There is no denying the fact that there is a “Nigerian condition”. It hangs over the country like a dense cloud in the rainy season, ominous and unyielding, and ever ready to haunt its citizens. The Nigerian condition is a peculiar series of primarily related problems deeply rooted in the haphazardness of the Nigerian systems. It is the common noun for names such as systemic corruption, malignant nepotism, gross misconducts, peace-disrupting vices, an eroding value system, but to mention a few. These problems all amount to a thick maze of cobwebs in which millions of Nigerians are trapped and from which they seek to become free.
The Nigerian condition is a plague, one widely believed has so much to do with Nigeria’s entity and causing the notion that the country’s disintegration could potentially bring about change—the real change this time around. This belief has driven the struggles of many advocates. Whether or not the name “Nigeria” or the union of Nigeria’s cultures is the problem, we would get to find out later. There is this overarching quest out of the Nigerian condition—virtually everyone wants to get out, by whatever means possible, be it through “escape” to another country, secession, or the creation of other countries from exiting Nigeria.
Most recently, we have seen the agitations of Chief Sunday Igboho, a pro-Yoruba nation activist. Igboho is one of the couple prime figures who have sought secession or restructuring as the way out of the Nigerian condition. He believes that Nigeria is a fusion that should never have existed. For him and his teeming followers, the way out is that the Yoruba nation disengages itself from the Nigerian state. However, the question that should first come to mind is if this quest is justified. And I say it is. But is it legally acceptable in Nigeria? No. It is currently not. We must learn to distinguish between that which is justified and legally acceptable and that which is justified but legally unacceptable. Agitations such as that of Igboho remain legally unacceptable in Nigeria. In fact, they are considered acts of treason. In stating that Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble state, the Nigerian Constitution shows no room for disengagement or secession. In other words, the unification of 1914 was a case of for better, for worse.
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Why then should claims be made that the agitations of Sunday Igboho are justified? In answering a question such as this, we must first look into the surface-level motive for such agitations. Igboho, known in many quarters in the Southwestern part of Nigeria, started his agitations with the need to secure Fulani-occupied towns and villages in the Southwest. The Fulani herdsmen crises have become more aggravated than before. There have been reported cases of kidnappings and deaths in Southwestern states since the beginning of the year. The climax of these insecurity-related events came when Fulani herdsmen attacked Igangan and killed one of the small town’s benefactors. This sparked anger in the people, and it was at this time, Igboho became more vocal than before.
Of course, the Fulani, especially herders, have had their settlements in southwestern cities and villages for as long as anyone can remember. Nigerian herders practice an open grazing cattle-rearing system, which makes the weather condition of the South-West most favourable to them. If one spoke to people in the Southwestern parts of the country, one would find out that there are many Fulani settlements. Of truth, there have been Fulani attacks on farms and farmers for as long as anyone can remember; however, the attacks have become prominent in the past few years. This is the root of Igboho’s activism. There was a retaliatory attack on the Fulani people in Igangan, and they were driven out of the town; houses were burned, people were killed, the property was wasted. And then started the Igangan woes, with the Fulani returning, armed to the teeth. They launched a more severe attack on the town and have since launched about two.
In all of these, the affected people believe that the government is neither proactive nor fast in its moves to address the situation at Igangan. What has the Oyo State government done? What has the federal government done? Does the federal government even know? When the people needed a force to stand as their assistance in trying times, Igboho rose and drove the Fulani forces out of Igangan, making Igboho the people’s hero.
Nevertheless, it is pertinent to note that the focus of Igboho’s agitations soon shifted to the disengagement of the Yoruba people and the formation of the Yoruba nation. Had Igboho been planning the secession of the Yoruba people before 2021? We are not sure. However, what we know is that he made a series of public appearances with plans or semi-plans on the disengagement of the Yoruba nation from Nigeria. Igboho and his teeming supporters firmly believe that the Nigerian state unifies hundreds of ethnic groups but is principally for one ethnic group—the untouchable Fulani herders. In Nigeria, all citizens are not equal, just like George Orwell’s Animal Farm situation.
Another question must be asked: have Igboho and his seeming supporters ever considered that Nigeria’s problem is systemic? Do they think that corruption, nepotism, robbery, kidnapping, and the likes would automatically disappear if the Yoruba nation were formed? To begin with, are the Yoruba people united? In the pre-amalgamation Yoruba nation, there were series of wars between Yoruba cities—the sixteen years of wars come to mind. Since his agitations for the disengagement of the Yoruba nation, Igboho has held marches big enough to catch the attention of the federal government. His house was besieged, he escaped; he was declared wanted and has finally been intercepted in the Benin Republic. Igboho’s recent endeavours and eventual arrest prove that the government can become proactive and be hot on someone’s trail if they so wish.
Igboho’s case brings to mind two similar cases—Nnamdi Kanu and Omoyele Sowore. Nnamdi Kanu, Omoyele Sowore, and Sunday Igboho are the three most prominent names in the recent agitations for the dismembering of the Nigerian state. While one of them calls for a revolution, the other two want a secession of their nations from the Nigerian state. Nnamdi Kanu’s agitations have lasted for about ten years now. He founded the Indigenous People of Biafra in 2012 as a movement of Igbo people seeking to secede from the Nigerian state. Are the agitations of the Indigenous People of Biafra justified? Yes, they are. The Igbo have been marginalized from time immemorial. It was this marginalization and brazen racial maltreatment that led to the Nigerian civil war of 1967.
Nnamdi Kanu and the Indigenous People of Biafra call for the secession of the Biafran nation–the Igbo–from Nigeria. Recently, Kanu and his movement called for a referendum in Nigeria, intending to review the Constitution and make provisions for entities that wish to secede from the Nigerian nation. The call for a referendum has been scrutinized and debated in many quarters. The opinions have culminated in one conclusion: the Nigerian Constitution allows for a referendum in only two cases—during restructuring and reallocation or to recall a representative from the National Assembly. This is to say that there are some fundamental problems with the Nigerian Constitution. How could a people who were not united from inception not make provisions for the disengagement of entities if the need arises? Was it intentional myopia? Nigeria, as it is, will only allow for legal secession if its Constitution is amended.
In their almost ten years of agitations, the Indigenous People of Biafra have experienced phases of metamorphosis, from entirely peaceful agitations to semi-violent agitations spurred by the violent responses of the federal government. Since declared the Indigenous People of Biafra as a terrorist group, the federal government has made its leader and members big targets for the government. Scores of youths have been arrested or killed in Southeastern states, some of whom were rounded up on university campuses. Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the movement, has been cunningly arrested and extradited to Nigeria.
Omoyele Sowore is an activist and presidential hopeful whose agitations are slightly deviant from Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho. Sowore has faced several arrests and charges for the scores of protests he has led. For him, what Nigeria needs is a revolution, an immediate one. Is Sowore right in wanting a revolution for Nigeria? He is not wrong; Nigeria needs to be revolutionized, and so do Nigerians. The Nigerian mindset is a plague that brings about the Nigerian condition, and it would take a revolutionary shift to reshape this mentality. True, Nigeria needs a revolution; therefore, the issue is not whether what Sowore is doing is right, but if he is doing it the right way.
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Sowore, Igboho, and Kanu have been faced with obstacles in their pursuits for the perceive d betterment of their respective nations. These three are only a testament to an agelong quest out of the Nigerian condition. Everywhere you turn, you will see people who are genuinely fed up with the situation in Nigeria and want to escape. Can they escape? Should they escape? What is the history of the Nigerian condition? What is the way out of this Nigerian condition?
. Part 1 of 4 of the series on the “Nigerian Condition”, commissioned by the New Times. In Part 2, we will examine the history of the Nigerian condition.
. Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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The Menace Of Bullying In Hostels – The Sylvester Oromoni Tragedy
Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
Anyone who went through secondary school hostel/boarding house life knows that often, some seniors or some of the bigger boys or girls often bully the juniors. Yes, girls bully the junior girls too. Bullying comes in the different forms- in form of depriving the junior ones of their own ‘provision’, extortion, psychological torture, and/or physical beating. There used to be the formal bullying, where all Form One students in the hostel went through what was dubiously called ‘fagging. On that day, often at night, all the kids in Form One would be assembled in a hall and subjected to all forms of indignities, from bathing them with cold water in a cold weather, pouring food remnants on them, and beating them. After that ritual, they would now say ‘Your tail has been cut off. Sometimes, the young and the vulnerable ones continue to be bullied till they get to a senior class or till their tormentors leave the school. I don’t remember now whether that was how the notion of school father started, a senior student who would be one’s protector.
Bullying does not always cause death. But death sometimes occurs. And covered up by the school authorities. The trauma of bullying often lasts forever. Sadly, bullying continues every year even when the hostel authorities try to put a stop to it. Bullies thrive on fear, the fear of their victim. Often the victims tragically believe that silence and cooperation would save them from the evil hands of their predators or oppressors or extortioners. Sadly, some bullies are also victims of previous trauma or bullying.
The sad and tragic death of Sylvester Oromoni (Jnr) last week, a student of Dowen College Lekki Lagos has once again brought the menace of bullying to the fore. Dowen College is a ‘co-educational and boarding school with over twenty years record of excellence’, according to a statement on its website. But with the death and the spilled blood of Sylvester, I have no doubt that that claim to excellence is gone forever. When I watched the video of the poor boy moaning in what turned out to be the throes of death, I could not stop the tears in my eyes. I wept for the boy. I wept for his parents. No parent should lose a child; no parent should watch their child go through the circumstances that led to Sylvester’s death.
The father of the deceased Mr. Sylvester Oromoni’s narrative is a serious indictment of the management style of Dowen College. I will produce a summary of Mr. Oromoni’s narrative. According to him, the events which culminated in the painful death of Sylvester started in October when it came to light through the 12year old’s elder sister that some bullies wanted to know if he had seen the nakedness of his elder sister. The same boy who had bullied Sylvester into admitting that he had seen his sister’s nakedness reported to her that the latter claimed to have seen her nakedness. This ought to have been a strong alarm bell for all involved. Then a week before the calamity, a call from the school summoned the father to Lagos from his Warri home because, according to the school, his son fell while playing football and was sick. Mr. Oromoni took his son home for special care. At death point Sylvester revealed that he did not play football and could not have sustained any injury while playing football. He then narrated how he was tortured and beaten up by five senior boys because he refused to join their cult. He named the murderers as Benjamin Favour, Anselm Temile, and Michael Kasamu. Tragic. Wicked.
The school Principal Mrs. Adebisi Layiwola issued a statement and stated among other things that ‘we immediately commenced investigations and invited the students allegedly mentioned for an interview. His guardian was also present during the interviews, which revealed that nothing of such happened’. The State government through the Ministry of Education has responded by shutting down Dowen College till further notice. Obviously, the school did not do a thorough investigation and the State Ministry of Education headed by a former school Principal, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo must have smelt a rat. Sylvester Oromoni was killed while pursuing the harmless dream of educating himself in an expensive private school in Lagos. WHO KILLED SYLVESTER OROMONI JUNIOR? The public demands an answer. The family demands an answer. Every parent who watched the video or who has heard the story demands an answer to all the questions. What transpired in the hostel that night that made Sylvester ill? Have the boys whose names were mentioned been invited by the police? Would there by high-powered connections to try and kill the case? The blood of Sylvester demands justice. May Heaven visit anyone who tries to kill the case with raging fury!
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I have shed tears for Sylvester. I didn’t know him. I don’t know his father. I have connected with the story as a father, grandfather, and a human being. He could have been anybody’s child, anybody’s nephew or cousin or grandson. A grieving mother told me after reading the story that she would not allow her only daughter go to the boarding house!
Schools need to do more on stopping bullying and molestation. As we write, bullying is ongoing in some schools. It is not only students in the hostel that are bullied. Day students are also exposed to bullying. Does your child look sad every time he returns from school? Does he look thin? Does he refuse to eat? Have nightmares? Listen to your child. Insist. If a child as much as suggests that they should be taken to another school, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY UNTIL YOU FIND THE TRUTH EVEN IF THE CHILD SAYS NEVER MIND DADDY!
Schools need to do more to protect kids in their custody. There is need for intelligence gathering in schools, both at night and in the day. As Senior Prefect of Baptist High School Port Harcourt in the late 70s, I had some junior students who fed me information routinely. I protected their identity. Let there be a specially selected teacher or teachers who all exploited students can confide in. My mental health NGO Mind and Soul Helpers Initiative (MASHI) once visited some schools to educate them on mental health. When it was question time, we received a few innocuous questions. But from the notes they sent anonymously, a postgraduate student could do a project on the trauma which some of our children go through while going through secondary education.
All reports/complaints by our children, wards must be taken seriously by parents, guardians, and school management. Managers of schools should realise that the life of one student is more important than the reputation of the school. As parents in loco, Heaven will ask them to account for the death of any child who dies in their care!
Finally, I commiserate with the Oromonis. Sylvester was a hero, a strong character for refusing to join a cult despite threats and intimidation. His death must not be in vain. There must be justice to reassure victims of bullying that all bullies will ultimately face the law. If it is true that the culprits have been flown abroad by their parents, such parents must be compelled with the force of law to produce them for proper interrogation and punishment if found culpable. Shutting down the school should be temporary because the careers of innocent children in the school are in jeopardy. Open the school and punish the guilty.
What words can one tell the Oromonis that could reduce the trauma of a painful but avoidable death? No words! No words! No words! Yet, condolences we have, and condolences we must give. I hope to meet the parents personally and let them know that we all stand by them in their moment of grief.
Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha can be reached on 08023220393
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NADECO’S Under-ground And Open-ground Patriots (1)
As I write this, I look forward to the day, the beautiful day, the historic day and historic time and historic prospect which we shall hail with fitness and firm firmness of joyful coo of patriotic liberty of NADECO and of poetry as conceived by the originators and all sincere joiners of the movement. Now why am I still dwelling on the subject I sincerely meant not to hurl furthermore into the magnificent river of our public opinion after the hint I gave last Friday? Several communications, verbal and written, I got have compelled me to say one or two or three or four things I deliberately allowed my reticence to keep in check. But rather than the full consciousness of my pen to do so, I am yielding for now the column to two readers from across the Atlantic.
Before I do so, however, let me divulge this pertinent information. It was the late Chief Michael Imoudu our country’s universally acknowledged foremost Labour Leader, who asked MKO Abiola to go to Comrade Jonathan Ihonde to request him to plead his case and cause before Chief Tony Enahoro (and other patriots awaiting the historic opportunity we are still waiting to hail). The late Festus Iyayi also played his own dazzlingly revolutionary part as an under-ground patriot of the movement. The late Abubakar Rimi and Balarabe Musa (both of the Aminu Kano school of politics) were top guns who similarly played their parts of positive dialectical patriotism in the Nigerian project and vision as conceived by the original NADECO.
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As is well known, both of them were respective governors of Kano and Kaduna States under Aminu Kano’s People Redemption Party (PRP). Zamani Lekwot, an ex-military governor of Rivers State, Commodore Dan Suleiman, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, the late General MusaYar’Adua, Mr. Fred Agbeyegbe and several others were lights of the movement. And I must underscore this point: M.K.O. Abiola became an authentic comrade who sacrificed his life for the NADECO cause – meaning that created situations can always alienate one from a reactionary pattern of life and turn him or her in the richest moments of his or her life to be a patriotic rebel and revolutionary. MKO Abiola’s open rejection by his former fellow reactionaries turned him into a comrade and rebel positively in the house of patriotic thunder.
Let me now open the minds of some NADECOists still on voluntarily patriotic exile.
“Good day, my dear Brother. Your piece on NADECO resuscitates memories of past opportunities and possibilities. NADECO was, as you correctly observed, a movement. But it was a movement of a special type peopled mostly by several left-wing leaning political activists. The intent in certain constituencies was for NADECO to metamorphose into a political party housing the Awoists and the talakawas of Aminu Kano, etc., into a new progressive entity. As is known in Political Science, a political party is a party when it survives its leader. Unfortunately, after the demise of Chief Obafemi Awolowo on May 9, 1987 (you and I stopped at Ikenne to pay our last respects to him on our way to Ibadan to watch Flash Flamingoes versus Leventis), his political party began to disintegrate systematically.
“ ‘Pro-democracy’ is an elastic conglomerate of competing ideological prisms. I recall meeting with Chief Tony Enahoro and Mr. Mike Ehimah in his hotel in Hull (now Gatineau) across the River Ottawa from the city of Ottawa. I accepted the invitation to accompany him to the Canadian House of Commons where he addressed members of Parliament on the atrocities of the Abacha regime. Several NADECO stalwarts, including Senators Cornelius Adebayo and Femi Ojudu, sought refuge in Canada during this period.
“That NADECO was conceived as a movement to restore the victory of MKO at the June 1993 Presidential Elections fostered an internal contradiction of political philosophies. Thus, NADECO was born prematurely by the need to honour the results of June 12 and not to propagate the ideals of left-wing or progressive politics epitomized by Awolowo. This, in my view, explained why Chief Tony Enahoro got involved in NADECO.
Viewed from this perspective, therefore, NADECO was a consortium of anti-military and pro-democracy activists. Chief Enahoro’s decision to establish the Movement for National Reform (MNR) was a product of the internal ideological contradictions in NADECO.”
These are pleasant words on NADECO that any investigator or researcher on the movement will or may find intelligently and persuasively instructive. They are theoretically and critically honey words – “sweet to the taste” and good for the well-being of all who want this country to always be blessed with the odour of all genuine activists and patriots like wine that sparkles.
Professor Igho Natufe’s words as quoted at length above are those of one under-ground NADECO patriot and good weigher of the movement’s weighable divinable morning and midnight dreams. And be it known that Professor Igho Natufe is a first-rate Political Scientist and a staunch Awoist. He has been under-ground in exile for centuries. Pardon my hyperbole. We share the same outlook about your country my country our country. But I have always insisted that I will never go on exile.
The words of another NADECO exile are particularly intriguing.
To be continued.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
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Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now
Nembe, an otherwise quiet, beautiful kingdom in Bayelsa State, populated by a peaceful, enterprising people, has been in the news these past weeks, for the wrong reason. Dozens of already neglected communities and the people are soaked in crude oil—the same oil that has made such communities in Europe and America economic hotspots and development centres of the world. It begs the question: why do bad things happen to good people?
Suddenly, the oil that is supposed to help develop the communities and decorate them with skyscrapers, has become the reason for generational afflictions. Nigeria’s Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, captured it unquestionably well last week, when she was quoted as describing the oil spill on the communities as massive and an equivalent of the atomic bomb that wasted Hiroshima—the Japanese city, during the Second World War.
No description could have been more appropriate than when she said: “What I saw in terms of pollution… The devastation of the Niger Delta is massive. As we are cleaning up, what we are cleaning up is minute compared to the devastation going on.”
Other official reports revealed that as at Tuesday last week, over 5, 000 barrels of emulsified crude oil had been recovered from the waters and held in a recovery barge. That figure must have more than doubled by now. The people of Nembe do not deserve this avoidable environmental affliction. The question is: when will this leakage be put under control?
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There is no doubt that this oil spill has the capacity to result in health hazards that would eventually lead to loss of lives. Let me repeat that the good people of Bayelsa State, the oil-bearing centre of Nigeria, do not in any way deserve this catastrophe.
Irrespective of numerous reasons cited by industry experts for the spill, the affected communities are dead economically and socially. The land has turned infertile. Nothing can grow there any longer. The rivers are polluted forever. Our fishermen are out of work. Our hard-working farmers have been rendered jobless. In the absence of clean, pipe-borne water for the people, a commodity that is taken for granted in other climes, today, with this oil spill, not even the river water is worth any domestic use any longer.
In other words, the peoples’ sources of livelihood have been completely destroyed; even their lives are in danger. This is no exaggeration. We have seen it happen repeatedly all over the Niger Delta. For the oil exploring and exploiting companies, it’s business as usual. Soon, the noise will end. Attention would be diverted to other pressing state matters. The people would be left to suffer and die in silence.
The director general and chief executive officer of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Idris Musa, has confirmed that “Government is aware that the rivers and streams where oil is flowing into will likely affect the lives of the living creatures in the rivers and streams, including the trees, and the rivers are sources of livelihood for the community.”
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Now that these rivers and streams have been polluted, the big question is: where and what would the people turn to? Again, the trees and farmlands have been destroyed and nothing can grow again eternally, so, what happens to our people? Are they going to be relocated? With certain health hazards unconsciously unleashed on these people, what are the options before them? These questions need answers, now!
However, the difference this time is that for the first time, a government minister, Ikeazor, has spoken strongly in support of the need to protect the oil-bearing communities. In her words, this goes beyond oil companies giving palliatives to the communities. It requires putting measures in place to prevent such accidents from happening at all. She has called for stiffer penalties for those responsible for these acts of sabotage.
To my fellow citizens of Nembe, words are not enough to describe your agony and hopelessness. Be assured that you are not alone. My appeal to you is that in spite of this, please stay calm as we join hands with the appropriate authorities to seek the way out of this mess.
No blame game can reverse what has happened. No act of violence can bring back what we have lost. We all share in your pain. This is no time for dirty political grandstanding. This situation needs a practical solution. The people in charge of policy must rise and act now. God bless Bayelsa people.
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