Monthly Archives: April 2014

R.I.P Amaka Igwe

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Why has Governor Nyako not been arrested for treasonable felony? #Nigeria

Northern governors must be very livid with Governor Nyako for his recent treasonable pronouncements. It is important to point out that the Adamawa State governor did not shoot from the hip. He is afterall a fighting man. And he is certainly not suffering from schizophrenia. Simply put, he made his statements well aware of the potential consequences for Nigeria’s national security. It is thus curious that he has not been “invited” as yet for discussions by the State Security Service.

It is also troubling that the former Vice Admiral’s (and second most senior military officer in Nigeria at some point in our history) pronouncements coincided with former Head of State, General Buhari’s formal denouncement of terrorism. If there hitherto was any doubt about the culpability of the North’s elite (there is a wide dichotomy between the region’s elite and masses) in regard of the Boko Haram menace, Governor Nyako has unintentionally vindicated the intuition and perception by many that the region’s ruling class are partly to blame for our country’s present predicament.

The president’s caution in general is likely because of a desire not to instigate a bigger conflict. However, that caution is misplaced in the face of such brazenness displayed by Nigeria’s former Deputy Chief of Defence Staff and now Governor of a state; especially as this is someone privy to the national security secrets of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is not a call for an emotional, “commando” style and sensational arrest; as that would certainly play into the hands of the wily man. Due process is what is being called for here. The President should simply direct the Attorney-General to file treason charges against the Governor. And of course, the government cannot now say it doesn’t know how to get around the Governor’s immunity. Whether a potential treason charge against Governor Nyako leads to a conviction is immaterial. Apart from the clear message it would send about this government’s commitment to fighting terrorism, it may also avail the authorities of much sought after intelligence.

As for the president’s quick praise of General Buhari’s recent pronouncements denouncing terrorism, what was the hurry for? The Boko Haram crisis took a meaner dimension after the former head of state lost the 2011 elections. And he is only now issuing a statement denouncing terrorism after four years? President Jonathan should instead use his bully pulpit to ask General Buhari to speak in Hausa on the BBC, VoA, Radio Kaduna, etc. Hausa radio services denouncing Boko Haram in very clear terms and asking the North’s masses to support the government’s efforts. And this should be broadcasted repeatedly. In fact, a roll-call should be taken of all the members of the North’s elite who are yet to publicly denounce Boko Haram.

Isn’t it curious to anyone that the body language of Northern Governors and other northerners does not suggest a group of people worried about Boko Haram or the insecurity in the north? Since the beginning of the crisis, there has been an increase in the military budget, an increased focus on their supposed grievances (some of which are legitimate; the poverty in the north is staggering and there is enough blame to pass around for this) and a deliberate attempt by the President to ingratiate himself to them. This is not without precedence. President Jonathan would probably have been denied the presidency during the Yar’adua interregnum but for the consciousness by “custodians” of the Nigerian State of potential repercussions from Niger Delta militants if he were denied the rights of his office. As events since the negotiated peace with the Niger Delta show, insurgency can be quite beneficial.

Let’s think about this for a bit. Hitherto, all the major regions of the country had an insurgent/secessionist strategy or autonomy advocacy group except the North. The Yorubas in the Southwest had a quasi-military wing called the Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) and the Igbos in the Southeast had the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). What the did north have? Until it became clear to the North’s elite that power was going to elude them for some 18 years (if we include the remainder of President Yar’adua’s tenure), there was no need to adopt such a strategy. If President Jonathan rules for another 4 years (and even for another 5-6 years thereafter if the ongoing constitutional conference’s likely recommendation of a single 5-6 year term does not have retroactive application), the presidency would have eluded the North for 18-24 years. That is enough time to change the power configuration of any country; talk less Nigeria.

However, in the likely scenario that the North’s elites decided on an insurgent strategy, they were likely bereft of any rallying point of significance except religion. The literature is replete with the evolution of Boko Haram. So that would not enjoy consideration here. That it had nuisance value at the very least for the North’s strategists is not in doubt. But like all strategies, there are always unforeseen events that could throw all plans into disarray. No one could have predicted the ouster of Gaddafi in Libya and the proliferation of heavy arms around the region thereafter. And President Jonathan’s tenacity must have come as a surprise as well. Another way to think about this is thus. In the unlikely scenario that Boko Haram prevails, who are those that would rule the country? A particular general’s name quickly comes to mind, surely.

Nigerian Muslims also need to take lessons from what happened in the Central African Republic. Boko Haram has been committing these atrocities under the banner of Islam. It is imperative on the country’s Muslims to be on the forefront of the war and advocacy against terrorism. If Nigeria’s Muslims (and indeed adherents of Islam all over the world) don’t speak against and fight terrorism in the most vociferous manner, there is likely to be the emergence of terrorist groups under the banner of other religions. Burma and the Central African Republic are cases in point. In general, the citizens of Nigeria should take the threat posed by Boko Haram very seriously. If we do not contain it now, the national security consequences would overwhelm us all. Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., “When evil men plot, good men must plan”. May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

History is replete with the triumph of the ruthless over the mindless. President Jonathan should do the needful or get the heck out! #Nigeria

In January 2014, The Sultan of Sokoto under the aegis of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council (NTRC)  decried the mass redeployment of arms by President Jonathan from the north to the south allegedly for the purpose of rigging the 2015 elections. The NTRC used election rigging as cover for its real worry of course. For the north, it has always been about power. The redeployment of arms was somewhat of a last straw in their perceived continuing enervation of the north. Is the NTRC and its four “eminent prominence”; the Sultan of Sokoto, Emir of Kano, Emir of Zazzau, and the Shehu of Borno to be blamed for the ongoing insecurity in Nigeria? Not directly. However, it is likely they do not empathize with President Jonathan’s predicament.

Above all, the NTRC and its subjects don’t believe the President has it in him to do whatever it takes to assert his authority. Any such person (whoever it is) is to them not worthy of their respect. President Obasanjo was a southerner but he was feared. The former President had acquired a reputation for being wily, vindictive and having an almost maniacal bent for following through. Former President Obasanjo would see the end of his enemies or die trying (the supposed rapprochement between Tinubu, Atiku and the former President reminds one of: “I dey laugh o”). If the “eminent prominence” believed President Jonathan would sanction, suspend, or dethrone them when he threatens that they should do more to fight terrorism or face his wrath, they would jump and do the needful. But they don’t believe he has the mettle to do so much as look them in the eye sometimes. When a President’s bluff is called, the long term consequences are lost lives. The body count from the Boko Haram crisis is evidence of this. Need we even look for international examples. President Obama’s refusal to strike Syria is now costing the U.S in the Ukraine. Never mind the long-term perception that has now been created about a black president not having the strength to push the button. The U.S and its president is not the focus here, however, albeit the internationalisation of the Boko Haram crisis has a strong link to the strategic shift by the United States from dependence on Middle Eastern oil to that in the Gulf of Guinea and the militarisation of its neo-liberalism in Africa.

From the point of strategy, the Boko Haram and insecurity crisis in Nigeria can be dimensioned along the lines of those who benefit and those whose fortunes are eroded as a result. Nothing complex. President Jonathan is the target and the Nigerian peoples are just collateral damage. And the occasional attack on a member of the NTRC is just that; strategy! It is a pity how docile and passive Nigerians can be. To quote Richard Dowden in his book “Africa – Altered States, Ordinary Miracles”;

“For outsiders, the passivity of Africans in the face of appalling oppression was depressing…In Nigeria more than 100 million people were ruled for twenty-nine years by an army officially 70,000 strong, of which probably only two-thirds were effective. That meant only 1 soldier for more than 2,000 Nigerians. And yet in all that time there was not one popular democratic movement of significance”. Dowden (2009, 81).

Whether Boko Haram has been internationalised by Al Qaeda elements is secondary. There is a global effort to deal with that dimension of terrorism and the United States’ Africa Command (AFRICOMM) is well-placed to help when needed. But since the threat has largely been in the north where there is no oil, AFRICOMM is not incentivized to intervene. The local dimension of the terrorist threat, however,  is within our government’s capacity to handle. However, the key element of the crisis, intelligence, requires the full support of its citizens; especially those in Northeastern Nigeria. Terrorism has never thrived anywhere without local support. Terrorists eat, sleep, have sex, call their families; bloody heck, they are not spirits!

The north, however, has a culture of silence. Hausa/Fulanis do not reveal their true sentiments to outsiders. It is a close-knit society. That is why the traditional rulers are so powerful. Their networks are far-reaching. They have district heads (“Hakimis”), sub-district heads, and “Mai Ungwas” (leaders of community blocks; sometimes just five to ten houses). The NTRC could just as well be tagged Nigeria’s “National Security Agency”.  Incidentally, Nigeria’s Defence Minister, General Gusau is well aware of this. He is afterall one of the two surviving custodians of the north’s mythic military establishment. But is he likely to want the Boko Haram crisis to completely go away? Like former military head of state Ibrahim Babangida, the NTRC, and the other members of the northern elite, General Gusau wants power to return to the north. If the APC muslim-muslim ticket (which is foolish by the way, just take a look at the Central African Republic) fails, the north may get desperate.

There is also the dimension about honour. President Jonathan likely promised to serve only one term. Politicians renege on agreements all the time. However, when they do, they make it difficult for future conflicts to be resolved peacefully. Those who renege on promises are not people of soft mettle, however. History is replete with the triumph of the ruthless over the mindless. President Jonathan has been mindless and we are paying for it in lives. If he is going to renege on his promise to the power brokers of the north, at least he should have it in him to be ruthless. And that means a no holds barred and irreverent assault on all those who directly or indirectly allow the killings of the people he swore to protect. President Jonathan should do the needful or get the heck out!

“The two ears silent to the terror of their feet” The Sultan can do more! #Nigeria

To solve the Boko Haram issue, “The Hat and the turbans” have to work together. Right now, they are not.

The Hat refers to the President and the turbans refer to the Sultan and Emirs.

“The turbans turn a blind eye”

There is a great deal of intelligence available to the “turbans.” They are not doing as much as they could. We should also bear in mind the military pedigree of the North’s current traditional rulership.

“Fearing turban’s wrath, the Hat wields not his sword”

The President is not putting enough pressure on The Sultan and Emirs; no one respects the Governors in the North.

“The two ears silent to the terror of their feet”

The Sultan and Emirs have not expressed as much outrage as they should; “two ears” refer to the distinctive two-eared turbans of northern princes and “their feet” refers to their subjects. And by the way, silence is not a dearth or lack of speech; a lack of action is the worst kind of silence.

“Await the day your old walls fall on the anger of your subjects”

“Old walls” refer to these traditional rulers (but also applies to the President and other politicians). When leaders dress a wound that requires surgery, they only prepare the wounded person (our dear country) for greater pain.

Happy Good Friday and Jumat Mubarak!

N.B

The Hat and the turbans (A tribute) (Published 15 APR 2014)(Author: Rafiq Raji)

Innocents lost to the battle of the Hat and the turbans

Where is the outrage?

Silence their store until own is lost

Morning’s hope extinguished on the altar of power

 

The turbans turn a blind eye

Where is the Hat’s agitation?

Rock’s comfort fears return to the Creek

 

Were they ghosts?

Did they travel the land unnoticed?

The two ears silent to the terror of their feet

Heartless, ruthless, and shameless!

Await the day your old walls fall on the anger of your subjects

 

Fearing turbans’ wrath, the Hat wields not his sword

Dear Innocents, please haunt the souls of the silent

Plague their dreams with horrors coming

Until they fulfil oaths sworn

The Hat and the turbans (A Tribute) #Nigeria

Innocents lost to the battle of the Hat and the turbans

Where is the outrage?

Silence their store until own is lost

Morning’s hope extinguished on the altar of power

 

The turbans turn a blind eye

Where is the Hat’s agitation?

Rock’s comfort fears return to the Creek

 

 

Were they ghosts?

Did they travel the land unnoticed?

The two ears silent to the terror of their feet

Heartless, ruthless, and shameless!

Await the day your old walls fall on the anger of your subjects

 

Fearing turban’s wrath, the Hat wields not his sword

Dear Innocents, please haunt the souls of the silent

Plague their dreams with horrors coming

Until they fulfill oaths sworn

 

 

Who is an African Writer? (Part Two) #ALAconf2014

Those curious about Africa (and indeed any country, continent or culture) look to its literary writers and their works to get some grasp, however ephemeral, of its cultural mosaic. “Contemporary” – if we mean it to be writings by young African authors as opposed to fictional depictions of relatively recent times – Sierra Leonean literature makes writ large the continuing debate about who qualifies as an African writer; especially as it relates to the increasing literary stature of Aminatta Forna.

Mohamed Kamara (Washington &Lee University) in his reading of the works of Aminatta Forna and Yema Lucilda Hunter titled “Constructing a Nation and it’s Memory: Reinventing Sierra Leone’s Past in the Works of Aminatta Forna and Yema Lucilda Hunter” highlights how a nostalgic and determined Aminatta tries to discover the truth about her father’s hanging (a government minister) in 1960s Sierra Leone while inevitably providing a glimpse of that period in Sierra Leone’s history and nationhood. Relying on her journalistic experience, she provides an investigative, unemotional and arguably distant (a recurring theme) memoir that doubles as a reconstruction of memories lost (or perhaps vanishing) about Sierra Leone’s turbulent history. “The Devil that danced on the Water” relies on both written and oral history to document, albeit intentioned as a personal memoir, a period in “Salone” (local parlance for Sierra Leone) nationhood that is becoming increasingly contentious on account of lost historical documents during Sierra Leone’s hitherto long running civil war(s).

However, Eustace Palmer (Georgia College & State University), another Sierra Leonean, points out some historical inaccuracies in Aminatta Forna’s “The Memory of Love.” His presentation titled “Defining the Sierra Leonean Writer: The case of Aminatta Forna” highlights the particular instance (amongst others) of her depiction of mass excitement about the American landing of a man on the moon as an exaggeration. Palmer recollects muted excitement (and perhaps some ambivalence) in Sierra Leone – being as he was resident in Salone at the time – about that great American scientific feat (not that there wasn’t an appreciation of the epoch). Palmer therefore wonders whether Forna’s distant (and sometimes inaccurate historical assertions) but highly regarded fictional depictions of Salone life qualifies her as a Sierra Leonean (and African) writer just because she was born to an indigenous father.

In her commentary, Joyce Dixon-Fyle (Depauw University) argues Forna’s increasing acclaim cannot be removed from her position of privilege. Western-trained, born of a Scottish mother, married to a European and working (residing) in western citadels of literary excellence, Forna’s vantage position gives her significant access to the Western literary intelligentsia and arguably contributes to her acclaim amongst western literary critics. However, there was a consensus (with Dixon-Fyle’s concurrence) on the very high quality of her work. Aminatta Forna writes excellently well.

So, who is an African writer? Arthur Onipede Hollist (University of Tampa) wondered if Palmer’s drift towards a definition that requires birth and a minimum formative existence (that extends to advanced education and some working life) may not be too restrictive; especially since most of Africa’s writers reside, work and teach outside of the continent. What about the non-African but very excellent and highly-regarded Writers of African literature? Would such a definition not exclude these significant contributors? Dixon-Fyle nonetheless thinks there is an indigenous flavour that inevitably eludes the well-researched “African” literary work by a non-African (including persons born to African parents but without any meaningful formative experiences in Africa).

The definition of the African Writer remains an open question therefore and a very important one.

 

Reference

“Ruins, Remainders, Residues: Sierra Leonean Literature and the (De)Formation of Archives”

40th Annual Conference of the African Literature Association
“Texts, Modes and Repertoires of Living in and Beyond the Shadows of Apartheid”
Venue: Wits Professional Hub, Room 314, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Time: 15:30-17:00 (18:00) Thursday, 10 April 2014