Women, Democracy, And Politics
Africa’s history changed in the wake of the European and Arabic invasion of the continent, where the strategic preference that the Europeans, for example, placed on males became the foundation for the installation of a patriarchal social system and corresponding male-centered political pyramids. Perhaps, because of the nature of the relationship that various African civilizations and nations kept with these different invaders, there was minimal resistance to the political structure in some places. Also, the culture that they were confronted with in the hand of their unceremonious visitors ineluctably forced them to adopt a system that would eventually polarize their gender unity. This appears to be one of the reasons why African women may have been slow to meet up with their contemporaries in other parts of the world in terms of their contributions to society. With the termination of the colonial structures, however, came the motivations and aspirations of women to reclaim their political positions in society so that they would be once again respected in the social hierarchy. To be candid, this is an inevitable condition because women are important in different socioeconomic positions hitherto assigned to males and because they are redefining democracy, gender, and politics in a global context.
During the recently concluded Toyin Falola Interviews, Dr. Chiedo Nwankwor responded to the question Ms. Ireti Bakare Yusuf asked about how she felt about the topic of engagement, “Women Speak,” by reminding the audience that women have been speaking across time and ages, generations and epochs because they have something important to contribute to the society and would be uncomfortable to remain silent on critical issues. But then, she ends with a rather incisive question: “women have been speaking; is anyone listening?”, meaning that even when women speak, is society genuinely ready to listen to them? From a very keen observation of her tone, the remark revalidates the earlier position that colonization and invasion had affected the politics of Africa in some ways. The idea that women’s voices in topics that directly impact them, particularly politics, are not heard should be enough reason for re-engagement. Ms. Ayisha Osori would also be very practical in her response to the same question. To her, women have constantly become a central focus for social and political discussion, which invariably compels them to speak so that they would appropriately offer their perspective, as opposed to the biased ones. The women panelists seemed to have no contention about this as the third speaker, Ms. Nseabasi Ufot, concurred with the opinions of the previous speakers on this question.
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However, the gravity of this intellectual enterprise is to understand the context of Nigerian and global politics and how it restricts women’s participation and contributions. Women’s voices, which would have been in their highest decibel given the appropriate conditions, have not been considered central in the Nigerian political engagements, particularly from the Fourth Republic. Ms. Osori stresses that the marginal positions appropriated for women in Nigerian politics within the highlighted timeframe do not reflect women’s deficiency in or apathy to political participation. Instead, it reflects an extremely patriarchal system that makes it difficult for them to be represented. This will, however, come with its devastating effects on the general development of the people. Ms. Osori explains that exclusionary politics has been the foundation of women’s challenges in participating equitably in the country’s political landscape. To be fair, while women have been hard hit by this political atmosphere, everyone who does not belong to the status quo has also been exposed to the damaging results of such practice. Primary in the destructive downsides of this exclusive politics is that policy development continues to suffer from bias because women’s voices are not well-represented there.
Without necessarily taking the current topic of engagement outside the purview of the panelists, the moderator again asked Ms. Ufot where she thinks Nigeria is in the comity of nations, with relation to how they engage women in their political and democratic experience. The justification for this question finds strength in the understanding that women are expected to fight back through different means to be appropriately included in the country’s political process. She certainly understands the complexity of the question by her informed responses and established that movements have been formed to mobilize public support for women’s collective struggles.
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If people are not made aware of the immeasurable disadvantage it is to them to be excluded from the political decisions of their environment, it would be difficult to make them see why resistance is a profitable progressive measure. Therefore, women have taken to online and offline mobilization and information platforms to educate the people about the activities of their political actors and how exclusionary politics impedes their general progress and development. Among the useful online platforms are the social media outlets used in most cases to educate, encourage, and enjoin citizens to give necessary moral and spiritual support for women’s emancipation movement.
For Nseabasi Ufot, communication through digital information and media awareness is one of the key strategies for changing the political culture to advance women’s interests in society and in political institutions. To the government officials, as important as these information sharing platforms are to the reformation of our general political system, they could be misused at will. On several occasions, there have been reasons for doctoring information to be circulated to the people, which instantly mislead and misdirect them. Therefore, information poisoning is one of the drawbacks of what we have in contemporary times, especially concerning the question asked. If these happen in the global context, the possibility of having women even on the international scene is slim. Enabling the free dissemination of information between and among groups ensures that they are educated on the current conditions that hamper their freedoms, and are sensitized towards how and what to do to remedy the situation. Where there is no freedom of the press, for instance, the psychological effect is that some people, especially women, would be disinterested in politics, which would further jeopardize their interest as a group.
Ms. Ufot was pragmatic enough to respond to the question that although the government continues to show its aversion to protests and public resistance, the people are not throwing in the towel in their fight against injustices and pervasive repression of their voices. To ensure that they have a voice, they have engaged different social media platforms to amplify their interests in the country and how they want it to be run. They achieve this by intelligently analyzing their situations and then draw to themselves a growing audience that also takes their messages with keen interest.
Dr. Nwankwor comes in with a compelling and stimulating insight into this issue. She responds that civic responsibility begins with awareness. Being aware of one’s political system and what can be done to advance it to an envious point helps to channel one’s energy in the right direction. Of course, all these can be sustained in a world where the democratic culture is itself advanced. When democracy is not properly formed, it becomes an agent of imposition and repression where the institutions in the polity work for the benefits of the bureaucratic powers.
Still, Dr. Nwankwor sees some promising future in Nigerian politics, noting that the process of transformation involves endurance and persistence. She remained steadfast in her conviction that in the wake of Nigerian democratic engagement, which began in 1999 with the Fourth Republic, the fact that citizens are challenging the country’s power structure through their engagement on various social media platforms indicates that the country is evolving, although at a very slow pace compared to the expectations of the people. Through available social media platforms, citizens now have increased confidence in challenging the government to the extent of organizing a series of protests primarily through social media mobilization. In this particular trend, women feature prominently and have successfully deployed these tools for achieving their goals.
Naturally, one would expect that a follow-up question to this is to ask about the attitude of the Nigerian government towards alternative perspectives, knowing that leaders in the country have continuously found extreme difficulty in transforming from their totalitarian values to a democratic culture. It is never out of context to ask this question, knowing that citizens have faced state antagonism whenever they develop plans to challenge the government through protest, which is a democratically accepted means of engaging the government in contemporary times. However, the Nigerian government has always reacted with lethal force whenever there is a nationwide demonstration, because they are well aware of the potential damage that protests might do to their reputation and image, and more importantly, in order to protect their ill-gotten privileges and to maintain the status quo.
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For Ms. Osori, she stressed the points already strengthened by the previous panelists who had responded to the same question. Among other things, she emphasized that inclusive politics in Nigeria is under serious prognosis, but this does not mean it is all generally negative, as different narratives have suggested. By the understanding that the women demographic is now being engaged, they have shown through determination that they would always make their voices count, regardless of the circumstances that continue to repress their voices. Without creating an atmosphere for women, it would be difficult for a country to build a civilization worthy of being transferred from one generation to another. She, however, included that it would be misleading if one does not put into context the circumstances that has similarly emboldened the young generation to engage the older generations in power, to ask for their right, as in the recent #EndSars protests in November 2020 in Nigeria.
Many of the #EndSars activists however seemed insufficiently aware of previous activists’ efforts and of state responses of civil repression that have psychologically limited potential protestors or activists from considering confronting the state. Nevertheless, according to Ms. Osori, we must not be distracted from the truth that Nigeria has not actually built a viable and veritable democracy that can be benchmarked for the level of development that the forthright ones can picture.
This pathetic political situation is aggravated by the apparent lack of creativity in building systems and institutions that can help transform the society or people. To take for granted the fact that institutions are the foundations for enhancing an accountable government that is not founded on patronage is to pay inadequate attention to the issue of democratic importance. This, in itself, incubates an insinuation that the government is not necessarily developed by strategies and philosophies but by some unforeseen luck. Without overstating it, this would eradicate the thinking that a country needs appropriate systems to help in its transformation and meteoric improvement. This thought manifests in Nigeria’s institutions, for example in the electoral system where there is no evidence of improvement from what happens in the modern time and the events of the 1960s. This aversion to creativity has affected the polity negatively in that it ordinarily rejects the possibility of attracting the necessary minds who would help improve the system. Elections are conducted with similar experiences as they had in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, with ballot snatching, massive electoral fraud, and the use of thugs and violence, among others, for election purposes.
Meanwhile, the beauty of any intellectual engagement is that people of different professional or career paths can view things from perspectives that align with their academic or professional background. In this case, opinions are meant to differ, and as such, it would help to stimulate a very interesting conversation and engagement. For this reason, the moderator wanted to seek the opinion of Dr. Nwankwor about the position held by the two panelists. Surprisingly, she gave a position that complemented the stand of Ufot and Osori. She reiterated that the democracy of the country is in the Intensive Care Unit because it has not been strong enough to ensure upward mobility of the people, as it enriches only a select few and because it has not always entertained alternative perspectives in most cases. Thus, one would understand that these Nigerian women, irrespective of where they are, are intricately linked to their homeland politics by demonstrating that they not only understand the challenges that are inhibiting the system from attaining a greater height but by also showing that they are aware of the corresponding solutions which they can give for the raging problems. Despite this untoward retrograde, there are some positive and encouraging lights about the situation as there is no cloud without a silver lining. The younger generation has shown that they are capable of changing the narrative. Women’s groups have also become proficient in mobilizing and seeking reform.
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Actions that are reflective of a weak democracy are not only demonstrated by the Nigerian or African people, for instance. It is a common challenge in the global political community as there appears to be a wave of governmental repression of people and infringement on some of their fundamental rights. Following the US general elections, laws are being passed by which some citizens are being disenfranchised for reasons that are not always justified. These disenfranchisements are being challenged as well as adjudicated, as they should be.
Non-governmental organizations, important groups, and intellectual communities have not refused to lend their voices to confront such a level of rights abuses, and it is contextually encouraging that one of our guests, Ufot, is making commendable efforts for the interrogation of the situation so that sanity would be returned to the American polity. The very first way to confront a debilitating situation is to know the background to the said challenge. This would make one have a better and objective view of the situation and make informed decisions on how to contain the possible outcomes. In a bid to control the activities of the people, the former American leader builds a narrative that can sway the people from what actually matters, but it is obvious that such would not sail through in a society where markets of information are shared now and then.
According to Ms. Ufot, having failed in misleading the people, the other way is to manipulate the system. She openly declared that the most insensitive thing that anyone would do is to consider fighting a movement whose time has come or to make efforts to downcast an idea whose maturity has germinated. She argued that demographic changes and the sweeping interest they showcase in the political affairs of the community is not something that can be silenced by individuals, groups, or gatherings against its evolution. She jokingly alluded to the age-long conversation of slavery and antislavery narrative when she said that some members of the American public should not consider antagonizing the inclusionary government that factored the multiracial system, or that condoned multicultural temperament in the current system, as it would not lead the white racial community to experience enslavement, the type that their ancestors subjected the Black community to in recent history. While this would not happen for whatever reason, it cannot be argued that the changes it would bring may disallow the preferential treatment that some members of the society have enjoyed to the detriment of innocent others.
The strategy used by these women of value is to leverage the institutional power of the country to challenge individuals or government agencies who decided to use them for their provincial intentions. The litigation process, for example, was considered important in fighting these wars. While the trilogy of litigation process, communication strategies, and direct action are usually very effective in correcting political anomaly in America, these erudite African women have looked into the different ways by which they can be replicated in the Nigerian political terrain so that the country’s politicians would understand that the responsibility of hiring and then firing anyone who is in a political office lies exclusively with the masses. This means that the people would be informed of their untapped power left to suffer unimaginable abandonment because the people have been oppressed and defeated in their spirit.
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These outstanding women are evidence that gender oppression or exclusion in political engagements would generally work against the country. This is consolidated by the understanding that they have not only been equipped with the necessary skills and systems of leadership but have also been very pragmatically strategic in their political tactics. We continue to underplay women’s potential and their possibility to rescue the country from imminent danger of destruction because we have not considered aggressively engaging them in our political system. In all seriousness, they have shown how indispensable they are in intellectually marshaling their points and drawing systematic means of rescuing any civilization known to man.
(This is the first of two reports on the interview on “Political Reforms Nigeria Needs—The Women Speak”on July 11 2021) For its entire recording, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wbkjm59oRdw&t=6s
Who Needs Counseling In Nigeria?
By Leo Igwe
In January, I registered for a professional course in counseling at the Attitude Development Institute (ADI) in Lagos. After my doctoral program in religious studies, I thought I was done doing any other academic course. But I was mistaken. I recently noticed that something was missing in my academic and learning accessories. And I needed to rectify it. So I started this professional diploma program. I embarked on this course in my quest for a more competent way to assist people who contact me for help and support. Many contact me saying that they are tired of life and could not find anything meaningful to do or to earn a living. Many attribute their problems to ‘village people’, witches and wizards, generational curses, evil spirits, jinns, demonic attacks, etc. Many attribute their failures, setbacks and misfortunes to juju or harmful magic. I decided to do this diploma in counseling because I felt that something was lacking in my knowledge and understanding of human beings and human problems.
Last year, a lecturer on guidance and counseling at a college of agriculture in Ebonyi state invited me to come and talk to some of his students. Some of the students wanted to do money rituals and he was worried. This lecturer asked me to come and persuade them against engaging in this futile and criminal venture. But how could I do this professionally and effectively?
I wondered what else to tell these students apart from what I had repeatedly said in the past. That money ritual was a superstition, and the belief had no basis in reason or reality. But will that help? Will that be enough? Will the students be persuaded by that proposition? I asked. I felt that telling them that ritual money was a myth would likely be an exercise in futility. It would likely be inadequate and would not yield effective results. I felt that young people needed a more structured way to get them to change these thoughts and behavior. Anyway, I went to that college of education and met with some students and spent time talking to them, advising and persuading them not to indulge in money rituals. I urged them to try and complete their education and then seek out other evidence-based ways of making money. I do not know if my talk yielded any positive results.
Before and after this incident I encountered many who strongly believed in ritual money, and who, given the opportunity could kill, or use human body parts for rituals. Last year, someone contacted me from Kwara state. He inquired how he could do money rituals. I offered similar advice. Some people have contacted me seeking some other forms of help and support. Someone called from Imo state asking how he could stop gambling. That it was ruining his business and that his friends were pointing accusing fingers at his landlady. They said the woman was a witch and was responsible for his dwindling fortune. I offered him some words of advice. Also, in advocating against witch persecution, I have come across people who had anxiety, and mental and emotional disorders but who attribute these psychological problems and other existential challenges to witchcraft. I have been looking for competent ways to manage witchcraft believers and suspecters. I have been searching for more professional ways to support traumatized victims and survivors. I have been seeking a skillful mechanism to empower, guide and enable entertainers of witchcraft fears and sufferers of witch persecution to heal, recover and take control of their lives.
Beyond that, there are personal reasons. I am the first son in my family. I started dealing with family issues at a very young age without any knowledge of human psychology. I was socialized to help my younger brothers and lead even when I barely knew my left from my right. I was made to manage and resolve family-related issues even when I was a child with barely an understanding of how life worked. I was not self-aware or socially aware. I did not know human personalities and temperaments. I was not allowed to grow like every other child. I was pressured to behave like the first son, the deputy head of the family, and to intervene in family issues including my parents’ marital issues. Even now my father has passed away, I manage family issues and deal with members with personality disorders and untreated traumas, including my siblings who engage in micro/transferred aggressions and other negative behaviors rooted in childhood experiences. They intentionally make life miserable for me; they complicate matters to settle childhood scores, to punish or deal with me for some real or imagined privilege that they thought I had enjoyed as a first son.
In addition, I started teaching at 17 years, I taught at a local seminary and helped in nurturing children. I did not know children and educational psychology. It was like a child teaching children. It was while studying for my bachelor’s in philosophy that I did some psychology courses. I learned about Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Ivan Pavlov and their explanations of human behavior. But it was all theory. Then my focus was on getting good grades and passing examinations, not applying the knowledge to real life and issues. In the course of my humanist work and campaign, I have come across people suffering from religious trauma, and victims of religious oppression and persecution.
I would like to offer them effective help and support. As a humanist celebrant, I help families that are grieving, couples who are getting married, or those celebrating the arrival of a new baby. To provide effective help and services, I realized that I needed some professional training in counseling. I searched online and got some information about one Counseling Association of Nigeria. I contacted them and registered. But I realized that the focus was mainly on guidance and counseling in schools. That is important. But that was not what I wanted. My impression was that the association was mainly for teachers and lecturers. I needed some training that could qualify me as a professional counselor. I went online and saw some information about two counseling institutes in Lagos. They offer professional training.
One is in Ikeja, which is the ADI, and the other is in Victoria Island. I spoke to some counselors and one recommended ADI. After some telephone conversations and WhatsApp exchanges with the director of the Institute, I enrolled in its diploma class. The classes are held once every week. I joined the second week. After my first class, I realized that I was in the right place and that the program that they offered was what I was looking for. It was a twelve-week program, very intense. The courses included the foundations of counseling, counseling theories, and skills, children/teenage counseling, marriage/family counseling, and crisis/trauma counseling. Some of the courses focused on Christian counseling, grief counseling, sex therapy, and mental health. When I started I was worried that the lectures would be bland, another monotonous exercise in issuing handouts, but they were not. The lectures were interesting. And the lecturers were engaging and entertaining. They were very articulate and used so many examples to illustrate their points. The program occasioned some intellectual shocks and dissonance. It has helped me to correct some misconceptions about counseling and counselors. First I realized the importance of counseling and counselors. Look, human beings suffer both physical and emotional injuries. Both injuries are treatable. While medical doctors help treat physical wounds, counselors as therapists help treat emotional and psychological injuries. Again, counseling is widely understood to mean advice. We were told several times that counselors were not advisers. They do not advise their clients. A foremost counselor, Irvin Yalom whose book, Love’s Executioner, we reviewed throughout the course said the task of a counselor was to make himself or herself obsolete. Yes, it is tacitly saying that for the counselee to live, the counselor must die. He noted that the counselor’s role was to help the client take responsibility for making himself or herself better. Instead of advising, counselors support counselees to take control of their healing and living.
Again, throughout the program, the lecturers made it clear that one of the characteristics of a good counselor was listening. A counselor must be a good listener. He or she must have good listening skills. Also, counseling was not meant for some people, some psychologically troubled and maladjusted people. Instead, the lecturers made it clear that counseling was for everyone, for both the counselors and the counselees. In the course of the lectures I kept flashing back and recalling so many people that I have met in life who needed counseling. Everyone is grappling with some trauma or emotional issue at one time or the other. They encouraged the trainees to go for counseling. Each class was indirectly an exercise in group counseling and therapy because the classes provided opportunities for members to pour it out, to draw from their life, work, and family experiences in discussing the topics.
Yes, I realized that everybody needed counseling. And nothing illustrated the need better than a particular incident that happened during the program. Due to some miscommunication, one of the counselors managing the program communicated the wrong date for the class graduation to the management. When she came and informed the class, she was told that she communicated the wrong date. And this counselor became furious(meanwhile her name is also Fu…something). Discussions became quite heated and tense because she continued to insist that she communicated the correct date. The room became very noisy and rowdy because some people were trying to correct her but she refused. At some point, a member of this class set that calls itself, Ignite, raised her voice. She is in this class of women with a huge and imposing stature, looked quiet from the outside, and could be mistaken as phlegmatic. She said emphatically while pointing her five fingers at this counselor and swinging the hand up and down: “You are not listening”, “You are not listening”. At that point, the counselor tried to calm down. A senior management colleague intervened and urged the counselor to leave the room. As soon as she left, another class member said: “She needs counseling”. And some class members chuckled.
So, everybody needs counseling in Nigeria.
Igwe,PhD, is a trainee counselor at the Attitude Development Institute, Lagos.
Professors On INEC’s Will (4)
By Tony Afejuku
These past three weeks have been three supreme weeks of supreme value to all of us who have been gluing ourselves to this column for the right reasons: No room for lying; no room for deceits; no room for propaganda; no room for vanity. No room, no room, no room for what should not be here. Thoughts of the streams, thoughts of the spheres, music of the streams, music of the spheres enhance the column in diverse ways.
Our debaters for the past three weeks have demonstrated this. Each of the professors (all of them, in fact) has demonstrated this in the geometry of their presentations, in the minds of their geo-biographies, in the arithmetic of their convictions and persuasions. They in varying degrees did not support the will of INEC in the presidential election, even though the INEC chair is one of them, a fellow professor in the sphere of the humanities. In going over the longitude and latitude of the flow of our professors, of our debating professors, in their authentic and responsible sphere of spheres the clarity and precision of the geo-biography and nature of patience moved towards me. This may not be the right way of putting it, but I found and still find each debater to be a patient debater. Goodness! How a patiently patient listener and presider over the debate Professor Olu Obafemi was/is! The rhetoric of his ears or of his eyes or of his tongue was/is the rhetoric of the sage. If I imagined this, I imagined it well. His rhetoric was/is not the creation of this recorder, but it is the rhetoric of the music of the shaping of the debate and the words of the debaters who like him are fellow writers and creators.
Now I present to our readers the summation of Professor Olu Obafemi who presided over the reported affairs of the literati:
“This debate has gone on very well and quite enlightening. I have learnt quite a lot from the various positions eloquently proffered here. I like to chip in this bit: (1) there will not be much ideological departure from PMB to BAT. We will still operate a neoliberal economy, fraught largely with parasitism and consumerism. It is very likely, from his experience in investment, creative commercialism/commodity consciousness and cosmopolitanism in governance, Tinubu will be a lot more distribution-prone, more productive, and more people friendly than his predecessor; (2) having operated in comprador praxis in the US, Tinubu will engage globalization with discretionary envisioning (these are loaded, unconventional concepts that may require greater elucidation in future; (3) having not operated unitarist governance strategy that we have had since Ironsi till date, and with his governance experience in Lagos, including standing up to OBJ to run a well-structured State in Lagos, BAT will be more of his own man who will surround himself with talent rather than a cabalistic instinct (I am talking here about power delegation as opposed to power relegation); (4) we have good reason to believe that Tinubu will not go for a winner-take-all, conclave-prone governance and will strive to deliver goods and services— democracy dividends more generously/humanely. May the future be better and more tolerable for our people and all of us in this country, and all our fellows and compatriots in foreign lands, that is, the diaspora.”
But the pastor-spirit as well as the track of traditional culture in him elicited from Professor Ademola Da Sylva what amounted to a kind of vote of thanks to Professor Olu Obafemi and the co-debaters in the literati.
“Many thanks, Baba O.O., for your thoughtful, clinical and lucid interventions; and IBK’s, (and others’) too! So palpable and infectious are the feelings of hope, and delight of the innocent, that you have demonstrated in your concluding postings, and my silent response was a loud A-m-e-n! Then I turned to God the Almighty, and said, “Baba-God, these genuine feelings expressed by these great minds, aggregate what is uppermost in the mind of the Nigerian people at this point of our history. Can you, please, do this one last favour for the masses of this country? I believe it is not beyond what you as the Almighty can do for an otherwise potentially great country like Nigeria! Simply protect BAT, from the powers that have constituted themselves into human principalities in the corridor of power; completely and permanently seal the mouths of those demonic lions labelled as Cabals in Aso Rock that have, thus far, truncated Nigeria’s destiny! AMEN!” Perhaps we should remind ourselves that our hope was this high when many Nigerian voters, including yours truly, trouped out to vote in Buhari as President! Now, I remember, “demonic forces” written about by Reuben Abati during the Presidency of GEJ, unfortunately, like some nameless hydra monsters they always rear their ugly heads with every new administration, these Aso Rock principalities. PMB has his good share of them in the Abakyaris, and very familiar ones, for obvious reasons, like the Ngiges, et al, never for once did they allow PMB to be! They took advantage of his visibly infirm state, to take over the reins of governance in what could be described as a “civilian coup” and ran-over the ship of the country crashing against the Aso rock! The reason we are where we are, right now! BAT like PMB, also has a visibly infirm visage/characteristic unless we pretend to not acknowledge it, a new set of cabalistic demons would join forces with the existing ones, after all, it is still the same Political Party, to take advantage of BAT’s current clinical status! BAT of 20 or 10 years ago, isn’t the same BAT today on account of age and health. Yes, unless God Almighty does something about these principalities through His human agents, they might yet soon take over the affairs of Nigeria under BAT too, to do what they know best: to steal, to kill and to destroy, and ensure that the status quo remains as it has always been, in the spirit of Ted Hughe’s very famous poem, ‘The Eagle’!”
Well, well said, O debaters. But let the columnist-terminator and terminator-columnist have the last word. The time won’t be long to ask INEC this simple question: Did INEC lavish allegedly over three hundred billion naira to register the paltry figure or number of voters for the 2023 elections? Did the very small number (below ninety or so million) match the more than very huge sum of money that INEC got for registration of voters and for other election related matters, duties and responsibilities? How much money in millions upon millions did not allegedly go under and distributed to “principalities” and “demonic forces” hovering over Aso Rock and the Presidency of the presidencynologists? Any clear or unclear answers to these questions cannot or may not but tell us that the presidential election in particular was INEC’s will. Our debating Professors will not say on oath that they did not know. Did the presidential and other elections meet the expectations, wishes and will of the people generally? INEC has the answer. And our debating professors will bluntly tell the chairman of INEC this.
Because our professors are fellow writers, I must terminate the discourse by drawing their attention to the following poem “For the Consideration of Poets” by Haki R. Madhubuti (original name Don Luther Lee), the 81 years old African-American poet, author and publisher, and a native of Little Rock, Arkansas:
where is the poetry of resistance,
the poetry of honorable defiance
unafraid of lies from career
politicians and business men,
not respectful of journalists who write
official speak void of educated thought
without double search or sub surface questions
that war talk demands?
where is the poetry of doubt and suspicion
not in the service of the state, bishops
not in the service of beautiful people
and late night promises,
not in the service of influence,
incompetence and academic
The above lines speak volumes. Let them stay glued to our memories day by day. And may INEC’s chairman become the poet and historian of resistance after finding time to read this!
Terminated for now.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
Iwuanyanwu And The ‘Political Rascals’ Rhetoric
By Promise Adiele
Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play Waiting for Godot avails itself of multiple interpretative tools with a compelling grip on the moral imagination of the audience. As a timeless drama, it thrives on the hopelessness of the human condition dramatized by two vagabonds, Estragon and Vladimir who waited for a mysterious, titular Godot that never came. One of the features of the absurdist literary tradition portrayed in the play is the failure of language in the verbal context as a means of communication. The verbal exchange between the two vagabonds is evident of misinterpretation. One says one thing, the other interprets it differently. Thus, it calls to question the potency of language in the verbal medium as a means of communication. The preceding analogy reminds me of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and his purported insult to the good people of the Yoruba ethnic group. Perhaps, misinterpretation currently manifests as an inexorable content of Nigeria’s absurd credentials.
Last week, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, philanthropist, accomplished businessman, the Balogun Babaguwan of Yorubaland, Ahaejiejemba of Igboland and elder-statesman, while reacting to events that happened in Lagos during the last election when many Igbo people were bloodied and harassed, assured the world that “the Igbo and Yoruba are not at war”. On the heels of that statement came another one “they are Yoruba political rascals”. A syntactic analysis of the two sentences affirms that the Chief never meant to insult the entire Yoruba ethnic group. Rather, he was referring to rascals in Lagos who maimed, killed, and vanquished Igbos, non-Yorubas, and even some Yorubas with Igbo semblance, stopping them from exercising their voting rights during the election. He also said “we know them and we will deal with them”. Language scholars know that Chief Iwuanyanwu did not mean to insult the Yoruba. Sadly, some social nitwits, victims of acute cognitive impairment, went on a rampage to misinterpret and manipulate his statement to suit their treacherous, mischievous purposes. It is absurd.
Anyone who knows Chief Iwuaynanwu’s antecedent will never ascribe offensive rhetoric to him. He is soft-spoken, conciliatory and peace-loving. Like every sensible person around the world, not just the Igbo, he was aghast with lurid photos and video evidence of harm against the Igbo in Lagos during the last election. Unfortunately, people who ordinarily frolic in the whirlwind of ethnic hate have seized the opportunity to insult the Igbo ethnic group while using acerbic words on the revered Chief. These people, in their degenerate and diseased mentality, are trying to install a wall of hate between the Igbo and Yoruba. Let me state categorically that the Yorubas are wonderful people whose spirit of brotherliness, conviviality, and tolerance speaks volumes across the world. I have maintained over time that the Igbo and Yoruba share a cordial, interwoven relationship in marriage, business, friendship, association and neighbourliness. The two ethnic groups can never be involved in a conflict. Many Yoruba people have helped many Igbo people to their destinies and many Igbo people have helped many Yoruba people to their destinies too. An attempt for one ethnic group to harm the other will result in serious harm for the two. It is as implicating as that.
Since the presidential elections, keenly contested by different candidates from different ethnic groups in Nigeria, some people have desperately sought to reduce the entire development to an ethnic affair. It is myopic and at once condescending. Does Peter Obi represent the Igbo? Does Bola Tinubu represent the Yoruba? Does Atiku Abubakar represent the Hausa/Fulani? These candidates all have supporters across the country. Of course, they will have a preponderance of support from their ethnic base. That is the way of politics. Unfortunately, ethnic jingoists have, in the inerrancy of their bleak convictions, reduced the entire political discourse to an ethnic affair especially Yoruba vs Igbo. These people, stranded in the realm of ethnic hate and communal intolerance, have done everything within their powers to inflame ethnic tension to crucible dimensions. It is wrong for anyone to insult a whole ethnic group in whatever guise. In Chief Iwuanyanwu’s case, he has put the records straight by clarifying what he meant, insisting that he was quoted out of context. But the morbid and decadent will not hear of it. They insist that Iwuanyanwu and all Igbo should be roasted alive. As far as these simpletons are concerned, the Chief spoke the mind of all Igbos. How idiotic and harebrained can anybody be?
Recently, some people have also indulged in ethnic slurs. Unlike Chief Iwuanyanwu that clarified himself, Bayo Onanuga offered no apology and insisted on standing by his words. Onanuga spoke for himself and couldn’t have insulted the Igbo on behalf of the Yoruba. MC Oluomo, while registering his socio-political disorientation, spoke for himself when he threatened the Igbo on an election day and went on to make good his threat which the police shamelessly called a joke. FFK has also made inflammatory remarks which were his personal opinion and not the opinion of Yoruba. It is therefore, a function of disabled, primitive awareness for anyone to insult an ethnic group based on the comment of one person. Such insults and abuses expose the quiddity of phenomenal foolishness which, hitherto, was concealed in some people by the façade of education. No, these hate mongers belong to the stone age. Nobody should be deceived by their pretentious liberalism.
The question is, are there political rascals in Nigeria? Definitely yes! These are the particular people Chief Iwuanyanwu referred to concerning what happened in Lagos during the last elections. Of course, all parts of the country have their share of political rascals. It is not peculiar to one ethnicity. Political rascals are those who walk the streets, snatch ballot boxes, stab people due to their ethnic origin and prevent them from exercising their civic rights. They are not educated. They are thugs, street urchins and never-do-wells employed by politicians to advance nefarious objectives. There are also some educated political rascals. They don’t walk the streets, but demonstrate humane deficiency of unimaginable proportions using social media and sundry news outlets. They spread hate, provoke enmity and fan the embers of war. They incite the uneducated, urging them to bay for the blood of ordinary citizens. Their social media handles are replete with expletives and insults. Abusive engagement allows them to flourish. Another category of political rascals populate government establishments like INEC, the Police and different security agencies. These people compromise the electoral process in exchange for financial inducement and material gains. They are unconscionable, desperate and invidious. Are these people from another planet? No, they are among us. We know them.
The ethnic hate narrative is a device enunciated by the political class to keep the people divided, breaking their rank and file to unite and fight a common enemy. The opposition LP and PDP are convinced that the election was marred by sharp, underhand practices and therefore have gone to court. Is going to court to challenge the outcome of an election a legitimate practice? If it is, why can’t detractors of equitable process allow the law to run smoothly? The call by some decidedly frustrated fellows in search of relevance and pecuniary patronage for the arrest of the opposition presidential candidates is from the pit of purgatory. The propaganda that there is a plan to disrupt the handover ceremony is a bundle of falsehood from the depths of Hades. Although many Nigerians regard the judiciary with a pinch of salt, people of goodwill should advocate for a peaceful resolution of Nigeria’s political challenges. Ethnic rhetoric should stop immediately. People should sheath their swords. Let us all close the road to Rwanda.
Adiele, PhD, writes from Mountain Top University.
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