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Omoyele Sowore And Today’s Nigeria

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Attahiru Jega: The Measure Of Excellence And Integrity

A CONVERSATION WITH OMOYELE SOWORE, PART 1

Toyin Falola

 

Omoyele Sowore and Today’s Nigeria

In today’s Nigeria, the subject of national “ideals” and “values” do not feature prominently in the national discourse on nation-building and the improvement of national life. Like nation-building, the subjects of patriotism, nationalism, and national values—justice, fairness, equity, equality, the supremacy of law, sanctity of life, respect for the rights of others—have also been banished to the realm of idealism, finding expression only in academic literature and election campaign rhetoric.

The focus of the discourse on nation-building has shifted more towards equipping Nigeria’s teeming youthful population with the economic skills—menial, scientific, and/or technological—that will enable them to become efficient wealth creators, which (expectedly) will propel the country out of poverty and underdevelopment. This financially acceptable solution is in itself a laudable idea. It can also be taken as a revelation of the grand scam being perpetrated against the Nigerian masses by its elite/leadership or the product of the prevailing self-perception by Nigerians as the God’s chosen and favored people. However, the belief/presumption that such can be achieved in today’s (socially bankrupt, institutionally, and infrastructurally challenged) Nigeria amounts to pipe dreaming. Because no amount of investments towards economic upliftment can succeed without an enabling social environment based on deep nationalist values and outlook. The Buhari administration’s billion-dollar railway project to the Niger Republic amid infrastructural decay and budget-funding challenges in Nigeria will be a case in point.

Even the aspiration to revive national values and sentiments in today’s Nigeria has become too utopian, a laughable “Johnny Just Come” (JJC’s) sentiment/daydream. In time and nationalist fervour, today’s Nigeria is about a hundred or so odd years away from the days of the likes of Herbert Macaulay and his Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) and the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) of the duo of Eyo Ita and Nnamdi Azikiwe. This era, which inspired a potent nationalistic sentiment amongst peoples of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, uniting them against a common enemy, colonialism, is arguably Nigeria’s best display of nationhood. Today’s Nigeria is a far cry from the days of the people-inspired policies of Obafemi Awolowo, epitomized in his free education for the inhabitants of the former Western Region.

Omoyele Sowore and Today’s Nigeria

Today’s Nigeria is the product of ethnicity-based national sociopolitical interactions that have produced a devastating civil war, series of military dictatorships, and other military-style civilian administrations. Today’s Nigeria is the outcome of leadership without respect for national values and prestige. It has entrenched patrimonialism and malfeasance, which is why today’s Nigerians have primarily lost faith in the country’s nationhood. This same Nigeria is now home to the politics of ethnic divisions and Nigerians living as formally recognized non-indigenes in sections of their country. This same Nigeria is also home to Omoyele Sowore, a figure who has become synonymous with the eternal struggle against the many ills characteristic of today’s Nigeria—oppression, suppression, poverty, destitution, disillusionment, and deprivation.

READ ALSO: Omoyele Sowore Shot

Omoyele Sowore is a Nigerian activist. He started his activism from his days as a student at the University of Lagos, where he was President of the University of Lagos Student Union Government. Sowore, whose background as a child from a polygamous family introduced him to the tortuous contours of the struggle that is Nigeria at an early age, encountered another one of its more treacherous aspects (the struggle for civil rights) at the University of Lagos where he was expelled twice for “political reasons.”

During his time (1989-1995) at the University of Lagos, where he studied Geography and Planning, Sowore became actively involved in civil society actions against the military regimes of Generals Babangida and Abacha. He was part of the 1989 students’ protest against the conditions for the $120 million International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan grant, which required that Nigeria reduced its universities from twenty-eight to five, and the June 12, 1991 elections annulment protests. Also, Sowore led 5000 students in protest against the government in 1992, during which some of the students were killed. In 1999, Sowore moved to New York, where he earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbia University in 2003. While there, he set up an independent online media company (Sahara Reporters) to provide a platform from whence he could continue his campaign against corrupt government activities in Nigeria. Sowore worked for a while as a lecturer at the City University of New York, able to double as a journalist-activist.

In an attempt to “walk the talk,” Sowore contested for the office of the Nigerian President in the February 2019 general elections. This was his way of bringing his vision for Nigeria to life by getting into a position of authority to implement his ideas. However, his inability to clinch that goal did not diminish his zeal to bring about transformation to the existence of the Nigerian people. In August of the same year, he announced his intentions to convene a nationwide protest titled #RevolutionNow, for which he was arrested and detained by the Department of State Services (DSS) under the directives of the Buhari administration. He was charged with conspiracy to commit treason and for insulting President Buhari. After ignoring several court rulings for Sowore’s release, he was finally granted bail in December 2019.

Omoyele Sowore and Today’s Nigeria

Since his arrest, detention, and release in 2019, Sowore has led and joined several protest actions against the Buhari-led administration, demanding democratic practices, civil rights, and good governance. In today’s Nigeria, he represents the nationalist spirit and the struggle for civil rights and liberties. His unrelenting doggedness in the pursuit of civil rights and good governance inspires and represents a citizen who demonstrates an appreciation for our national values, ideals, and prestige. His persistence in the face of persecution, which represents his belief in and commitment to the Nigerian nation, has not gone unnoticed even among circles that refuse to acknowledge its necessity, having given up all hope in the viability of our union/nation.

READ ALSO: Dr. Obadiah Mailafia And The Nigerian Story Of Leadership Failure

Building the ideal Nigerian nation requires a Sowore-type perception of and commitment to Nigeria. How many would risk a successful career to organize and lead the protests against tyranny and corrupt leadership in Nigeria? Whatever aspersions have been cast about his personality and motives, Sowore stands out amongst his peers as an outstanding civil rights crusader. To listen to the ideas of this activist, do please join us on:

 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

5:00 PM Nigeria

4:00 PM GMT

11:00 AM Austin CST

Register and Watch:

https://www.tfinterviews.com/post/omoyele-sowore

Join via Zoom:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82796941660

Watch on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/tfinterviews/live

Watch on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2lvX7A2iVndiCq0NfFcb0w/live

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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Opinion

The Menace Of Bullying In Hostels – The Sylvester Oromoni Tragedy

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The Menace Of Bullying In Hostels – The Sylvester Oromoni Tragedy

By

Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Anyone who went through secondary school hostel/boarding house life knows that often, some seniors or some of the bigger boys or girls often bully the juniors. Yes, girls bully the junior girls too. Bullying comes in the different forms- in form of depriving the junior ones of their own ‘provision’, extortion, psychological torture, and/or physical beating. There  used to be the formal bullying, where all Form One students in the hostel went through what was dubiously called ‘fagging. On that day, often at night, all the kids in Form One would be assembled in a hall and subjected to all forms of indignities, from bathing them with cold water in a cold weather, pouring food remnants on them, and beating them. After that ritual, they would now say ‘Your tail has been cut off.  Sometimes, the young and the vulnerable ones continue to be bullied till they get to a senior class or till their tormentors leave the school. I don’t remember now whether that was how the notion of school father started, a senior student who would be one’s protector.

Bullying does not always cause death. But death sometimes occurs. And covered up by the school authorities. The trauma of bullying often lasts forever. Sadly, bullying continues every year even when the hostel authorities try to put a stop to it. Bullies thrive on fear, the fear of their victim. Often the victims tragically believe that silence and cooperation would save them from the evil hands of their predators or oppressors or extortioners. Sadly, some bullies are also victims of previous trauma or bullying.

READ ALSO: Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now

The sad and tragic death of Sylvester Oromoni (Jnr) last week, a student of Dowen College Lekki Lagos has once again brought the menace of bullying to the fore. Dowen College is a ‘co-educational and boarding school with over twenty years record of excellence’, according to a statement on its website. But with the death and the spilled blood of Sylvester, I have no doubt that that claim to excellence is gone forever. When I watched the video of the poor boy moaning in what turned out to be the throes of death, I could not stop the tears in my eyes. I wept for the boy. I wept for his parents. No parent should lose a child; no parent should watch their child go through the circumstances that led to Sylvester’s death.

The father of the deceased Mr. Sylvester Oromoni’s narrative is a serious indictment of the management style of Dowen College. I will produce a summary of Mr. Oromoni’s narrative. According to him, the events which culminated in the painful death of Sylvester started in October when it came to light through the 12year old’s elder sister that some bullies wanted to know if he had seen the nakedness of his elder sister. The same boy who had bullied Sylvester into admitting that he had seen his sister’s nakedness reported to her that the latter claimed to have seen her nakedness. This ought to have been a strong alarm bell for all involved. Then a week before the calamity, a call from the school summoned the father to Lagos from his Warri home because, according to the school, his son fell while playing football and was sick. Mr. Oromoni took his son home for special care. At death point Sylvester revealed that he did not play football and could not have sustained any injury while playing football. He then narrated how he was tortured and beaten up by five senior boys because he refused to join their cult. He named the murderers as Benjamin Favour, Anselm Temile, and Michael Kasamu. Tragic. Wicked.

The school Principal Mrs. Adebisi Layiwola issued a statement and stated among other things that ‘we immediately commenced investigations and invited the students allegedly mentioned for an interview. His guardian was also present during the interviews, which revealed that nothing of such happened’. The State government through the Ministry of Education has responded by shutting down Dowen College till further notice. Obviously, the school did not do a thorough investigation and the State Ministry of Education headed by a former school Principal, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo must have smelt a rat. Sylvester Oromoni was killed while pursuing the harmless dream of educating himself in an expensive private school in Lagos. WHO KILLED SYLVESTER OROMONI JUNIOR? The public demands an answer. The family demands an answer. Every parent who watched the video or who has heard the story demands an answer to all the questions. What transpired in the hostel that night that made Sylvester ill? Have the boys whose names were mentioned been invited by the police? Would there by high-powered connections to try and kill the case? The blood of Sylvester demands justice. May Heaven visit anyone who tries to kill the case with raging fury!

READ ALSO: Nigeria As A Movie

I have shed tears for Sylvester. I didn’t know him. I don’t know his father. I have connected with the story as a father, grandfather, and a human being. He could have been anybody’s child, anybody’s nephew or cousin or grandson. A grieving mother told me after reading the story that she would not allow her only daughter go to the boarding house!

Schools need to do more on stopping bullying and molestation. As we write, bullying is ongoing in some schools. It is not only students in the hostel that are bullied. Day students are also exposed to bullying. Does your child look sad every time he returns from school? Does he look thin? Does he refuse to eat? Have nightmares? Listen to your child. Insist. If a child as much as suggests that they should be taken to another school, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY UNTIL YOU FIND THE TRUTH EVEN IF THE CHILD SAYS NEVER MIND DADDY!

Schools need to do more to protect kids in their custody. There is need for intelligence gathering in schools, both at night and in the day. As Senior Prefect of Baptist High School Port Harcourt in the late 70s, I had some junior students who fed me information routinely. I protected their identity. Let there be a specially selected teacher or teachers who all exploited students can confide in. My mental health NGO Mind and Soul Helpers Initiative (MASHI) once visited some schools to educate them on mental health. When it was question time, we received a few innocuous questions. But from the notes they sent anonymously, a postgraduate student could do a project on the trauma which some of our children go through while going through secondary education.

All reports/complaints by our children, wards must be taken seriously by parents, guardians, and school management. Managers of schools should realise that the life of one student is more important than the reputation of the school. As parents in loco, Heaven will ask them to account for the death of any child who dies in their care!

Finally, I commiserate with the Oromonis. Sylvester was a hero, a strong character for refusing to join a cult despite threats and intimidation. His death must not be in vain. There must be justice to reassure victims of bullying that all bullies will ultimately face the law. If it is true that the culprits have been flown abroad by their parents, such parents must be compelled with the force of law to produce them for proper interrogation and punishment if found culpable. Shutting down the school should be temporary because the careers of innocent children in the school are in jeopardy. Open the school and punish the guilty.

READ ALSO: NADECO’S Under-ground And Open-ground Patriots (1)

What words can one tell the Oromonis that could reduce the trauma of a painful but avoidable death? No words! No words! No words!  Yet, condolences we have, and condolences we must give. I hope to meet the parents personally and let them know that we all stand by them in their moment of grief.

Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha can be reached on 08023220393

 

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NADECO’S Under-ground And Open-ground Patriots (1)

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NADECO’S Under-ground And Open-ground Patriots (1)

By

Tony Afejuku

As I write this, I look forward to the day, the beautiful day, the historic day and historic time and historic prospect which we shall hail with fitness and firm firmness of joyful coo of patriotic liberty of NADECO and of poetry as conceived by the originators and all sincere joiners of the movement. Now why am I still dwelling on the subject I sincerely meant not to hurl furthermore into the magnificent river of our public opinion after the hint I gave last Friday? Several communications, verbal and written, I got have compelled me to say one or two or three or four things I deliberately allowed my reticence to keep in check. But rather than the full consciousness of my pen to do so, I am yielding for now the column to two readers from across the Atlantic.

Before I do so, however, let me divulge this pertinent information. It was the late Chief Michael Imoudu our country’s universally acknowledged foremost Labour Leader, who asked MKO Abiola to go to Comrade Jonathan Ihonde to request him to plead his case and cause before Chief Tony Enahoro (and other patriots awaiting the historic opportunity we are still waiting to hail). The late Festus Iyayi also played his own dazzlingly revolutionary part as an under-ground patriot of the movement. The late Abubakar Rimi and Balarabe Musa (both of the Aminu Kano school of politics) were top guns who similarly played their parts of positive dialectical patriotism in the Nigerian project and vision as conceived by the original NADECO.

READ ALSO: NADECO’s Bliss That’s No More

As is well known, both of them were respective governors of Kano and Kaduna States under Aminu Kano’s People Redemption Party (PRP). Zamani Lekwot, an ex-military governor of Rivers State, Commodore Dan Suleiman, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, the late General MusaYar’Adua, Mr. Fred Agbeyegbe and several others were lights of the movement. And I must underscore this point: M.K.O. Abiola became an authentic comrade who sacrificed his life for the NADECO cause – meaning that created situations can always alienate one from a reactionary pattern of life and turn him or her in the richest moments of his or her life to be a patriotic rebel and revolutionary. MKO Abiola’s open rejection by his former fellow reactionaries turned him into a comrade and rebel positively in the house of patriotic thunder.

Let me now open the minds of some NADECOists still on voluntarily patriotic exile.

“Good day, my dear Brother. Your piece on NADECO resuscitates memories of past opportunities and possibilities. NADECO was, as you correctly observed, a movement.  But it was a movement of a special type peopled mostly by several left-wing leaning political activists. The intent in certain constituencies was for NADECO to metamorphose into a political party housing the Awoists and the talakawas of Aminu Kano, etc., into a new progressive entity.  As is known in Political Science, a political party is a party when it survives its leader. Unfortunately, after the demise of Chief Obafemi Awolowo on May 9, 1987 (you and I stopped at Ikenne to pay our last respects to him on our way to Ibadan to watch Flash Flamingoes versus Leventis), his political party began to disintegrate systematically.

“ ‘Pro-democracy’ is an elastic conglomerate of competing ideological prisms. I recall meeting with Chief Tony Enahoro and Mr. Mike Ehimah in his hotel in Hull (now Gatineau) across the River Ottawa from the city of Ottawa. I accepted the invitation to accompany him to the Canadian House of Commons where he addressed members of Parliament on the atrocities of the Abacha regime. Several NADECO stalwarts, including Senators Cornelius Adebayo and Femi Ojudu, sought refuge in Canada during this period.

“That NADECO was conceived as a movement to restore the victory of MKO at the June 1993 Presidential Elections fostered an internal contradiction of political philosophies. Thus, NADECO was born prematurely by the need to honour the results of June 12 and not to propagate the ideals of left-wing or progressive politics epitomized by Awolowo. This, in my view, explained why Chief Tony Enahoro got involved in NADECO.

Viewed from this perspective, therefore, NADECO was a consortium of anti-military and pro-democracy activists. Chief Enahoro’s decision to establish the Movement for National Reform (MNR) was a product of the internal ideological contradictions in NADECO.”

READ ALSO: Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now

These are pleasant words on NADECO that any investigator or researcher on the movement will or may find intelligently and persuasively instructive. They are theoretically and critically honey words – “sweet to the taste” and good for the well-being of all who want this country to always be blessed with the odour of all genuine activists and patriots like wine that sparkles.

Professor Igho Natufe’s words as quoted at length above are those of one under-ground NADECO patriot and good weigher of the movement’s weighable divinable morning and midnight dreams. And be it known that Professor Igho Natufe is a first-rate Political Scientist and a staunch Awoist. He has been under-ground in exile for centuries. Pardon my hyperbole. We share the same outlook about your country my country our country. But I have always insisted that I will never go on exile.

The words of another NADECO exile are particularly intriguing.

To be continued.

 Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

 

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Opinion

Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now

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Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now

BY

‘TIMI ALAIBE

Nembe, an otherwise quiet, beautiful kingdom in Bayelsa State, populated by a peaceful, enterprising people, has been in the news these past weeks, for the wrong reason. Dozens of already neglected communities and the people are soaked in crude oil—the same oil that has made such communities in Europe and America economic hotspots and development centres of the world. It begs the question: why do bad things happen to good people?

Suddenly, the oil that is supposed to help develop the communities and decorate them with skyscrapers, has become the reason for generational afflictions. Nigeria’s Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, captured it unquestionably well last week, when she was quoted as describing the oil spill on the communities as massive and an equivalent of the atomic bomb that wasted Hiroshima—the Japanese city, during the Second World War.

No description could have been more appropriate than when she said: “What I saw in terms of pollution… The devastation of the Niger Delta is massive. As we are cleaning up, what we are cleaning up is minute compared to the devastation going on.”

Other official reports revealed that as at Tuesday last week, over 5, 000 barrels of emulsified crude oil had been recovered from the waters and held in a recovery barge. That figure must have more than doubled by now. The people of Nembe do not deserve this avoidable environmental affliction. The question is: when will this leakage be put under control?

READ ALSO: There Is Hope For Bayelsa State

There is no doubt that this oil spill has the capacity to result in health hazards that would eventually lead to loss of lives. Let me repeat that the good people of Bayelsa State, the oil-bearing centre of Nigeria, do not in any way deserve this catastrophe.

Irrespective of numerous reasons cited by industry experts for the spill, the affected communities are dead economically and socially. The land has turned infertile. Nothing can grow there any longer. The rivers are polluted forever. Our fishermen are out of work. Our hard-working farmers have been rendered jobless. In the absence of clean, pipe-borne water for the people, a commodity that is taken for granted in other climes, today, with this oil spill, not even the river water is worth any domestic use any longer.

In other words, the peoples’ sources of livelihood have been completely destroyed; even their lives are in danger. This is no exaggeration. We have seen it happen repeatedly all over the Niger Delta. For the oil exploring and exploiting companies, it’s business as usual. Soon, the noise will end. Attention would be diverted to other pressing state matters. The people would be left to suffer and die in silence.

The director general and chief executive officer of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Idris Musa, has confirmed that “Government is aware that the rivers and streams where oil is flowing into will likely affect the lives of the living creatures in the rivers and streams, including the trees, and the rivers are sources of livelihood for the community.”

READ ALSO: Nigeria As A Movie

Now that these rivers and streams have been polluted, the big question is: where and what would the people turn to? Again, the trees and farmlands have been destroyed and nothing can grow again eternally, so, what happens to our people? Are they going to be relocated? With certain health hazards unconsciously unleashed on these people, what are the options before them? These questions need answers, now!

However, the difference this time is that for the first time, a government minister, Ikeazor, has spoken strongly in support of the need to protect the oil-bearing communities. In her words, this goes beyond oil companies giving palliatives to the communities. It requires putting measures in place to prevent such accidents from happening at all. She has called for stiffer penalties for those responsible for these acts of sabotage.

To my fellow citizens of Nembe, words are not enough to describe your agony and hopelessness. Be assured that you are not alone. My appeal to you is that in spite of this, please stay calm as we join hands with the appropriate authorities to seek the way out of this mess.

No blame game can reverse what has happened. No act of violence can bring back what we have lost. We all share in your pain. This is no time for dirty political grandstanding. This situation needs a practical solution. The people in charge of policy must rise and act now. God bless Bayelsa people.

 

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