Sunday, March 26, 2006

Nigerian Nazi Groups

The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) is unequivocally a secessionist group, just as well are OPC and MOSOP. Supporting such groups or sympathizing with their cause is tantamount to treasonable felony as described by the law of the land. The Nigerian civil war, fought almost 40 years ago was a senseless frenzy of blood letting resulting in the death of over one million Nigerians on both sides of the war. And it was all as a result of tribalist sentiments allowed to run wild.

All over Nigeria sectional groups are once again cropping up, all purporting to represent and further the causes of groups that are often described along ethnic, regional or religious grounds. We have the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Afenifere, Egbe Omo Oduduwa, Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), Ohaneze Ndiigbo to name the most vociferous ones. All these groups are shamelessly xenophobic and bleat patent bigotry bordering on hatred for ethnic or sectional groups other than theirs. In their rhetoric one discerns the myopia, tribalism and blatant perversion of the commonalities that describe their respective interest groups. Just like Hitler’s Nazi rhetoric, they twist logic and distort the truth in a bid to warp the minds of the common Nigerian for their support. The poor unsuspecting common folk, like the German citizen of the 1930s feeds off these distorted logic and innuendos and the result is catastrophic. Many Nigerian youths have become misguided, paranoid and patently xenophobic; as a result, we have perennial senseless civil strife just like the recent ones in Maiduguri and Onitsha that spread to other parts of Northern and Eastern Nigeria respectively.

If only these tribalists could see beyond their avarice and quest for personal aggrandizement, wealth and power, they would see that there is so much to be gained from peaceful co-existence and diversity. The most advanced and richest nation the world has ever known, the USA, is what it is today because of the degree of diversity of its citizenry and the fact that people are given opportunities to express themselves so long as they exhibit some value-adding talent regardless of race, creed or social class. Most importantly, the rule of law prevails in the USA, and it is applied equitably regardless of status and social position.

The problem with Nigeria today has nothing to do with the various causes for which these rabidly tribalist groups purport to be fighting. It is multi-factored and includes lack of truth and justice, wholesale corruption, gross unenlightenment of the leadership and followership alike, and the abject poverty that has been inflicted on the populace by the devious leadership. By keeping the populace impoverished and uneducated, the ruling class has been able to easily manipulate them for their selfish ends. In the early days of the 3rd republic for example, when it was found that Governor Bola Tinubu had lied about his educational qualifications, Pa Abraham Adesanya, an Afenifere chieftain is credited to have asked members of his tribalist group and affiliates not to launder their dirty linen in public, while the same groups had been so vitriolic in an earlier similar episode involving impeached House Speaker, Salisu Buhari, who had likewise lied about his educational qualification. Such is the double standard applied by these tribalist organizations.

Hitler applied double standard and distorted logic in Nazi Germany and it resulted in the death of about 50 million people worldwide in World War II. These tribalist groups are doing the same thing in Nigeria with the perennial ethnic cleansings that take place every now and then. If the Hausas are not killing the Igbos in Kano or Maiduguri, it is the Yorubas killing the Igbo traders in Lagos, or Fulani cattle herdsmen in Ibadan, or the Igbos killing the Hausa ram sellers in Onitsha, or perhaps the Jukuns killing the Tivs in Taraba state. Is there no respect for the sacredness of human life? Just because a person does not share the same mother-tongue or religious faith as the next does not render the person less human.

Rather than sow seeds of division, hatred, bigotry and xenophobia would not a better Nigeria be engendered if these tribalist leaders came together to confer truthfully and sincerely, without any divisive motives on how best to get Nigeria along the path of economic and social development? Should they not be beating the drums of National patrotism rather than whipping up descriminatory and myopic tribal sentiments which are only destructive to the wellbeing of the people whose cause they purport to be protecting?

These tribalist and sectional groups are regressive and should be eschewed by all progressive Nigerians who would like to see a truly democratic Nigeria where truth and justice are equitably applied.

Niger Delta Hostage Saga

The hostage taking in the Niger Delta has dragged on too long. MEND, or whatever appellation they go by should know that their continual holding of the hostages only serves to highlight their level of depravity and utter lack of political savvy. The government of Obasanjo has been very lenient with these folks and likewise the British and American.

All it will take is a sneak attack by the special forces of Her Majesty's Royal Marines or the US Navy to nix their position and free the hostages. But perhaps for some political reasons, and maybe out of respect for the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the British and Americans have opted to stand down for now. If MEND does not release the hostages and soon too, they may very well be taken out like the common criminals and seadogs that they are.

It is a shame that a band of bandits who are self-confessed criminals can hold Nigeria and indeed the entire global oil industry to ransom the way these individuals have. It boggles the mind even more that President Obasanjo seems preoccupied with all the scheming for a third term to notice that by allowing the situation to prevail and with the continual disruption of oil production in the Niger Delta, the Nigerian government revenue is being decimated, a situation bound to make governance difficult if he gets the third term he is purported to be pursuing.

The expedient thing to do is to organize a covert special commando operation to neutralize MEND and extract the hostages from the throes of this diabolical group. If the Nigerian military forces are not skilled enough to carry this out, the Obasanjo government should enlist the help of the Royal Marines or the US Marines special ops teams.

Allowing MEND to roam the Niger Delta with free rein may sooner attain the criminal group a local folk legendary status and inspire other misguided youth of the Niger Delta and perhaps elsewhere in Nigeria to take up arms at the slightest of grievances. There should be no negotiating with these criminals and terrorists. They should be stamped out with the full might of the Nigerian, British and American military to serve as a deterrent to other misguided youth organizations in the Niger Delta and indeed the entire Nigerian polity that may be harboring similar diabolical ideas.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

No Privileges without Responsibility

I was fortunate to have met Eliot Spitzer, the New York Attorney General who is vying for the governorship of the state of New York in the next elections in late 2006. What struck me was the man’s intellect and profound understanding of salient issues, and what need to be done to move the state of New York forward economically and socially. It is no surprise that having been the Attorney General of the state that houses the world’s financial capital since January 1999, and having engaged in and won many battles with some of the biggest names on Wall Street, Mr. Spitzer clearly is a determined and focused social advocate.

He belongs to that rare breed of politicians who understand that profound social changes are best achieved through advocacy by holders of government offices and innovative application of the legal system. He has taken on the world’s largest businesses to reduce environmental pollution, tackled the largest investment banks on Wall Street about their complicity in misleading investors through doctored analyst reports and engendered prescription drug reforms among other things.

Mr. Spitzer attended some of the world’s finest educational institutions, having attended Princeton and the Harvard Law School. Some of the big businesses he has gone after are led by alumni of his alma matter, but this notwithstanding has not deterred him from his pursuit of reform.

The Nigerian polity could do with a few Eliot Spitzers. There is a need for people of high intellect, pristine moral standards and ethical courage to aspire to and ascend political offices. We need to have politicians who are not afraid to tackle corruption and through creative use of the legal system stimulate profound social changes. In order for this to prevail, there is a need to institutionalize ways of imparting ethics in the youth as early on in their lives as possible. There is a need for a situation where people have a clear perception of what is wrong and right, and what is legal and illegal and take responsibility for righting wrongs and setting in motion legal processes to redress illegalities.

It does not make sense for a group of people as vocal as Nigerians to demand truth, justice and fair play but not practice these themselves in every aspect of their lives and in their own little corner of Nigeria. If you demand constant supply of electricity, telecommunication services and clean water, then you must responsibly pay utility bills and not collude with corrupt officers of utility corporations to evade dues. If you demand good roads, public schools and quality health care, you must pay taxes and intelligently question how your taxes are disbursed and spent by public officers. If however you evade taxes and don’t pay utility bills, you truly have no ethical or legitimate grounds on which to demand these services.

There can be no privileges without responsibility. They go hand in hand. If Nigerians irresponsibly allow people of questionable character and competence to ascend to government offices through political apathy, or condone, encourage, perhaps even participate in fraudulent acts such as vote rigging or exchanging votes for money, where lies the legitimate grounds from which to complain.

Many politicians take advantage of the low level of enlightenment and abject poverty that still prevails in Nigeria to manipulate people to achieve their dubious ends. The low level of enlightenment makes it easy for these devious politicians to sow seeds of xenophobia with ethnic, religious and regional flavors. A case in mind is the recent senseless religious unrests in Northern and Eastern Nigeria, particularly in Maiduguri and Onitsha. It cannot be more asinine and patently illogical that innocent lives were lost because some misinformed and misguided individuals were incited by equally unenlightened leaders to riot over cartoons that were published last year in far away Denmark. Undoubtedly most of these rioters have absolutely no idea where Denmark is on the world map.

Why did not the Nigerian security agents act swiftly to quell the attacks? Why did the politicians, especially those with family ties across these religious and ethnic divides not make any public appeals for peace? The Vice President, Atiku, is from Northeastern Nigeria and is married to Titi, from the Southwest. Similarly, ex-head of state, Ibrahim Babangida is a moslem Northerner whose wife, Mariam is from Southeastern Nigeria, and who were both married in a church. Should these ties not be have been highlighted to help douse the riots? Rather, these politicians chose to keep mum. One can almost predict that in the next few weeks there is going to be a deluged of accusations and recriminations about what and who sparked off the riots.

The Obasanjo government should investigate the riots and make arrests of culprits both in Northern and Eastern Nigeria and bring to book guilty parties in these acts of ethnic cleansing as a signal to rioters that such criminal acts will not be tolerated. The truth is there can be no privileges without responsibility. And it's about time Nigerians understand this. People should be held accountable for their actions.