By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
If you had any doubts about the authenticity of this letter, let me assure you that I am still involved, very involved in all that you do, and experience in our beleaguered country, especially with the stupid wanton killings in the southeast, by unknown gunmen, the ubiquitous Fulani herdsmen, Eastern Security Network and the Buhari-government-outlawed-IPOB. And we are deeply upset hereabouts. Not even in the period preceding the 1967 conflagration did the nation witness so much brutality, hopelessness, uncertainty, and poverty. It is unbecoming of a nation so blessed with natural and human resources!
How are you all? We know things are not rosy. The entire world is currently in a turmoil. Poverty and hunger are real. Indeed, Nigerians are coping better with the economic hardship than Europeans who have lived a life of luxury. Else, how do you account for a worker on a 30k monthly salary still paying school fees for three kids and feeding once a day and still smiling to church or the Mosque? It is not a happy thing. No, not a happy situation.
I’m involved not simply with my beautiful, delectable-First Lady-slapping Bianca whom I parted with when I joined the ancestors! I’m involved in the Nigeria project; an arcane project which was cobbled together by the colonial old-fashioned rapacious British, battered by politicians, and militarized by adventurists in the Nigeria Army and thrown into confusion by the extremists occupying Aso Rock and some State government Houses, north and south currently. I’m still at a loss why and how the people of Imo State allow Hope Uzodinma to happen. We know the role of the Supreme Court in the whole matter, and we are waiting for those renegades to join us and face interrogation from their ancestors! Injustice fuels rebellion. Guerilla rebellion creates permanent instability, thereby making progress difficult or impossible. In a sense, Nigeria is the very definition of injustice. I will dwell on this at some length in future.
It is true that I led the movement to dismember Nigeria into different sovereign nations. Looking back now, I do not regret the breakaway effort. It is also true that if that quest for Biafra had succeeded the nation would have been better for it. Nigeria can only fully develop its potential in a truly federal state; not the unitary system that was foisted by the military and now sustained by civilians. Isn’t that why different movements for ethnic and regional autonomy have sprung up? This is not the purpose of my letter which I am writing on behalf of the Assembly of Past Stakeholders in the Celestial realm! Sorry for going into my personal thoughts.
I’m involved at a higher, indeed the highest level, that of an ancestral statesman, sitting in conference with such veterans as Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Anthony Enahoro, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, JS Tarka, KO Mbadiwe, Abubakar Rimi, Aminu Kano, Efe Jereton-Mariere, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh (Omimi Ejoh), Sir Aderemi Adesoji, Chief Akintola, Umaru Dikko, Shehu Shagari, and the many others. We asked the soldiers to stand aside because we haven’t forgiven them for plunging the nation into years of administrative misadventure. Murtala Mohammed has been in the forefront of apologia, stating that their intervention was in the national interest. Who determines the national interest?
The last letter from Chief Awolowo to your earthling conveyed our worries. I was advised to write this time because of the uncertain situation in the southeastern part of the country. It is the belief of Conference that the armed boys in the southeast are killing that region. What sense does it make to order all peoples in Igbo land to sit at home every Monday, the first day f business? Who does it help? Who does it hurt? Where did such foolishness, unknown among the Igbo spring from? I am at a loss.
So, this is an appeal from me, erstwhile main fighter for Igbo liberation to my people. I know that you are yet to reap the state benefit of reintegration after the civil war. But my advice is that you should reconsider your strategy. Conference of Elders here has decided not to endorse any candidate. Out of respect for plurality and the need to remain united up here, we have decided that every Nigerian should vote according to their conscience. The presidential contest is a four-way track. They all have their strengths. I have my candidate and have since sent my personal endorsement to the leaders in Awka, Enugu, Owerri, Aba, and Abakaliki. Some of them were arguing with me about mainstream politics, but I ignored them. They argued that Ifeanyi is also our son. No problem with that. He has my support too. Let the kite perch. Let the eagle perch. One of them will eat the lion share and the reward will come to Ndigbo. This is my personal response to them though as a conference we have not endorsed any candidate.
Am I talking from both sides of the mouth? You should be discerning enough to know that the wind could blow in any direction. We are not clairvoyant yet, though we have joined the occupants of the multiple-storey building. So, we are not too certain. By the way, what has become of Nigeria Air? There was so much noise about flying the Nigerian Flag through the skies. Too bad. A national carrier will give the nation great mileage apart from ferrying millions of Nigerians across the world daily!
It is foolishness to continue to impot fuel. It is another level of foolishness to hinge the stoppage of fuel importation on one man, I mean, Dangote. This is the time to diversify things. What has happened to the country with cement monopoly should not be replicated in the oil sector. The danger is that if anything goes wrong, we will return to Square One. Let a thousand flowers bloom in the fuel refining business. It is our considered view that a southern businessman or a group of southern businessmen should float a refinery too. Such a project should be in the Niger Delta. Equity demands this.
Finally, we wish you well as you move nearer the month of February when elections will be held. We are not likely to write another letter till after the elections. Just remember that there is life after elections.
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Toyin Falola And The October Harvest
By Ezekiel Oladele Adeoti
In the annals of academic and societal change, few luminaries shine as brightly as Professor Toyin Falola. As autumn leaves drifted in October, the literary world was astir from the changing seasons and the relentless enthusiasm of a septuagenarian scholar making waves across lecture halls and public platforms. In many cultures and traditions, October is a month of harvest – a time to reap the fruits of labour sown in prior months. Fittingly, for Professor Falola, this October truly lived up to that essence, bearing witness to an intellectual harvest that few could parallel.
Prof. Toyin Falola at the second Distinguished Lecture Series of the Department of History & International Studies, Lagos State University, Ojo-Lagos, Nigeria on August 10, 2022. Photo by “Gbile Oshadipe (2022) ©
In many ways, the achievements of this month were a microcosm of Falola’s broader career: a testament to the confluence of hard work, passion, and a deep-seated commitment to societal advancement.
Within 31 days, Falola graced the podium for 3 public lectures, imparted wisdom in 2 university lectures, and was the beacon of 3 convocation lectures. Each of these engagements wasn’t just about sharing knowledge; they were conduits for sparking change, challenging established norms, and inspiring the next generation. However, to truly grasp the magnitude of Falola’s October endeavours, one must delve deeper into the essence of the man himself. At an age when many of his peers are retreating into the tranquillity of retirement, Falola’s spirit remains undiminished, if not encouraged. It’s not just the number of lectures or the honorary doctorates he received – which, in and of itself, is a remarkable feat – but the zeal with which he approaches each endeavour. His lectures, for instance, are not mere recitations of historical facts or academic theories. They are vibrant tapestries woven with threads of history, contemporary societal issues, and a vision for a brighter future. They challenge, they provoke, and most importantly, they inspire. But what drives a man of over 70 years to such relentless pursuit? To find the answer, one need not look further than his past works and the themes that permeate them. For Falola, academia isn’t a secluded ivory tower but a platform to engage with the real world. His research, extensive and varied as it is, always circles back to the core of societal problems. From the intricacies of Yoruba history to the broader strokes of African colonial and post-colonial narratives, Falola’s work sheds light on the issues that matter. These are issues that, in many ways, continue to shape societies today.
In this context, October wasn’t just another month in the calendar but a manifestation of Falola’s lifelong commitment to societal change. A promise that has seen him transcend the traditional confines of academia to engage with the broader public. His public lectures resonate with many audiences, often interspersed with anecdotes, real-life examples, and a touch of humour. From the eager university student to the curious layman, Falola’s words strike a chord, reminding everyone of the transformative power of knowledge and its role in sculpting a better future. In delving deeper into the man behind the October Harvest, one quickly realizes that Professor Falola’s achievements are not a product of overnight success but the culmination of decades of unwavering dedication. It’s a journey that’s seen him navigate the tumultuous waters of academia, societal challenges, and personal hurdles, emerging each time with a renewed sense of purpose. More than anything, this tenacity has been the cornerstone of his October endeavours and his broader career. One might wonder, what is the essence of these lectures and engagements? Why do they matter? The answer lies in the content and context of each meeting. Take, for instance, one of his public lectures from October. While the topic might have revolved around historical narratives, Falola deftly intertwined it with contemporary issues, drawing parallels and highlighting lessons. His ability to bridge the past with the present, to draw lessons from history and apply them to current challenges, is what sets him apart. In doing so, he educates and empowers his audience to view issues through a multifaceted lens, promoting critical thinking and proactive engagement.
Moreover, the venues of these lectures—from universities to public platforms—underscore his commitment to inclusive education. Universities, the traditional bastions of knowledge, are just one part of the equation for Falola. By stepping out and engaging with the broader public, he’s democratizing knowledge, making it accessible to all, irrespective of their academic or socio-economic backgrounds. It’s a move that challenges the status quo, emphasizing that learning shouldn’t be confined to ivory towers but should permeate every stratum of society. However, it’s not just the lectures that stood out in October. The two honorary doctorates he received are symbolic of his contributions to academia and society at large. Such accolades, while celebratory, are also reflective. They compel us to examine the body of work that merits such recognition. For Falola, it’s a vast tapestry of research, publications, mentorship, and public engagement. Each strand, be it a book, an article, or a lecture, is imbued with a purpose: to enlighten, challenge, and change. Yet, amidst all the accolades and achievements, what’s truly remarkable is Falola’s humility. Interact with him, and you’re not met with the airs of a celebrated academician but the warmth of a mentor, the curiosity of a lifelong learner, and the passion of a societal changemaker. This unique blend of excellence and humility makes his October Harvest not just an academic feat but a life lesson for many. It serves as a poignant reminder that success isn’t just about personal milestones but about the impact one leaves on society and the legacy one creates for future generations.
Reflecting on the October Harvest and the man at its epicentre, we must contextualize Professor Falola’s achievements within a broader societal framework. At a time when the world grapples with myriad challenges – from socio-political upheavals to environmental crises – the role of intellectuals and academicians becomes ever more crucial. And Falola, with his October engagements and lifelong commitment, epitomizes the potential of scholarly intervention in driving societal change. But why is this important? In an era dominated by bite-sized information and fleeting trends, the depth and breadth of academic research provide a counterbalance. Falola’s lectures, rich in historical context and analytical depth, offer a respite from the cacophony of superficial narratives. They remind us of the importance of understanding the past to navigate the present and shape the future. Every lecture and engagement is a clarion call for introspection, urging society to delve deeper, question more, and strive for a holistic understanding. This is not to say that academia is the sole bastion of truth or the only path to societal change. But scholars like Falola, who bridge the gap between the academic and public spheres, play a pivotal role in grounding discussions in research, evidence, and historical context. They serve as beacons, illuminating the path forward with the torch of knowledge.
Furthermore, Falola’s October engagements underscore the timeless essence of commitment and passion. His journey is a testament to perseverance, dedication, and lifelong learning in a world that often prioritizes instant gratification. It’s a narrative that resonates beyond the confines of academia, inspiring professionals, creatives, and changemakers across various fields. The underlying message? Age is but a number; passion and commitment are timeless. As we draw the curtains on the October Harvest, carrying forward the lessons it offers is essential. It’s a month that celebrates Professor Falola’s achievements, the ethos of scholarly engagement, and its potential impact on society. It’s a call to action for scholars, students, and the general public to engage, question, learn, and drive change.
In conclusion, Professor Toyin Falola’s October Harvest is more than a chronicle of a month’s achievements. It’s a celebration of a lifetime of dedication, a tribute to the transformative power of knowledge, and a reminder of the potential each one of us holds. As the leaves of October give way to the chill of November, the echoes of Falola’s lectures, the wisdom of his words, and the passion of his commitment continue to inspire, urging us all to sow the seeds of change, knowledge, and progress. For in every seed lies the promise of a harvest, and in every effort, the potential for impact.
Prof. Adeoti wrote from the Department of History & International Studies at the Faculty of Arts, Lagos State University, Ojo-Lagos, Nigeria.
Keep Witchcraft Accusations Out Of Politics In Sychelles
By Leo Igwe
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches urges the government of Sychelles to keep charges linked to witchcraft beliefs out of politics in the country because they make no legal and political sense. This call became necessary following a report that the country’s main opposition leader, Peter Herminie has been charged with witchcraft. Charged with witchcraft in this 21st century? He was accused along with seven other persons including a Tanzanian. According to the report, Herminie and other persons have been charged with “possessing items intended for use in witchcraft, conspiracy to perform witchcraft and procuring services related to witchcraft”. It was stated that the name of this key politician was allegedly mentioned in a whatsapp message between a local and the person from Tanzania, who was arrested at the main international airport on September 21, 2023. The report says that “Items related to witchcraft, including stones, black wooden artefacts, small bottles of brownish liquid, a collection of powders, and documents with strange language and “demonic and satanic” symbols” were found in the possession of this Tanzanian.
State prosecutors are of the notion that the documents might be some vandalised materials from the local churches. Mr. Herminie has denied the charges, and dismissed the allegation that items linked to witchcraft including bones, body parts, and objects associated with Christianity” were found in his office or in his possession.
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches is asking the government of Sychelles to drop these charges, because they are absurd and constitute a show of shame and embarrassment. The prosecution of Herminie and other co-accused is witch hunting in both literal and political sense. And witch hunting should has no place in 21st century politics in Sychelles.
Otherwise, how does the government define witchcraft or witchcraft items? How does the government distinguish witchcraft items, whatever that means, from traditional religious objects? How did the prosecutors know that the said items were intended for use in witchcraft? Are stones, black wooden artefacts, and small bottles of brownish liquid witchcraft materials? I mean how will state prosecutors establish that some symbols are demonic and satanic?
Has the government the facility or expertise to prove beyond reasonable doubt what is witchcraft and what is not witchcraft, what is demonic or satanic and what is not? How will the government prosecute this case without flagrantly violating the right of its citizens to freedom of religion or belief? At a time of growing cases of witch persecution in many parts of Africa, the government of Sychelles should discontinue this unfortunate and unwarranted instance of witch hunting.
Dr.Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches.
Nigerian Elections: A Democracy In The Hands Of A Judiciary
By Toyin Falola
To run for an election in Nigeria, as you raise the money you need, now in billions of naira, remember one thing: divide the money into two—one for the elections and the other for legal matters. If you win, the loser will take you to court. If you lose, take the winner to court. If the winner had the money for the election and no money for the legal matters, his fortune would be reversed. Three sets of people now decide for us: the voters, the lawyers, and the judges. Democracy is no longer solely about the legitimacy of votes but also the legality of how those votes are obtained and counted. Legality is now above legitimacy. Please allow me to explain.
The history of elections in Nigeria has always been of interest, but that of its aftermaths creates crescendos of the former, far more important sometimes and far more disappointing most times. In several instances, a party’s candidate would be elected with some level of presumed or deductible public support, and when the lens or the “VAR” of the judiciary looks at it, the people’s results get dashed. Sometimes, the supposed winner could be one that does not have the people’s approval, and after much process of vetting, the judiciary installs who they want or think to have fulfilled the law the most. Some other times, there is not much difference.
The roles of the judiciary in pre- and post-election matters will never stop to beg the question of what should be held supreme: legality or legitimacy. Of course, both the two concepts semantically cross each other’s borders, but to what extent should the extremes of each be tolerated? What should decide legitimacy? Is it the quantum of legal compliance and due processes or the invested aggregated public interests? And should election results be held within the bustles of Electoral Acts, Constitutional Provisions, Court Rules, Practice Directions, and other legal reality checks? This dilemma has been a perennial occurrence and has severally and severely brought the people to some antagonistic vantage points, pitted against the Milord’s Temples of Justice.
For instance, it is close to a month since the results of the petition at the Court of Appeal against the supposed victory of the APC at the 2023 Nigerian elections, and the people of Nigeria are nowhere near satisfied. It is incredible how a country with a unique history of repeated final determination of election results at the courts, as opposed to the polls, still keeps getting it wrong. The situation is evidence that the people take the judiciary as a betting house and take the chaos of doubts to its temple, as this has run throughout the history of Nigerian democracy.
Take also, for instance, the notorious case of the 2019 Imo State Gubernatorial elections, where the Supreme Court annulled the victory of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Candidate, Emeka Ihedioha, and installed the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Hope Uzodinma as governor; a candidate who did not just lose to Ihedioha in the initial race but finished a distant fourth position and the reaction of the people to the situation. What about the Adeleke election saga in Osun State in recent history? This, however, seems to be an accepted decision by the people because of the supposed popularity of the candidate and the finesse of his dancing steps.
Another very controversial case was the court’s decision in the Bayelsa State elections, where the Supreme Court also annulled the victory of the winner of the elections because it was discovered that his running mate had presented some fake documents. He was, therefore, disqualified, and his opponent was installed as governor.
This history of judicial intervention in elections is no short one. Since the petition originating from the election between Shehu Shagari and Obafemi Awolowo in 1979, Nigerians have had to severally vest their hopes in the judiciary and watch as they act as umpires in matters that are originally designed to be settled by public vote.
There is a cross-road between legality that informs the court’s decision to the extent that irregularity would amount to fundamental decisions that would affect the fate of the people and aid an illegitimate and unpopular government. The people would then be left to struggle with a largely unwanted government or such that could not be ascertained to have won the popular confidence of the generality of the electorate. The court is the home of determining matters based on some objective parameters, explaining why laws are set to guide every matter brought before the court.
From history, it is quite clear that many decisions made on election and election-related matters are either won or dismissed based on irregularities, technicalities, and procedural errors that would deny justice on substantive matters. Of what benefit would a suit that was dismissed based on its lack of conformity with an established form or because it was instituted by a writ of summons rather than being brought by way of a petition? When a matter is determined based on this and other preliminary fulfillments or procedures, the substance, which goes to the root of the legitimacy and desires of the people, is buried or forgotten.
The Constitution and the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules have established that fundamental rights issues should not be discountenanced based on mere irregularities and that as sui generis issues, the standard of expectation should be brought lower compared to other matters before any court. Fundamental rights issues in Nigeria can be brought before the State High Court, Federal High Court, or National Industrial Court. It could also be brought by any means, making it quite easy for a person whose right has been trampled upon to seek justice.
But is a fraudulent election and mandates conferred on people unjustly not worth the similar care given to human rights issues? Where legality and procedures are reconsidered on cases from Chapter IV of the constitution, how many more issues are traced back to legitimacy, the people’s future, and the nation’s progressive projections? Isn’t an election fraud injustice to the generality of people and a collective breach of the collective rights of the people?
The consequence of elections to the sociopolitical consciousness of a people must not be taken lightly. Not just because elections are the system through which the next leader of a democratic nation is decided but because that system is in and of itself the embodiment or the defining expression of the democratic soul of the society. The iconic 16th president of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, famously defined Democracy as the “rule of the people, by the people and for the people”; a concise yet comprehensive capturing of the essence of the ideology.
No society can claim to be democratic in principle without having its people come together to decide who its leaders are. Because those elected are not just “leaders,” but in a more honest sense, are representatives of the people. And since they are representatives of the people, it would be an undeniable logical inconsistency, as well as a great political absurdity, if the people’s will were to be ignored in the selection of their next leader, no matter how legal, constitutional or judicially viable, that process of selection is. It is this understanding that should primarily guide the decision-making of the judiciary that elections are an expression of the will of the people, and so in their decisions, their foremost objective must be the protection and enforcement of that will.
When you see that the entire nation is not only interested but has a stake in the matter, one would expect that the judiciary takes a decision that is the most accurate reflection of the will of the people. Instead, we saw the judiciary dismissing what seemed to be worthy petitions because one preliminary matter was not filed or one issue arising from the whole pool of matters was supposed to be decided by another court. This system and mentality is an outright mockery of the people’s desires. They ignore important, weighty arguments on the grounds of minor, less significant matters of procedure, sacrificing Justice on the altar of technicalities.
My question to the Justices who sacrificed justice for technicality is this: was the law made for man, or man made for the law? The obvious answer to this question is a foundational concept of law, which ought to guide their reasoning. Law is very important to ensuring order and progress in society. But when that law is exalted at the expense of the best interests of the men it was created to serve, then that law is pointless and nothing more than a stumbling block to the progress of society. Law is good because it ensures legality. But man is ultimate because it is man that gives legitimacy. Legitimacy to other men, legitimacy to a government, and legitimacy to even the law itself. So, to all those who view the judiciary’s actions through the mediocre lens of legality, here is a better question: it may be legal, but is it legitimate? Do not get me wrong; I do not mean that the law should be thrown into the winds and disregarded at every instance; of course, “he who comes to equity must come with clean hands,” and “he who wants equity must do equity.” However, there should be a relaxed line so as not to run into the dangers of positivism.
The court must be able to see that what is more important at every point before making its decisions is the importance of legitimacy and popularity. The political and social consequences decisions of the court can cause. This is because every institution is established in the back of the people, and since people are the law themselves, the law should never be clogged to their wheel. The law should be for the men and not men for the law.
When questions like this are taken more seriously, we will begin to see changes in this country. Our democratic institutions need to be recalibrated and strengthened. Judicial recourse is useful, but when it becomes repeated, it insults and nullifies the point of the precious will of the people. Going forward, we must ensure that we fight to protect that will. All involved from the government to INEC, to the courts, must do better. To close, the preamble of the Nigerian constitution opens with “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…Do hereby make, enact, and give to ourselves the following constitution”. If it is we, the people, who give ourselves the law, then it must be we, the people, who give ourselves our government. We must defend that right, always.
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