Friday, September 30, 2011

Nigeria@ 51: Nigeria, A Dream Deferred


Our founding fathers did not negotiate that at 51, Nigeria would become the 14th failed state in the world. Neither did they agree that it would be among the nations with the least human development index, nor that it would still be crawling five decades after independence. Our founding fathers did not dream that their great grand children would be treated with contempt as a result of mismanagement of its abundant resources.

Indeed, they dreamt dreams and had visions for the country at independence. For example, modern Nigeria’s founding father and first president, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, had envisioned Nigeria to be Africa’s super power and hope of the black race. But today, that dream seems to be in the wind. This is what is agitating the minds of Nigerians as they mark the country’s 51st independence anniversary today.

In its unique manner, Saturday Vanguard assembled its team of journalists to examine, through interviews and features stories, the fate and state of the nation at 51.

From the reports gathered from all corners of the country, the verdict, though somewhat mixed, is the same: Nigeria at 51 is still a country, not a nation. This is the view of Chief Richard Akinjide, the former NPN chairman, Evangelist Elliot Ukoh of the Igbo Youth Movement, social critic Abubarkar Umar, Attahiru Bafarawa who was former governor of Sokoto, among others. While some want a radical approach to tackle the infrastructural decay in the country, others want a restructuring of the polity entirely.

But Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the veteran politician, put it more succinctly, “I want a system whereby Jonathan would have been there as of rights. If he leaves that place without ensuring that the constitution of the country is reviewed in a way that we will be living together, he will divide Nigeria.”

Things must have gone too bad for Adebanjo to say this. In fact, more frightening statements came from other eminent Nigerians such as Abubakar Umar and Prof. Oyebode, the two of who believe that colonialism would have been better than the independence we have now.

Saturday Vanguard also looked at the state of our infrastructure since 1898 when the railway system and the electrical plants were established. What we found out is a nation at 51 that cannot manage its development. From a bankrupt railway to epileptic electricity, from dead steel mills to ineffective textile and automobile companies, we discovered a nation whose promise at independence of a super power and hope for the black race has been mortgaged by selfish, greedy and cruel power blocs which staying power is to impoverish and wreak bloodshed on the citizenry. In fact, all the variants of making Nigeria great, which it had more in abundance than Malaysia and Brazil but which have overtaken it, have not been allowed to flourish. This saddens those who dreamt the dream of a great nation, including concerned patriots.

Ironically, Nigeria began well at independence. Its civil service was among the best in the Commonwealth. Agriculture was its main economy. The different regions were doing very well. In fact, the Eastern Nigeria was reported as the fastest growing economy. Graduates had easy access to employment. The industries were working. Then, it was a thing of pride to say you were a Nigerian. No nation could refute, deride, or treat Nigerians with contempt at its borders. Then the military struck, due to political mismanagement, and there was a civil war which tore the soul of the nation apart.

Today, the dreams and visions of that ‘Promised Great Nation’ flutters in the wind like a rag. Industries have collapsed. Some of them have fled to Ghana and other neighbouring countries. Our youths have no jobs and no hope of a simple decent life in Nigeria. Some seek greener pastures abroad in droves. The dignity of Nigerians all over the world is spilled in the mud. We are like pests to all nations of the world.

Oil, which was meant to comfort us, is now our albatross, our curse. Even in our plenty, we are among the world’s poorest. The UNDP report says we are among the least developed nations with high rate of illiteracy, mortality rate, life expectancy rate, among other ugly decorations that dot our independence celebration today. UNEP says the oil spills in Ogoni are the worst in human history and will require billions of dollars to clean.

Nigeria today is at its most intolerant period. Religious bigotry has taken over the land. Value for human life is lost, exemplified by the insurgence of militia groups and religious extremists, killing the weak and the innocent. Our educational system is in a shambles, with mass failure results posted every year.

Yet, this is a country that produced the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Father of Modern Literature Chinua Achebe, Father of Africa’s 20th Century Poetry Christopher Okigbo, Fela Anikulapo, JP Clark, Ben Okri, Chimamanda Adichie, Dick Tiger, Power Mike, Nwankwo Kanu, Philip Emeagwali. Yet, there is still hope that Nigeria can still make it as the IMF and the World Bank tell us but only if it listens to the words of the wise and does the right thing.

Nigeria@ 51: Sambo Prays For God's Favor For Nigeria


The Vice-President, Arc Mohammed Namadi Sambo, yesterday prayed for God’s intervention in Nigeria’s affairs.

He prayed to Almighty Allah to bestow His favour on Nigeria for peace and progress to continue to reign.

The vice-president for the country yesterday at the National Mosque, Abuja after the Jumma’at Prayer to commemorate Nigeria ’s 51st independence anniversary today.

Arc Sambo said: “We extend our sincere happiness to Almighty Allah that has made it possible for us to see this important day and to pray that He continues to grant favour to our country, Nigeria, for peace and progress.”

He further said: “We thank Almighty Allah for what He has granted us and we pray that we continue to be given the good health and the wisdom for the development and progress of Nigeria.”

Highlight of the Jumma’at service was the offering of a special prayer for the country by the Chief Imam of the mosque, Ustaz Musa Muhammad.

Those who participated in the prayers included former President Shehu Aliyu Shagari, Acting Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Kawu Baraje, members of the federal executive council, security chiefs, top government functionaries, captains of industry and members of the diplomatic corps, among others.

Nigeria @ 51: This Is Not Nigeria Of Our Dream - Labor


As Nigeria celebrates its 51 years of independence today, labour leaders have expressed regret at the stunted growth of the country, declaring that, “this is not Nigeria of our dream.”

At independence in 1960, they said the expectations were very high because of Nigeria’s enormous human, materials and natural resources, but regretted that the inept political class has destroyed those dreams and made the country one of the poorest nations in the world.

However, President Goodluck Jonathan is confident that the nation will overcome the numerous challenges it is facing currently, calling Nigerians to work together to create a country where the rule of law is sacrosanct in order to banish corruption and attendant vices.

In his address to the nation on the occasion of the 51st Independence Anniversary, he observed that Nigerians were resilient, as their spirit could not be broken and were determined to chart a course through the turbulent waters of nation building.

“Together, we shall work for a Nigeria in which democracy and the rule of law are sacrosanct, a country where corruption and its attendant vices, are banished. A country where human life is sacred and respected, and where the rights of the individuals are protected,” he said.

The President noted that the journey to nationhood has always had its own challenges, saying that “Nigeria has had her own share. Our growing pains as a nation have included the civil war, the June 12 election crisis and restlessness in the Niger Delta. But Nigeria has always overcome each of these challenges. We overcame before. We will overcome yet again.”

But labour declared that there was nothing definite to celebrate, as the Nigerian workers and the people generally had been subjected to untoward hardship.

“The pervasive harsh economic Nigerians are being punished with cannot suggest any celebration,” Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Deputy President, Comrade Promise Adewusi, told Saturday Tribune.

He said the last 51 years had been a period of deficit and ineffective political leadership, adding that for workers and the Nigerian people, living had become a sin induced by poverty occasioned by inept political leadership.

The NLC deputy president described the N18, 000 national minimum wage as a mere starvation wage, which had become an albatross to fraudulent political leadership who siphoned away the nation’s wealth.

Comrade Adewusi said; “This definitely is not the Nigeria of our dream. Poverty has become a way of life in Nigeria and poverty of governance has become Nigeria’s contribution to World Order. For the working people and the everyday people, living has become a sin induced by poverty occasioned by inept political leadership in the midst of abundant resources.”

Also, the Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Comrade John Kolawole, said workers had not seen any changes in their fortunes even as Nigeria celebrated 51 years as a free nation.

“Nigerian workers have not seen any physical change despite the efforts made by government through the minimum wage at the Federal level and in some states. The reasons for this are two. On the human side, there are a lot of dependants that a worker has to care for, children that have no jobs, relations that are very poor and so many problems they have to face domestically and socially,” Comrade Kolawole said.

In the meantime, the NLC has called on the ruling elite to have a re-think and lead the country on the path of progress and development, saying Nigerians will never give up.

The congress also regretted that it was a sad reflection “on our national life and history that on the 51st anniversary of our flag independence, the official celebration has to be low key given the state of insecurity in the country.”

In a statement to mark the 51st Independence Day, and signed by the NLC President, Comrade Abdulwaheed Ibrahim Omar, the NLC described Nigerians as courageous and selfless people that could overcome any form of challenges, either by bombers of public places or bombers of our economy and collective wealth.

In the statement entitled: “Nigerians are a courageous and selfless people;” Comrade Omar said: “It is a sad reflection on our national life and history that on the 51st anniversary of our independence, the official celebration has to be low key, given the state of insecurity in the country.

Also, the TUC decried the alarming rate of unemployment in the country, especially among youths and called for a pro-active measure before it generated into yet another state of anarchy.

The TUC, in its independence celebration statement, decried the growing insecurity in the land which had become a nightmare, saying that the numerous bombings and wastages of lives and property going on in the northern states of Nigeria by the Boko Haram sect are unacceptable.

The union, therefore, demanded the reactivation of job creation centers in all the states of the federation and Abuja plus all the local government areas.

Nigeria @ 51: Nigeria is a Pathetic Story - Uko


AS Nigeria marks 51 years of independence and the National Assembly begins another round of constitution amendment, President of the Igbo Youth Movement (IYM), Evangelist Elliot Uko, has called for restructuring of the polity into a true federal state to address the myriad of socio-economic, political and development problems plaguing the country, saying government must begin the urgent processes to rebuild the country after 51 years of missed opportunities. Excerpts:

AT 51, how would you assess Nigeria’s history so far?

Our story as a country struggling to become a nation is a very pathetic story. The story of missed opportunities and maladministration. A story of disaffection, anger and ethnic militias; insecurity, unemployment, poverty, hunger and decayed infrastructure. The younger generation are disappointed and the nation is left with no other choice than to begin the processes of building a modern state and regaining our rightful position among the comity of nations. The time to start is now. The current administration inherited multifaceted problems that threaten our future especially corruption and an unworkable unitary structure. Something must be done now to correct these grave anomalies in order to move on to the next level. Nigeria is sick and only Nigerians will save Nigeria. South Africa and Ghana are teaching us lessons that ought to make us sit up, we pray that the hope Nigerians have placed on this young government will not be dashed.

Can the current government be trusted to begin the processes that would rebuild Nigeria?

Yes, this is the first time Nigerians genuinely voted in a president of their choice. Expectations are high and we pray that we don’t get disappointed at the end of the day. We are praying for a new nation to emerge, where things will actually work, where no man is oppressed. There is so much injustice in Nigeria, a case of “monkey dey work baboon dey chop”.

Secured future

Things must change for the better. Malaysia, Brazil, etc were at par with Nigeria in 1960. Today, there are light years ahead. The military destroyed this country. We should all be praying for a secured future. This government must not fail.

What is your assessment of President Goodluck Jonathan’s first 100 days in office?

I can’t assess his first100 days in office but I can tell you that we wish him well, we are solidly behind him. Nobody should harass him. We voted Jonathan on his personal steam, if he had left the PDP and joined another party, Ndigbo would still have followed him en mass. The reason is simple, we believe in him, we still do. Nigeria deliberately humiliated Ndigbo for 40 years, denying us all our dues just to punish us for losing the war.

We suffered untold denials, frustrated from this scorched earth policy and war of attrition visited on Ndigbo over the years, we began to pray for deliverance. When President Jonathan emerged, the Igbo masses rose up stoutly behind him, the elite and Igbo politicians cleverly joined the train and as usual pretending they mobilized Ndigbo for Jonathan. Nobody mobilized Ndigbo for Jonathan, it was the 40 years of humiliation that informed our people’s decision to try another route. Ndigbo reasoned that President Jonathan will never let them down.

He is an upright and God fearing man. He knows what they need: massive infrastructure development, international airport in Enugu, sea port in Onitsha, power station in Igbo land, etc. We want Jonathan to succeed, to repair Nigeria and rebuild our battered image. I cannot assess him now, I can only tell him the truth which is that Nigerians believe in him.

We want him to fight corruption and enthrone equity and good governance. We want him to be fair to the Kanuri, fair to the Ibibio, fair to the Fulani, fair to the Yoruba. He has a huge opportunity to begin the processes of building a modern state where no man is oppressed. The truth is also that Ndigbo want infrastructure development that has been denied us over the years more than anything else. President Jonathan has no reason to fail.

At your 12th anniversary celebration held in Enugu recently, the police reportedly arrested MASSOB members and later their leader, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, what really happened?

The MASSOB members accompanied their leader to IYM 12th anniversary and the police took them away on account of the Biafran Flag on their buses but they have been released. There are no militant or violent groups in Igboland. The police intimidation was uncalled for.

It is a pity Nigeria has refused to give Ndigbo justice for 44 years. We are caged into five states out of 36 states but we represent about one-third of Nigeria’s population. Our roads are the worst in the country. Ndigbo are stocked with only 95 local governments almost at-par with Kano and Jigawa states. No sea port, no international air port, no reliable source of energy. Our youth migrate to other zones. We are denied our dues. Nigeria cannot continue this way. This country must be re-structured. This country is sick, let’s start to rebuild it now.

What do you mean by re-structure?

In May 1966 and the months following May 1966, over 100,000 Ndigbo, mostly women and children were slaughtered in cold blood by people who were protesting Decree 34 or Unification Decree. They said they preferred that every region should develop at its own pace. General Ironsi was killed and Nigeria went to war, General Gowon asked for emergency powers to prosecute the war and that unitary system was maintained through out the war.

At the end of the war, it became convenient for the victorious army to continue running the country in a unitary fashion. The people who protested against this unitary format and killed thousands of their country men, were now in power, so this unitary system suddenly became okay. Nigeria has been Federal only in name ever since. This nation cannot endure nor survive unless we revert to true federalism and regional autonomy with out delay.

Is that the panacea to the myriad of problems plaguing this country?

Yes, every problem including corruption is tied to this unwieldy and unworkable structure which encourages corruption and nepotism. Everybody knows Nigeria will fare better under a truly Federal system, government will become more responsible and responsive to the people and the six regions would explode economically and corruption and discontent would evaporate.

The truth is that those benefitting from this present unitary structure are just afraid of change. A re-structured Nigeria will not experience Boko-Haram or Niger-Delta militancy nor any ethnic army for that matter.

Meet Ngeria's Budding Mark Zuckerberg


Gossy Ukanwoke, a 23-year old Nigerian Internet entrepreneur, has embarked on creating a different type of social network. His tech startup, Students Circle, fuses a social feature with a rich database of over 10,000 academic resources- notes, essays, past assignments and tutorials.

Students Circle is something like Facebook, but for scholars and more serious-minded folks. The site launched in December 2010 and so far it has 2,407 registered members and over 20,371 non registered members from over 120 countries. Not too shabby for a startup that’s yet to receive a dollar in venture funding.

According to its website, “Students Circle Network allows students to interact and communicate over educational resources, making education and e-learning social and human by giving resources, study groups, social connections, scholarships offers and university placements.”

I chatted with him briefly today. We talked about his company, his comparative advantage, and the future.

Why would someone want to join Students Circle?

Students Circle Network – the academic social network — is uniquely bringing together the worlds of social connection, media and education to a single platform thereby allowing students, teachers and institutions connect without bounds. We are currently making over 10,000 resources available for free. Our focus on Africa is high. We believe that with the right content and audience, we can transform education in Africa.

What’s your comparative advantage? What makes Students Circle any better than Edmodo or any other educational social network?

We are bringing the best of all worlds: Social + Education. On the social aspect, students/teachers get to learn from each other based on personal knowledge and research. On the educational aspect, teachers and students can connect and use high quality content from top 200 OCW member universities. Study groups are used to schedule learning sessions and interactive forums to drive learning. We are launching API’s that will allow the use of Students Circle in classrooms.

Student Circle’s interface is very similar to Facebook’s. Why? Aren’t you afraid of being tagged as yet another Facebook copycat?

Yes, we moved towards getting a bit of the structure of Facebook because most our users are already using Facebook and it’s only natural for them to look for things the way they do on Facebook. It’s best for user experience. However, I am not worried about being tagged another Facebook clone because we are highly different and our focus is defined to education.

You have a database of thousands of high school and college courses. Where do you source them from, and how can users be certain of the quality of the content they are deriving from your site?

Students Circle Network is a member of the OpenCourseware Consortium. OCW Consortium has member universities globally with the most contributing member being MIT; others include Open University, UK and University of California at Irvine. This is to name a few. The point is that our content is from these universities. These are some of the most reputable universities worldwide.

Give me an overview of your business model. What ideas do you have about monetizing your site?

Currently students is a freemium business. We provide high quality services and content for free. We are running ads on the network which are generating some revenue. We are also gaining commissions from service partners who provide services for our users. Our monetization strategy includes developing a package for specific services. This is currently in the works.

Have you shared your vision with any angel investors or venture capitalists? Do you even believe in those guys?

Yes I have shared these ideas with venture capitalists and angels when this was at its infant stage and at the point they felt it was early. The VCs were not focused on early stage startups at the time. Do I believe them? [laughs] I hope to, I really do. Africa needs more VCs and angels.

What’s your current staff strength?

We currently have 3 team members and a fourth consultant. Chika Uwazie is the VP in charge of Business and Connections. Amblessed Uche is the product development manager and user experience lead. I handle development, strategy, technology, business and everything else. Anibe Agamah of Encipher Group consults for us on development.

Give me a glimpse into the future. How do you see Students Circle evolving over the next five years?

Students Circle should start awarding certificates and subsequently after all processes are fulfilled – diplomas. We are looking at partnering with Girne American University [in Northern Cyprus] for this purpose. We are also looking at being the number one social network and educational resource in every classroom in Africa and across the globe. We are working heavily on mobile delivery and this will be the major front for Students Circle in times to come.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pulitzer Winner's Nigeria Newspaper Stops Printing

By John Gambrell, Associated Press

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian newspaper run by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist stopped publication Sunday after 2½ years of muckracking and sometimes controversial coverage of Africa's most populous nation, the publisher said.

NEXT newspaper, printed in Lagos, did not appear on newsstands this weekend. Publisher Dele Olojede, a former foreign editor for New York's Newsday, said NEXT was "losing a lot of money" and decided to stop its print edition to reevaluate its finances.

Olojede said it was possible the newspaper could begin publishing again. However, the newspaper's advertising dwindled in recent months, forcing it from publishing six days a week to only on Sunday.

The newspaper's crusading political stance also hurt ad sales, as the salutatory advertisements heaping praise on politicians and the country's elite that fill other publications never made it into its editions.

"In this environment, where the government still occupies a disproportionally and distortionately large role in the economy, it has a ripple effect — said or unsaid," Olojede told The Associated Press. "The result is we've had a very tough time getting business."

He added: "We have to rethink our strategy and see how we can outsmart the system that seems so stuck against us."

NEXT began publishing its print edition in January 2009, focusing on government corruption in oil-rich Nigeria, a nation of 150 million. Its columnists, editorials and reporting set it apart from other Nigerian newspapers, where journalists often accept cash payments from interview subjects or "brown envelope" bribes slipped into briefing materials at news conferences.

The newspaper reached the zenith of its influence when it published an anonymously sourced story claiming late President Umaru Yar'Adua was "seriously brain damaged" and unable to govern while receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. The government attacked the newspaper. However, Yar'Adua never returned to power and died May 5, 2010.

The newspaper also published the U.S. diplomatic cables related to Nigeria obtained by WikiLeaks, causing another stir in the country.

Olojede, who won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2005 while at Newsday, said he hoped NEXT at least would continue to publish stories on its website.

"It's been an extraordinary adventure for us, really. We're going to stick with it and keep poking around to see if we can make a dent in the very many problems of this country," he said. "The country definitely needs, like oxygen, an independent and honest press. ... The country is not going to go anywhere if money can just determine what the public knows or doesn't know."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

America's Quest For Africa

By Brian Beyer, Antiwar

Africa has been thrusted into the spotlight yet again thanks to the Libyan intervention. Due to the power vacuum in Libya, weapon depots have been looted dry and weapons of all sorts from Libya have been turning up on the black market. Fear of Islamists taking charge in Tripoli has been exacerbated by near hysteria over al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Africa seems to be engulfed in crisis–nothing new here.

Terrorism of any kind, no matter how irrelevant to the US or its interests is now seen as a greater threat than the Red Scare. The United States, of course, must and will act. Or so says AFRICOM commander General Carter Ham. General Ham considers al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, terrorist groups with mostly domestic grievances, to be very similar to AQIM, a group with a distinctly international flavor.

“Each of those three independently, I think, presents a significant threat not only in the nations in which they primarily operate but regionally and … to the United States,” Ham told defense reporters on Wednesday. “Those three organizations have very explicitly and publicly voiced an intent to target Westerners and the U.S. specifically.”

Ham’s assessment of Boko Haram and al-Shabaab’s targets is extremely misguided. Al-Shabaab has only once attacked outside of Somalia, which was in Uganda in response to the country’s peacekeeping operations in Somalia. As Jeremy Scahill noted, American policy was counterproductive in that it radicalized many Somalis:

Rather than working with the Somali government to address what Somalia experts considered a relatively minor threat, the United States turned to warlords like Qanyare, and went down a path that would lead to an almost unthinkable rise in the influence and power of Al Qaeda and the Shabab.

Additionally, Boko Haram attacked its first international target just three weeks ago, the UN mission in Abuja. Even this attack, though directed at Westerners and a western organization–Boko Haram’s ideology stems from complete opposition to western education–was within Nigerian borders. While the precision, efficacy, and hardware used in the bombing was certainly characteristic of al-Qaeda, the links between the two organizations is still very difficult to connect. Despite the lack of hard evidence, Ham is ready to act:

“The Africans are better at addressing this [terrorism] than we are. In some cases they need some assistance and where we can provide that, we seek to do so,” he said, citing the example of Mali, where the United States has provided training and equipment to help them counter AQIM.

The effort in Mali was done under the guise of the Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI), an effort to combat terrorism and secure borders in Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad, signed into law by the Bush administration in November 2002. In reality, the initiative focused on training and equipping American compliant armies as “[k]ey aspects of the training include basic marksmanship, planning, communications, land navigation, patrolling and medical care. This foreign internal defense training, officials said, will help the countries involved better protect their own borders and regions.” The PSI was a relatively small effort of $7 million, but laid the essential framework of which a much larger and more important counterterrorism initiative would be based: the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP).

The TSCTP was established during the Bush administration as a 5 year, $500 million project and is now under the authority of the fledgling AFRICOM, which is a mere 4 years old and is currently headed by General Carter Ham (the Department of Defense, USAID, the FBI, and Department of the Treasury also assist in the effort, as does the African Union and the Union of West African States). The goals of TSCTP are not surprising considering how terrorism of all kinds, even that unrelated to the United States, is looked upon in a paranoid fashion:

The Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) is a multi-faceted, multi-year U.S. Government (USG) program aimed at defeating terrorist organizations by:

• strengthening regional counterterrorism capabilities,

• enhancing and institutionalizing cooperation among the region’s security forces,

• promoting democratic governance,

• discrediting terrorist ideology, and

• reinforcing bilateral military ties with the United States.

As this laundry list of objectives indicates, it appears that the US is approaching terrorism in Africa from many different perspectives. Mirroring America’s foreign policy, however, the TSCTP places too much emphasis on hard rather than soft power. An American diplomat from Senegal explains:

The current TSCTP program focuses too much on military and security assistance… [W]e believe that in Senegal the bulk of our TSCTP activities should be these &soft8 programs rather than military ones… In Senegal, the objective is to prevent terrorist attacks. We are not at the stage yet where we need to find, fix and destroy terrorists.

The diplomat’s assessment is spot on: what sense does it make to approach terrorism militarily when the threat of terrorism against the United States by African groups is next to nonexistent? It’s also worth questioning why America even cares one iota about terrorism in Senegal or Burkina Faso. Neither country has ever experienced a terrorist attack, nor is either predisposed to terrorism.

The military component of the program is very troublesome. Known as “Operation Enduring Freedom Trans Sahara” (OEF-TS), this little known military initiative is said to reinforce bilateral military ties among its ten members: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tunisia, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal.

Given the past actions of the US, which has shown complete willingness to exert control over militaries and security agencies all over the globe, this is hardly surprising.

OEF-TS explicitly states that its role is advisory, emphasis mine: “OEF-TS fosters collaboration and communication among participating countries. Furthermore, OEF-TS strengthens counterterrorism and border security, promotes democratic governance,reinforces bilateral military ties, and enhances development and institution building.”

Likewise, the TSCTP site makes clear that the US is participating from the sidelines, “The overall goals are to enhance the indigenous capacities of governments in the Pan-Sahel…to confront the challenge posed by terrorist organizations in the region.”

Recent events, however, have called into question American dedication to taking a backseat role, especially with the hysterical calls of danger coming from General Ham.

The recent bombing in of the UN mission in Abuja, Nigeria by Boko Haram saw heavy handed American involvement. The FBI was promptly on the ground assisting in operations, though many Nigerians balked at this and declared that they had not only run roughshod over Nigerian investigators, but had completely taken over the investigation. There is no better way to “foster collaboration and communication” than to hijack an investigation.

For all the talk of encouraging cooperation and respect among allies in order to eradicate terrorism, American calls for good faith seem to be, more than anything, a disguise for commanding around foreign countries. Cables obtained by Wikileaks show that the US continues to use one of the oldest tricks in the book for those not fully cooperating with the TSCTP: the power of the purse and well monied insiders.

The American friendly Ben Ali regime, when compared to other members of the TSCTP, was not doing all that well.

We will want to emphasize to Grira that while we value our relationship with Tunisia, shrinking resources will be prioritized for those countries that are willing to work with the U.S., particularly in regional security efforts such as the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Program (TSCTP) and NATO’s Operation Active Endeavor. Tunisia’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) will drop from $15 million in FY-2010 to $4.9 million in FY-2011.

Congress was also unimpressed with Tunisia’s performance as a partner in counterterrorism, and “would need to see concrete benefits coming from the assistance… [and] a willingness to increase engagement…” in order to receive more funding. But perhaps what irked the United States the most, and really threw a wrench in the gears of the military component of TSCTP, Operation Enduring Freedom Trans-Sahara (OEF-TS), was the lack of a status of force agreement between the US and Tunisia.

As they stood up to depart, the DCMA told the Defense Minister that the U.S. was still interested in establishing a SOFA [status of force agreement] for U.S. military forces in Tunisia and that Congress considers a SOFA very important in judging the strength of a relationship. Grira said that he was aware of the issue, but that the Tunisians were waiting for the U.S. to respond to their proposal for text changes.

The US, yet again, was more focused on responding to terrorism rather than preventing it.

The policy of leading from behind has also seemed to have been abandoned in Mauritania. The government of Mauritania unveiled a plan called “Social and Economic Aspects of the National Strategy Against Terror.” Rather than supplementing the strategy already established, the TSCTP “parallels the GIRM’s [Government of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania] SNLT [Strategie Nationale de Lutte contre le Terrorisme], but goes a step further.” In little Mauritania, American policy has supplanted that of the host country. Leading from behind? Hardly.

The man responsible for Mauritania and America’s close “cooperation” is “Ministry of Economy and Finance Director for Cooperation Mohedyne Sidi Baba, who has been the Mission’s primary counterpart on USAID’s Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership.” Baba’s is indebted to and very comfortable with the financial organizations of all kinds:

Mohedyne Ould Sidi Baba has been a vital player in building Mauritania’s relations with the IMF, World Bank and donors. His tireless work was instrumental to Mauritania’s consideration for the MCC [Millennium Challenge Corporation] and re-establishing confidence with the IMF.

Baba, in other words, has shown so much willingness to act on the behalf of the United States because they keep the money flowing to poverty stricken Mauritania.

The recent establishment of AFRICOM, TSCTP and OEF-TS were created in the aftermath of 9/11 paranoia. Any threat of terrorism, real or otherwise, had to be scrutinized and, whenever possible, acted upon. While al-Qaeda had attacked US interests in Kenya and Tanzania years before, there was never once an existential threat to the US from African terrorist groups. American officials, in their crusade to destroy a war tactic, are now onto Africa.

It looks as though Africa is being colonized yet again, but not by those searching for diamonds or by loan sharks from the IMF. Rather, the United States, acting as a partner in the War on Terror, seems dedicated to crafting and shaping malleable countries throughout the turbulent and eternally hopeless continent.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Literature and Ethnicity: Address At The Garden City Literary Festival

(L-R: Emeka Anyaoku, Jesse Jackson and Rotimi Amechi at the Garden City Literary Festival. Photo Credit: 234 Next)

By Chinua Achebe, 234NEXT

Ethnicity is a somewhat problematic word. The great American Anthropologist and poet, Stanley Diamond, used such words as ethnic with complete and disarming respect, unlike most of us. Our use tends to be colored by guilt, condescension, or just awkwardness because this word and others in its category have suffered from cultural and racial politics and the politics of scholarship.

I looked up the word ethnic in my daughter's Random House College Dictionary. It had five definitions as follows:

1)pertaining to or characteristic of a people, especially a speech or culture group

2)referring to the origin, classification, characteristics etc. of such groups

3)pertaining to Non-Christians

4)belonging to or deriving from the cultural, racial, religious or linguistic traditions of a people or country especially a ‘primitive' one: ethnic dances

5)U.S. a member of an ethnic group especially one belonging to a minority group that is not part of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant tradition.

This is clearly a word loaded with problems. Being the keynote speaker I could not evade drawing attention to this. Being first has its drawbacks. An Igbo children's chant says that the child who walks in front is the eye that spots evil spirits, the child in the rear has twisted fingers (I don't know why!); the middle child is the happy one.

Having spotted this evil spirit I shall simply step aside to the edge of the pathway and let it pass. I shall use ethnicity in the way I know Stanley [Diamond] intended it. I shall use it to mean those elements of history and culture which distinguish one group of people from their fellows. Put a little differently, ethnicity would comprise all those significant qualities of a people's character - qualities of mind and behavior which they acquired in their long struggle to domesticate the wilderness and make it their world; their physical and spiritual landscape.

We are talking then about deep, not surface issues; we are not talking about this morning's gossip but about matters which reach back to the beginnings of a people as a people. We are talking about their earliest memories which they consider important and wish to preserve and so recount in well-chosen, pleasing and memorable language. Finally we are talking also about the beginnings of literature. That is what ethnicity suggests to me.

Needless to say that these origins did not involve pen and paper or their ancestors of clay and papyrus. We may imagine some ancient poets making fun of those of their guild who were adopting the new-fangled habit of reading from heavy clay tablets intended for royal edicts and land measurements. This may be no idle imagination.

Oral literature

Several years ago I had invited a seventy-year old illiterate minstrel to recite his epic poetry at the University of Nigeria. His story of the exploits of the hero, Emeka Okoye, began, to everyone's surprise, with paper playing a singularly sinister role. Paper floating down from the sky one morning carried a commandment from the demi-god Enunyilimba prohibiting the eating or drinking of anything however small for seven markets or twenty eight days. The reason: this demi-god was going to feast above for one month and all the inhabitants of the world below must therefore honor him with starvation, on pain of instant death!

The notion of oral performance as serious literature is still received with suspicion or reluctance in many quarters, or at best perceived as a form that ended long ago, perhaps in the age of Homer. But that is far from the truth. The Somali, a pastoral/nomadic people in the Horn of Africa must be accounted among the world's most poetic people. Their life is permeated by the composition and recital of poetry ranging from simple domestic discourse about the superiority of the camel over goats and cows to the intense anti-colonial poetry directed against the British; the Italians and the Ethiopians. Sayyid Muhammad Abdille Hasan whom the British called the "Mad Mullah" is revered to this day not only because of his twenty-year struggle against three colonial powers, but primarily as the greatest poet in the Somali language. Now this language was first written down as recently as 1972.

It is important that we admit the category of oral literature with respect in this literary festival or else we shall have little to talk about beside already very-well-talked-about matters. For myself I am taking my bearing from oral literature.

During the European Middle Ages a succession of empires rose and fell in the West African grasslands or the Sahel. One of the most remarkable among these empires was Mali as remarkable as its founder, Sundiatta. Islam had penetrated into this part of Africa for at least one thousand years and had slowly superseded the indigenous African polytheistic religions. The creation story which I will now tell you quite obviously predates the coming of Islam to Mali:

At the beginning there was a huge drop of milk.

Then Doondari came and he created the stone.

Then the stone created iron;

The iron created fire;

And fire created water;

And water created air.

Then Doondari descended the second time.

And took the five elements.

And he shaped them into man.

But man was proud.

Then Doondari created blindness and blindness defeated man.

But when blindness became too proud, Doondari created sleep, and sleep defeated blindness;

But when sleep became too proud, Doondari created worry, and worry defeated sleep;

But when worry became too proud,

Doondari created death, and death defeated worry.

But when death became too proud,

Doondari descended for the third time,

And he came as Gueno, the eternal one

And Gueno defeated death.

There are many things one could say about this wonderful story but I will settle for only one - the constant battle the Creator wages, to maintain the integrity of his world in the face of insidious threat from pride. Four times Doondari has to create an agent to defeat pride. And four times it rises and fights again. And it was man's pride that began it all.

The Fulani people who made this story before the corning of Allah were obviously concerned about pride. The theology behind the story is not concerned about seven deadly sins, but only one.

In the 1950s after one thousand years of Islam, a young Fulani from Senegal who had received the best education the French could give to a brilliant colonial subject wrote a novel about the plight of his people after their defeat and subjugation by French arms and policies.

One of the major characters in the novel has this to say:

If it were still only a matter of ourselves, of the conservation of our substance, the problem would have been less complicated: not being able to conquer them, we should have chosen to be wiped out rather than to yield. But we are among the last men on earth to possess God as He veritably is in His Oneness ... How are we to save Him?

The point being made here may elude anyone who has not read Cheikh Hamidou Kane's novel: Ambiguous Adventure so I will summarize it:

"We the Diallobe people," it says "would have had no excuse to continue living after our fathers were defeated by French arms; we would have had every justification in committing suicide. But we are among the few in the world who truly understand God. If we should die what would happen to God then?"

Now that-is hardly a declaration of modesty. In fact it is pretty arrogant. It would seem that the pride which the Diallobe people meditated upon is a living problem still with these people in spite of a thousand years of Islam, in spite of a history that has experienced imperial grandeur of their own making as well as the ultimate humiliation of defeat and colonialization by strangers.

We are thus talking about qualities at the core of a people's character. Something which survives time and events and can ferry across from oral poetry in an African language to modern fiction written in French. We are not talking about transitory fads and fashions.

Unusual creation story

I take my second example from my own people - the Igbo of South-Eastern Nigeria, and a very different kind of creation myth. Unlike the Fulani story which takes place in a remote, ethereal setting, the Igbo story like the Igbo themselves, is very much down to earth.

The crux of this story is that one morning Chukwu, the Creator, looks down and beholds the king of Nri and the King of Adama sitting disconsolate on an anthill surrounded by marshy ground (It is not clear whether there are two kings or one king with two titles: for simplicity I shall assume only one). Chukwu asks him what the matter is and the king replies that the soil is too moist to plant the yam which Chukwu had directed him to plant during an earlier discussion. As a result of this failure of the crop, the story tells us that people are wandering through the bush like wild animals. So Chukwu sends Eze Nri to Awka, the town of blacksmiths to invite one of them to blow on his bellows and make the soil dry.

This is an unusual creation story. It is not the drama of creation that it is concerned with. The world is already made and functioning somehow. But it is not perfect. Man complains to God about this and holds conversations with him to bring about changes and improvements, specifically the tremendous transition of mankind from wanderers in the bush to settled agriculturalists using-iron tools.

The Igbo people who made this story are famous (or notorious according to one's point of view) for their belief in conversation even with God. Unlike their neighbours, they do not care for kings and kingdoms. They were not easy to colonise; the British described them as argumentative. Why the British would consider the Igbo habit of arguing as surprising, is the real surprise. Why would people who dare argue with the Creator of the world be intimidated by white district officers some of whom were in their twenties? The Igbo did not care for Empires; they preferred small-scale village communities where every adult male was the king of his own household and could take part in decision-making and every adult woman in (admittedly less frequent) women's decision-making.

I hope you will not expect me to demonstrate in detail how the world of ‘Things Fall Apart' and the world of ‘Arrow of God' derive their substance and ambience from these primordial conversations between the first Igbo people and their Creator.

When the British colonised Nigeria they had a lot to learn - some of them did, but some of them, unfortunately, did not. It was bad enough that the Igbo had no kings and no horses, but to also demand a hearing was just too much! What the uninitiated members of Britain's imperial service did not realise was that the Igbo got away long ago talking back to God Himself. That is a major element of their ethnicity and it will be present in their life and literature.

I want now to address briefly the question posed in what appears like a sub-title to the main subject: To what degree is all literature shaped by the cultural contexts of the authors?

The creative enterprise is a magical space onto itself - the mind in mutual collaboration with the world and its elements to produce something of aesthetic value. Creative writers are like painters, using words to paint a literary tapestry. I think that words have a magic, that human situations- one's environment, culture, ‘ethnicity' as we have spent time re-discovering - can be unburdened to join other factors wordsmiths use to create literary magic - that extra dimension that the writer can conjure up by placing ideas about the human condition side by side on paper.

I suppose that cultural contexts is another name for what we have so far been calling the factors of ethnicity. Quite clearly these factors do shape literature. The cultural context within which a writer finds him/herself is relevant in so far as it brings something of literary value - contributes to the world story - and does not claim superiority over, deny, obscure or jaundice, even oppress other perspectives or stories. But having said that let me now admit that there are other factors and not least among them is the genius and free-will of the author.

I left this factor out of account until now, for a purpose. Good literature, whether oral or written, will bear the marks of the author's culture as well as his or her own personal signature.

Culture is a shared commodity. It implies community. The behavior of one person is not called culture; but the action of one person can influence the culture of the group, and even change it.

Individual autonomy

Western literature played a central role in promoting the ideal of individual autonomy. As Lionel Trilling tells us, Western literature has in the last one hundred and fifty years held "an intense and adverse imagination of the culture in which it has its being". It has promoted the view of society and of culture as a prison-house from which the individual must escape to find freedom and fulfillment.

If this is so then it seems to me that a real parting of the ways may have occurred between Western literature and its own origins, to say nothing of other literatures.

The father of Western philosophy says: I think, therefore I am. The unknown formulator of the great Bantu assertion says Umuntu, Ngumuntu Ngabantu: a person is a person because of other persons. The Igbo put it proverbially: if a person feels an itch in the back he calls his fellow to scratch him; an animal scratches itself against a tree.

Georges Braque, co-founder of cubism, once described perspective as "a ghastly mistake which it has taken four centuries to redress." Perspective is important but it is also a one-eyed view which can degenerate into mere draughts-manship. Perhaps the celebration of individualism, another one-eyed view of the world, can now use a little redressing in Western literature.

Complex union

The story of Nigeria is one steeped in ethnic and religious tensions and complexity. ‘Ethnicity' in the Nigerian context has not evolved, through ‘a post-primordial civic nationalism' into a blissful, common national identity, as seen in say Switzerland. Until the day "the Swissification of ethnic conflict" arrives, Nigerians, particularly its writers, should not be satisfied with sweeping the matter ‘under the rug.'

For those who are not proficient in Nigeria's recent political history it might be useful to point out that the word ethnic was not always ‘the ugly girl that many took to bed at night, but denied during the daytime'. My generation remembers a Nigeria that was once a land of great hope and progress, a nation, a nation of immense resources at its disposal - natural resources, but even more so human resources.

Nigeria possesses a great diversity of vibrant peoples who have not always been on the best of terms, but those of us who are old enough remember periods in our history when collaborations across ethnic and religious divides produced great results.

The Nigeria - Biafra war changed the course of Nigeria. One can summarise the conflict as one precipitated by the bile of ethnic hatred. It was such a cataclysmic experience that for me it virtually changed the history of Africa and the history of Nigeria. Everything I had known before, all the optimism had to be rethought. For me, this traumatic event changed my writing for a time, which found expression in a different genre - poetry.

Since the war, Nigerians have been subjected to a clique of military and civilian adventurers and a political class that have exploited the ethnic divisions in Nigeria. This group, unfortunately, has been completely corrupted - spearheading the enormous transfer of the country's wealth into private bank accounts, a wholesale theft of the national resources needed for all kinds of things - for health, for education, for roads. The result has been that the nation's infrastructure was left to disintegrate unleashing untold suffering on millions of innocent people.

This development has been made easy by Nigerian academics who have presided over the liquidation of the university system and the rise of a culture of anti-intellectualism in Nigeria. One of the ways we have done it is our obsession for office. Twenty-five years ago, university professors were held in very high esteem. Today, I don't think anybody thinks very much of them, and quite frankly, I think it is our own making. What happens when a university Vice-Chancellor in Nigeria is about to leave office? You ought to see the trips made up and down to government houses in Abuja, begging for cabinet positions.

What upsets me is that this entire mess Nigeria finds itself in was quite avoidable. The leadership appears not to really care for the welfare of the country and its people. If a political class-including intellectuals, university professors, and people like that, who have read all the books and know how the world works - if they had based their actions on principle rather than on opportunity, Nigeria would not be in this predicament. But Nigerian leaders, beginning with the military dictators, looked around and saw what they could buy intellectuals. Anybody who called himself president would immediately find everyone lining up outside his home or his office to be made minister of this or that. And this is what they have exploited they have exploited the divisions, the ethnic and religious sectionalisation in the country. You have leaders who see nothing wrong in inciting religious conflict between Christians and Muslims. It's all simply to retain power. So you find a different kind of alienation.

In the past in Igbo land, if something kept happening and happening, or if somebody kept failing and failing, the people would go and consult an oracle. They call it Iju Ase. In the modern world, the systems that cause these failures are examined. But frankly, I would suggest that Nigeria has decided to put merit aside and bring up whatever considerations, and that is one of the things that happened to us. And the modern world has not been created on considerations outside of merit.

Missed opportunities

I despair over Nigeria daily. On the missed opportunities of Nigeria: the fact that nobody has had the imagination to say, ‘Look I'm going to transcend all this ethnic pettiness and become the leader of modern Nigeria' because this is important for Africa, this is important for the world. So, let's stop all this nonsense about religion, about tribe and so on. Let's organise Nigeria and make it a working entity so that it can fulfill its mission in the world.

There is a great deal of work for the Nigerian writer - indeed all writers. If the society is healthy, the writer's job is limited - which is not the situation in Nigeria. On the other hand, if a society is ill the writer has a responsibility to point it out even if it produces headaches in the halls of power!

The role of a writer in a society such as ours besieged with many pathologies - ethnic bigotry, political ineptitude, corruption, and the cult of mediocrity - is not an easy or rigid one. Nigerian writers can choose to turn away from the reality of Nigeria's intimidating complexity or conquer its mystery by battling with it. I hope we all choose the later.

Achebe, David and Marianna Fisher University professor and professor of Africana Studies, Brown University, Rhode Island, USA delivered this address at the Garden City Literary Festival which ended in Port Harcourt, Rivers State yesterday. His son Chidi read the paper on his behalf.

2015 Disintegration Prediction Won't Happen -- Jonathan

A Vanguard Newspaper Interview Coverage

‘I want seven years for president, govs, not six’

President Goodluck Jonathan, last Tuesday, fielded questions from a team of senior journalists in a televised chat. Excerpts:

Would you say that the ship of state is on course?

That is correct. But let me use this opportunity to thank Nigerians again for the way they conducted themselves during the elections. You will agree with me and indeed most Nigerians and other international observers that people were quite happy with our elections. Nigerians participated in all the villages, people were proud that they had voter’s cards that meant something to them, that they could use it to change the course of history. I can assure you and all Nigerians that the ship of state is on course.

You must be aware of the prediction on the CIA website which states that Nigeria will disintegrate before the year 2015. This is 2011 and some analysts have even gone further to say President Jonathan will be the last President of Nigeria as presently constituted. What is your take on this?

I don’t agree with that assertion. Nigeria will not disintegrate. This is not the first time people will come up with such idea. You must have read the book, “This House Has Fallen”.

Nigeria may have challenges, just like other countries. I remember in 1966 when I was in primary four, when we had the first challenge in the Niger Delta, when the late Isaac Adaka Boro declared secession and the Niger Delta Republic.

In 1967, we had the Biafran war. Ojukwu declared the secession of the Biafra Republic. We had a civil war, but we are back together. So these are major issues that affected the country. It is not just because people are detonating bombs here or probably because there is some level of agitation in the Niger Delta which, of course, is almost under control, then we begin to predict that we would disintegrate.

A country that will disintegrate you can study the psyche of the people. During the civil war, the south-easterners were the bulk of the members of the proposed new country called Biafra. Now the Igbo have investments across the country. Go to the South-west, go to the North.

You’d see that northerners have investments even in my village; as small as my village is, Nigerians from the North, East and West have bought lands. People who want to disintegrate will begin to shift back into their own geo-political zones.

The behavior of Nigerians does not really show that we are going to disintegrate. Look at us- because of ethnic diversities we are beginning to predict that we would disintegrate – but we will not disintegrate. I will not preside over a country that will disintegrate. I assure you that we will remain one united nation.

There is this general fear and insecurity in the land: there are Boko Haram bombings, kidnapping and robbery. We know crime cannot be totally wiped out. But when will Nigeria have a seemingly peaceful situation where people can go about their duties without being scared of being bombed, kidnapped or robbed?

The issue of robbery in Nigeria is a matter of history. This country never experienced armed robbery until after the civil war when light arms and small weapons got into the hands of non-state actors. We experienced our first cases of armed robbery and of course the situation continued to deteriorate till today. The new dimension now is the issue of using improvised explosive devices in acts of terrorism. We are changing our own security architecture because, before this time, the security approach was more of confrontation.

All the security agencies are trained, yes they have intelligence arms but they are more involved in confronting and intimidating but the level of sophistication we have now by criminals is such that you must change the security architecture. We know we have challenges but I can assure all Nigerians that this will be brought under control. Only last week we had the Council of State meeting.

The main thing we discussed for the whole day was security. That was the longest Council of State meeting that we have had and everybody was interested, both the governors and those of us at the center, and we resolved that we must collectively bring the security of this country under control.

The UN office bombing incident; it was not only Nigerians that died, it affected the whole world, that is why the UN Deputy Secretary General had to come down to Nigeria immediately so we can have that network. The security services in Nigeria : the police, SSS and the army are doing a lot of work. Certain things appear slow, but the security operators are on top of the situation. They know exactly what they are doing because they brief me on a daily basis. We are worried about the security challenges in the country, because when you have such major challenges you are not encouraging investors to come in and we are trying to develop our economic environment to attract foreign investors so we must take security seriously. I can assure you that it will continue to decrease. It will no longer increase until we get to a level when Nigerians can move freely and will no longer fear that, at the next moment, a bomb is going to explode somewhere.

The issue of Plateau State is very worrying because Plateau is in the centre of Nigeria unlike Borno or Katsina that are situated in border towns and it has been on for more than eleven years now . Many people think that there should be more collaboration between the states and the Federal Government to curb these crises.

Are you satisfied with the level of cooperation between the states and the Federal Government over the issue?

We are co-operating. We have an elected governor and a House of Assembly in Plateau State. The issue in the state is over eleven years old. These are community issues, mainly economic issues. Probably, religion may come in to some extent. But religion is almost like the wind that spreads the fire. It is not the cause of the fire.

You’d realize that when President Obasanjo was here, he even declared a state of emergency in the state but it never stopped the problem. So you can really see that the methods we are using may not solve the problems because it is a human problem and human beings involved must be brought to dialogue. We had a lot of discussions before we got close to the elections and we will continue with that level of discussion.

Nobody wants to believe they are wrong or that both sides are wrong. Nobody has the power to kill whether you are a Christian or a Muslim, you cannot kill, so both parties are wrong and we are dialoguing with them and we would go out fully to enforce the law.

One of the major challenges of Nigeria is power generation and distribution. A lot of people are wondering, you talk of all sorts of mega watts, when will Nigerians have uninterrupted power supply for seven days a week?

That is why I am not going to talk about mega watts. But I can assure you and indeed all Nigerians that we are working day and night to improve the power sector. We launched the power sector roadmap. Launching the programme does not bring power immediately but you must follow up with actions.

A lot of projects are going on. We have a lot of turbines that came in through the NIPP projects-what happened is that when these contracts for the NIPP were awarded, for the turbines to generate power, turbines need gas – in some of the places where the turbines were located, the gas infrastructure was quite far away; sometimes over 200 kilometres away or more. So when the turbines were procured, the contracts for the supply of gas to the turbines were not done.

That is why even now we still have some of the turbines in the wharf. We are now making sure that all the turbines are installed, contracts for gas to the turbines have been awarded, then of course you also have to install machines that will scrub the gas because if the wet gas enters the turbines, it creates problems. At the same time when you generate power, you must also evacuate the power.

As at the time the contracts were awarded some of the rights of way had not been acquired. To acquire right of way is extremely difficult even though we have the land use decree especially when the infrastructure passes through areas that have been developed. I can assure you that we will continue to improve on the generation, we will continue to improve on the distribution. Our target, like we have said, is that government must do away with generation, government must do away with distribution. We will partner with the private sector to handle transmission. We have not reached there yet but by the time we get there, the private sector involvement will be enhanced.

Talking about the issue of selling of power, another issue of concern is the incessant increase in tariff. People felt won’t it be better if the government finishes the reform in the power sector before it charges the appropriate tariff other increase?

Even last July, there was an increase in tariff yet there was no improvement in power supply. We are improving in power supply now, the increase in tariff?

If you look at the tariff we charge on power in Nigeria compared to other nations, Nigeria is still extremely low. If you must encourage the private sector to come up and invest in power then definitely you must charge a tariff that is not too high or too low. That is why there are regulators. We have the electricity regulatory commission to regulate it. You cannot just wake up and charge anything. They are to regulate. Any tariff that is being charged now is still very low compared to the continental average in Africa. I am not talking about outside Africa.

The man who earns N18,000 a month may not agree with you on that.

The man who earns 18,000 will be happy if you double the tariff and give him 24 hours of light. Because , Nigerians spend so much on power and lose so much because of our power problem.

Nigeria is infamous for corruption and it is also infamous for bureaucratic red tapes which at the end of the day doubles the cost of doing business. We have lost big companies to neighboring countries.

What are you doing to ensure that foreign direct investment actually grows in Nigeria and that investors are confident that the cost of doing business in Nigeria is brought down significantly?

I agree with you. The cost of doing business is very high and beside the cost, quite a number of things are not clear to some people and that is one of the things that the economic management team is looking at. We agree that we must bring the cost of doing business down. We must make sure that we have the best global practice. The Economic Management Team is made up of people in government, the private sector, and also governors. The thing is to look at the whole issue of our economy, the whole issue of investments, the whole issue of trade and what we must do as a nation to make sure that we encourage the private sector. It is for government to create an enabling environment for the private sector to build the economy of any nation and that is what we are doing.

Many people are touchy about the price of cement. Lately you held a meeting with stakeholders and they agreed to bring down the price of cement. At a point, a bag of cement was 1,350 naira, now it is back to about 2,000 naira. When will it be back to a manageable level and sustained so that people can build cheaper houses?

The issue of cement is an issue I’d relate to an issue like tumor or a boil on the body of a child. If you want to excise the tumor or the boil to bring out the pores so that the boy will feel better, the child will resist the scalpel, the surgical blade of the surgeon but the child needs that pain. The government then felt that what is in cement?

The imported component of cement is very low. We have enough raw materials to produce more than enough cement that we need in this country but because our infrastructure is weak in terms of roads, power, cement manufacturing outside Nigeria is cheaper, so you can import cement very cheaply and bring it into the country.

Yes, Nigerians are buying cheaper cement but there is no job for the people. The Federal Government then found out that to encourage the local production of cement, we must restrict the importation of cement to encourage our companies to produce and allow the companies that are producing cement to import the difference in terms of the proportion. So, there is this fear of monopoly because those who are manufacturing the cement are those who are importing. So the assumption is that they can create artificial scarcity so that they will make more money.

It is a problem that for the past six years or more since the Obasanjo administration came up with that policy, we have been managing. But the good news, from the information before me, is that by the first quarter of next year, we would be producing enough cement and, as we progress into the middle, up to the last quarter of 2012, we would be talking about exporting cement. Last week, I sent for the minister of transport, to do something about our train network because the present design does not include the cement factories and I said that cement is very heavy and if you haul cement using trucks, the cost will still be prohibitive.

A lot of Nigerians believe that there is too much grammar on this economic issue. You know the economy is improving, we are doing this; micro and macro economy. The micro and macro for the common man is employment. Are there jobs? Recently, analysts are saying maybe we should not be doing it the same way it has been done before because it has not yielded anything. With your new agenda, are there new strategies and time lines for employment generation for the youths which in a way is the only way the common man will know that there is improvement? .

I agree with you. I always tell people that I don’t like talking about growth indices. In terms of growth indices, the Nigerian economy is not doing badly but in terms of unemployment, because of our huge population, the figures are still poor and we agree that if we have so many unemployed youths and the economy is growing, then it is not a very palatable story.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Nigerians Should Decide Whether Nigeria Should Disintegrate Or Not -- Bashir Tofa

Nigeria Sunday Tribune Interview

Alhaji Bashir Tofa was the presidential candidate of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC). In this interview with Kola Oyelere, the Kano-born politician, who contested the aborted 1993 presidential election against the late Chief MKO Abiola, speaks on issues ranging from the lingering insecurity in the country to why the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, would continue to be a thorn in the flesh of the nation as well as the domination of the nation’s political landscape by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Excerpts:

Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the August 26 suicide bombing of the UN building in Abuja where over 20 people died. How do you see the sect’s action? Could Boko Haram have been responsible for the bombing or any other international terrorist group?

I have heard that Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attack on UN House. Somebody who was said to be a member of the sect has made such claim, but deep in my mind, I don’t believe that the attack was perpetrated by Boko Haram. If you look at their sophistication, operation and the structure of the terrorist group, it can be indicated that it was beyond their capacity.

Second, I can’t see any reason why Boko Haram should bomb the UN’s House, because the UN is nothing whatsoever to Boko Haram. So, it is up to the Federal Government if they are really serious about finding the culprits to work very hard with the UN or anybody that can assist this country to find the true culprits behind this dastardly act. However, I don’t believe that Boko Haram has the capacity to carry out the act, besides they don’t even have any reasons, because one has to identify the specific motives behind the bombing. Why would anybody do that? I can’t find any answer why Boko Haram should do it.

The thinking of many people is that the UN House’s bombing would strain the relationship between Nigeria and the United Nations. What is your view of this?

I don’t think it would strain any relationship between Nigeria and the UN, because they are aware that the Nigeria’s government was not responsible for the attack. If the relationship would go sour, then the UN would have left Iraq but it is still there, the UN is still in Palestine and many other countries like that. So, the UN always differentiates between what government does and what individuals or terrorist groups do.

It was predicted that Nigeria may disintegrate. Don’t you see that all these scary events, bomb blasts, kidnappings, and general insecurity in the country are symptomatic of this prediction?

Well, if there are people who want the country to disintegrate, they will not succeed by the grace of God. Nigerians have to decide whether they want to continue together or not, however such should not disintegrate the country, and I don’t think there are foreign powers that want Nigeria disintegrated. Nevertheless, Nigerians need to sit down and determine that by themselves.

The views of some people are that the emergence of Boko Haram is a response from some Northerners against President Goodluck Jonathan who believe that the presidency was taken away from them?

These statements emanated from people who don’t know anything but want to portray themselves as political analysts. Some of them even said that some politicians were giving weapons to Boko Haram to perpetrate their evil act against the Federal Government. However, what people should be doing is to condemn this act and not to blame it on some people.

Number two, if the Federal Government truly believes that there are people trying to sabotage the efforts of Mr. President because they do not like Dr. Jonathan or because of zoning, then the Federal Government should try to find out who are the people and bring them to book.

The South East geo-political zone has indicated an interest to produce the nation’s president come 2015. How would the North feel on this, in view of the North’s insistence that the president should come from the zone in 2015?

I am totally against the fact that power must go to a certain section of the country, whether North, South, West or East. I want power to go a Nigerian who really cares for everybody. A Nigerian who will deal with everybody equally, creates opportunities for every Nigerian and leaves the country a better place.

The moment we continue talking about the South or North or West, we would never make political progress in this country, that was what brought us into tribal and regional problems and we should have outgrown such divisive tendencies by now. Right now, we should be looking for a Nigerian whom everybody trusts, a Nigerian who would be fair to everybody, irrespective of one’s ethnic or religious affiliation. We all have equal responsibility and right to aspire to any elective post, though people are saying it is our time while others are also saying they must produce the president come 2015, all these are rubbish, we should put those things behind us and go for people who really mean well for this country. There is no Nigerian who does not have the right to rule this country, all Nigerians should be seen as politically equal, and all political parties should always seek for the best candidate and should not field any candidate on the basis of his/her tribe or religion, but on the trust that people have in him, knowing that this man or this woman can serve this country well and can treat everybody well.

Late Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, late Nigeria’s Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, and other notable northern leaders fought for one North, do you think North is still an indivisible entity, in view of the issue of Boko Haram and several killings in the region?

So also late Chief Obafemi Awolowo fought for one South-West and late Chief Nnamdi Azikwe fought for one South-East, but that does not mean that all these regions were one or are still one. We have our differences, no doubt. What is required are for those differences to be accepted while we become united at the same time. The North is just like any other parts of the country; we have different tribes as well as people who are either Muslims or Christians. This is part of our existence, but whether we can unite and be one to project our interest and interest of the country is another thing entirely, but we should try to do it.

The role of opposition parties in any democracy is to checkmate the activities of a ruling party, either at the state or national level, do you think the opposition parties in the country are doing this?

The opposition parties are trying to survive while some of their leaders are just projecting their self-interest.s.They hobnob with the PDP, trying to either make money or acquire positions. It’s not been good as far as the opposition parties are concerned in the country. We don’t find among them leaders who stick to their principle, but people who always look for what they can benefit. Personally, I don’t think any of these opposition parties, whether ANPP, ACN, Labour Party or APGA and so on can be effective and checkmate the PDP-controlled Federal Government. If they can come together and fuse into a single political party, that would be the beginning of the end of the PDP, in my opinion, but if they don’t, I assure you that within the next two years, you would find out that some of these governors would decamp to the PDP, while some of the Senators, and members of the House of Representatives would equally follow suit and that would be the end of opposition in the country.

Jonathan May Be Ngeria's Last President

A Vanguard Newspaper Interview

Reverend Oladimeji (Ladi)P. Thompson, founder and Senior Pastor of Lagos-based Living Waters Unlimited Church has, for over 20 years, followed the activities of terror groups in the North. He is also the international co-ordinator of Macedonian Initiative, a non-government, non-denominational organization established to provide succour to Christians persecuted because of their belief in Jesus Christ. Immediately after the UN House bombing, our SAM EYOBOKA and UDUMA KALU approached him for his comment and the answer is that Boko Haram may break up Nigeria. Excerpts:

You said since 2000 you have a clear vision…

First of all, my warning was to the church leadership . I moved on to the secular world and I found out that it's going to be difficult, so I did not go there any more. But the truth is that Goodluck Jonathan may be the last president of Nigeria. When I was saying this, they sounded very far fetched to believe.

What is helping Nigeria right now is that the people who sponsor what is supposed to happen in Nigeria have been kept busy themselves for now. People like Muammar Gaddafi who used to come to Kano unannounced and unofficially regularly; there are different axis all over the world who are involved in what is happening in Nigeria. For example, the UN House in Abuja was not the handiwork of Boko Haram.

You may say what do I mean? One, there is nothing like Boko Haram. The word Boko Haram is a word created by the Western Media to explain Yusufua Maiduguri. Yusufua is just one out of 26 radical groups that are operating within Nigeria.

The western press, to make it readable to the western world, created the word, Boko Haram. Haram means forbidden and Boko is corruption of book. They have not burnt any university. They have not killed any professor, nor harassed any institution of higher learning.

What they are out for is very simple. Number one, not to Islamise but an Islamic Nigeria, a Nigeria where there is no plurality of religions, but one religion; a Nigeria in which women will be oppressed always, a Nigeria in which they will eradicate democracy. They have scored success in many nations of the world before our own. You only need to go and do research and you will find out.

Uthman dan Fodio and Shehu of Borno

Nigeria's problem started since 1955 or 1956. It is an ancient problem. The problem with Nigeria's own is that before the global resurgence of terror, Nigeria had an ancient streak that started in 1774 when Uthman dan Fodio entered Maiduguri. He was lecturing in Islam doing very nice and quiet and the Hausa people embraced him and were happy with him because he was teaching their children.

They didn't know that he was radicalizing their children at the same time. While he was radicalizing the people at that time, nobody knew. He even instructed one guy called Yoeofa, the son of the king in Islamic way. When Yoeofa was being taught by Uthman dan Fodio, he said dan Fodio was a good and nice teacher, but dan Fodio noticed that the taxes were high; that they were not purists.

The predominant Islamic force in Nigeria then was the remnant of Kanem Borno Empire. You will find out that the Shehu of Borno, who was actually supposed to be the spiritual leader of Islam in Nigeria, was displaced by dan Fodio because dan Fodio in 1804 declared a Jihad.

It was tough then and they were coming towards South. There were three things that stopped dan Fodio. Number one, El Kanemi, a Borno man who said, `I am a Muslim but I don't understand this religion that involves killing of Muslims as well.' And have you noticed that they have also started throwing bombs in mosques in Nigeria? El Kanemi rose and he was able to put a stop to the advance of Uthman dan Fodio.

Secondly, the arrival of the British and they had what they called Maxim gun, and in 1903 or 1904 Sokoto and Kano fell. There was armed resistance and in 1906 there was an uprising in Mali which arose just like bin Ladin's but it didn't last long. The British decimated it. They were able to kill a few British nationals. All the emirs had waited then, saying if he (the Malian) succeeds we will join him, but when they saw the British crushing him, they went underground.

Thirdly, Ilorin was taken but the Jihadists couldn't advance further because of the forest belt. They have an advantage of cavalry; when they were coming to South, they had an advantage of horses but when they hit the forest belt, their horses couldn't proceed. That is why you find that Ogbomoso, Osogbo, that buffer zone is where the rivers spread and the violence was not heavy.

Jihad under colonial rule

The truth is that during the colonial years, the British made one mistake in which they used indirect rule. Lugard personally promised them that he would not allow the Mauguzawas to be introduced to Christianity. Majority of people in northern Nigeria, when the British came, were not Muslims. They were animists and the Mauguzawas, who automatically, because of indirect rule were recognised as Muslims. It is an ancient creed, a very smart creed—very difficult to detect. War can go on even in peace time.

They shifted to consolidate under the British rule; smiling at the British while consolidating their code for the whole of Northern Nigeria. The moment the British wanted to leave, because they appeared nice to , the British made a miscalculation which is what is destroying them till today. What the British did was to devise a formula and hand over power to Northern Nigeria and create a political formula by which Northern Nigeria ordinarily should forget about one Nigeria.

Jonathan, Yar'Adua and Northern power blocs

This last time, whether by the name of Goodluck and by the pattern of his life that was disrupted, for the first time in Nigeria, we had about four or five presidential candidates from the northern part of Nigeria and they couldn't agree on one.

Had they agreed on one, all these things would not have happened. Olusegun Obasanjo came because of the pacification of the South West and after him, the North could have held on to power for ever, but immediately, it shifted back to the North. You know what happened to Yar'Adua. The late Yar'Adua was the Mutewani Katsina (holder of the Emirate's treasury).

The Emirate and an Ancient Dream

What Nigerians don't know is that there is an existence underneath the Federal Government structure in which an ancient dream is kept alive by a core of radicals who teach their children why they should not see Nigeria as one. And because it is not a formalized education, it's not written down anywhere.

It's difficult to detect but they tell their children that southerners should always come to pay obeisance. `We are their rulers and there is only one religion'. You find that when Yar'Adua was in Katsina state, he was a devout Muslim to the core. There is a radical call from Katsina because it is the centre of learning; they're purists.

When he was to become president, I was alarmed because I knew what his sentiments were, but somehow he did not last long and Goodluck stepped in. Goodluck should not have become president this time around but for the fact that northerners could not agree on a consensus candidate. If they had agreed on the formula left for them by the British colonial heritage, there would have been no argument.

Sheik Gumi, Islamic Banking and Jonathan

In 1955 `or 1956, in the Hajj Camp in Saudi Arabia, the Nigerian flag was burnt because the flag had a Star of David on it. One of the contributors of what you are seeing today was late Sheik Gumi, a clever man who never denied where he was going. If you remember, he was the one who declared that over his dead body would there be a Christian ruler in Nigeria.

That was just a tip of the iceberg. One of his boys who converted from Islam in those days, they put fatwa on him. He had to escape to Kano and the Federal Government used all state apparatuses to hunt for him. They beat him till they felt he was dead, but the Christians later found out that he still had life and he later escaped to Ghana. All these sentiments have been there but we are the ones who close our eyes and pretend as if they were not there. There is a radical cult at the centre.

Islamic banking we are talking about today, Gumi was part of it. So, all the noise that people are making at the last moment is pattern of what they have been doing because there is a pattern in which it will work.

Christians in Northern Nigeria

Ask people like Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola, His Eminence Sunday Mbang and those who had headed CAN, they will tell you how many young girls were kidnapped annually in the North. Your children can't go to schools; it is either you fake their names to a Muslim name or there is no promotion.

Progression of the Ancient Dream

All these things have been there and we pretend as if we don't see them. But they are there, well established in all those states. The movement behind it is a very intelligent; they are slow in their tactics and facts. The progression in Nigeria was that by the time they have swept through the Northern states and consolidated the North…the normal thing is that you push non-Muslims away from the city centres. So most northern cities today that have any sizeable Christian number are divided into two. Why? Because there is a time to come when they will launch an attack unless the Christians agree to live under a status where they become a third class citizen. This issue is not only in Nigeria; it is a global thing.

Islamization of Nigeria

Nigeria has done about 65 per cent, it only has about 35 per cent to go. People are only shouting Plateau State but I pity Plateau State young men because they are falling into a trap till now.

Foreigners on Plateau

Plateau State people think they are doing something but they are wasting their energy by responding with vigilante groups. I have seen a lot of foreigners who are coming into Nigeria with their own silly theory when they don't understand what is going on here. Last week, I was in a place where one of these British consultants was talking on how Plateau indigenes were just killing Muslims. They are only managing information in which the international press is looking at Plateau as blood-thirsty people. And Nigerians know that they are the most peaceful people in Nigeria, ordinarily.

Camps in South South, South East

This same thing has entered Makurdi in Benue State and it is coming down South. Whether you like it or not, there are camps and places where people are being trained in the South South and we now have more Igbo Muslims in Nigeria than we have ever had in this country. Why? They have quietly entered through sponsorships, spending money. There is one school in Afikpo where people are offered scholarships and given free food. As soon as you adopt the Islamic religion, you will be sent out of the country to radicalise you more. In the South South, there are militants milling around in the name of petty traders.

The truth is that they have taken advantage of everything and that is a weakness for us. While we were sleeping, when we didn't know a lot about these people …

Islam in Bauchi

Look at the Bauchi nurses in 2001 who were sacked because they refused to wear hijab. What I am saying is that a medical doctor, S.Y Sabo, who was in charge of Federal Medical Centre, Azare, knew that he was not just a medical doctor but also there to establish something. You can duplicate this in all the places.

Do you remember what happened to Gideon Akaluka on the streets of Kano? Is it normal to parade the head of a fellow human being on the stick and dance round town jubilating? And since all these things happened, has anybody been convicted in Nigeria? You want to know why? It is because Nigerian institutions are riddled with spies and wolves who believe in that future; and the truth is that Nigerian leadership doesn't have the moral courage to face up to the fact that from the police force to intelligence services, to education, to sports, the institutions are filled with people who are fighting the war quietly.

Including the Judiciary?

If you are talking about the judiciary, let me ask? Which rule of law is the uppermost in Nigeria? Nigeria has the British law that we inherited. Then we have the Common Law, the Customary Law and the Sharia Law. Which one is uppermost in Nigeria? If the Nigeria Constitution is uppermost, a former governor in Nigeria married a 13-year- old girl. He paid $100,000 for her, smuggled her into Nigeria from Egypt. According to the laws of Nigeria, is that a crime or not? Will you agree to live in a country where a full grown serving senator can marry a 13-year old girl? We all sat down to watch what would happen when some people came up to say that it was an Islamic affair, a religious affair and not a democratic issue. What happened to the case eventually? So what has been proven now?

Nigeria's mistakes

Now, what are the mistakes we are making? This thing is creeping in and because of the ancient one that started earlier and the emergence of the international one ,they are now woven together. About six or seven years ago, in 2001, a bomb exploded in a church in Lalanto in Jos. Bomb making literature had been coming to Nigeria for more than 10 years. It's just that initially ,it was blowing off their own hands and legs and it was being explained away. But gradually, they have mastered it now. Before, the problem was how they would co-ordinate the activities of 26 Islamic sects with each one having its own leader and different ideas but western countries have solved the problem for them, by creating the name Boko Haram. Unlike before when an individual sect had its own ideology, now Boko Haram has created an umbrella through which they all work. By being stupid and playing into the hands of the western media, they made our case worse. So they are now making more progress and even bolder than they could get before.

The reason why Uthman dan Fodio was able to overthrow Hausa kings was because there was a lot of corruption in the Hausa Kingdoms. There was a lot of oppression and poverty. There was no home for majority of them. There was no hope for the future then.

There is little hope for the future now. A house full of intellectuals, deceive themselves that there is a future. And that is why the average intellectual does not have the reality on what Nigerian life really is. Many Nigerians youths are crossing deserts on foot to escape Nigerian life. That is a pointer for you on what life looks like in the country.

Is the invitation to foreigners to assist us a true way out of the problem?

We have to be very careful. Immediately the UN House was bombed, Nigeria ceded its authority and it was not right for Nigeria to cede its authority. A lot of countries have similar problems and many of them are looking up to Nigeria to see how she would solve the problem to help their own countries. Now, in Nigeria a lot of intelligent strategies have just been just bullshit, they are unwise. At every step, we bring in our soldiers to level (destroy) towns.

Ordinary Boko Haram with 1.6 million members held Nigeria Army and Police Force for almost three weeks. Nigerian youths are impoverished, education is gone, and we are the second highest in the world's infant mortality, maternal maternity, second highest in the world. It is a curse for you to be pregnant in Nigeria, that is what it means. It is better for you to go to Ghana or Cotonou, next door and have your children than to have them in Nigeria.

In all induces by which you measure a state, Nigeria cannot score pass mark in any area. Human life value is very low. A woman was butchered by soldiers in Gombe, till today no compensation. The governor, Danjuma Goje made it impossible for the case to be tried in the state. It was all by collusion. If you like, let's keep deceiving ourselves here that things are well. The infiltration is already noticeable in Calabar, in South East and in these areas we have the problem of tribal divide. No consensus. The youths, almost 75 or 80 per cent of the country, are impoverished, they are disenfranchised, and they have no inheritance. The people who stole their inheritance, their great grand fathers are still alive—all the generals who are arguing against each other. The monies their grandchildren should spend they stole.

Outside Assistance, CAN Chairman

This one has an agenda and a motive. They are schooled somewhere, well funded locally and internationally. Unfortunately for us, the international funders right now are busy but once things are settled in the Middle East, more funding will come back to Nigeria. When the president of CAN called for the arrest of that general, uninformed ignorant people whose children may be slaughtered in future decried the position of the CAN president. As a special adviser to the CAN president, I can tell you that he has more information in his hands than he is allowed to speak to the public.

But whether you like it or not across all the northern states, the number of people killed in order to bring Jonathan Goodluck to power is maximum casualty figure we have never seen in Nigeria before. He rode him on a lot of bloodshed. The pattern of the killing even before the result was announced, the killing had started in the genera's name. When the CAN president called for his arrest, he was not joking. It is just that the government lacked the moral courage to do what is right. They incited people. It was pre-planned, pre-medicated obviously and if you look at the target of the killing, as usual, you cannot say it was political. Even if you bring them out for political reason they will still do what they want to do. Isioma Daniel (who was your colleague) when she made a comment on Miss World, which buildings were burnt? Most of them were churches. What has a journalist's comment on Miss World to do with maiming and killing of people. We are pretending as if this thing is not there but it is mopping up.

UN building bombing and Boko Haram

It was assumed that it is al Qaeda that bombed the UN building. It is more in consonance with al Qaeda. What Nigeria should have done is to first of all examine the explosives used and the methodology of the explosion—because every device has its own signature—and check it maybe it is in consonance with the more primitive ones that they mixed with internet instructions. The truth is that it is not the handiwork of Boko Haram. If we continue to call them Boko Haram, we are uniting 25 to 26 Islamic sects. We are encouraging their unity and helping the foreigners who are funding them to make their work fast. We should break away from calling them Boko Haram and the Nigerian Press must stand up to wage a war against their western counterparts, accusing them of neo-colonialism. If they can create an Islamic battlefront in Nigeria, they will come in from all around the world and Nigeria will fracture and the world will go on, just like Sudan for many years. Their vision is global. There are lots of radical preachers all over the county, they will teach freely for years and nobody ever disturbs them. They are protected by their governors and commissioners of police.

Do you think that it is in the interest of the west to create chaos in Nigeria?

If you are having problem in your country and the people causing problem in your country can move away from your country to another side, would it be in the interest of your own county to encourage the people of that country to learn their mistakes and turn their own land to a fertile ground. They will sell ammunition to both sides. Look at Libya, what is happening is a very interesting scenario. But my fear is the compromise of Nigerian interest. My own insistence is that whatever is going to happen to us, whatever co-operation we are going to have international with anybody; we don't want Nigeria to be represented by bananas who will just throw away the national interest without even knowing what they are doing.

What do you mean?

Look at the UN Building bombing. The place has now been sequestered. Our inadequate facilities, our security systems, obviously, are highly unprepared for this kind of thing and they have yielded it to foreign government. Before you call in foreign assistance, you must think properly and think well. Because of the absence of enough intelligence to handle the problem we are now surrendering, but we should surrender with caution, because one or two moves like this, Nigeria will become the worst of. What makes you think that the nation's security apparatus is not infiltrated? I will like you to go and supply me the list of Nigerian national security advisers from independence. If you can give me that list, let us sit down and scrutinise the lives of every one of them, their utterances in private, not in public; their business interests, their links all over the world. Someone put Nigeria in OIC single handedly. Are there not radicals in Nigeria who have been walking free simply because the orders come from above that nobody should arrest them? Who are the people supporting this no-arrest order? You better let people know what we are up against.

You think President Jonathan is incapable of handling this?

A farmer does not depend on good clock to bring about good harvest and food for us to eat. If a tailor depends on good luck to sew your cloth, when you are looking for a shirt you will end up with a dress. If a farmer does not look for good luck to give us to feed the nation, and a tailor does not depend on good luck to sew cloth, when it comes to certain matters good luck has its limitation. Instead, wise planning and intelligent thinking is what is needed. It's not true that IGP is incompetent as people have been saying. We have a situation where the IG himself is more or less a junior to some of the commissioners of Police serving under him. Remember that some people stayed behind with the intent of helping him, are all of them loyal to him? Do we know where the loyalty of some of them lies? Is it possible for him to have as free hand with the kind of command he's asked to handle? Is he given a free hand? The moment you politicize anything that had to do with security, you have fractured the chain of command. So, whereas, he may be a very competent officer but the structure he was asked to perform with may not help him.

Is that not enough reason to resign as people are calling on him to do?

You will have to interview him on that. Is it easy to resign? If he is your uncle will you ask him to resign?

What is the way forward out of the current logjam?

The leadership must first of all find the moral courage to understand the reason why we are prone to these things more other countries; to face the problem, diagnose it and call it by its real name so it can treat it. If leadership does not do that we are going to slide to the morass faster. That is one. Number two; this new problem, in other countries nobody is relying on old methodologies. In some countries, they call a new kind of war, because there is no text book answer. As I speak right now, all over the world, intelligence experts are just writing the text books to match this menace of terrorism, because it is a resurgence that has not be seen in many centuries. So, coming up with military intelligence to come and answer this problem is a waste of everybody's time; coming up with DIGs to come and answer this, is a waste of everybody's time. What we need is leadership with innovative thinking; people who can think out of the box; who understand the cultural, religious, political and the radical aspects of what we are talking about here; people who know how to recognize the different phases and to handle all the phases with equanimity. I give you an example; one of the things that making this thing spread faster is the lack of a consensus in Nigeria. The Chinese Constitution is about 2,000 words; the American is about 4,400 words but the Nigeria Constitution is in excesses of 74,000 words. Nigeria has never had a real constitution. What we call a constitution is not representative of the Nigerian people. There is no common agreement. The best country that Nigeria to align with right and it is going to be done with utmost wisdom, is USA—the only country that has had the same kind of history and experience and was successful to a point. They were also colonized by the British. Every offer that was given to Nigeria as we transited to independence was also offered the Americans but they rejected all. All the problems in the Nigerian foundation can find solution in the American history. There is something called the American declaration of independence, Nigeria does not have the equivalent of it. What is written there is very simple but very powerful, and you can build the country on it: "…All men are created equal before God and everybody is entitled to the pursuit of happiness…."

That is why you see that nobody jokes with liberty in the US. If you have 10 heads, everybody is equal. Three revolutions were fought by the Americans, all based on the original agreement. In Nigeria, is there any such document that says we are all equal and that everybody is entitled to the basics of life? We do not know the power of such words. America was able to overcome its colonial experience and build their nation properly. Nigeria is yet to that. We must work with America with caution, but there is a lot we can learn from them.