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The Nigerian Condition: Paths Out For The Nation (3)

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Obadiah Mailafia: The Grip Of Grief

By

Toyin Falola

In the natural order of things, solutions are implemented where problems arise—or, at least, debates on what those solutions mean. In Nigeria, there have been attempted solutions to find a way out of the Nigerian condition. There have also been debates on the best path out of the country’s predicament. There have been talks, in fact, moves, on what the national response to the Nigerian condition should be. However, the more ideas we debate and explore, the more contested the prospects of getting out of this Nigerian condition become.

Before delving further into the Nigerian condition, it is essential first to examine the consummate ideologies, problems, actions, inactions, and mentalities that have led to the formation of the malignancy of the Nigerian condition. Why has it been so difficult, even seemingly impossible in some instances, to get out of the Nigerian condition? How have the Nigerian people contributed to that which they seek to run away from? Are the country’s problems compounded, not by some bad fortune, but by the very acts that everyone parades? More so, in what ways have Nigerians attempted to escape from the Nigerian condition?

Discussing the difficulty of getting out of the Nigerian condition without reference to the associated causes will constrain that conversation and make it incomplete. So, when presenting arguments, the roles of the average Nigerian in our national calamity must first be engaged. Of these roles, we have the longstanding problem of disinterest. If the focus and attention of the average Nigerian citizen are considered, it might be amusing to find the country on the bottom of the rung. For many out of the about two hundred million people in Nigeria, agitating over the country’s issues holds little weight.

At the general elections in 2015, a fragment of the country’s population voted the administration into power. In 2019 again, Nigerians demonstrated their nonalignment with political issues by spending the day at home. Even during states and local governments elections, the general attitude of the Nigerian populace leaves voting as a task for a specific class. But a few years down the line, the right of complaints became free for all. Individuals, voters and non-voters, lament the collective sorrow that has befallen the citizens. And while this is an acceptable reaction to suffering, one should not forget the point from which it all began. Already, for many Nigerians, election days are desirable public holidays rather than days for performing their civic duties. If this is continued, then we might as well call the quest an odyssey, for it will indeed be a long journey.

READ ALSO: The Nigerian Condition: A History Of Division (2)

Furthermore, at the core of Nigerian society is a problem of internal division. From the inaugural days of the amalgamation down to the challenges of the 21st century, people have been at loggerheads with their affiliation. Rather than be branded Nigerians, a name that confers fellowship with other ethnic nationalities, many defend their ethnic roots while the nationality is saved for international passports. Attitudes that prevailed in the days of Nigeria’s infancy have been passed down through generations. Differences along religious and ethnic lines are at the forefront of any political consideration. In Southern markets and communities, Northerners are glared at with suspicion, and in the North, a slight misstep by an “outsider” is all the precedent for crises. This tense relationship and dissonance from a sense of nationality make it challenging to prompt Nigerians out of the Nigerian condition the right way.

Explicitly, the citizens seek a way out of the Nigerian condition the wrong way because their motivations are problems in themselves. Ethnic loyalty drives many quests out of the Nigerian condition, making ethnic disengagement from the Nigerian state the goal of these quests, a move that has proved unsuccessful, not once or twice. More so, the mention of religion or ethnocentric loyalties drives charged responses to national issues. Thus, Nigerians worsen a condition that would be less complicated without underlying rifts in ideology.

Similarly, the issue of grassroots corruption exists. Another hindrance dangling above the breakaway from the Nigerian condition is the diffused nature of corruption within the societal fabric. In Nigeria, corruption is a learned principle. Young minds are nurtured in an environment that justifies corruption and lampoons uprightness for its seeming absurdity. Even as anti-government rhetoric is never far from the tongue, the cheating mindsets of critics prevent these from gaining seriousness. Many Nigerians only see evil in corruption—one of the fundamental causes of the Nigerian condition—if they are not at the helm of affairs, calling the shots for corrupt moves. The moment they also get a chance at being corrupt, they forget that corruption is evil. This has blinded many Nigerians from the truth.
Break up into different factions all we will; the Nigerian condition will not suddenly roll away because two ethnic groups decide to split up and become independent states. If Nigeria were divided into different countries today—Biafra and Odua—we would, sooner than anyone can imagine, start to talk about the Biafran condition or the Oduaist condition, which would hardly make any difference on the Nigerian condition.

READ ALSO: The Nigerian Condition And The Exit Options (1)

In demanding justice, many Nigerians contemptuously treat their obligation to act reasonably. Corruption is a worn standard of practice for people in the civil service and other government offices, yet it is in these same circles that the government is most likely to fail. So, while it is convenient to shame political officeholders at every point, the citizens bear the fecal stains that are often overlooked. But as long as they remain, the validity of this quest remains in doubt. If we were to cast the above reasons in stone, a fundamental error would be committed, which is the failure to understand.

Regardless of questionable societal trends, however, an overwhelming responsibility lies upon the government. In many cases, the citizens’ responses to dynamics are attempts to adjust to emerging situations. Yet, any drug that must cure the Nigerian condition must work in both ways—a reformation of public mindsets and a concurrent attitude of change from administrative levels. On that note, let us look into the various paths that have been tried, all in the bid to find a lasting solution to the Nigerian condition. To wit, each of these paths finds strength in diverse arguments. Popular among these paths are talks of restructuring, agitations for secession, and fiscal federalism.

Restructuring
This is perhaps the story-changing solution that no one really understands. To many Nigerians, restructuring means different things. These may be classified into two: broad application of the term “restructuring;” and restructuring in a more specific sense. A broad application of the term finds faith in a loose portrait. Here, Nigerians characterize restructuring as anything, even the slightest shift, that differs from the current operation of the government structure. This model has no particular demand. Instead, it leads people to believe that satisfaction will be found in a change, no matter its form. It might even be argued that this is likely what most Nigerians accept because of uncertainty. There may be a clamor for a reorganized system, but where an understanding of what that should look like is absent, people tacitly accept a form that says, “anything goes.”

READ ALSO: The War In The Cameroons

However, there is a more specific application of the term “restructuring.” Here, the word is not specific because it is universally agreed upon but because the purveyors have mentioned, in succinct terms, what they posit it to look like. To the purveyors of this more specific form of restructuring, there should be reforms such as state policing, devolution, and decentralization. The advocacy for state-run police units posits that internal security management should not be within the unilateral purview of the federal government.

Instead, these powers should be adequately centered in the states. As opposed to the current structure, federating units can run their police forces, design and deploy them according to the peculiarities of respective territories. The idea of state police is mainly born out of prevalent security challenges across the country’s subregions. The federal response to this has been in the form of “community” police officers, another fancy word that portrays policing as one that grows out of the neighbourhood itself. In a burst of geopolitical dissatisfaction, governments in the southwest and the southeast have established their security networks—Amotekun and Ebubeagu.

Nevertheless, evolution and decentralization carry a broader political weight than their preceding counterpart. In this model, power is parcelled and redistributed from the central government to the component units. Responsibilities of the federal superstructure are limited to matters like defence and external affairs. Most sectors where the administration was formerly dominant will directly engage the states. Thus, the reins of power are held by hands as many as the number of states.

Secession
We can define secession in two names—Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho. It does not take much to understand where this is headed quickly. Amongst all the solutions in the public space, this is perhaps the most radical, most combative, and best attempted of all. No administration likes to hear the word, and those who say it are wary of what could come. In the context of the names mentioned above, what applies is years of litigation and maybe, in a rare demonstration of government clout, detention in foreign countries. Secession rends the fabric of the Nigerian map and gives each region its piece. It is a farewell to what we once had.

READ ALSO: Rethinking Missing Pieces In The Idea Of Nigeria’s Development

There have been arguments against the plausibility of secession for any one component of the Nigeran state, arguments that find their footing in the provisions of the Constitution. There have also been arguments about the secession ratio: will those who secede do so based on the size of their ethnic population? What fraction of the national land would become theirs? Will minority ethnic groups join the seceded nation? There are many questions, arguments, and governmental moves; some backed by the law, others not so backed, which have stalled the success of any secession. The closest any part of Nigeria came to seceding was the first agitation for the Biafran nation, which led to the Nigerian civil war.

Fiscal Federalism
Fiscal federalism possesses ties to the incumbent vice-president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. The model presses for stronger financial muscle in the states as opposed to prevailing norms. Rather than have components that scramble for bread bits, fiscal federalism poses to have fewer dependent states. Without mincing words, it considers finance as the primary cause of political ramblings. Will the corruption-inclined nature of the Nigerian state allow for the success of fiscal federalism? Undeniably, there is a quest to get out of the Nigerian condition. The phrase “Nigerian condition” is not to be viewed at face value, for it truly represents a spreading disease whose symptoms are manifest on the surface and visible to passers-by—other countries of the world.

Nigerians are not wrong in seeking ways out of the Nigerian condition. In fact, Nigerians who have made moves to help the people out of the Nigerian condition should be applauded for trying. Yet, here we are, and it seems like the situation is getting worse by the day, making people wonder why this is so. In the last part of this series, we would look at why the attempts to find a solution to the Nigerian condition have proven futile and how we can genuinely end the Nigerian condition.

READ ALSO: How To Lift Your Income Above Your Financial Goals

Part 3 of 4 of the series on the “Nigerian Condition,” commissioned by the New Times. In Part 4, the concrete exit options will be examined.

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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Opinion

The Menace Of Bullying In Hostels – The Sylvester Oromoni Tragedy

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The Menace Of Bullying In Hostels – The Sylvester Oromoni Tragedy

By

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.

READ ALSO: Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now

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!

READ ALSO: Nigeria As A Movie

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.

READ ALSO: NADECO’S Under-ground And Open-ground Patriots (1)

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)

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NADECO’S Under-ground And Open-ground Patriots (1)

By

Tony Afejuku

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.

READ ALSO: NADECO’s Bliss That’s No More

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.”

READ ALSO: Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now

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

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Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now

BY

‘TIMI ALAIBE

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?

READ ALSO: There Is Hope For Bayelsa State

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.”

READ ALSO: Nigeria As A Movie

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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