Thursday, July 29, 2010

Slow Road To Heaven

Uchenna delivers Springs' first Ethiopian eatery and divine flavors, at its own pace

By Mathew Scniper, Colorado Springs Independent

No more Denver drives, or, for the uninitiated, no more wondering about those meals minus utensils. Uchenna has arrived in Old Colorado City, and the Nigerian Igbo translation, "God's will," speaks to more than just owner Maya Hetman's answered prayer for a place to establish her own restaurant.

After one bite of her doro wat — small chicken legs smothered in a heavy, mole-like butter and red wine sauce spiked with a berbere spice mix, more undisclosed spices, ginger, garlic and onions — you sense that only a higher power could be responsible for such a soul-warming, brilliant combination of flavors that so gorgeously capture heat, earthiness, richness and, well, love.

"I cook with my heart," says Maya, who insists on going by her first name as she visits with us near the end of her usual double shift. "I don't do this for money, but because I love cooking and feeding people and having my family around me."

Coming from anyone else, this statement might sound like empty PR or cliché. To understand the difference when she says it, you have to come in from Colorado Avenue, walking between bookcases lined with decorative tiles (sold to raise money for fistula sufferers in her home country), to have a seat at one of Uchenna's simple, bare tables.

Scratch and sniff

Native to Ethiopia's Eastern Harer region, one of eight children and a speaker of nine languages, Maya is unlike anyone else you'll ever meet. She radiates a disarming and endearing sweetness, even hugging you upon departure. Eating at Uchenna offers a unique restaurant experience in part because of her charm and sincerity.

But it's unique also in flavor, even if you're familiar with other Ethiopian spots. Here's why, and something you need to understand before enduring the industry-defying, potentially infuriating and lengthy wait times inherent to the outfit: This is slow food, and the most tangible definition of the gastronomic movement's core principles I've seen locally, to date.

"You're literally walking into my home when you walk in that door," says Maya, who doesn't actually live in the building, but does take all the time she needs to produce and serve her mostly organic, from-scratch and gluten-free food. We waited more than an hour for anything besides orange water iced tea and rosewater lemonade samples to hit the table one night. (Both, by the way, are floral and delicious and well worth the $1.50 for a full size.) She and her daughter, a high school senior, do all of the cooking, pastry baking and serving of eight tables, with a little side-work help from her husband and college-aged son.

She says that by tradition in her province, women are taught how to cook and execute all of the family recipes. Those recipes stay guarded, meaning I can't tell you much more than the menu does; Maya politely deflects ingredient queries. She does, however, share a story about a local Ethiopian man who recently dined at Uchenna and said her doro wat is the best he's ever had.

Start to finish

Looking past the chicken, Uchenna offers beef, lamb and seafood Ethiopian plates as well as an equally long vegetarian list. There's also a Mediterranean menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and pasta and pizza (a few in each category), from which we only sampled an excellent bowl of French onion soup and a unique gyro (each $7) that sports delicious, thin-sliced beef strips in a fluffy pita with pickled vegetables.

The best way to sample the Ethiopian fare widely is to add a meat dish ($8.25 to $12.50) to a vegetarian combo ($12.75); all orders are served family-style on a large metal platter lined with injera, a spongy, pancake-like, fermented teff-flour bread that's also served on the side for pinching and scooping food.

The combo features variously spiced and sauced and uniformly interesting miser alecha and miser wat (both lentil dishes), shro wat (ground chickpeas) and atakilt 1 (string beans) and 2 (cabbage and potatoes). The yebeg alecha (lamb) and shrimp/scallop plates should be tried after the doro wat, the latter featuring a dark, lovely awaze paste made with berbere and other spices.

Samboussas (a generous four for $3) make a nice starter, with chopped cheese, veggie, beef or chicken inside pastry triangles. Save room for one of the best baklavas around, as well as delicate and delicious sargili (rolled baklava) and katayef (almond, pistachio and honey in a shredded wheat wrap) for dessert (each $1.99).

I could have written paragraphs trying to describe each flavor and the intricacies of these colorful dishes, but I'd rather you discover them on your own, now that you know a little about Maya. I will say that Uchenna's opening is the most exciting and vitalizing for our food scene since the Curry Leaf brought us a taste of Sri Lanka. Be patient, and a spectacular woman and cuisine will open like flowers before you.


Old Colorado City 2501 W. Colorado Ave., #108

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nwabueze On A Nigerian Revolution


Just how acute and unbearable the deficits in our national circumstances have become was driven home recently when Ben Nwabueze, erudite scholar and professor of constitutional law, called for a bloody revolution in Nigeria. It was on Wednesday July 7 on the occasion of the public presentation of his book, Colonialism in Africa: Ancient and Modern, published in two volumes. But he was instantly opposed by his colleague on the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), Lt.-General Theophilus Danjuma, who disagreed with him on the way out of Nigeria’s political and economic quagmire. Alarmed at the unspeakable rate of corruption in the Nigerian system, Nwabueze, an elder statesman and pioneer Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, and also a leading member of The Patriots, a group of eminent Nigerians crusading for enduring change in the country, insisted that only a bloody revolution could halt the decadence in governance.

He expressed shock at what he called “the looting spree” at the National Assembly, “where lawmakers vote billions of naira to themselves while those who voted them into the House live in abject poverty”. According to him, “people who were voted to serve the country go there to loot – you need to know what we (members of PAC) now know.” Announcing that the deterioration in the state of affairs is such that the country has been listed among 11 failed states in Africa and 17 failed states in the world, Prof. Nwabueze argued that only a violent revolution like that of France in 1789 could salvage Nigeria. “I don’t believe in small changes,” he said. “We have had ad hoc arrangements; Nigeria needs a revolutionary change and it has to be bloody. Those who survive it will pick up the pieces. I cannot see Nigeria survive any other way.” Radical words from an old man!

For his part, Danjuma, who chaired the occasion, countered that a transformational leadership, not a revolution, was the best solution.

A retired Army general, who recently declared publicly that he had made over one billion U.S. dollars from an oil well allocated to him which he didn’t know how to spend, Danjuma said: ‘A revolution devours its scions; it knows no friends or enemies; it is an exceedingly dangerous means of transformation. I am an optimist; I believe that one right man in a position of authority can transform the entire country. We have not been lucky to have such a man, but we shall muddle through.”

This is really no joking matter. For somebody of Nwabueze’s calibre, and in the evening of his years, to make such a statement in public, we believe the nation may be truly in injury time. The Nigerian system is already bursting at the seams. Nwabueze’s point, it seems, is that the political class is recolonising Nigeria, and we can no longer muddle through. Radical or alarming as his views may appear, we think he deserves commendation for his courage and candour.

Extreme frustration with Nigeria’s chronic systemic crises, and the seeming hopelessness of the situation, must be compelling true patriots such as Nwabueze to openly express their grave anxieties. It is a danger sign.

Government has done practically little, from 1999 to date, to address critical issues like infrastructural failure, degeneration of public insecurity and endemic corruption and impunity in the political class – thus creating a strangulating environment for citizens and corporate bodies to engage in productive work in a fiercely competitive global order. That Nigeria, with proven gas reserves of 192 trillion standard cubic feet and other generous endowments in crude oil, coal, water, wind, solar and other natural resources, including foreign reserves in excess of S50 billion, cannot generate enough electricity to drive economic growth is an intolerable disgrace. And it exposes the ruling class—at the federal, state and local council levels –as unproductive and a liability to the country. Just like electricity, water supply too, is lacking in all parts of the country, with less than five per cent of our population enjoying access to safe drinking water. Top government functionaries have been very unhelpful when they indulge in unremitting sloganeering or willingly play down the gravity of the crises confronting the nation.

Nwabueze reportedly spoke of what he “now knows” as a PAC member that the people don’t know. He may care to share this knowledge with the longsuffering citizens. We believe, however, that Nigerians already know more than enough. Just how much longer the Nigerian governing elite will persist in willful misgovernance and perversion of democratic norms remains uncertain. But one thing is sure: disenchantment has peaked among the people of this country and the clouds are thickening. Since 1999, Nigerians have unequivocally expressed their resentment at the several anti-people policies and, especially, the criminal manipulation of the electoral process, which undermines the capacity of citizens to effectively influence political developments and the quality of governance through the ballot box. To say, therefore, as some argue, that Nigeria, despite its flaws, is better than some war-torn countries only begs the issue.

If political unrest, turmoil, violence, conflicts and dislocations are the criteria that qualify citizens of a given country to seek asylum elsewhere, as Nigerians now do in large numbers all over the world, then there is already an ongoing revolution in the land. It is shameful that more than eleven years into a civil democratic dispensation, things are so bad that many Nigerians are desperate to abandon their fatherland even in preference for some less endowed countries. What is apparent is that Nigerians have lost faith in the capacity of their government to create an enabling environment for worthwhile engagement in productive activities and self-advancement. Due largely to leadership failure, it is understandable that Nigerians now crave change, either in the personnel constituting government or in the direction of policies, state priorities and resource management. The frustrations and bitterness occasioned by the mismanagement of over N37 trillion of the nation’s wealth generated between 1999 and 2007, leaving about 80 per cent of the population in abject poverty, cannot be cheering to Nigerians.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Communique : Future of Ndigbo in the New Nigeria: The Activists’ Perspective

By Olisa Agbakoba, Sahara Reporters

The Summit was attended by hundreds of human rights and prodemocracy activists from all across Nigerian and representatives of the faith-based organizations. The Summit held at the Ofuobi African Center, Enugu, Southeast Nigeria.

The Summit deliberated on the state of affairs in the Igbo Nation of Nigeria, particularly on the issue of governance and the criminalization of political leadership in the region with the result that good and competent persons could not present themselves for leadership resulting in very poor quality of political representation. The summit also discussed on the state of siege and occupation of the region; political marginalization and exclusion of the people of the region in strategic appointments; the inequities inherent in the imposed constitutional arrangement of the federation which have peculiar effects on eastern Nigeria; unfair exploitation of natural resources in the region;grave crisis of underemployment and unemployment in the region which fuel insecurity and criminality; suppression of alternative and opposing political views and perspectives; and the continued detention and unjust trial of MASSOB activists.

Security and Criminality:

The Summit observed that the spate of massive election rigging, kidnapping and other criminal activities has turned the region into a failed territory where no meaningful economic, political and social activities are taking place. The Summit also observed that this grave insecurity is caused by the criminalization of governance in the Igbo Nation, which results in looting of resources that would have created jobs and hope for the people of the region and the failure of the federal government to establish industries and other strategic institutions that could have created jobs for the youths of the region.

Ala-Igbo has become militarized with a vast deployment of expeditionary and predatory police and army personnel who are from outside the region. For instance, there are 61 Police check-points between Abakaliki in Ebonyi State to Nsukka in Enugu State (a distance about 130km). In comparison, between Obolo-Afor and Lokoja, (a distance of nearly 400 km) no checkpoints exist.

This state of siege is exemplified by the current state of the purported cities in Eastern States(Aba,Enugu,Abakaliki,Onitsha,Owerri,Nnewi,etc) hitherto the fastest growing and thriving industrial cum commercial cities in the African continent now being turned into refuse dumps and ghettos. Businesses that would have provided jobs to engage our youths have been strangulated by incompetent and criminal leadership.

Political Exclusion and Marginalization:

1. The Summit observed that the Igbo Nation is politically and economically marginalized in terms of appointments into strategic positions. It also observed that unlike other regions where person removed from office are replaced by competent persons from the same region, sons and daughters of the Igbo Nation are replaced by persons from other regions. Notable examples include, the cases of INEC, CBN, NAPTIP, NAFDAC, which were hitherto headed by persons from the Igbo Nation and replaced with persons from other regions.

The Summit noted that the discussion about where the President of Nigeria will come from, how he or she will emerge and the controversial issue of zoning are being conducted without taking the interests of the Igbo Nation seriously.

Repression of Alternative Political Voices in Eastern Nigeria:

The Summit observed that there is a deliberate suppression and repression of alternative political voices in the Igbo Nation resulting in the violation of the rights to life, liberty, and dignity which has led to arbitrary arrests, torture, unlawful detentions, unjust trials, disappearances and extra-judicial killings.

Summit noted that because of this repressive environment has made Ala-Igbo a graveyard and our people have lost their republican spirit. The Summit further noted that this state of repression is caused by god-fatherism, destruction of the sacredness of the ballot-boxes and the imposition of leaders on Ala- Igbo by persons outside the region.

Unfair Exploitation of Natural Resources of the Region:

The Summit noted that Ala-Igbo produces natural resources for which it does not receive adequate compensation. This extent of this unfairness is dramatized by the example of Kogi, a state that does not produce oil,but has the Group Managing Director of NNPC and has been approved to host a major refinery of over N450billion ($3bilion) which is more than the combined allocation for the states in the region, while the region was not allocated any refinery.

The solid mineral industry in Ala-Igbo has been destroyed, particularly the coal industry. The destruction of the solid mineral industries results in grievous unemployment, collapse of the infrastructure and the economy.

Inequities in the Constitutional Arrangement of the Federation:

The summit noted that most of the intractable problems in the Igbo Nation have their roots in an inequitable constitutional arrangement that was designed and operated to expropriate their resources, reduced them to a political minority despite being a numeric majority; and made the people of the region slaves in their homeland.

Resolutions and Demands:

After analyzing the state of affairs in eastern Nigeria, the Summit resolves and demands as follows:

• Immediate demilitarization of the region by dismantling all checkpoints and security barricades in the region

• Immediate rescinding of the deployment of soldiers to eastern Nigeria on the spurious mission of fighting kidnapping, instead reorienting policing from expeditionary operations to intelligence-based operations in cooperation with communities should be pursued

• Immediate end to the criminalization of political and traditional leadership in the region, especially ensuring that no 419 or any other person of questionable character would be Governor or legislator for the region

• An end to the spate of election rigging and violence in the region; we will mobilize the people of the region to vote and protect their votes so that only persons who will defend the interests of the region occupy political offices

• Immediate and unconditional release, withdrawal of illegal criminal charges of members of the Movement for Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafran (MASSOB), including Chief Ralph Uwazurike, Uche Okwukwu, and other prisoners of conscience

• That Ala-Igbo should benefit from the exploitation of natural resources in its region. Therefore we demand three (3) refineries should be built in the region and sited in Enugu, Owerri and Calabar

• Immediate initiation of the process to return Nigeria to a federal structure upon which it was founded, including immediate restructuring of the Nigerian federation

• Appointment of credible and competent persons from Ala-Igbo to occupy strategic positions in the federation to give the people of the region justice and fairness

The Summit specifically notes with sadness the statements on ‘zoning’ credited to the governors of the states of south-eastern Nigeria and unanimously rejected the positions put forward by the Governors and state categorically that the views of the Governors were reached without consultation with the people and do not reflect the interests of the Igbo Nation.

The Summit, therefore, resolves that in order to facilitate the realization of these and upgrade political consciousness around all levels of the communities in Eastern Nigeria, it will establish:

(a) A Strategic Committee;
(b) A Contact and Outreach Committee;
(c) A Communication Team.
(d) Political Action Committees


Olisa Agbakoba(SAN) Barr. Benedict Ezeagu
Dr Sam Amadi Dr Uju Agomoh
Prof(Monsignor) Obiora Ike Engr. Alex Ayotalumuo
Dr Chidi Odinkalu Comrade Ibuchukwu Ezike
Barr.Tony Nnadi Comrade Uche Okwukwu
Rev Fr John Odey Prince Longinus Orjiakoh
Prof Ben Obumselu Deacon David Okoro
Comrade Malachy Ugwummadu Prof Christian Anieke
Chief Willy Ezugwu Dr Chidi Macjossy
HRH Eze(Dr)Chike Umesiobi Dr Martins Iwuanyanwu
Comrade Chuks Ehirim Comrade Onyeka Ajumobi
Comrade Emma Onwubiko Comrade Chidi Nwosu
Comrade Emeka Umeagbalasi Comrade Osmond Ugwu
Barr. Nwabueze Okoro Comrade Uzodinma Nwaogbe
Mazi Bismark Orji Mr Chima Ofong
Comrade Oziri Pascal Comrade Chuks Ibegbu
Dr Jerry Chukwuokolo Mazi Chijioke Asogwa
Hon.Celine Ugwu Comrade Okechukwu Orji

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Rejoiner: The Trouble With The Igbo – Always Other People As Alibi...

By Joseph Okonkwor, Sahara Reporters

The article to which this is a rejoinder should not have been thought of in the first place. But the fact that it was thought of is enough reason for it to be written and published so that we ‘Nigerians’ understand how we see each other. I was expecting that the mistakes of our forefathers would have been a deterrent for us in making certain insinuations that is capable of psychologically alienating us all the more from the Nigerian project considering our gift of hind sight. This author just succeeded in standing history on the head just to exculpate people who were practically selfish. This rejoinder is not an effort at exculpating the Igbos, but to let other ethnies in Nigeria understand how we actually think. Please don’t tell us how to think. It will also go a long way to explain the reason Nigeria is as it is today and shall remain so until the truth prevails.

Being a student of philosophy, I will as much as possible sound academical and factual and in places where facts are not evident, I will use inferences. This idea of standing history in the head and castigation of the Igbos is not just for this author but for most people in Nigeria considering the commentaries I have read so far. Our three sectional leaders Zik, Awo and the Sadurna I must say were individually good people, but politically and administratively selfish and their selfishness and myopism was what informed Ladipo’s unprovoked outburst. Their selfishness would have benefited Nigeria though if they had the same political and national philosophy. But their disagreements were their undoing and it has been transferred to us including Ladipo. The Sadurna knew that the North was administratively not ready for civil governance and wanted either a separate government for the north or delayed independence. But Zik and Awo believing that they were educated, requested for independence in the view that through education they would lead Nigeria and dominate the North. But even Zik and Awo, had differing philosophies. Zik because of his sojourn in the United States dreamt of how Nigeria would be as powerful as America in Africa. In fact Zik wanted Pan Africanism against Awo’s view that each nation in Nigeria should develop along their culture. A United Nigeria would be a stepping stone to that. But this does not mean that Awo does not want Pan Africanism, but rightly and which I still propose today, he wanted autonomous self-determination alongside such unity.

The problem with Nigeria today is the unresolved discrepancies between these three national leaders in Nigeria and the tone of this article shows that that we have not actually overgrown such backwardness. In fairness to Zik, he was cosmopolitan in Nigeria being born in the East, bred in the North and living and having properties in the west. In fact it would be wrong to say that Zik is an Igbo man politically, Zik was a Nigerian and he behaved as such. He was selfishly seeking to rule Nigeria. Granted that if other national leaders listened to his view, Nigeria would have been better today, but considering the circumstances, the views of Awo and sadurna were more apt at the time for mutual trust and growth in Nigeria. But we must know also that their reasons for sectional politics were different too. While Sadurna’s reasons were to safeguard the corruption of the Islamic religion by the southern ‘infedels’, Awo’s reason was because of the incompatibility of culture between the myriads of nations that make up Nigeria. These leaders proved their selfish nature when they left themselves to be played against each other by the departing British colonisers.
As far back as 1946, Awo has mapped out the road Nigeria would have taken to become a great state in his work ‘The Path to Nigeria Freedom’. I don’t want to call these leaders names but we should critically analyse their actions so that we learn from their mistakes in our present politics and eschew such hatred as Ladipo champions. Why would Awo propose true federalism hinged on autonomous self determination of Nigerian national groups and still spurn the only opportunity that shows itself for him to grab it? According to Mbazulike’s latest interview, Awo was negotiating both with NCNC and NPC at the same time (this may not be true but Mbazulike said it was the reason Zik formed alliance with the North against Awo with whom the East had more cultural similarity). This is one score against Awo and one score too against Zik who did not seek to understand from Awo why he behaved as he did. In fact this may not be the only reason Zik decided to go with the North. To me Zik believed that the North had the population and yet uneducated. His becoming president was more predicated with the North than the West, but Zik was to understand that the North were to raise a politics of federal character in order to meet up with the southern educational and developmental lift. Zik was also to pay Awo back for the cross carpeting.

While on cross carpeting, let me say here that the Action of Awo was in line with his philosophy. An Igbo man should not leave the East and go to the West to become the premier. Awo was in support of local politics and his rejection of Zik as the western premier is understandable. But his rejection of such regional politics as proposed by Ojukwu was totally against his philosophy. It is either he accepted federal Nigeria where Zik should not occupy sit in the West or he support Ojukwu’s request for federalism. Even Zik himself when the cross carpeting killed his ambition in the west, he went to the East and relieved Eyo Eta of his post. Although Mbazulike were explaining it out in his former interview, Ziks actions then were the cause of the rift between the Igbos and the South South which later made them to sabotage the Igbo secession. Now Zik and Awo have committed the same sin. If not for selfish and temporary glory, both of them had opportunities to prove their philosophy in practice but they failed woefully. Just like Awo, Zik had the opportunity to lure Eyo Eta to the NCNC without fooling them into resigning so as to promote his one Nigerian stance. NO his one Nigeria holds only when he is at the helm. Even After the fake election of 1964 and 65 both in the West and Central, Zik should have withheld his accent until things were done properly, but to be ceremonial ‘what am yet to understand’, he let it pass and things continued to deteriorate.

Whenever the actions of Awo, Zik and the Sadurna are interpreted as Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa actions, I get annoyed because those who think so are still very far in understanding Nigerian politics. These people are individuals and whichever of their actions not debated in a constituted parliament are their personal selfish stands. That is why Ojukwu today remain unfailingly the most important person in Igboland. Ojukwu did not lead the Igbo people into war. Nigerian state took war to the Easterners. Ojukwu and the Easterners had no option than to leave Nigeria. They championed one Nigeria when the promise was there, but when it became evident that Nigeria can never be one as a nation especially when the person at the centre have access to regional politics, he opted for a true federalism, such that what brought about the first military coup would never repeat itself.

What caused the First Coup? Corruption in the high places! But two events were very conspicuous. Balewa believed that the North was short-changed in development and his government had to use federal xter to balance the equation. According to Toyin Falola, professional southerners found themselves under uneducated and unqualified Northerners in government ministries where they knew nothing of how to move things forward. In fact that is where mediocrity in Nigeria started to take precedence over professionalism. The Tiv and the Middle belt were the first to revolt saying that the core north saw them as brothers only in number for election but not in appointment. While Nigeria was still dealing with this, Balewa’s NPC with impunity rigged the western regional house election in favour of the unpopular Akintola. In a supposed federation, Balewa was not supposed to have such powers. Even in 1961/62 when problem started between Akintola and Awo, Zik was already realising that the North were not ready for equitable development and thus was looking for other Northern allies. In the same way Balewa was looking for other Southern allies. Akintola presented himself (since) as he told Awo that he was tired of remaining in opposition. Let me Give Awo that credit, he stood firm in the opposition but Akintola warmed up to Balewa. With little problem that ensued, Balewa declared Western Region a state of emergency. But in a supposed federation, such federal inroads into regional politics should not have obtained, but that was the Greek gift we received from the departing Colonial masters. When Balewa succeeded in dissolving the western house for 6 months, Awo was tried for God’s know charges and imprisoned while Akintola was allowed back as the government leader in the west through the back door of a new party. The type of rigging sponsored by NPC in the West in support of Akintola and the imprisonment of the person who replaced Awo hitherto in prison caused adrenaline to boil over. Thus Nigeria has got two problems against the same people in power from the Middle belt and from the West. The coup of 15 January 1966 was not an Igbo agenda. It was a military agenda and that is why they had no one among them to become the head of state after the coup. Supporters of Awo and indeed all Southerners praised that coup. I must have to submit here that it is curious that important Igbo leaders were not killed, but as is evident none of them was pointed at in the planning of that coup. Even Ojukwu was among those who botched the coup and was trusted enough to be made the Governor of Eastern region. When he became the governor, a counter coup took place. What is the reason for this coup which targeted the Igbos alone?
Understandably the North retaliated but then they took it too far. Common ordinary Igbos on the streets who knew nothing about government were killed in cold blood. This was a conspicuous show of hatred. They should have restricted it to politics. Igbo soldiers were led to the field and shot. Araba! The same Araba has not left Nigerian scene considering the tone of Ladipo’s article. For those who think the Igbos complains too much, who would not complain in the face of this type of genocide. The story of Biafra most of us read was written by the conquerors and you can imagine how truths were forever buried. Even the British press, who never set foot in Biafra during the war, reported Biafra as propaganda but of recent academic has proved it otherwise. But how many of us have sought the independent truth. Such press conspiracies were raised against Saddan Hussein, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan but shall we ever know the truth? One conspicuous consequence of it is the recession and economic meltdown and continued war among humanity. And Nigeria having been built on top of such falsehood, may have to reverse itself to find peace? Rather Hatred runs in veins of many Ladipo’s we have in Nigeria.

Once it became evident that Nigeria as it was composed was not to be to any bodies benefit, Ojukwu opted for a strong federalism or confederation. Till today many people have not asked what actually transpired in Aburi Ghana. One commentator wanted us to believe that it was Ojukwu who went against the Aburi Accord. He read the history written by the conquerors. But why has Nigerian government failed to make Nigerian Political History one of the courses in Nigerian secondary schools? Is it because, inverted truths cannot stand academic rigours, the type read by that commentator. The government told us what to believe, and we did, yet the major thing Ojukwu asked for in that meeting was strong federalism which unfortunately those who were sleeping then are asking for now. People accused Ojukwu of trying the corner the oil in the Deltas. But was that the reason other regional governments failed to see that Nigeria was unworkable as it was? Was the oil then the reason we have one Nigeria and was the oil to be to the benefit of the easterners alone a true federation? If the middle belt were to be truthful, breakers were already in their ranks with the north and the imprisonment of the Awo was supposed to cause the breakers between the west and north. I am therefore still surprised at the conspiracy that made other regional leaders not to at least agree to Ojukwu’s federal proposal. It was not too much to ask at least to stem the impunity with which NPC influenced the outcome of western election from happening in other regions. In fact in our present ‘one Nigeria’, The thieves we have as state governors were just Abuja products and a perpetual repeat of unfortunate history which Ojuwku was to prevent. I take it more personally with Western regional leaders; Awo included not the Yoruba commoners for not supporting the request of Ojukwu’s federalism. Awo may be excused because he was in prison, but when he came out, his policies of starvation stood his philosophy of self-determination and local government on the head. I would not have wanted him to join in the war and fight Gowon who released him (after all Zik was part of the problem he went to prison), but to have joined in the fight was standing his policies on the head and stinks of lack of strong personal philosophy.

Even after the Aburi accord, the meeting of 12 August dispersed amidst another outbreak of massacring Igbos, solders and civilians, a tide which Gowon was unable to abate. For those who think Igbos complain and blame, what is the function of government? If the government of Gowon in place could not ensure the Igbo security of life and property, Igbos would have been fools to remain in Nigeria. Ojukwu did not declare Biafra, the Eastern regional parliament did and that parliament had more representative of other minorities combined than Igbos. Ojukwu was just there as the leader and he did so not on his personal capacity otherwise Igbos would become sheepish followers which the writer will agree with they are not. The Eastern regional parliament had to find alternative to their insecure citizens. At least the facts can prove that Igbos were for one Nigeria and was ready to take anywhere as home until they were rejected, killed, maimed just because of actions of few soldiers. These people who killed, maimed and raped them are the same people that were supposed to be co nationals. If we understand the meaning of ‘nation’- go and find the meaning in a dictionary. It has psychological undertone and is based on faith and trust. That psychological belief in a shared past that should have made Nigeria a nation never existed and the little that was built was shattered by the politics of the first republic and the Military coup and counter coup. The only option available to Nigeria then was strong federalism with option of secession if the central government meddles in local politics.

The decision to declare Biafra was the only available option since federalism was not assured. Saro wiwa was to find out very late that the promise of Rivers state was just a bait to support the massacre of his supposed brothers. If he told himself the truth, he should have known that if Ojukwu did not get it when he had more power in a constituted parliament, the Niger delta may get what resembles federalism but not federalism. Today the person at the centre still has inroad into local politics in Nigeria just as it was during Balewa time. How miserable Wiwa also met his waterloo. The Yoruba saint who was supposed to promote self determination in Nigeria supported the war against the only people who mastered the courage to determine themselves. As Finance minister he saw nothing wrong for children who knew nothing of government to be starved to death in Biafra, children who were even unknowingly living out his best political philosophy of self-determination. But he chose to starve them with food blockade. He posited that such is one of the weapons of war. Now he has succeeded in killing some of those children and at the end of the day brought them to one Nigeria where their life remains worthless and hopeless. How happy he is in his grave now!

The Igbophbia found among the rest of Nigeria is just that they have been courageous to fight for what others could not fight for although unsuccessfully. A commentator thinks that Igbos are jealous of Yorubas. How sheepish we think. I don’t know why any ethnic group would envy others in the Nigeria I know today. Because neither the Igbo nation nor Hausa nor Yoruba won. Mediocrity won and rules in Nigeria otherwise can anyone define for me the type of political system we are running with the 1999 constitution. Now we have one Nigeria, can anyone here stand up and tell me that it is an achievement. Is it not better fragmented Nigeria where I am educationally secure than one Nigeria where I find myself schooling in London? One Nigeria where every other person including this writer wants to migrate to another country? One Nigeria as we have seen today, the frustrations I read from those who post here means that one Nigeria is in fact a regret. Even today some misguided former solders still pride themselves that they fought for one Nigeria, when what they fought for was in fact not worth it. Igbos are back to the fold, but I wonder why the hatred continues. Please can someone stop this Araba in disguise or allow my people to go!!!
This writer flew to the umbrella of Okey Ndibe who wrote about kidnapping to continue the genocide that started in 1966 although now without guns. Okey pointed out that the war in Igboland now is more than the one fought with guns back in the sixties. This was not supposed to be an indictment of Igbos. But this writer may need more studies in literature to understand how to pass important information without disturbing adrenaline. In fact what did Okey hide in that article? Can someone go and read it again? Okey’s article was an indictment on the FG. Why? One Nigeria means one Police force, One INEC chairman, One PDP and one everything. Just like Akintola those who ‘win’ elections in Igboland are not Igbo Awolowos, but Igbo??? (Think you will get the name) and you have seen the result. In one Nigeria as you want to have it, the police is controlled from Abuja and they close their eyes to things their paymasters want them to close eyes to. So Okey’s article should be understood as a vindication of Biafran struggle. We said that we want to leave alone and govern ourselves in order to provide security for and feed ourselves. You said no, that you want us to come and live with you, that you can give us security, food, and employment to feed ourselves. We still refused, but you dragged us against our wish. The least Nigeria should have done is to provide that security and employment. But no, you did not. In fact hunger, insecurity and unemployment became worse than it was. Even in our 36 highly fragmented states, local leaders are appointed at Abuja. The Yoruba guy who wrote this knew that even Obasanjo was foisted on the Yoruba from Abuja. Please give us our own Awolowo not his unpopular rival. TAKE IWU, TAKE CHIMAROKE, TAKE AWAY ALL THEM. Don’t you see to give us reasonable people who can protect us? As long as Nigeria remains as it is, there is nothing any one can do locally to put things in order until it is settled at the centre and until then why won’t Igbos blame others for their situation. Ben Nwabueze has proposed revolution despite how out of place it is, others rejected it and thus the status quo continues.

Let me also advise writers to eschew collective condemnation. I cannot come here and condemn all Yoruba people, when I know that majority of them has no hand in whatever evil that befalls Nigeria. Even now, my greatest investment in Nigeria is being handled by a Yoruba while I am in UK and I trust him. Igbos worship money! Are you sure or is it the bad name given to the do in order to hang it? Those who you call Igbos who worship money are the people appointed or selected from Abuja. True Igbo man works for and earns his own money and if working hard means worshipping money, any wonder some section of this country depend on government to live. Today Igbos have virtually nothing save individual businesses, yet most of them will accept Biafra because they can work hard. Even as illiterate as I am in Marine technology, I have in my head what I can do with River Niger to accept big ships since those who should have done so are not interested. A governor is now building Cargo Airport in Igboland. And that is the only Governor who was locally elected. Are you still surprised? But those who don’t want to work hard as an excuse for not worshipping money, why are they jittery once Niger Delta wants to take back their oil? After the Purported ‘no victor no vanquished’, Igboland was left unattended to. Look at the second Niger Bridge which has been awarded many times. This time it read a little less than 68Billion and only 7 billion is in the 2010 budget for it while 10billion will be used to celebrate the same one Nigeria that failed both the ‘no conqueror and no vanquished’. But if working hard to rebuild it ourselves means worshipping money, then I better take that stereotype. Let me beg the common fellow Nigerians; while we all in our local areas bear the onslaught of the Vagabonds in Power(VIP) we have in Nigeria, let those who are commoners help each other in bearing the onslaught instead of adding salt to injury as Ladipo just did.

Joseph Okonkwor is a PhD student in Philosophy

The Trouble With The Igbo – Always Other People As Alibi

By Olaitan Ladipo, Sahara Reporters

It is refreshing to read a couple of Nigerian writers castigate their own ethnic—as Okey Ndibe and Jideofor Adibe did in ‘the war in Igboland’ and ‘when did things really begin to fall apart’ respectively—when tribal journalism and sectional commentary have become the norm. It is refreshing because both writers are Igbo, a people not entirely famous for their self-censure. My niece, a barrister and possibly my strongest critic, frequently accuses me of embracing stereotypes and of being politically incorrect. She is right. I subscribe to stereotypes because I believe every stereotype has a historical background. Hausa want to dominate other ethnics. Yoruba like the easy life. Igbo worship money. Calabar women are the most wifely. All those reputations are well earned. As for not being politically correct, though I acknowledge my moral duty to be polite and kind I refuse to be limited by artificial standards imposed by self-promoting activists who would invent another sound bite as soon as the one wears out.

When recently I wrote ‘the trouble with the Yoruba’ the response, well anticipated, spanned the whole spectrum of opinion and courtesy—from ‘well done’ to being called a bastard and a disgrace to my race. I do not expect any less after this article.

The best way to see one’s self, they say, is through a mirror held at a distance. In any case there is nothing one tribe of Nigeria is largely guilty of that the others are not, in varying degrees.

It requires volumes to itemise the myriad of troubles of Nigeria’s ethnics, and commentators have written many. However, Ndibe and Adibe’s discourse present a timely opportunity to comment on an innate tendency of the Igbo to blame other persons and people but never themselves, for things that have gone wrong with Ndigbo in Nigeria. They evidently face up to their national challenges, and they do so valiantly in many cases, but there is always a non-Igbo scapegoat responsible for creating the problem.

Consider for a start the way they chide the rest of the country for calling their name wrongly, you would think it was our idea in the first place to name them Ibo against their will. But ask an Igbo, even today, where he is from, many of them will still answer, I am Ibo. They blame the Awolowo for misleading them into declaring a war, as if the only factor worth considering was whether the West would open a second front. They blame Biafra’s defeat on eastern region’s minorities who sabotaged the war effort when, even though the attitude of the minorities evidently is the most important reason the war was lost, refusing to acknowledge the genesis of their grievance is beheading the truth to leave a stump that is nearly but, to borrow an Irish saying, not as tall. They blame the whole world for not believing they descended from Jews when all they can offer to support their claim is a take-it-or-leave-it-we-are-Jews attitude.

The Igbo seemingly consider it weakness to admit a fault, thinking perhaps that it is something to be overwhelmed with mass denial. It is as if they resolve at Igbo Union meetings to select common targets for the apportioning of blame for a list of Igbo misfortunes. Moreover, they do so with a blatant disregard for facts.

That a versatile people of such proven ambition, industry and tenacity—qualities that apparently make them surpass even earlier starters of many human development endeavours—would continue to carry this collective chip on their national shoulder, is hard to understand. The problem though, is that in going for dizzying heights (to borrow Adibe’s phrase) and as many commentators agree, the Igbo frequently throw integrity and excellence out the window. The result is criminal or mediocre or both.

This criminality and mediocrity easily taint Igbo achievements, incur contempt from other ethnics—who themselves have little to crow about in terms of probity anyway—and are probably the reason there is need for so much self-promotional chest beating at Igbo national events.

The problem is not helped by Igbo leaders like Chinua Achebe, a beloved master storyteller who, typically bitter at Igbo failure to capture the political leadership of the West in the first republic, turns logic on its head, saying Awolowo was the precursor of tribalism in Nigeria. Ibadan was not capital territory. It is core Yorubaland, yet an Igbo-led party won elections there. If the Yoruba, sadly, chose to become latecomers to tribal politics by crossing the carpet in Ibadan, it does not make them guilty of starting it.

If anybody has marginalised the Ibo since 1999, it is Igbo against Igbo. Olusegun Obasanjo, allegedly in his quest to make sure no other Yoruba rises above him in prominence, in 2003 practically handed over the political economy of Nigeria to the Igbo—central bank, finance ministry, stock exchange, commercial banks, economic planning, securities and exchanges commission, economic advisory team, etc. The most powerful man in Aso Rock after Obasanjo himself was an Igbo. The recent shifts in power domination have been helped by the accompanying dynamics of economic power, which clearly has benefitted the Igbo immensely. So who is marginalising whom?

Currently, maps of the power structures and centres of Nigeria are being redrawn by what I call natural forces. It is a movement that old strategies cannot stop. New and old power blocs will have to make far reaching choices between now and next year. The Igbo too will need to make choices that, should they turn out to be less than the best, they should not be looking for non-Igbo scapegoats.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jonathan's Ambition, a Threat to Igbo Presidency - Udenta O. Udenta

Leadership Nigeria/All Africa

As the pioneer National Secretary of the defunct Alliance for Democracy, AD, Udenta O. Udenta is an intellectual power house, whose disposition to national issues has won him recognition. He recently had a chat with journalists and joined in the raging debate over zoning, as he calls on President Goodluck Jonathan to respect the zoning principle of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP. He stresses that not doing so, will be a hindrance to a South-East presidency in the near future. Stanley Nkwocha was there. Excerpts:

You just launched a campaign for an Igbo presidency come 2015. What is the drive?

In my booklet "Rotation of power and Igbo possibility", I argued that 2015 is the realistic year for the realization of a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction. There are a number of reasons for making this assertion. On the basis of the principle of rotation of power and the zoning of political offices, at least in the context of the PDP, presidential power is expected to remain in the North till 2015. Three out of the five core Igbo states are currently controlled by the PDP, so we expect the South-East PDP leaders to honour the party's zoning arrangement and deprecate any attempt to deconstruct or distort it.

I am also of the view that flowing out of the 1998-1999 all parties' agreement on zoning, the other main parties like the AC, ANPP, and to an extent, the newly formed CPC, have also domesticated the idea and practice of rotation of power and the zoning of political offices in one form or the other. Their rotation of power thesis may not be as explicit as that of the PDP, but it is embedded in the structure of power relations within these parties. I am no prophet or soothsayer, but I dare say that the above named parties will most likely throw up Northern Presidential candidates and Southern running mates, and I expect their South-East leadership to endorse it and work in tandem with the core instincts and impulses that define their parties' being and reality.

Closer home in Igbo land, objectively speaking, I cannot see the viability of a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction emerging out of the APGA, and other South-East leaning parties in 2011. I am compelled to declare that these parties need time to merge forces, strengthen their organizational ranks, deepen their philosophical and ideological foundation and establish a network of strategic, inter-group understanding and partnership. All these can be accomplished between now and 2015.

Finally, there are existing limit-situations in Igbo land which need to be bridged and over come. Igbo Civil Society/Activist platform needs to be created, an engaging and compelling Igbo political blue print need to be constructed, Igbo political elite need to be re-united, Igbo political base will require re-constitution and the Igbo political possibility need to be canvassed across the country, among political, ethnic and cultural stakeholders so that they will appreciate its harmlessness, buy into it, and collectively work towards its realization.

In the text of the pamphlet , you argued that a Jonathan Presidency in 2011 will endanger the cause of the Igbos for President. Can you buttress this claim?

My statement is axiomatic; it is self-evident. It is self-declaratory. President Jonathan became Vice-President in 2007 on the premise and perimeter of zoning. He is a product of zoning. His current presidency is a child of circumstance. The South-West have had their chance, under Obasanjo, and in the context of the PDP, between 1999-2007. If President Jonathan contests in 2011 and somehow, wins the election, he may be inclined to pass the presidential baton to the North, maybe not even in 2015, but in 2019. This will keep the Igbo in Perpetual wait for Presidential power, and in a national political environment in which zoning would have been rendered irrelevant. This is a clear and present political danger that nobody can wish away.

Assuming that the Igbo are not even desperate for presidential power, now or in the near future, nobody can take their support for granted. It will be naïve political thinking that because a new national chairman of the PDP has emerged, a few appointments made, and the governors speaking solely for themselves, one will assume that the Igbo support is a fait accompli, a done deal. This is a fatal and self-destructive political reasoning. The emerging signals are even very ominous. From the loss of NAFDAC chairmanship to the loss of INEC chairmanship; from the loss of NIMASA Director-Generalship to the loss of the Governorship of the Central Bank, and possibly from the potential loss of the Vice-Chairmanship of the NCC to the humiliation out of office, of a decent, hardworking, very competent Managing Director of NSITF, in the person of Chief Joe Okoli, in the name of sectional supremacist politics, and nothing more, the picture for the Igbo is grim.

President Jonathan has done nothing in this regard. Rather, he is systematically rendering the Igbo irrelevant in the polity. It is, of course, to be expected that this unbecoming scenario will not come to pass if a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction were to be in office. He will endeavour to safeguard that which is decently meant for the Igbo, and ensure that the rest of the country get their decent due also without discrimination. He will not, I suspect, allow the prevalent situation in the NNPC, Niger Delta Ministry, Ministry of Petroleum Resource, Foreign Affairs, and very many commanding heights of the nation's political and bureaucratic infrastructure which are now sectional properties.

Is the hue and cry generated over zoning not regrettable bearing in mind that it is an PDP's agenda? What is the role of other parties in the polity?

The hue and cry over zoning, as you put it, is not regrettable. The debate must go on, until the core issues around it are clarified and our people enlightened. We must move beyond myth and legend, beyond the illogic of instant gratification of power. And zoning is not only a PDP affair. It has always been, in one constitutional and administrative form or the other, a mechanism of achieving national integration, national consensus and inter-elite understanding. It is in the constitution in the form of the federal character principle and the constitutional provision that a minister who shall be appointed from a state must be indigenous to that state.

Regarding the other parties, it is no accident, but rather a solemn concession to the principle of zoning and the reality of rotation of offices that in the 2007 election cycle, Gen. Buhari's running mate, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, is from the South-East; that Abubakar Atiku's running mate, Sen. Ben Obi, is also a South-Easterner, while the party's National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, is a South-Westerner. As for the PPA and the APGA, the respective running mates to Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu and Dim Odumegu Ojukwu also came from the North. And I am inclined to think that the choice of Governor Sambo as the Vice President to President Jonathan is a concrete validation of zoning because, in its absence, and with the only qualification for such high appointment being intellect, experience and competence, President Jonathan should have chosen any competent individual from his home state, and possibly his local government as his Vice President.

Would I be wrong to say that disunity amongst the Igbos has largely marred their chances in the past and may still pose a challenge to your struggle?

The question of the disunity among the Igbo political elite has been over celebrated. There is disunity among the political elite all over the country. There is disunity in Yoruba land, disunity among the Southern minorities elite, disunity among the middle belt elite, and disunity among the core Northern elite. The problem is that the Igbo elite are disadvantageously placed in the structure and dynamics of power relations in Nigeria.

They are completely marginalized, to the degree that the little space that is afforded them inevitably leads to a vicious scramble for relevance. From 1999 till date, no Igbo elite has been strategically placed in terms of the relations I mentioned above, in terms of fundamental nation-decision-making, and in terms of power and influence leverage. The six key national power positions-and I am talking of executive power have eluded them from 1999: President, Vice President, Chief of Staff to the President, National Security Adviser, Secretary to Federation Government and Head of Service. This last position was only occupied by an Igbo person for a few months.

Inevitably, when such an elite group are so marginalized, they begin to look inauthentic, playing nothing but secondary, marginal role. Inevitably also, they begin to quarrel among themselves for the dregs of power made available to them. I have already conceded that disunity among the Igbo political elite is a concrete limit-situation in the search for Igbo political possibility. It is a major drawback to the realization or affirmation of Igbo political goals. It requires principled agitation to overcome this, like the struggle against the institutional marginalization of the entire Eastern Nigeria which the Dr. Arthur Nwankwo led Eastern Mandate Union championed in the mid and late 1990s.

Today, I believe that it is the responsibility of the political wing of Igbo civil society leadership to lead the way in the re-constitution of the Igbo political base and in realizing Igbo political possibility. They can do this by unfurling their intellectual depth and ideological clarity, and tapping into their work in the area of political empowerment and voter mobilization. With all hands on deck, it will be quite possible to have a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2015; a president who will lead the nation wisely, and with passion and patriotic favour. And a President who will abhor narrow-mindedness and supremacist sectional instincts.

You described the debate on the constitutional provision that the President can contest as puerile. Shouldn't the constitutional provision override party position and zoning in this case?

I state that those who confuse the issue of zoning and rotation of power with the constitutional provision on eligibility for the office of President are either puerile or out rightly mischievous. And they know this to their bones. Were Nigeria to be a one party state, one can even begin to take them half-serious. What we are practicing is multi-party democracy. If your party slams the door on your ambition at any particular time, you open another door. Afterall, there are 59 political doors to open in Nigeria today. The latest example is the Governor of Abia State and Senator Chukwumerije. Before them was Governors Ohakim, Yuguda and Shinkafi. Don't forget that Atiku Abubakar contested the 2007 Presidential election as a sitting AC Vice-President.

My point is that why the constitution is clear about the conditions any adult Nigerian can and must meet before he is elected President, the various political parties have a right to put mechanisms in place that will guarantee inclusiveness, party cohesion, national integration and respect of the nation's various diversities. Zoning of political offices and the rotation of power is one such mechanism. There is no conflict between them and the provisions of the constitution.

You are fighting a cause for the Igbos, but the PDP chairman - an Igbo man himself last week said the PDP has breached zoning over the years and it may no longer be tenable. Where lies your support?

I don't know the context under which he made that statement. I didn't even read that statement. However, when a breach occurs, you repudiate and sanction those who caused the breach. You enforce party discipline to ensure that future breaches are curtailed. You don't cast over board or distort a party principled position because someone has breached it. You don't, forever, deconstruct our constitution because it has been breached. You punish the breachers.

Lets talk about the imbalance even in zoning. The North West is being accused of playing pranks with the entire North. Is this infraction not a threat to zoning itself?

Who made the accusation? In our democratic journey this far, the North-East produced the prime Minister between 1960-1966, not that there was any conscious effort to zone that position to it. During the second Republic the North-West produced President Shehu Shagari. Between1999-2007, the South-West produced Olusegun Obasanjo in the first real zoning exercise. President Yar'adua, now late, came from the North-West. On the basis of zoning in the PDP, it will be the entire North that must rise to the occasion and throw up the best possible candidate they have for the job.

You have said without zoning an Igbo presidency may be difficult, but if competence and acceptability becomes yardsticks over zoning as canvassed, can't the Igbos throw up a competent and acceptable candidate?

There is no conflict between zoning and competence. Every village and hamlet in Nigeria has very competent people in all human spheres. If you zone a particular position to a particular zone, it is the responsibility of that zone to go for the best material they have. It is not for me to tell them how to go about it. Like I stressed earlier, President Jonathan's zone, or even state, has very competent people. He should have chosen any one of them to be his Vice-President. It is on the basis of this that zoning will make the Igbo Presidency project an attainable ideal. Without zoning, it becomes very difficult, just like without zoning it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for President Jonathan to have become Vice-President in 2007.

The South East governors have announced their non intention to either vie for the Presidency come 2011. Is this not damping your agitation?

When I heard that Statement I wept. I can't believe any South-East Governor will be so un-Igbo to utter that kind of rubbish. They spoke for themselves, the five of them. They didn't speak for Ndigbo, neither for the leaders nor the people. They are on their own, and must be made to retract such an insult to the collective integrity and stature of Ndigbo. If it is possible to attain the presidency in 2011, the Igbo will go for it. If it is possible to achieve it in 2015, the Igbo will go for it. Ndigbo know who their leaders are. They cannot be deceived or distracted from the historic mission of producing a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in as short a time as possible. South-West, South-South and the entire Northern Governors have not even taken a stand on this issue, and five individuals, without consultation, without discussion, want to lead Ndigbo on a path of political perdition. Unless and until that statement is comprehensively disowned by the governors, I and millions of Ndigbo would have lost any respect we have for them.

You called on the Igbos to vote for another candidate with Igbo running mate if the PDP's emerge out of disrespect. Is this tenable under the complex politics of the South East?

It is quite tenable, but it is a bridge we have to cross when we get to it. It requires mass sensitization and mass mobilization work, but its achievable.

You called for an Igbo leadership summit. The North just had its summit. Won't these regional summits threaten the unity of the nation?

No. These regional summits will rather strengthen Nigerian unity. Consultation, reaching out is the stuff democracy is made of. Democracy is dialogue. You cannot shut down the space for discussion, for inter-change of ideas. It is by so doing that you can aggregate the instincts, impulses and passions of our diverse people and channel them for the consolidation of our democracy, and sustainable social and economic transformation and development.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The War In Igboland

By Okey Ndibe, Sahara Reporters

The June 15, 2010 edition of NEXT reported that a coalition of groups in Abia State had asked Governor Theodore Orji to resign on account of the level of insecurity in the state. It was not the usual partisan fare, with a number of opposition parties banding together to hound a state governor. Instead, the call for Orji’s resignation came from seven human rights and pro-democracy organizations. There was no doubt that the groups – the Human Rights, Justice and Peace Foundation (HRJPF), Abia Peoples Forum (APF), Centre for Reform and Public Advocacy (CRPA), Popular Participation Front (PPF), Campaign for Democracy (CD), Centre for the Advancement of Children's and Women's Right (CACWR) and Centre for Human Empowerment, Advancement and Development (CHEAD) – were in deadly earnest. They set a deadline of June 30 for Mr. Orji’s resignation. And they promised to commence non-violent civil disobedience should he ignore their call.

My bet is that Governor Orji would not hearken to the ultimatum to resign. Nigerian politicians are not in the habit of giving up power, even when they have no idea how to deploy the resources of their office to solve problems.

The first duty of any government is to guarantee the security of the lives and property of its people. By this measure, Governor Orji has failed the people of Abia.

The groups demanding his resignation took care to offer a convincing narrative of Abia as “a failed state.” The dossier included a “spate of armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, ritual killings and rape in Abia State, particularly Aba.” The groups decried “the spiraling wave of insecurity in the state.” They instantiated with gory, shocking details: “Between 14 May and 8 June, several banks have been robbed, security personnel brutally killed, trouser-wearing ladies raped, and innocent persons kidnapped for rituals and/or ransom under the nose of heavily armed security men, including the blood-thirsty Abia State Vigilante Services (Bakassi boys).”

Then there was this unanswerable indictment: “Armed robbers and kidnappers now give notice before they strike, as vividly shown by the invasion of First Bank Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc, both in Port Harcourt Road, Aba on Wednesday, 2 June. Recall that they had written to inform [the banks] of their intention to rob them and eventually did, to [the] chagrin of all.”

It’s a sweeping, bleak panorama of the state of insecurity in Abia. But the stigma of failure is not Theodore Orji’s alone. It is a humiliating admission to make, but sadly true: a cadre of greedy, visionless leaders has for too held sway in the Igbo-speaking southeastern states. Other past and current governors of these states have – by their corruption, lack of vision and absence of strategic intelligence – condemned Igboland to economic doldrums and moral degradation.

On June 5, I was in Toronto to give the keynote address at the annual Biafran War Memorial celebration. My talk harped on the current war in Igboland, a war characterized, above all, by a crisis of values. I tried to persuade my audience that, in sheer enormity and direness, the ongoing war dwarfs the effects of the Biafran war that claimed more than a million lives.

Let’s be clear: the triumph and veneration of morally virulent values is not an exclusively Igbo malaise. Nigeria as a whole has long been in the grips of a deformed ethos, the reign of a disorder in which absurdity is held to be sensible, impunity is exalted, and honor is mocked.

In my view, however, the Igbo have paid the steepest price for permitting these misshapen values to gain traction – and then to be embedded as the norm. The moral cancer metastasizing through Igboland is best detected in the music as well as social language.

For years, the fiercely republican Igbo carelessly allowed themselves to dance to lyrics that proclaimed “ana enwe obodo enwe” – roughly translated as “a community is owned.” At first glance, that lyrical claim would appear innocuous, even persuasive. Another lyric set out to name the Igbo’s “nnukwu mmanwu” – big masquerades. Any discerning person would be shocked by the questionable pedigree of some of the men advertised either as the “owners” of their community or big masquerades.

Wealth, whatever the mode and means of its accumulation, was the unmistakable criterion for “owning” one’s community or receiving recognition as a big masquerade. Bowing to wealth, some Igbo musicians shamelessly trumpeted scallywags, scoundrels, and charlatans. It seemed anathema to credit anybody for the quality of his or her public service, for exemplary moral conduct, or for proven distinction of mind. I have never heard any musician invite Chinua Achebe, the most globally well-known and revered Igbo man – a man of stellar intellectual achievement and stupendous ethical funds – to take a seat among the masquerades. Nor have I heard any musician suggest, in a lyric, that the outstanding novelist has a say in the ownership of his community. No pride of place was reserved for women and men whose stock came in the form of dedication to service, whether in the private or public sector, or self-sacrifice in the cause of advancing the common good.

It was inevitable that the habit of worshiping material possession would bring Nigeria to its present troubling pass. In Igboland, the consequence has been nothing short of tragic. One of the popular phrases in Igbo public speech is, “onye bu igu ka ewu n’eso” – or, the goat follows the man with the palm fronds. It is a disturbing statement in every particular. It reduces humans to the level and ethic of a goat. It dictates that every goat/human must follow the man with food, even where the food is stolen.

Such scant regard for sound moral values has had devastating effect. It has fed an anything-goes culture. It has enabled shady characters to sink roots in Igboland and criminals to make a cottage industry out of kidnapping their fellows. There are whispers that some traditional rulers, unscrupulous police officers, shady businessmen as well as “prominent” politicians – the kind often dubbed big masquerades – now organize, sponsor or run their own kidnapping cells.

The Igbo have never faced a more serious challenge than the current blight of kidnappers. We can no longer afford to dress up the ugly truth in fine garbs: the Igbo people are engulfed in a war for survival akin to Biafra, but more desperate, if you ask me. The only difference is that, in this case, the enemy is within.

The casualty is extremely high. Fewer and fewer Igbos resident in such places as Abuja, Lagos or Port Harcourt look forward to traveling to their home states. And when they go, they must arrange to hire several police officers to guard them. The prospects are even grimmer for Igbos who live abroad. For fear of kidnappers, many – perhaps most – traditional marriage ceremonies are now held in Nigerian cities far from Igboland. Imagine the economic and social costs of the flight of such ceremonies. How about investment in new businesses? They have virtually dried up.

Igboland is beleaguered, dangerously close to becoming a no-go area. Yet, the Igbo governors have disconcertingly shown little inclination to weigh any serious measures to remediate the situation. Is it that they fail to recognize the scale of the threat, that they are bereft of ideas for tackling the monster, or – as many people speculate – that some of them are profiteers from the crisis?

Equally indicted are those men and women who run around Abuja and Lagos, styling themselves Igbo leaders. Their pretension to the role of leaders is rebuked by the fact that they have not seen fit to confer and focus on strategies for winning the deadliest, costliest war facing their people. The Igbo’s cultural and moral crisis is exacerbated by a crisis of leadership.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the specter of kidnapping was germinated and fertilized by a permissive culture that, over many years, sought to blur the line between “alu” (sacrilege or profanation) and “ife zili ezi” (good conduct). Consequently, if we are to win the war we’re in, we need not just a diligent, sanitized, well equipped and highly trained police (a far cry from the corruption-ridden apparatus that has usurped the name of law enforcement in Nigeria), an attuned political leadership, and a judiciary that is awake to its sacred mandate. Above all, we need a fundamental re-orientation of values. We must reclaim that moral clarity that once enabled the Igbo people to be appalled at execrable conduct and to look at ill-gotten wealth and say, in fierce repudiation, “Tufia!” or “Alu!”

We must seek this moral rebirth, or we’re doomed.

Emphasis On First Son: Still Worth It?

By Dr. Chuks Osuji, Daily Independent

In February 13, 1976, in Dallas Texas, a group of Igbo ethnic stock gathered in my room for a kind of get-together when a telephone call came from Nigeria. It was indeed a bad call, as the caller told me that our Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed, had been assassinated. What was more intriguing was the other aspect of the message; that he had already been buried in Kano. When I broke the news to my fellow Igbo, they were equally shocked. But they could not agree on one thing: whether it was proper to have buried such a Head of State so fast without giving other leaders from other African countries and beyond opportunity to attend his burial. The same thing happened in 1998 when Sani Abacha died and recently when Umaru Yar’Adua died.

In fact, from the first incident, the death and prompt burial of Mohammed, I have been saddled with the rationale of that Islamic injunction of burying every Muslim without any funfair. For quite sometime now, I have come irrevocably to the conclusion that, it is the best way to bid farewell to the departed and not by subjecting the living to untold hardship of getting ourselves involved in “brass-banding” and other orchestrated and unrealistic considerations.

Then I asked myself, what of my culture which puts a lot of burden on the living? This has further led me to begin to reflect on so many aspects of my people’s culture, which places a lot of emphasis on the cultural and traditional roles on the concept of first son as very inevitable in the maintenance of the family lineage.

Although as a solid Christian, I believe in the supremacy of the Almighty God, and Christ as the head of faith, I have undiluted belief in my people’s culture, which does not infringe on my Christian beliefs. Yet, within this general belief, I abhor some of the imported behaviours, particularly those that have come to downgrade our cultures and tend to regard them as idolatry and primitive. However, if in any given issue, there is a conflict between my religious obligation and my culture, I will rather defend my culture because my culture is under constant threat, but Christianity is ever gaining ground and is not under threat, except by the wave and influx of so-called “new generation prosperity evangelical pulpit magicians”.

There is one aspect of my culture which has constantly agitated my mind for which we, the entire Igbo ethnic nationality and others, such as non-Christian Yoruba, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhbo, Efik, Ibibio in Nigeria, can go to any length in search of a son among their children for one principal reason: to ensure the existence of the family lineage.

Today, having travelled far and wide and with experiences gathered so far, I realised that this issue of the concept of first son headache is more acute and entrenched among Nigerians than other cultures particularly outside Africa.

Added to this is the pivotal role ascribed to the first son in every family matter. Every father places very high premium on his first son. Even his wife too, although she may sometimes behave as if she has her choice heavily weighed towards her first daughter, once the issue of lineage and inheritance comes in focus, she will instantly recoil.

Today, in Igbo ethnic nationality, any man without a son is not a happy man at all. Even if you ask him the commonest greetings among our people “how are you?” although he is likely to reply “it is all well”, it will be preceded with an inaudible sigh. Why must it be so? On the other hand, if we see a man with several male children without a female child, he would in all probability be boasting that “I have special favour from my maker”. His wife may, inside her, be worried somehow, perhaps for social and economic reasons, such a situation may not cause her loss of sleep. But a man without a male child can do anything under the planet to get one. He may marry another wife. To do this, he may tactically chase out the first ‘helpless’ wife or reduce her to the status of senior housemaid.

Unfortunately, as it often happens, once the new wife comes in, the first may deliver a male child if she is still enjoying the favour of her husband. Otherwise she has done what she has not been able to do in the past for keeping faith in her marriage. And the husband will have neither the conscience nor the strength to ask her “what happened?” If she is chased out of the marriage and has only female children, in future, she may be brought back by her daughters, particularly when they begin to have financial influence in the family. And their father and his new wife become dependent on his daughters, who can now be deciding vital issues in the family? What is more unfortunate is that if the woman chased away is still within marriageable and productive age, if she remarries, she is likely to become a quasi-industry of procreation of children, males and females. Because she has been liberated from an ignorant and culturally imprisoned man, ignorant husband who does not know that sex selection depends more on the man than the woman, in Biology.

Fortunately, daughters in many families in Igbo ethnic nationality have become not only breadwinners for their families, but lifelines also.

Today, due to opportunities of migration, particularly to America, Europe and Asia, many daughters have either travelled out with their husbands or made fortunes under their husbands, or independently. With such opportunities today, many Igbo families have seen success through the efforts of their first daughters.

While they are in far away countries with their husbands, or on their own, and while desirous to build their nuclear family in their husbands’ homes, they could not forget their roots.

In fact, while many of today’s first sons have gone with the wind and virtually become a lost generation, first daughters in the Diaspora and at their biological environment, have not forgotten to take care of their ageing parents. In fact, it is an incontestable fact, within Igbo ethnic nationality, that many parents, ageing ones, would not attain mature age without the support of their first daughters, wherever they may be. First sons care less and think not of home, even when they are around. They rarely visit their parents let alone take care of them. Even if either of them dies, they are likely to depend on their sisters to bring money for the burial, and sometimes make fortunes out of the burial of their parents from their brothers-in-law. Sad again. These are some of the reasons that have persuaded me to have a rethink about some of our cultural emphasis on the concept and roles of first sons. No doubt, many will disagree with me. Fine, but I am sure that a few will stop for a moment to think about this. That is the essence of education and enlightenment.

In conclusion, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not against our cultural and traditional patterns and settings. What I am advocating here is for us to begin to appreciate the fact that in many nuclear families in those nationalities in the southern part of Nigeria, evidence abounds of the impact of daughters on their biological homes; and correspondingly, the lack of impact by some sons, particularly first sons. Quite a number of them in the Diaspora, particularly those in the U.S. and in Europe, have been deceived by western cultures in several behaviours. Marriage, which is the crux of our family growth and the growth of a nation, has been reduced to a casual matter. Training of kids and bringing them in the way of perceived cultural norms and traditional practices have been neglected.

In other aspects of our cultural set-up, as already alluded, the issue of maintaining an unbroken chain of linkage with our ageing parents has been eroded by the influence of other cultures. Although we may assert economic pressures and other mundane reasons, the well-known tradition of extended family system has virtually evaporated. It is a matter of fact that more of us with good qualifications, higher education and top level employments and appointments were beneficiaries of extended family system within Igbo ethnic nationality. These days, instead of practising extended family system, we are practising disintegrated family system. It is a matter of, “to your tents Oh Israel.” This is not the way it should be.

I strongly posit that our marriage must be strengthened. The roles of first sons must be de-emphasised and equal weight be given to our first daughters because modern civilisation has given them equal opportunity to contribute to the success of their biological families. Parents, wherever they may be found, must ensure that they do not forget their roots. And once they do this, their children will not forget such roots and the rising wave of lost generation could be reversed and reversed for the better.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

As South East Governors Unite…

By Nnedi Ogaziechi, Daily Independent

“Coming together is a beginning

keeping together is progress

working together is success”

- Henry Ford

For once in a very long time, the South East Governors of Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Imo and Ebonyi put behind them the negative politicking that has kept the zone down for a while now as they collectively gathered in the ancient city of Enugu for the reception of the new Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman, Okwesilieze Nwodo. Despite the divisionist antagonisms of hangers on, the two (outsider) Governors (by virtue of their belonging to a different political party), Peter Obi of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and his new colleague, Theodore Orji of Abia defied all odds to attend.

The South East geopolitical zone has had the bad fortune of underdevelopment since the end of the civil war about four decades ago. For so long, the zone has cried out about the neglect it has had to endure from the Federal government for both infrastructural and human developmental stagnation. To a large extent, some politicians from the zone (undoubtedly those that arrived after the Ziks, the Oparas, the Akanu Ibiams etc.) have been at the engine room of this mischief as they had consistently placed self over communal good.

The setting aside of egos (and men do politicians have huge egos!), party sentiments and the obtrusive pull-him-down syndrome might just be the tonic the zone needs to kick-start a regional rejuvenation. For too long, the ‘marginalisation’ mantra has been dangled across the world. It is time indigenes reinvigorate the ‘igwe bu ike’ (there’s strength in unity) of Ndigbo. Let’s not continue with the illusion that having some positive regional parapoism is anti-national integration. Charity, as they say, begins at home.

It is good that the respective governors are realising that party affiliation cannot be divorced from the democratic obligation to the greater number. For long, selfish individuals whose personal and professional pedigrees are monumentally questionable have held the zone by the jugular and have severally betrayed the voiceless number in the South East.

There have been individuals who seizing the rare opportunity of political visibility had colluded with dubious individuals from other regions to shortchange Ndigbo while reveling in their assumed popularity as ‘ Abuja ’ politicians. These are individuals who pride themselves in the vanity of being ‘known’ to the so-called ‘ Abuja ’ political big men. Their stock in trade is generally the destabilisation of the zone and priding themselves as the only cocks that crow in the region. Their myopic perception does not give them the advantage of the bigger picture.

The sad part of their activities is that they were almost succeeding in labeling the people of the South East the most disorganised set of Nigerians. Because these individuals usually lack the requisite intellect and character needed to galvanise and serve the people, they hide in far away Abuja and grandstand about oftentimes-illusory ‘leadership’ and put in so much effort at destabilising the home front when they feel their ‘relevance’ is threatened. They are the ones whose stock in trade is causing the most ignominious political and electoral confusions in their effort to remain relevant.

The Peoples Democratic Party has been notorious since 1999 for making false promises for the economic rejuvenation of the South East with our so-called sons and daughters in the party being prime cheerleaders. It is hoped that the Nwodo leadership of the party would open a new vista for the people irrespective of party affiliations.

Equally gratifying is his recognition of the redemptive role he is expected to play as the chairman of the biggest political party on the African continent. It is good that he is very aware of the kind of image his party has in the country. Coming from a zone notorious for political brigandage (remember the Mbadinuju-Ngige-Obi-Etiaba-Obi debacle in Anambra, the ebeano hooliganism in his home state, Enugu, the 2006 PDP-money primaries in Imo State etc.) the whole world expects the new chairman to clean up the mess.

According to Nwodo at the reception, “let the message be sent that we have come to a stage where we look at merit, where we look at dignity, not a time where leadership is based on tribe or religion.” Hopefully coming to the table with a fair sense of purpose and a solid professional and political history, Nwodo would remember the saying that to whom much is given much is required. Having made a pledge before the people and being a core Igbo son, one only hopes he won’t go the way of his predecessors.

The Governors of the five states that make up the zone must be given credit for taking the bold step of teamwork to rescue a zone that is almost at the edge of the precipice. Economically, the zone is at its worst. Socially, the admirable social cohesion and cultural ethos of the people have been on a downward spiral. The crime rate is amazing and the male population is largely illiterate as there is too much apathy for education. No people without modern education can comfortably key into a modern economy that is technology driven.

The interdependence of the five states whether the Governors acknowledge it or not makes one state’s problem a problem of the rest. Playing the Ostrich in the name of ‘different party’ sentiments can only be like cutting one’s nose to spite the face. Let the normal communal spirit of Ndigbo that has been renewed at the reception be kept alive for the good of all. Any advice to the contrary must be seen as coming from the usual enemies of progress.

As the new PDP Chairman promised, let the next leaders be people of unquestionable moral pedigree who have development at the heart and not those who seek political office as a means of livelihood or a means to launder a dirty image built over the years. The umunna system of electing family heads ought to be the guiding principle. Here, family pedigree, character, professional achievement and integrity are the watchwords. Leadership to the Igbos has never been about naira and kobo. The deviation from the noble and core values of the Igbos is what has kept the zone down for so long.

The governors have seemingly put the hands of development on the plough and there should be no looking back. They must see themselves as trailblazers and jettison any advice to do the contrary because definitely those who feel they would lose out if there is no chaos would fight back for the status quo to remain. They should realise that political parties are just a means to an end and not an end in themselves. The people is the reason for the party in the first place

Women In Politics, What Lessons?

Penultimate week, some female politicians had a rally at Eagle square in Abuja. Speaker after speaker wanted the males to actualise the promise of a thirty per cent slot for the womenfolk or even better, a bigger percentage. Prominent in the crowd were women who are already playing some roles at both the executive and legislative arms of government.

Looking at their radiant faces, one could not but ask how far a majority of these women has used their positions to uplift fellow women who are unarguably the ones who bear the brunt of bad leadership? How far has their conduct made them admirable role models to the younger women? What contributions have they made to advance the education of the girl child? How many have their female home helps in school? How far have they campaigned against child marriage, maternal and child mortality? The future is for the educated. Methinks the campaign skews unfavourably in favour of the status quo. Women being majority of the voters have the power to put more women in power. Really, the men are too enamoured by their ‘success’ to bend to pleas. Education for women is the key.

When it's wise to step down

By Ochereome Nnanna, Vanguard Newspapers

THE present crop of governors in charge of the affairs of states of the South East zone has represented the Igbo heartland extremely well. They have demonstrated an admirable degree of collective purpose, which was not there between 1999 and 2007, when each of the previous governors behaved like crazy political buccaneers.
They were never able to speak with one voice and when they did, one or more of them would go behind, in cahoots with Ohanaeze leaders such as Professor Joe Irukwu, to torpedo collective decisions because of some favours or fears from former President Obasanjo.

At a point, all the governors of the zone were of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and yet they were like water and oil that could never mix.

The setting today is different. Only three states: Imo – Enugu and Ebonyi – are under PDP governors. The other two: Abia and Anambra, are now under the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

It is a pleasant irony that now they are scattered in different political camps they have been able to discover unity of purpose. Perhaps it has to do with the difference between the political atmosphere created by former President Obasanjo and what currently obtains.

It also has something to do with the fact that the gentlemen now in charge are much better adjusted personalities than their predecessors.

When the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua’s ailing body was hidden in Aso Villa and campaigns were on for him to be removed and the then Acting President Goodluck Jonathan sworn-in, the South East governors met and collectively stood against it even though the Ohanaeze supported the push to activate the Constitution.

Many people lampooned them. Even though I also wanted the Constitution to be followed, I knew why the governors took their stand. It had nothing to do with any opposition to the emergence of Jonathan. Far from that. They read the mood of the “cabal” and saw the possible danger our democracy might be faced with if the matter was pushed too far.

But more than that was their personal regard and appreciation of Umaru’s excellent disposition towards addressing some anti-Igbo issues left dangling from the Obasanjo regime.

These included the listing of Imo and Abia states in the Coastal States’ initiative, approval of river ports at Onitsha and Oguta, dredging of the lower Niger River , approval of a Stock Exchange for Onitsha, concrete steps towards commencing the Second Niger Bridge, the restoration of the stolen oil wells to Abia State and many more.

Yar’ Adua had shown himself as a president the governors could work with, as he made promises and kept them without first remembering the fact that the Igbo fought a civil war against the rest of Nigeria .

The decision, last weekend, by the five governors of the South East that the Igbo people will not present a presidential or vice presidential candidate in the 2011 election also got my applause.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo should also meet and formally announce the stepping down of the majority ethnic group of the East from the race. Anybody who goes ahead to contest will be on his own.

It has nothing to do with a “boycott”, as there is no serious matter calling for that. It is a sensible strategy to actively and voluntarily give ground to those who are more favoured by the current equations to contest.

The North is favoured because of the zoning arrangement of the ruling party. The South-South is also favoured in that someone from there is the incumbent President of Nigeria who has a constitutional right to contest.

Any Igbo candidate plunging into the race of 2011 will constitute an obstruction to a South-South candidate, which will serve no useful purpose. Worse, any vice presidential runner will be spoiling the chances of the South-South, and the true Igbo political interest is not cut out to spoil what belongs to others.

In their fight for president with the South-South, the North is very likely to invade the South East for running mates in the hope that they would swing Igbo votes and abort a possible Goodluck Jonathan’s chances of getting elected.

One lesson I have learnt about Nigerian politics is that when the turn of a group to get political favours from Nigeria is ripe, the whole nation usually comes together to grant it. In 1999, we gave it to Yoruba. In 2007 we gave it back to the North.

In both races, all major presidential candidates were from the favoured zones. When Yar’ Adua died we had no problem giving it an Ijaw to whom it was constitutionally due. When the turn of the Igbo truly arises, the major parties will have Igbo aspirants as their presidential candidates. 2011 is not that time.

Rather, as the South East governors have rightly put it, come 2011, the Igbo should give their support only to the candidate of the North or South-South who has a more attractive package of redressing marginalisation and inequity the Igbo people have suffered since the end of the civil war.

Whoever makes it possible for the South East to acquire an equal number of states and equitable number of local councils and electoral constituencies with the other geopolitical zones should be supported. These are more important than an “Igbo president” because they are the necessary stepping stones to a viable Igbo aspiration to the presidency.

Sometimes it pays more to voluntarily abstain. In the past, Yorubas gained more from Nigeria when they were in the opposition.

Since they were taken to the “mainstream” of Nigerian politics by Obasanjo in 2003, the fear and respect that the ruling establishment had for South West politics has, obviously, gone down. Temporary voluntary abstention often gives one a greater bargaining muscle.