Anti-corruption war: A case for whistleblower law in Nigeria
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Godwin Onyeacholem
At every given opportunity, President Muhammadu Buhari not only proudly re-affirms his administration’s commitment to mount a vigorous fight against corruption, he also as best as he can often ticks off some of the initiatives laid out for that purpose and the achievements so far. Here is the reason: waging war against corruption was one in the triumvirate of key promises he made to the electorate in the run-up to the 2015 election.
In fact, nothing else could be said to have fetched him the presidency other than the general belief that he would be ruthless in tackling corruption, and also a perception of him as a steadfast symbol of integrity.
Nigeria’s 59th independence anniversary on October 1 was yet one of such familiar opportunities where Buhari once again used his speech to gloat about how the war against corruption under him has been living up to its billing. In that speech he ran through a couple of his administration’s anti-corruption strategies and, as he had done in the past, never failed to mention the whistleblower policy which in many respects remains the flagship of his anti-corruption design.
Recounting the achievements, Buhari said those initiatives had “saved billions of naira over the last four years, and deterred the rampant theft and mismanagement of public funds that have plagued our public service.” That’s not entirely true. Although stealing may not be “rampant,” a somewhat disturbing degree of subtle stealing of public funds, combined with barefaced impunity, is still going on.
He also said, “This administration has fought corruption by investigating and prosecuting those accused of embezzlement and the misuse of public resources.” That is also not completely true. At least there are two personalities under the presidency who were accused of corrupt practices but are still enjoying the protection of Buhari, if nothing else. One is his own chief of staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, whose was never investigated much less prosecuted.
Then there is Dr. Marilyn Amobi, the MD/CEO of Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) Plc. Both Abba Kyari and Amobi cavalierly spurned repeated invitations from the popular Brekete radio to state their side of the story. Although Amobi was investigated and indicted by ICPC, and the report of the investigation submitted to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in March, up till the time of writing this piece, she has not been suspended, much less prosecuted.
All of this you expect not to witness in a government with Buhari as the head, given the subconscious awe and no-nonsense aura around his reputation prior to 2015. In essence, for the war against corruption to be convincing, Buhari needs to do more than self-laudatory speeches and come down much harder on the perpetrators of corruption in both the public and private sector. And he must do this with as much evenhandedness as can be summoned.
A significant chunk of the billions of naira which he said had been saved since the inception of his administration are most likely looted funds recovered courtesy of the whistleblowing initiative which was introduced just about one and a half years after the government was inaugurated. But this highly commendable initiative is now in grave danger of extinction as nothing is being done by this government to protect those patriots, yes patriots for that is what they truly are, who continuously risk their lives to blow the whistle.
In its operations, the whistleblowing policy is only currently restricted to corrupt practices and other variants of wrongdoings in the public sector. Since it came on stream, huge sums of looted public funds in various denominations as well as property have been recovered through the efforts of whistleblowers, a majority of whom are public servants who are not even induced by the reward attached to successful recoveries.
This administration acknowledges the efficacy of the whistleblowing as a tool for fighting corruption but regrettably closes its eyes to the varying degrees of unwholesome retaliations perpetually meted out by top public officers to courageous subordinates who heed the call to report corruption and wrongdoing. These reprisals range from long-term suspension from work without pay, outright dismissal, denial of salary and other entitlements (annual leave, promotion, etc.), intimidations, threat to life sometimes extending up to family members, undue harassments, physical assault and other kinds of unimaginable inhuman treatment.
Just last week, Murtala Ibrahim, once the deputy head of internal audit at the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) was fired by the bank’s management after about two years of being subjected to constant maltreatment which culminated in his transfer from the headquarters in Abuja to Jalingo, Taraba State. His boss, Teslim Anibaba, was transferred to the Kaduna office from where he resigned last year out of frustration.
Both were punished for uncovering official alterations of figures of a half-year report and for refusing to co-operate in other corrupt transactions initiated by top officials of the bank. The Nigerian government, which said it could not successfully fight graft on its own, and therefore urged citizens to join in the fight, could not save them from the ruinous excesses of the bank’s management. It is important to point out that whistleblowers who were lucky to be reinstated are still going through some form of victimization in their offices. The envisaged whistleblower law can take care of this.
However, whistleblowers like Sambo Abdullahi of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc and Joseph Akeju of the Yaba College of Technology, to mention just a few, are still wallowing in the misery imposed by the way they have been treated by the heads of their places of work. The main anti-corruption agencies received their petitions, but the petitioners have yet to see any sign of reprieve from their predicament. Sambo has been denied his salary and other entitlements since December 2017, while Akeju was sacked barely two weeks to his retirement from public service. Their offence was nothing more than reporting corruption and abuse of office in their places of work. Buhari needs to investigate these cases and ensure that these whistleblowers get justice.
Continuing, he said in his independence anniversary speech, “We are determined to ensure that transparency and good governance are institutionalized in public service. We must commit to installing the culture of good governance in all we do.” It’s a commendable, lofty aspiration that is unrealizable unless a critical agency of actualization, the whistleblowers, are given effective protection through the provisions of a progressive whistleblower law. US, Britain and our African brothers–South Africa, Ghana and Uganda, already have one as a sign that they are committed to caging the monster of corruption.
As corruption continues to chip away at the development edifice Nigeria has been struggling to construct in the past six decades, Nigeria cannot afford to keep lagging behind. To this end, Buhari should urgently direct conscious efforts towards seeing that a whistleblower bill is submitted to the National Assembly for passage into law and his assent of same in the next 12 months. It must be done within this time frame before activities for 2023 elections begin to gather momentum.
Unless whistleblowers enjoy protection via a firm legal backing, the seed of the whistleblowing tree planted in 2016 will die in no time. It doesn’t seem that is what this government wants. Neither does any stakeholder in transparency, accountability and good governance in Nigeria.
*Godwin Onyeacholem is with the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
“Wirbalized” Resistance: Anglophone Cameroon Matters in Postcolonial Cameroon (1)
September 22, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Hassan Mbiydzenyuy Yosimbom*
“A Divided and Dividing Parliament cannot Stand: The Birthing of “Wirbalized” Views of Struggle and Resistance in Anglophone Cameroon”
In Chapter nine – “Views of Struggle” – of Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah, a tall elderly gaunt-looking Abazonian with a slight stoop of the shoulders (112) and a voice with compelling power and magic (112), the leader of the Abazonian Delegation that has come to Bassa to “say their own yes” (116) to the Big Chief in order to rescue the Abazonian water project from total abandonment by the disgruntled government, tells his fellow Abazonians that “the Almighty has divided the work of the world” (113). In his first categorization, the elder argues that “[t]o some of us the Owner of the World has apportioned the gift to tell their fellows that the time to get up has finally come (113) To others “He gives the eagerness to rise when they hear the call; to rise with racing blood and put on their garbs of war and go to the boundary of their town to engage the invading enemy boldly in battle” (113). Lastly, “there are those others whose part is to wait and when the struggle is ended, to take over and recount the story” (113). Asserting the importance of the third categorization in the Almighty’s world, the Abazonian elder explains that “[t]he sounding of the battle-drum is important; the fierce waging of war itself is important; and the telling of the story afterwards – each is important in its own way. I tell you there is not one of them we could do without. But if you ask me which of them takes the eagle-feather I will say boldly: the story” (113). The elder further points out that when he was younger if anyone had asked him the same question, he would have replied without a pause: the battle (114). To the elder, the story is chief among his fellows because recalling is great. To him, the story plays several important roles: It continues “beyond the war and the warrior; outlives the sound of war-drums and the exploits of brave fighters; saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of a cactus fence; escorts
” (114). It also “owns and directs us; makes us different from cattle; the [story is the] mark on the face that sets one people apart from their neighbours; [and it is] everlasting” (114). The elder stresses that “[w]hen we are young and without experience we all imagine that the story of the land is easy, that every one of us can get up and tell it. But that is not so” (114). He acknowledges that even though we all have our little scraps of the tale bubbling in us, what we tell is “like the middle of a mighty boa which a foolish forester mistakes for a tree trunk and settles on to take his snuff” (114). He concludes that the appointment of someone to tell the story of the community is always the responsibility of the Agwu, the god of healers, who picks his disciple, “rings his eye with white chalk and dips his tongue, willing or not, in the brew of prophecy; and right away the man will speak and put head and tail back to the severed trunk of our tale” (115). Furthermore, “[t]he miracle-man will amaze us because he may be a fellow of little account, not the bold warrior we all expect nor even the war-drummer. But in his new-found utterance our struggle will stand reincarnated before us” (115). I have quoted the Abazonian leader’s three categorizations at length because, first; there is a parallelism between them and Honourable Wirba’s and the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda’s roles in the November of 2016 through January of 2017 uprisings in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, and second; that parallelism provides a corollary between Wirbalized resistance and the Anglophone Matters that the Bishops presented in the Memo to the Head of State, Paul Biya, on the 22nd December 2016.
On December 13, 2016, a man with physical features and a voice like those of the Achebesque Abazonian elder, Honourable Joseph Wirba, an SDF parliamentarian from Jakiri, North West Region of Cameroon, delivered a rousing speech through which he told his fellow Anglophones that the time to get up had finally come. In an unapologetic voice Wirba told parliament that “a slave has risen in the master’s house”. He reminded Cavayé Yéguié Djibril, the Speaker of the National Assembly, that “there are two Cameroons that came together. If you are telling us like a state minister stood here last year and told us that what happened in Cameroon is like dropping a few cubes of sugar in a basin of water. Then tell us who is the sugar and who is the water?” He went down memory lane to argue that, “Our ancestors and forefathers trusted you to go into a gentleman’s agreement. That two people who consider themselves brothers could go to live together.” He then concluded that, “if this is what you show us after 55 years, then those who are saying that we should break Cameroon are right. They are correct! the people of West Cameroon cannot be your slaves. The people of West Cameroon, are not, you did not conquer them in war.” In the same manner that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. showed deep commitment to black freedom in the USA, Wirba spoke with deep commitment to Anglophone freedom. He called on Anglophones to rise with racing blood and put on their garbs of resistance and go to the boundary of their Anglophone heritage to engage the invading Francophone enemy boldly in battle against marginalization and assimilation. In one of the most defiant voices ever heard during a parliamentary session in the entire African continent, Wirba told the Speaker of the National Assembly in particular and the Francophone-dominated parliament and government in general that after more than 50 years of cohabitation with East Cameroon, West Cameroonians were fade up with a political union that had only succeeded in creating Francophone Prosperos and Anglophone Calibans. Wirba repeatedly quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s idea that “when in justice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty.” Wirba’s speech highlighted two distinctive features of a genuine advocate of freedom: authentic anger and genuine humility. He was visibly upset about the condition of the Anglophone Cameroonians. When Cameroonians saw him speak or heard his voice, it was projected on a gut level that the Anglophone situation was urgent, in need of immediate attention. Cameroonians even got the impression that his own stability and sanity rested on how soon the Anglophone predicament could be improved upon; he was angry about the state of Anglophone Cameroon and that anger fuelled his boldness and defiance. This boldness and defiance constitute what I identify in this essay as “Wirbalized Resistance”, the “Wirba force” or the “Wirbalization” of the Anglophone problem. In stark contrast to most present-day Anglophone political leaders “who appear too eager for status to be angry, too eager for acceptance to be bold, too self-invested in advancement to be defiant” (West, 1993:58); in dissimilarity to present-day Anglophone political leaders who “when they drop their masks and try to get mad (usually in the presence of [Anglophone] audiences), their bold rhetoric is more performance than personal, more play-acting than heart-felt”(58), Wirbalized Resistance makes sense of the Anglophone plight in a poignant and powerful manner and avoids contemporary Anglophone leaders’ oratory that predominantly appeals to the Anglophone community’s sense of the sentimental and sensational (58). With Wirbalized Resistance, even aggressiveness is accompanied by a common touch and humble disposition towards ordinary Anglophones. It preaches that humility which is “the fruit of inner security and wise maturity” (59) and insists that “to be humble is to be sure of one’s self and one’s mission that one can forgo calling excessive attention to one’s self and status” (59). This explains why on June 21, 2017, Wirba came back to the same parliament and asserted, “I am back for the same purpose; you cannot shut the mouth of the people forever. I am back and I want us to go back to issues that have to do with West Cameroon. I am asking Parliament to put the issue of West Cameroon on the table and let us talk about it. That is what I have come for.” He further affirmed the government’s indifference to the Anglophone’s plight by reiterating that “the people cry out and they don’t listen. More than a million students are out of school for over six months and the National Assembly cannot talk about it. Businesses have been shut down.”
More pointedly, Wirbalized Resistance through its unapologetic tone, “revels in the accomplishments and potentials of Cameroonians, especially those with whom one identifies and to whom one is linked organically” (59). It abhors the relative absence of humility in most Anglophone political leaders because that absence is symptomatic of “the status-anxiety and personal insecurity pervasive in Anglophone middleclass Cameroon (59). Wirbalized resistance is the product of what one may (with inspiration from Cornel West’s idea of “race-transcending prophetic leaders” (61)) refer to as the hallmark of an Anglophone-transcending prophetic leadership. It requires “personal integrity and political savvy, moral vision and prudential judgment, courageous defiance and organizational patience” (61). The most disturbing thing about the reception of Honourable Wirba’s speech was not only the mean-spirited attempt of Cavayé Yéguié Djibril to stop him but also the spineless silences of some parliamentarians of Anglophone origin – both revealed the predictable inability of most ruling party politicians to talk candidly about the marginalization of Anglophones in Cameroon. Less than a month after Honourable Wirba’s call to battle, the Bishops of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province, in Achebesque terms, were appointed by Agwu, the god of healers, to tell the story of the Anglophone community. Agwu picked these men of God as his disciples, rang their eyes with white chalk and dipped their tongues, willing or not, in the brew of the Anglophone prophecy; and right away the men spoke and put head and tail back to the severed trunk of the Anglophone tale. These miracle-men amazed Cameroonians not because they are fellows of little account, but because they are not the bold warriors Anglophones all expected. They are not even the war-drummers. But in their new-found utterance, the Anglophone struggle suddenly stood reincarnated before all Anglophones. These Bishops, Agwu’s disciples, produced a Memo, an epistolary expression of “minority history” that authenticated them as democratically-minded historians fighting the exclusions and omissions of mainstream narratives of the Cameroonian nation. The Memo is a challenge to official or officially-blessed accounts of the Cameroonian nation’s past by these champions of Anglophone minority history. As a critique of the grand narratives of Francophonized and Francophonizing Cameroon history, the Bishops used the Memo as ammunition in the process to argue that the Cameroonian nation “cannot have just one standardised narrative, that the nation is always a contingent result of many contesting narratives” (Chakrabarty, 1998: 15).
In this essay, I attempt an exegesis of the Bishops’ Memo as epistolary aesthetics whose content qualifies it as minority/apocryphal history, border thinking, decolonial thinking and an epistemology from the South. In the course of my analysis, I interdependently use the word matters as a noun designating issues that concern Anglophones and are of important to their wellbeing; and a verb denominating the insistence that Anglophones form an indispensable part of Cameroon’s past, present and future. For all its disturbing polysemic malleability, my usage of the concept “matters” in these two interdependent senses circles back and touches the tail of other Cameroonian minority writings, participating in what Ben Okri describes as an “African aesthetic” which “is bound to a way of looking at the world in more than three dimensions. It’s the aesthetic of possibilities, of labyrinths, of riddles . . . of paradoxes” (1992: 87–8). Proceeding from an affirmation of human subjectivity, and assuming an individual’s capacity to produce history, my polysemic use of Anglophone matters remains solidly humanist in orientation, attempting to provide a fascinating but often-neglected alternative to the anti-humanism that has continued to characterize mainstream Cameroon history. Anglophone matters as noun and verb acknowledge that there is difference, but not inferiority or antagonism, the usage attempts to generate a cultural model which respects, rather than fears, undecidability, complementarity, and otherness. The Anglophone matters in/of the Memo suggest that minority history “describes relationships to the past that the rationality of the [mainstream] historian’s methods necessarily makes ‘minor’ or ‘inferior’ as something ‘irrational’ in the course of, and as a result of, its own operation” (Chakrabarty, 2000: 101). The Memo testifies that the cultural and political work of the subaltern or minoritized historian (in this case the Bishops) is to “try to show how the capacity (of the modern person) to historicize actually depends on his or her ability to participate in nonmodern relationships to the past that are made subordinate in the moment of historicization [and that] [h]istory writing assumes plural ways of being in the world” (101).
The projection of the Memo’s Wirbalized resistance is not to say that other Anglophone writers have not been critiquing Anglophone marginalization. Rather, the point is that because the Francophone has continued to be all over the Anglophone in an outwar of marginalization and the Anglophone has been all over the Francophone in an in-war of emancipation lead by Anglophone writers, Wirbalized resistance’s unremitting defiance becomes crucial in any de-colonial project that will start from the weaker end of the Francophone imperial/colonial/hegemonic difference. Unlike most critiques of Anglophone marginalization, Wirbalized resistance is an intensified form of de-linking that requires analysis of the making and remaking of the imperial/colonial Francophone differences and visions and strategies for the implementation of equality leading to de-colonization of Anglophone power, knowledge, being and the English Language. That defiance aims “to remove the anchor in which the “normalcy effect” has been produced as to hide the fact that the anchor can be removed and the edifice crumbled” (Mignolo, 2010: 352-3); it asserts that “[t]he future could no longer be owned by one way of life, cannot be dictated by one project of liberation and de-colonization, and cannot be a polycentric world within [Francophone] categories of thoughts” (353). It insists that “[a] world in which many worlds could co-exist can only be made by the shared work and common goals of those who inhabit, dwell in one of the many worlds co-existing in one world and where differences are not cast in terms of values of plus and minus degree of humanity” (353). Wirbalized resistance is the intensification of liberation projects that have emerged and are emerging in Anglophone Cameroon; opening the possibility of Anglophones and Francophones entering into a pluri-versal dialogue of equals in a common march toward a Cameroonian world in which “Free Life” will be the horizon in which many worlds will co-exist with a pluri-versal and not a uni-versal vision.
This commentary draws on the Memorandum presented to the Cameroonian Head of State, Paul Biya, by the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda on the current unrest in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon to demonstrate that the emergence of Anglophone-nationalist sentiments in these Regions of Cameroon from November of 2016 through January of 2017 to the present, especially among young people, is a revolt against a sense of always having to “fit in”. The Memo bears witness that the variety of Anglophone-nationalist ideologies from the moderate views of John Ngu Foncha’s “unitarism” through “secessionist Groups”, “restorationist” and “Federalists” to Mancho Bibixy’s “coffin revolution” and Joseph Wirba’s “duty of resistance”, rest upon a foundational truth: Francophone Cameroon has been historically weak-willed in ensuring cultural justice and has continued to resist fully accepting the humanity of Anglophones. The commentary further affirms the Memo’s argument that if double standards and differential treatment abound, Anglophone nationalisms will continue to thrive. The Memo suggests that to establish a productive framework for Anglophone-Francophone interdependence, Cameroonians need to begin with a frank acknowledgement of the basic humanness and Cameroonianness of each Cameroonian. Cameroonians must recognize that as a people, they are on a slippery slope towards economic strife, social turmoil, and cultural chaos. The November 2016 through January 2017 to the present upheaval forced Francophones and Anglophones to see not only that Cameroonians are not connected in ways they would not like to be but also, in a more profound sense, that this failure to connect binds Cameroonians even more tightly together. The commentary concludes that there is no escape from a Cameroonian intercultural interdependence yet enforced cultural hierarchy dooms Cameroon as a nation to collective paranoia and hysteria – the unmaking of any democratic order.
*African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA)Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Urban Management Studies (CUMS)University of Ghana, Legon . The article is the first of a three part series
Russia Spreading Its Tentacles Across Africa
September 20, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Scott Morgan*
When it comes to special operations in Central Africa initiated by the Russians most thoughts and conversations focus on the operations conducted within the Central African Republic over the last two years as either a point of contention or outright fear in some Capitals. But once again history is again repeating itself in Africa.
There have been allegations that after the 2016 Presidential Elections in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) that the incumbent President Soussou-Nguesso reportedly hired a Russian Private Military Company to put down the unrest in the vital town of Pointe Noir that occurred after the controversial polls. There was virtually no coverage of the influence in this election. It should be noted that when President Soussou-Nguesso was President for the first time Brazzaville was considered to be an ally of what was then the Soviet Union.
Also when it comes to Russian Operations in Central Africa even though it is not considered being part of Central Africa, the role of Sudan cannot be ignored. Khartoum has been used as a transit and logistics hub for its Operations in CAR. The Change of leadership that recently took place within Sudan will have an impact on Russian Operations in Central Africa. Russia was one of the countries that was coaching the Military in how to react during the final days of the Bashir regime. It would be wonderful if this dynamic was looked into. For the near future it should be taken as a fait accompli that whatever projects are launched in the region by the Kremlin it will have some form of presence in Sudan.
Another aspect that has been proving to be interesting regarding Russian Activities in the region is the media coverage regarding them or the efforts by the Putin Government and their allies to manipulate their coverage of the activities. One needs to recall the incident where four journalists for a Russian Opposition news site were ambushed and killed in the Central African Republic. That only occurs when a party wants an activity to be shielded from public view and scrutiny.
Another action taken by the Russians to spin events into their worldview has to be the deals to provide content to some African Media Outlets by either Sputnik or RT (Russia Today). A perfect example happens to be the deals reached with RTNC (National Radio and Television Corporation) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. RT was the first entity to reach a deal with the Congolese in November 2018, Sputnik has reached a similar deal in May of 2019. This effort in the DRC has been a success for Moscow. When Russia celebrated the fifth anniversary of the annexation of the Crimea , one of the largest events was actually held in Kinshasa.
Another tactic that Russia is using ties between the Duma and local legislatures on the ground. Once again the topic focuses on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There is already a Russia-DRC Friendship Group already in the Parliament of the DRC. This is a simple and easy way for Russia to not only to promote its agenda in Africa it can be done in such a way that most other powers that have interests in the region such as the former colonial powers of France and Belgium and even the United States could find themselves be left on the outside without realizing what they allowed to Happen has indeed taken place without their ability to properly address the situation.
*The author is President of Red Eagle Enterprises and the views expressed are his.
Nigeria:EKWEREMADU’S ASSAULT AND THE DYNAMICS OF REVOLUTION
August 19, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Omoshola Deji*
The assault of Nigeria’s former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu in Germany is unsurprising, but shocking. Unsurprising because it’s certain Nigerians would revolt against their leaders misrule someday. It is shocking because many never envisaged such could happen now, and in this manner. The popular support, but low turnout at Omoyele Sowore’s Revolution Now protest, and the fading outcry for his release is a pointer that Nigerians want a revolution, but are reluctant to revolt.
Aside shocking the reluctant populace, Ekweremadu’s assault also stunned the revolution vanguards. Most never imagined any tribe could, at this moment in time, revolt against the same leaders they have been programed to exalt and defend irrationally. Is revolution taking a new, unexpected dimension? Departing the long occupied arena of inter-ethnic confrontations for home?
Ekweremadu is the leading political figure of the Igbo ethnic group. He was Nigeria’s Deputy Senate President for three consecutive terms (2007-2019). Ekweremadu comes next to the late Alex Ekwueme, Nigeria’s first elected Vice-President (1979-1983). Ekwueme and ex-President Shehu Shagari’s government was deposed in 1983 by retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s incumbent President.
At the invitation of the Igbo community in Germany, Ekweremadu was in Nurnberg to deliver a keynote address at the Ndi Igbo Second Annual Cultural (new yam) Festival. He was denied entry to the event by irate members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Igbo secessionist group led by Nnamdi Kanu, a fugitive wanted for jumping bail to hide abroad after the military unjustly invaded his home. Kanu is undergoing trial for treason at the Federal High Court in Abuja. The Nigerian government proscribed IPOB, declaring it a terrorist organization in 2017.
On the instruction of Kanu, IPOB on 17 August, 2019 attacked and tore Ekweremadu’s cloth for allegedly not advancing the course of Igbo independence and not condemning the killing of his people by Fulani herdsmen. In all fairness, Ekweremadu couldn’t have done much, being an opposition figure. He spoke against the Military’s Operation Python Dance in Igbo land, but apparently not as vehement as IPOB wanted. Ekweremadu was being cautious. Defending IPOB fervently would have set him against the northern senators who are largely in support of the military invasion and IPOB’s proscription. Not playing along could have resulted in his removal as Deputy Senate President.
It would have also put him at loggerheads with the federal government. The President’s intolerance to criticisms would make him unleash his attack dogs against Ekweremadu. He would have been terribly harassed, arraigned on trumped-up charges and incarcerated. Nigerians won’t be surprised if Buhari arraign him for sponsoring treason and a proscribed organization. The circumstance surrounding the condition at the time puts Ekweremadu at a crossroads: to either pick ‘self’ or ‘us’. He settled for ‘self’ as most of the IPOB members that assaulted him would have done.
Kanu also picked ‘self’ over ‘us’ by abandoning the secession struggle at the most crucial time. Many of the hundreds of families who lost lives and properties are still grieving to date. They surely aren’t happy that Kanu brainwashed their loved ones to fight a battle he has no capacity to win. If those affected are Lustitia, their sword won’t spare Kanu for taking cover abroad after destabilizing the polity. He may neither be contacting the bereaved nor providing them support. If that’s the case, then it is unreasonable for IPOB to assault Ekweremadu for a wrong Kanu is also guilty of.
The southeast governors are more deserving of IPOB’s intimidation than Ekweremadu. They were conspiratorially silent when the python was dancing and IPOB was being proscribed. They failed to speak despite being immune from the incarceration and prosecution Buhari is using to silence critics. Be that as it may, the governors’ silence may not be unconnected with Kanu’s personalization of the secession struggle and uncouth utterances. He singlehandedly issued sit-at-home orders and called for the boycott of elections. This didn’t sit well with the politicians and Ohaneze Ndigbo, the leading Igbo socio-cultural group. Ekweremadu is just a lone voice among these persons. He cannot order them to do his bidding.
But then, one cannot exonerate Ekweremadu of blame. Ekweremadu is elected to represent his constituency and region, not himself. If the wish of the Igbo majority, as it seems then, is to secede, it is Ekweremadu’s responsibility to interface with the federal government and find a middle ground. This should have been done with IPOB and other relevant stakeholders in the know, but Ekweremadu acted differently. His action was largely self-serving. Escaping prosecution from alleged corrupt practices was his priority. He chose to favor ‘self’ when he is elected to represent ‘us’. He deserves to be punished, but through the ballot, not assault.
Ekweremadu was punished for the wrongs of his fellow elites ruining Nigeria. He was made to feel the anger of the people. Nigerians across boards believe the assault is a viable way of making leaders accountable. Assault is immoral, but many are willing to get involved, if it would bring good governance. If corrupt politicians are being shamed, there’ll be less misrule as they and their families can’t stay away from schooling, receiving treatment and holidaying abroad. Nigeria would transform when the politicians have no other choice than Nigeria.
Celebrating new yam festival in faraway Germany is a misplacement of priority, at a time when incessant killings is occurring in Igbo land. Who among the organizers of the festival owns a farm or ever planted a yam? The real farmers who should be celebrating their outputs are being killed and losing their loved ones and farms to bandits. Partying under this situation is a mockery of the farmer’s misfortune. Leadership is service. The huge cost of organizing the events and the travel expenses incurred by dignitaries such as Ekweremadu could have been used to assist those who lost persons and properties during the secession struggle and bandits attack. Wealthy Igbos and the foreign branches of Ohaneze Ndigbo needs to be more philanthropic.
IPOB’s assault on Ekweremadu is somewhat unjust and misdirected. Buhari and his appointees who outlawed the organization and apparently failed to address the challenges in the southeast have been left unthreatened. Those at the helm of affairs are ignored for the governors who can neither control the security agencies nor restore Biafra. The unintended consequence of IPOB’s action is that her real ‘oppressors’ chance to win elections is being heightened by her actions. Defaming the People Democratic Party’s government in the southeast would only help the All Progressives Congress have an easy win in 2023. But for one thing, Ekweremadu’s assault is a message to the President’s top aides that it may be their turn next.
Aside the president and vice, Nigerian leaders can’t get the extraordinary protection they enjoy in Nigeria abroad. Unlike in Nigeria, where protesters are being hounded, the western nations allow people to enjoy their right to peaceful protest. Nigerians in the diaspora would be allowed to air their grievances, but assaults won’t be tolerated. That of Ekweremadu sailed through because it was unexpected. The foreign security agencies would be more present in Nigerian high profile gatherings to forestall future occurrence. IPOB has vowed to give Igbo leaders the Ekweremadu treatment wherever they are sighted abroad. This could create a bandwagon effect. Aggrieved persons and groups from other regions of the country may adopt the same strategy.
Ekweremadu’s assault and Sowore’s Revolution Now are well-coordinated moves against government and high-profile politicians. Could this be the manifestation of the decisions reached when Kanu and Sowore met abroad? Or the hounding of unharmed local protesters attracted sympathy abroad? Is the Buhari government’s intolerance making peaceful protesters adopt a violent approach? Has the government’s high handedness created another menace? Do the aggrieved protesters have a more violent approach of driving home their point in the bag? The time is pregnant.
*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via email@example.com
The 50th Anniversary of My First Speech at the United Nations And the Bitter Lesson I Learned
August 19, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Dr. Gary K. Busch*
During the 1960’s, after Sharpeville, the nations who comprised the United Nations embarked on a plan to restrict capital flows to the apartheid government of South Africa. They passed a number of rules and recommendations attempting to restrict the interaction between the South African Government and the major international banks. The UN’s Special Committee on Apartheid, under the chairmanship of Abdulrahim Abby Farah, the UN representative from Somalia, called a meeting of the Special Committee at the UN New York Headquarters, from 17-18 March, 1969, to discuss the role of the international banks in supporting South Africa and to make a plan to expand the campaign to get these banks to boycott capital interactions with the South Africans.
Invitees to the meeting were drawn from several U.S. groups active in the anti-apartheid movement. I was invited as the specialist on Africa from the United Auto Workers (UAW) and as a Board Member of the American Committee on Africa, led by George Hauser. I had been one of the main contacts for the African liberation struggle leaders who visited the U.S. and had taken many to the House and Senate Committees for meetings. I had also arranged their meetings with groups like SNCC, CORE, NAACP, and others. I was very pleased to be invited to the meeting and hoped to contribute my thoughts on the issue.
We convened in a large conference room in the UN where, in addition to the invitees, there was a substantial group of UN delegates from countries which supported the anti-Apartheid movement. The program opened with an introduction by Ambassador Farah and followed by speeches by the Algerian and Nigerian ambassadors. Oliver Tambo was there on behalf of the ANC and he made a speech. After several more speeches we were allowed to speak.
I was more than ready to speak. In fact, I was quite upset. I had just been looking at the day’s New Yok Times newspaper where I saw a quarter-page ad by the Chemical Bank of New York Trust headlined by the line “The American Capitalist”. It descried the role of the Chemical Bank in arranging a large loan and ancillary financing of a Japanese company to buy iron ore from South Africa. This was the very thing we were meeting to discuss and, with good effort, prevent. I rose and asked permission to read the text of the advertisement into the record of the Committee. I did so and then said “Here you have a major American bank financing apartheid. You should realise that this is no rogue bank; this is the official bank of the United Nations. Your salaries and expenses are paid through this bank. It has branches inside UN installations worldwide. If you want the world to support the Banks Campaign of the UN perhaps you can start with your own bank.”
After a moment of silence heated discussions broke out. Mr Reddy, the administrator of the Committee, confirmed that Chemical Bank was the official bank of the UN. Chairman Farah called upon the Algerian delegate and the Indian delegate to speech who pronounced their outrage at what I had discovered. They. believe it or not, agreed to send a telegram to the UN Secretary-General from the floor of the meeting requesting an urgent response and review. I suggested that the UN Secretary-General’s office was only six floors above us and I would volunteer to hand deliver it immediately. I was told this telegram was the normal procedure for UN business. We broke for lunch.
I was having lunch with Oliver Tambo who was quite pleased with the proceedings so far. He did say to me “You may feel that this was an important blow for the Banks Campaign, but don’t be fooled. Nothing will happen but chit-chat and pointing fingers. The banks will go on lending as usual”. He was wise. There were stories in the press; there were earnest discussions with the anti-apartheid groups; there were fiery speeches from the African delegates. What finally happened as the result of my speech was that the copywriter of the article at the newspaper lost his job. Everything else went, as Tambo promised, out of the minds of the Committee.
I was immensely proud that I had used my opportunity to speak at the UN with some effect but, in retrospect, I had learned an important lesson. One cannot move international institutions by speeches or embarrassment. The United Nations is a permanent compromise looking for problems to work on. It was a bitter lesson for me in my youthful naivete but helped to shape my future expectations. I attach the official Committee report on my intervention and a picture of me before my speech, with Ambassador Farah.
“Although sympathetic U.N. delegations were aware of and concerned about the bank campaign, it was again in 1969 that action look concrete form. In 1966, the General Assembly resolution on the policies of apartheid had appealed to all Slates to “discourage loans by banks in their countries to the Government of South Africa or South African companies,” but in March, 1969, during a Special Committee on Apartheid seminar held at U.N. headquarters, the question of Chemical Bank, a consortium member, being the bank located at the U.N., came to a head. By chance. Chemical Bank New York Trust Company had placed an advertisement in the New York Times the same day as the seminar meeting in which it lauded the bank’s role in securing a deal between South Africa and Japan for the sale of iron. This remarkable situation, where U.N. resolutions were in essence being ignored by the United Nations itself, resulted in proposals by the Special Committee to the Secretary General asking an investigation of Chemical Bank’s role at the U.N. This culminated in a General Assembly Resolution passed in November, 1969, which called upon the United Nations and its affiliates “to refrain from extending facilities to banks and other financial institutions which provide assistance to South Africa and firms registered there.”
* Dr. Gary K. Busch is the editor and publisher of the web-based news journal of international relations www.ocnus.net and the distance-learning educational website www.worldtrade.ac. He speaks and reads 12 languages and has written six books and published 58 specialist studies. His articles have appeared in the Economist Intelligence Unit, Wall Street Journal, WPROST (a leading Polish weekly news magazine), Pravda and several other major international news journals
An Account of the Corruption and Anomalies in the Nigerian Immigration Service
August 14, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Omoshola Deji*
One of the primary responsibilities of government is to provide – or regulate the provision of – efficient service to the populace. Successive Nigerian government has failed in this regard. It has become a convention to get inefficient service, despite paying high. Both private and public institutions are culpable, but the latter errs more. Public officials are more of exploiters than service providers. The uniformed ones are worse. You are bound to pay extra before being attended to. Such is the case of the Nigerian Immigration Service. This piece brings you a firsthand account of the anomalies and corruption going on at the passport offices.
I flew into Nigeria for some engagements and noticed my passport would expire in six months. This qualifies it for renewal. I had two options: renew it in Nigeria or abroad. I opt for the former to avoid the stress I faced to procure the expiring passport. Besides, it is more expensive to renew the passport abroad and I stay far from the embassy. Renewing a Nigerian passport abroad is an uphill task many try to avoid. The unethical conducts of the embassy officials would make you want to renounce Nigeria. But patronizing the embassy is better. You won’t realize this till you visit the passport offices in Nigeria.
“You can’t just walk in and get a passport”, my friends warned. They vowed I won’t get it quickly unless an immigration officer ‘assist’ me. ‘Assist’ means paying an officer to monitor and hasten the passport application process. Rejecting the suggestion made them recount the tales of people who failed to subscribe for assistance. They narrated how such person’s application hit the rocks with “no record found”. How their image gets captured wrongly – rendering the passport unusable – was also recounted.
Other persons I chatted also stressed the importance of ‘assistance’. They disclosed that applying without being ‘assisted’ can take you up to 5 months, while you’d get your passport between 1-14 days when assisted. I remained adamant, but succumbed when a contact said “I know someone (an immigration officer) who’ll do it fast for 30k. Pay the standard 18, I’ll add the remaining 12”. That silenced me. I couldn’t dissent. To overegg the pudding was unnecessary. I agreed, on a condition that I would pay all.
We were welcomed by touts advertising ‘assistance’ when we visited the passport office. Most of them are agents of the immigration officers. Some officers were at the gate that day, and every other day. They were positioned as security, but seen scouting for new applicants; identifying them by their demeanor. The ideal thing is to direct applicants to a guideline or office, but they never did. They were asking them “do you know your way?” Answering “no” or making inquiries makes you prey. You would be connected to their partnering tout or officer to ‘assist’ you. Answering “yes” means you’ve already established contact with an officer inside.
We met an officer who charged me N35,000 for the 32 page passport, but we slashed the price to N30,000. The officer reluctantly agreed; persuading us to pay more. I paid N30,000. The original cost of the 32 page passport I applied for – lately before the issuance of the enhanced e-passport commenced – is about 18,000. Paying N30,000 made me unhappy till I eavesdropped that some people paid N45,000 for the same 32 page passport. That made me feel N30,000 was a good deal. I was somewhat glad. You would too.
My money did some work. The officer ‘assisting’ me fast-tracked the application. I did the face and fingerprint capturing within three hours. Don’t say I waited long! Capturing within such a timeframe isn’t possible without ‘assistance’; the applicants were over hundred. Nonetheless, the assistance wouldn’t have been necessary if the system is efficient, but those profiting from the inefficiency would not let it be.
The officer ‘assisting’ me collected my file after capturing. Like every other colleague, the officer has a client’s record book. My data was added to several others contained therein. I was told to come for the passport in two weeks. Efforts to secure a faster date failed. I left and couldn’t return till after a month due to an interstate engagement.
I got back and need to return abroad. Having performed the bribe ritual, I wasn’t worried about the passport, but the cost of flight ticket. I searched for ticket and was lucky to get a good offer from a reputable airline. This got me excited. My eyes stared at the ticket as I reminisced my last experience with the airline, hoping to have a good time again. I was tempted to book the flight, but held back. Being confident the passport is ready isn’t enough, lay your hands on it, I counseled myself. That turned out to be my best decision in the year.
“Your passport is not ready, we don’t have booklet”. The immigration officer ‘assisting’ me uttered the next morning. I smiled thinking it was a joke, only to discover it isn’t. I became worried about my scheduled activities abroad. How do I explain to a foreign organization that I won’t return at the agreed time due to passport renewal delay, when such doesn’t happen in their country? Efforts to get the passport quickly exposed me to several other wrongs in the passport office.
There’s no orderliness and feedback mechanism. You must always be present, even for minor things. The officers are used to earning extra from ‘assistance’ daily. This affects their commitment to you. They no longer give you much attention after the first day, their attention is always on the new clients. They have so many clients that they struggle to remember their name and situation when they dial. This made me resolve to always visit the passport office to monitor progress.
My regular visits made me a familiar face to some of the officers. A narration of my engagements abroad and the implication of not travelling immediately only earned me pity, not solution. I discovered the officers have factions and an unofficial policy. The officer you pay is responsible for you; no officer will assist you even if they can, no matter how terrible your situation is. This immensely affected me.
The officer ‘assisting’ me, a senior one at that, no longer have strong links in the production room due to recent reordering of duties. Clients of those who have strong networks in the room were collecting passports. Then, I discovered my officer was greedy. Officers in the production room charge colleagues for speedy processing because they know they’ve been paid too. The officer just submitted my file without tipping. As the days passed, I got more disturbed as I receive emails to explain my absence abroad.
An officer advised I should explain my situation to the head of Service Compact (SERVICOM) – the complaint and efficient service delivery section. I met the head of SERVICOM after a long wait. “Who is assisting you?” he asked. My eyes popped. The SERVICOM head knows about ‘assistance’. Great! I answered and was told to summon the officer over immediately. I felt uncomfortable, thinking the officer may be reprimanded, but nothing happened. They both checked my application status and detected no problem.
The SERVICOM head therefore instructed the officer to regenerate my file. He promised to indorse and send it to the production room, but I must do something before that happens. I must have a flight ticket and get a letter from the organization am with abroad, stating why I have to return urgently. That got me infuriated. Booking has not helped most of the applicants I’ve seen around. Moreover, I can only show proof that I’m affiliated with a foreign organization and why my trip is urgent, but can’t get a letter from abroad.
I contend that it is unreasonable for Nigerian immigration to be directing Nigerians to get a letter from foreign institutions before they can be issued a passport. The noisy room suddenly went silent. Unbothered, I stated that the passport is my inalienable right and no foreign institution would persuade Nigeria before I get it. The room was still silent, an indication that I’ve either misfired or scored a hat-trick. It was the latter. I was told to only explain my situation in writing and provide evidence that I must travel soon. No foreign letter needed.
I returned the next day with my letter and supporting evidence. To my utter dismay, the passport office had no network to check my status. I was amazed, but the officers weren’t. They experience such regularly. No one could do a thing that day. The entire office was practically shut down.
We were all waiting for network when I overheard the officers discussing about a just released promotion list. They’re annoyed that many of the officers who participated in the promotion exercise and passed, without any query, were not promoted, because they’re Southerners. The Northerners, particularly the Hausa-Fulani were massively promoted and posted to promising places. They also complained about the lack of proper documentation in the Nigerian Immigration Service. Many retired and deceased officers name came out as promoted. The officers lastly discussed the new enhanced e-passport and how much they should be charging for ‘assistance’. No amount was agreed. I went home happy. The revelations made my coming worthwhile.
The next day, my officer advised I shouldn’t regenerate my file for one reason: the officers assigned to search files often declare them unfound without conducting any search. The officer collected extra N3,000 from me to tip a new contact in the production room. I was glad I didn’t ask the foreign body for letter and my predicament was earning me uncommon findings.
I later visited the passport office with Dr Akin, an erudite scholar and researcher who just landed in Nigeria. I briefed him of my past findings and tasked him for more. Dr Akin gathered facts from the applicants through informal discussions. His respondents revealed they’re being ‘assisted’ by different officers who charged them between N30,000 to N45,000, instead of N18,000. He briefed me of a septuagenarian who vowed it’s impossible for anyone to procure a passport at the official fee. The old woman shared her desire to see a working Nigeria, but regrets that can’t happen during her lifetime. I got my passport that day, about three months after applying.
The Comptroller General, Nigerian Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede have to step up his game. He needs to inject more transparency, efficiency, accountability and discipline into the service. More passport offices need to be established and the existing ones should be provided with enough amenities. More seats are needed. Many applicants stood under the sun to collect their passport and the public address system was inaudible. Those in front have to repeat the names being called before others could hear. People were charged N50 for using the lavatory, why?
This piece is an advocacy for efficiency, not vilification. The passport office and persons were deliberately not mentioned. An encounter with me shouldn’t make them the fall guy. What is needed is a holistic reform, not punishing few persons for the wrongs being committed by virtually everyone in the service.
*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org
Celebrating Africa’s digital potential on UN Youth Day
August 14, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ime Archibong*
|Africa’s young population could be its greatest asset in an age where many other regions in the world are aging as a result of declining birth rates|
ACCRA, Ghana, August 12, 2019,Many things have been said about the future Africa and its potential, it has been called the Opportunity Continent, the Next Frontier and Africa rising, with all of these true. For me the excitement comes in how Africa can, and will one day lead in the digital economy, not only creating a better future for its young people, but for people across the entire continents, whether here in Africa or elsewhere like in Europe or the US.
Africa’s young population could be its greatest asset in an age where many other regions in the world are aging as a result of declining birth rates. As the world’s human population grows from 7.4 billion people to 8.2 billion people between now and 2025, 40% of that growth will come from Africa, and with more than 628 million people aged below 24, this young, dynamic and innovative population will become one of the most powerful engines of growth the world has ever seen.
Personally, I’ve always been so inspired by the creativity and talent across my home continent – whether it’s creating mobile phone apps which makes motorcycle taxis safer and more convenient, like in the case of Safe Motos in Rwanda and now DRC, or building technological solutions to solve agricultural challenges, like Plantheus, a recent graduate of Facebook’s (www.Facebook.com) NG_Hub Accelerator Program, we see people, especially youth, building solutions daily to local problems and needs. As eager and early adopters of technology, we’ll likely see the next wave of global digital innovations and apps coming from the continent and taken to the rest of the world.
Adoption of social media, mobile phones and mobile money are enabling Africa and its youth to leapfrog to the next wave of digital technology. This infrastructure is the foundation upon which so much innovation in Africa is built and will be built over the next five years. At Facebook, we’re committed to empowering young people to build their digital skills and harness them for the future – whether they are digital builders, developers or product innovators.
In the month of UN Youth Day, I’m delighted that we will be recognizing just some of these talents from across the region. Bringing together over 40 Facebook Community Leaders, SMBs, Entrepreneurs, Developers and Content Creators from across Sub-Saharan Africa, under the banner of ‘Celebrating Icons of Change and the Future of the Continent’ – celebrating the positive impact they are having in their community, something which is important to us here at Facebook.
Our commitment across the region remains strong, and Africa continues to be important for us, with this building on many partnerships, programs and initiatives already in place to help develop digital and entrepreneurial skills among young people. Whether it’s training SMBs through digital boot camps, helping interested youth to acquire digital marketing skills and placing them in employment, training women in leveraging digital solutions to grow their business, or bringing together 52,000 Developers from across 17 countries through our Developer Circles (http://bit.ly/2MbZe3t) program, we are excited to play a part in supporting the next generation of start-up founders, investors, developers and change makers.
As one of my favourite African proverbs says “For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today”, and we look forward to that tomorrow in the years to come.
BUHARI’S CERTIFICATE CONTROVERSY AND THE ESSENTIALITY OF EDUCATION
August 6, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Omoshola Deji*
Nigeria’s 2019 presidential election has ended, but the contest is ongoing at the tribunal. Politics is a mean game – and politicians devise every means to win. That ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar is challenging the result doesn’t mean he won. He may have indeed lose and still be imploring the tribunal to return him elected. In the same vein, President Muhammadu Buhari’s insistence that he won doesn’t mean he actually did. He may have robbed Atiku and still be persuading the tribunal to pronounce him validly elected. Aside determining who really won, two major issues are before the tribunal: Atiku’s citizenship determination and Buhari’s certificate verification.
The suits are distinct. Deciding when and where to be born is beyond Atiku’s control, but Buhari could have averted the certificate controversy if he had devoted time to education. Atiku would be suffering for an action taking by the colonialist, if the court rules that he is not a Nigerian, but Cameroonian. The genesis of Atiku’s citizenship case is the 1884 scramble for, and partition of Africa. His citizenship may not have been a subject of litigation, if the western nations had not partitioned Africa. The tribunal thus has an unenviable task of determining Atiku’s eligibility to contest for president, on account of the West’s adjustment of his ancestral boundary, before he was born.
The testimonies and evidences presented at the tribunal revived Buhari’s certificate controversy which started in 2014. Buhari’s witness, Major-Gen. Paul Tarfa (retd) avowed that the Army never collected the certificate of the 1962 course officers during recruitment, as earlier claimed by Buhari. This landmark confession revealed Buhari’s claim that his certificate is with the military in 2014 is untruth. Nigerians thought then President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the military to withhold Buhari’s certificate in order to disqualify him for contesting. Suspicion brew after Buhari won the election and still couldn’t present his certificate, despite being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The certificate-with-the-military excuse became untenable.
Buhari did not attach his certificate to the 2019 presidential nomination form, as lawfully required. To make amends, Abba Kyari, the Chief-of-Staff to the President tendered the president’s Cambridge assessment international education certified statement of West African School Certificate (WASC). Kyari claimed he personally signed and collected the document on behalf of Buhari. Atiku’s counsel argued during cross examination that colleges don’t release certificate to third parties. This assertion is untrue. Colleges do release certificate to third party on the instruction of the graduate, but certain conditions must be met. Such includes, but not limited to: a letter from the graduate indicating that his/her certificate be released to a third party; and such party must provide a valid form of identification.
To strengthen his defense, Buhari brought in Oshindehinde Adewunmi, the Deputy Registrar of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) in Nigeria to lead evidence in support of the document Kyari tendered. This unfortunately did more harm than good. When shown the document Kyari claimed to have collected on Buhari’s behalf, Adewunmi stated that the document is not a WAEC certificate, and he has never worked for the body that issued it. The witness said he cannot affirm the authenticity of the document because it does not bear his signature.
A comparison of the two documents Buhari presented – the Cambridge certified statement of WASC and the 1961 result sheet of the Provincial Secondary School Katsina – revealed some inconsistencies. One stated that Buhari sat for eight subjects, while the other stated he sat for six. The name on one is ‘Mohamed’ while the other is ‘Muhammadu’, although Buhari’s witness stressed that both names have the same meaning and are interchangeably used in Islam.
The discrepancies in the documents is making people opine Buhari would lose the case. Their argument is premised on Section 131 of the constitution, which states that ‘any contestant for the position of president of the country must have a minimum qualification of School Certificate or its equivalent’. However, they fail to take cognizance that Section 318 (1c) stated that ‘anyone with primary school certificate who has served in the Nigerian public or private sector, in any capacity, for a minimum of ten years is deemed to have the equivalent of a school certificate’. Buhari is thus qualified to contest and be president having served in the Army for over ten years. That however opens the door to new arguments.
The tribunal can only sack Buhari if his years of military service, which makes him qualify to be president under Section 318 (1c) is declared void. If Buhari joined the military with inadequate qualification, could his years of service be declared void? If Buhari was recruited into the military without a certificate and was not given a duration to produce it, who should be blamed? Buhari or the military? In any case, would it be fair to make Buhari suffer for the wrongs of the military recruitment board as the Supreme Court did to Ademola Adeleke in Osun?
The litigations and embarrassment the certificate scandal has brought upon Buhari could have been avoided if he had dedicated some time to scholarship. He had enough time to acquire more qualifications after General Ibrahim Babangida toppled his military regime in 1983. Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo — Buhari’s senior in age and in the military — bagged a Bachelor and Doctorate after he left office as President in 1999. Buhari is not an accidental president. His three unsuccessful race for the nation’s top job, cumulatively 12 years of aiming for president, is enough for him to have bagged a diploma or degree.
Buhari was yearning to lead but failed to prepare for leadership. This showed in his six-month late appointment of ministers in 2015. It is also manifesting in his abysmal performance and mishandling of sensitive national issues. His lack of ideas, narrow-mindedness and sectionalism is disintegrating the country and hampering growth. He has given little for every much expected. One cannot, in fairness, totally attribute Buhari’s shortcomings to insufficient education. The government of his predecessor who holds a doctorate was a colossal failure.
Nonetheless, that Goodluck Jonathan failed doesn’t mean Buhari should. Buhari’s underperformance hinge on his apologists cheering of wrongs. Justifying Buhari’s failure to get educated is moronic. Many of those defending him severely punish their children for not scoring ‘A’. They want their children to earn higher degrees, but passionately defend a president with a controversial certificate. Some of these apologists demand for Bachelor’s degree, National Youth Service Corps certificate, and five years working experience before they can hire and pay 70,000 Naira (about $200) per month. Such a brazen show of double standard is galling.
Sections 131 and 318 of the 1999 constitution needs to be amended. The framers made it possible for anyone to be president, so long as they can “read, write, understand and communicate in English language to the satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission”. The best may never get to lead the rest if the constitution is not amended. The less educated ones would continue to govern; appointing and issuing directives to professors. Nigerian leaders, many of whom are not so educated, controls the resources and earn huge, while the professors and citizens earn peanuts. The professors that should be ruling the less educated are the ones conducting elections to bring them to power.
Nigerian education needs oxygen. The struggle to make ends meet has turned many professors to political job seekers and errand boy. High fees, vast unemployment, and inadequate reward for academic excellence is discouraging people from becoming educated. A friend once said “education is the master key” and “Bata re a dun kokoka” loosely translated “you would wear the best shoes if you’re educated” inspired many to invest in education, but they’ve gained nothing. Politicians and political thugs are the ones wearing the best shoes.
Everyone must endeavor to be educated despite the challenges and discouragements. Buhari and Osun state former governorship candidate, Ademola Adeleke’s ordeal is a strong lesson that the education you fail to acquire may be all you need to win tomorrow.
Things are turning around for the good of the educated. Education is changing the game. Faster than anyone imagined. The educated ones are bringing innovation to businesses and taking over the jobs from the uneducated. Booking taxi through apps is gradually gobbling the job of the uneducated drivers. Many people view education has the ticket to working in an office, dressing corporate. No. Education ideally gives you a knowledge of the world around you and the skill to do things in a better way.
The case of Wunmi comes to mind. Wunmi is a female university graduate who studied mass communication, but earns a living from furnishing homes. She uploads furniture pictures on e-commerce platforms and contract artisans to produce them when she has order. The artisans’ inability to open and manage an e-commerce store is fetching Wunmi money. She wouldn’t have been an intermediary if the artisans are educated. She is earning huge, thriving and expanding, while the uneducated artisans are earning less. That’s the power of education. Buhari, Adeleke, and Wunmi are lessons. Learn.
*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via email@example.com
THE POLITICS OF MINISTERIAL APPOINTMENT AND SENATE’S SCREENING
August 6, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Omoshola Deji*
After several knocks and post-inaugural countdown by Nigerians and the media, President Muhammadu Buhari bowed to pressure. He sent 43 ministerial nominees name to the Senate for screening. This action relit the Buhari leadership competence debate. The Buhari apologists applaud the president for making such crucial nominations in almost two months of his second term; a radical improvement from the first term which took him six months. On the other hand, the opposition contends that Buhari’s ministerial nominees list is uninspiring and untimely. They knock Buhari for not imitating Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom who constituted their cabinets immediately after swearing-in.
Without further ado, the Buharists averred that the Nigerian political climate and workings is different from that of South Africa, the United Kingdom, or any other country. Weighing in, this piece examines the factors that influenced Buhari’s choice and the nominee’s capacity to accomplish the Next Level agenda. It also appraises the quality of Senate’s screening and the relevance of the bow-and-go tradition.
The Lucky 43
Most of the political heavyweights in Nigeria survive on politics. Subtract all they’ve acquired through politics from their asset and you’ll realize why they spare nothing to perpetuate themselves in power. Those who lose elections and those who’ve served their term lobby for appointments. The Minister position is the most sought after. Not many lobby to be Ambassadors. They refrain from residing outside the country in order not to lose their political relevance and structures.
The president’s declaration that he would appoint only those he knows sent shivers down the spine of the hundreds lobbying for ministerial appointment. Many of them have not more than a distant political relationship with the president, but they were not deterred. They all intensified their lobbying through the first lady, the party chairman, and powerful presidential aides, but only 43 got selected.
Facts from 43
The 43 nominees comprise of 36 males and 7 females. Buhari didn’t fulfil his promise of giving 35 percent appointments to women. The youths are not represented as all the nominees are above 35 years. Per geopolitical zone, Buhari nominated 9 persons from the North West, 7 from the North East; 7 from the North Central; 7 from the South West; 7 from the South South; and 6 from the South East. Note that four zones has 7 nominees each, while the Northwest and Southeast has the highest (9) and lowest (6) nominees. The southeasterners are displeased with the margin. They are upset that Buhari selected nominees based on the votes he garnered per region.
During the last presidential election, Buhari scored 5,995,651 votes in the Northwest and a meagre 403,968 votes in the Southeast. It is thus politically not irrational for the Northwest to get more appointment than the Southeast. Moreover, the Northwest is made up of 7 states while the Southeast has 5. Notwithstanding, Buhari’s antecedent suggests that he would have picked less than 7 nominees from the Southeast, if the constitution didn’t mandate him to appoint ministers from every state.
One state in each region has two nominees, except the region where Buhari hails from: the Northwest. Two states in the region, Kano and Katsina have 2 nominees each. This is apparently because Buhari earned more votes in Kano than other states and Katsina is his state of origin. Abuja, the federal capital territory had no nominee. Some argue that Buhari excluded Abuja because the residents didn’t vote for him. That can’t be the case. The exclusion is most certainly an error the presidency is planning to correct.
Team 43 for 2023?
Retaining power in 2023 largely influenced Buhari’s ministerial choice. Majority of his nominees are career politicians who are more skilled in coordinating campaigns than providing good governance. Buhari is probably unmindful that the challenges bedeviling Nigeria requires the service of professionals, not politicians. His nominees comprise of 9 ex-governors, ex-lawmakers, and 12 immediate past ministers. 31 nominees are new to the job; an indication that Buhari is not so pleased with the performance of their predecessors or simply wish to change hands. That does not however tone down the obvious: Buhari sacrificed effective governance for political continuity.
It’s a season of political harvest for Buhari’s loyalists. The ministerial nominees list is an indication that those who worked assiduously for him in 2015 and 2019 would be enormously rewarded. The 43 prospective ministers are a perfect election winning squad. Buhari carefully selected the leading political lords across the states. He nominated the strong who lost elections to keep them active for 2023.
The stakes are getting high. Politicians with weak political structures are being discarded for the influential and powerful. Audu Ogbeh was replaced with George Akume who has many political disciples and a large pocket. Godswill Akpabio and Rotimi Amaechi are being re-energized to install APC in Akwa-Ibom and the South-South. Gbemisola Saraki’s is being strengthened to decimate Bukola Saraki’s political machineries. Olorunimbe Mamora’s nomination has further strengthened team Lagos and Bola Tinubu’s commitment to the 2023 project. Chris Ngige was reappointed to put structures in place for APC to win Anambra.
Timipre Sylva’s is being empowered to revive APC for victory in the forthcoming Bayelsa governorship election. Festus Keyamo is being wired for the 2023 governorship race in Delta State. Emeka Nwajiuba is being tasked to reunite APC and win Imo. The ministerial hopefuls are indeed a perfect election winning squad. Their appointment is to empower them with the federal might and resources they need to deliver victory for the APC in 2023. But one major thing that would determine whether 2023 would be theirs is their ability to take Nigeria to the next level.
The Next Level
The president’s ditching of technocrats for politicians who has no record of exceptional performance in public service may make his administration unpopular. He should have appointed technocrats to kick-start the implementation of his Next Level programs and keep them in office for at least two years. He could then bring in the politicians to continue. The technocrats shouldn’t be sacked. They should be retained as consultants to periodically offer professional advice and assist in formulating government policies. You may disagree with this position, but you can’t help agreeing that it is sensible to start a project with professionals who truly understands what to do and how to do it.
Ministerial appointments should be based on merit, not clout. Buhari must align with the national assembly to pass bills that would make politics unprofitable and corruption punishable by death, if he really wants to make a difference. He must also desist from placing politics above policy. The technocrats he nominated such as Sunday Dare and Pauline Tallen are too insignificant. Be expectant not. The assembled nominees have no solution to Nigeria’s multidimensional problems and would leave the nation worse than they met it. They would most certainly usher Nigeria into greater poverty, insecurity, inflation, and recession. Buhari has the capacity, but lacks the will to turn things around. So also the Ahmed Lawan led Senate.
The Quality of Senate’s Screening
Sending names of ministerial nominees to the Senate with their portfolios is one of the change Nigerians voted for, but never got. This has remarkably hindered the senate from properly grilling the nominees, who also cannot present their goals because they don’t know the ministries they’ll lead. The screening is fruitless. Ministerial nominees are proving their capacity, and the senate is assessing their ability to head a ministry they both don’t know. This fatal, but avoidable error makes the screening a valueless and purposeless exercise.
It is disheartening that the screening is more of endorsement than assessment. The senators’ asininity is shameful and disturbing. They were unable to ask salient questions, quote statistics, reference global happenings, and give recommendations that can move Nigeria forward. They were also unable to correct the erring and over ambitious nominees. None of them could educate Festus Keyamo that the Attorney General, an appointee of the executive, cannot unbundle the Supreme Court that is under another arm of government, the judiciary.
Nigerians are disappointed. Many are casting doubt on Senate President Ahmed Lawan’s capacity to objectively legislate and oversight. He is accused of rubber stamping. Lawan must swiftly redeem his reputation by providing quality leadership. Loyalty to the party and the presidency should not push him to be acting against public interest.
The Bow and go Soft-landing
The bow and go privilege for ex-lawmakers has outlived its significance. Asking nominees to bow and go without answering questions is a disservice to the nation. Lawmaking and administrating require different skills. That the nominees performed when they’re lawmakers – most actually didn’t – does not mean they would perform as ministers. Some of them never contributed to debates or sponsored bill when they were in parliament. Think. Does it mean that the Senate would ask all the 43 nominees to bow and go if they’re all ex-lawmakers?
It is appalling that 10 of the first 14 nominees screened by the Senate were asked to bow and go. Apart from the ex-lawmakers, nominees were asked to bow and go because they are handsome and loyal. Richard Adebayo was asked to bow and go because he is the current Deputy National Chairman (South) of the APC. A nominee from the Senate President’s state also benefited.
Some nominees were asked to bow and go because they are women. Majority of the ex-ministers who should be asked to give an account of their stewardship and why Nigerians should reemploy them were just asked to bow and go. Rotimi Ameachi was awarded the privilege because he is an ex-Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly; a position he occupied over 12 years ago. The bow and go privilege shouldn’t be a free-for-all or life time benefit. It has been brazenly abused and should be abolished. The world is moving and Nigeria must move along. We must adopt better ways of doing things for us to have a better nation.
*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org
BUHARI, OSIBANJO RELATIONSHIP; AN ENDURING LEGACY TO NIGERIAN DEMOCRACY
July 2, 2019 | 0 Comments
BY Hussaini Monguno*
Since Nigeria returned to presidential democracy in 1999, the relationship between the president and his deputy has been a contentious issue. To set the ball rolling was the pair of President Olusegun Obasanjo and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, his Vice.
The relationship between the two particularly in the second term of their office was so fractured that the President stripped his Vice of all powers, even the peripheral ones like participation in all cabinet meetings and by statute, membership in the National Security Council, the National Defence Council, Federal Executive Council, and the Chairman of National Economic Council.
The causes of this conflict were an open secret; it was instigated by political jobbers who wanted to fish in the troubled waters of a President at war with his deputy. Additionally, the President wanted a third term in office while his Vice was of the view that he should stick to the Constitutional provision of a maximum of two terms.
While the disagreement lasted, the President went the extra mile to block all financial allocations to the office of the Vice President, sacked all his personal aids, including his drivers and security personnel and even attempted to shut him out of the Federal executive Council meetings. Every time he travelled out of the country as he loved to do, he whimsically handed over the running of the government not to the Vice President as provided by the Constitution but to a chosen crony.
President Obasanjo’s bullying tactics nearly plunged the country into a Constitutional crisis and political upheaval. It was the civilized response of Vice President Atiku Abubakar that saved the day. He responded as a democrat and did not take the law into his hands. Instead, he went to the courts, seeking protection from the illegal acts of his overbearing boss. Credit must be given to Atiku for advancing the rule of law in a democratic Nigeria. Obasanjo even ‘suspended’ him from office. He took him to court and won all his cases, even at the Supreme Court of the land.
Following the bad example of his predecessor, President Umaru Yar’Adua never took his Vice President Goodluck Jonathan into much confidence. In 2009 he travelled to Saudi Arabia for medical help without transmitting a letter to the National Assembly transferring power to his Vice. As his stay in Saudi Arabia became rather prolonged, a dangerous power vacuum was created at the apex of government. Questions began to be asked both within Nigeria and the international community as to who was in charge of affairs in the most populous black nation on earth.
As the country drifted hopelessly to the precipice, civil society organisations took up the challenge and organized protest marches to ensure that the constitutional crisis did not snowball into anarchy. The National assembly rose to the occasion and came up with the “doctrine of necessity”, which clearly offended the constitution but saved the country from a certain doom. Goodluck Jonathan was by that novel experiment empowered to be an acting President.
Against such a turbulent background, we must give President Muhammadu Buhari the credit for he has already left an enduring succession legacy even as he has not clocked two years in office as President. On all occasions that he has had to travel out of the country on his official or medical leave, he has written to the National Assembly transferring power to his trusted Vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. By such action, he has created a situation where transfer of power has been seamless and rancor free. In his absence, even when rumours are afloat in the air that he has expired, government business moved on smoothly.
Last Sunday the President travelled abroad to the United Kingdom to keep an appointment with his doctors. As usual he wrote to the National Assembly as required by section 145(1) of the Constitution. But the Senator representing Abia-North at the National Assembly, Mao Ohuabunwa, tried to raise unnecessary dust over the letter on Tuesday, saying the transfer of power from President Muhammadu Buhari to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was not clear.
Ohuabunwa had raised a point of order after President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, separately read a letter from President Buhari informing the legislature of his medical vacation.
Buhari in the letter said the duration of his leave was indefinite and that the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo would “coordinate” the governance while he is away.
But Senator Ohuabunwa faulted the letter as not naming Osinbajo as Acting President and should be disregarded. He said, “Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them the written declaration to the contrary, such function shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.
“Mr. President, I don’t think in our Constitution we have anything like ‘coordinating president’ or ‘coordinating vice president.’ It is either you are vice president or you are acting president and any letter (on transfer of power) should be unambiguous and very clear. So, I am saying that this letter really does not convey anything because ‘coordinating’ has no space or any place in our Constitution.”
We are happy that the Senate has wisely ignored Mao Ohuabunwa’s alarmist call on the Presidents well intentioned letter to the National Assembly. His call was an unpatriotic but futile attempt to bring distrust between the President and his loyal Vice. It is reminiscent of the PDP politics in the Obasanjo Atiku days when political scavengers created mistrust in the presidency for their own selfish gains.
We wish to inform Nigerians who may not know that Mao Ohuabunwa did his National Youth service Corps in Yola the capital of Adamawa State. After that, he stayed there to start life as a young man until he plunged into politics. He therefore took advantage of his links with Adamawa people to create mistrust between the Turakin Adamawa, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Obasanjo. He for instance coordinated the first attempt to impeach Obasanjo in 2002. This was the first thing that brought a lot of mistrust between Atiku and Obasanjo.
We are therefore calling on Ohuabunwa to stop his anti-democratic antics and save Nigeria from the agonies of his old selfish tactics.
Hussaini Monguno wrote this piece from Yerwa and it is culled from his facebook page
Revisiting ‘democracy and dictatorship’
July 2, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Edwin Madunagu
Let us begin by quickly recalling two bits of Nigeria’s recent history. First, at the close of 1983, a military junta overthrew and supplanted the elected civilian government of Shehu Shagari, the first and only president of Nigeria’s Second Republic (1979-1983). Then, early in 1985, in the second year of the new military regime, which was headed by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, an animated debate, similar to the one the country is now witnessing, raged in Nigeria’s national newspapers. The debate then was the relationship between democracy and dictatorship, or—as Leftists would more elegantly describe it—the “dialectics of democracy and dictatorship”. Thirty-three years later, with the global triumph of “democracy”, the question has transformed to the relationship between “national security” and “the rule of law” under “democracy”!
Incidentally, I joined The Guardian newspaper as a resident, full-time member of the Editorial Board when the 1985 debate was raging. And I joined the debate as a newly-inaugurated member of the Board and columnist. The present piece may be read either as an entirely fresh article provoked by the current debate over a recent statement by Nigeria’s current democratically–elected civilian President, Muhammadu Buhari, or as a review/update of my article, “Democracy and dictatorship”, published by The Guardian on Thursday, May 16, 1985. The 1985 article was provoked by the government of the same personage, Muhammadu Buhari, then Nigeria’s unelected military Head of State.
The broadest presentation of the central question in the 1985 debate was whether Nigeria, under military rule, was a democracy or not. It was as simple and straightforward as that—or as I saw it then, in 1985. A second question attached to the first, or issuing from it, was what should be done, if the regime was not a democracy. Leftists are often more interested in this type of follow-up questions. In any case, many participants in the 1985 debate agreed that Nigerians should struggle to return the country to democratic rule, perhaps a better form of democracy than the Second Republic. Many others argued for a revolution—perhaps a socialist one—to re-define democracy. However, my attitude then was that a comprehensive answer to the first question carried the essential elements of the answer to the second.
Back to the central question of whether Nigeria was a democracy—a question that was, in essence, neither legal nor technical, but political. One answer was that Nigeria was not a democracy and should, in fact, not pretend to be one. Another opinion was that although Nigeria was not a democracy, there were certain democratic rights of the Nigerian people that ought to survive any change of government—“rights that are, more or less, conquests of humanity as a whole, rights that are incorporated in the United Nations’ Declaration on Human Rights to which Nigeria is a signatory”. That was how I put it in my May 1985 article: “Democracy and dictatorship”. Of course, there were other positions—some illuminating the questions, others confusing them. But I settled for the two described above as the main, dominant ones.
My substantive answer to this central question was in two parts. The first part was that Nigeria under the military rule of General Buhari and Brigadier Idiagbon was not a democracy, and that the Shehu Shagari civilian regime which it overthrew and supplanted was also not a democracy. The second part was that under class rule, democracy and dictatorship are not “polar opposites” but “dialectical opposites”; that “democracy” and “dictatorship” are polar opposites only in their “pure forms”; and that “democracy” in its pure form is realizable only in a distant regime projected by Marxists and some other strata of Leftists. By this composite proposition I meant that in actually-existing political class regimes, the best democracies contain significant dictatorial elements while even the worst dictatorships usually claim, or are portrayed, to be influenced by some known democratic principles and antecedents. Today, what I would add to this 1985 “disquisition” is that we can differentiate between regimes and social orders advancing to democracy and those that are not.
About five years after this debate and the appearance of my article “Democracy and dictatorship”, I received a copy of the August 1990 issue of a Moscow-published magazine called “New Times”. Pages (40-43) of the issue carried an article titled “Dictatorship and democracy” written in prison in 1918 by Rosa Luxemburg, a leading Marxist political economist and revolutionary of Polish-German nationality. She was the de-facto co-founder of what became the Communist Party of Germany: “de-facto” because she was murdered in prison in 1919 by rising German fascists before the party was formally proclaimed. The article was extracted from a larger article by Luxemburg titled “The Russian Revolution”, a long review of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Being incarcerated, she based her review on what she saw and knew before her incarceration and reports smuggled to her in prison.
I was pleased to see Rosa Luxemburg’s 1918 article five years after I wrote mine. But I noted then, in 1990—and more strongly now, in 2018—that the difference between Luxemburg’s title, “Dictatorship and democracy” and mine, “Democracy and dictatorship” goes beyond the arrangement of the two key words. Each arrangement indicates where the author concerned was focusing in the dialectics.
My reading of what Luxemburg was saying in her review was that the Russian revolution ought to be more democratic— notwithstanding the need and the fact, both upheld by her, that it was a form of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” which was conceived as a transition to socialism, to socialist democracy. The best that capitalism had been able to offer the world, she insisted, was bourgeois democracy. This bourgeois democracy was however, in essence, bourgeois dictatorship, the dictatorship of the capitalist ruling class.
Proletarian democracy should not be a mere “inversion” of bourgeois democracy—or else it would not transit to socialist democracy. Proletarian democracy should “proceed at every step from the active participation of the masses; it should be under their direct influence; it should submit to control by the people and it should rest on the growing political knowledge of the masses.”
Rosa Luxemburg’s review of the Russian Revolution was both critical and sympathetic. In addition to what I have already said, the following direct quotes from her “Dictatorship and democracy” further illustrate her provisional assessment—which unfortunately became the last one: “Any sustained rule by a state of siege leads to arbitrary rule; and any arbitrary rule leads to corruption”; “Without free press, without unfettered unions and freedom of assembly genuine rule by the people is unthinkable”; “The public life of a state with limited freedom is poor, meagre, schematic and sterile because by excluding democracy it shuts off its own sources of spiritual wealth and progress”; “Freedom for the government supporters is not freedom. Freedom is always for dissenters”.
Then, Rosa Luxemburg’s warning: “Unless the entire mass of people is engaged, socialism will be introduced by a score of intellectuals sitting round a green table. Control by the people is absolutely necessary, otherwise experience will be shared only within a close circle of officials of the new government, and corruption will be inevitable.”
But Rosa Luxemburg’s article ended on a note of praise, support and optimism: “At this stage, on the eve of decisive battles throughout the world …. Lenin and Trotsky and their friends were the first to march ahead of the world proletariat and show it an example. This is the most essential—and permanent—feature of Bolshevism. They have ventured out in the forefront of the international proletariat and given the struggle between capital and labour all over the world a mighty push forward. In Russia, the problem could only be raised but not solved, because it can only be solved internationally.”
Madunagu, mathematician and journalist, writes from Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria.
A Memo to Paul Biya, President of Cameroon on: The Urgent Need for Public Policy Mediation and Negotiations in the Ongoing Armed Conflict in the Anglophone Regions of Cameroon
June 28, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Rev. Fr. Wilfred Emeh*
How did we get here?
It has been nearly three years since the unprecedented outbreak of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon – a crisis that has dealt a heavy blow on the facets of life of our beloved nation. The UN has reported nearly 2,000 deaths, property has been destroyed, schools have been torched, and uncertainty looms as thousands of people continue to live in misery. The devastation on our economy and human resources are inestimable; businesses have been forced to close, and talented citizens continue to flee their homeland. Thousands of families have been displaced, and many others have become refugees in foreign lands.
How did we get here? The escalation of the ongoing conflict is consequent upon grave administrative failures that include mass arrests and brutal force and extrajudicial killings at a time when peaceful civilians merely sought to express their grievances against the ruling government. Over time, insurgent groups emerged, acquired arms, and targeted the military and security officers, in what has become a full-blown armed conflict in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.
In retrospect, crass failure to implement educational and judicial policies, that are foundational principles of our co-existence, was the main cause of the Anglophone uprising. This was a glaring neglect of pertinent policies on equal partnership, the preservation of cultural heritage and identity of each region as stipulated by the union-agreement between the Francophone and the Anglophone regions. Evidently, this failure of policy implementation was a symptom of more profound ailments within our political institution that favors corruption, marginalization and social injustice. The implementation of policies, especially those that are constitutionally founded, are essential in the democratic decision-making process of every nation.
Despite the current situation, it would be in our national interest if all parties resort to the public policy mediation process which is an inclusive, transparent process of negotiations among government agency officials and diverse stakeholders that often results in consensus agreements rooted in nuanced understandings of a conflict (Potziba, 2019). This memo largely seeks to identify the root causes of the current crisis and propose recommendations for a swift resolution of the ongoing armed conflict.
Where are we?
So far, the government’s approach and tactics have been futile; attempts to set up a bilingualism commission failed no less than the authoritative leadership style. On the other hand, opposition groups have engaged in propaganda and destructive ideologies. Several factions have emerged with multiple pseudo-leaderships, void of any clear sense of direction. Civil rights activists are in jail while young people have been radicalized. The future is bleak as there seems to be no real leadership on either side of the aisle. And, while the government persists in cracking down on political activists and insurgents, the latter seem resolved to resist and fight back to the last ounce of their blood. It is rightly said, “as hunters have learned to shoot without missing, birds will have no choice but learn to fly without perching.”
Consequently, our people are hurting. Worse still, both the government and the separatist forces seem to be on extreme ends of the political spectrum. Clearly without any strategies or plans for a resolution, an already precarious economy is worsening by the day, while armed bandits continue to terrorize and harass hard working civilians.
Brief theoretical framework
There is urgent need for public policy mediation, which should include revisiting the political roots of the problem in a spirit of dialogue, conferences and negotiation. “In several Western democracies, attempts have been made to find a way out of these problems by trying out new forms of conflict resolution based upon negotiation and participatory procedures such as policy dialogue, consensus conferences, participatory technology assessment, mediation, or facilitation” (Holzinger, 2001).
The benefits of policy mediation and negotiation are enormous; it brings together policy experts from international platforms who will forge the path to a lasting resolution. Usually policy mediation fosters deliberations among parties that represent every aspect of a situation, supported by expertise as needed, resulting in agreements that avoid unintended consequences (Podziba, 2019).
Another important benefit of policy mediation is face-to-face deliberations that promote civil discourse. This is quite different from the vitriolic attacks and incivility that we have also witnessed on social media platforms, spewed by both the government spokespersons and opposition groups.
Negotiation and policy mediation are bedfellows, encouraging the willingness of both parties to shift positions with a clear focus on a win-win outcome. During successful negotiation, emotions are separated from the factual basis of the problem, shifting the focus to the benefits without the pride of clinging to positions. Lines of communication are opened, paving the way toward rational analysis of arguments, discussion of concessions and pursuit of compromise to the benefit of everyone.
Understandably, the ruling government has an uphill task in initiating dialogue with diverse opposition groups, some of which have been tagged as terrorists. This must be dealt with initially as it is the outcome of the delegitimization of the premier civil rights consortium. A committed public relations bureau of the government with sound knowledge on the issues should identify the main rival groups and extend an invitation to them.
What must we do?
- Amidst these tumultuous times, political leaders need to rise beyond personal feelings, hurt, and mistakes of the past and look at the bigger picture: the future of our children, peace, and stability are priceless. It is time to demonstrate true leadership by involving the grassroots in a process of dialogue that can bring real change in Cameroon. Richard Box (1998) explains that finding a way to equitably resolve differences is a key interpersonal skill, opening the door to more citizen-oriented governance. For elected leaders and public service practitioners, this means a flexible attitude toward change, shedding of protective feelings of personal turf, and a willingness to engage in open dialogue on issues facing the community (as cited in Denhardt et al., 2014).
- The time for blame games is over. It is urgent for warring factions to come to the negotiating table in a spirit of sincere dialogue that allows deliberations on all options including federalism. The current efforts being made to host an All-Anglophone Conference (November 21-22) is commendable. These kinds of initiatives – notably dialogues led by civil society, whether secular or religious – should get strong support from governments and international organizations, including the U.S., the European Union, the African Union, and even the Vatican. The International Crisis Group has recommended the Catholic Church as potential mediator of the crisis.
- There is need for a neutral arbiter in the policy mediation process. This is no longer an internal affair as often claimed by some overzealous political pundits. The constant refrain by Anthony Guiterez, Secretary General of the UN, that Africans should solve their own problems, is unrealistic, perhaps even bizarre. We would be repeating mistakes of the past to the detriment of human life and human dignity.
- A decentralized form of government should be considered to better serve the needs of the people, which would devolve power and control to the local communities, limiting the concentration of management of the nation’s resources in the hands of a few high-positioned officials. By shifting control rights from the central bureaucrat (who otherwise acts like an unregulated monopolist) to a local government, decentralization typically tends to expand service deliveries as authority goes to those more responsive to user needs (Bardhan, 2002).
In conclusion, our nation must strive toward good governance. Most armed conflicts in Africa are caused by bad governance. All over the world, people naturally rise against regimes that deprive them of their rights and privileges due to institutional corruption. In retrospect, armed conflicts in Nigeria, Mali, Sudan, Liberia, just to mention a few, were all linked to bad governance. The United Nation Children’s Fund notes, “corruption and bad governance were among the causes of war. The majority of the people had no voice in the government and no opportunities in life and so they were easily provoked to violence” (as cited in Yiew et al., 2016). Good governance is key to mitigating armed conflict. Empirical studies show that countries that uphold democratic principles, where corruption is under control, where law and order is maintained, where the people are served accordingly, are less vulnerable to armed conflicts (Yiew et al., 2016).
Bardhan P. (2002). Decentralization of governance and development. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 16(4), 185–205. Retrieved from https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/089533002320951037
Birkland, T. A. (2015). An introduction to the policy process: Theories, concepts, and models of public policy making. Routledge.
Denhardt, R., Denhardt, J., & Blanc, T. (2014). Public administration: An action orientation (7th ed.). Cengage Learning
Holzinger, K. (2001). Negotiations in public-policy making: Exogenous barriers to successful dispute resolution. Journal of Public Policy, 21(1), 71-96.
Konings, P., & Nyamnjoh, F. B. (1997). The anglophone problem in Cameroon. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 35(2), 207-229.
Podziba, S. L. (2019). Conflict, Negotiation, and Public Policy Mediation in the Trump Era. Negotiation Journal, 35(1), 177-181.
Staff, C (2018). Cameroon cardinal helping organize conference to tackle Anglophone crisis. Retrieved from https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2018/08/04/cameroon-cardinal-helping-organize-conference-to-tackle-anglophone-crisis/
Yiew, T. H., Habibullah, M. S., Law, S. H., & Azman-Saini, W. N. W. (2016). Does bad governance cause armed conflict? International Journal of Applied Business and Economic Research, 14(6), 3741-3755.
*Rev. Wilfred Emeh is a doctoral student in Public Administration at the West Chester University in Pennsylvania. His area of concentration is governance and armed conflict in Africa