In today’s Nigeria, the subject of national “ideals” and “values” does not feature prominently in the national discourse on nation-building and the improvement of national life. Like nation-building, the subjects of patriotism, nationalism, and national values—justice, fairness, equity, equality, the supremacy of law, sanctity of life, respect for the rights of others—have also been banished to the realm of idealism, finding expression only in academic literature and election campaign rhetoric.
The focus of the discourse on nation-building has shifted more towards equipping Nigeria’s teeming youthful population with the economic skills—menial, scientific, and/or technological—that will enable them to become efficient wealth creators, which (expectedly) will propel the country out of poverty and underdevelopment. This financially acceptable solution is in itself a laudable idea. It can also be taken as a revelation of the grand scam being perpetrated against the Nigerian masses by its elite/leadership or the product of the prevailing self-perception by Nigerians as the God’s chosen and favored people. However, the belief/presumption that such can be achieved in today’s (socially bankrupt, institutionally, and infrastructurally challenged) Nigeria amounts to pipe dreaming. Because no amount of investments towards economic upliftment can succeed without an enabling social environment based on deep nationalist values and outlook. The Buhari administration’s billion-dollar railway project to the Niger Republic amid infrastructural decay and budget-funding challenges in Nigeria will be a case in point.
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Even the aspiration to revive national values and sentiments in today’s Nigeria has become too utopian, a laughable “Johnny Just Come” (JJC’s) sentiment/daydream. In time and nationalist fervour, today’s Nigeria is about a hundred or so odd years away from the days of the likes of Herbert Macaulay and his Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) and the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) of the duo of Eyo Ita and Nnamdi Azikiwe. This era, which inspired a potent nationalistic sentiment amongst peoples of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, uniting them against a common enemy, colonialism, is arguably Nigeria’s best display of nationhood. Today’s Nigeria is a far cry from the days of the people-inspired policies of Obafemi Awolowo, epitomized in his free education for the inhabitants of the former Western Region.
Today’s Nigeria is the product of ethnicity-based national sociopolitical interactions that have produced a devastating civil war, a series of military dictatorships, and other military-style civilian administrations. Today’s Nigeria is the outcome of leadership without respect for national values and prestige. It has entrenched patrimonialism and malfeasance, which is why today’s Nigerians have primarily lost faith in the country’s nationhood. This same Nigeria is now home to the politics of ethnic divisions and Nigerians living as formally recognized non-indigenes in sections of their country. This same Nigeria is also home to Omoyele Sowore, a figure who has become synonymous with the eternal struggle against the many ills characteristic of today’s Nigeria—oppression, suppression, poverty, destitution, disillusionment, and deprivation.
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Omoyele Sowore is a Nigerian activist. He started his activism from his days as a student at the University of Lagos, where he was President of the University of Lagos Student Union Government. Sowore, whose background as a child from a polygamous family introduced him to the tortuous contours of the struggle that is Nigeria at an early age, encountered another one of its more treacherous aspects (the struggle for civil rights) at the University of Lagos where he was expelled twice for “political reasons.”
During his time (1989-1995) at the University of Lagos, where he studied Geography and Planning, Sowore became actively involved in civil society actions against the military regimes of Generals Babangida and Abacha. He was part of the 1989 students’ protest against the conditions for the $120 million International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan grant, which required that Nigeria reduced its universities from twenty-eight to five, and the June 12, 1991 elections annulment protests. Also, Sowore led 5000 students in protest against the government in 1992, during which some of the students were killed. In 1999, Sowore moved to New York, where he earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbia University in 2003. While there, he set up an independent online media company (Sahara Reporters) to provide a platform from whence he could continue his campaign against corrupt government activities in Nigeria. Sowore worked for a while as a lecturer at the City University of New York, able to double as a journalist-activist.
In an attempt to “walk the talk,” Sowore contested for the office of the Nigerian President in the February 2019 general elections. This was his way of bringing his vision for Nigeria to life by getting into a position of authority to implement his ideas. However, his inability to clinch that goal did not diminish his zeal to bring about transformation to the existence of the Nigerian people. In August of the same year, he announced his intentions to convene a nationwide protest titled #RevolutionNow, for which he was arrested and detained by the Department of State Services (DSS) under the directives of the Buhari administration. He was charged with conspiracy to commit treason and for insulting President Buhari. After ignoring several court rulings for Sowore’s release, he was finally granted bail in December 2019.
Since his arrest, detention, and release in 2019, Sowore has led and joined several protest actions against the Buhari-led administration, demanding democratic practices, civil rights, and good governance. In today’s Nigeria, he represents the nationalist spirit and the struggle for civil rights and liberties. His unrelenting doggedness in the pursuit of civil rights and good governance inspires and represents a citizen who demonstrates an appreciation for our national values, ideals, and prestige. His persistence in the face of persecution, which represents his belief in and commitment to the Nigerian nation, has not gone unnoticed even among circles that refuse to acknowledge its necessity, having given up all hope in the viability of our union/nation.
Building the ideal Nigerian nation requires a Sowore-type perception of and commitment to Nigeria. How many would risk a successful career to organize and lead the protests against tyranny and corrupt leadership in Nigeria? Whatever aspersions have been cast about his personality and motives, Sowore stands out amongst his peers as an outstanding civil rights crusader. To listen to the ideas of this activist, do please join us on:
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Four Kings And Three Nations In One Kingdom?: Warri City And The Wado-City Template For Equity, Justice And Fairness
When the muse to write this essay came visiting, the plan was just to point to the counterproductivity of the presence of four kings in Warri without alluding to Chinua Achebe’s metaphor as I did in an earlier essay on the same subject. But how can one ignore the fictional metaphors of a man whose work provides an illuminating spectacle that alludes to territorial disquiet in Warri, and at the same, embodies a template for conflict resolution? In his communal novel, Arrow of God, Chinua Achebe mirrors the land dispute between two neighbouring communities—Umuaro and Okperi that claimed precious lives, the colonial politics of conflict resolution, divide-and-rule principle and indirect rule. Even more intriguing is the testimony of the Chief Priest of Ulu, named Ezeulu, who had to testify against his people before the colonial court hearing the case of the disputed land.
Situating the scenario of Achebe’s novel within the context of the colonial province of Warri, and the land disputes between the Urhobo of Okere, Agbassa and the Itsekiri, a certain controversial Chief, Dore Numa, comes to mind. Dore Numa was a British Warrant Chief from Benin River appointed as the Paramount Chief of Warri Province; like Ezeulu he became like a demigod who wields enormous power over the people of the colonial conurbation called Warri. The enormity of his power manifests in his leasing of such lands like Agbassa, Ogbe-Ijho, Ogidigben, Sapele, Oghara; not as an Itsekiri man or representative of the Olu of Itsekiri, since there was no king at the time in Itsekiri land, but as a warrant chief. This leasing would be the basis for the overlordship claims of the Itsekiri kingdom over Warri Province—a province so named by the colonial master, which extended to Ukwani land at the time. This arbitrary leasing of ancestral land would result in litigations in court where Dore Numa himself was Chief Judge. While Dore Numa was notorious for edging out the Urhobo on the ground of legal technicalities in the land cases he sat upon, he gave an amazing judgement that would alter the course of the history of the overlordship of Warri.
In his submission on the disputed Okere Urhobo land in 1927 Dore Numa, aggrieved by the ingratitude of his kinsmen for cases he fraudulently decided in their favour, held that “the Urhobos and Jikiris have been living together for centuries, without one paying rent to the other… and I cannot hold so now…” (Nikoro vs Okumagbe: 1927). The judgement implies that, whatever leases he made as Warrant Chief on behalf of the colonial masters, in the Urhobo enclave of Warri Province falls short of equity, justice and fairness; because such leases, as Warrant Chief, translate to robbing Peter to pay Paul. And with just a little strategic thinking, even a man of average intellect could see that Dore Numa’s judgement, knowingly or unknowingly, sets a template for conflict resolution in Warri, and nullifies the whole idea of the overlordship of Warri by one ethnic group over the other. Time will fail me to dwell on the colonial history of the name ‘Warri’, how Warri Province changed to Delta Province, and how predatory names and titles emerged through some obnoxious political manoeuvrings to give the Itsekiri advantage over the Ijaw and Urhobo ethnicities in Warri; a tragic political move that has since triggered the ethnic disquiet in Warri till date.
The verifiable historical facts highlighted above are not intended to stir up the hornet’s nest, but to have a clear sense of history in the advocacy for peaceful coexistence between the ethnic nationalities occupying the ‘Warri space’. More so, when an idol, becomes too powerful and arrogant, we often remind him of the wood whence it was carved. Fortunately, the colonial era of overlordship has since been rendered redundant and repugnant by the 1979 constitution and Bendel State (now Edo and Delta State) Land Use Act which lodges the power to own all lands in a state in the hands of the governor. And with this residual power, the state government has had to set up different panels, commissions and bodies to proffer lasting solutions to the Warri crisis. The most progressive step made so far is the institutionalisation of four kings of equal status—the Orosuen Okere Urhobo, the Ovie of Agbassa, the Pere of Ogbi-Ijoh and the Olu of Warri (originally Olu of Itsekiri). The move appears to release some light and freshness into the hanging cloud of darkness that was enveloping the Warri city at the time. However, with the constant claim of ownership over Warri by the Itsekiri and the refusal of the other ethnicities to accept such an ambitious claim, this palliative move by the government would before long be interpreted as treating the symptoms rather than the disease. I say this because the move raises a fundamental question vital to the resolution of the Warri conflict; so, considering that there are four kings in Warri, can there be such a thing as ‘Warri kingdom”?
When I first asked the above question on my Facebook page sometime in April, even before seeing Wado City ‘fever’, I received all kinds of batching from my Itsekiri friends and apologists for asking such a question. While I understood their sentiments, I also knew that it is a question that appeals to the collective conception of peace in Warri. Even our children will ask “why are there four kings in a space where one ethnic group is claiming overlordship, and others are identifying their primordial boundaries and occupation?” if we truly want to prevent further disquiet and future crisis, then we must answer this fundamental question. The government must provide the political will to show the world that it is not applying the doctrine of divide and rule in the oil-rich city of Warri. Fortunately, Wado City provides the template for lasting peace by advocating for the naming of Urhobo enclave, no more no less, of Warri as Wado City. This would mean that the Itsekiri can keep the name Warri, even if it is a colonial coinage; the Ijaw can have their Ogbi-Ijoh, and the Urhobo can have their Wado City. And this is where Dr Ejiro Umuero, the mastermind behind the Wado City initiative should be celebrated for providing light even in thick darkness. Alternatively, the government can establish three Local Government Councils for each of the ethnic nationalities in Warri. And unless we are set out to promote the primitive narrative of the feudal system in Warri, the Wado City template provides a perfect solution to the present and future unity of the ancestral ethnicities in Warri City.
Finally, we often talk about pace in Warri, but we fail to understand that peace is an end in itself and not a means. If we continue to seek peace as an end, and not through the means, then we can only guarantee peace in the short run; and before long, we will be faced with begging questions from a new generation that can only relate with peace from the purview of equity, justice and fairness. Therefore, if we want lasting peace, then we must build it on a tripartite stand of justice, equity and fairness; once we can establish this tripartite stand, then peace will settle in very naturally. To that extent, if the Wado City proposal, which is basically about naming the Urhobo enclave of Warri as Wado City, falls within the ambit of equity, justice and fairness, as I would think it is, then the Delta State government should take one final step in the conflict resolution by adopting the Wado City template and simply gazetting the Urhobo space in Warri as Wado City.
John Uwa (firstname.lastname@example.org 08038815379)
Writes from the University of Lagos
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The Menace Of Bullying In Hostels – The Sylvester Oromoni Tragedy
Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
Anyone who went through secondary school hostel/boarding house life knows that often, some seniors or some of the bigger boys or girls often bully the juniors. Yes, girls bully the junior girls too. Bullying comes in the different forms- in form of depriving the junior ones of their own ‘provision’, extortion, psychological torture, and/or physical beating. There used to be the formal bullying, where all Form One students in the hostel went through what was dubiously called ‘fagging. On that day, often at night, all the kids in Form One would be assembled in a hall and subjected to all forms of indignities, from bathing them with cold water in a cold weather, pouring food remnants on them, and beating them. After that ritual, they would now say ‘Your tail has been cut off. Sometimes, the young and the vulnerable ones continue to be bullied till they get to a senior class or till their tormentors leave the school. I don’t remember now whether that was how the notion of school father started, a senior student who would be one’s protector.
Bullying does not always cause death. But death sometimes occurs. And covered up by the school authorities. The trauma of bullying often lasts forever. Sadly, bullying continues every year even when the hostel authorities try to put a stop to it. Bullies thrive on fear, the fear of their victim. Often the victims tragically believe that silence and cooperation would save them from the evil hands of their predators or oppressors or extortioners. Sadly, some bullies are also victims of previous trauma or bullying.
The sad and tragic death of Sylvester Oromoni (Jnr) last week, a student of Dowen College Lekki Lagos has once again brought the menace of bullying to the fore. Dowen College is a ‘co-educational and boarding school with over twenty years record of excellence’, according to a statement on its website. But with the death and the spilled blood of Sylvester, I have no doubt that that claim to excellence is gone forever. When I watched the video of the poor boy moaning in what turned out to be the throes of death, I could not stop the tears in my eyes. I wept for the boy. I wept for his parents. No parent should lose a child; no parent should watch their child go through the circumstances that led to Sylvester’s death.
The father of the deceased Mr. Sylvester Oromoni’s narrative is a serious indictment of the management style of Dowen College. I will produce a summary of Mr. Oromoni’s narrative. According to him, the events which culminated in the painful death of Sylvester started in October when it came to light through the 12year old’s elder sister that some bullies wanted to know if he had seen the nakedness of his elder sister. The same boy who had bullied Sylvester into admitting that he had seen his sister’s nakedness reported to her that the latter claimed to have seen her nakedness. This ought to have been a strong alarm bell for all involved. Then a week before the calamity, a call from the school summoned the father to Lagos from his Warri home because, according to the school, his son fell while playing football and was sick. Mr. Oromoni took his son home for special care. At death point Sylvester revealed that he did not play football and could not have sustained any injury while playing football. He then narrated how he was tortured and beaten up by five senior boys because he refused to join their cult. He named the murderers as Benjamin Favour, Anselm Temile, and Michael Kasamu. Tragic. Wicked.
The school Principal Mrs. Adebisi Layiwola issued a statement and stated among other things that ‘we immediately commenced investigations and invited the students allegedly mentioned for an interview. His guardian was also present during the interviews, which revealed that nothing of such happened’. The State government through the Ministry of Education has responded by shutting down Dowen College till further notice. Obviously, the school did not do a thorough investigation and the State Ministry of Education headed by a former school Principal, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo must have smelt a rat. Sylvester Oromoni was killed while pursuing the harmless dream of educating himself in an expensive private school in Lagos. WHO KILLED SYLVESTER OROMONI JUNIOR? The public demands an answer. The family demands an answer. Every parent who watched the video or who has heard the story demands an answer to all the questions. What transpired in the hostel that night that made Sylvester ill? Have the boys whose names were mentioned been invited by the police? Would there by high-powered connections to try and kill the case? The blood of Sylvester demands justice. May Heaven visit anyone who tries to kill the case with raging fury!
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I have shed tears for Sylvester. I didn’t know him. I don’t know his father. I have connected with the story as a father, grandfather, and a human being. He could have been anybody’s child, anybody’s nephew or cousin or grandson. A grieving mother told me after reading the story that she would not allow her only daughter go to the boarding house!
Schools need to do more on stopping bullying and molestation. As we write, bullying is ongoing in some schools. It is not only students in the hostel that are bullied. Day students are also exposed to bullying. Does your child look sad every time he returns from school? Does he look thin? Does he refuse to eat? Have nightmares? Listen to your child. Insist. If a child as much as suggests that they should be taken to another school, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY UNTIL YOU FIND THE TRUTH EVEN IF THE CHILD SAYS NEVER MIND DADDY!
Schools need to do more to protect kids in their custody. There is need for intelligence gathering in schools, both at night and in the day. As Senior Prefect of Baptist High School Port Harcourt in the late 70s, I had some junior students who fed me information routinely. I protected their identity. Let there be a specially selected teacher or teachers who all exploited students can confide in. My mental health NGO Mind and Soul Helpers Initiative (MASHI) once visited some schools to educate them on mental health. When it was question time, we received a few innocuous questions. But from the notes they sent anonymously, a postgraduate student could do a project on the trauma which some of our children go through while going through secondary education.
All reports/complaints by our children, wards must be taken seriously by parents, guardians, and school management. Managers of schools should realise that the life of one student is more important than the reputation of the school. As parents in loco, Heaven will ask them to account for the death of any child who dies in their care!
Finally, I commiserate with the Oromonis. Sylvester was a hero, a strong character for refusing to join a cult despite threats and intimidation. His death must not be in vain. There must be justice to reassure victims of bullying that all bullies will ultimately face the law. If it is true that the culprits have been flown abroad by their parents, such parents must be compelled with the force of law to produce them for proper interrogation and punishment if found culpable. Shutting down the school should be temporary because the careers of innocent children in the school are in jeopardy. Open the school and punish the guilty.
What words can one tell the Oromonis that could reduce the trauma of a painful but avoidable death? No words! No words! No words! Yet, condolences we have, and condolences we must give. I hope to meet the parents personally and let them know that we all stand by them in their moment of grief.
Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha can be reached on 08023220393
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NADECO’S Under-ground And Open-ground Patriots (1)
As I write this, I look forward to the day, the beautiful day, the historic day and historic time and historic prospect which we shall hail with fitness and firm firmness of joyful coo of patriotic liberty of NADECO and of poetry as conceived by the originators and all sincere joiners of the movement. Now why am I still dwelling on the subject I sincerely meant not to hurl furthermore into the magnificent river of our public opinion after the hint I gave last Friday? Several communications, verbal and written, I got have compelled me to say one or two or three or four things I deliberately allowed my reticence to keep in check. But rather than the full consciousness of my pen to do so, I am yielding for now the column to two readers from across the Atlantic.
Before I do so, however, let me divulge this pertinent information. It was the late Chief Michael Imoudu our country’s universally acknowledged foremost Labour Leader, who asked MKO Abiola to go to Comrade Jonathan Ihonde to request him to plead his case and cause before Chief Tony Enahoro (and other patriots awaiting the historic opportunity we are still waiting to hail). The late Festus Iyayi also played his own dazzlingly revolutionary part as an under-ground patriot of the movement. The late Abubakar Rimi and Balarabe Musa (both of the Aminu Kano school of politics) were top guns who similarly played their parts of positive dialectical patriotism in the Nigerian project and vision as conceived by the original NADECO.
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As is well known, both of them were respective governors of Kano and Kaduna States under Aminu Kano’s People Redemption Party (PRP). Zamani Lekwot, an ex-military governor of Rivers State, Commodore Dan Suleiman, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, the late General MusaYar’Adua, Mr. Fred Agbeyegbe and several others were lights of the movement. And I must underscore this point: M.K.O. Abiola became an authentic comrade who sacrificed his life for the NADECO cause – meaning that created situations can always alienate one from a reactionary pattern of life and turn him or her in the richest moments of his or her life to be a patriotic rebel and revolutionary. MKO Abiola’s open rejection by his former fellow reactionaries turned him into a comrade and rebel positively in the house of patriotic thunder.
Let me now open the minds of some NADECOists still on voluntarily patriotic exile.
“Good day, my dear Brother. Your piece on NADECO resuscitates memories of past opportunities and possibilities. NADECO was, as you correctly observed, a movement. But it was a movement of a special type peopled mostly by several left-wing leaning political activists. The intent in certain constituencies was for NADECO to metamorphose into a political party housing the Awoists and the talakawas of Aminu Kano, etc., into a new progressive entity. As is known in Political Science, a political party is a party when it survives its leader. Unfortunately, after the demise of Chief Obafemi Awolowo on May 9, 1987 (you and I stopped at Ikenne to pay our last respects to him on our way to Ibadan to watch Flash Flamingoes versus Leventis), his political party began to disintegrate systematically.
“ ‘Pro-democracy’ is an elastic conglomerate of competing ideological prisms. I recall meeting with Chief Tony Enahoro and Mr. Mike Ehimah in his hotel in Hull (now Gatineau) across the River Ottawa from the city of Ottawa. I accepted the invitation to accompany him to the Canadian House of Commons where he addressed members of Parliament on the atrocities of the Abacha regime. Several NADECO stalwarts, including Senators Cornelius Adebayo and Femi Ojudu, sought refuge in Canada during this period.
“That NADECO was conceived as a movement to restore the victory of MKO at the June 1993 Presidential Elections fostered an internal contradiction of political philosophies. Thus, NADECO was born prematurely by the need to honour the results of June 12 and not to propagate the ideals of left-wing or progressive politics epitomized by Awolowo. This, in my view, explained why Chief Tony Enahoro got involved in NADECO.
Viewed from this perspective, therefore, NADECO was a consortium of anti-military and pro-democracy activists. Chief Enahoro’s decision to establish the Movement for National Reform (MNR) was a product of the internal ideological contradictions in NADECO.”
These are pleasant words on NADECO that any investigator or researcher on the movement will or may find intelligently and persuasively instructive. They are theoretically and critically honey words – “sweet to the taste” and good for the well-being of all who want this country to always be blessed with the odour of all genuine activists and patriots like wine that sparkles.
Professor Igho Natufe’s words as quoted at length above are those of one under-ground NADECO patriot and good weigher of the movement’s weighable divinable morning and midnight dreams. And be it known that Professor Igho Natufe is a first-rate Political Scientist and a staunch Awoist. He has been under-ground in exile for centuries. Pardon my hyperbole. We share the same outlook about your country my country our country. But I have always insisted that I will never go on exile.
The words of another NADECO exile are particularly intriguing.
To be continued.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
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