A week plus ago, and precisely so, a group of friends travelled to Port Harcourt in Rivers State from the coastal cities of Sapele and Warri in Delta State. Those who could not be part of the movement and train from the Sapele and Warri meeting points for the Port Harcourt journey were expected to make their personal arrangements and hit the Ikwerre or so city at their convenience. Of course, the friends who were going to journey there from different parts of the country looked forward to the trip. What were they going to the eastern Niger Delta city for? A friend of theirs was going there to get a wife for his son, and he needed his accomplished friends, as many of them as possible, if not all of them, to accompany him and his son to pluck his damsel and bring her to Sapele, his home city.
The envisaged trip fascinated and delighted me. I really looked up to it despite the problems and problems of insecurity everywhere about us. Clearly, I was not going to be part of the moving train from Sapele or Warri. I was going to hit Port Harcourt, our dear Pitakwa, alone and by plane from Lagos. I wanted badly to see Port Harcourt again. I visited the place a long, long time ago, a very long time ago – when Rotimi Amaechi was the governor of Rivers State. But I cannot be right. I must have been there since Nyesom Wike succeeded Rotimi Amaechi as the governor there. And I yearned silently to see all the marvellous works Wike has been engaging in on television to make Port Harcourt the Port Harcourt of Rivers people and of Nigeria that is of now far from the Nigeria of our dreams and expectations and imaginations.
I could not go to Port Harcourt. I did not go to Port Harcourt. I could not assert myself to be there. I did not assert my will to be there – however hard I tried. The assertiveness of my body and will could not and did not assert themselves and beings as they should. What happened? I do not really know. But I was not in my elements at the material time. And my invisible chemical cues were very intriguingly unprepared for the zoo kingdom chemistry of the Nigerian situation.
Now after they went and returned to their respective abodes and houses, I spoke on phone to the leader of the friends who led his fellow, I mean our fellow friends, to Port Harcourt. They journeyed there by road. I pointedly wanted to know the state of the west-east or east-west road from Warri in the Western Niger Delta to Port Harcourt in the Eastern Niger Delta. Chief Iroro Clark of the Safi Boys’ Club who led our friends to Port Harcourt for the conventional connubial gathering across ethnic and regional borders was a bitter man. The vice chairman of Safi Boys’ Club spoke to me with deep pain in his voice and in his heart. “There is not a country any longer.”
The Warri-Port Harcourt Road that was praised to the heavens a few years back has deteriorated to the extent that it has become an accomplished eyesore to motorists. The road helps to signal the impending disintegration of your country my country our country. All the money spent to construct and reconstruct the road has come to nothing. Those who were contracted to give us a befitting Warri-Port Harcourt Road simply duped us. They and their collaborators in government and in high places seemingly outside government corruptly enriched themselves and enrobed their soiled egos. No repercussions will attend their accomplished thievery.
And our landscape will remain the landscape of established rogues, killers and destroyers of dreams. They and their enterprises flower and flourish in the land. This was my sincere interpretation of my short conversation with Chief Iroro Clark, a Sapele original as a well bred and buttered Safarian as the typical Sapele one calls himself.
Truly, there is not a country any longer. Truly, this is not a country any longer. Truly, “this is not a country any longer.”
And how can our country your country my country be and remain a country with President Buhari and his cohorts and presidencynologists who are governing and piloting Nigeria rudderlessly without compass of healthy and selfless governance? Things are that bad and ceaselessly so as Buhari exceeds the enterprise that has defined him and the duration of his presidency negatively and super negatively. But the historical process will modify our circumstances in no distant time.
The will of the people will survive Buhari and his presidency. Let him continue to please himself as an ethnic jingoist of the very worst variety one can find any where. The order will be reversed. In fact, the order has been reversed – no matter what they do or do not do. Their goals and actions have judged and justified them already for the reversal. For students of the Bible, let me here quote Habakkuk 2:2-3:
“Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
“For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”
Your country my country our country will become a country again – very soon. Cheer up, compatriots, cheer up.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
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Philosophy, Meaninglessness And The Nature Of Politics In Nigeria
By Tunji Olaopa
Let me start this piece on a reflective note, and then connect the reflection with my concern for the political trajectory of the Nigerian state. And where else to start than with one of the wisdom quotes of Socrates. According to him, “By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” To be sure, this is not just advice on marital bliss. It contains a gem of philosophical insight that is both universal and particular, as I aim to demonstrate. Marrying a bad wife is Socrates’ own way of signaling dissatisfaction, discomfort and distress as the key to making sense of life. We then immediately understand the cogent sense in Karl Marx’s reaction to the opiate quality that religion brings to bear on the critical sense the people ought to have. By saying “religion is the opium of the people,” Marx meant to say that religion deadens the emancipatory possibilities that discomfort and distress bring to human existence. And even when Jesus began to espouse the theology of being “poor in spirit,” it points to the same issue of coming to a full spiritual awareness only with the realization that you are first poor in spirit.
Life, and the experience of existence and who we are, revolves around the meaning we ascribe to who we are and how we interpret life and the meaning of human existence. This is where one will recognize, again, the genius of Fela Anikulapo Kuti in capturing the tragic and traumatic rhythm of existence in Nigeria. In “Shuffering and Shmiling,” we come face to face with a realistic assessment of Nigerian life, and especially the complacence we all sit comfortably in while we are getting traumatized. While the Imam, Pope and Archbishop are enjoying, Nigerians are somnolent in suffering. And their enjoyment derives from their capacity to keep Nigerians politically mute about their situation. However, and without slinging any mud, is it not interesting that while those who brought Christianity to Africa have adapted their faith to a capitalist ethos—a la Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism—we are still trooping to church, spending our hard- earned money, and always looking towards heaven without equally sufficient thought on how to actively navigate the path towards progress on this earthly plane?
And we can easily see how this reflective path I am taking in this piece leads inexorably into the understanding of what Nigerians have made of their capacity for an active citizenship that vigorously queries the government on what it is making of the commonweal or the social contract which is meant to make their lives qualitatively better than they presently are. And yet, in most instances, Nigerians have often retreated. The recent fuel subsidy and the #EndSARS protests are exceptions from the rule of consistently backing away from a constructive engagement with the government and instead building “local government areas” in communities. In other word, every community takes up the responsibility of government in self-help arrangements where private guards and vigilance groups replace the state security framework, boreholes and wells replace water boards, generators and solar inverters replace electricity providers, private schools take over from public schools, and so on.
The perceptive reader would indeed have preceded me to the point I have reached in this reflection; the point of asking what the nature of politics really is. Let me return to the Greek philosophers. Plato once said that until philosophers become kings or kings become philosophers, cities will never have rest from evils. The reason for his insistence is simple: political greatness and philosophical wisdom ought to meet in one person. And yet, even the great Athenian city-state could not make that aspiration of a philosopher-king possible. Plato wanted to become a great politician, like Solon and Pericles. But then Athens was rapidly declining, and with it also the counsel of justice. And this was exactly the reason Socrates, Plato’s teacher, was judicially murdered, and Plato’s aspiration of becoming a philosopher-king summarily aborted. With Solon and Pericles, there was a progressive and increasingly successful attempts at rehabilitating the Athenian constitution to make it better able to serve the Athenian citizens.
The unfortunate thing is that the understanding of the nature of politics, or who a politician is, is still very crucial till today, and especially in a postcolonial state like Nigeria. And unfortunately, still, the trajectory of the decline of ancient Athens and her struggling to regain her democratic antecedent has remained my perception of the failure of politics in Nigeria since 1966. Nigeria’s governance experiment has birthed a series of false starts, wrong moves, uncritical governance models as well as an evolving political class that kept undermining the hope of an emerging political culture around which the Nigerian project can be finally and fully resolved. All these coalesce into the terrible dynamic we have grown to call the “Nigerian Factor”. Permit me to highlight just four dimensions of that enigmatic dynamic that has constrained Nigeria’s progress and national development since independence.
The first, for me, is the lack of a coherent vision of national well-being by a clueless political class that points at a blueprint for a better future for Nigeria and Nigerians. This is to say that the elite nationalistic framework that has served as the pathway for enlightened reflection on development for other countries is still floundering in Nigeria. On the contrary, the elite has been rather preoccupied by an extractive logic that operationalize primitive accumulation to the detriment of the commonweal. The second dimension, and a logical corollary of the first, is the incapacity of Nigeria’s political parties to serve as the framework for defining the ideological deployment of power that conditions governance models and development direction. Capturing power, the fundamental objective of all political parties, is in this case not aligned with a purposeful transformative agenda which makes the party a change agent and also ensures legitimacy for those the parties are fielding for political positions.
The third issue comes from the inevitable listlessness of the development agenda that has not yielded any headway for transforming the lives of Nigerians. And hence, Nigeria has been benchmarking the failure of her development planning for sixty-three years. An extractive political class, riding on political parties that just want to capture power, could only lead to a development agenda without any content. And lastly, we see how the epileptic development agenda would fail to backstop the rehabilitation of the Nigerian national project of integrating the diverse constituents of the Nigerian state around a civic nationalism—making ethnic nationalities believe in one Nigeria.
The great lesson of sixty-three years of Nigerian attempt at making a headway of politics and governance, is that the task of making Nigeria great—and politics a vehicle for good governance—can no longer be left for professional politicians alone. It is this same conclusion that led to the institutional expansion of the concept of governance to bring non-state and non-governmental actors within the same confines with government officials, functionaries and apparatuses in making governance work for the citizens. Now, it is time to expand the field of politics, and make it a mechanism for taking Nigeria more seriously than the politicians and the political class in Nigeria have taken. I am arguing that the idea of the “elite” in elite nationalism now needs more genuine and patriotic coalition of professionals and intellectuals, including the civil society organizations and other professional associations. The revolutionary task is that of tempering the opportunism that has characterized the trajectory of the Nigerian polity from independence till date—the opportunism of a greedy political class that has compromised Nigeria’s greatness.
And this is the message I took to the keynote responsibility at the annual workshop of the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) in September. The message is that the Nigerian professionals and professional bodies have a redemptive responsibility to weigh in on Nigeria’s survival as a nation with potential. Nigeria needs the critical insertion of professionals with the proper brew of patriotism and professionalism into the policy architecture. The professional sees herself as being involved in a calling—a vocation, rather than just seeking for self-gratification. This is the first responsibility of a professional body like the APBN: the responsible gatekeeping of professionalism in Nigeria’s professional life. And given where the professional is mostly coming from, the private sector, there is an immediate and urgent need to instigate the institutionalization and functional optimality of the public-private partnership around which most government and their policy initiatives in the world take their strength. This is the kind of partnership that distinguishes the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) as one of the nation’s leading think-tanks
To be able to make the Nigeria government serve Nigerians, professionals and intellectuals need to invigorate the trajectory of policy making in Nigeria in ways that assist in fashioning a direction for governance and making elite nationalism more fulfilling as a pathway to an ideological understanding of politics. This way, Nigeria’s professionals have a hand in rescuing the Nigerian state from a headlong descent into meaningfulness and anomie. At least, they owe that to Nigerians.
Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor of Public Administration .
The Toyin Falola Interviews: Panel Discussion On Coups In Africa: Geo-Politics, Legitimacies, And Resource Management
By Claire Princess Ayelotan
It is imperative that we acknowledge the need to shift away from Maradona democracy in Africa. The panels have aptly articulated this sentiment. The root of this issue lies in the need for a change in mindset through education. Unfortunately, even education cannot guarantee a change in ignorance, as displayed by some politicians.
The true challenge is the disunity among Africans that external actors routinely exploit. This makes coming together to establish a contextualised democracy challenging, reminiscent of the biblical passage “to your tent, oh Israel (1 Kings 12:16b)”. A house divided against itself cannot stand and will inevitably fall apart under any pressure. This is why thieves will come without hesitation to steal, kill, and eventually destroy. During pre-colonial times, some African leaders participated in the colonisation of their own people. It is also widely acknowledged that many elites were responsible for selling their people to slavery during imperialism. As mentioned above, the elites or their descendants also bear significant responsibility for disrupting and undermining long-standing traditions, religions, and belief systems in Africa. It is of great concern that I note the considerable impact of Western imperialism on Africa’s cultural landscape. Introducing toxic religio-cultural practices has contributed to decades of turmoil and instability of the continent. One such could be deducted from Jean-Marc Ela that “The God of missionary preaching was a God so distant, so foreign to the history of the colonised people (Ela 1986, 29).” They presented a facade of aid and benevolence to the people of Africa, but in reality, their actions were intended to maintain the subjugation of the indigenous population long after the colonialists had departed.
The extent to which these African elites were manipulated remains unclear; however, the same sense of disunity among Africans has once again become apparent. The divided house is crumbling! ECOWAS’s decision to launch an attack on Niger in response to the military coup that occurred raises several questions about the organisation’s motivations and consistency in addressing such events in the region. Specifically, why did ECOWAS choose to act against Niger while other countries, such as Mali, Guinea, and Gabon, have experienced similar military takeovers with no apparent action from the organisation? Whose voices are they listening to or hearing? Could they be concerned that they could be their respective nations that will soon undergo military coups? Niger’s neighbour, Nigeria serves as a compelling illustration of the potential for a severe social or political crisis. Given the persistent poverty and the glaring disparities between the wealthy and disadvantaged segments of the population, it is conceivable that an incident more catastrophic than a military coup may soon occur.
It is crucial to explore these discrepancies to understand ECOWAS’ role in maintaining instability in West Africa. Launching an attack on Niger is an infringement of Niger’s sovereignty and a clear violation of the Rule of Law. First, Niger is a sovereign nation, not a battlefield for mineral resources. It is imperative to consider the financial implications of engaging in armed conflict, including the loss of lives, psychological trauma, exploitation of the vulnerable, and forced displacement. Nigeria, which has long struggled to secure adequate food supplies for its population, would face significant challenges in providing sustenance to Nigerien refugees in the event of a war. Second, according to Sir Tom Bingham (2011, 8), the importance of the rule of law is that regardless of the type of authority represented by persons or organisations, the laws enacted and enforced in public must be binding on them, which requires clear, consistent, fair, and impartial laws, without discrimination or favouritism. In contemporary democracies, the observance of legal precepts is recognised as a fundamental aspect of effective administration, which appears to be absent in the governance of many African countries.
Moreover, the recent declaration by the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, regarding the withdrawal of French troops from Niger before the end of December has raised concerns about the durability of this decision (France24, 2023). The troops in question had been stationed in Mali for nearly a decade but were compelled to leave the country in February of the previous year (Chrisafis and Burke, 2022). Subsequently, they were moved to Niger. This development serves as a distressing reminder of the situation in Afghanistan when the United States and its allies withdrew their forces (Stewart and Ali 2021) and raised spectres of history repeating itself too soon.
However, there were some concerns. It is unclear whether this is a temporary measure to allow for full-scale clashes between military insurgents and the ECOWAS or a permanent one. Additionally, a country’s claim that its ambassador is being held hostage in Niger raises questions about the truthfulness of this statement as there is no evidence to support this claim. No one is holding the ambassador, as he is free to leave Niger. The Nigerien military simply revoked his diplomatic immunity. It is widely known that France initially declined to withdraw, and the reason was well known.
If a military force from an African country invaded France and refused to withdraw, what would France do? The French government would likely take some steps to address the situation. These might include diplomatic efforts to negotiate a resolution, deployment of military forces to defend against further incursions, and implementation of economic or other sanctions against the invading country. Ultimately, the specific actions that France would take in this situation would depend on some factors, including the scale and nature of the invasion, capabilities of the French military, and the situation’s broader political and strategic context. Furthermore, France’s continued presence in the region has been met with criticism regarding its hostile relationship with francophones and has called into question the continuity of disguised colonialism in these regions.
A similar façade to the above is France’s hard-line stance on migrants from Lampedusa, Italy. On Tuesday, the 19th of September, the French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, was invited and interviewed in the TF1 8 pm news about the sudden arrival of nearly 9000 migrants in Lampedusa. He replied, ‘La France n’accueillera pas de migrants’ meaning France will not welcome migrants (Timsit 2023). It is not being suggested that France should open its borders without restrictions to accommodate all migrants, as such an action would prove overwhelming and untenable. Instead, the issue at hand concerns the question of what steps should be taken concerning migrants who hail from countries that have been or continue to be exploited by nations that refuse to accept them. If the African continent were to experience development, would the current influx of migrants (including oneself) be witnessed? It is universally acknowledged that when one casts stones, they should not be surprised if the projectiles land upon their abode, causing them to crumble and be destroyed.
It is clear that the various perspectives on this issue require further examination. Africa is in crisis because of adopted foreign values that are inadaptable to the continent. Last night, Professor Mary Owusu mentioned the need to return to history and I agreed. This means that Africa must find its voice and necessitates excavating our heritage beyond the pre-colonial period to reclaim our dignity. Otherwise, it will continue running hopelessly in the dark with no hint of light in the tunnel (Ela 1986, 100). Africa must abandon its foreign-style democracy, akin to Maradona’s brand of leadership, in favour of a democratic system that is tailored to our socio-cultural and religious values. Until such a time, the probability of military coups or even more catastrophic events is unavoidable.
Ayelotan, MA, MA, PhD, PDSL, ACIArb, IMI,Theology & Religious Studies, University of Roehampton.
Moral Values In A Changing World
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
JUSTICE: This world has degenerated into abysmal filth, immoral ungodly concupiscence, infantile greed, atavistic, primitive acquisition of property, and satanic hopelessness! The judiciary, the political class, the church, our royal fathers, and most other socio-cultural institutions have fallen into the cesspit of indiscipline and lack of respect for ethics! The Labour movement that used to be in the forefront of discipline cannot be trusted anymore!
MARIAM: Hehehehehehe! Okpoyibo! Big grammar is talking. I must invite Hon Patrick Obahiagbon to compete with you on explosive vocabulary.
PROFESSOR: That’s an old song. Our parents said the same thing some forty odd years ago.
UMUKORO: You are right; it is the way of the old to berate the world and say the past was better!
JUSTICE: Kindly don’t reduce the profundity of my introspective submission to the jejune level of the banal as has been the hallmark of pseudo-intellectuals in the polity!
MARIAM: I am going to get a new and bigger dictionary. I can’t find Michael West anymore!
JUSTICE: If you still restrict yourself to the archaic confines of Michael West, then you are a victim of historical detention, arrested development, and exploration of the brave new world!
MARIAM: I give up!
UMUKORO: Who still uses a dictionary in the 21st century? Ask Google my dear, ask Google!
JUSTICE: Your infantile and rudimentary knowledge of homonyms limits your capacity to process thoughts of the new century. Away with you, thou physically beautiful body without an intellectual soul. I take exception to people denigrating my exceptionally brilliant exegesis on the state of Homo sapiens!
PASTOR: ‘And in the last days, iniquity shall abound and the love of many shall wax cold’, so said the Master. The time is here!
PROFESSOR: A broken record! A broken record waxed hundreds of years ago!
PASTOR: But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved!
PROFESSOR: Saved from what? Another holocaust? Another atomic bomb dumped on humanity?
PASTOR: Do you spurn sacred and biblical prophecies?
PROFESSOR: General prophecies mean nothing to me. Look here Mr Pastor. For all the false prophecies which members of your infernal gang of profiteering pastors gave before the last general elections, you should be behind the bars of God!
JUSTICE: It is not late, not too late at all. The hounds of heaven are waiting for all the false pastors, especially those who have commercialized the Lord’s work! A wonderful and abominable thing is happening in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the people love it so!
PROFESSOR: One preacher I knew used to say that one false prophet was more dangerous than 100 armed robbers. Now I understand why!
UMUKORO: Armed robbery is no longer fashionable. Pen robbery fetches millions of naira with one stroke. Just add two zeros to the figure or transfer public funds to a private account.
PROFESSOR: I spoke metaphorically!
PASTOR: When it is becoming fashionable for persons of the same gender to marry and be recognized by the state, then the world is coming to an end.
UMUKORO: Sodom and Gomorrah incurred God’s wrath with that abomination!
MARIAM: When Supreme Court judges dispense political justice, then the end of the state as we knew it, has come.
UMUKORO: Even in America! Democratic judges give judgment guided by the so-called liberal values of the democrats while republican judges give conservative verdicts like abolishing the right to having an abortion!
JUSTICE: What then is justice?
MARIAM: Self solution! Your name is justice!
PROFESSOR: Aren’t we mixing oranges and apples in the same basket?
PASTOR: Let the tares and the wheat grow. At the harvest the Lord shall do the separation of sheep from goats!
JUSTICE: Eschatological metaphors can be used to rationalize and explain currents and undercurrents of contemporary events. It is very convenient to do so!
PROFESSOR: I am disappointed that our Nobel laureate could make such a one-sided pronouncement on the 2023 general elections. Unlike him, he didn’t speak like a man who comprehends the totality of our traumatic experience in February 2023!
MARIAM: But he spoke his mind. The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression!
JUSTICE: He spoke with the finality of a judge. I respect him for that. But he should also like an elder have acknowledged the level of rigging and violence which marred the exercise. The general thinking is that he is silent on that aspect because a friend of his now occupies Aso Rock!
MARIAM: That is a most uncharitable thing to say about a man of such intellectual distinction and moral probity!
JUSTICE: Excuse me! Has he occupied any public office in the country to enable you to arrive at that conclusion? Has he been tested?
MARIAM: His name is a shield. His name travels before him.
JUSTICE: Why did he wait for the PEPT to make a pronouncement before proclaiming his tigritude?
PROFESSOR: Let’s leave that old man alone jor! I’m more interested in the shuffling feet at the CBN. What exactly is going on? Was there no due diligence before Shonubi was asked to act as Governor of the Central bank of Nigeria? Didn’t they know, couldn’t they have suspected that he was part of the rot that ran that institution aground in the dying days of the former president?
PASTOR: Alas, it has given the president the opportunity to appoint his own man as governor. The new man by all account is competent and exposed in the financial world!
PROFESSOR: My only worry is whether he will have the gumption to say no if he receives obnoxious directives from his boss.
JUSTICE: How many appointees in our country have the liver to say no to the indiscretion of their bosses? It is not in our DNA!
MARIAM: In Lagos state, the Speaker of House said no to the governor on the appointment of some commissioners! The heavens did not fall.
PROFESSOR: The heavens almost fell. But that speaker is arrogant. No big man can trust him. Or was he dancing to music being played in higher quarters to spite the governor?
MARIAM: Who knows! It is possible. The ways of politicians are not straightforward. How could he say that he and the governor are colleagues! He has no respect for the office!
UMUKORO: I felt sorry for the governor! This attempt to humiliate him all in the name of politics.
JUSTICE: I hear it is all about 2024. If he is thinking of becoming governor, that statement will return to haunt him in future!
PASTOR: Now! Now! Now! Is the Dubai visa ban still hanging over us or Mr. President got the desert kings to lift the embargo?
JUSTICE: Is there any ‘gbajue’ going on?
PROFESSOR: Hahahahahaha! The more you look, the less you see. Proverbs to bones and silence!
UMUKORO: I don’t think it is ‘gbajue! It is possible that there was an agreement in principle which would require Nigeria to finetune certain details before going public. A federal government cannot tell lies about such public matters!
PASTOR: When the saviour comes, let him that be on the rooftop not come down to be saved. You will run to the mountain and the mountain will be melting!
MARIAM: And the sea will be boiling!
PROFESSOR: Who will save us? Who can take the nation back to factory reset? Shall we invite Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi, and Ahmadu Bello to rescue us?
PASTOR: Perish such thoughts please! Those men have not been able to save themselves. How can they save anybody? Jesus Christ is the answer!
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