and there and breeding bastards like you.
Emeka (London) says:
November 15, 2009 at 3:33 pmThat was vintage Obi Nwakanma; he is always a delight to read. Unlike other brown envelope collecting Igbo journalists who are wont to call a spade a fork in other to be in the good books of the ragamufins calling themselves ‘Igbo leaders’ and their pay masters in Abuja, in Mr. Obi we can always trust to find a journalist that could articulate and put forward the thinking of the majority of the Igbo people.
As for Ojukwu’s timely warning, it’s only a blind person that could not have envisaged the danger Andy Uba’s mis-adventure potend for not only Anambra State but the whole of Nigeria had he succeeded. Only God knows what the headlines would have been reading now had those honourable men of law allowed themselves to be used.
Talking of those paper tiger faceless Igbo crumb-pickers and their Nigerian counterperts who foolishly went for Ojukwu’s jogular for once again seeing beyond his time, I had rather direct them to go make an unbiased and detailed research as to what contributed to causing the Nigerian civil war. Because, if they do (including some ignorant ones who contribute on this forum), they will discover that unlike the cock-and-bull stories their parents must have taught them about the cause of the war, that apart from the premeditated massacre of Igbos in northern Nigeria, that another contributing factor to the war was the pre-war political crisis which engulfed the then Western Region, occassioned by the protracted and often bloody rivalry between Awolowo’s Action Group supporters and Akintola’s ruling party followers. It was this regional political rivary which later slowbald into what was then known as the ‘ wild wild west’ crisis. So to prevent the killing, looting and political thuggery from spreading to other parts of Nigeria, Nzeogwu and co stricked to terminate what was becoming a lawless First Republic. Even though Nzegwu’s coup was foiled by Aguyi-Ironsi and other senior military officers, the latter was however killed in a counter-coup led Murtala Muhammed. Then, came the indiscriminate slaughter of Igbo military officers in the barracks and innocent civilians on the streets in the nothern and western part of the country. Feeling abused and unwanted, Ndigbo naturally decided to seek refuge in their part of the country by collectively deciding to secede. On May 26, 1967, the then Eastern Consultative Assembly, being the body governing the then Eastern Region under Ojukwu voted to secede from Nigeria and gave Ojukwu the mandate to decalre a sovereign state called the Republic of Biafra. Consequently, Ojukwu officially declared the Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967. And in response, the Federal Government led by Yakubu Gowon sent troops who attacked the Biafrans from the northern town of Garkem on July 6, 1967. Ladies and gentlemen, it was from there we ended up with what is known today as the Nigerian-Biafran war.
I have decided to chronicle the above events so a to put paid to the lies being peddled by Ojukwu’s detractors to the effect that Ojukwu single-handedly declared a sovereign state or that the Biafrans were the first to fire the shots, triggering the most brutal and savage war ever witnessed in Africa…. And as they say, the rest is history.
So, Ojukwu being a major player before, during and after that unfortunate conflict obviously know that if the Anambra crisis is not handled with care, that it might lead to another national crisis; just as a mere quarrel between two Yoruba brothers (Awolowo and Akintola) ended up heating the polity to the extend of costing Ndigbo and other Nigerians humanly and otherwise. But for someone like Gowon, who, like Ojukwu, lived that dark days of Nigerian history to misread what Ojukwu was implying, or to be so blind not to see the larger picture shows that Ojukwu is still ahead of Gowon in seeing vision in 2009 as he was when they signed the Aburi Accord over four decades ago.
As for the judgment itself, all I can do is to join all peace-loving and progressive Igbos to say: Our enemies has been exposed, defeated and shamed, and has been forever consigned to the dustbin of history.
Hassan Zaria says:
November 15, 2009 at 2:17 pmThis ojukwu war beat is getting too much. Obi Nwakanma or whatever that your name is, it is high time your ibo people desist from tribal ranting. ojukwu whom Gen. Yakubu Gowon cautioned understood so what is your own? First tell ojukwu to stop gallivanting across the globe launching briafra house in exile, I have browsed the site .What Gen. Gowon and his Nigeria Pray want for Nigeria is justice, peace and not war, so you must be advised to stop your tribal bigotry. On Monday, igbo day celebration; tomorrow, igbo marginalisation and on Wednesday, igbo presidential agitation. Go and put your house in order before insulting a national leader like Gen. Yakubu Gowon.
Rotimi says:
November 15, 2009 at 11:25 amObi Nwakanma, metaphoric of war are you painting? You should be ashamed of yourself for fanning the embers of tribalism by supporting ojukwu’s senselessness. Had most respected General Yakubu Gowon not whipped your commander ojukwu to line, he would have still continue ranting. Obi Nwakanma,, Ojukwu or whatever you called him is a failure and a tribal war head, see, ( ) and you can do well to ask his town people in Nnewi about a coward who ran away from a war he senselessly started…. Obi Nwakanma, General Yakubu Gowon will never meet Ojukwu square feet by square feet rather he will defeat Ojukwu square feet by square feet. Listen attentively Obi Nwakanma, never you, your 419ners and now kidnap tribe ever try to insult General Yakubu Gowon because he cautioned your war monger. What General Yakubu Gowon stand for justice, equity and peace and will continue to pray till Nigeria attains that enviable height. NIGERIA PRAY and not war.
November 15, 2009 at 11:15 amNigeria and PDP most not try to rig Anambra election come next year. We cannot take it peaceful again. We are not saying that PDP can’t take the post if they win through free and fair election. The election must be free and fair AND BE SEEN TO BE SO. Anambra election must not be rigged for the interest of Nigerian Unity. If the election is rigged, we cannot listen the saying that indicate that INEC and PDP is not the cause. They are of Federal Govt.. In the effort of keeping what we have, we may lose what hold us together under bundage.

Prof. Ilochi Okafor is not right to call Dim Ojukwu names. He is attracting unnecessary hatred to himself by insulting his father thinking that he is practicing politics. That is why he joined PDP as a political party knowing how bad the party is. Now, look at the first mark he is making in his political first appearance. He had told better of himself and who he is and the stuff he was made of. A PROFESSOR.

Anthony From U.K.
ogaju says:
November 15, 2009 at 10:40 amObinna,
I hope Ojukwu got you a ticket for abidjan this time……
tony says:
November 15, 2009 at 10:05 amPDP retreated having hard the roaring sound of a lion Ikemba?. Every one knows what PDP plan B looks like. They wanted to use Soludo to distract peoples attention , so that before the people could open their eyes the court has ruled in their favor. Ikemba saw it and roared and the wolves retreated.
Obinna says:
November 15, 2009 at 9:29 amGen.Gowon was absolutely wrong to have said what he said about Gen.Ojukwu’s comment in respect of Andy Uba’s antics in Anambra state.For Gowon to have made such utterances,he was merely chasing shadow rather than substance.Matching Ojukwu square feet by square feet isn’t the issue.The crux of the matter is that someone with questionable character wants to become the Governor of Anambra through the manipulation the Judiciary.What’s more,should a man such Andy become the Governor,chances are that Anambra state would suffer the fate it suffered during Mbadinuju days as Governor.

As a Phd holder in Political Science from the prestigious Warwick University,I thought that Gen.Gowon would have understood what the Ikemba said and meant.This tells me that Gowon went through the motion of studying Political science.One funny thing about Nigeria,is that we always approach issues that needs to be approached with pure reasoning with emotion.

I am of the opinion that if given equal circumstances,Gen.Gowon can not match Gen.Ojukwu in a warefare.Mention must be made here that the arms and ammunitions used by the federal forces was more than the all the arms and ammunitio used by the British forces through out the entire 2nd World War.This is to showcase the extent of how well armed and equipped the federal forces were.And yet,the rag-tag Biafran forces were still able to hold them back for 3 bloody years.
Kenice says:
November 15, 2009 at 1:44 amThank you Obi. I did comment that only intelligent and descerning minds would understand what Ojukwu had to say. The good news is some of our judges are beginning to realise that they are equal “stake-holders” in the Nigerian enterprise. The bold and upright are gradually being separated from the timid and corrupt. When the proper and accurate history of Nigeria is written we know on which side Ojukwu would be found.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Uganda: Why the President is right and wrong on Bunyoro issue

By Prof. Ali Mazrui, Daily Monitor

Since my academic career was launched and nurtured in Uganda, and Uganda is the source of the Nile, I regard my professional life as a child of the Nile. I have had a special relationship with Uganda. What do I owe the country? I owe Uganda my loyalty and creative engagement. But I also owe Ugandans eternal frankness. I was after all a citizen as well as a scholar. I learnt things in Uganda which helped me understand the wider world. I also learnt things in the wider world which helped me understand problems like Bunyoro.

I was born at the Kenya Coast. When the British came we at the Coast were the most advanced part of what came to be called Kenya. We had been literate in the Arabic alphabet for centuries; the rest of Kenya had not. We had built in stone for centuries. We had experimented with monarchical institutions. We fought Portuguese imperialism and expelled Portuguese rulers from the Kenya Coast.

Why is this relevant for Uganda? Precisely because we, the Coastal people in Kenya, have memories of when we were ahead of almost everybody else. The Banyoro have similar memories.

Then came the British. They gave us some recognition but they created conditions for the eventual marginalisation of Coastal people. This became clearer after the British left. Other Kenyans moved into Mombasa and other Coastal cities. Before long the best land at the Coast, the best hotels, the best jobs were held, and the best houses on the beach were disproportionately owned by, Kenyans from upcountry.

We were even looked down upon as less hard working, less motivated, less fulfilled than new Kenyan upcountry migrants in Mombasa. The Coast, the first to be literate became the last to graduate. Kenya built six public universities but not a single one was at the Coast. I can therefore understand why the Bunyoro fear being disinherited in the land of their ancestors.

We need some kind of solution for Coastal people in Kenya, but the solution should not create other forms of injustice. And in Bunyoro a counter-productive “solution” is no solution at all.

Northern Nigerians had similar dilemmas to Bunyoro. Igbo and Yoruba from Southern Nigeria, migrated to the North, and before long seemed to outperform the Northern Hausa educationally, economically, organisationally, and in leadership. Unfortunately, Nigerians did not find a solution soon enough. There was enormous Northern resentment of Southern immigrants eventually leading to a catastrophic Northern uprising against the Southern Igbo in 1966.

My wife is Nigerian from the South and resided in the North of the country. The uprising of the Northern Muslims was in part against Southern Christians but religion was not the core issue. My wife comes from a Christian family. Her father was killed in that anti-Igbo uprising of 1966. Our own family now is an example of Muslim-Christian reconciliation, but Nigeria did not make it on time.

The country drifted into a civil war from 1967 to 1970. One of the causes of the Nigerian civil war was unequal performance between immigrant Southerners and indigenous Northerners in the early years of independence. My wife’s father was one of the casualties.

Post civil war Nigeria has been trying to find a solution to relations between what they call ‘indigenes’ and the ‘non-indigenous’ in Northern Nigeria. They have a concept called ‘the federal character of Nigeria’ which tries to have an affirmative action solution to help underperforming Nigerians in their own part of the country.

If I were advising President Museveni, I would say “You are right, Mr President, that there is a problem in Bunyoro. But, sir, we may need to re-examine the proposed solution that you have so far advanced. We must find a way of pulling up the indigenous Banyoro without pulling down the immigrant Bakiga. Mr President, let us go back to the drawing board and seek alternative answers more compatible with social justice.”

Prof. Mazrui teaches political science and African studies at State University, New York

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bankole chides Ekwueme, Achebe, Anyaoku over Anambra crisis

By Luka BinniYat, Vanguard

ABUJA—THE Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, Wednesday accused Anambra State leaders of thought and the nation’s political leadership for keeping mute over the lawlessness in the state.

The Speaker also wants securitymen to put a code on Nigeria’s crude oil for it to be detected when stolen.

Bankole stated this at a lecture, entitled: “Towards Effective Budgetary Provisions for the Realisation of the Security Component of the 10-Point Agenda.”

It was for participants of the Executive Intelligence Management Course 2 at the Institute of Security Studies, Bwari, Abuja.

“According to the 1999 Constitution, the security and welfare of the people of Nigeria is the responsibility of the state.

“But when the security of state degenerates, lawlessness and insecurity takes the centre stage,” he said.

“In Kaduna, when I made this statement, I also mentioned Anambra State. And, I am sure as leaders; we have been exceedingly unfair to that state.

”And, I ask that, where are those Nigerians of Anambra extraction that have made their names at home and abroad, like Professor Chinua Achebe, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Dr. Alex Ekwueme; how come they are silent as leaders of international repute when Anambra burns?”, he charged.

“I must confess that some time last week, I got a message from Prof. Achebe inviting me to Bryan University in Rhodes Island, state of Massachusetts, United States of America.

”I was to come and dialogue with a panel of international reputable personalities about the US and development about Nigeria and Africa.

”That is the kind of challenge we require to begin to proffer solution to our problems,” he said

Bankole noted that, almost half of our crude oil in the international market is stolen through bunkering.

“If it is to be assumed that our oil reserves is to last for a hundred years, it will now be shortened to 50 years because they would have stolen 50 per cent f it,” he stated.

“Coding is the possible answer to the menace of illegal bunkerers,” he said, adding that, “if the coding is done as was the case of “blood diamonds” in then war-torn Sierra Leone, its origin can be easily traced to Nigeria’s crude at any refinery all over the world,” he said.

“I challenge all security agencies in Nigeria to brainstorm on how to achieve this as it is a security issue with implications for the nation’s economic development and the security of the Niger Delta,” he said.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The journalist as a patriot: Onyema Ugochukwu at 65

Tribute by Tunde Olusunle & Dan Okereke, Vanguard

IF Chief Onyema Ugochukwu needed a reminder of what the ordinary Abian expects of him, the treatment he got at a recent party rally in Umuahia Central will help steady his walk through the slick trail of Nigerian electoral and judicial politics.

Thousands of supporters mobbed him like a hero and his best efforts at giving what he may have prepared as a rousing speech were mercilessly drowned by cheering voices of excited party men and women.

A shy and unassuming man, Ugochukwu soaked the deafening cheers with commendable aplomb, even as he must have wished for the crowd charming skills of his idol and kinsman, the late Dr Michael Okpara, Premier of the defunct Eastern Region, the great orator, humanist, party organizer and visionary administrator who laid the solid foundation upon which the economy of Eastern Nigeria, without mineral resources, grew faster than some Asian and Central European countries in the 60s.

Seeking neither heroism nor political domination, Ugochukwu is the most unlikely candidate for the interminable adulation and goodwill that flow to him from the common folk he encounters. Everyday, ordinary people send him solidarity messages through his mobile phones.

This account is not his official biography but we suspect he may have chosen other vocation besides politics to serve his people were the situation in his native Abia State not so dire and alarming. Actually, Ugochukwu, a devout Methodist Christian of the old order (they don’t make them like that anymore), will have much to thank God for preserving his life, anytime he gets his chance of a meeting, because having faced innumerable danger at several fronts in his remarkable life, he is entitled to believe that the Almighty is biased in his favor.

Thankfully, his belief in the potency of prayers or in God’s sovereignty has not been encroached by the development and deployment of a scientific mind. On this occasion of his 65th birthday, we join his numerous friends, associates and well wishers across the country and beyond, in wishing him many more years of meritorious service to our nation in particular and humanity in general.

Historic figure
In their preface to Andre Maurois’s biography of Benjamin Disraeli, the editors of Time Reading Programme, while applauding English stylist Lytton Strachey, set an artistic principle that “a historic figure must be evaluated for himself, not merely as an interesting symptom of his age.” Symptom of this age of political corruption he certainly isn’t.

As impressionable, idealistic young Nigerians, we are intrigued by the Onyema Ugochukwu narrative. Here is a man richly endowed by his Creator with an incredibly intelligent mind, deep perception and an uncommon persuasion of moral appropriateness.

The Ugochukwu we know is an unapologetic moral idealist who views every social and material phenomenon from the right or wrong prism. It is very easy to detect and detest a sanctimonious skew to his inquisitiveness but at the end of every mission, it becomes clear he has exercised superior judgment. His unique sense of functionalism makes him question the rationale for every action of man, which must be ethically situated.

Cerebral, urbane, charming, well-groomed and disarmingly courteous to the big and small, Ugochukwu’s cosmology is indeed universal, and humanity is his true constituency. On numerous occasions, those who have encountered Onyema Ugochukwu holding court amongst his kinsmen in his beloved Umule village, during his days as an editor or administrator in Daily Times of Nigeria; at State House Abuja as a presidential aide; at NDDC as chairman or elsewhere as a politician, will testify to the fact that his focus is farther: he would readily subsume his personal interest for the larger national interest.

Ugochukwu trained as an economist and first took appointment with the Central Bank of Nigeria as a research officer but he would locate his bearing in the newsroom of one of Africa’s most notable newspapers. Folklore has it that his mother’s serious concern that lawyers would one day die of hunger if all men became righteous, forced him to abandon studying law for economics.

Embarrassed by his decision, an uncle who first mooted the idea of his studying law now went to his mother and explained to her that “do you know that Onyema is going to the university to learn how to be a miser?” The poor woman soaked in misery all day.

Maybe the uncle had clairvoyant powers, because Onyema Ugochukwu does not suffer spendthrifts gladly. No budget will escape his dreaded red pen as many would testify from his Daily Times, Presidency and NDDC days, a trait laced with a healthy loathing for extravagance and inattentiveness. But on his love for his people, there is no holding back..

Ugochukwu is at heart a villager. Umule has benefitted immensely from his generosity. The Ugochukwus are a pillar of support for the community, a typical African village but one which has not lost its innocence. Inside the Ugochukwu family compound proper is the African extended family tradition at work. The bond of family is strong here. Everyone looks after the other. They work together, pray together, eat together, and share their gains and pains together.
His younger sibling, Ude, a successful corporate lawyer is his sounding board and although both would laugh it off, probably his closest confidant.

His charming wife of 30 years, Joyce, a medical doctor and mother of his four children, two boys and two girls, is never too far from his side. Ugochukwu’s illustrious career in Daily Times spanned twenty eventful years during which colleagues and subordinates illustrated him as a thoroughbred professional, an editor’s editor, merit-driven, man of integrity, etc.

Ugochukwu would team up with Dr Yemi Ogunbiyi and Dr Chidi Amuta to make Daily Times the newspaper of quality it was then. Younger elements remembered that Ugochukwu would not meet any visitor until he had first gobbled all the news in all the newspapers stacked high on his table.

God help the reporter who missed a good story. Olusunle counted himself as one of the lucky Ugochukwu/Ogunbiyi boys, alongside Femi Olatunde, Segun Ayobolu, Gbenga Ayeni, Femi Ajayi, Afam Akeh, Felix Omorogbe, Chijioke Amu-Nnadi, Tunde Kaitell and others, but even he could not escape Ugochukwu’s celebrated sharp eye for a good copy. In 1991, Olusunle was assigned to write on the centenary of the legendary King Jaja of Opobo.

On his return from the Island, he filed his report, which was splashed on the Sunday Times magazine. The morning after, Ugochukwu accosted Tunde along the corridor and incredulously barked at him “Are you back”? Thinking Ugochukwu had not seen the Sunday magazine feature for which he had been lavishly commended by readers, Olusunle replied, “Yes sir, am back and you should have seen the Sunday Times magazine.” Ugochukwu’s face was deadpanned. “How did you get to Opobo?”

Tunde explained how he flew in a plane from Lagos to Port Harcourt, rode by car to Bodo in Ogoniland and travelled by speedboat to Opobo. “Do you realize you covered three of the four known means of transportation on that single trip? I want to read your experience, a travelogue, with photographs. How about the social life? Did you meet human beings where you went? Don’t they have nightclubs in Port Harcourt? Do me a social diary. When this organization sends a writer of your caliber on an assignment, that is the minimum we expect in return”. Typical of Ugochukwu, he managed to squeeze out, not one, but three stories from one single assignment.

Even more significant for the Nigerian media, especially for media-government relations under the military, was Ugochukwu’s great efforts at promoting dialogue between men of the pen and the sword. One testy case was the arrest and incarceration of Chris Mammah, then editor of The Punch. In the aftermath of the aborted Gideon Orkah coup in April 1990, The Punch, noted for its riveting cartoons, had published a cartoon depicting Nigerians’ reaction to the news that Orkah’s coup has been crushed as moody and despondent.

The bosses of the Directorate of Military Intelligence were not amused at all and they clamped Mammah in detention for his mistimed sense of humour. These were the heyday of frosty, even hostile media-military relations. Ugochukwu, as president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, mobilized his members to reach out to contacts in government to set Mammah free. He initiated a pattern of dialoguebetween the two mutually suspicious groups to ease tension and improve relations. Those were the days of Generals Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, Halilu Akilu and Kunle Togun.

Ugochukwu became the first editor of Business Times and brought a new definition to business reporting in Nigerian journalism. Under his tutelage, Ndu Ughamadu, Kunle Bello, Emeka Odo and Wole Olatimehin flourished and became authorities in financial/business journalism in their own right. Ugochukwu did not merely edit a great, readable business newspaper; he introduced editorial activism into the pages, championing causes for frugal spending, accountability, judicious use of oil revenue, economic nationalism, and so much more. Later, he was posted to London to edit the West Africa magazine and after four years on the saddle, handed the title to Mr Ad’Obe Obe, another of the country’s celebrated editors with whom he would cross paths later in the State House.

On return to Nigeria, Ugochukwu was appointed editor of Daily Times, fulfilling the prophesy of the iconic Alhaji Babatunde Jose, ‘father’ of Daily Times of Nigeria. It was under Ugochukwu’s watch as general manager, Times Publications Division, that the group recorded the highest profit in its history. How did he manage that feat? Somebody should call him to write us a memoir to guide today’s younger media managers.

Ugochukwu’s lifelong zeal to help build a solid national economy saw him serve meritoriously on the Board of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. But it was as President of the University of Nigeria Alumni Association, Lagos Branch that he got the real chance he always desired to make a lasting contribution. On the day he took over the reins of the Association’s leadership, he inherited a N12,000 deficit, which his predecessor, Professor Pat Utomi, another ‘Great Lion’ of Esteem, graciously paid from his personal pocket.

But by the next financial year, the Association had earned N600,000 and N1.2m the following year. The Alumni Association set up a scholarship scheme for indigent students, as well as a foundation to revive the moribund bakery factory in the Nsukka campus, alongside other commercial ventures. Ugochukwu’s foray into national politics in October 1998 was as controversial as it beamed a searchlight into the workings of his inner mind. Close associates say he will never shirk from a tough decision just because it could be misunderstood.

His career as a chronicler of history must have taught him that time educates better than gut feeling. When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo accepted to run for president, he naturally inherited the structures of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Campaign Organization which had laid out directorates manned by such personalities as Professor Babalola Borishade, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, Professor Tunde Adeniran, Chief Yomi Edu, Dr Haroun Adamu, etc.

When it came to the headship of the Media Directorate, such familiar names as Dr Patrick Dele Cole and Dr Stanley Macebuh were suggested but Obasanjo preferred to send the other gentlemen to other tasks. General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, a long time friend of Ugochukwu’s from his Daily Times days who was a key figure in the ‘Obasanjo for President’ project and later in the Obasanjo government was instrumental to Ugochukwu’s emergence as head of Media Directorate. But it was not a quiet choice.

Ugochukwu’s romance with Obasanjo was seen as treacherous by many of his Igbo kinsmen who believed the Igbo nation should deploy all its human resources to back a presidential candidate of Igbo extraction. It was an absolutely courageous decision, maybe adventurous but certainly risky. Ugochukwu still bears the brunt of that fateful choice till date.

However, it was a decision he thought through in his methodical manner, balancing pragmatism with patriotism. If an Igbo was going to be president of Nigeria why can he not pick a media chief from Nasarawa, Bayelsa or Ekiti? Clannishness manacles the entrepreneurial Igbo spirit and should be grossly offensive to someone who graduated eminently from the Daily Times system where meritocracy nearly always triumphed over parochialism. When President-elect Obasanjo privately hinted Ugochukwu of his decision to appoint Dr. Doyin Okupe as chief press secretary, Ugochukwu conceded to the president his prerogative to appoint anyone into any position and praised Okupe as a bright professional (although a medical doctor), but quietly suggested the pair of Chris Mammah and Tunde Olusunle, as “my own choice if I were asked to make one.”

Contrary to popular belief that President Obasanjo dumped Ugochukwu soon after his election, he continued to seek a more elevated position for him. Ugochukwu could not be named minister because Abia already had two members in the cabinet. Chief Ojo Maduekwe, minister of culture and tourism, later of transportation, was nominated by the party, and Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, minister of economic affairs, then of the ANPP, was a product of “government of national unity”.

But Obasanjo bidded his time. With the successful passage of the NDDC Bill which provided for a chairman from one of the member states in alphabetical order, President Obasanjo sent Ugochukwu’s name for confirmation since Abia was first in that order. The opposition this time was from unexpected quarters. The Abia State governor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, had his own candidate. Together with some of the three Abia senators – Bob Nwannunu (ANPP), Ike Nwachukwu and Adolph Wabara (PDP), they waged a ruthless battle to scuttle Ugochukwu’s nomination twice. The third time, however, Ugochukwu managed to rally forces to overpower their resistance and scaled the nomination without any hiss.

Ugochukwu will claim his place among the pantheons of nation builders with his pioneering work as NDDC chairman. He was determined that NDDC must not repeat the grave mistakes in conception and expectation deficit which destroyed the credibility of previous intervention agencies. The difference was in engineering a new theoretical paradigm which would at once deliver infrastructure remediation, youth empowerment, community survival, ecological sustainability, trust in leadership and belief in the sincerity of government.

Rather than sustain the narrow focus of its predecessors, Ugochukwu’s NDDC emerged a holistic and integrated regional development agency which aimed at transforming the entire Niger Delta region into an interdependent, organic, socio-economic, ecological, growth community.

It was important to re-educate the peoples’ mind to appreciate a sense of community where goals are shared. While the specific needs of core oil bearing communities are being addressed, it was important to appreciate the contribution of outlaying communities which hosted oil and gas pipelines and where oil workers lived or passed through. It was on this basis that a suitable revenue sharing formula was arrived at.

From its budget, Ugochukwu’s NDDC allocated projects and other interventions on the basis of 20 per cent on the equality of states; 35 per cent on volume of oil produced; 10 per cent as NDDC operating expenditures; 10 per cent on income capacity enhancement; and 25 per cent for projects with regional impact.
*Tunde Olusunle and Dan Okereke contributed this tribute from Abuja

Saturday, November 7, 2009

How God saved my life during NADECO struggle, by Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu


*Says true federalism is the answer to Nigeria’s problems
*Reveals how Lagos negotiated right of pipeline way with FG
*‘What Igbos want for Nigeria’
We will not bore you with any introduction to this interview. Admiral Godwin Ndubuisi Kanu, former military governor of old Imo State and Lagos State,was a National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, chieftain.
But you would only need to feel his frustration at what is called the Federal Republic of Nigeria,which is not federal in any form. Excerpts:

THE Federal Government of Nigeria is, again, proposing to deregulate…?

(Cuts in) I have kind of got to a stage whereby there are so many things I consider distractions and the matter of deregulation for me is distraction and that is without prejudice to all those who can solve or complicate the matter and they may want to do so either in the interest of all of us or to the detriment of all of us. Why do I say that? This is not the first time we are talking about deregulation. Almost every year we talk about it. Each time it appears there is some posh poll towards keeping some heat on the polity. The price may go up, fuel may be scarce: This may happen; money may be saved to put into the infrastructure and all kinds of reasoning. I don’t think there is nothing you and I have not heard before, rightly or wrongly. I have heard enough of it, I don’t know about you. For me now it is a distraction.

If it’s a distraction, you probably consider some issues more pressing than this, what are these issues?

For me, the other pressing issues, at the risk of repetition, at the risk of sounding like a broken record is for the full realization of federalism. We have no choice. What are the burning issues? There is something wrong – in fact so many things should be right but something is wrong and things are just getting wrong. In this day and age, this is not when this kind of a country where the people, the young ones, the aging ones like us and the much older ones above us should be discussing deregulation or otherwise in a country like this. We are in a country where we have groups of people who are highly endowed to live together but still different people, and we are trying to run them like one village. For me, both empirically and historically, I am saying unless we do some things we have a big problem on our hands. The first and major thing to be done is to take this country back to the only way it became a country and the only way it can continue. I will not be surprised even if some people reading this now do not understand what I am saying.

Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu...the matter of deregulation for me is distraction

There were not many skyscrapers around then, there were not private jets around then but there were some things that were really intrinsically different and better for the growth of the country towards nation building. If we want things to improve, we have got to go back to federation which we are not and which is not being run right now, we only answer that in name. We are running a unitary system of governance in the country.

You were once military administrator of Lagos State, what was it like then and especially within the context of the military which struck in 1966 and buried federalism?

Lagos is only a small portion of the country called Nigeria and Lagos is a small portion of Yoruba land. We are all here in Yoruba land. But to take the issue of Lagos in isolation, a Yoruba land and isolation with the country Nigeria does not solve the issue, it does not address the problems, the fundamental dimension. Yes, not by choice, I was appointed the military governor of Lagos before then I was military governor of old Imo State. Military rule is an aberration and uncalled for. I do say to people that even when I was military governor of old Imo and Lagos States, there was still what I was something like federalism. The edicts I passed in Imo State derived their powers from the constitution of Eastern Nigeria as amended by military rule. The one I passed here in Lagos derived theirs from the constitution of Western Nigeria and Lagos colony.

Despite the military administration, we were running a federation like Eastern, Mid-West, Western, Northern, those areas aggregated the different peoples of this country but equally when Mid-west was carved out of Western Nigeria, some parts of Yoruba people in the then area of Kwara, Yoruba people in Cotonou side, what was left of Western Nigeria was Yoruba region, full stop. And people, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa were living there but that does not still change the fact that it is a Yoruba region.

It had its own coat of arms, constitution, it didn’t stop the lives of people that were not from Yoruba land but it helped the enhancement of the development and I don’t mean infrastructure but the development on the man and woman and the development of patriotism towards a nation state to be grown called Nigeria; this is because so far we are just a country not a nation. In fact, the issue of withholding fund for Lagos State would not have arisen if this was a true federation. Federal government, mind you, had no business withholding anybody’s money, no. In any case the money for the federal government job was money contributed, it didn’t have money to distribute but where we are now, as we talk, governors in your state, my state, our states and Lagos but most states are counting how much will be given to them at the end of the month, that is not how it should be and I want to tell you that in those days when I was governor of Lagos, federal government would come to negotiate for pipeline right of way. General Buhari and I would sit at the opposite end of the table, the NNPC boss, we would negotiate, what we agreed upon, we told them. That is federalism. We have got a stage now that at one stage every river in your area is now declared to belong to a nebulous something called federal government.

What are you, advocates of federation, doing to actualise this push, apart from discussing it like this?

What we are doing at the moment is to try to let people know that it is important to avoid what would then happen if we don’t get to tell everybody. It is not as if we are a group of people trying to pursue it. It is a function for all of us. Why I am saying what I am saying is for you, your readers to try and understand and for all Nigerians to be focused that if we want to build a country to a nation state, there are some things we have to do. If you make peaceful change impossible, you are just directly, there are no two ways about it, you are encouraging violent change. So long as we increase the indices for peace, you reduce indices for disorder and violence. If you look at the country you will see that there are some things happening. Some people think of change and the next thing they think about is the violent Niger-Delta. Nobody supports violence but you have to go down to why. Boko Haram, is that what they call it? You have to ask why? There is no need arresting and all of that, no no no. Ask why. Violence is not good but ask the why. When you look at insecurity ask the why.

Sober reflection

If you look at other things ask the why. I don’t know about your own assessment but that is my own findings, and that is, last year is better than this year and if I go by the way things are looking now, obviously, you stand to reason that this year will be better than next year. If you are in a situation like that, it calls for sober reflection and commitment. We have to look at all the issues and the most critical is that there is need for us to have a constitution.

Kanu...If we want things to improve, we have got to go back to federation which we are not...

This country had before, at some points, constitutions – Eastern, Western, Mid-western, Northern Nigeria. Right now as we all know that it is being said that the National Assembly wants to amend the constitution. Which constitution? We have something we are using but it should be seen as just a working document, as a passing phase and not a constitution of Nigeria. More so when you say Federal Republic of Nigeria you can’t, therefore, not amend one constitution because it is a federation. In fact when newspapers come together to form association, you did so because by being an association you gain more than being an individual operating alone; if you are going to lose why would you join an association? But in the case of Nigeria, there are different peoples. I am Igbo man without any apology to anybody. You are Yoruba, you have no reason to apologize to me for being one. For the country, the only thing is to be a federation whether by colonial or amalgamation, we were all brought together but in bringing us together, that is where we now say what do we want the centre to do? Some will say there is too much power in the centre or return some power. No, it is not a question of gift.

At what point in time would you say Nigeria started getting it wrong or was it just a sudden change for the worse?

For me, I will say within the second stage of the General Babangida tenure, things started going that way. It increased in intensity under the maximum ruler that followed, hope you know who it is because sometimes we forget, General Sani Abacha of blessed memory. Don’t forget that Nigerians – civilians, men and women – who were scheming for, applauding, in order to have five leprous fingers of the same hand, were prepared to work towards his becoming a civilian president. Then we moved from there to what you call brief interregnum, same military and still in the same zone, Abdulsalami, then we ended up with Baba and in that process, it was a question of cementing the process even though he wanted to cap it up with third term which would have made the matter worse.

So in terms of time, that is what has happened but the same is happening the same way you can see I keep asking, whether it is men or women, any of the ethnic groups in the country, which of the professional bodies in the country is happy the way the country is going? For me, I will say there is none. And when that is the case, it creates its own problems. In the past when baba was there and did his eight years, a child who was 15 years then would have been 23, I wish you can tell me what you have seen positive in the body politic of Nigeria? Instead we have been advancing from assassination, kidnapping, insecurity, militancy. Then we have vision this, vision that, budget will be made, everywhere will be made Eldorado, within those eight years but if you look back, may be some of you will say there is GSM, that is not what I am talking about.

Recently, you and some people together with General Akinrinade came up with Change Nigeria. What do you have in mind? Is that going to kick start the process of achieving that dream you are talking about or is it one of those talks?

Yes, not only in terms of actualizing it. From all sober analysis, we are fully convinced that it is something that has to be pursued by all of us. For some of us there is the sense that we had a chance to see a Nigerian country of hope towards a nation state and we are seeing one. Somebody may say we are alarmist, there is a danger that you may now have a situation in which whatever left over of patriotism towards building the Nigerian country to nation state, would have reached a point of dissipation and death where by you can’t revive it and if you go to other places that should run like a federation but fail to, you find out that it is not usually a welcome thing and it appears we heading there. Yes, what we have come up with is what we believe should be the solution. And in any case, what we have come up with is what inevitably we should do. And to appreciate that matter is for the country to go back how it started. Infact, permit me to say that our first national anthem which says: Nigeria we hail thee, though tribes and tongues may differ in brotherhood we stand … That Nigeria we hail is a country but to build a nation, that is what we should be, but the way and manner it is going, it will be such that in years to come if we go on this way, it may not be too far from now that it, you then would have those who will not be thinking about building that nation. But we have to change Nigeria at the moment and we are saying that there has to be a federation because it is better to do so quickly and that is to realize that there are peoples living in accordance with United Nations or otherwise our local situation which if you don’t take time you now find out that there will be fissiparous tendencies, even from unexpected quarters.

How do you reconcile the unity of Nigeria and the Igbo call for the presidency?

I know that Igbo want a federal Nigeria right? For the interest of all of us, one thing I will say is this: Igbo have never met, at any point, past or present, discussing how to cheat any other nationalities in Nigeria and let us also say the fact that they are the people you will find in the most remote nooks and cranny of the country. The Igbo want federal government through Nigeria . Next, somebody has to be president of the place. There are no reasons why an Igbo person should not be. Look, if it is good for the country for an Igbo man to be president, you are only delaying the good thing for the country for another 50 years when you say you don’t want him to be. But we Ndigbo are not prepared for that either. Enough is enough. But the Igbo presidency should not be on the altar of federalism, no.

It is not to have our turn either, no. If it is to have a turn, then we can as well go to everybody particularly where you once had the presidency. Tell me who after his turn has made everybody happy. As of today, nobody can tell me that in Katsina they are all happy because Yar’Adua is from Katsina. There are things to be done throughout the country. It is not a question of having our turn. That is not what we are talking about. If you shift from that and talk about MASSOB, then I will tell you that there are some people that, at the mention of the name MASSOB, they get worried. I will talk about MASSOB because you have to listen to what they are saying and what are they saying? We want the sovereignty of Biafra. For me, I will say let us go back to cause and effect. What they are saying is equity and just and equity and just doesn’t know Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo man, it doesn’t know any ethnic coloration.

How did you find yourself in the Navy because your mentality and the way you’ve spoken does not tally with the typical military mentality of unitarism?

I went into the military as a profession and we loved the profession and definitely I will finish my tenure because it is a profession in which you do your best and come out of active service.

when I was governor of Lagos, federal government would come to negotiate for pipeline right of way...

I am an admiral, not retired admiral, I am admiral retired from active service of the Nigerian Navy. If you look around the world, even the countries we refer to as America, the real democrats all over the place are also ex-military. When you finish what you are doing, we are all political by nature. Everything about politics concerns all of us. Concerning your other question, of course a lot needs to be done to really mobilize people, mobilization including even making people understand because surprisingly because of so many years since the first military intervention and there after going on slowly to the point whereby you find from your backyard and mine, there are people who all they care for is getting into the system and see what they can get from it. But in the long run, some of them get it but also see the futility of it all. I want to make an appeal to them through you that we are available for discussions on the matter and whenever we do come out which we will be doing consistently now, nothing to do with self aggrandizement, we are not looking for any office.

How can Nigeria, in concrete terms, achieve true federalism?

We need the nationalities to go back and draft their own constitution and that is not a difficult thing to do. Many times it has been tried but many times cut short. Abacha’s national conference with full constituent powers would have been our best option but what happened on the long run? The last section of the decree says when you finish you pass your deliberations to the Provisional Ruling Council. From there you pass it to Abacha to approve or amend and that changed the whole issues. Obasanjo called his own national political reform committee which really could have led us to that. The opposite of not going back to federalism is dis-amalgamation. I am one of those who used to be very annoyed because of this issue of federalism.

You are already sounding angry?

The anger I am sounding is the anger that we should be better, far, far better than what we are now, that is the only way we can get there.

During the war, what single most significant event would you want to recall?

It will be a question of so many events and circumstances. At the end of the war, General Gowon announced no victor no vanquished, two days to the end of the war, Igbo were traveling all over and when the war ended there was no guerrilla warfare going on. Igbo didn’t fight to break away from Nigeria. If you look at our young men and women all over the country from the 70s to the mid 80s, you can see that there was a build up of a nation state whereby you could see where people that were Nigerians who are now aging like me but much younger than I am, you could see that build up of what you can consider as their common purpose.

Matter of equity

If you put it across that there was a war, they will tell you then that that common purpose, there was something that made it and, therefore, I go back to them regarding the war and the cause of it, it was a matter of equity and justice. And that equity and justice is only actionable, feasible, workable only under a federal arrangement. It was when the system tried to get away from the federal arrangement that problem arose .

What led to you relocating from your house during the NADECO era to another place during the Abacha era?

It was an era that no Nigerian of whatever tribe or whatever geographical area, of whatever profession should wish and pray for a repeat. I think every Nigerian from whatever tribe, whatever ethnic village should play a part to see that it does not happen again. Some people will say one is alarmist if you say it will happen again but if you let it happen it will happen again. It does not have to be military. You can’t wake up Abacha, it may even be one Okoro, or Ogedengbe or Abdulahi. Regarding change of venue but you see you have a system in which some people think they are even pleasing the power that be or the system that be and even commit worse thing that they were not supposed to commit. It was a tough time but then it was the almighty that keeps all of us. Yes, we were having the meeting. I have heard here and there whatever happened but it was a question of whenever it was more prudent to shift venue, we shift venue. There were times when we would be assembling and somebody would call in a very sarcastic way to indicate they were there. Definitely it is a story of its own. Anybody who was mature would have felt the cringe of that era.

You were lucky to be alive, some of your colleagues were not, some even lost property?

First and foremost, it was God. I know once I had goose pimples because then, I was driving myself even though I had a driver. I reached a point there at Onikan, as I was passing the stadium, I saw a 505 Peugeot. As I got to Awolowo Road, I still noticed the car but I just went on to where I was going. I don’t know how and when the vehicle passed ahead of me. I was on one side of the road when the car came close to me and somebody in the car shouted to me, Admiral Kanu, how are you? I just waved back to him but it was a very remarkable face until I saw the face years later on television. I had goose pimples, but what made him change his mind from shooting me, only God knows.

Who was that?

Somebody. Then talking about property, you know people have their own way. You know you can’t carry a house away. You can take off the roof but the land is there. I am one of those that property means nothing to. I am not saying this to please anybody. In terms of those who lost property, I don’t bother about that because on the long run even as years pass by, you will even need less apart from the air you breathe in because you never take more or less and you can never store it. As big and small as you are, that Okada rider breathes the same as you are. That leper does the same thing. In fact he is also busy messing the air as you are. You see, the day you think you are so powerful, then you can get somebody to sleep for you, eat for you, but the day somebody will bathe you, of course you know you know you have no power because you are old.

Would you say on percentage bases, ratio bases 1 to 10, that the people of Nigeria were supportive of the opposition, say during Abacha days?

My answer or surmise is that majority of Nigerians didn’t like what was going on during the Abacha days, that is what is called opposition. If for instance most Nigerians liked what was happening, no matter how long we shouted, it would not have worked. But then if we were the ones holding the reign of power, we may even be the ones who are the opposition to Nigerians. I am not a political party person but when we talk of opposition, those who may, I have used the word may, it is left for you to read whether will be or have been, those who may be in position of authority may be the ones who are really in opposition to the peoples of Nigeria.

In terms of governance, which of the successive governments would you say was better?

As I sit here, I am not judging any government. Issues for me have gone beyond judging government. What does it profit this country to start judging this one or that one. We have problems on the ground. I have said it before and that is, the structure we have in Nigeria is such, if you like put a genius, combined with an angel, if you bring Obama here, he will fail, if you don’t change the structure. I am not judging anybody on governance. I want to say that the structure is the problem because it does not even enhance goodness.

Kanu...Igbo have never met, at any point, past or present to discuss how to cheat any other nationalities in Nigeria

Views on re-branding Nigeria?

If the minister of information was here, this is what I would still be saying. If the president was here, I would not say anything different because when you talk of re-branding, what are you re-branding and what brand are you heading for? Here is a country which you could hold your head high, there are people from different parts of Nigeria who are outside there making waves in all fields of human endeavour but who are now feeling bad at what is happening in their country. It is not a question of preaching, it is a matter of what can be done and those things to be done I repeat myself we have been going backward, going forward and all that, if we don’t return to federalism in which the centre is dependent on the common goodwill of a group of people called Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Ibibio and many more. So, the first port of call, you restructure Nigeria, not federal Nigeria and that restructuring is not developing something new but to go back to basics.

Would you say the NADECO to which you belonged made a strategic error by not seizing the moment at the commencement of the Abdulsalami transition?

What NADECO was pursuing was the real thinking and desire of Nigerians from all over. Nigerians wanted to end military rule, why? Anybody can go and deceive himself to say Abiola did not win the election, if you like continue to deceive yourself to prove. That is your business because you know you are deceiving yourself. Abiola won the election and I must also say that NADECO was not there just for Abiola to become president, no, no. A major plank for him to even win was that this country would go back in the interest of everybody to federation. That was supposed to be the first thing of the Abiola government. In the process, the man died. Hope you know the one I am talking about, not the one of Wole Soyinka. Then, you had Abubakar and people heaved a sigh of relief. That issue of don’t say ill of the dead, Nigerians jubilated, that is the truth, even in his compound. We became one in the same process when the other man died, though his own death is with quotation. That created a different scenario, and of course those who had to maneuver did but again within all this, one must remember General Obasanjo was given all the chance and goodwill by Nigerians. Why? Because they just wanted that change to take place which of course was squandered by going unitary. If he is here, I will say the same thing.

There is clamour for additional states particularly from the Igbo states, what is your views?

My view? There are various zones in this country. There is one called South East. There was a time we had one called South Eastern State. Now all the zones have got six states each while one has seven up there. Igbo need one more to balance up. This matter of creating additional state in Igbo land does not change what I said the Igbo want a federal Nigeria. Part of what is not federalism is you allocating money, that is not federalism. In federalism, you contribute money. You seize their money, even local government money. For me it is not a question of south east wanting additional state. It is a balance of states. If you create one in south east and go create another one somewhere else, you have to add one more to us. We are asking for additional state in order to make the balance and this is without prejudice to federalism.

How about what is happening in Anambra State? Is it not a reflection of what is to come in the general elections of 2010?

What is happening in Anambra, some people will say what is happening with these Anambra people? There is nothing wrong with the Anambra people, in fact there is nothing like Anambra people, they are Igbo people. Anambra is purely an administrative and geographic area of Igbo land in the country Nigeria. The only people who can describe themselves as Enugu people are those of the south. There is nothing wrong with the Anambra people. If a political party any one, comes out with 500 candidates, that is their business. There is nothing wrong in that. Some will say they are not together, what for? It is the party issue, I don’t think one should make so much noise about that. The important thing is that will they ultimately go through the democratic means? But again, I ask what democracy means. There is nothing happening in Anambra except the political parties, that is all. You see, changing the electoral laws as you like, bringing out the best practices in the world and adapt it here, it will not solve the problems without going back to federalism. Because under unitarism there are many functions, security and others which are also accumulated and fixed. That will not let you have a free and fair election. Tell me who after his turn has made everybody happy. As of today, nobody can tell me that in Katsina they are all happy because Yar’ Adua is from Katsina.