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Political Literacy As Panacea For Good Governance

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COVID-19 Vaccination Or Anti-Social Behaviour 'Vaccination'?

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Grace Ego Omoni

Nigeria since independence has been grappling with the issue of having satisfactory and acceptable governance. The various governments over the years have failed to give the citizens the expected leadership or good governance, hence, the incessant protests, criticisms within and outside the country.

Leadership has been defined as the duty and call of a person to take charge with courage, character and the risks of leading the people to where they need to be. According to Ebele Egwunyenga, leadership is the process of coordinating the activities of individuals in a social system which is usually geared towards the attainments of goals and objectives of such a system. It is the demonstration of a leader’s ability to innovate, make decisions, influence and motivate others to achieve results in an organized system.

There is a relationship between leadership and governance. The world is in a state of leadership confusion and Nigeria is not an exception. The failure of good governance in Nigeria today manifests in the declining capacity of the political leaders to recognize the in-depth risks of election fraud, terrorism, herd-farmer conflicts, armed banditry, police brutality, kidnapping, serial killings, ethnic conflicts, yahoo syndrome and total breakdown of law and order plaguing the country and to put in place necessary measures to end these challenges.

What can you say about a leadership that pays deaf ears to the incessant abduction of school children and mindless destruction of lives and property but does not hesitate to condemn a state that takes drastic and prompt action by promulgating a law against open grazing of cattle to check the disastrous activities of these herdsmen? Are the cattle more important to the government than these young people, I mean future leaders of tomorrow being held hostage from weeks to years and being deprived of education and conducive living environment and are being tortured on a daily basis?

Of course, a female member of the National Assembly did assert that the cattle are more important to her people than their fellow human beings! What an aberration! The problem is basically illiteracy! The crisis of good governance according to Obasesan Okoi and Iwara Mary Anne is accentuated by a democratic culture that accords less importance to knowledge and competence that political leaders can bring to public office. They are unaware of the insecurity issues faced by Nigerians and lack the competence to make laws that address the priorities of the citizens.

READ ALSO: Between Self-determination And Restructuring: Which Way For Nigeria?

This is why the presidency condemned the open grazing law meant to stop the menace of herdsmen attacks and killings going unabated in different locations of the country while wickedly remaining silent on the kidnapping and destruction of lives, property and churches.

Nigeria is ranked low in the World Governance index and according to Itari and Ugbe, there are rumours and of failed leadership. They further assert that the problem lies in the leaders to successfully plan development using appropriate educational tools. I want to ask: Can you give what you do not have? Of course, No! Today’s leaders in Nigeria lack political literacy for effective governance and the citizens also do not have that same literacy for good followership.

Thus, in this article, the following key concepts will be addressed: Literacy, political literacy, good governance and strategies for promoting good governance.

Literacy is important for leaders to communicate ideas on development to the government and for making informed decisions about the progress of the society. According to Education for All (EFA), literacy besides being a fundamental human right is most importantly the foundation for achieving the goal of promoting good governance. In the simplest form, literacy relates to reading and writing skills, numeracy and other skills related to education. It is the ability to read, write and engage in summing up numbers. It is the ability to solve problems amidst a deluge of information.

The ability to read and write offers multiple perspectives that contribute to socio-economic development. It is an essential ingredient of success in present-day Nigeria where so much information is conveyed through the written word. Literacy is beneficial to both leaders and the led. It is a vital tool for active leadership, widespread citizen participation which leads to a civil and developed community. Literacy brings a greater sense of personal dignity and self-esteem to a leader. It leads to effective mobilization of the people by the leader Literacy should be encouraged for transformation and development.

Literacy has benefits such as economic growth, access to knowledge, gender equality, increase in individual income, preventive health measures, expansion of individual capabilities, reduction of poverty and exploitation by political elites and most essentially, it is a catalyst to good governance.

READ ALSO: INTERVIEW: African Universities And African Future: The Meeting Point

Political Literacy:
This is related to knowledge, skills and values required for effective participation in social life. It is the individual’s comprehension regarding a political event and political awareness. It is the state of individuals being acquainted with the political process and political affairs as effective citizens in order to perform their roles and comprehension of issues pertaining to the society.

A politically literate person is well informed, an active participant in the events regarding issues pertaining to himself in the community. He can comprehend current states and gets involved. He has skills of understanding other people’s views, realizing the effects upon him and responding to them in an ethical way. He is involved in voting and being voted for, attending meetings, asking questions, obtaining information, studying and evaluating elected candidate’s credentials and résumé. Political literacy also entails understanding the jobs that are filled by elected officials, offering suggestions for laws and regulations including amendments, reviewing plans, programs and budgets.

Public officers and those in positions of authority in the country are required to have received training and instruction from reputable institutions on political literacy or civic education. Literacy is associated with service in the state. Only political literacy can bring emancipation to a full human existence in this 21st century. Illiteracy is a disease but the worst type of illiteracy is the political illiterate. Such does not hear nor does he speak nor participate in political events in the society , hence the country is being governed by misnomers.

The political illiterate beats his chest proudly that he hates politics and so allows those not qualified to occupy positions of rulership in the country. People have failed to realize that without patriotic political literacy, a soldier is a potential criminal. Political opportunists manipulate the illiterate, and do whatever they want to do to them.

In Nigeria today, many of her citizens are political illiterates and are uneducated on political issues. Those who are highly educated have high indifference to political participation. They have lost faith in the power of their votes and the integrity of the political system. However, what Nigeria needs today are political leaders equipped in political literacy. There must be a significant improvement in literacy levels so that citizens are well informed about issues and use their knowledge to make informed decisions about Nigeria’s political future.

A political literate is one that has acquired the basic political knowledge and awareness that enhances the citizen’s involvement in constitutional activities such as registration as a voter, voting in an election, running political offices, membership of a political party and participating in discussions in political matters. Political literacy focuses on democratic issues and good governance. It assists the electorate to appreciate the link between elections and social development, problems of the polity, consequences of pre-voter’s registration, low turnout at elections and rigging. It also focuses on the need for elections, functions of elections and requirements for free and fair elections. All these are given due coverage in political literacy.

READ ALSO: The Nigerian Condition: The Way Out (4)

Good Governance:
Good Governance is a necessary precondition for creating an enabling environment for poverty reduction and sustainable human development. Good governance is expected to be participatory, transparent, accountable, effective, efficient, equitable and promotes the rule of law. Of course, all these are absent from the governance of Nigeria. For instance, there is nothing like equity in the appointments by the Federal Government of the day, neither is there accountability in the management of the economy. Transparency is totally absent.

Good governance comes from qualitative learning and Interactions. It is the totality of how people organize and manage their life activities irrespective of the diverse life patterns of the populace. The paths to good governance according to Obiageli Ezekwesili include sound policies, strong institutions, transparency, accountability and participation. Good governance enables the government to enact policies that would help to develop and rejuvenate the dwindling national economy, tackle corruption, insecurity problems and ensure the nation’s growth and development.

Characteristics:
The major characteristics of good governance, therefore, are participation, transparency, effectiveness, efficiency, responsiveness, accountability and equity. My worry is that these are not seen in Nigeria’s APC government at the apex level neither can you find such indices in the different state and local governments. The everyday protests, incessant crimes like kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, armed robbery, mindless killings, internet fraud, political violence, arson, criticisms, hate speech as well as shameless lies by those in the realm of affairs in the government to cover up their misgivings are all indications of the dissatisfaction of bad governance.

The fact is that when a community leader is well informed, there will be an encouragement for the followers. Effective leadership or good governance is a strong index to social and economic development. An essential ingredient to good governance is literacy. People by nature love to exploit others especially political office holders because the citizens are politically ignorant.

No nation can rise above the level of literacy of her citizens so says a popular axiom. Through their intellectual disability or mental illiteracy, some cannot free themselves from the imprisonment of irrevocable idiocy and feel condemned to find gratifying compensation by extracting vilest qualities from the deep quarters of their darkest self according to Erik Pevernagie. For the people to contribute effectively in the affairs of the polity and be patriotic citizens, they must be knowledgeable in good governance which can come through political literacy.

READ ALSO: Between Dysfunctional Education And Dysfunctional Society

The ways forward therefore are:
1) Government should develop a practical political literacy framework to enhance political skills, knowledge and participation;
2) Voters’ education and mobilization for the electorate should be emphasized before and during elections;
3) Sensitize the people to vote in leaders of integrity and of impeccable character who are educationally qualified;
4) Transmission, acquisition of political knowledge, skills and attitude necessary for informed participation in the political process;
5) The constitution must ensure that citizens who can formulate policies and make informed decisions in the public best interest are to run for public posts.
6) Government should increase access to education through government-sponsored initiatives that integrate civic education into the school curriculum;
7) Literacy for all should be encouraged for transformation and development;
8)Political literacy should be included in the school curriculum and should be a prerequisite for those running for political offices during elections;
9) Nigeria needs a new model of governance as an alternative to the democratic system which has failed. We need a system in which political leadership is based on the knowledge and competence of both leaders and the electorate. Jason Breman postulates Epistocratic Governance which instils knowledge, raises consciousness and self-awareness within the polity.

READ ALSO: Mental Health Isn’t About Crazy People, It’s About All Of US – Akindotun Merino

Here, literacy is paramount. Many Nigerians are tired of being led by those whose levels of education are below expectation. The more educated the population, the more likely we have leaders who are transparent, responsive and accountable. We are tired being under rulers who are more interested in mammon, power and lack political literacy, I mean knowledge, skills and competence to lead rather than seeking ways to alleviate the sufferings of the masses.

Prospective leaders must demonstrate the intellectual pedigree to translate knowledge and competence into effective, efficient, transparent and accountable governance that will lead to national prosperity. Okedara B. asserts that a person is literate when he has acquired essential knowledge which can enable him to engage all those activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning in his community and whose attainment makes him to continue to use these skills towards its development.

Nigeria needs governance in which political offices rest on the highly literate citizens and in which the eligibility to vote and be voted for is based on sound educational criteria like the rest of the world is doing.

 

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Opinion

Adedotun Phillips And The Unfinished Business Of Reform In Nigeria

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Adedotun Phillips And The Unfinished Business Of Reform In Nigeria

By

Tunji Olaopa

In the annals of public administration scholarship in Nigeria, and most especially with regard to the specifics of the dynamics of institutional reforms in getting the Nigerian state into shape, the name of Professor Adedotun Phillips stands out as a gigantic institutional memory. Adedotun Oluwole Phillips—husband, father, academic, scholar, statesman—was a public servant par excellence. His entire life was defined around service. In the long line of the public service giants around whom the profile of the Nigerian public service is configured—Simeon Adebo, Jerome Udoji, Sule Katagum, Joseph Imokhuede, Ali Akilu, Allison Ayida, and many more, the name of Dotun Phillips is a fundamental star. When mourning the passing of Prof. Phillips, on 13 December, 2020, President Buhari said pointedly: “The history of the Nigerian Civil Service cannot be complete without reference to the contributions of Prof. Phillips.” He is right. Phillips represents the best that a public servant could be and give the nation in terms of the best that her professionalism and credentials can afford. And Prof. Phillips’ contribution is even much more cogent because it is situated within the trajectory of public service reform in Nigeria. In other words, Prof. Phillips’ immense contributions to the public service in Nigeria tie into Nigeria’s effort to make sense of the state and future of her public service as a backstop to her development and progress.

Adedotun Phillips And The Unfinished  Business Of Reform In Nigeria

Prof. Adedotun Oluwole Phillips

Since the inauguration of the Nigerian public service in 1954, Nigeria had been experimenting with administrative and institutional reforms that were meant to put the civil service in shape for the challenge of nationhood. Starting with the reform of wages, remuneration and compensation that characterized the colonial service, it graduated to the need for the Nigerianisation of the core echelon of the public service especially after independence in 1960. The Phillipson-Adebo Commission of 1953 kickstarted the series of reform commissions that culminated in the emergence of the Nigerian public service system, and the other post-independence reform efforts that were meant to essentially complete the organizational development dynamics of the civil service, convert her structural frameworks into institutional frame, and strengthen its capability readiness for the task of national integration and development.

READ ALSO: Alex Gboyega And The Discourse On Local Governance In Nigeria

However, independence brought with it its own unique sets of challenges that the public service system was not quite ready for. The first was the challenge of plurality. The Nigerianisation Policy confronted the thorny issue of how to recruit Nigerians of different ethnocultural orientations into the civil service. Representativeness became the criterion that most suited Nigeria’s ethnic composition. And then gradually, the over-bloatedness that was the consequence of the misuse of this principle led to not only a gradual debilitation of the system but also the overshadowing of its initial efficiency by a crippling bureaucratic culture. When the 1971 Adebo Commission was set up, the civil service was already caught up in the restructuration of the federal constitution under a unitary logic marked by increased centralisation of political authority, ascendancy of federating forces, greater structural differentiation of the constituent states, increases in the Federal Government largesse, and expansion of the policy-making and execution functions of the Federal Civil Service. The implication of this “new federalism” on the civil service was the gradual evolution of a structural pattern that consistently whittled down the capacities the civil service has to promote good governance. For instance, the allocation of functions to the ministries was influenced more by political factors than by the standard criteria for the allocation of such functions i.e. the functional principle, the process principle, the clientele principle, and the area principle.

The corruption of the governance and accountability framework of the public service was simultaneous with the emergence of the managerial revolution which Britain was already contending with, especially with the Fulton Report of 1968. Thus, the 1971 Adebo Second and Final Salaries and Wages Review Commission was caught in the larger managerial concern of transforming the civil service system in ways that transcended its original remit of wage. It however passed the buck of that concern to the Udoji Commission, constituted in 1972. The commission, under the full influence of the UK Fulton Report, argued that the civil service of a development-oriented society must be one that is suffused with change and reform if it must be able to effectively meet the challenges of its context. And the Nigerian public service system, in its bureaucratic conditions, was not that amenable to those changes. The Udoji Commission then recommended a new style public service infused with “new blood” working under a result-oriented management system operated by professionals and specialists in particular fields. The government of the time however made a mess of this commission’s report, and so forfeited a significant opportunity to set the civil service on a path of institutional transformation.

READ ALSO: Rebuilding Nigeria’s Broken Walls: From Emotional Patriotism To Nehemiah Complex

Thereafter, successive Nigerian governments became embroiled in the contestations to make the system compliant with the managerial revolution, new public management (NPM) and its reform imperatives. By the time the Murtala/Obasanjo regime took over in 1975, the civil service was already too systemically dysfunctional to matter any longer in development consideration. Indeed, the purge of the service by Obasanjo in 1975 was long overdue even though it turned out to negatively undermine the little shred of professionalism remaining. The Second Republic was truncated by the Buhari-Idiagbon regime in 1983. And then, enter Professor Dotun Phillips. One of the fundamental legacies of the regime was the constitution of the Dotun Phillips Study Team in 1985, with the objective of undertaking an interrogation of the structure, mode of operation and strategy of the civil service in the light of contemporary administrative situation, as well as finding means by which the eroded professionalism of the system could be restored.

When the Babangida regime took over the reign of government, it inherited the study group and reconstructed its report into the foundation of the 1988 Civil Service Reforms through a Civil Service Re-organisation Decree No. 43 of 1988. The basis of the Decree is the establishment of a virile, dynamic and result-oriented civil service. The Babangida administration was also seriously concerned about the gains and benefits of managerialism and of a professionalised civil service. The added objective was the alignment of the service with the form and spirit of presidentialism.

Professionalism goes to the very heart of what it means to be a public servant; what it means to be public-spirited. It is the sum total of the competences, knowledge, attitude, spirituality and ethical sensibility that a public servant requires to perform her responsibility to the public with all accountability, transparency and commitment. A professional public service, in other words, is circumscribed by three actions-moulding value frameworks: ethical values (i.e. integrity, honesty, respect); democratic values (i.e. responsiveness, representativeness, rule of law); and professional values (i.e. excellence, innovation). To seek the restoration of professionalism is to attempt a restoration of the pride and ideals of the public service. It is to seek the reinvention of the public service as a noble calling, a vocation in the manner of the Levitical order of priesthood. This was the philosophical foundation of the Philips’ reform agenda. The re-professionalization strategy is meant to reposition the civil service through a rebranding of its critical ethos and virtue. Thus, if the civil service system in Nigeria must overcome its dysfunctional bureaucratic culture, the best way is for it to reconnect with its inherent value as a vocation that is spiritual and spirited. And managerialism was just the perfect structural mold within which to achieve this reconnection. The managerial revolution was founded on the urgency of re-articulating what makes a public servant accountable, effective and efficient. Since the old Weberian system has collapsed under the burden of administrative rules and regulations, a managerial reform becomes the next best thing to recreate the public service in the image of an efficient machine.

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In its attempt to lay the foundation of a professionalised civil service, the 1988 reform emphasized the need for specialization. Civil service officers were required to undergo regular training and retraining. This led to the creation of a new bureaucratic structure made up of assistants, officers and directors. The assistant does not require any university or professional qualification to function. The officer, on the other hand, requires a university degree or a professional qualification while the director was reserved for professionals who had been given general management functions as heads of a department, branch or division.

But then, the Dotun Phillips reform carried the professionalization mandate beyond the bound of administrative reason and necessity. It was rather too ambitious of the reform to attempt the professionalization of everybody in the civil service. In other words, it was a profound mistake to think that the service could be handled by professionals all alone, to the exclusion of other non-professionals and generalists. Unfortunately for the reform agenda, the professionalizing move turned into a politicizing one that, for instance, turned permanent secretaries into political appointees, contrary to the politics-administration dichotomy on which public service integrity depends. The idea of professionalism suffered a conceptual-reality deficit in the sense that it was seen as a function of how long a public servant spent in any particular ministry.

And yet, the Phillips reform was not in any sense a failure, despite its fundamental assumptions and reform errors. The reform agenda, apart from the Udoji Commission report, was the next fundamental advocacy for managerialism and performance management in Nigeria. Indeed, both reform agenda and their recommendations are still fundamental to achieving a world class public service in Nigeria. Prof. Philips’s recommendation of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system as a significant plank in the performance management system, and a decentralized HR are sine qua non for any functional public service. Management controls through organization, operations and management research (OOMR), critical for propelling policy implementation praxis, is a feature of the Phillips agenda we need to revisit. In revisiting the Phillips reform recommendations, we will be able to retrospect on two fundamental issues in Nigeria’s reform necessity. The first has to do with the imperative of creating and incentivizing professionalized planning, research and statistics departments in the MDAs that should take responsibility not only for sector plans, but also for monitoring and reporting on their implementation. The second issue derives from the first: the departments of planning, research and statistics serve as the institutional template for a structured and recurrent engagement between policy researchers and policy workers; a hub of policy intelligence and action research that the MDAs can strategically deploy.

Prof. Adedotun Oluwole Phillips’ engagement with the Nigerian public service system is not yet done. Even in death, he is still awaiting fulfilment that will derive from the government recognizing the deep reform fundamentals that remain untapped within his reform dynamics. In returning to the Phillips reform, Nigeria would have taken a significant managerial reform step forward. And we would have given Prof. Phillips a posthumous reason to rest in the knowledge that he served Nigeria well.

Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and  professor of public administration, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos .  tolaopa2003@gmail.com

 

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The End Of Your Rule Is Near

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The End Of Your Rule Is Near

By

 Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

The end of your rule is near. Mr. President. Mr. Governor. Mr. Speaker. Mr. Chairman. Mr. Legislator. The end of your rule is here. It has been four, eight, sixteen years since you danced into State or Legislative House after election victory. Or after a dubious victory awarded by a dubious court after dubious monies dubiously exchanged hands. Your humility while you sought votes was legendary. You shook hands, hugged cripples, visited the bereaved, paid school fees, and ate with the sick. You built alliances across zones, across religious groups, economic groups, across social groups. You made promises. You raised hopes. You preached unity. Now that the end is here, let us ask you Mr. Chief Executive, what kind of ruler, what kind of leader, what kind of administrator have you been? Did you dash hopes? Are you leaving the people worse than they were when you came into office? Did you create a few super rich, from your ethnic group, from your religious group, from your family? Are the people beating their drums in joy on the imminence of your departure? Will they start to ignore you from June this year when you become a lame duck? Are you now worried about how freely you can walk after you leave office?

It is one of the beauties of democracy, beginning and end of tenure. You give account to the people, to posterity, and to the Great Judge ultimately. Because there is end of tenure, there are marginalised persons who wait for the end to come. Those you may have locked up in time or physically or psychologically. These hope that once you are gone, freedom will come their way, there will be a restoration. Also, the wrong policies which you have enunciated will be thrown into the dustbin. Those who had barely tolerated your greed or your foolishness or your wicked, selfish ways will now openly despise you. The sycophants who had licked your boots with histrionic relish will now move on to the new power base, forgetting you, cursing you and blaming the woes of their ancestors on you. You will become history, bad history if you have been a bad ruler. It is the story of the world; it is the story of life and the iterative narrative of humanity. Yet, we, the rulers and the ruled, never learn. The tragedy of man, according to Nietzsche, is that he forgets.

READ ALSO: Obasanjo As Our Newsmaker

Memory is the strength of the wise. Memory is the strength of successful societies. Institutional memory. Memory is the strength of successful nations. That ability never to forget the circumstances of their existence, their history, and their identity. In great societies, there is no collective amnesia. Some individuals may forget. But the institution that is the State never forgets. Some facts may slip into amnesia. But they will crawl back in the day of reckoning.  Knowledge of the past is instructive and fundamental to building the future.  So, our philosophers teach us. I remember Ernest Hemingway when he says ‘a man is a sum of his memories’!

O mighty ruler, the bearded one with oil stains on his white robe, all the roads and projects which you concentrated in your own part of the land, all the appointments which you made to favour a section of the electorate, and/or your cronies will now haunt you. The viciousness with which you dealt with supposed enemies will haunt you. If you ignored the interest of the people to pursue your narrow selfish interests, it will be time to splash your acts of impunity on the pages of newspapers and social media. Did you think you were God when you kept people waiting for you, while you made older people kneel to you to make their requests? The people will soon say to you: ‘command no more, your rule is over’, as Creon tells the mighty Oedipus in Antigone in Sophocles’ classical play!

A fool can and could win elections in Nigeria. But a fool cannot govern like a wise man, because a fool can only do foolish things that could hurt the people. An idiot or a man with idiotic ideas could win elections anywhere in the world. Demagoguery often starts from idiotic ideas and sentiments couched in fanciful or pseudo nationalistic language. Argentinian singer and author once wrote: ‘my grandfather was a brave man; he was only afraid of idiots. I asked him why, and he answered: because there are too many of them, and by being a majority they could even elect a president’. So, we are also worried about the people, the mob that Shakespeare despised in his plays, describing them through one of his characters in Julius Caesar as ‘you blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things, you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome’. Men and women who sell their soul for a mess of the proverbial pottage. They who would vote for the idiot who may not do much to improve their lot. These are the type the Prophet Hosea has in mind when he says ‘my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge!

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Real leadership is for the wise, the humble, and the visionary. A myopic man in office brings the office to his level. That is dangerous to our collective survival. Of such men we must beware. A fool should not go near the throne. He will endanger the empire. For this reason, blockheads were precluded from the throne in traditional African societies. Even the deformed were asked to go away from the road to the throne. In the modern age, thieves or crooks win elections all over the world. Crookedness could be hidden from the people. It is often in the dark. In saner climes, crooks get booted out. In our land, they seek and win elective positions because they carry a deep pocket.

It is true that some current leaders or elected officials have been misjudged. As we know, there are some who have made a difference, who have touched lives, who have sacrificed a lot for the people. But all state officials are judged harshly on account of prevailing situations. Hunger, real hunger, is real in the land. People are barely able to feed. Inflation is near the sun. Insecurity is real. So, the people are frustrated. They are angry. And their judgment will be harsh. It is possible that with the passing of time, opinions would be moderated. For that time, we must wait though not everyone will be exonerated, not everyone will be around for the beauty of reversals. It is the way of man, it is the way of life!

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Mr Elected or Appointed Official, your time is up, the end is here. Those you have alienated, some who did a kind thing for you in the past, some who supported your election and were subsequently ignored by your ‘Almighty Self’, some you gave contracts and refused to pay for work done, some who fell under the moving bus because you listened to gossip and gave them no chance to defend themselves, some who were shoved from the inner table because they are not brothers and sisters from your ethnic group, they await your exit. The time has come when you must rise from the level of the beast that was Nebuchadnezzar and come to your senses. They will see you in public and walk past you in scorn. Or bring down the statues you erected as it happened in Imo State after the last governor left office. There will be money in your deep pocket, but there will be no political power in your hands, there will only be infant gums without teeth to bite the sweets of the world. What have you wrought O Elected Official, what have you wrought in the land of the living?

 

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Obasanjo As Our Newsmaker

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By  Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

By

Tony Afejuku

General Olusegun Obasanjo who has been a long-standing Chief of Owu Kingdom in Ogun State needs no introduction. He is too well known to us here to be introduced. In fact, the retired army general of our despicable army is popularly and deliciously known well and well outside our shores to be re-introduced to the imagination and consciousness of your compatriots my compatriots our compatriots and your citizens my citizens our citizens. Many citizens and compatriots will say, rightly or wrongly, that at the two different times he led this country people, the masses and all tribes of persons, that is, cried out in pain and in aguish.

We can always go back to our civil war years of 1967 to 1970 to recall the man and his exploits as the chief strategist and the numero uno of the Third Marine Commando he took over from the great – perhaps our greatest – civil war hero, the late Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle, the one and only Black Scorpion of his soldiery era of gallantry whose poisonous bullets muted the booming guns of thunder and artillery fire of Biafra. Before our troops and Biafra’s knew it what seemed impossible to everyone regarding the time the war would end became possible.

Biafra surrendered and Lt. Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu to the pleasure and displeasure at the same time of Biafrans and Nigerians was in his surrender- flight to Ivory Coast. Obasanjo took the credit for what the Black Scorpion started and systematically pursued gallantly and strategically. What tales were not told and retold several times over about the Black Scorpion! Within three years the torture, torpor, stagnation and degradation of our Igbo brothers ended. That was the beginning of the ascent of Obasanjo’s superfluous popularity as a newsmaker. The obscure army engineer who succeeded the authentic commander of the Third Marine Commando was honeyed as our worthy war officer and commander and military newsmaker by the honeyed pens and voices of our war journalizers and broadcast seeds of our broadcasters.
Let me hop-step-and-jump to our patriotic present.

READ ALSO: Of Chiefs And High Chiefs

About more than three weeks ago, our one and only Obasanjo, former military head of state and civilian but dictatorial president of this dear land – your country my country our country under the Peoples’ Democratic Party became a frontline newsmaker when he said what he should not have said at a gathering of what I wish to refer to as what have you or what not compatriots and citizens. What did he say that he should not have said? The wily warrior who whaled the super-patriotic and outstandingly clever and sensible Chief Obafemi Awolowo out of the presidency in 1979 caused despair in the Niger Delta when he gushed with unpatriotic or inhuman ignominy that the natural oil in the Niger Delta belongs to Nigeria and not to the region. In the voice of almost a traitor who is worse than a traitor who belongs to the godless variety of tormentors our ex-head of state and ex-president and occupier of Aso Rock for eight years held back nothing when his rain of words thrummed on the roof of the Niger Delta. “The oil in the Niger Delta belongs to Nigeria,” he thrummed, thrusted and thundered. Of course, he was giving vent to a constitution which the standing army he once commanded put in place to torment and terrorize us.

I had been thinking deeply since our newshounds put the acclaimed letter-writer in the news once again. And I have been of the opinion that the great General is not a true patriot because a true patriot in our part of the world must have a crystal clear conscience that underlines his humanity that should consolidate the whole of our humanity.

Of course, some frontline denizens and citizens of the Niger Delta pointedly spear-headed by E.K.Clark, a former commissioner of information at the federal level when General Yakubu Gowon held sway in the land from the middle of the nineteen sixties to the mid-nineteen seventies, have since attacked Obasanjo the maker of news. E.K. Clark and company’s attacks were not devoid of great gusto. I, in particular, regarded E.K. Clark’s gusto as the gustation of gustation. It was rightly meant to prick and press the conscience, the guilty conscience, of Obasanjo who certainly must have a guilty one especially after E.K. Clark’s salvo.

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I remember the ex-president’s follow-up response that he has no hatred in his heart or conscience for the Niger Delta region. His guilty conscience surely elicited his response. But anyone like the General and erstwhile commander of our armed forces who is possessed of a guilty conscience must always be seen and regarded as a defeatist – as Jean-Paul Sartre, French philosopher, activist, humanist and writer who rejected the Nobel Prize for Literature in his hey days, informed us a long, long time ago.

Obasanjo does not love our Niger Delta more than our Niger Delta people and citizens. What does not go around does not go around. If Nigeria does not give Niger Delta justice, fairness and equity Nigeria should not expect the Niger Delta to take the trouble to give or guarantee peace and to “live and remain patriotic” in Nigeria. Nigerian people everywhere should know this: If our Niger Delta people are afraid of injustice that either terrorizes them or forces them to die unjustly, why should they unjustly obey their tormentors who all the time have been immoral force-mongers and cruel power-mongers? Obasanjo and his co-travellers could take the position they have been taken with reference to the Niger Delta because the majority of the region’s indigenes in government at whatever level have been compromising themselves and the region. Their selfishness and greed have tormented the people and the region without qualms over the years.

But this must be viewed as political, economic and moral sins of the past that must no more be tolerated. Now let me add as follows: our silence over the decades was not a “sign of assent”: it originated from nightmares which have been intentionally birthed, nurtured and controlled by our decisioners. But all this must end now.

All tribes in the Niger Delta must perish, must die and re-born themselves along the line of unity that is unity for all; along the line of justice that is justice for all; along the line of the rule of law that is the rule of law for all; along the line of fairness that is farness for all; along the line of what is good for the goose must be good for the gander. Torture by exploitation and oppression and degradation must stop and be hated and halted. Water torture, the result of pollution of the streams, rivers, mangroves, farms and the land by oil excavators and their political and greedy backers, must be ejected completely and permanently – now.

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All negative newsmakers and grandstanders profiting from our region by stirring us to torture one another must be shunned and shamed out of our anguish in darkness and in broad daylight. I hope our highly respected fabulous newsmaker of news and grandstander of grandstanders is going to profit himself a great deal from this column today by fighting patriotically for us henceforth. Our heroes lying in their graves will turn and turn and smile the smiles of the new times when he does this genuinely and sincerely. In his column of last Tuesday, January 18, 2022 on the back page of this newspaper Ray Ekpu ended as follows: “Nigeria abhors change, the right kind of change.” Niger Delta, I underline, is ready for the right kind of change. Their living heroes will enforce it in their land. They will do this without grandstanding and grandstanders.

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

 

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