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Army’s CSR: Examining Buratai/Farouk Yahaya

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NYSC, Youth's Trust And Empowerment

By
Emmanuel Onwubiko

Few weeks back, I read in one of the obscure blogs about an event that ordinarily should have occupied the front pages of major newspapers in Nigeria because of the very rare and salutary nature of the scenario that took place in the centre of the war on terror in the North East of Nigeria.

I am talking about the very impressive act of human kindness that was done by some soldiers on the frontlines of the ongoing war on terror in which they were actually said to have assisted an internally displaced woman in the North East to deliver her of her baby.

The specific blog that carried this story did not actually explain to its audience that it was a routine charitable conduct of professional Nigerian soldiers which they are trained to do to benefit the civilian population around their zone of responsibility. Doing CSR is a universal practice especially in constitutional democracies.

Soldiers have also being seen administering medical assistance to the needy in the war-ravaged North East of Nigeria just as this kind of socially responsible duties were highly encouraged during the tenure of Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai and he effectively left his footprints in this area on the sands of time which subsequent army chiefs have built upon.

The current Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Farouk Yahaya has started boldly in carrying out legendary corporate social responsibility tasks with his men and officers.

This writer is highly impressed and inspired to do this piece by that photograph of soldiers who are at the war fronts but still found time to deliver a woman of her baby in Borno State.

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The reason for my repeated emphasis on this particular act of human kindness by soldiers is because even the United Nations has spoken so much about the plight of pregnant women in the different internally displaced people’s camps in the North East of Nigeria as can be seen from a report done few months back by UNICEF.

UNICEF wrote on the 17th October 2018 that Hauwa Bukhar and her newborn daughter, Aishat, sit quietly in a row of chairs at a health clinic in the Muna Garage displacement camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria. She is among a group of women waiting their turn to be seen. Many of them share the experience of being mothers, and all have endured the hardship of being forced to flee their homes.

The Muna Garage camp is home to over 35,000 residents. They are among at least 1.76 million people who have been displaced by the ongoing conflict in north-east Nigeria – their villages ransacked, their property lost and their lives changed forever. The majority of people who have been displaced are living in Borno State, the epicentre of the crisis, which is where Muna Garage camp is located.

Hauwa and her family were displaced a year ago, after an armed group raided their village, taking with them cattle and villagers, mostly young women. Hauwa managed to escape, but lost everything, including four of her children after they got separated. After four long months, she was finally reunited with her children and husband and they settled in Muna Garage Camp.

“That was the worst four months of my life, I did not know whether my children had been abducted or had been killed,” she says through tears.

Giving birth in crowded camps says UNICEF is traumatic because life in the overcrowded camp is hard, but it is especially difficult for pregnant women.

“It is not easy for these women but we give them the best we can. Pregnant women need space, comfort and peace of mind, but the women in the camp have none of that. It is even worse for them when they have to deliver at night,” says Aisha Mustapha Kolo, a midwife at one of the clinics.

“That was the worst four months of my life, I did not know whether my children had been abducted or had been killed.

“At night, there are no health services available in the camp because it is too dangerous for health workers to travel after dark. Women who go into labour at night must therefore give birth at home. Others decide to give birth at home due to traditional beliefs. But for most people in the camp, home is just one grass hut with shared toilets. This means that many pregnant women are forced to deliver their babies in a communal bathroom.

“Aisha has worked at the clinic for over a year, and says there were 600 births in the camp and 10 under-five deaths in 2017. Although there were no recorded newborn deaths in 2017, most mothers whose babies die at home soon after birth rarely report the cases to the health facility.”

UNICEF wrote about a particular happy ending for the subject matter aforementioned and informed us that Aisha is checking up on Hauwa’s newborn baby, who is “in perfect health”, according to the midwife.

“This is my sixth baby. But this pregnancy was the hardest, I was not sure my baby was going to make it,” says Hauwa. “I was lucky, my baby was ready to come during the day and I was delivered of her here at the clinic.”

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Hauwa’s story is one of the few with a happy ending. So many others have sad stories to tell.

UNICEF is supporting the government of Borno State by providing primary health care services in the two clinics located in Muna Garage Camp, and in about 50 other camps in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – the states most affected by violence. This support includes training for health workers; providing emergency medicines, supplies and equipment; and paying monthly stipends for volunteers working in camps and in newly liberated areas. It also includes treating common diseases, immunization services, antenatal care, delivery, post-natal care, vitamin A supplements, distributing deworming tablets, hygiene promotion, community mobilization, referral services including maintenance of ambulances.

Across the world, 7,000 newborns die every day. Raise your voice to demand affordable, quality health care for every mother and newborn, concludes the UNICEF report.

Before delving further to specifically list just a few of these CSR landmarks made by General Buratai and then how so well the current army chief has begun, let us read from a piece dated June 29th 2021 written by Gordon Scott titled “Why Social Responsibility Matters to Businesses”. In our own case we can as well substitute the term businesses with the term Nigerian Army.

The aforementioned author says that companies are increasingly ramping up their focus on social responsibility, whether in championing women’s rights, protecting the environment, or attempting to obliterate poverty, on local, national, or global levels. From an optics perspective, socially responsible companies project more attractive images to both consumers and shareholders alike, which serves to positively affect their bottom lines.

CSR is key because customers (citizens) matter says the author and argued thus: “Embracing socially responsible policies goes a long way towards attracting and retaining customers, which is essential to a company’s long-term success. Furthermore, many individuals will gladly pay a premium for goods, knowing that part of the profits will be channelled towards social causes near and dear to them.

“Companies can likewise witness increased foot traffic if they enhance the local community. For example, banks that dispense loans to low-income households are apt to see an uptick in business, as a direct result.

“Socially responsible companies tend to attract employees who are eager to make a difference in the world—in addition to simply collecting a paycheck. With large companies, there is strength in numbers, where collective employee efforts can achieve substantial results, which increases workplace morale and boosts productivity.

Community-oriented companies often enjoy a leg up on their competition, as well, thanks to superior brand imaging. Socially responsible companies cultivate positive brand recognition, increase customer loyalty, and attract top-tier employees. These elements among the keys to achieving increased profitability and long-term financial benefits, he concluded.

READ ALSO: Army: Examining The Buratai’s Paradox

The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) implies positive, as opposed to negative, influence and contribution of an organization to society and its environment. It is the way in which a corporate body, group or body impacts its milieu by providing basic amenities or contributing to its host community or society outside its strict legal bounds or contract with such a community, individuals or society.

According to Nigeria Social Enterprise Reports Vol.2, CSR is generally understood to be the way a company achieves a balance or integration of economic, environmental and social imperatives while at the same time addressing shareholders and stakeholders expectations. This stems from the fact that organizations like businesses owe the society beyond the production of goods and services and making of profit.

While it is not news that in May 2008 Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council approved the development of a CSR policy for the country, to instill ethical behavior in Nigerian businesses, words used by the then Minister of National Planning Commission, Dr Sanusi Daggash, make it clear that the policy includes “beyond law commitment” and activities that would necessitate an expectation to ‘give back’ to the society by groups existing in society not merely limited to “companies”.

The theory is rooted in the humanity of man and the need for everybody or organization to act in accordance with that humanity or respond to the same irrespective of their core traditional role for which they were primarily set up to achieve.  Thus the concept of corporate social responsibility extends to all organizations of human endeavor including such as the army. It is in this regard that the definition of the concept of CSR by the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) is quite appreciable because of its broad base. EFQM, in its Framework for Social Responsibility, 2004, defines CSR as: “A whole range of fundamentals that organizations are expected to acknowledge and to reflect in their actions. It includes among other things respecting human rights, fair treatment of the workforce, customers and suppliers, being good corporate citizens in the communities in which they operate and the conservation of natural environment.”

On the other hand, the Nigerian Army is established under section 217(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which provides that there shall be an armed forces for the Federation which shall consist of an Army, a Navy, an Air Force and such other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.

The functions of the armed forces are expressly provided in under section 217(2) thus: “The Federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of –
(a)  Defending Nigeria from external aggression;
(b)            Maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea and air;
(c) Suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do by the President, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and
(d)Performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.”

The place of the army in society cannot be over-emphasized. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive principle of State Police makes a correlation between security and welfare of the people by stating under section 14(1)(b) that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. It must equally be noted that it is not out of place that the subject of security and welfare is immediately preceded by the sovereignty of the people under section 14(1)(a).

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The point being made is that the sovereignty of the nation is only guaranteed and protected where the security and welfare of the people is prioritized.  A most functional institution of the state involved in protecting the sovereignty, security and welfare of the people is the military and especially the army. The Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf is even called ‘Mr. Staff Welfare’ in his office because he is known for his passion for welfare of staff and services to the communities in form of CSR.

This role of the army in society is much more understandable in the light of section 218 (1) of the Constitution which confers on the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces with “power to determine the operational use of the armed forces of the Federation.”

The functions and use of the army are therefore not confined to the ones mentioned under section 217 of the constitution and could go beyond as far as the president considers it necessary. This role will better be understood in the light of its corporate social responsibility.

First the army is neutral, non-partisan and peaceful. Section 55 of the Armed Forces Act says: A person subject to service law who-
(a) Fights, quarrels or behaves a disorderly manner with any other person, whether subject to service law under this Act or not; or
(b) Uses threatening, abusive, insulting or provocative words or behavior likely to cause disturbance, is guilty of an offence under this section and is liable, on conviction by a court martial, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or any less punishment provided by this Act.

The army authorities continue to ensure that the neutral, non-partisan and peaceful role of the army in society is observed, any breach of which immediately gets a reciprocal response by summons to a court martial in appropriate circumstances.

Second there is another part of the CSR which defines its ability and efficiency in other respects, it is in taking care of its own workforce. Although there is no specific legal provision regulating CSR in Nigeria, section 279 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) has a guiding principle to the effect that the director of a company is to have regard in the performance of his functions to the interest of the company’s employees in general as well as in the interests of its members.

The concept of CSR in this regard has thus been identified to entail: provision of a conducive working environment in making available modern working tools and equipment, ventilated offices, good infrastructure, decent and official cars, health and safety equipment at the workplace; payment of competitive salary remuneration commensurate with the level of commitment and offer of opportunities for training and career development; maintaining equal opportunities among members of workforce; involving members of the workforce in decisions affecting them; establishment of clear-cut bargaining and grievance procedures known to and followed by members of the workforce.

In the case of Lt. Col. MF Komonibo v. Nigerian Army (2002) 6 NWLR (Pt.762) 2, it was held that an accused about to be tried by a court martial shall be entitled to object in any reasonable grounds to any member of the court martial or the awaiting member whether appointed originally or in lieu of another officer. The court went further to affirm that “for the purpose enabling the accused to avail himself of the right.

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The names of the members of the court martial and the waiting members shall be read over in the presence of the accused before they are sworn in and the accused shall be asked whether he objects to any of those officers.”

The military have organized structures to assist civil authorities in emergency situations. For instance, “Operation Second Eleven”, is an aid to civil authority initiative aimed at complementing civil agencies in the maintenance of essential services like telecommunications, petroleum product distribution and medical services in the event of strike by the “first eleven” employees. The Nigerian Army Signals, Supply and Transport and Medical Corps all have operational structures that can be activated at short notice to become “second eleven”.

The Nigerian Medical and other Corps within the military have equally rendered valuable services that have contributed to the socio-economic well-being of the nation. Retired Brig. Gen Ovadje of the Nigerian Army Medical Corps, of a ‘Blood Transfusion Set’, earned Nigeria international recognition.

Similar intervention programmes have been in the six geopolitical zones of the country. Four solar-powered water projects were inaugurated in different settlements in Obeititu autonomous community of Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State by the Nigerian Army represented by General Officer Commanding of the division, Maj. Gen. Abubakar Maikobi in 2019.

Speaking on these interventions, the chief of army staff had said the projects were meant to strengthen the existing civil-military relations and turn the minds of Nigerians towards the positive actions of the Nigerian Army meant to provide security and development in the country. He said: “I want to believe that these water projects will serve the needs of this community and its environs. I wish to also appeal to us to see the projects as symbols of unity. Let these projects serve as symbols of peace, unity, tolerance and love to this community and the state at large….”

The Traditional Ruler of the Community, Eze Amadi Obo, in his response said:
“The entire community, which includes our children, youths, women and elders are very happy about the project coming from the Nigerian Army.”

It is reported that over ninety five percent (95%) of the Chief of Army Staff intervention projects has been successfully executed and inaugurated across the six geo-political.

Recently, as part of efforts to enhance civil-military relations, the Armed Forces often carry out free medical advocacy campaigns in their host communities.

A reporter with Thisday newspaper reports that for the military, they would often want the society to understand that they are more than their guns and that’s why they are often engaged in community services to the respective communities in their Areas of Responsibility (AOR).

While some might see such moves as corporate social responsibility (CSR), the underlying factor is that they help to enhance Civil-Military Relations (CMR). In essence, what this does is to strengthen the ties binding the military and civil populace.

So, for the armed forces, it’s become an act entrenched in tradition to regularly conduct medical outreach and grassroots social services for their host communities

The civil-military cooperation primarily serves as an interface between the Nigerian Army and the civil populace. For the Nigerian Army, the import of civil-military relations cannot be overemphasised. In fact, the army established the Department of Civil-Military Affairs (DCMA) in December 2010. Set up by the then Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General OA Ihejirika, it was positioned to serve primarily as an interface between the Nigerian Army and the civil populace and was also charged with the responsibility of underscoring the fundamentals of Civil Military Affairs as a strategic national institution The department is also charged with the introducing and transmitting of the core elements of effective civil-military relations in areas of human rights, rule of law, negotiations liaison and conflict management. All these are binding on all divisions and units of the army.

At the 81 Division Headquarters, it was in line with the vision of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya to provide a platform to further strengthen relationship between the NA and civilian populace at the grassroots, that they recently held several medical outreaches in Ijebu North Local Government Area of Ogun State and Ajah- Ilaje Community in Lagos.

The first medical outreach took place at Ijebu North Local Government Area (LGA) of Ogun State where the General Officer Commanding, (GOC) 81 Division, Major General Lawrence Fejokwu, also assured the community of adequate security.

At the free medical outreach conducted by 35 Artillery Brigade Alamala as part of the formation’s Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) activities, the GOC said the CIMIC was in line with the vision of the Chief of Army Staff to provide a platform to further strengthen relationship between the NA and civilian populace at the grassroots.He further enjoined the communities to be alert and report any breach of security within their vicinity immediately, while he charged personnel that the use of force should always be the last resort to solving issues.

Earlier, the Commander 35 Artillery Brigade Alamala, Brigadier General Adewale Adekoya during the flag off, noted that the CIMIC exercise was an integral part of 35 Artillery Brigade efforts to enhance civil/military relations and NA’s corporate social responsibility, adding that it was a tradition for the NA to regularly conduct medical outreach and grassroots social services for rural communities.

He further disclosed that the exercise provided an avenue to enlighten the communities on the implications of drug abuse, render free medical consultations and services and enlightenment on recruitment into the NA.

The 35 Brigade CIMIC exercise was extended to traditional rulers, staff of Ijebu North LGA, market women, less privileged, members of Community Development Association and students. The medical services included blood pressure check, eye examination and medication for malaria and fever.

Commemorating NADCEL in Ajah-Ilaje, the division also in commemoration of the Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL) 2021, last weekend offered free medical outreach to Ajah-Ilaje community in Lagos.

At the flag-off, the GOC 81 Division reiterated that the NA has a tradition of regularly reaching out to host communities as part of measures towards enhanced Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC).

Stating that the exercise was part of the activities lined up for NADCEL 2021 with the theme “A professional and ready Nigerian Army: A prerequisite for successful operations in a Joint Environment”, he further explained that the exercise was meant to offer public health services to the Ajah-Ilaje community.

The GOC also used the occasion to implore the community not to relent in offering assistance to the army by providing timely information on the activities of criminal elements within their communities. He further urged the people present to take their medications as prescribed by the doctors and ensure routine medical checkups as a follow up to the exercise.

He disclosed that the areas being covered by the medical outreach include blood test, blood pressure screening, voluntary HIV counseling and dental consultations, deworming and general treatment.

Meanwhile, the Chairperson, Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association (NAOWA), Mrs. Oghenerukevwe Fejokwu and members of the excos donated a truck load of rice on behalf of the division to the community.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Baale of Ajah Ilaje land, His Royal Highness Murisiku Alani Oseni Ojupon ably represented by Honourable Chief Wasiu Olaosebikan Eshinlokun stated that the people of the community were delighted to have the NA in their midst to provide medical services and distribute palliatives.

At the 9 Brigade Army Cantonment, Ikeja, the Brigade Commander, Brigadier General MLD Saraso, also conducted a medical outreach at its host community, the Onigbongbo Kingdom. The commander said the outreach further strengthened the existing relationship between the army and the host community.

The Oba of Onigbongbo kingdom, Oba Oluwasegun Adeyemi Ajasa also commended the army for the outreach, as well as ensuring security of life and property in the area. His sentiments were echoed by Alhaji Tajudeen Irawo, the Jagunmolu of Onigbongbo Kingdom.

This is to encourage the Chief of Army Staff to maintain the tempo of CSR such as assisting communities with roads construction making use of the Army Corps of engineers. This can be done by mutual partnerships with state administration because the Nigerian Army has a good name in the area of building solid and sustainable road infrastructures if given the right support by the civil authorities.

Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.

 

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Opinion

Dele Giwa’s Assassination: 35 Years After

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Dele Giwa’s Assassination: 35 Years After

By

Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye 

“Death is…the absence of presence…the endless time of never coming back…a gap you can’t see, and when the wind blows through it, it makes no sound”  Tom Stopard 

In the morning of Monday, October 20, 1986, I was preparing to go to work when a major item on the Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) 6.30 news bulletin hit me like a hard object. Mr. Dele Giwa, the founding editor-in-chief of Newswatch magazine, had the previous day been killed and shattered by a letter bomb in his Lagos home. My scream was so loud that my colleague barged into my room to inquire what it was that could have made me to let out such an ear-splitting bellow.

Dele Giwa’s Assassination: 35 Years After

DELE GIWA

We were three young men who had a couple of months earlier been posted from Enugu to Abakaliki to work in the old Anambra State public service, and we had hired a flat in a newly erected two-storey building at the end of Water Works Road, which we shared. My flat-mate, clearly, was not familiar with Giwa’s name and work, and so had wondered why his death could elicit such a reaction from me. But later that day, as he interacted with people, he realised that Giwa’s death was such big news, and by the next couple of days, he had become an expert on Giwa and his truncated life and career. Across the country, Giwa’s brutal death dominated the news not just because of the pride of place he occupied in Nigerian journalism practice and but more because of the totally novel way his killers had chosen to end his life.

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Indeed, death is an appointment which every human being must keep. While we are on earth, we reserve the right to reschedule or even cancel our day-to-day appointments. But in the matter of birth or death, any cancellation or rescheduling of appointments remain the exclusive prerogative of the Creator. Although death is unavoidable, yet, no man has any right to arrogate to himself the role of bringing forward any other person’s appointment with death. In fact, it is abominable to even use one’s hands to hasten one’s own appointment with death. Laws of God and man fiercely abhor such an action. So, murderers, suicide bombers and their sponsors and supporters should get it into their heads that they have no mandate whatsoever from the Creator of man to take even their own lives let alone those of other people, no matter the motivation.

Now, deep down the heart of every man and woman, and beyond the facade of all apparent fearlessness and bravery, lie this cold loathing and resentment for death. The survival instinct is always there and there is always this desire and care to avoid danger, to postpone one’s date with death, temporarily at least, hence the constant struggle at many a deathbed.

No doubt, Mr. Giwa was not expecting his own appointment with death when it came calling on Sunday, October 19, 1986. His friends say he loved life, was full of life, and wanted to make the best out of life. He had also worked hard to excel in his chosen career – journalism. But on that Sunday morning, as he had a late breakfast in his study in the company of Kayode Soyinka, the magazine’s London Bureau Chief, a parcel was handed to him.  On it was written: “From the Commander-in-Chief” with an instruction that it must be opened only by the addressee.

“This must be from the president”, Giwa was reported to have said.

But unknown to him, in that seemingly innocuous parcel, was the cold, callous agent of brutal death, intent on accomplishing the abominable mission of hastening his appointment with death. Conceived by man, prepared by man, sent by man and delivered by man, this lethal instrument had only one mission: to bomb out the young life of Dele Giwa. And it did precisely that with chilling exactitude, tearing his flesh, wasting his blood, talent, usefulness to his himself, his family, Newswatch magazine, Nigerian journalism and the Nigerian nation.

Giwa had written in Sunday Concord newspaper of June 8, 1980 that “Death looks for a happy home where it can turn happiness into grief and ensure that for days the household will have nothing to discuss but the blow of death.” He was the pioneer editor of Sunday Concord.  By writing this, he unwittingly wrote his own elegy.

“They got me!” Those were Giwa’s last words at First Foundation Hospital, Ikeja where the Chief Medical Director, the late Dr. Tosin Ajayi and his doctors had battled to see how they could save his life. Earlier, on their way to the hospital, Giwa was saying to his wife, Funmi, in Yoruba, “Nwon ti pa mi”, meaning: “They have killed me.”

Now, who are these “they” that were so heartless, so senseless, so callous, so fiendish and irremediably inhuman? How can a human being elect to do such a horrifying damage to another person? Giwa’s flesh was reportedly shattered, with some pieces (some of which were discovered many days later) scattered about in his study. The autopsy report performed by pathologists at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) said that Giwa suffered from “multiple blast injuries with 25 percent burns, mutilated thighs with fractures of femoral bones and avulsion of femoral vessels”.

This is indeed horrible. The first reaction at the news of such horrendous tragedy would be to ask like Banquo in William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, whether we, as a people, had “eaten on the insane root that takes reason prisoner?”

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Dele Giwa’s death was a very slow painful death. The pictures of his shattered body which the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi displayed during the sitting of the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission of Nigeria (also known as Oputa Panel) set up in 1998 and headed by the late Justice Chukwudifo Oputa could have passed as horror images of the goriest type, showing man (Giwa’s killer) at his basest, most bestial and fiendish worst.

“They have killed me”, Giwa moaned while writhing in indescribable pain, begging Dr. Ajayi to do all within his power to save him.

For more than three decades now Giwa’s killers have been hiding, afraid of the inevitable fall-out of their satanic deed, haunted and tormented by their dirty, murky, slimy conscience.  Even if they eventually manage to escape the judgment of man, they cannot escape the judgment of the Almighty God which is much more dreadful. As we all know, they will surely serve their indescribable punishment forever. That will surely be the case unless they repent of their hideous deed and make the necessary restitutions!

Giwa’s  death plunged a broad spectrum of the Nigerian population into clearly unprecedented, monumental grief and fear. People were afraid to open parcels sent to their homes and offices. The public outcry and loud condemnation was deafening. Indeed, Giwa was right when he wrote in his highly regarded column, ‘Parallax Snaps,’ some months earlier, that “One life taken in cold blood is as gruesome as millions lost in a pogrom.” The reactions that followed his death vindicated the truth of this assertion.

A lot of accusing fingers pointed at the government of the day. It was believed that only a special panel could unravel the mystery that seemed to have attended the gory affair and unearth the unseen hands that perpetrated the spine-chilling murder. In fact, Newswatch’s Board of Directors called for a three-man Judicial Commission of Enquiry headed by a retired judge of high repute, with an archbishop and an Imam as members, to probe the murder. But the General Ibrahim Babangida regime insisted that it was the police that should investigate the murder.  And as would be expected, public skepticism about the likely outcome of investigations undertaken by the Nigerian police was widespread.

In its editorial of October 28, 1986, The Guardian newspaper disagreed with the Babangida regime’s insistence that the investigation into Dele Giwa’s murder should be left for the police, despite widespread calls for a Commission of Inquiry to be set up to probe it.

Said The GuardianThe police have been signally inept in solving much simpler crimes, and the public is justifiably unimpressed by their investigative ability and seriousness… The government has very little choice but to appoint a special prosecutor… [which] will be a dramatic demonstration by government that it has nothing to hide, and is as interested in discovering Giwa’s assassins as the public is…”

A year after Giwa’s murder, when the police predictably “found” nothing and “caught” no one, Ray Ekpu, Newswatch’s new editor-in-chief, in a letter to the police reminded them that any murder which remained unsolved could only mean “added insecurity to the living.”

On his part, Lagos lawyer and human rights crusader, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, vowed to catch Giwa’s killers. His attempt to dock Babangida’s two security chiefs, Brig-Gen Halilu Akilu and Col A.K. Togun, brought him in direct confrontation with the Babangida regime which made no pretense of its intention to not allow any probe more penetrating than the unserious, shallow, perfunctory thing the police were doing. A day before Giwa’s assassination, Akilu had reportedly phoned Giwa’s house to enquire about its correct address from Giwa’s wife, Funmi, explaining that Babangida’s ADC was to stop by to deliver an item for Giwa at his house.  And less than twenty-four hours after this call, a letter bomb was delivered at Giwa’s house!

Until his death in September 2009, Gani remained unrelenting in his determination to ensure that the people he had continued to accuse of the murder since 1986 were brought to justice.

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It is now thirty-five years since Giwa’s murder shook Nigeria to her foundations. Several other mysterious assassinations of journalists and other outspoken public figures have also followed. Maybe, if Giwa’s murder was solved and the perpetrators exposed and punished, it might have deterred other murderous characters from going ahead to kill the other victims that were assassinated afterwards.

Even when Babangida and the two security chiefs who had served under him were summoned by the Oputa Panel following Gani’s petition, they had refused to show up. They instead sought a restraining order from the court to frustrate any attempt by the Panel to compel them to appear before it. Their argument was that the Nigerian president lacked the powers to set up the Panel. Although the Supreme Court later agreed with their submission in a ruling that was delivered long after the Panel’s report had been submitted, what has remained clear is that despite the court judgment, unanswered questions about the gruesome murder have continued to linger in many minds, which the Oputa Panel would have provided everyone fingered an amazing platform to convincingly address.

Interestingly, Col. A. K. Togun, in  a chat with airport correspondents in late 1986, gave some very instructive illustrations that appeared to have thrown some light on the circumstances surrounding Dele Giwa’s murder.  Permit me to reproduce the details of the encounter as reported in the Newswatch edition of November 10, 1986:

“Ten days after he interrogated Giwa, Togun surfaced at the local terminal of Murtala Mohammed International Airport Ikeja, on Monday, October 27, 1986.  He told journalists at the airport that the press was ‘shouting for a crucifixion’ without hearing the other side of the story.  He said that at a seminar on security organised in Lagos, October 9, for media executives and the security agencies, a compromise was struck that editors would inform the SSS of any story they consider damaging to the government interests, and the security service would then decide what to do about it.  

“‘I mean we came to a real agreement and one person cannot just come out and blackmail us.  I am an expert in blackmail’, he said. 

“He then illustrated his point by saying thus: ‘If a motorcycle man suddenly dashed in front of a car and the driver kills that motorcycle man, another motorcycle man who was there would not say that the motorcycle man that dashed in front of the car was wrong.  He would say the driver deliberately killed him, not knowing that he killed himself’… 

“Togun sternly warned the journalists that he would deal with them if their newspapers published the accounts of their encounter with him and if he lost his job in the process.  ‘If you allow them to take away my uniform … I will deal with you people and go to any length to even the score with you,’ he warned, but added that ‘Dele was my friend’”. 

When asked what he thought about Col. Togun’s revelations during his airport encounter with reporters, the then Deputy Inspector General of police, Mr. Chris Omeban, who was in charge of the investigations into Giwa’s murder reportedly replied that the police do not go into proverbs.

And when police investigations into Giwa’s death eventually yielded no results, Gani said: The police have failed to find Giwa’s killers because they know the killers!

After 35 years, the gory story of Giwa’s gruesome murder has refused to go away.  The greatest honour that can be accorded to his name now is to insist that his killers be found. It is not yet late to set up a reputable Commission of Inquiry as favoured by many Nigerians to reopen the case, reexamine the various narratives that have continued to trail the murder and really get to the root of the tragedy, especially, now that most of the witnesses and even those that have been consistently fingered are still alive.

While accusing fingers are still pointing to the direction the Babangida regime and its security chiefs whose names have remained reoccurring items in the gory event, they, too, have been trying to present their own sides of the story, and even attempting to return the accusation at the doorstep of the Newswatch  executives.

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In a recent interview, Togun, who is now a retired general, tried to advance some theories to suggest that the Newswatch London Bureau Chief, Mr. Soyinka, who was at the breakfast table with Giwa when the bomb exploded (and who miraculously escaped being wounded, although he reportedly suffered severe hearing impairment for quite some time) may have some more explanations to volunteer on the murder. All these accusations and counter-accusations and all the other occurrences around the murder, including the contents of Gani’s petition, are what an Independent Commission of Inquiry can thoroughly examine and solve this murder that shook the nation when it occurred.

Other cases of assassination which have also been shrouded in mystery need to be revisited too. Until Nigeria demonstrates a capacity to solve murder cases, especially, high-profile ones involving people critical of government policies and actions, potential murderers would always derive incentive from the conviction that they can always eliminate anyone in Nigeria and get away with it. And that “anyone” can be anybody! Somebody can be in government today and surrounded by heavy security, but tomorrow, such a person might be out of office and become as vulnerable as the next man out there. Leaders go all out to make society a safer place, not just because of others, but also, for them and their relatives.

As murderers continue to be allowed to circulate within the bounds of civilised ambience, and eliminate people with utmost impunity, they not only constitute a threat to hapless, decent and hard-working citizens, their vile activities go further to stifle critical thoughts that are very essential in influencing the evolution of responsible governance which fosters progress and development.

They may, however, continue to hide from man due to government’s inability or unwillingness, or both, to fish them out, and bring them to justice, but they, certainly, cannot hide from God. Their day with divine judgment will surely come! And as the African-Caribbean writer, George Lamming, said in his classic novel, In The Castle Of My Skin, “God can see the blackest ant on the blackest piece of coal on the blackest night.”

Ejinkeonye, a writer and journalist, is the author of the book, Nigeria: Why Looting May Not Stop . (scruples2006@yahoo.com)

 

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Opinion

Is Ken Nnamani The New Bride?

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Is Ken Nnamani The New Bride?

 By

 Sam Akpe

First, I listened casually, then attentively as Vice President Yemi Osibanjo spoke on October 21, at the public presentation of the book: Standing Tall (Legislative Reforms, Third Term and Other Issues of the 5th Senate), written by Senator Ken Nnamani.

His speech brings to mind a poem by a colleague entitled: The Magic of Words. In it, the author, in his usual mystifying style, typical of scholars with overloaded brains, moved words from the realm of vocal or written symbols to that of humans—with minds of their own. He personified words dressed in cloaks of despots and peacemakers.

What the poet, Iboro Otongaran, said in effect is that words build. Words also destroy. Words have the capacity to ignite war; and after much destruction, initiate peace. Words mark the beginning and the end of every discussion. Words are enigmatic in various ways. They defy description.

As captured by Iboro, words have magical powers, “and would go forth to heal; or ram through to harm; upon launch at enthralled; devotees or charmed zealots…. Words can clean, and can muddy up; organised killers are baptized bandits; in another group they are terrorists; labels admit them to different fates; bandits pass off as a benign nuisance; but terrorists rightly end up in hell.”

Professor Osibanjo’s words reminded me of this stanza: “Frankly the world isn’t short of men; who summon words to good deeds; in charters for peace and progress; one good use of words has been; in calls for equity, for coexistence; Luther’s ‘I have a dream’ speech; typifies this recourse to good sense.”

From my obscure corner, Vice President Osibanjo has impressed me in more than one way; especially when he speaks. Listening to him is always a delight. Most times he sounds so innocent that you are tempted to take him on face value.

READ ALSO: Our Fingers And Death By COVID-19

But people at his level do not waste words. They talk with discretion. They sow seeds with words. That is, they invest words for greater dividends. Most times, their words activate actions or sustain inaction—visible and invisible.

Some people would do anything to speak like Osibanjo. Most times, even if they do not like what he says, they are captivated by the way he says them. He speaks with confidence and a touch of elegance. Of course, the man is a professor. But not all professors are so professorial in their speeches.

On Thursday, Osibanjo was at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, for the public presentation of Nnamani’s voluminous book. A detailed political literature, every page draws you deeper inside.

As Osibanjo walked into the crowded hall, he was called to speak almost immediately. The first thing I noticed was that the entire protocol was bungled from the onset. Before the VP was called, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, who represented the President, had spoken.

Assuming the President was there in person; would he have spoken before his deputy? In the absence of the President, would it have been proper for the Vice President to speak before a minister—irrespective of who the minister represented? Confusion!

Under normal circumstances, in an event that had the Vice President in attendance, there would have been no need to send in a minister to represent the President. The VP would have handled the assignment. But we know that these days, nothing is normal in Nigeria. We just keep wobbling on.

Vice President Osibanjo spoke extempore. If he had a script to read from, I didn’t see it. His speech was short, crispy and simple. Let me explain that the simplicity was only in terms of grammar; because there were a few statements left hanging. He started by describing Nnamani as “a man who truly loves this nation.”

It is not clear how deeply the VP knows Nnamani. But he should know him better than the way other Nigerians do. Some of us know Nnamani as an American-trained businessman, who returned to Nigeria, contested election to the Senate in 2003, won and was, despite executive opposition, elected the Senate President, just after two years in the Senate.

But as VP of Nigeria, Osibanjo is better positioned, with all the intelligence at his disposal, to know something about a man of Nnamani’s status, than the rest of us. So, when he described the former Senate President as someone who “lacks desperation to occupy political offices,” he might be right after all.

In a brief speech, Osibanjo recalled how Nnamani presided over the death of the orchestrated tenure elongation project of President Olusegun Obasanjo. In his words, Nnamani “stood against the notorious third term agenda; and he stood strong.”

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The Vice President, after endorsing Nnamani’s leadership of the National Assembly between 2005 and 2007, said, “We (referring to Nigeria) are today faced with challenges that call for the same type of strong leadership that you showed as President of the Senate.”

Wait a minute! What was the VP talking about? He simply dropped some well-coded words in one short sentence and expected us to walk away as though he said nothing. No, he said something. His description of Nnamani fitted President Dwight Eisenhower’s definition of a leader.

Yes, the former American President once said that the supreme quality for leadership comprises unquestionable integrity; the same way Osibanjo described Nnmanni.  General Eisenhower noted that without such integrity, “no real success is possible, no matter whether it is in a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

While I was still turning this over in my mind, Osibanjo wrapped up his statement. He told Nnamani, “Your role in national life has just begun.” There went another weighty statement from the Vice President; all in one day; at one event, within a few seconds.

After describing Nnamani as a man of character and strong will; who has continuously displayed “courageous leadership” Nigeria’s Vice President finally dropped the clincher, “that story will end well for you and the nation.” The question is; which story?

Let’s not forget that Nnamani is a member of All Progressives Congress. He is from Anambra—a state in that section of Nigeria that has been crying of political marginalisation since the Civil War ended in 1970. Presently, blood is flowing on the streets of South East. Are you thinking what I am thinking? Have we finally found a bride?

Let’s conclude this with a few words from Poet Iboro: “Words have been used to build; and to destroy what was built; to inspire lofty endeavours; to set ablaze lofty endeavours; but the balance is not holding; the world appears to be sliding; into hopeless dire straits from; baleful deployments of words.”

My thinking is that Osibanjo has given us something to think about. He spoke as an elder. It is our duty to decode him.

Akpe is a journalist based in Abuja.

 

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Opinion

Our Fingers And Death By COVID-19

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Our Fingers And Death By COVID-19

By

Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

A finger or our fingers could be the death of us. So we are advised, cautioned, and warned by COVID-19 experts, locally and globally. In a sense, it is a new way of dying. This finger thing. I know about death at the touch of a button. Nuclear switch or button. The hangman’s button. But his finger and COVID-19 type of death? I really I’m not sure. However, it is not really a new way of catching disease. Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor who worked at the Vienna General Hospital between 1844 and 1848 was the first to establish a link between washing hands and disease. Most of his colleagues did not agree with him at the time because of the politics of discovery of scientific truth and what I may term accepting responsibility for deaths in hospitals. The poor man died in ignominy, confined to a sanatorium. Details of that story? That is story for another day. These days it is routine to wash the hands whether at home or the office or hospital. But somebody died for it.

In our days in public primary schools we were taught the benefits of washing hands in hygiene as a subject. Suffice it to say that ‘the importance of hand washing for medical professionals didn’t really become understood until scientists hit upon germ theory—the idea that certain diseases and infections are caused by microorganisms we can’t even see. In particular, the British surgeon Joseph Lister drastically improved patient mortality by advocating that surgeons wash their hands and sterilize their instruments in between patients’.

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Those fingers therefore in your hands could bring a deadly virus to your face, your mouth, your nostrils, and into your life. A handshake could be the death of us, of anybody. Fingers naturally find their way to the face. To scratch. To eat. To wipe sweat or dust. The fingers rush to protect and safeguard the face. But we are told that in that process fingers could take a virus to the face. You could catch a cold. A cold degenerates. Coughing follows. Malaria symptoms. Body weakness. Pains in the joints. Fever. Pneumonia. Inability to breathe. Then death. Death horrendous for most. No family members go near them while they are ill. Sometimes, husband and wife catch the virus. One dies. The other stays back. Filled with pain. Sorrow and tears. For some both husband and wife are struck by death. The children become orphans. A finger could have brought in the virus. Or where they breathed in the virus- the virus of death. Or it could have been brought in the by innocent kids or grandchildren.

Breathing in the virus could also have the same consequences. Cold and fever. We treat for malaria and typhoid and breathing becomes a problem in some people. Death follows. Often, for the rural poor in Nigeria, it is too late by the time they realize that they should see a doctor. They prepare all kinds of herbal concoctions to fight fever. For some, Agbo saves the day. How this happens, we are yet to fathom. Yet we know that for some reason, we have not died in our thousands in the streets of Lagos or Port Harcourt or Kano or Warri as health experts had predicted. Are we immune to the deep and overwhelming tragedies of a pandemic that we do not easily succumb to death? Hundreds of years of living with viruses and fighting them may have a role to play. It has not been proven. It has not been tested. It has not been confirmed. Yet there is death. There are deaths. Many deaths. Too many Nigerians have displayed the symptoms without getting to the hospital. Some get to the hospital with all the symptoms and die. When the test reports come in, they are negative. No presence of COVID-19. Some are saved after millions have been spent in highbrow hospitals for first class treatment. Others, especially the poor ones, are not so lucky. It is their time to go. They die. They are buried immediately. No report. They are not part of the statistics of the dead. Were they a part of the statistics of the living before?

In all of this, there are doubts. Skepticism. Skepticism in Warri, in Asaba, in Enugu, in Kano, in Port Harcourt. Skepticism over the existence of the virus. Skepticism over the efficacy of the vaccine. Some say those who take the vaccine will die in two years. The confusion is heightened by the death of some people who are fully vaccinated. A fully vaccinated General Collin Powell has just died. We are told he had underlying health challenges. There are conspiracy theories. Some pastors promote the theories. Some doctors too. And some scientists have been brought into the circle to dispute the vaccine. In America, home to great scientists and science, there are over seventy million people who have refused to take the vaccine. Or to wear a nose mask. Former President Donald Trump and his gullible supporters dispute everything pro-vaccine. Trump mocked COVID-19. He caught the virus and came out of it. But he quietly took the vaccine. Wily and deceptive leadership. These all add to the confusion. COVID-19, the conspiracy theorists say, is part of the attempt to chop money, or to steal money.

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When poor victims, not famous or popular or media-known people die, the cause of death is hidden, not published. Some families believe there is stigmatization if one died from COVID-19. Such ignorance. Such superstition. Such fear of the unknown. As a result, they are silent on the cause of death even to the extended family members. One fellow who ought to know better asked me whether families usually announced cause of death in the church or newspapers or social media. I had no answer to that foolish question. I only reminded him what Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti did after Fela Anikulapo-Kuti elder brother to the music icon did when Fela died of AIDS. He made a public announcement about the cause of death to create awareness among Fela’s many fans. That reduced nothing about the person or music of Fela!

There is confusion. Big confusion. Confusion in America. Confusion in Europe. Confusion in Africa. Confusion in Asia. China disputes the narrative that the virus became a monster in their homeland. There are doubts about how our fingers that usually feed us with good food could be the cause of our death. But let it be said that the fingers that give us food could also give us poisoned food. Poisoned food. The fingers do not know what is bad or good. They act as directed. The nose which breathes in fresh air could also breathe in foul or fatal air. The word therefore is caution. Those preachers who rail against the mask should be cautioned. If they wish to die of the virus, let them go. Let them not deceive their poor gullible adherents. The late Brother Ebenezer Otomewo, President of the God’s Kingdom Society used to tell us that one false prophet was more dangerous than ten armed robbers. I didn’t understand it then. Now I understand how false teachers can lead one million people to destruction. ‘And the leaders of these people cause them to err,’ says Prophet Isaiah, ‘and they that are led of them are destroyed’. It is true. The good book says it.

The finger, our fingers could be the death of us. Our nostrils could be the death of us too. Let no one deceive us with puerile words from the altar in the name of God. Simple obedience to COVID-19 protocols and the grace of God could make the difference. Let us tap into the spirit of obedience and the grace of God!

 

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