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Funmi Olonisakin: The Mainframe Of Global Success

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BOOK REVIEW: Anthony Asiwaju's Bridging African Boundaries: A Three-part Blueprint For Every Progress-driven African Leader

By Toyin Falola

It was at a dinner with the late J. J. Rawlings, the late President of Ghana that I knew who Olufunmilayo Olonisakin is. Rawlings was boasting about her, how he planned to make a Nigerian woman a Minister in Ghana. He was right! I began the journey of discovery, and the path led me to learn more, interact more with her, and accept her leadership. When Professor Paul Zeleza, Vice-Chancellor of United States International University Africa, invited her to Keynote the 2018 TOFAC conference in Nairobi, the decision was warmly greeted.

Many had sought her services, including at the United Nations. Last week, she received an honorary doctorate at the University of Pretoria, and the excitement at the honor and celebration generated this piece. I could not hide my joy as we spoke on her glorious day, and I am converting her honor into a collective joy for us all. She has contributed more than anyone else to peace studies, building peace institutes in different parts of Africa, with firm imprints in Senegal, Kenya, South Africa and London, where she is now a Vice-President. In a way, she was my boss at the Thabo Mbeki Leadership Institute, where she served as the Chair of the Advisory Board and I, a member. When her term ended, and I was asked to succeed her, I trembled, and I knew that I could not match her in her capacity and efficiency. As you read this piece, I am in Pretoria, where I will formally praise her—the primus inter pares—for handing the baton to me. Her nobility is also at work when she chairs meetings, with a capacity to summarize and reflect, listen and process, digest and suggest.

Funmi Olonisakin: The Mainframe Of Global Success

Prof. Olonisakin

The continent of Africa boasts of an impressive number of illustrious sons and daughters, spread around all areas of human endeavor (in medicine, administration, finance, technology, theology, academia, etcetera), whose hard work and excellence in their various fields of activity have won them many individual laurels—both locally and internationally—and contributed a positive image, as well as other critical developments, on the continent. In academia, where the African intelligentsia constitutes an immutable global presence, they have made indelible contributions to the quest for the improvement of the progress of humankind—educating and correcting erroneous perceptions, contributing groundbreaking research and lending their expertise to solving problems wherever and whenever they have been called to serve. Hence, it comes with little surprise that they are to be found occupying important offices in prestigious institutions worldwide.

READ ALSO: 2023, Ideology And Issue-based Politics: Where Did We Miss It?

In the ranks of Africa’s intellectual exports, Nigeria has been blessed with personalities who have successfully established themselves as indispensable assets in their communities, both in Africa and abroad, where many of them ply their craft. One such intellectual gem from Nigeria is Professor Oluwafunmilayo Olonisakin, “the first black woman to be named a full professor at King’s [College London].” A scholar par excellence, she boasts of a long and successful career as a teacher, researcher, author, administrator, and policy adviser in peace and security.

Professor Olonisakin is currently the Vice President (Global Engagement) at King’s College London, where she also doubles as Professor of Security, Leadership and Development at the African Leadership Centre, School of Global Affairs. Before rising to this prestigious office she has held since December 2017, the Nigerian-British scholar had worked in different capacities in Lagos, Pretoria, Nairobi and New York. In Nigeria, where she earned her first degree (B.Sc. Hons. in Political Science) from the University of Ife in 1984, Prof. Olonisakin worked as an assistant lecturer at the Department of Political Science, the University of Lagos between 1984 and 1986. After earning a master’s degree in War Studies from King’s College London in 1990, she stayed with the College as a research associate at the Centre for Defence Studies. Upon completing her doctoral degree in War Studies at King’s College London in 1996, Prof. Olonisakin spent some time as a research associate at the Institute for Strategic Studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa, before returning to her alma mater in London.

During what can only be described as a busy and illustrious career, Prof. Olonisakin has written and published extensively about peace and security, governance reform, women’s rights, and youth vulnerability and marginalization. She has authored and edited more than ten books on security and peace-keeping, contributed many chapters to books on the same subject, written and published numerous articles, developed policy papers, presented papers at numerous international conferences and has provided advisory and consultancy services to the United Nations (UN) on peace-keeping and peace-building initiatives. As a testament to the importance of her research and her outstanding qualities as an academic and practitioner, Prof. Olonisakin was appointed a member of the Advisory Group of Experts for the Review of UN Peacebuilding Architecture in 2015 by then UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon. Even now, she serves on several international advisory boards, including the Advisory Group of Experts for the UN Progress Study on Youth, Peace, and Security.

READ ALSO: Joseph Makoju: A Patriot Extraordinary And Professional Exemplar

As a scholar, Prof. Olonisakin’s research focus—Peace and Conflict Studies—reflects an understanding of and commitment to the plight of Africans, especially in the twenty-first century, where a spate of civil wars has bedeviled the continent. Perhaps it is the fact that the beginning of her sojourn into an academic career coincided with a period (the 1990s) when civil wars were raging in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Sudan, which inspired her decision to commit her future to finding lasting solutions to violent conflicts on the continent. Whichever was the case, Prof. Olonisakin’s unrelenting commitment to this task, over the years, has left no doubts as to the strength of her resolve and the adeptness of her skill in identifying the proper peace-making measures necessary to mitigate such conflicts. In this regard, she has been instrumental in identifying the fundamental issues behind the changing nature of peace and security in Africa. And her research is among the first to bring about a reconceptualization of peace-keeping as a viable measure for checking defiant intra-state conflicts.

Olonisakin’s time at the UN proved advantageous both for the international organization and the people at the receiving end of her innovative contributions. Her contributions to the UN peace-keeping modus-operandi in Africa are nothing short of revolutionary. Drawing from the experience of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)—as the first regional body to deploy a peace-keeping force to restore peace in a civil war—in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea Bissau, Prof. Olonisakin identified lessons for a UN co-deployment in such conflict setting. Similarly, her research into the UN peace-keeping operation in Sierra Leone produced the first inside account of a UN peace keeping operation. And the book generated from that research has become somewhat of an operational guide, as it has been widely disseminated among UN practitioners.

Acting on insight gained during her time in the United Nations, Prof. Olonisakin identified two important gaps in the UN intervention operations. First was the dearth of reliable data on the role of youths in the armed conflict situations the UN was involved in. The second was the shortage in women’s representation in the leadership of peace and security processes, despite the adoption by the UN Security Council of Resolution 1325, which pursued an increase in women’s participation. To that effect, she researched two emergent areas: youth, militancy and violence, and on women, peace and security. Her research on youth vulnerability and exclusion revealed inadequacies in the approach to education and youth development in Africa. Finding that Africa’s burgeoning youthful population (with a mean age of 19 years) was neither equipped nor poised to respond to the continent’s security and development challenges, the African Leadership Centre (ALC) was initiated in June 2010 as a collaboration between the Kings College London and the University of Nairobi, Kenya. The goal was to establish a trust that would support the training of the next generation of African scholars in peace and security studies. Hence, the overall impact of Prof Olonisakin’s research is evident, not only in the collaborations and policy outcomes she facilitated but also in grooming a community of next-generation scholars who would advance knowledge on these emerging research vacuums.

READ ALSO: Retrieving The Philosophy In The ‘Doctor of Philosophy – PhD’ Degree In Nigeria

In recognition of her innovative and impactful contributions to promoting peace and security on the continent and beyond, Prof. Olufunmilayo Olonisakin has received numerous awards, a couple of which will be listed. In 2010 she was recognized with the Award for International Collaboration of the Year, at King’s College London, for her role in establishing the African Leadership Centre. She was also awarded the 2013-2015 Mellon Foundation Distinguished Scholar on Peace and Conflict at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. In 2015, she received the Award for Teaching Excellence at King’s College London. In 2016, she was appointed an Extra-Ordinary Professor by the University of Pretoria.

The decision to honor Prof. Oluwafunmilayo Olonisakin with a Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) is both timely and befitting of a scholar of such pedigree. As I congratulated the University of Pretoria, as if speaking on their behalf, I said they had taken a good decision to reward excellence, appreciate the brilliance, and recognize a solid and human global figure. I am proud to call her my Sister.

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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From Nigerian Politics To Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu And Beyond

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From Nigerian Politics To Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu And Beyond

By Tunji Olaopa
It’s been long after 1979 that Nigerian politics has excited me enough for me to encourage myself after APC presidential primary in Abuja with Lionel Richie oldie: ‘Let the music play on; everybody sing, everybody dance; lose yourself in wild romance … All night long … on and on’. Indeed, I have remained an ardent student of Nigerian politics for as long as I can remember. And it could not have been otherwise. Nigeria, and her politics, has made a student of almost every Nigerian. Since I found myself enrolled at the department of political science, University of Ibadan, in the eighties, the theoretical analysis of politics in Nigeria has been broadened by the practical immersion in its practical dimensions. And my sense of Nigeria’s predicament and possibilities has been deepened also by my luck in more than casual meeting with the political gladiators, from Chief Awolowo through General Obasanjo to Asiwaju Tinubu, and getting a sense of the direction Nigeria is headed. The aggregation of the vast opportunities I have been given to learn, from all the great books I have encountered—a la Plato’s Republic—to the university experience of activism, not only sharpened my understanding of politics as praxis. It also focused my attention on the critical role of political leadership in the attainment of good governance, modulated by infrastructural development for the citizenry.

Nigeria needs to be taken seriously. And one does not need to read Odia Ofeimun’s book, Taking Nigeria Seriously, to deeply appreciate this (even though that book provides some unique and well-articulated groundings for those who would appreciate them). The mention of Ofeimun leads me to my encounter with Chief Obafemi Awolowo as a research assistant. That, out of all my experiences (though short-lived), was a great tutelage in political craftmanship. With the Sage of Ikenne, I had a deepening of my theoretical understanding of the relationship between good politics, good governance and ideological leadership. The closeness that the appointment afforded me was a critical learning curve that further fueled my yearning, as young as I was then, to continue in my fervent desire to generate a governance and reform model that not only carries the weight of the fundamental readings I have encountered—from Plato’s Republic to Thomas More’s Utopia—but also the peculiarity of my postcolonial context in Nigeria. Chief Awolowo was deeply passionate about Nigeria. Saying Nigeria was ‘a mere geographical expression’ was, for him, the first crucial premise in dealing with the rampaging ethnicities that needed to be welded into a harmonious plurality that defines national integration.

READ ALSO: President Thabo Mbeki: On South Africa And The South African Youth

When I met Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, by another providential opportunity, I saw the passion about Nigeria in another dimension. The political assessment of Awolowo has always been crippled by the critique of his being too ingrained into the Yoruba ethnic politics in ways that hurt his national leadership ambition. With Obasanjo, there is a near-consensus about his nationalist credential. If anyone doubts that Obasanjo loves Nigeria, then the person does not really know him, and has not studied the trajectory of Nigerian history and its political dynamics well. Chief Obasanjo was confronted with the same challenges of nation-building that Awolowo was confronted with, especially with the Yoruba factor as a major issue in achieving integration. And Obasanjo stepped up to the challenge. Nigeria might not be better after his presidency, but we have a sense of how nation-building could be fast tracked.

It is this Yoruba factor in Nigerian politics, and the paradox that it generates in building Nigeria, that led to my encounters and, eventually, to reflections on Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I have written two op-ed pieces about Tinubu. And this was not an easy thing to do. He is certainly a man surrounded by many discourses and crises. As 2023 approaches, and with the recent political back-and-forth in the APC primaries, the Tinubu-bashing has gone up several octaves. This is further fueled by the “Emi Lokan” sing-song that Asiwaju just waxed. Much has been made of the “Emi Lokan” song, which many wished were the author’s verbal self-annihilation. It will however turn out to have become a divinely enabled “Yes, I can” audacity. And at that, in the mold of the power in the word which provoked the ultimate breakthrough in the spiritual: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in”. And since the words came forth in Abeokuta, none of the political variables in contention have remained the same again. Is it any wonder therefore that those pronouncements, in mystery, have become a pattern of invocation for prayer warriors and as overlay for Ese Ifa incantation, in a sense, an affirmation of the canon in Romans 8:28: “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”?

READ ALSO: End Of A Beautiful Debate On Women

Having said that, democratic imperative also dictates that sentiments—ethnic, religious, regional—should not have a place in the determination of the credentials of a possible and potential leader. The most fundamental axiom of democratic participation is that every human has the right to vote and be voted for, even the meanest and the most vilified. Indeed, Jane Addams, American activist and reformer, noted that “If the meanest man in the republic is deprived of his rights then every man in the republic is deprived of his rights.” I once wrote that Asiwaju is not a hero or a saint. Like most Nigerian politicians, he is caught up in the politics of power play that defines party politics in Nigeria. He is also caught up within the rubric of political corruption that encloses almost everyone of the political class. Must we then import new set of politicians from Mars? Or must we begin a process of reclamation, as I have argued before, in ways that allow the citizenry to delimit a sphere of progressive politics around which it can take the politicians to task around what constitutes good governance?

Unlike all others, Tinubu possesses qualities, if we can go from seeing the trees for the forest, which could be analyzed for the possibility of recuperating a leader who can achieve. Unlike all others, he is too significant to be a tool in the political calculations of others. He is not only his own person; he is equally the avatar that others look up to. This is one of the subtexts that was demonstrated at the just-concluded APC primary. His unique sense of political realism is heightened by his positioning within the Yoruba political space—from Lagos State to the entire Southwest, and fundamentally the Nigerian political universe. Since the critical agitations that resulted in the jumpstarting of the democratic experiment in Nigeria, Tinubu has kept his solid presence in almost all significant political events and incidences.

This brings me to another point. By being this prominent in Nigeria’s political affairs, Tinubu has situated himself aptly in the line of the Yoruba-Nigerian political gladiators that the whole of Nigeria took notice of—Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief MKO Abiola. And he is not just a figure that completes the lineup. Asiwaju, and true to that cultural title, is a true scion of deep Yoruba sociopolitical dynamics that at least Awolowo and Obasanjo utilized. First, Asiwaju, like Awolowo made the Southwest his governance and political base of excellence. And we just need to look at Lagos State to agree. Second, there is that fundamental commitment to intellectual capital and knowledge management model as the basis for affirming the place of meritocracy in governance. Awolowo, Obasanjo and Asiwaju are unrivalled in this. And lastly, there is an unequivocal commitment to Nigeria and her development, and of course through the understanding of a coherent federal dynamics that allows every constituent to come to the federal table from her position of strength.

As 2023 approaches, and the entire gamut of politicking attending it, I cannot but bring myself to remembrance about my abiding fascination with Tinubu talent management system, his genius in leaning on high-end expertise and skills, as well as his critical knowledge management model to build legacies exemplified in the Lagos governance narrative, from Fashola to Ambode to Sanwo-Olu. I once had a discussion with Asiwaju about this capacity to empower technocrats for the governance task, people who, being politically naïve, would later return with a sense of over-bloated self-worth. His response was valuable: “Tunji, my training is to be proven as a professional first, before I dared launching into political adventurism. I think we just must use our very best people if Nigeria’s complex issues would ever be resolved.” It is this sense of what Nigeria needs—this technical and ideological understanding of how to go about resolving Nigeria’s predicament—that makes me incurably fascinated with Bola Ahmed Tinubu. And I have not only the trajectory of those who came before him to attest to him as evidence, but also the significance of this as a reform element that is irreducible.

READ ALSO: Generational Responsibility To Salvage The Nigerian Civil Service

I come to Asiwaju Tinubu’s possible presidential worth from the perspective of his Yoruba sociocultural background as well as his possible reform capability. Put side by side with Alhaji Abubakar Atiku (who, by the way, I worked with very closely and whose cosmopolitanism and national outlook I can boldly attest to), we have two powerful political juggernauts who both, not only have political potential and limitations, but also are the best of friends. Of course, this combination makes the electoral task ahead all the more interesting. But the interest for me lies elsewhere—in the development possibility inherent in reforming and transforming the governance model of the Nigerian state and getting things done, vide unblocking implementation landmines and execution traps that historically hindered strategic moves, in the past, from vision to strategy and to performance. Just in the service of these admirable emerging political leaders, I have already started ransacking my library to highlight all possible reform blueprints—from leadership change model to scenario planning and the framework for a new national productivity paradigm; to the governance and public service reengineering dynamics; and from the need for a cultural adjustment programme to change the mind of the nation through values reorientation to unlocking the great democratic and development potential of grassroots politics.
. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and
Professor, National Institute
For Policy and Strategic Studies
(NIPSS), Kuru, Jos.
tolaopa2003@gmail.com

 

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Tussle For Supremacy: A Catastrophic Phenomenon Of Power Failure In A Lawless Society

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BOOK REVIEW: Ayo Joan Olatoyosi's Thesis, Antithesis And Synthesis Of Life

By Grace Ego Omoni
In the literary world appreciation of the works of art such as the novel and the play is used to explain the author or playwright writing style. One major feature is the plot. Sometimes, a novel or play might have only one plot but is not uncommon to see or identify a plot or plots within a major plot in the narration or drama. The essence is to make the work more interesting and exciting. The subplots hang on the main plot tenaciously. In other words, there is harmony between the subplots and the main plot. The subplots act as support to the main story.

The writer sees the happenings in this nation from the perspective of the above literary style used by authors and playwrights. The events and occurrences in such a time as this in Nigeria can be labelled as a dilemma of a collapsing nation. How do you fathom a situation where some areas in this country especially in the northern geopolitical zones where they now have illegal and unscrupulous individuals governing, making obnoxious policies or laws and imposing them on the citizens of a democratically elected government with impunity ? How do you describe a nation where this new breed of lawless bandits impose taxes of various kinds and degrees on helpless rightful inhabitants? How do you explain a situation where people are restricted from the freedom to live, to work, to worship, to express themselves and of movement? Are we being made to conclude that there is another “government” within a GOVERNMENT legally and democratically elected to govern the people?

On the 27th of June in Channels Television, two Honourables from Kaduna State and specifically in Birin- Gwari Local Government area were interviewed about the state of security there. The responses are very worrisome.

According to the Honourables, their people are being taxed unabated three times a year for the past three years. It was also revealed by one of them that about 300 to 400 million naira has been paid to these imposers to allow the people plant, grow and harvest their crops. Apart from the above, the farmers are forced without any choice to give these men two bags of grain from every ten bags produced at the end of the harvest season! The farmers cows are rustled indiscriminately.

Moreover, this new breed of unconstitutional governance has a team of soldiers with their own outfits parading and harassing the inhabitants. It was also stated that movement from one village to the other or the farms is now highly restricted because of the the insurmountable insecurity saga in this local government where there is a chairman with his elected leaders and a state government with a sitting governor.

When Channels Television interviewers asked whether the government in power was aware of the situation and the predicament of the people, he cleverly dodged the question by asserting that everybody knows about it! Incredible!

READ ALSO: Recycling Political Appointees And National Development

Why are the State and Federal Governments not saying or doing anything? Would they say that they are ignorant or oblivious of the fact that there are people exercising power and authority in this Local Government and probably other constituencies in and around the country? Why the silence knowing very well that silence means consent? Do they not have security agents and CIDs who from time to time give pieces of information and security reports to the government? How do these men communicate with one another? Is the government no longer in control of the communication networks in this country? Is this illegal “government” making policies and laws and imposing them on the helpless inhabitants being recognized and authorized to carry on like this? This unconstitutional independence seems to have come to stay.

However, Nigerians have not been officially informed that the country now has another “government” within this nation called Nigeria. Is it not a shame and unthinkable that a group of mad infiltrators have overrun some parts of the country just like Russia is doing to Ukraine? Unlike Ukraine, there seems to be no resistance on the part of the leadership of this nation. Are there no strategic synergy and efficient professionals to track down these imposers? Are the security plans being given prominence in the social media just a mirage? Are the Federal and State Governments by their slow actions and silence implying that the tussle for supremacy between them and these bandits or terrorists or rebels or secessionists has overwhelmed them? Can there be any tangible explanation why the government of the day cannot crush and squash this mindless killers but could proscribe IPOB from existing? Why this lopsided mentality? Why this nonchalant attitude from the powers that be? Why this unwritten compromise? Are the State and Federal Government technically waiting for these bandits, terrorists and killer herdsmen to hold the other geopolitical zones to ransom, topple and take authority over a democratically elected government? Has insecurity now become one of the rights of the Nigerian citizens today? Is the government of the day not seeing the impending catastrophe speedily meandering into the nation? Is Humpty- Dumpty the new name for the government that is supposed to be in control of all affairs in this nation? The situation reminds me of a poem titled: “Humpty-Dumpty”
“Humpty-Dumpty sat on the wall;
Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall;
Not all the kinsmen and and not all the horsemen can put Humpty-Dumpty together again”!

Take it or leave it, Nigeria is tearing apart. There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria has been overrun by a deadly generation of evil men and are operating an “illegal government system” in various parts of the country. The people are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Loyalty to the terrorists is now being forced on the inhabitants. The people are under serious pressures! Insecurity is becoming more threatening than ever before. There is defence for them and the government is not forthcoming.

Solutions to this situations are not being wholly accessed by the government of the day. The economy has deteriorated and crippled. Farmers can no longer produce crops to sustain them not to talk of distributing to other consumers near and far. The common man is helpless. School children in these affected areas cannot access quality education due to the vulnerability of the terrain. Travelling as part of life has been terminated. Movement from one place to the other is now restricted for fear of being kidnapped, raped, robbed or killed by these infiltrators.

Traders cannot engage in businesses for fear of being stripped of their goods and money. Worshippers stand the risk of losing their lives in their churches and mosques. In fact, these so-called bandits are by their actions, placing ban on Christianity as a religion. Thus, freedom of worship as the individual’s right is already being wiped out in this nation.

Again the latest according to one of the Honourables is that a law has been imposed by these bandits that there should be no election campaigns in the area for the forthcoming general elections. Politicians cannot go to this area to campaign due to this instruction. Do people abide by it? Do we have a government within a government just like we have a story within a story in literary works? What a disaster!

 READ ALSO: President Thabo Mbeki: On South Africa And The South African Youth

Strategies towards the government restoring and regaining authority and supremacy over those trying to usurp power

*Government should legalize the possession of firearms. After all bandits, terrorists and killer herdsmen are freely moving about with sophisticated guns and weapons without being arrested and prosecuted. This suggestion has become inevitable so that people can defend themselves when attacked. The Zamfara State Government and some others are advocates of this suggestion. If implemented, it will curb the excesses of these bandits. The Judiciary, the legislature and the State Government should as a matter of urgency pass a bill and implement this policy;

*The security system of the country should be beefed up; sophisticated weapons, walkie talkies, good network services and sound vehicles should be made available for the law enforcement agencies to combat insecurity. You do not expect the police or the army to confront terrorists with inferior weapons;

* The police, navy, army and the air force need to facilitate their people with modern tactics and methods for maintaining peace and order;

* The communication networks in this country should be utilized by the government to fight and win this tussle for supremacy;

*Government should come up with a policy or a statement to condemn and crush the activities of these culprits trying to usurp power. Arrest, prosecute punish them accordingly;

*Government should find a way of handling this issue of paying ransom to kidnappers. Imagine paying criminals and authentic government workers do not get good pays or even being paid on time. University lecturers have been on strike for the past five months because of failure of the government to do the needful;

* The security and care of those in the IDP camps should be improved upon;

*Government should create jobs for the teeming youths. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Today, the only jobs available in Nigeria are Yahoo syndrome, Keke and Okada riding, Uber driving and permit me to say, banditry, kidnapping and killing;

*In the meantime, the government should stop pursuing shadow! This madness of election campaigns should stop. Who are these politicians going to govern? The people who have no means of livelihood, dying of hunger, living under fear of insecurity and whose land are being grabbed under their noses?

* Government should in all ramifications rise up and squash and crush the activities of these men now operating as a “governing body of a new nation” within a democratically elected government with immediate effect and alacrity.

Nigerians rise and demand your security, peace and tranquility now instead of selling your votes to those who are out to keep you in perpetual slavery and fear of a bleak future.

 

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End Of A Beautiful Debate On Women

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End Of A Beautiful Debate On Women

By Tony Afejuku
At the point when I was readily ready to bring to an end a debate with happiness on the subject of women in our polity of politlies of politrickians, my inspiration waned because it lost its enthusiasm. I don’t know why. I didn’t know why. I could not know why. On my writing table there was no wine of inspiration for me to sip from. And the idea I earnestly wanted with excelling quality in its galloping train neither yielded nor illuminated itself to me forthwith. But something else did. It created its peculiar raptures which indicated that what was debated was worth it and that what I am going to express now to sum up the debate is worth saying. Now what is this something that entered me to toss my heart into raptures and to remint my brain with flavours of fragrant sensations which yearn after thirst that is thirst after thirst on behalf of women?

A day before this column appeared last Friday, an event of monumental significance world-wide escaped us all in this land of lands: your country my country our country. Thursday, June 23rd “marked on the United Nations Calendar” the “International Day for Widows.” And the broad theme was “Invisible Women, Invisible Problems.” All the professors who debated what I wish to call the Nigerian women conundrum did not remember the event, and made no ounce of reference to it. Of course, their respective blossoms of ideas reached me before Thursday, 23rd of June, but it is still bewildering that they did not anticipate the event in their submissions. Even yours sincerely the seemingly ingenious columnist did not remember the great day. Why? The answer is simple. A widow is a woman. And no widow in our part of the world is in full fig in our imagination. June 23rd never rang a bell in Nigeria. It was invisible here despite the visible problems they face month by month, week by week, day by day, second by second, minute by minute, and hour by hour. Our governments – central and states – did not galvanize us to mark the day. Our civil societies’ organizations completely ignored or did not remember the day. Our media also unremembered the day. Even Nigerian women themselves in vantage positions by-passed the day without qualms. And surprise, surprise, surprise. Professor Mrs. Razinatu Mohammed, the only female debater mysteriously forgot to give form to the “International Day for Widows” in her lavish debate. How could this sumptuous writer, critic and feminist to the core forget to defend widowhood in her delivery which she did with grace and sweetness in this column? Widowhood has its challenges in our society. It degrades the woman immeasurably. And the younger the woman, the younger widow, the more immeasurable is her degradation and predicament and trauma. Even if she is rich and a woman or widow of substance, nothing is guaranteed in her favour. Her status, whatever it is, has no bearing to her advantage.

READ ALSO: Professors Igho Natufe, Razanatu Mohammed And Ibrahim Bello-Kano On Women

Our men in politics in their Ogbonistic characteristics, sensibilities, temperament and countenances victimize the widow exceedingly without inhibitions. Their ogbonism (as Tony Eluemunor would say) overshadows their concern, regard and sympathy for widows whom they show no kindness as they should. Widowhood is victimhood with a greatly tragic theme in Nigeria. I don’t want to navigate the depressively depressive nuances of widowhood – because widowhood and its tragic theme of victimhood was never really carved or scripted into any shape in my initial delivery and the debate it inspired. But it should have crossed the minds of the debaters starting from the irrepressible columnist Mr. Tony Eluemunor and Professor Agharese Osifo, the eater of books, on to Professors Igho Natufe, Razanatu Mohammed and Ibrahim Bello-Kano. In fact, let me take Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano to the dock. His rich remarks were rich perplexities which he expressed in terms of ANTINOMIES, contradictions that cancel contradictions and re-introduce contradictions – as his reflections clearly did or seemed to do – as I perceived. And some examples he tendered in his endeavor to lay blame on women in politics sounded as those of the far-gone pessimist and the ultra-conservative male chauvinist who would want us to see or admire him as a “Feminist-Not-Feminist-Enough.” He called the late British female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher “milk-snatcher,” for example, to undermine her political sagacity, combat of light philosophy and intellect. For Ibrahim Bello-Kano, a Professor of Critical Light, a term I am coining for him, Margaret Thatcher was possessed of the treacherous spirits of darkness.

He may be right (without my conceding that he really was/is). But was/is he right to employ her to make a blanket statement regarding infamous political leadership and fallible rule of women? Certainly not, I submit. Angela Markel, a Ph.D. in Chemistry, like Margaret Thatcher, until recently was Chancellor of Germany for several years. Until the end of her healthy tenure Germans felt and enjoyed the fortune of happiness. Most of their debatings were preciously in her favour.

READ ALSO: Where Are Our Women?

I can go on and on to deconstruct Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano. But he is my reader whose response(s) to my essay and column I should applaud whether or not I am in perfect agreement with him. I am glad that he and others read me. But he cannot be criminalizing and decriminalizing women at the same time; he cannot be invalidating and validating at the same time; he cannot be validating and invalidating at the same time, and his intellectual gymnastics and acrobatics in argumentation do not really do credit to his intended point, effect and result. The confusion and contradictions contained in his sumptuous submission put our women-folk in jeopardy. Nigerian women should unite, as Professor Igho Natufe, a foremost Political Scientist of uncommon objectivity and transparent radical engagements, enjoins them to do if they must eject themselves from the clutches of their male oppressors. In the great Warri Kingdom of the Itsekiri centuries ago two enchanting sisters and princesses – Uwala and Iye – did precisely this – what Professors Natufe and Razanatu Mohammed, rainbow writer from the savannah, have enjoined them to preach without a mask that grieves or grins. The men must loose, untie their tyrannical hold on the women. And they must compel themselves to change their attitude to widows in the spirit of nobility that should give us a new society – as Professor Igho Natufe informed me via a post of an ample helping. Professor Rajan Barret of Mahatma Ghandi’s land concurs. Nigerian women are not the property of Nigerian men. I concur and re-concur. Women, unite! Break the yoke of oppression! You must! You have the power! You have the bosom of positive courage! Unite!

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

 

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