Reading a newspaper story online just now became such a beautiful experience going by the topic and the panoramic pictorial highlights that demonstrate the resilience of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme. The photo story was that of a man who served in 2004 who was shown giving to his daughter clean shirts of his NYSC heralding a transition programme from his epoch to her because of the fact that she is set to be posted to serve in the coming batch of the NYSC. These photos instigated this piece which argues that the NYSC remains a tool not just for social mobilization and community development but also a veritable asset that enhances the unity of Nigeria.
The authors of a new book on the NYSC scheme vis-a-vis community development also elucidated the aforemtioned points.
Hear them: “The overarching goal of every community development project of the NYSC is to contribute to the welfare of the society, to leave a mark of honour and a legacy worthy of emulation behind. Thus, its impact is felt by the community, the corps members and all other individuals who come across such projects.
“The objectives of the CDS as stipulated by the NYSC are both community development and human capacity building oriented in nature. These objectives are: impacting positively on the improvement of rural community life; developing the spirit of self-reliance in the corps members; inculcating in the Nigerian youth the ideals and capacities for leadership, endurance, selflessness, community service, national service, patriotism and creativity by utilizing the challenges posed by rural development; exposing corps members to diverse traditions and customs of their host communities; providing the forum for corps members to experiment with ideas and translate them into concrete achievements thereby relying less on foreign technology and encouraging the use of local raw materials in the execution of projects; harnessing the enormous energy, talents and skills of corps members into an effective machinery of change in our rural communities; providing on-the job-training, skill sets and experience for corps members; providing complementary service in our national development activities, by ensuring that our underprivileged population learn basic techniques for self-help through the appropriate technology concept being promoted by NYSC; to instil in corps members the tradition of dignity of labour and productivity; to complement the activities of government at all levels in the stride towards national development”. (The National Youth Service Corps And Service Corps And Community Development Service In Nigeria By Shuaibu Ibrahim, Ojong Echum Tangban, Bem Japhet Audu and Maryam Hamza).
In his remarks during the inauguration of the Directorate of the Scheme in 1973, the founding father of NYSC and former Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Gen (Dr.) Yakubu Gowon, informed the nation that… “The idea of a Service Corps for youths is quite unexceptionable… certainly no right thinking and patriotic persons, will query the need for Nigeria to inculcate, as a matter of deliberate public policy the qualities of leadership to her most educated and enlightened youths from among whose ranks leaders in all walks of life are recruited”.
Accordingly, youthful energy and talent are better harnessed and unreservedly directed to those things which make for the realisation and retention of the ideals which enable a nation to rise above its history and attain heights that would have normally been deemed unattainable.
The rationale for the establishment of the NYSC points towards addressing some of the fundamental issues of the civil war by actively promoting the ethos of unity and cultural integration that is relevant to the national identity question. The national question of Nigeria can be viewed from three critical perspectives: the ethno-relativist perspective, class perspective and the identity perspective.
Although the ethno-relativist and class perspectives have dominated mainstream national development discourse, national identity has emerged as the most dominant discourse in contemporary Nigeria. In the formation and negotiation of multiple identities, youths are constantly engaged in struggles for survival, inclusion, participation and empowerment for national development.
As positive agents of ‘change’, analysts argue that youths have been instrumental in shaping the dynamics of national unity and integration between different ethnic-nationalities, and in reversing ‘otherness’ and hierarchical dominance over ethnic minority regions and groups.
In this context therefore, the extent to which youths become an ‘agency of bridging the inter-ethnic and religious divides in Nigeria’ is dependent on how effectively the NYSC can transform and channel youth resources and identity capital.
This explains why the first pre-condition for participation in the national development process through the NYSC is to imbibe the culture of ‘discipline’.
The Nigerian government made the scheme militarised and regimented so that the scheme can have control, because if youths, immediately after they finish university get thrown into the society without discipline, they are going to have more problems.
So, the one year of compulsory service is a way of stabilising them (the youths) so that after they have seen life in the university, the NYSC can enforce some little discipline in youths using the military and then have a lot of control on what youths do.
The NYSC scheme was designed to actually address the youth restiveness in Nigeria occasioned by inter-ethnic and religious divides. The NYSC came in to see how it can address youth restiveness by actually bringing in discipline into the system.
This mechanism of disciplining youth behaviours, which the NYSC scheme and its associated youth capability development activities provide, allows for ‘control at a distance’ that justifies the need to build and enforce disciplinary structures.
This ethno-religious narrative suggests that the NYSC is fulfilling some of its aims as stipulated in the establishing decree and act. The participation of Nigerian graduate youths in the NYSC programme is known to have established enduring friendship, interethnic marriages, political alliances and business partnerships transcending ethnic and cultural boundaries.
However, the contemporary reality of religious extremism and intolerance in Nigeria, has called into question the success of the NYSC in pre-empting this conundrum particularly as some of the actors in this crisis have previously participated in the NYSC programme.
For instance, the Bill before the House of Representatives seeking the discontinuation of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has received knocks and cheers from a host of Nigerians. The Bill, sponsored by Awaji-Inombek Abiante, representing Andoni-Opobo/Nkoro Federal Constituency of Rivers State, which seeks to repeal Section 315(5)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) has already passed the second reading.
In the explanatory memorandum of the proposal, Abiante said: “Incessant killing of innocent corps members in some parts of the country due to banditry, religious extremism and ethnic violence; incessant kidnapping of innocent corps members across the country…
“Due to insecurity across the country, the NYSC management now gives considerations to posting corps members to their geopolitical zone, thus defeating one of the objectives of setting up the service corps, i.e. developing common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration.”
However, some respondents have expressed support for the bill, saying NYSC has outlived its usefulness and should either be restructured to meet current realities or scrapped outright.
For all of Nigeria’s existence, ethnic and religious differences have been too frequently weaponised by those seeking to obtain or retain political power. Given this history, expecting a programme to bring national unity is a tall order, one that NYSC has struggled to fill.
Some would argue that Nigeria is no more united now than it was in 1973 when NYSC was created. Even if this were true, it is an invalid comparison. What we should be asking is: would Nigeria today be less united if NYSC did not exist? That question may be difficult to answer, but looking abroad could lend us some perspective.
As some uninformed Nigerians tend to lose faith in its national service programme, many countries are bringing theirs back. In June 2018, France reintroduced a mandatory service requirement for all 16 year-olds in the hope that it will foster nationalism and counter the youth restiveness caused by high unemployment rates (Quartz , July 8, 2018)
One could argue that the NYSC budget would be better spent on improving civic education in schools but deficiencies in Nigeria’s education system would limit the effectiveness of an improved civic education curriculum.
Furthermore, France’s decision to invest in a national service programme, even with the civic education option available, is telling.
Again, if national unity is the goal, then making it voluntary would defeat its purpose. People with better-paying opportunities elsewhere would opt out. And because the rich tend to have better access to political power, this could lead to a situation where the political elite charged with fostering nationalism miss out on a significant nation-building opportunity.
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Nonetheless, it would be disingenuous to pretend that NYSC is perfect. One of the scheme’s major shortcomings before now is its misuse of human capital and for a lot of people, it is a waste of time.
According to this school of thought, too many corps members get assigned to government offices or community development service (CDS) groups that do not utilise their skills in any meaningful way.
Yet others believe that the best way to tackle this is to transform NYSC into a job creation programme like N-Power. For them, rather than send engineering graduates to teach English in primary schools, corps members can use the time to learn skills for entrepreneurship or boost their CVs with relevant work experience. NYSC already does this to some extent through the vocational training of the Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) that commenced in 2012. Setting up the NYSC Youth Trust Fund will greatly institutionalise the empowerment of Nigerian youth and create job opportunities.The news that government plans to place 20,000 youths for a one year fellowship programme as workers is good but setting up the NYSC Trust Fund is the masterstroke.
Someone had argued that such a shift in NYSC’s focus would be a mistake for several reasons. First, job creation programmes have a patchy record with tackling unemployment when labour demand is low. Secondly, the skills taught through SAED do not add much value to a university degree, which seems inappropriate given the programme’s demographic. But most importantly, pivoting to job creation detracts from the purpose of NYSC, “serving your country”. Although it would be nice if individual corps members do get some useful job experience in the process, this should not be the primary objective. These sentiments are inaccurate because empowerment of the youths through skills is something that would last for a lifetime.
Also, can we also ask how we can reform NYSC? Despite its flaws, NYSC is critical in the health and education sectors. The NYSC Health Initiative for Rural Dwellers has benefited thousands of Nigerians, many of whom would not have gotten access to proper health care without this programme. Likewise, corps members have helped plug teaching gaps in rural schools.
No wonder the prominent civil rights advocacy group; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has expressed great concern about the bill seeking discontinuation of the scheme.
HURIWA cautioned that the move might worsen the level of insecurity in the country, adding: “If you scrap NYSC, what are you going to do with these young graduates who have come out from the university with nothing to do?
“Don’t you think that it will heighten the insecurity situation in the country? Don’t you think that it will make our youths to be very despondent and then begin to fight the government?
“Another objective of the NYSC, which is very critical, is to make the corps members self-reliant. Right now, we don’t have big employment available in Nigeria to go round and government is the highest employer of labour in the country as of today. The majority of industries have all closed down and the ones still operating are working at less than 50 per cent capacity.”
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The rights group further stressed that the scheme is the most needed programme now, in view of the present situation where Nigeria is almost divided along ethnic and religious lines.
“Although we know our country today is facing security issues, we don’t think scrapping the scheme would be the solution. Government should rather find drastic measures to end insecurity in the country. Let government tackle insecurity. Insecurity is everywhere and corps members are just victims of national insecurity; they are Nigerians.
“More than ever before, this is when we need the NYSC. If we are talking about national unity and now you have a situation where people are now suspicious of one another; we need the NYSC more now than ever”.
On the issue that corps members are now being posted to their geopolitical zones, HURIWA opined that there is nowhere in the NYSC Act that people should not be posted within their geo-political zones.
“Specifically, Section 1, Subsection 4 D of the NYSC Act, states that corps members should be posted to states other than their own and in giving them assignments, they should make sure that people from different sections of Nigeria are within that place”.
Indeed, the National Youth Service Corps has no doubt proved to be so pertinent to the corporate existence of the nation. The general consensus among Nigerians has been a suggestion for several reforms that should be carried out to reposition the scheme in line with contemporary realities so that its impact will be more. It is also to be noted that any investment and whatever the energy exerted to reposition the NYSC must be seen as judicious and patriotic.
The prospect of NYSC is quite reassuring as beyond national unity, several enduring people-oriented community development service projects executed by corps members dot the landscape, nooks and crannies of the country and more are unfolding through the creative initiative and ingenuity of youth corps members as part of their patriotic contributions to national development. Therefore, eliminating NYSC wouldn’t make the government more responsive in the short term, and many communities would be made far worse off than before.
Finally, for NYSC to succeed, corps member safety has to be taken seriously. This is especially true because the national service scheme by design separates corps members from the safety nets that Nigerians have to come to rely on; their families and communities. Since corps members are considered ‘government pikin’, we should expect that the safety of corps members be given particular priority. This writer is aware of the efforts made by the Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim-led management of NYSC to partner with the Army, DSS and all relevant security agencies to give the highest consideration to the safety of corps members in their areas of operation in Nigeria.
Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was the National Commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.
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Adedotun Phillips And The Unfinished Business Of Reform In Nigeria
In the annals of public administration scholarship in Nigeria, and most especially with regard to the specifics of the dynamics of institutional reforms in getting the Nigerian state into shape, the name of Professor Adedotun Phillips stands out as a gigantic institutional memory. Adedotun Oluwole Phillips—husband, father, academic, scholar, statesman—was a public servant par excellence. His entire life was defined around service. In the long line of the public service giants around whom the profile of the Nigerian public service is configured—Simeon Adebo, Jerome Udoji, Sule Katagum, Joseph Imokhuede, Ali Akilu, Allison Ayida, and many more, the name of Dotun Phillips is a fundamental star. When mourning the passing of Prof. Phillips, on 13 December, 2020, President Buhari said pointedly: “The history of the Nigerian Civil Service cannot be complete without reference to the contributions of Prof. Phillips.” He is right. Phillips represents the best that a public servant could be and give the nation in terms of the best that her professionalism and credentials can afford. And Prof. Phillips’ contribution is even much more cogent because it is situated within the trajectory of public service reform in Nigeria. In other words, Prof. Phillips’ immense contributions to the public service in Nigeria tie into Nigeria’s effort to make sense of the state and future of her public service as a backstop to her development and progress.
Since the inauguration of the Nigerian public service in 1954, Nigeria had been experimenting with administrative and institutional reforms that were meant to put the civil service in shape for the challenge of nationhood. Starting with the reform of wages, remuneration and compensation that characterized the colonial service, it graduated to the need for the Nigerianisation of the core echelon of the public service especially after independence in 1960. The Phillipson-Adebo Commission of 1953 kickstarted the series of reform commissions that culminated in the emergence of the Nigerian public service system, and the other post-independence reform efforts that were meant to essentially complete the organizational development dynamics of the civil service, convert her structural frameworks into institutional frame, and strengthen its capability readiness for the task of national integration and development.
However, independence brought with it its own unique sets of challenges that the public service system was not quite ready for. The first was the challenge of plurality. The Nigerianisation Policy confronted the thorny issue of how to recruit Nigerians of different ethnocultural orientations into the civil service. Representativeness became the criterion that most suited Nigeria’s ethnic composition. And then gradually, the over-bloatedness that was the consequence of the misuse of this principle led to not only a gradual debilitation of the system but also the overshadowing of its initial efficiency by a crippling bureaucratic culture. When the 1971 Adebo Commission was set up, the civil service was already caught up in the restructuration of the federal constitution under a unitary logic marked by increased centralisation of political authority, ascendancy of federating forces, greater structural differentiation of the constituent states, increases in the Federal Government largesse, and expansion of the policy-making and execution functions of the Federal Civil Service. The implication of this “new federalism” on the civil service was the gradual evolution of a structural pattern that consistently whittled down the capacities the civil service has to promote good governance. For instance, the allocation of functions to the ministries was influenced more by political factors than by the standard criteria for the allocation of such functions i.e. the functional principle, the process principle, the clientele principle, and the area principle.
The corruption of the governance and accountability framework of the public service was simultaneous with the emergence of the managerial revolution which Britain was already contending with, especially with the Fulton Report of 1968. Thus, the 1971 Adebo Second and Final Salaries and Wages Review Commission was caught in the larger managerial concern of transforming the civil service system in ways that transcended its original remit of wage. It however passed the buck of that concern to the Udoji Commission, constituted in 1972. The commission, under the full influence of the UK Fulton Report, argued that the civil service of a development-oriented society must be one that is suffused with change and reform if it must be able to effectively meet the challenges of its context. And the Nigerian public service system, in its bureaucratic conditions, was not that amenable to those changes. The Udoji Commission then recommended a new style public service infused with “new blood” working under a result-oriented management system operated by professionals and specialists in particular fields. The government of the time however made a mess of this commission’s report, and so forfeited a significant opportunity to set the civil service on a path of institutional transformation.
Thereafter, successive Nigerian governments became embroiled in the contestations to make the system compliant with the managerial revolution, new public management (NPM) and its reform imperatives. By the time the Murtala/Obasanjo regime took over in 1975, the civil service was already too systemically dysfunctional to matter any longer in development consideration. Indeed, the purge of the service by Obasanjo in 1975 was long overdue even though it turned out to negatively undermine the little shred of professionalism remaining. The Second Republic was truncated by the Buhari-Idiagbon regime in 1983. And then, enter Professor Dotun Phillips. One of the fundamental legacies of the regime was the constitution of the Dotun Phillips Study Team in 1985, with the objective of undertaking an interrogation of the structure, mode of operation and strategy of the civil service in the light of contemporary administrative situation, as well as finding means by which the eroded professionalism of the system could be restored.
When the Babangida regime took over the reign of government, it inherited the study group and reconstructed its report into the foundation of the 1988 Civil Service Reforms through a Civil Service Re-organisation Decree No. 43 of 1988. The basis of the Decree is the establishment of a virile, dynamic and result-oriented civil service. The Babangida administration was also seriously concerned about the gains and benefits of managerialism and of a professionalised civil service. The added objective was the alignment of the service with the form and spirit of presidentialism.
Professionalism goes to the very heart of what it means to be a public servant; what it means to be public-spirited. It is the sum total of the competences, knowledge, attitude, spirituality and ethical sensibility that a public servant requires to perform her responsibility to the public with all accountability, transparency and commitment. A professional public service, in other words, is circumscribed by three actions-moulding value frameworks: ethical values (i.e. integrity, honesty, respect); democratic values (i.e. responsiveness, representativeness, rule of law); and professional values (i.e. excellence, innovation). To seek the restoration of professionalism is to attempt a restoration of the pride and ideals of the public service. It is to seek the reinvention of the public service as a noble calling, a vocation in the manner of the Levitical order of priesthood. This was the philosophical foundation of the Philips’ reform agenda. The re-professionalization strategy is meant to reposition the civil service through a rebranding of its critical ethos and virtue. Thus, if the civil service system in Nigeria must overcome its dysfunctional bureaucratic culture, the best way is for it to reconnect with its inherent value as a vocation that is spiritual and spirited. And managerialism was just the perfect structural mold within which to achieve this reconnection. The managerial revolution was founded on the urgency of re-articulating what makes a public servant accountable, effective and efficient. Since the old Weberian system has collapsed under the burden of administrative rules and regulations, a managerial reform becomes the next best thing to recreate the public service in the image of an efficient machine.
In its attempt to lay the foundation of a professionalised civil service, the 1988 reform emphasized the need for specialization. Civil service officers were required to undergo regular training and retraining. This led to the creation of a new bureaucratic structure made up of assistants, officers and directors. The assistant does not require any university or professional qualification to function. The officer, on the other hand, requires a university degree or a professional qualification while the director was reserved for professionals who had been given general management functions as heads of a department, branch or division.
But then, the Dotun Phillips reform carried the professionalization mandate beyond the bound of administrative reason and necessity. It was rather too ambitious of the reform to attempt the professionalization of everybody in the civil service. In other words, it was a profound mistake to think that the service could be handled by professionals all alone, to the exclusion of other non-professionals and generalists. Unfortunately for the reform agenda, the professionalizing move turned into a politicizing one that, for instance, turned permanent secretaries into political appointees, contrary to the politics-administration dichotomy on which public service integrity depends. The idea of professionalism suffered a conceptual-reality deficit in the sense that it was seen as a function of how long a public servant spent in any particular ministry.
And yet, the Phillips reform was not in any sense a failure, despite its fundamental assumptions and reform errors. The reform agenda, apart from the Udoji Commission report, was the next fundamental advocacy for managerialism and performance management in Nigeria. Indeed, both reform agenda and their recommendations are still fundamental to achieving a world class public service in Nigeria. Prof. Philips’s recommendation of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system as a significant plank in the performance management system, and a decentralized HR are sine qua non for any functional public service. Management controls through organization, operations and management research (OOMR), critical for propelling policy implementation praxis, is a feature of the Phillips agenda we need to revisit. In revisiting the Phillips reform recommendations, we will be able to retrospect on two fundamental issues in Nigeria’s reform necessity. The first has to do with the imperative of creating and incentivizing professionalized planning, research and statistics departments in the MDAs that should take responsibility not only for sector plans, but also for monitoring and reporting on their implementation. The second issue derives from the first: the departments of planning, research and statistics serve as the institutional template for a structured and recurrent engagement between policy researchers and policy workers; a hub of policy intelligence and action research that the MDAs can strategically deploy.
Prof. Adedotun Oluwole Phillips’ engagement with the Nigerian public service system is not yet done. Even in death, he is still awaiting fulfilment that will derive from the government recognizing the deep reform fundamentals that remain untapped within his reform dynamics. In returning to the Phillips reform, Nigeria would have taken a significant managerial reform step forward. And we would have given Prof. Phillips a posthumous reason to rest in the knowledge that he served Nigeria well.
Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and professor of public administration, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos . firstname.lastname@example.org
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The End Of Your Rule Is Near
Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
The end of your rule is near. Mr. President. Mr. Governor. Mr. Speaker. Mr. Chairman. Mr. Legislator. The end of your rule is here. It has been four, eight, sixteen years since you danced into State or Legislative House after election victory. Or after a dubious victory awarded by a dubious court after dubious monies dubiously exchanged hands. Your humility while you sought votes was legendary. You shook hands, hugged cripples, visited the bereaved, paid school fees, and ate with the sick. You built alliances across zones, across religious groups, economic groups, across social groups. You made promises. You raised hopes. You preached unity. Now that the end is here, let us ask you Mr. Chief Executive, what kind of ruler, what kind of leader, what kind of administrator have you been? Did you dash hopes? Are you leaving the people worse than they were when you came into office? Did you create a few super rich, from your ethnic group, from your religious group, from your family? Are the people beating their drums in joy on the imminence of your departure? Will they start to ignore you from June this year when you become a lame duck? Are you now worried about how freely you can walk after you leave office?
It is one of the beauties of democracy, beginning and end of tenure. You give account to the people, to posterity, and to the Great Judge ultimately. Because there is end of tenure, there are marginalised persons who wait for the end to come. Those you may have locked up in time or physically or psychologically. These hope that once you are gone, freedom will come their way, there will be a restoration. Also, the wrong policies which you have enunciated will be thrown into the dustbin. Those who had barely tolerated your greed or your foolishness or your wicked, selfish ways will now openly despise you. The sycophants who had licked your boots with histrionic relish will now move on to the new power base, forgetting you, cursing you and blaming the woes of their ancestors on you. You will become history, bad history if you have been a bad ruler. It is the story of the world; it is the story of life and the iterative narrative of humanity. Yet, we, the rulers and the ruled, never learn. The tragedy of man, according to Nietzsche, is that he forgets.
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Memory is the strength of the wise. Memory is the strength of successful societies. Institutional memory. Memory is the strength of successful nations. That ability never to forget the circumstances of their existence, their history, and their identity. In great societies, there is no collective amnesia. Some individuals may forget. But the institution that is the State never forgets. Some facts may slip into amnesia. But they will crawl back in the day of reckoning. Knowledge of the past is instructive and fundamental to building the future. So, our philosophers teach us. I remember Ernest Hemingway when he says ‘a man is a sum of his memories’!
O mighty ruler, the bearded one with oil stains on his white robe, all the roads and projects which you concentrated in your own part of the land, all the appointments which you made to favour a section of the electorate, and/or your cronies will now haunt you. The viciousness with which you dealt with supposed enemies will haunt you. If you ignored the interest of the people to pursue your narrow selfish interests, it will be time to splash your acts of impunity on the pages of newspapers and social media. Did you think you were God when you kept people waiting for you, while you made older people kneel to you to make their requests? The people will soon say to you: ‘command no more, your rule is over’, as Creon tells the mighty Oedipus in Antigone in Sophocles’ classical play!
A fool can and could win elections in Nigeria. But a fool cannot govern like a wise man, because a fool can only do foolish things that could hurt the people. An idiot or a man with idiotic ideas could win elections anywhere in the world. Demagoguery often starts from idiotic ideas and sentiments couched in fanciful or pseudo nationalistic language. Argentinian singer and author once wrote: ‘my grandfather was a brave man; he was only afraid of idiots. I asked him why, and he answered: because there are too many of them, and by being a majority they could even elect a president’. So, we are also worried about the people, the mob that Shakespeare despised in his plays, describing them through one of his characters in Julius Caesar as ‘you blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things, you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome’. Men and women who sell their soul for a mess of the proverbial pottage. They who would vote for the idiot who may not do much to improve their lot. These are the type the Prophet Hosea has in mind when he says ‘my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge!
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Real leadership is for the wise, the humble, and the visionary. A myopic man in office brings the office to his level. That is dangerous to our collective survival. Of such men we must beware. A fool should not go near the throne. He will endanger the empire. For this reason, blockheads were precluded from the throne in traditional African societies. Even the deformed were asked to go away from the road to the throne. In the modern age, thieves or crooks win elections all over the world. Crookedness could be hidden from the people. It is often in the dark. In saner climes, crooks get booted out. In our land, they seek and win elective positions because they carry a deep pocket.
It is true that some current leaders or elected officials have been misjudged. As we know, there are some who have made a difference, who have touched lives, who have sacrificed a lot for the people. But all state officials are judged harshly on account of prevailing situations. Hunger, real hunger, is real in the land. People are barely able to feed. Inflation is near the sun. Insecurity is real. So, the people are frustrated. They are angry. And their judgment will be harsh. It is possible that with the passing of time, opinions would be moderated. For that time, we must wait though not everyone will be exonerated, not everyone will be around for the beauty of reversals. It is the way of man, it is the way of life!
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Mr Elected or Appointed Official, your time is up, the end is here. Those you have alienated, some who did a kind thing for you in the past, some who supported your election and were subsequently ignored by your ‘Almighty Self’, some you gave contracts and refused to pay for work done, some who fell under the moving bus because you listened to gossip and gave them no chance to defend themselves, some who were shoved from the inner table because they are not brothers and sisters from your ethnic group, they await your exit. The time has come when you must rise from the level of the beast that was Nebuchadnezzar and come to your senses. They will see you in public and walk past you in scorn. Or bring down the statues you erected as it happened in Imo State after the last governor left office. There will be money in your deep pocket, but there will be no political power in your hands, there will only be infant gums without teeth to bite the sweets of the world. What have you wrought O Elected Official, what have you wrought in the land of the living?
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Obasanjo As Our Newsmaker
General Olusegun Obasanjo who has been a long-standing Chief of Owu Kingdom in Ogun State needs no introduction. He is too well known to us here to be introduced. In fact, the retired army general of our despicable army is popularly and deliciously known well and well outside our shores to be re-introduced to the imagination and consciousness of your compatriots my compatriots our compatriots and your citizens my citizens our citizens. Many citizens and compatriots will say, rightly or wrongly, that at the two different times he led this country people, the masses and all tribes of persons, that is, cried out in pain and in aguish.
We can always go back to our civil war years of 1967 to 1970 to recall the man and his exploits as the chief strategist and the numero uno of the Third Marine Commando he took over from the great – perhaps our greatest – civil war hero, the late Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle, the one and only Black Scorpion of his soldiery era of gallantry whose poisonous bullets muted the booming guns of thunder and artillery fire of Biafra. Before our troops and Biafra’s knew it what seemed impossible to everyone regarding the time the war would end became possible.
Biafra surrendered and Lt. Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu to the pleasure and displeasure at the same time of Biafrans and Nigerians was in his surrender- flight to Ivory Coast. Obasanjo took the credit for what the Black Scorpion started and systematically pursued gallantly and strategically. What tales were not told and retold several times over about the Black Scorpion! Within three years the torture, torpor, stagnation and degradation of our Igbo brothers ended. That was the beginning of the ascent of Obasanjo’s superfluous popularity as a newsmaker. The obscure army engineer who succeeded the authentic commander of the Third Marine Commando was honeyed as our worthy war officer and commander and military newsmaker by the honeyed pens and voices of our war journalizers and broadcast seeds of our broadcasters.
Let me hop-step-and-jump to our patriotic present.
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About more than three weeks ago, our one and only Obasanjo, former military head of state and civilian but dictatorial president of this dear land – your country my country our country under the Peoples’ Democratic Party became a frontline newsmaker when he said what he should not have said at a gathering of what I wish to refer to as what have you or what not compatriots and citizens. What did he say that he should not have said? The wily warrior who whaled the super-patriotic and outstandingly clever and sensible Chief Obafemi Awolowo out of the presidency in 1979 caused despair in the Niger Delta when he gushed with unpatriotic or inhuman ignominy that the natural oil in the Niger Delta belongs to Nigeria and not to the region. In the voice of almost a traitor who is worse than a traitor who belongs to the godless variety of tormentors our ex-head of state and ex-president and occupier of Aso Rock for eight years held back nothing when his rain of words thrummed on the roof of the Niger Delta. “The oil in the Niger Delta belongs to Nigeria,” he thrummed, thrusted and thundered. Of course, he was giving vent to a constitution which the standing army he once commanded put in place to torment and terrorize us.
I had been thinking deeply since our newshounds put the acclaimed letter-writer in the news once again. And I have been of the opinion that the great General is not a true patriot because a true patriot in our part of the world must have a crystal clear conscience that underlines his humanity that should consolidate the whole of our humanity.
Of course, some frontline denizens and citizens of the Niger Delta pointedly spear-headed by E.K.Clark, a former commissioner of information at the federal level when General Yakubu Gowon held sway in the land from the middle of the nineteen sixties to the mid-nineteen seventies, have since attacked Obasanjo the maker of news. E.K. Clark and company’s attacks were not devoid of great gusto. I, in particular, regarded E.K. Clark’s gusto as the gustation of gustation. It was rightly meant to prick and press the conscience, the guilty conscience, of Obasanjo who certainly must have a guilty one especially after E.K. Clark’s salvo.
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I remember the ex-president’s follow-up response that he has no hatred in his heart or conscience for the Niger Delta region. His guilty conscience surely elicited his response. But anyone like the General and erstwhile commander of our armed forces who is possessed of a guilty conscience must always be seen and regarded as a defeatist – as Jean-Paul Sartre, French philosopher, activist, humanist and writer who rejected the Nobel Prize for Literature in his hey days, informed us a long, long time ago.
Obasanjo does not love our Niger Delta more than our Niger Delta people and citizens. What does not go around does not go around. If Nigeria does not give Niger Delta justice, fairness and equity Nigeria should not expect the Niger Delta to take the trouble to give or guarantee peace and to “live and remain patriotic” in Nigeria. Nigerian people everywhere should know this: If our Niger Delta people are afraid of injustice that either terrorizes them or forces them to die unjustly, why should they unjustly obey their tormentors who all the time have been immoral force-mongers and cruel power-mongers? Obasanjo and his co-travellers could take the position they have been taken with reference to the Niger Delta because the majority of the region’s indigenes in government at whatever level have been compromising themselves and the region. Their selfishness and greed have tormented the people and the region without qualms over the years.
But this must be viewed as political, economic and moral sins of the past that must no more be tolerated. Now let me add as follows: our silence over the decades was not a “sign of assent”: it originated from nightmares which have been intentionally birthed, nurtured and controlled by our decisioners. But all this must end now.
All tribes in the Niger Delta must perish, must die and re-born themselves along the line of unity that is unity for all; along the line of justice that is justice for all; along the line of the rule of law that is the rule of law for all; along the line of fairness that is farness for all; along the line of what is good for the goose must be good for the gander. Torture by exploitation and oppression and degradation must stop and be hated and halted. Water torture, the result of pollution of the streams, rivers, mangroves, farms and the land by oil excavators and their political and greedy backers, must be ejected completely and permanently – now.
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All negative newsmakers and grandstanders profiting from our region by stirring us to torture one another must be shunned and shamed out of our anguish in darkness and in broad daylight. I hope our highly respected fabulous newsmaker of news and grandstander of grandstanders is going to profit himself a great deal from this column today by fighting patriotically for us henceforth. Our heroes lying in their graves will turn and turn and smile the smiles of the new times when he does this genuinely and sincerely. In his column of last Tuesday, January 18, 2022 on the back page of this newspaper Ray Ekpu ended as follows: “Nigeria abhors change, the right kind of change.” Niger Delta, I underline, is ready for the right kind of change. Their living heroes will enforce it in their land. They will do this without grandstanding and grandstanders.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
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