Narrow Politics And Questions Of Democratic Development
Salihu Moh. Lukman
The American journalist and historian, Anne Applebaum, in the book, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, stressed that ‘The jangling, dissonant sound of modern politics; the anger on cable television and the evening news; the fast pace of social media; the headlines that clash with one another when we scroll through them; the dullness, by contrast, of the bureaucracy and the courts; all of this has unnerved that part of the population that prefers unity and homogeneity. Democracy itself has always been loud and raucous, but when its rules are followed, it eventually creates consensus. The modern debate does not. Instead, it inspires in some people the desire to forcibly silence the rest.’
There is no better description of contemporary Nigerian political reality. The avalanche of objectionable news with commentaries that basically conclude everything is bad in the country, is the order of the day. Any attempt to argue to the contrary is condemned and rejected. Both social and conventional media – electronic, print, local, national, and international news about Nigeria is dominated by horrible newsflashes of activities of insurgents, bandits, ethnic and religious mercenaries in the country. It is either report of kidnap, abduction, and killing of innocent Nigerians, or some depressing reports of attacks on security agencies and institutions by bandits and insurgents, or damaging commentaries of so-called failure of political leaders, parties and governments, especially, President Muhammadu Buhari and the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), or court judgements that further expose the challenges facing Nigerian democracy, or some angry public statements by groups, so-called analysts, experts and political leaders against political establishments in the country, and so on and so forth.T
The list is almost endless. For instance, in August 2021, reported incidents of killings in Plateau State, bandit attacks of Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), continued activities of bandits in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger States, Boko Haram – ISWAP clashes and many other criminal activities across the country dominated national discourses. No doubt, these are challenges, which require decisive responses from government. The occurrence and recurrence of these incidents, resulting in loss of lives and property are frightening, which has generated all manner headlines. Politics is supposed to provide options to citizens in terms of how to tackle these challenges. Unfortunately there is hardly any option, especially in terms of opposition to APC and its government.
Instead, some unsubstantiated and meaningless allegations dominate political debates in the country, without any specific proposal on how to resolve our national challenges. May be anger has taken the best out of people opposed to the APC and its government to the extent that presentations are reduced to amplifying challenges to demonstrate failure of APC and President Buhari. Wild goose campaign against ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ as Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue would insist or allegations that government, including the presidency are the sponsors of Boko Haram and bandits as Commodore (Rtd) Kunle Olawunmi would want Nigerians to believe are part of major highlights of the campaign by political opposition in the country.
Sensationally, both Governor Ortom and Commodore Olawunmi argued that they have evidence to prove their allegations. Coincidentally, not too long, sometime in September 2020, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria similarly alleged that a serving Northern Governor is the sponsor of Boko Haram. Although while making the allegations, he also claimed to have proof, after interrogation by the security, Dr. Mailafia was reported to have backtracked, saying that he ‘did not really mean to say that the government was part and parcel of the killings.’ Since Commodore Olawumni has already begun meeting with the security, hopefully the details of his evidence will come out. On the part of Governor Ortom, he claimed that he has forwarded his evidence to President Buhari and security agencies in the country. But since he feels so strong as to go public with his allegation without waiting for both President Buhari and security agencies to handle the matter, he can as well make the evidence public since he has lost confidence in established processes of managing matters of national security.
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Part of the challenge with Nigerian politics is that accountability is almost zero. People could say whatever they want and get away with it. This has entrenched the phenomena whereby the main strategy of so-called opposition to APC is to ‘forcibly silence’ everyone into believing that President Buhari and APC governments have failed. Even a leader such as Governor Ortom with constitutional powers to mobilise responses towards resolving challenges, no matter how small, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution as amended, has become a leading campaigner against what he considers ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda. As far as Governor Ortom is concerned anybody arguing differently must be a supporter of ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda in the country, which according to him is the continuation of the early 19th Century Fulani Jihad of Usman Danfodio.
It was the American linguist and philosopher, Noam Chomsky, in his recent book, The Precipice who lamented about how ‘the “political landscape” is indeed ominous. While today’s political and social circumstances are much less dire, still they do call to mind Antonio Gramsci’s warning …about the severe crisis …which “consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born [and] in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”’ When retired public servants of the status of Dr. Mailafia and a retired military officer, Commodore Olawunmi can go on air on national television to allege that people in government, including a serving governor are the sponsors of insurgency and banditry in the country and the issues are reduced to media debates, it highlights how low we have descended as a nation. Such weighty allegations should be matters of judicial investigation and once proved, all identified culprits should face the full wrath of the law.
It is more worrisome when a serving governor could attempt to substantiate allegations of complicity against political leaders, especially President Buhari with argument about ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda in the country. What does ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ of Nigeria mean? Although it is possible to convert people from other religions to Islam, could anyone who is not a Fulani be conscripted to become Fulani? Maybe it means that every Nigerian will be forced to have a Fulani tribal mark. What will be such a mark? In addition, Fulfude may become the lingua franca of Nigeria.
With respect to so-called ‘islamisation’, is it possible to force everybody in Nigeria to convert to islam? Maybe ‘islamisation’ means that shari’a law will be imposed on the country. Will that be possible ? Oftener those who campaign based on narrow agenda have short memory. As recent as 2000, when Zamfara State under Ahmed Sani Yerima, made a questionable political declaration adopting shari’a law, thereby triggering a campaign in many parts of the North to make a similar declaration for shari’a law, how many states in the North succeeded in making such a shari’a declaration? In Kaduna State, it was resisted, which led to a big crisis that consume many lives. If it wasn’t successful in Kaduna, how can it succeed in Nigeria? Even as tales by moonlight, how conceivable could Governor Ortom’s alleged ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda be?
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If a primary school pupil talks like the way all the diehard opposition campaigners in the country campaigning against so-called ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda, one can excuse it because at that level of innocence, everything could appear possible. But for a public servant as highly placed as a governor, retired public servant, retired security personnel, etc, it portends a big danger, which if overlooked can produce a cult mentality in the country with all the ethnic and religious hatred associated with it. Being governor, retired public servants, retired military personnel, with all the knowledge and experiences they have but decided to adopt the imaginary notion that a country as diverse as Nigeria can be taken over by any ethnic or religious group, is the highest manifestation of morbid symptom of an attempt to block any possibility that a new society can be born out of the dying culture of corruption, greed and lawlessness, which was the hallmark of PDP’s sixteen-year tenure.
The debate about whether PDP and APC are the same and why some mischievously argue that they have both failed was substantially treated in the presentation Nigerian Politics and Fallacy of PDP – APC Semblance. Those who wish to block initiatives to produce a new Nigeria can continue to dismiss the rebuilding work of APC government under President Buhari. However, to accuse APC and President Buhari of promoting ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ will be taking politics beneath the realm of logical reasoning. Ideally, knowledgeable and experienced people, especially public servants should not suffer from any problem that can exhibit ‘morbid symptoms.’ But, sadly, as a nation, we are having knowledgeable and experienced people with manifestations of ‘morbid symptoms.’
The fact that a serving governor is one of those exhibiting manifestations of ‘morbid symptoms’ calls for an urgent review of leadership recruitment processes in the country. This should not be a partisan matter. All the parties in the country should take this very seriously. As part of that reality, the case of wild goose allegations of ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda, should be a challenge, which the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should take over and make it an important priority. There is no reason why for instance Governor Ortom should not disclose the full details of the APC and President Buhari’s ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda. The proof should be a major campaign advantage for the PDP. The inability of the PDP to take over the campaign against ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ may simply confirm the lack of evidence. To achieve that makes it obligatory for the PDP to call Governor Ortom to order by demanding all the proof at his disposal. The consequences of allowing Governor Ortom to continue with a so-called campaign against ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ without proof will confirm that the campaign is nothing but to promote ethnic and religious hatred in the country, which is dangerous.
Already, it is arguably very clear that Governor Ortom’s passion for the so-called campaign against ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ is not about developing the country or even Bunue State. Without going into the politics of Benue State, which the citizens of that state are very competent to handle, Governor Ortom’s campaign mode is based on ultra-right-wing politics, which is neo-fascist and neo-Nazist. Being neo-fascist, in our context, the politics is anchored on ethnic supremacy, which is the source of Governor Ortom’s so-called campaign against ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda. As far as Governor Ortom is concerned, Fulanis are the source of all his problems, by extension, the problem of Benue State and that of Nigeria as a whole. The bigger danger is that having identified the so-called problem, he is beginning to develop an ideology of hatred around it, which sadly is winning all manner of converts.
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The only reason why such a campaign is attractive today is because President Buhari who is a Fulani man is in power. If President Buhari, a Fulani man and a Muslim being in power confirms the existence of ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation, does that suggest that when his tenure ends in May 2023, less than two years away, he will succeed in imposing another Fulani, Muslim to take over from him? Could it be part of President Buhari’s strategy to impose a Fulani Muslim, that many PDP leaders are already campaigning that a PDP Presidential candidate for 2023 should come from the North? We can choose to dismiss or take for granted all the warning signs about the appearance of ultra-right-wing leadership in the country. Once the issue of leadership recruitment in the country maintains a blind eye to this reality, the potential of producing people with such an ideological mindset in leadership position of governors or even president is high. If the United State could produce a Donald Trump as President, activities of people like Governor Ortom, Dr. Mailafia and Commodore Olawunmi will prepare the stage for ultra-right-wing elements to assume leadership positions in the country.
Again, if today, ultra-right wingers can conveniently moblise hatred against Fulani Muslims, it will just be a matter of time before they shift focus to other groups. Any group that can potentially block or weaken its power base, it will mobilise hatred against such a group. Given Nigerian reality, depending on who will be the major contenders in both PDP and APC, campaign against so-called ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ will mutate against both Yorubas, Igbos, Ijaws, Ishekiris, etc. Based on short-term calculations, it may choose to contract fluid partnership with the aim of blocking emerging candidates even within PDP. Therefore, as we move closer to 2023, the pangs of ethnic and religious hatred will have their strong manifestation inside PDP. Once the PDP is not able to moderate campaign of ethnic and religious hatred of so-called ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’, it will be weak in controlling how it manifest itself internally in PDP.
There is therefore the urgent need for political parties in Nigeria to take steps to discourage ethnic and religious campaign of hatred. The hard truth is that to be able to discourage ethnic and religious campaign of hatred in the country would require that parties put in place internal code of conducts – byelaws, beyond what is provided in their constitution. Parties, as they are today, are weak in regulating the conducts of political leaders and elected representatives. If Nigerian democracy is to develop and become the facilitator for national unity and political development in the country, regulating the conduct of political leaders and elected representatives cannot be left to chance. In the circumstance, as things are today, the so-called campaign against ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ is more a danger to PDP than it is to APC.
In fact, it is more a danger to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Sen. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, former Governor Sule Lamido, etc. than it is a danger to President Muhammadu Buhari or any potential APC Presidential candidate from the North. It is also potentially a danger against the emergence of any possible presidential candidate in PDP from the South-West, South-East or South-South than it is to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Governor Kayode Fayemi, former Governor Ibikunle Amosun of APC from the South-West; or former Governor Rotimi Amaechi and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole from the South-South; or former Governor Rochas Okorocha and any other contender from the South-East.
Narrow politics can misrepresent ultra-right-wing politics based on partisan coloration. The biggest danger of ultra-right-wing politics is more manifest in the host party. PDP leaders would need to understudy what became of the US Republican Party after President Donald Trump to appreciate the dangers of so-called ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ campaign of promoting ethnic and religious hatred to PDP’s electoral fortune. Already, PDP is faced with enough challenges. It must not allow the seed of right-wing politics to grow within its leadership. Once that happens, its capacity to put up any strong electoral contest in the country will be eroded.
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Dr. Lukman is the Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum, Abuja.This position does not represent the view of any APC governor or the Progressive Governors Forum.
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Toyin Falola: A Lifetime Achievement Honour For A Colossus
By Temitope Oriola
The Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS) has awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award to Toyin Falola, a professor of History, University Distinguished Teaching Professor and the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas, Austin. CAAS is the preeminent association of Canadian scholars studying Africa. The Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest honour of CAAS. Therefore, it is rarely bestowed.
For context, no scholar received this honour in my three years on the board of CAAS as vice president, president and past president (2019-2022). The latest in Professor Falola’s constellation of global awards represents another acknowledgment of the worldwide status of the Bobapitan of Ibadanland. As a former president of CAAS, I know the painstaking process involved in the adjudication of CAAS awards. I am particularly delighted that Baba Falola, as we all call him, is recognised in this manner.
It was unusually fitting that York University, Toronto, was the venue of the conferment. Falola was a professor at York University between 1990 and 1991. He had also previously delivered keynote addresses at the CAAS signature annual gatherings and helped to organise the conference in 1991. The president of CAAS, Nduka Otiono, a professor and director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, noted that the “esteemed accolade recognises (Falola’s) exceptional contributions, unwavering dedication, and profound impact on the field of African Studies in Canada and beyond.”
The United States took Falola from Canada but his influence is very much like he never left. The University of Texas, Austin has somehow managed to hold on to Professor Falola. I am curious about how Texas has done that since 1991.
I met Professor Falola at the 2016 Africa conference at the University of Texas, Austin. I was immediately struck by his fine magnetic personality. You immediately felt an instant connection as you would a family member. The annual conference convened by Falola is an excellent gathering and for some young scholars, their first international conference outside Africa. The conference also attracts senior scholars and university administrators across Africa and the diaspora.
Toyin Falola received his B. A. (Honours) in History in 1976 from the University of Ife (later renamed Obafemi Awolowo University). His PhD in history was awarded by the same university in 1981. Falola wrote his doctoral dissertation on “The Political Economy of Ibadan, c.1830-1900.” Always on a quest to learn and chart new grounds, Falola received his D. Litt. in African Studies from the University of Ibadan in 2020 (i.e. 42 years after his first doctorate). This is the stuff of extraordinariness.
Professor Falola has received 16 honorary doctorates from universities across the globe. The roll call includes the University of Jos; Lincoln University; Olabisi Onabanjo University; Monmouth University; Federal University, Lokoja; and Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
A Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), Falola has held fellowships, professorships and distinguished scholar status at various universities and other institutions globally. For example, he was visiting professor at the Olusegun Obasanjo Centre for African Studies, National Open University, Abuja (2019-2021) and honorary professor, Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa, from 2018 to 2022. Professor Falola was also Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South, Library of Congress in 2016; visiting professor, Pontifícia Universidade Católica De São Paulo, Brazil in 2007; and fellow at the Humanities Research Council, Australian National University in 1995. He is a life member at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge.
Traditional institutions have also bestowed high honours on Professor Falola. He is Nii Kpani Ashaabla 1, Adabraka Otukpai Palace, Accra, Ghana; the Agbakin of Kusela-Ibadan; the Bobagbimo of Ugboland; and the Mayegun of Auga, Akoko.
Being a globally recognised scholar and an excellent human being are not necessarily mutually inclusive. Falola is an iconic scholar, a mentor to generations of scholars and a humane person. His devotion to the success of others is astonishing and uncommon. Falola is intentional about creating opportunities for others. He derives great satisfaction in seeing others thrive. Falola’s accomplishments require a truly exceptional intellect, fine analytical mind, perspicacity and a strong work ethic. His long list of accomplishments speaks to a lifetime of devotion to investing in others and expecting nothing in return: World class brilliance meets humaneness.
.Oriola is professor of criminology and associate dean at the University of Alberta. He is president-elect of the Canadian Sociological Association and former special adviser to the Government of Alberta on Police Act Review.
10th National Assembly: Nigeria’s Last Chance
By Mon-Charles Egbo
In a few days, the presiding officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives would be elected upon the inauguration of the 10th national assembly. This event, typical of every contest, would throw up two categories of people: those who are pleased with the outcome and the ones who feel otherwise.
Understandably, the wishes of both sides are interests-driven though it cannot be immediately established whether the interests are about the country or individuals.
But on the belief that it is about nationalism, then head or tail, it is a win-win for Nigeria. This is because logically, both divides mean well for the nation only that their perceptions differ. And again, while spirited attempts, largely motivated by multi-dimensional sentiments, are made to externally influence the choices of the legislators-elect, the decision as to who would become their presiding officers begins and ends with them. Whether by consensus or merit, they are the ones that make the choices in the final analysis. It is within their exclusive rights and privileges and also, the election is a process that has strict conventions. So the outcome, like the two sides of a coin, coincides or is at variance with the wishes of the outsiders, once again, depending on whether their interests are broad or narrow.
Therefore as the 10th national assembly comes on stream, the basic public expectation is a sustainable dispensation of good governance delivered by a legislature that is people-oriented and under a leadership that is defined by dexterity, creativity and absolute loyalty to the people. For emphasis, Nigerians today deserve a responsive parliament driven by a deliberate commitment to regular citizens’ engagement.
Granted, these aspirations are as non-negotiable as they are core dividends of democracy. Yet, they are not automatic. They can only happen with the active involvement of a vigilant citizenry as researches show that strong democracies the world over are characterized by robust citizen participation. In other words, there can never be effective leadership without effective followership. This is the reason every well-meaning Nigerian should urgently pause and ponder on the prevailing sorry state of the country.
This is imperative because except for ignorance or mischief, it is glaring that we cannot hand over to our children, the same country that we inherited from our fathers. The signs are there yet we seem indifferent. Or, are we not alarmed by the grim prospects of losing things and persons very dear to us, including innocent children, if Nigeria fails? What about the mental agony of losing personal liberties and becoming captives in our own land, irrespective of status? Are the masses not yet seeing the damning consequences of their age-long prejudice and hostility towards the national assembly? Are we not yet persuaded that certain things should either not have happened in the first place or should have happened differently if only we were actively involved in the goings-on in the national assembly since 1999? Could we have been this mercilessly impoverished and short-changed sequel to leadership deficit? Truly, every heart should bleed over Nigeria’s precarious situation because when it rains, no roof is spared.
However, there is good news. There is a ray of hope. A new beginning is possible. Nigeria can still work. But once again, it is a function of our actions now. Yes, our future is in our hands. Before us right now is an opportunity, possibly the last, to act, lest Nigeria slides into absolute failure.
So, if what informs our concerns and interests regarding the choice of the presiding officers are really borne out of patriotic and nationalistic ideals, despite the eventual outcomes, then we are morally liable for the success or failure of the 10th national assembly. Yes, what it becomes depends on what we do or fail to do now.
Hence if we wish not to bungle this last chance, then we should right away stand up and be counted. We must embrace this 10th national assembly as truly our own. We should seek to be fully abreast of its scheme of things. We have to accord it all the necessary support and cooperation for it to excel. It is no longer about short-term benefits but about what unites us and aids our journey to nationhood. Everyone should immediately remove their togas of ethnicity, religion and partisanship and think Nigeria first! The media, civil society organizations, professional bodies, labour unions, youth, women and community-based groups, the political class, as well as the clergy, should put on garments of activism in championing a legislature that derives its legitimacy and relevance from the people. Every mouth should loudly speak against bad governance whenever and wherever it occurs.
With an open mind, we should pay attention to how the legislature supervises the other arms, especially the executive. Specifically, we should demand explanations from the 10th national assembly as to why the country’s refineries are not operational and what they hope to achieve in the face of Nigeria’s dire situations, particularly the raging petroleum subsidy questions, poverty index, youth unemployment, insecurity, rising debt profile, health, education and power sectors, budget performance, federal character principle and then, why the federal executive council is awarding contracts without the public procurement council in place. We should clamour for legislative agenda with timelines and whose deliverables can translate to tangibles in the immediate, instead of high-sounding achievements that would exist only on paper and make no meaningful impacts in the lives of the people in the long run.
Then dispassionately, in pursuing these programmes of action, we should be seen to be fair, right and just always. We should be considerably articulate, skilful, objective and law-abiding. We should be alert, probing and listening and then be guided by reciprocal respect for these leaders. We should reject every form of confrontation, rumour-mongering, mutual suspicion and hate.
Equally, we should vehemently resist the divisive instrumentalities of religion, tribe and politics. We should seek to build social bridges always by being at the right places, saying the right things and then doing the right things at all times. We should commend and condemn when necessary. Where we stood before the election and subsequent inauguration of the assembly should not matter to us again. Rather, we should be anxious to see the 10th national assembly succeed by working through our representatives for issue-based engagements with the institution towards the attainment of a Nigeria where democracy and good governance reign supreme.
Using our periodic interactive sessions or town hall meetings with them, and their feedback channels, we should consistently demand accountability from the individual representatives while also availing them of useful information. Any lawmaker that is not accessible, principally through their functional constituency offices, should be called out respectfully. And while we keep records of our engagements with them for future reference, we must not distract or blackmail them with self-serving burdens of demand.
For the umpteenth time, if we live above board in our conduct this national assembly would always reflect the truism that “to whom much is given, much is expected” and also that as leaders, they are merely fellow citizens elected by loyal citizens and entrusted with the popular mandate. Also, the legislators would demonstrate indeed that they are agents and trustees of the people, and as such should always embody our wishes and desires. Furthermore, through our sustained advocacy, they would always draw a line between politics and governance in their actions.
Then above all and because equity demands clean hands, the first step in achieving all these is to have a fair knowledge of the workings and core mandates of the legislature. It is important also that we understand some operational challenges being faced by the national assembly. For instance, the 1999 constitution is not reasonably protective of the legislature, especially in its supervisory roles on the executive. Serially, there are no definite consequences for acts of disregard for the powers of the legislature by the executive. The former apparently exists at the mercy of the latter. Even more pathetic is the case of the state governors. But in the interim, it is only when we operate from an informed perspective that we can be factual and objective in our expectations and engagements with lawmakers.
And so in conclusion, this is just an early warning! The occasion calls for rapid and decisive actions. This is the last chance to redirect the ship of the country from the brink of collapse following the failure of governance, insecurity, corruption, unemployment and poverty.
As such, we the people, as the ultimate owners should immediately rise and take back the legislature. And in this, we have to let enthusiasm, patriotism, resilience and diligence guide us, so that “the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain”.
Egbo is a public relations practitioner and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dokpesi: His Legacy Lives
By ‘Timi Alaibe
Again, death has left us breathless with another devastating blow. It has claimed one of our best—an amiable fellow, a friend, a brother, an uncle, a visionary, an innovator, a man of unimpeachable value.
When the news hit the airwaves in the early hours of May 29, it had the eerie touch of the worst thing to be heard in quite a while.
High Chief Aleogho Raymond Dokpesi was different things to different people. He was someone so fully committed to the Nigerian Project, an exceptional African with respect for our beliefs and values, an inspiration and a patriot.
To the broadcast industry in Africa, he was the doyen—a pathfinder, an optimist, he never gave up on his convictions. His mind was always fertile with fresh and fruitful ideas.
At a time when it was forbidden for individuals to set up and own radio and television stations in Africa, he blazed the trail by establishing the Ray Power Radio and African Independence Television.
Suddenly, we savoured a refreshing experience—always tuning-in and listening to news, ideas and opinions or watching entertainments that were different from what we were eternally condemned to on government broadcast stations.
Everyone wanted to identify with these innovations. Their jingles, signature tunes and the dress styles of presenters were unique and purely African. Something new was in the air. We loved it.
He did the uncommon. When it was fanciful for Nigerians and Africans to bear foreign names and parade same on radio and television, he insisted that On-Air-Professionals must promote Africaness by using their native names.
Then he gave the staff free hands to practise what they knew in line with global best practices. High Chief Dokpesi never pretended to know it all. He appreciated professionalism in every aspect.
As these broadcast stations grew in prominence, he gradually started withdrawing his control and influence and handed over the management to young people with fresh ideas and required experiences.
I cannot vividly recall when we first met. But my eternal impression of him was that of a disciplined fatherly figure, a global businessman and someone who was not afraid of experimenting with new ideas irrespective of where such came from.
A first-class entrepreneur and lover of intellectual excellence, Dokpesi had useful connections in high places. He was an unequalled mobiliser of people and ideas.
High Chief Dokpesi was committed to the Niger Delta Dream. He supported and personally participated in discussions and negotiations meant to advance the cause of the Niger Delta region.
When we started the NDDC, he afforded us unqualified access to his mass media outlets to publicize our activities, prospects and challenges.
During my era as the Managing Director of the NDDC, High Chief Dokpesi was always there to offer advice. We had a shared vision on the implementation of the Niger Delta Development Master Plan.
Shrewd in business and inspiring in leadership, the Ezomo knew how to create and keep friendships. He stood by his friends, no matter the threats to his person. He never ran away from taking bullets for his friends.
In politics, as in business, he played by the rules. He was daring but straightforward. He was never afraid of telling the truth to power.
Then death knocked at a very unexpected time. It swept everyone off their feet and kicked us senseless.
It would be difficult to resolve this riddle: Why should such a man die—so suddenly? What happened? Many questions. No answers.
The huge irony is that Ezomo Dokpesi left us on the day a new President was sworn in to office. A true democrat, he left us on our democracy day.
Here was a man who fancied democracy and enmeshed himself in the emergence of a people’s President for Nigeria.
He dreamt it. He lived for it. He worked for it—until the day he took his last breath. That was what pushed him into partisan politics.
It is difficult to conclude that we will never see our High Chief again. It’s unthinkable. How would life be without his towering presence? But then, this is the truth we must learn to live with.
The death of High Chief Aleogho Raymond Dokpesi is not the end of his story. It actually marks the beginning of an endless reflection. His life was a history yet to be written.
To his family, I wish you God’s strength. To the Daar Communication community, you have to keep the flag flying higher and higher. To his friends and associates, we will surely miss him.
Adieu, Ezomo of Weppa-Wanno Kingdom.
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