By Mon-Charles Egbo
“There comes a midnight hour when everyone has to throw away his mask”…..Soren Kierkegaard.
In an attempt to fairly interrogate the above quote, one needs to find out first, what happens when the mask is discarded and why it has to be at midnight hour.
Figuratively, the midnight hour represents a transition time or the end of an era and equally the beginning of another. It is that crucial moment of quiet introspection when one is driven by firm convictions towards unusual decisions and actions. And similarly, because a mask is about displaying a false appearance, mask removal thus is synonymous with embracing the truth or accepting the reality, eventually.
Hence whenever the mask is removed, remarkable things happen: minds and thoughts are liberated from every form of bias, dogma and subjective judgement, wherein it dawns on them that in every circumstance, there is always a difference between appearance and reality or opinion and truth. Equally, new opportunities emerge for growth and development because people and situations are eventually being assessed and evaluated sincerely and objectively.
Then relative to this discourse, mask removal unravels the correlation between an office holder and the office itself. People begin to realize that either the occupant defines the office by their character or the office defines the occupant by its dictates, or that it is the disposition of the leader and the system supporting the position that interplay to determine the quality of leadership dispensed, by way of good or bad governance.
Furthermore, mask removal confers some sort of specific inspiration that enables one to rediscover themselves and the world around them.
It is in this wise that a former Nigerian minister, Iyorwuese Hagher, observed that “we have a military-contractor-political complex eating up Nigeria and masking as retired generals, businessmen and democrats in the daytime. At night, the masks are removed and all we see are desperate crooks. This is exactly what the Nigerian elite is. White-washed sepulchres. They cover their rottenness with noise and flourish. They lie gratuitously. They smile without feeling and ruthlessly destroy our common patrimony and impoverish, mis-educate, un-educate, and infect us to die. But they too die and all we have is a legacy of tribalism, corruption, bigotry and anomie”.
Except for the masked mind, this is an apt description of present-day Nigeria.
The country is at war with itself. Primordial sentiments, mutual suspicion and bloodletting reign supreme. The citizens are in penury and misery. Everyone is desperately seeking escape routes. There is a mindless obsession with how things ought to be rather than a commitment to tackling the prevailing situation. There is a trust deficit between the government and the masses sequel to varying assumptions and illusions that accompany public offices, which in most cases, are complicated by the conduct of the occupants. There is a heightened prejudice and apathy for which opinions now overshadow the truths while appearance diminishes the reality. Similarly, the just are demeaned while the crooks are dressed in borrowed robes and also, selfish leaders pass as dedicated servants while sectional interests tower above national interests in all aspects of policy and governance.
And then quite sadly, the elites are not relenting in their conspiracy to shield the masses from reality. They have a way of empowering every segment with specific consciousness for mutual hostilities to keep the masses down and divided. Their tools include religious, ethnic and partisan considerations which they deploy to divert attention from the crucial issues, of which they are succeeding because the masses are still limited by the masks.
Another salient feature of this inglorious mask is the constitutional status of the legislature. Except one is not being real or truthful, the national assembly is as powerless as it exists at the mercies of the executive. All the powers, especially the supervisory roles, listed in the constitution, are merely academic and theoretical because there are no functional mechanisms to exercise them effectively. If for instance, the presidency is vetoed on any matter, how does the legislature enforce it? Does the legislature enjoy any constitutional control over the law enforcement agencies or even the treasury, let alone the cabinet ministers who are appointed by the president? Again, if the legislature withholds assent to sundry presidential requests, particularly relative to borrowing, does the constitution provide for definite consequences for non-compliance?
Therefore, it is only when the mask is thrown away that the overriding need to review the country’s constitution is embraced dispassionately. Otherwise, this is the major area where the elites are still inflicting harm on the masses. And sadly once again, the mask will not allow for a clearer perception of the difference between a civil rule and democratic governance.
However, the vintage Abraham Lincoln was not only visionary when he noted that “for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader”; he must have experienced that “midnight hour when everyone has to throw away his mask”. He must have rediscovered himself before discovering that indeed, there are people who recognize politics as simply an avenue for sincere and selfless service to humanity.
But like eagles, dedicated leaders are rare to come by. They are what they are called to be. They are people-oriented, visionary, strategic-thinking, ready to make sacrifices, solution providers and above all, driven by national interest and unity.
Instructively, they do not have to be saints. Yes, nobody is a saint and no leader is perfect. None has ever been.
Senator Ahmad Lawan is certainly not a saint neither is the president of the 9th senate perfect. Both as a person and a public official, he may not have met the expectations of all, which incidentally is impossible. But one thing that cannot be removed from him, both ways, is that he has a place among the league of leaders that Nigeria needs, particularly in this precarious era.
By every standard of objective analysis, especially given his public leadership trajectory, Lawan remains very relevant to this generation. Aside from sound education, he has the right mix of a passion for national unity and development, emotional intelligence, knowledge of history and a clear understanding of policy and governance issues. In particular, he is experienced and versatile in the workings of the legislature and with sufficient understanding of the limitations of the 1999 constitution. The ideals and aspirations expressed in his speeches and the energies driving his actions portray him as truly the people’s advocate.
While assuming the leadership of the 9th senate, Lawan had vowed that “in the laws we enact, in the oversight and representations we undertake, the wellbeing of the Nigerian people will always be our priority”; thus implying that he would not be interested in churning out bills just for the sake of numbers but would focus on the ones that have direct bearing with the people.
Hence, he deployed that rare combination of leadership personality, intelligence and creativity in galvanizing his colleagues towards working for the people. Under him, the defining attributes of the senate are unprecedented camaraderie, unity of purpose, bipartisanship, commitment to national interest through people-oriented legislation and willingness to make patriotic sacrifices.
And despite being tagged with a series of labels, diligent research shows that Lawan takes a principled stand on every critical issue of governance. Be it about national unity, electoral system reform, restructuring, development of the Niger-Delta region, insecurity, National Social Intervention Programme, constitution amendment, economic revitalization, almajiri system of education, women and youth inclusion in governance, improvements in the power, education and health sectors as well as transparency in service delivery, Ahmad Lawan has distinguished himself truly as a good governance advocate.
Also despite championing a harmonious relationship with the other arms of government, any informed and objective critic agrees that Lawan has never lost his voice on issues of good governance. Although as highlighted earlier, public office holders are viewed with suspicion understandably due to past experiences, and again, he may not have lived up to the expectations of all, there is so far, no proven case of legislative compromise against Ahmad Lawan or the 9th senate. His conduct and actions are guided by his well-publicised legislative agenda wherein he conspicuously underscored his willingness to collaborate rather than confront so as not to further impoverish the masses as was the case with the immediate past assembly. Once again, the 1999 military-imposed constitution has no veritable protection for the legislature.
And until the mask is thrown away, it will be difficult to understand that Lawan embodies the views and opinions of his colleagues as he has never been accused of acting against their interests in any form. The overwhelming ballots that made him the president of the senate have since translated into the overwhelming respect, cooperation and support he enjoys among his colleagues. The patriotic manner he provided pragmatic leadership concerning the electronic transmission of the election result and also the passage of the 2023 budget among others are eloquent testimonies to his commitment to working for the people.
Instructively also, even when public office comes with its dynamics, Lawan remains who he is. His national leadership responsibility could not affect his resolve to faithfully serve his constituency. For what it truly means, Lawan is a true representative of his people. In the area of community development through legacy projects targeted at rural roads, hospitals, and schools in addition to empowerment schemes through scholarships, bursaries, capacity building, job placements as well as special interventions in agriculture, families and grassroots economy, Senator Ahmad Lawan has verifiably made outstanding marks across the lengths and breadths of the Yobe North Senatorial District. The record is indeed indelible as validated by this week’s presidential visit to the state.
And for the umpteenth time, it is only when the mask is removed that the truth is known. It is then that the real trouble with Nigeria, which unarguably predates the Lawan-led 9th national assembly is unveiled for lasting solutions. Then particularly concerning the ongoing leadership recruitment processes, it is after the midnight hour that we can realize that truly, we have a country to fix, an economy to repair and a citizenry to protect. Only then can we reason beyond the same old rhetoric and partisan affiliations to make the right choices. Again, it is only when reality triumphs over appearance, that the just shall be celebrated and the villain shall no longer be dressed in borrowed robes.
Then finally, it is only when one is free from prejudice or apathy through diligent research, that Ahmad Lawan can be fairly assessed and acknowledged as one who by his passion for a prosperous Nigeria is truly a signpost for national unity and statesmanship as well as one who through firmness of character and patriotism, really blends with the dictates of the senate presidency, even though the prevailing faulty constitution defines his powers and spheres of influence. But until that “midnight hour when everyone has to throw away his mask” to appreciate the difference between appearance and reality or opinion and truth, this is wishing him a happy birthday as he turns 64.
.Egbo is the print media aide to the president of the senate.
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Moral Values In A Changing World
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
JUSTICE: This world has degenerated into abysmal filth, immoral ungodly concupiscence, infantile greed, atavistic, primitive acquisition of property, and satanic hopelessness! The judiciary, the political class, the church, our royal fathers, and most other socio-cultural institutions have fallen into the cesspit of indiscipline and lack of respect for ethics! The Labour movement that used to be in the forefront of discipline cannot be trusted anymore!
MARIAM: Hehehehehehe! Okpoyibo! Big grammar is talking. I must invite Hon Patrick Obahiagbon to compete with you on explosive vocabulary.
PROFESSOR: That’s an old song. Our parents said the same thing some forty odd years ago.
UMUKORO: You are right; it is the way of the old to berate the world and say the past was better!
JUSTICE: Kindly don’t reduce the profundity of my introspective submission to the jejune level of the banal as has been the hallmark of pseudo-intellectuals in the polity!
MARIAM: I am going to get a new and bigger dictionary. I can’t find Michael West anymore!
JUSTICE: If you still restrict yourself to the archaic confines of Michael West, then you are a victim of historical detention, arrested development, and exploration of the brave new world!
MARIAM: I give up!
UMUKORO: Who still uses a dictionary in the 21st century? Ask Google my dear, ask Google!
JUSTICE: Your infantile and rudimentary knowledge of homonyms limits your capacity to process thoughts of the new century. Away with you, thou physically beautiful body without an intellectual soul. I take exception to people denigrating my exceptionally brilliant exegesis on the state of Homo sapiens!
PASTOR: ‘And in the last days, iniquity shall abound and the love of many shall wax cold’, so said the Master. The time is here!
PROFESSOR: A broken record! A broken record waxed hundreds of years ago!
PASTOR: But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved!
PROFESSOR: Saved from what? Another holocaust? Another atomic bomb dumped on humanity?
PASTOR: Do you spurn sacred and biblical prophecies?
PROFESSOR: General prophecies mean nothing to me. Look here Mr Pastor. For all the false prophecies which members of your infernal gang of profiteering pastors gave before the last general elections, you should be behind the bars of God!
JUSTICE: It is not late, not too late at all. The hounds of heaven are waiting for all the false pastors, especially those who have commercialized the Lord’s work! A wonderful and abominable thing is happening in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the people love it so!
PROFESSOR: One preacher I knew used to say that one false prophet was more dangerous than 100 armed robbers. Now I understand why!
UMUKORO: Armed robbery is no longer fashionable. Pen robbery fetches millions of naira with one stroke. Just add two zeros to the figure or transfer public funds to a private account.
PROFESSOR: I spoke metaphorically!
PASTOR: When it is becoming fashionable for persons of the same gender to marry and be recognized by the state, then the world is coming to an end.
UMUKORO: Sodom and Gomorrah incurred God’s wrath with that abomination!
MARIAM: When Supreme Court judges dispense political justice, then the end of the state as we knew it, has come.
UMUKORO: Even in America! Democratic judges give judgment guided by the so-called liberal values of the democrats while republican judges give conservative verdicts like abolishing the right to having an abortion!
JUSTICE: What then is justice?
MARIAM: Self solution! Your name is justice!
PROFESSOR: Aren’t we mixing oranges and apples in the same basket?
PASTOR: Let the tares and the wheat grow. At the harvest the Lord shall do the separation of sheep from goats!
JUSTICE: Eschatological metaphors can be used to rationalize and explain currents and undercurrents of contemporary events. It is very convenient to do so!
PROFESSOR: I am disappointed that our Nobel laureate could make such a one-sided pronouncement on the 2023 general elections. Unlike him, he didn’t speak like a man who comprehends the totality of our traumatic experience in February 2023!
MARIAM: But he spoke his mind. The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression!
JUSTICE: He spoke with the finality of a judge. I respect him for that. But he should also like an elder have acknowledged the level of rigging and violence which marred the exercise. The general thinking is that he is silent on that aspect because a friend of his now occupies Aso Rock!
MARIAM: That is a most uncharitable thing to say about a man of such intellectual distinction and moral probity!
JUSTICE: Excuse me! Has he occupied any public office in the country to enable you to arrive at that conclusion? Has he been tested?
MARIAM: His name is a shield. His name travels before him.
JUSTICE: Why did he wait for the PEPT to make a pronouncement before proclaiming his tigritude?
PROFESSOR: Let’s leave that old man alone jor! I’m more interested in the shuffling feet at the CBN. What exactly is going on? Was there no due diligence before Shonubi was asked to act as Governor of the Central bank of Nigeria? Didn’t they know, couldn’t they have suspected that he was part of the rot that ran that institution aground in the dying days of the former president?
PASTOR: Alas, it has given the president the opportunity to appoint his own man as governor. The new man by all account is competent and exposed in the financial world!
PROFESSOR: My only worry is whether he will have the gumption to say no if he receives obnoxious directives from his boss.
JUSTICE: How many appointees in our country have the liver to say no to the indiscretion of their bosses? It is not in our DNA!
MARIAM: In Lagos state, the Speaker of House said no to the governor on the appointment of some commissioners! The heavens did not fall.
PROFESSOR: The heavens almost fell. But that speaker is arrogant. No big man can trust him. Or was he dancing to music being played in higher quarters to spite the governor?
MARIAM: Who knows! It is possible. The ways of politicians are not straightforward. How could he say that he and the governor are colleagues! He has no respect for the office!
UMUKORO: I felt sorry for the governor! This attempt to humiliate him all in the name of politics.
JUSTICE: I hear it is all about 2024. If he is thinking of becoming governor, that statement will return to haunt him in future!
PASTOR: Now! Now! Now! Is the Dubai visa ban still hanging over us or Mr. President got the desert kings to lift the embargo?
JUSTICE: Is there any ‘gbajue’ going on?
PROFESSOR: Hahahahahaha! The more you look, the less you see. Proverbs to bones and silence!
UMUKORO: I don’t think it is ‘gbajue! It is possible that there was an agreement in principle which would require Nigeria to finetune certain details before going public. A federal government cannot tell lies about such public matters!
PASTOR: When the saviour comes, let him that be on the rooftop not come down to be saved. You will run to the mountain and the mountain will be melting!
MARIAM: And the sea will be boiling!
PROFESSOR: Who will save us? Who can take the nation back to factory reset? Shall we invite Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi, and Ahmadu Bello to rescue us?
PASTOR: Perish such thoughts please! Those men have not been able to save themselves. How can they save anybody? Jesus Christ is the answer!
A Response To Toyin Falola’s Obasanjo, Obadide And Obajoko
By Yinka Agbetuyi
Toyin Falola’s “Obasanjo, Obadide and Obajoko” is a timely article that captures the complexities and contradictions of a Yoruba (even Nigerian) in transition. It reframes the questions: ‘transition to where?’ How will this transition be better managed? Until these two questions are adequately resolved Yorubaland (and Nigeria) will always be in constant crises.
It is very important that the essay brings out the fact of extant kingships alongside modern polities in Europe like the UK and Belgium, (there are still twelve extant monarchies in Europe) where the monarchs are not subordinated to modern politicians and humiliated thereby. So which West are the Yoruba (and Nigerians) copying? Newfound lands, mainly the US – as well as Australia and Canada- stolen from the aborigines.
Yoruba people and fellow Nigerians must constantly be reminded that the success of the anticolonial struggles was about stopping such occurrence in Africa. Perhaps Yoruba Nation advocacy was geared toward the same goal, but lacked effective strategies. At the last stop before Tinubu’s unexpected victory, the groundswell was for Yoruba Nation advocates to go into partnership with other Nigerian ethnic nationalities and evolve a workable blueprint that takes into consideration each group’s preference and the rate of and speed of integration into the totality – the North’s preference at independence, and Awo’s true federalism- supplanted unfortunately by the adoption of an American presidential federalist model, hook line and sinker! My reaction over the decades is that Nigeria is not necessarily vying with others for the position of the 51st state of the US.
In my own summation in diverse forums, as it exists now in Europe, the royal houses should be clearly delimited and given definite CONSTITUTIONAL roles and worthy remuneration. First Class traditional rulers should earn the same salaries as sitting governors (Nigeria can afford this option many times over from a mere fraction of its stolen wealth if recovered). Monarchs will in turn underwrite the integrity of the polity by being constitutionally tasked with the appointment of auditors who will scrutinise State spending (states and federal) and projects in their domains and report directly back to such MONARCHS for onward transmission to state chief executives and the presidency.
Traditional rulers should be elected and appointed only by traditional councils and their appointment signed into law (but not subject to nor subordinated to) the state governors. After all the days of crass illiterate caricature of traditional rulers is long gone. Traditional rulers should therefore be structured as parallel instruments of and facilitators of governance in a check and balance structuration of governance, in a carefully integrated whole to achieve total governance – the transient and the permanent. Lesser traditional rulers should be administered by the First-Class rulers (in council) who will recommend their emoluments, (and functions) subject to rankings to state governments.
Only First-Class rulers (in council) should be able to recommend the creation and elevation of lower ranked rulers to the states according to the existing norms of such communities, (they did this well enough in the precolonial days) and the state government should only administratively approve or reject such recommendations based on financial contingencies. This formulation should neutralise party politicking in the creation and maintenance of traditional rulership.
Yes, traditional rulers must be constitutionally barred from seeking and accepting contracts from their states of origin and from the federal government, the same way a governor is not notionally entitled to be awarded a contract by their own government. In the British system, this is called declaration of interests by parliamentarians (whether in government or not) in the register of interest book. This is to prevent conflict of interests of the person in government (and their associates) and their official duties. This provision demonstrates that greed is a universal phenomenon unless and until checked by relevant laws (witness the UK Parliament’s expenses claim scandal in 2010.)
Now that the Tinubu struggle has been fought and won, the Yoruba Nation advocates, must in continuation of their activities not rest their oars on the ship of State, but intensify such by taking the lead in the quest for this new reality, by reaching out to like minded nationalities across the country to achieve the constitutional change for a better, stable and prosperous tomorrow for Nigerians.
Prince Agbetuyi is a Professor of Comparative Arts & World History at the Edutronix Institute, London.
Use Your Penis: Hopes, Expectations And Realities Of African Migrants In Europe
By Leo Igwe
The issue of migration to Europe has been in the news. There has been intense discussion on how to tackle the flow of migrants to, not from, Europe. There have been reports of boats carrying migrants capsizing or missing on the Mediterranean Sea. Many Africans have died trying to enter Europe via the Sahara desert. North African and European countries have taken measures to curb illegal migration and human trafficking. Still, the migration flow out of Africa continues and shows no signs of abating. Why has the migration of Africans or migration from Africa become such a huge problem? What are the hopes, experiences and realities of these migrants?
In August I was invited to speak at a seminar on migration. The focus was on the migration of Africans to Europe. The event took place in Bergen, Norway. As a doctoral student, I lived in Germany for six years. I was invited to speak at programs on migration. Governmental and nongovernmental agencies in Denmark and Germany organized the events. I did not find these events interesting because the focus was on human trafficking and the role of African juju and witchcraft. Do not get me wrong. Human trafficking is a huge problem and needs to be addressed. But we have to tackle the problem from the root. These events were by my estimate a complete waste of time and money because organizers and participants were not ready to tell themselves the truth, face the facts and address the real issue. They want to make themselves feel good and privileged while talking about these helpless Africans streaming to their shores. Organizers were more interested in marginal voodoo, and oath-taking issues. They made it seem as if there was something unusual about African migration. But there was not. Migration is as old as human beings. Humans from all races and regions have been migrating from one region to another, from one country or continent to another. Before this recent wave of migration out of Africa, people from Europe, America, and Asia have been migrating to Africa. They are still migrating for business, social, economic, religious, and political reasons.
Contemporary African migration is mainly economic. It is driven by poverty, miserable living conditions, and the devastation of African economies by European, Asian, and American companies. To tackle the problem of migration, African economies must be fixed. The continent must realize an economic leap. Now instead of focusing on the economic roots of the problem and how to address them, many Europeans and Americans expend energy discussing trivialities, such as the role of voodoo and so-called powerful witch doctors in Nigeria. Well, at these events, I told the organizers the bitter truth. I told them to forget this juju or voodoo talk and face the reality: the destruction and revival of African economies. I told the organizers what they did not want to hear. And they never invited me back.
But this time around it was different. The organizers were not Europeans or Americans. A Nigerian student at the University of Bergen staged the event. He contacted me some months ago, drawing my attention to the plight of African migrants in Norway. He explained how many who travel to Norway and other European countries had their hopes and expectations dashed. Many who migrate to this country or other European countries end up entrapped. They are compelled to go into things they did not plan to do. Many migrants end up in a new form of slavery, in a marriage to a European citizen. Left with the option of going back to Africa at the end of their study or marrying to get the documents to stay, many end up contracting a marriage, in many cases a paper or document marriage. These marriages entrap them, they turn these migrants into errand boys and girls. Many of them are mistreated. They suffer silently. If they misbehaved, their partners would threaten to report them to the authorities and get them deported. I was told that many in the African migrant communities were not helping matters. Someone told me that he approached some migrants seeking and wanting to know how he could navigate migration issues. But the person told him: “Use your penis”. I guess for a female it would have been a case of: Use your vagina. While studying in Germany, some African migrants told me how they were sexually exploited, and dehumanized before they could get legal documents to stay in the country. One woman told me that everyman who wanted to help her wanted to sleep with her.
So, the program was cathartic. It provided a space to let out these pains, sufferings, disappointments, and frustrations.
The event brought together ‘free-will’ migrants and Norwegians. The panelists were from Ghana, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Belarus. I was the only international guest on the panel. Other panelists discussed the hurdles that they have faced, and the challenges that they confronted trying to live and integrate in Norway. As one panelist noted, many who come to study were unable to find a job at the end of their program. In many cases, they graduated and found out that there was no job for them, or they were unable to speak the local language, which was a requirement for many jobs. Another panelist from Ghana, married to a Norwegian, discussed her challenges as a migrant parent in Norway. She recounted how her child had suffered racism in the school. She narrated an experience where the child did a group assignment with four other white Norwegian children. And the teacher gave her child four marks for the assignment and other group members five marks.
There was some discussion on illegal migration and the risks involved. Some Norwegians in the audience noted that many African migrants knew about the risks they could face migrating to Europe. And still, they decided to embark on the risky journey. There was a lot of focus on migrants and their experiences traveling from Africa. However, little or no attention was paid to the European connection with the problem, the fact that western foreign economic policies have devastating effects on African economies. Africa is a market for Western goods including Norwegian stockfish. Apparently Europe needs African markets not African migrants. Western multinationals are relentlessly plowing and plundering the resources of Africa in ways that have displaced the local populations. African professionals are leaving in droves. They are migrating to work in the West and the Middle East. So, Western economies profit from the migration flow and the cheap labor it provides. Western countries benefit from the economic status quo that has turned Africans into migrants and refugees in Europe and America. To contain the flow of migrants to Europe, the situation in Africa must change. African economies must begin to grow and improve. Western governments must end the economic exploitation of Africa.
Dr. Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches.
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