Friday, November 30, 2012

2015: Leadership And Sins Of Nd'Igbo

Nnamdi Azikiwe arriving at the Idlewild Airport, New York, from London July 05, 1959 to attend the United Nations Special Session on Africa. Image: Bettmann Collection


In 1999, after the Jim Nwobodo bunch sold out the Igbo presidency lot, handing Alex Ekwueme a stunning defeat at the Jos primaries which gave Olusegun Obasanjo the upper hand for his party’s nomination as the flagbearer to the presidential elections, I said “the Igbo presidency is a mirage.” I made it patently clear again during the drive to Obasanjo’s reelection in 2003 that an Igbo mandate was still a mirage. Then, and again, when Obasanjo handpicked a bedridden Umaru Yar’Adua and a clueless Goodluck Jonathan PDP ticket, I said the Igbo mandate would continue to be a mirage. As it happened, a lucky Jonathan, who by accident succeeded Yar’Adua, who had succumbed to a long-hidden ailment, was tested when he ran on his own ticket in April 2011. Upon Jonathan’s swearing in to commence his first term as an elected president, the otimkpus, alarmists, raised their alert to a troubling level indicating the time was pretty much around again for a situated Igbo president.

The theme is once again, up, for an evasive presidency in what was begun by pragmatic, enigmatic, committed and patriotic Igbo leaders - Nnamdi Azikiwe, Francis Akanu Ibiam, M.I. Okpara, Louis Mbanefo, Nwafor Orizu, Mazi Mbonu Ojike, Kingsley O. Mbadiwe, and many others - during the days of the Igbo Union and debates on the constitutional conferences for an independent Nigerian national state. That situation would degenerate to something terrible by its nature, and a people once organized, thorough in its system and on the forefront of every aspect regarding the challenges confronting the colonists, and notably with its republican ideals, the Igbo enwe eze mantra, and the basis for its solid grounding of collectivism that leads to utopia, would dramatically fall from the standards and entirely apart.

What had happened to Nd’Igbo, as most recalls, had been beyond comprehension considering how it all began before colonial conquest.

Agha bu njo (war is bad omen), was one of the first phrases I had mastered when I arrived my native land in order to be more tuned with the culture of my fathers, and precisely, better the way it was wrapped up while I found myself assimilated, getting used to my kins' way of life and cultural heritage, coupled with a war that had ended not a distant time ago, with tales of tragedy overwhelmingly told. The Igbo nation had been plundered, demolished and conquered. Biafra as a nation would cease to exist in what had been a 30-month marathon of warfare among nations.

I have wandered as I arrived if indeed what I had seen with my eyes was real or a scene I usually saw at the movies in one of the Western films, Bonanza and the Indians - a people in shambles and totally destroyed. Children without clothes. Young adults playing on the sand-fields with torn clothes and half naked. Folks walking on barefoot and the basic things of life - pipe borne water and electricity - nowhere to be found. It was a hunting and gathering society, reinstated. I had also wondered what had brought us to such a place. It was nothing else. The home of my ancestors. Home of my forebears. The home of my father. My home. Our home. I have not seen or known anything like it my entire life until then.

I have not known much, anything about the Igbo landscape save for my father was born in the woods of Ohia-Ukwu, and spoke the language to me while I grew up in my father’s sojourned country. As it had happened, I grew up in a new era which differed significantly from that of my father and his generation, the scramble for Africa and European imperialism, when true leadership was tested, fighting to overcome the predicaments of colonialism - the sons of liberty - and every of my father’s generation contributing one way or the other.

Igbo leadership had begun in all spheres - scholars, businessmen, intellectuals, thoughtful laymen, academicians, and the architects of a profound Igbo nation - all around the globe where they were and at every gathering tailored for Igbo ideals, delivered and I witnessed some of it, when my father and his kinfolks met, my father running the errands and travelling to his homeland as delegate on a series of the Diaspora meetings on a variety of mandates and issues that may arise. My father and his kinfolks were all attracted to Ziks ideals and the Zikism Movement which had become the trend on the face of the African continent.

But ironically, a whole lot did change as time passed by.

Azikiwe was the man of every occasion. He had engineered a lot of stuff on Igbo nationalism and a patriotic, fabricated Nigerian national state the moment he brought along with him American ideals to the shores of Africa during the process of fighting the evils of colonial power.

Zik, as he had always been called by his admirers, was a product of the Hope Waddel Training Institute in Calabar. Lots of Nigerian elites passed through the school founded by the Presbyterian Church of England. Zik left Hope Waddell and proceeded to the Wesleyan Secondary School in Lagos. At Wesleyan, he studied and admired the works of Marcus Garvey. Realizing education was the panacea and especially in a region invaded by the imperialists, he left for the United States to advance his learning in which time the hurdles became extremely difficult to a point being suicidal and rescued when luck came on his side gaining admission at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, after stunts at Sorts College and Howard University.

Returning back to Nigeria from the United States in 1934, Zik tapped into the media without ado, and published “Liberia In World Politics,” criticizing the imperial powers for “alleged machinations against Liberia.” Zik would move to Accra in the later part of 1934 and start the “West African Pilot” focusing speaking against colonialism. Excellently and thought-provokingly, the Pilot became the medium through which the evils of the colonial power was sent across to the colonists which came with threats to shut down the publication.

In 1937, Zik left Accra and returned back to Nigeria and co-founded the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons with the Lagosian Herbert Macaulay from around which the organization would evolve to Nigeria’s first political party, with Zik as secretary general and Macaulay its president. Zik became president when Macaulay died in 1946.

With ongoing negotiations and the constitutional conferences toward independence from the colonial machinery  and in keeping up steadfastly using a medium to denounce oppression and colonial conquest, Zik established series of news-gathering outlets in many forms of publications - Eastern Nigeria Guardian, Daily Comet, Eastern Nigerian Sentinel, The Nigerian Spokesman, the Southern Nigerian Defender, among others, in which medium he raised Nigeria’s political consciousness. With Ziks chain of newspaper reels and the impact it created in sending the messages across to a colonial power for independence, a group of radicals formed the Zikist Movement in honor of the challenges he had posed to the colonists while the constitutional conferences and debates heated up from the batch of the major ethnic groups and the ethnic minorities which was commonly subscribed to indirect rule and ethnic politics, despite the relatively national concerns in the cry out for independence which Zik stood for, unconditionally, defending “national” interests as commitment and tasks that must be accomplished, though had to pay heed to Igbo politics where the leadership had begun which helped understand the Zikist Movement that had been formed by a group of radicals when they saw what Zik have done upon returning from the United States.

Zik saw the Igbo as God-sent leader on the African shores and he patently declared, as it became obvious, the powerful nature of Nd’Igbo to lead upon his election as President, Igbo State Union which was unquestionably unchallenged in 1948:

“The God of Africa has especially created the Igbo nation to lead the children of Africa from the bondage of the ages.”

Ziks declaration of an Igbo stronghold in African political affairs would bring about fears among other politicians, especially Obafemi Awolowo who would also declare that Zik’s whole idea for the constitutional conferences leading to independence was to make the Igbo “master race,” sending flickering messages and growing fear of competition from the Igbo, particularly among the Yoruba tribe its designated leader had been worried.

So what happened?

Before the declaration of independence and during the course of transition from colonial rule, Zik was elected President of the Senate on January 11, 1960. At independence, October 1, 1960, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a commoner and backer of the Talakawas, the relatively poor folks, from the Bauchi woods, lead a coalition government of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) on alleged majority counts and the National Council of Nigerian Citizens, leaving the Yoruba nation without a voice in the federal government. Awolowo would leave regional politics and become opposition leader in the federal legislature, under the banner of Action Group, which had become an offshoot of the Yoruba cultural group, Egbe Omo Oduduwa. Awo’s AG would be effectively isolated in the federal character, drawing up tensions within the Yoruba dominated regional Western Assembly and a cloud of political differences that would split AG into factions deliberately conceived by the Premier of the north, Ahmadu Bello, backing Samuel Akintola in creating a new political party through defections coupled with a federal government interventions, as Akintola took the Western House of Assembly, causing an unimaginable divide in the West, erupting to chaos and civil disobedience, attracting the barrels of the military juntas guns in what abruptly ended the nation’s First Republic. The prospects of an executive privileged Igbo president becomes a mirage, henceforth.

During the 13-years stunt of the military juntas (1966-1979), the Igbo had no agenda or political bearing in a terrible post-Civil war administration under Ukpabi Asika’s formal five years of “onye ube rurule, ya rachaa” mantra, the opportunity knock around time, utilized for personal gains, nepotistic by its measure when thousands of thousands of war survivals pan-handled to keep body and soul one, on Asika’s accounts of a military regime that had bribery and corruption baked in its genes. Igbos had lost its well grounded leadership founded by the late 1940s Igbo Union leaders resulting from the coal mining riots several were wounded and 18 coal miners killed in Enugu by colonial police forces.

It was not until the drug-addled Murtala Mohammed who had been elevated to a national hero when he removed Yakubu Gowon’s corrupt regime that a sigh of euphoria came upon the leftover Igbo region he had divided by way of state creation which would add more insult to dishonor. And, of course, there was Nd’Imo and Nd’Anambra accompanied by all sorts of diatribe becoming a new order among kins who had dwelled together as descendants of the same ancestors before colonial invasion which would eventually become a tactic in creating great division. Igbo land would never be the same again!

Enter the lifting of ban on political activities by the Mohammed-Obasanjo military juntas. Awolowo, would, upon that announcement of a promised second republic, form the Unity Party of Nigeria, allegedly an offshoot of the 1960s troubled AG which recruited its old following on the same principles. Zik would lay back, not sure of his position and what to do until invited to join the Nigerian Peoples Party businessman Waziri Ibrahim had created. In what the Obasanjo military juntas had pre-planned, a gang of political hoodlums emerged with the creation of National Party of Nigeria, installing a figure head and a first republic minister, Shehu Shagari, as its flag bearer. In what would be the post-Civil-War general election of a new generation, the military juntas under the supervision of Obasanjo-led transition team, doctored said election and declared the Shagari of the NPN winner after a court favored decision that was based on Richard Akinjide’s calculus theory.

Nigeria’s trouble continued apace and the Igbo presidency of a post-Civil-war era, still a mirage. Zik was consoled in his party’s dialogue with the alleged winning party, joining Shagari’s-led NPN “for the interest of the nation,” packaging some members of his party appointed ministers -- Ishaya Audu, Paul Unongo, etc. -- in what would be a political love-hate relationship, splitting sooner than later. Zik’s second attempt to reinvent himself as a generated leader of the republic would come up short after the same gang of corrupt political hoodlums hijacked the elections, reelecting Shagari while the military barons and juntas watched with interest, striking in few months.

For fifteen years, the guns of the military juntas would run the affairs of state, except the gimmick of a stillborn third republic the Ibrahim Babangida military juntas and criminal mafia had mischievously handpicked the presidential candidates -- Moshood Abiola and Bashir Tofa -- on a two party formula and very close in their relationships, writing both political party’s platforms.

Just like a typical Nigeria that is full of uncertainties, the Ibrahim Babangida-led criminal mafia would declare the presidential election they initiated null and void, on the grounds of irregular voting conducts. In that election, Igbo had no stake at all, but would dabble into fighting the pro-democracy campaign under a Yoruba influenced National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) which had been powered by its elite as they ran their propaganda machinery while abroad and happened to have escaped the wrath of the despot Sani Abacha.

In 1998, when Abacha died following the lifting of ban on political activities by a succeeding Abdulsalami Abubakar’s-led military juntas and a military fabricated constitutional prescription to test a fourth republic possibilities, Igbo wasn’t sure of a presidential mandate and who the candidate would be, though the Alex Ekwueme-led coalition had earlier generated a blueprint for a would be political party as prospects for return to civilian rule.

The peoples Democratic party would pop up with Ekwueme as the likely front runner. While Obasanjo, close to death and recovering from Abacha’s gulag wasn’t exactly sure for the presidential campaign, had to be compelled to sit in for a Yoruba presidency to make up for Abiola who had suddenly died after years of slamming by the Abacha regime death squad. In a sudden about face, Ekwueme was shown the exit, giving Obasanjo the green light to bear the party’s flag and eventually president-elect which kickstarts a fourth republic and ultimately run the nation aground with an ingrained military mentality. While Obasanjo ran the nation as if he was on combat to fight against his enemies, the Sharia debacle surfaced whereby many Igbo were slaughtered in the north, and sounding positively bloodthirsty, repeating the sins of the pogrom which he supervised and was a commander, inexplicably invaded Odi in a military like operation under the command of his kin, Agbabiaka; and also massacred unarmed civilians at Choba while the deadly gangs of the O’odua Peoples Congress under the Ganiyu Adams chapter invaded homes, robbed civilians in broad daylight, savagely axed their innocent victims and committed all kinds of atrocities within the Lagos metropolis, and yet, would not be prosecuted, getting away with a negated due process of the law. What was Obasanjo’s response? Nada.

What had happened was, Obasanjo, as it had turned out, hating the Igbos with instances of inflammatory remarks on the Igbo stock, running the Igbo-related states like a colony, instigated every problem that surfaced within, and turned the Igbo region into states of empire and anarchy. Professional hit-men  political thuggery, kidnapping, murder, rape, unprovoked attacks on villages, separating families and enclaves by way of taking sides with dashes and promised government contracts and as the list goes on, Igbo governors Achike Udenwa (Imo) and Orji Kalu (Abia) took the opportunity given them and raped the treasury of their respective states, empty, where the scale of suffering reflects the fact that their regimes were disturbingly a corrupt and oppressive ruling clique, as Obasanjo liked and wanted it. And, these were the executives of their states supposedly to have followed the steps of the foundations of the Igbo Union, setting up infrstructural projects -- building more schools, providing lots of opportunities by way of creating jobs, encouraging investments, empowering the youths and stuff of that nature. They did it the other way round. They endorsed the institutionalization of corruption with impunity from their desks of the immunity clause modelled after the Babangida criminal mafia and Obasanjo’s operational state of empire and anarchy.

During the experiments to test a no limit/3rd term on Obasanjo’s quest to continue his ‘legacy’ of uninterrupted, inept, corrupt regime, in which he bribed his coattails and other jacked-up followers with millions of dollars in public funds for another chance to extend and cover up his dirt; that quest, out of greed and desire for absolute power was denied access, and thanks to then Senate President, Ken Nnamani, who stood his grounds on the doctrines of the fourth republic, never-minding a fabricated constitution doctored by the military juntas.

As the clamor for 2015 Igbo mandate begins to echo all around the Lagos-Ibadan axis press and the rest of the nation’s subsidized media, the “Igbo mouthpiece,” Orji Kalu, who is showing the guts to take the heats and very sure of himself to take Igbo to the promised land as a mandatory Igbo presidency takes the roll call for 2015, the collective of a half-baked Igbo stock of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration are yet to come to terms with the realism of where exactly it belongs in the “zoning system” of a cracked-up party principles, having nothing to do with the constitutional provisions as when it’s an ethnic tribe’s particular moment to run the country’s affairs of state. based on that very ideal, and with Jonathan seeking reelection for a second term, and as an incumbent, the dream of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction should be put on hold, for now, that is, if Jonathan is not already serving the spot for the alleged Igbo presidency right of place.

What difference would an Igbo president make? The closest it got was during Alex Ekwueme’s vice presidency and taking that into account, what would one say Ekwueme did for Nd’Igbo in his tenure as the nation’s second-in-command? What was Ekwueme’s position when schools were still tuition free in the West including nothing at all in the north during the second republic when parents in the east had to scratch their heads wondering how to come up with their kids’ tuition fees? As vice president, how many institutions of higher learning and beginning school age classrooms were added in the two Igbo states? How many jobs were created in the Igbo states? What social programs benefited the Igbo states during Ekwueme’s vice presidency? On federal appointments to key positions, what was the allocation to Nd’Igbo and what impact did it create? What would Ekwueme identify was his legacy as vice president which entirely favored Nd’Igbo by way of committing his stewardship to do remarkable good things for Nd’Igbo, reenact the possibilities of reparations from the 20-pounds humiliating credit to abandoned property; from liquidation to the pogrom; from demotion to starting all over again, and from reopening and healing the wounds setting up human rights violation hearing commissions; what exactly would one say Ekwueme did? Period?

And, yet the Igbo presidency seems to have been a birthright the way it’s pronounced. That being the case, wouldn’t the performance of the governors in the Igbo-related states be used as an example for those among them whose ambition had been to be president of Nigeria, of Igbo extraction which would attract and encourage their endorsements?

So, when an ex-governor who did terribly bad during his stewardship as state governor, what message would his intent be sending regarding his mandate for president? What guarantees that he would not be driven again to abandon his responsibilities in engaging his folks into better governance?

And talking about what has been the Igbo portion of the presidency slot, which accordingly, and as the story now goes, the fledgling democracy of the fourth republic was begun by a Christian Yoruba, then a northern Islamic Hausa-Fulani the middle belt loathe and, by accident, a Niger-Delta of Ijaw stock, the nation’s fourth major tribe, became president, leaving the Igbo without a record of the presidency, not only in the fourth republic, but in the country’s entire history and, on the assumption the Igbo started the Nigerian project spearheaded by Azikiwe, and by all accounts, merits the presidency without questions asked.

And, asking for this presidential spot, question is, how has it been figured out that the relative objective arriving to the presidency as using the necessary tools in determining the relevance of Igbo mandatory presidency which convinces and compels its target that the Igbo presidency has been earned by the clarity of its deeds which the public endorses?

And, what are the measures as instance to show that the slot has been earned and due?

For example, like other groups that sustained and kept an effective and efficient independent press for its market in which it takes care of its business of propaganda, where can one find the medium for Igbo propaganda tools in this case and a people in dire need? Which particular medium can be identified as pro Igbo news outlet, pro Igbo links in relative journalism, pro Igbo network connections and airwaves  and related medium that speaks out on behalf of its identity and what it should solely stand for; the purpose of the difference it makes?

And, taking a close look at what I have been weary of pointing out, culling from projects initiated by Azikiwe and powerfully resourced newsgroups on a variety of subjects regarding any issue that may arise; and, having the appropriate means to counter it; how does the Igbo face these challenges when it has not developed its own independent press and only to rely on a biased axis press, having nothing to do with its bearings in order to send its messages through in its thorough and original form without alteration?

And, taking for instance, the controversial Chinua Achebe’s book, “There Was A Country: A Personal History Of Biafra,” in which the literary icon’s thoughts and observations erupted to an outrage among the axis collaborative press, the Yoruba elite and Awoists popped out just because their hero’s name had been mentioned following the book’s excerpt published at the Guardian UK. The reactions were overwhelmingly disturbing and also marked the symbolic voice of the Lagos-Ibadan axis press which had indicated their profound machinery of a powerful media is still very much intact and viable.

And, countering the reactions, where were the Igbo heard? Where did they write? Of course, the same Lagos-Ibadan axis press where their own thoughts and views of publications remains doctored, that is, if published at all.

If we should adapt to the followings of our forebears considering the magnitude of what they did, taking for instance, Zik’s establishment of a profound press for Igbo and national interest coupled with his remarkable work in the field of education with the founding of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, being the first independent, full-fledged, degree-awarding institution in Nigeria which combined the best of the British and American systems, and today still on the front-lines of the nation’s institutions of higher learning, how come none among the prospects and projected leadership not keeping up to the creed in what had dignified the Igbo? Since these projected leaders are clamoring to set the pace right, what are they doing differently now as pathway to keep Igbo to standard by all aspects?

Pinpointing the days of the Igbo Union and going thus far, when Igbo was solidly grounded and led, Zik’s colleagues of the era - Francis Akanu Ibiam, Michael I. Okpara, Mazi Mbonu Ojike, Louis Mbanefo, Kingsley O. Mbadiwe, L.N. Obioha, Alvan Ikoku, Kenneth Dike, and as the list goes on, doing worthy things with little or nothing, what explains a lame duck Igbo of today from getting things done in today’s technology, enhanced feature of exposure, conducive environment, much better education and things like that? What explains having nothing to show for all that have been made available? Who and who leads Igbo on a variety of many fronts today? Where can we find them? Did Igbo leadership collapse? What happened?

Edechaa nam!

First lady Eleanor Roosevelt, sponsor and guest of honor of the African Dance Festival, held Monday, December 14, 1943, at the Carnegie Hall, New York, is flanked by Kingsley O. Mbadiwe (L), head of the Academy of African Arts and Research which is presenting the festival and Mazi Mbonu Ojike (R), who represented the African students from the University of Chicago. Image: Bettmann Collection.


Trial Balloon to see reactions before this publication, Facebook, November 26, 2012: "The Igbo Presidency Debates, Again! What For? Has 2015 become a life and death situation for Nd'Igbo?

We are just not ready, and compound with the fact that other tribes despise us more than a snakebite, and rightfully so. We are just shooting off mouth, just for the heck of it. Who is serious among us, and who is capable? It’s not about education, and neither is it about wealth. We have plenty of those. It’s about knowing the hearts, desires, and needs of the people and how to return joy to the masses.

I’m ashamed that we are the ones at the forefront in challenging President Jonathan for 2015. That goes to heart of our ungrateful disposition. After Jonathan single-handedly forced Parliament, kicking and screaming, to bow and kiss Ikemba’s cold, black, hairy ass. He dragged Nigeria into vindicating Ojukwu. Tell me who, in Nigeria today, that would have given the Dim the most thunderous farewell party since the parting of the temple Veil more than 2000 years ago.

By the way, how are we gonna govern Nigeria, the same way we have the Igbo states? Our people in the North would rather brave the attacks of Boko Haram than come home to face the disgraceful southeast. Governors make laws unilaterally, without consulting the legislative brand, whose responsibility it is to make laws. Elected officials are fired for any and every reason. You would think that the last place to see high handedness would be the Southeast.

Besides, how are we gonna preside over Nigeria when a handsome percentage of Ndigbo are clamoring for a resurrected Biafra? Our aspirations are impossible to reconcile. The Feds arrest MASSOM, BILIE, and BZM without cause and not a soul is saying anything. It’s even embarrassing that not one person has devoted enough though concerning the circumstances surrounding the demise of Ikemba. Shameless people.

Prince Emeka Onyeneho

That President Goodluck Jonathan gave Ikemba Nnewi a befitting funeral is not enough for Ndigbo to support him in 2015. People are dying daily in NIgeria. Kidnapping and armed robbery are on the rise and he is not doing anything to stem the tide. FYI, I am from Nnewi and I supported Jonathan in 2011. But something needs to be done to to save Nigeria from Somaliazation and he seems incapable of doing so.

There is nothing logistically difficult about sharing oil proceeds. However, government is simply more than hosting a funeral for the Ikemba and sharing oil proceeds. Ndigbo are much more effected by GEJ's ineptitude, being slaughtered in the North by Boko Haram and held hostage in the South East by armed robbers and kidnappers. Let him redeem himself and force me to recant!

Emeka Maduewesi

Politics is much more beyond one's regional compartment especially when such society is a federated one. Igbos need to tread carefully and not exclude others in the quest for the number one post as it may be seen as a quota or some self-interest quest. I think these two words - Igbo presidency - should be carefully applied to avoid unwarranted suspicions or egos. However, one critical anomaly in Igbo politics is the quest for the superlative suffix both in the individual and general politics. There's nothing wrong in 'race to the top' but it has to applied carefully and genuinely. Even if 100% of Igbos voted for an Igbo presidential candidate, it still won't be enough to win the presidency. That is the irony. Right now, societies are evolving with new 'strange' values that wielding a century old value to garner support and/or votes may not hold ground anymore. People, in terms of values, are criss-crossing due to emerging values. As for me, I am indifferent to a president from Ikot-Ekpenne, or Sabongari, or Ibadan. Just deliver the goods.

Taohid Animasaun

Okoye, Mukwugo. “A Letter To Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe: A Dissent Remembered.” Fourth Dimension Publishers, Enugu; 1979

Azikiwe, Nnamdi. “Foot Prints On The Sounds Of Time.” Lagos; 1962

Azikiwe, Nnamdi. “My Odyssey,” Hurst; 1970

O’Brien, Conor Cruise. “To Katanga and Back: A United Nation case History,” Gossett and Dunlap; 1966

Kenya's James Mwangi, Africa's Person of the Year

Kenya's James Mwangi, the CEO of Kenya's Equity Bank, was last night, Thursday, November 29, 2012, named Africa Person Of The Year by Forbes Magazine, presented by Chris Bishop, editor-in-chief of Forbes Africa. The event and award took place at the Porsche Center in Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria. Mwangi beat Africas richest man Aliyu Dangote, Tony Elumelu, Malawi President Joyce Banda and South Africa's Stephen Saad.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Congo's M 23 Rebel Forces Advances

Col. Vianney Kazarama's-led M 23 Rebels Wednesday, November 21, 2012, are advancing toward Kinshasha saying they are fighting to control eastern Congo while government troops flee and some defecting. The rebels have taken Goma, Sake and moving toward the capital of Bukavu. "Kabila has to go. We want our country back. We are now going to Kinshasha. No one will divide this country," said rebel leader Kazarama on the quest to remove Joseph Kabila from office.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Woman Gets 80 Years For Deadly Texas Day Care

She was soon in over her head, caring for too many kids and taking chances by leaving them alone to run errands. The young woman's actions ultimately proved fatal: Four children died and three others were injured when a fire broke out at her home day care after she had left them alone to go shopping at a nearby Target.

On Tuesday, jurors sentenced the 24-year-old woman to 80 years in prison for the death of one of the children, 16-month-old Elias Castillo. She still faces charges related to the rest of the children.

"Nobody wins in this situation," Elias' great-grandmother, Patty Sparks, said after the sentence was announced. "My heart goes out to the Tata family and those precious mothers and fathers who lost their babies."

Tata, who was only a few years removed from her teens when she started her day care, worked alone most of the time. Investigators said the February 2011 blaze happened when a pan of oil she had left cooking on the stove ignited while she was out shopping.

The same jury that decided her sentence had convicted Tata last week of one count of felony murder. The jury could have sentenced her to anywhere from five years to life in prison. Prosecutors had sought a life sentence, while defense attorneys asked only that jurors not give her an excessive sentence.

She will have to serve 30 years of her sentence before she is eligible for parole. Tata also was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. Jurors deliberated her punishment for seven hours over two days. The former day care owner had no visible reaction after the sentence was announced.

Tata's attorneys contended she was a good person who loved children but made a terrible mistake. Prosecutors argued she was an irresponsible day care owner who had doomed the children when she left them alone. They said Tata had repeatedly left kids she was responsible for unsupervised and it was only a matter of time before her actions led to tragedy.

Defense attorney Mike DeGeurin said he still believes Tata should not have been tried for murder because the deaths were an accident. "The sentence is not going to fix things. It's not going to make anybody feel better later on. But the jury has spoken. That's their sentence," DeGeurin said.

Tata's family and friends, who declined to comment after the sentence was announced, had testified she had changed since her troubled teenage years, when she had pleaded guilty to arson for starting two fires at her high school on the same day.

Defense attorneys had presented expert testimony to argue that a faulty stove or refrigerator may have sparked the blaze. Prosecutor Steve Baldassano said that while he has sympathy for Tata's family, she had nobody to blame but herself.

"She was being paid to watch these children. She knew better," Baldassano said. "It's not the stove. It's not the refrigerator. It's not any parents' fault. It's nobody's fault but her own." One of the surviving children, Makayla Dickerson, stood next to Baldassano as he spoke. Makayla, whose 3-year-old brother Shomari died in the fire, showed reporters scars the fire left on her right forearm.

Tata's attorneys argued she never intended to hurt the children, who ranged in age from 16 months to 3 years old, and whom Tata had referred to as "her babies." But prosecutors did not need to show she intended to harm them, only that the deaths occurred because she put them in danger by leaving them alone. Under Texas law, a person can be convicted of felony murder if he or she committed an underlying felony and that action led to the death.

In a victim impact statement Sparks read in court after the verdict was announced, she told Tata the children were never "your babies." "They don't belong to you. They never did," she said. But Sparks said that while she holds Tata accountable for what happened, she forgives her. After reading the statement, Sparks went over to Tata's mother in the courtroom and hugged her.

Jurors declined to speak with reporters after the sentence was announced. Tata fled to Nigeria after the fire but was captured after about a month, returned to the U.S. in March 2011 and has remained jailed since. She was born in the U.S. but has Nigerian citizenship.

Tata still faces three more counts of felony murder in relation to the other children who died, and three counts of abandoning a child and two counts of reckless injury to a child in relation to the three who were hurt. Baldassano said prosecutors planned to pursue trials on the remaining felony murder charges.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Nigeria schools scheme gets red light

Britain's aid watchdog gave an education programme in Nigeria the red light today after finding it had squandered its £230m budget.

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact slapped its second-lowest "amber-red" rating on the scheme because it had too few teachers and little support from local authorities.

The commission found that a third of the eligible children - about 3.7 million - were still not in school and those that were received little in the way of education.

It said that the Department for International Development (DFID) schemes "will only become sustainable when they can routinely help to unlock state governments' budgets to fund the required improvements both adequately and equitably."

DFID said in a statement it would "carefully review" the report but claimed that inspectors only visited 1 per cent of Nigeria's schools.

Nigeria has lost an estimated £196 billion in taxable income since the 1970s through tax havens, according to experts at the Tax Justice Network.


Friday, November 16, 2012

US Envoy Concerned Over Abuses By Nigerian Troops

LAGOS — A senior US diplomat voiced concern Friday over reported abuses committed by Nigerian security forces in fighting Islamist extremists, saying troops who are guilty of wrongdoing must be held accountable.

Assistant Secretary of State Michael H. Posner said that growing economic opportunity in Nigeria's impoverished mainly Muslim north was key to containing the threat posed by Boko Haram Islamists, who are blamed for hundreds of deaths since 2009.

"We are seriously concerned about abuses by members of the Nigerian security forces," he told journalists in Lagos, citing reports of "mass arrests, extra-judicial killings (and) torture".

Such cases are frequently not investigated and those involved have often "not been held accountable", added the US envoy for democracy, human rights and labour.

He further said that this cycle of impunity may be fuelling support for Boko Haram, a group that has said it wants to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have accused Nigerian security forces of committing massive abuses in their campaign against the Islamists, with HRW saying some soldiers may be guilty of crimes against humanity.

The US envoy had earlier this week met with Nigerian Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru in the capital Abuja.

In a statement released after that meeting, Ashiru "debunked" the flood of allegations levelled against Nigeria's security apparatus, insisting operations against Boko Haram "have conformed to the best international practices".

Posner said Nigeria should not view the Boko Haram threat "entirely as a security, military and police problem".

Many believe that crippling poverty in the north has created a group of dejected youths vulnerable to extremist recruitment.

Posner said that to restore peace, it was crucial to ensure impoverished communities had "hope of engaging economically and politically in the future of their country".

Nigeria has on several occasions said it is making progress against the Islamists who have targeted churches, universities and various symbols of authority, but Posner expressed concern over "the worsening security situation".

"Rather than diminishing there is a sense that the violence is geographically spreading," he said.


$11bn cash taken abroad through Nigerian airports — Sanusi

The Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, has said that about $11bn (N1.73tn) has been taken out of the country through the airports this year, a development he describes as worrisome.

Sanusi, while speaking at an event organised by Bank Directors Association of Nigeria in Lagos on Thursday, wondered why many Nigerians now preferred carrying out transactions with the United States dollar at the expense of the local currency, the naira.

According to him, the dollar is becoming the country’s second currency based on its usage, adding that the central bank’s aim for contemplating the introduction of the N5,000 bill was to address the development.

He said, “In this country, almost everybody uses the dollar. This year alone, the records we have based on the declared amount at the airports is getting to about $11bn in cash that was taken out of Nigeria.

“Why would anyone walk out of an airport with $5m? Well, they will say is because the law has made it clear that you can take any amount so long as you have declared it and I cannot stop you. These are some of the issues we wanted the introduction of the N5,000 note to address.”

Sanusi said the planned introduction of the N5,000 bills was part of a thought process aimed also at driving the cash-less policy initiative.

He said, “If people want to carry N15m, they go to Bureau De Change and change it into dollars. You give them $100,000 and that is about N15m. The dollar has become a second national currency. Barely two months ago in Zambia, the nation passed a law stating that anyone who refuses to accept its local currency and who charges for a transaction in a foreign currency goes to jail for 10 years.

“But you come to Nigeria and you see people paying their children’s school fees in dollars. We laugh about this but it is an important issue. Can you go to America and buy something using pounds sterling? Or you go to Tokyo and use dollar and see if the hotel will accept the currency? Before they will transact with you, you must change it into their local currency.

“So, this is a problem, and it is apart from the fact that we are in a country where monetary and economic policies have been subjects to popular vote. In fact, it is not an election! If I want popular vote, I will go and contest for the chairman of a local government. Everybody is an economist, a central bank governor and many more.”


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Boko Haram Commander Killed By Nigeria Military

Nigeria's military claims to have killed a Boko Haram commander behind the recent high-profile assassination of a retired general in a "major offensive".

"During the offensive and in a counter-attack, a major commander of the Boko Haram terrorist sect commanding the northwest and the northeast, Ibn Saleh Ibrahim, with some of his commanders and foot soldiers, were killed by (our) own operation troops," a military statement said of Thursday's operation in the northeastern city of Maiduguri.

"The late Ibn Saleh was confirmed to be responsible for the recent assassination of Civil War hero the late General Mamman Shuwa through the orders of the leader of the Boko Haram terrorists, Abubakar Shekau."

It added that the operation was still ongoing and that weapons and explosives had been recovered.

Nigeria's military has however frequently exaggerated its successes against Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, whose insurgency in the country's northern and central regions has left hundreds of people dead.

The claim from the military could not be independently verified.

The statement called it a "major offensive" that included armoured vehicles and helicopters.

The retired general, a key figure in the 1960s civil war, was shot dead on November 2 by what was then described as unknown gunmen at his home in Maiduguri, the city hardest hit by the Islamist insurgency.

Shuwa, 79, was a top adviser to Yakubu Gowon, the former military head of state who led Nigeria during the 1967-70 Biafra civil war that left more than one million dead, including many from starvation.

He also served as a senior leader in the 1975-76 junta of Murtala Mohammed.

In an interview at his home in May, Shuwa pulled out a handgun that he said he carried for his own protection and told AFP that anyone could potentially be targeted by Boko Haram in the violence-torn city.

Boko Haram has carried out scores of targeted assassinations in addition to bombings and shootings.

The insurgency has left some 3000 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces.

The group has claimed to be seeking an Islamic state in Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, though its demands have repeatedly shifted.

At the same time, Nigeria's military has been accused of widespread abuses in its bid to crack down on the Islamists, including killings of civilians, burnings of homes and unlawful detentions.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Ambrose Ehirim-Chika Unigwe Q & A Interview


Chika Unigwe is the author of fiction, poetry, articles and educational material. She won the 2003 BBC Short Story Competition for her story "Borrowed Smile", a Commonwealth Short Story Award for "Weathered Smiles" and a Flemish literary prize for "De Smaak van Sneeuw", her first short story written in Dutch. "The Secret", another of her short pieces, was nominated for the 2004 Caine Prize. She was the recipient of a 2007 Unesco-Aschberg fellowship for creative writing, and of a 2009 Rockefeller Foundation fellowship for creative writing. Unigwe's novel "On Black Sister's Street" about Nigerian prostitutes in Belgium won the 2012 NLNG Prize for Literature.


Tell me a little bit about yourself

I was born and raised in Enugu. I got my first degree from the University of Nigeria, and a Ph.D from the University of Leiden, Holland

When did it start occuring to you that writing was going to be your major art?

I have always enjoyed reading and writing. I published a book of poetry while I was an undergraduate, but I did not begin to call myself a writer until after my second novel was published

What had influenced that?

I grew up surrounded by readers and books. There seemed no better way to spend my free time than by doing either.

After discovering the potentials of your talents in writing, what followed next?

I wrote and sent off stories blind to publishers. It was a blind submission that got me my first book contract: two Macmillan Readers, published years ago , and used in primary and secondary schools in some African countries.

Reading "On Black Sisters Street," your second novel, one finds out it's focused on the alarming pandemic of prostitution with Nigerian women abroad. What had compelled you to write on a disturbing subject?

I was very curious about why NIgerian women would travel so far to work in the sex industry. Curiosity was the initial driving force

Why was the plot located in Belgium?

There are many Nigerian prostitutes in Belgium, and since I live here, it seemed the natural location.

The characters in "On Black Sisters Street", especially Sisi, whose dreams would not be known, I would imagine, how did you find yourself so comfortable relating to the characters -- Ama, Joyce and Efe -- the way you portrayed them in the book?

Every writer has to be able to live in the head of her characters. I had to make myself a blank blackboard for the characters to inscribe their lives on me. I had to wipe off that board every time a new character had to be created and totally surrender myself to that new character.

Let's talk about the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Literature Prize. You came out a winner among a cast of the nation's promising and great writers. What was your reaction upon hearing that "Chika Unigwe is the winner of the 2012 NLNG Literature Award"?

I screamed. I tend to do that a lot when I am too happy for words

How did the news reach you?

I saw it on Twitter.

On your fellow competitors, what were your thoughts about them, particularly when the race had been downsized to three and here you are caught up with the best two for the $100,000 prize money?

My thoughts on them?

Yes, your thoughts.

I was curious to read the books on the intial shortlist that I had not read. I am always delighted to discover new writers and new books.

Let's talk about Nigeria and literature. It has often been said Nigerians don't respect writers. If you'd agree and in your opinion, what would you say had been the problem?

I have been in Nigeria a few times in the past two years, as a writer, and I have never felt disrespected. The organizations I have worked with have been very professional.

If you have been following up, what's your take on an unstable religious and political situation in Nigeria?

I think it's a tragedy that the government seems unable or unwilling to tackle a situation that is getting worse by the day.

What takes your time when you are not writing?

I read. I raise children. I take lessons in French and Logic.

You have an extra $100,000 to spend, what's on your list of things to be done? Anything we should know?

I have absolutely no idea!

Over 100 Million Nigerians can't Be Properly Identified - NIMC

The National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, has said that over 100 million Nigerians cannot be properly identified as citizens due to non availability of identification database in the country.

This was disclosed, yesterday, by the Director of Information Technology at NIMC, Alhaji Aliya Aziz, at a one-day public forum, in Makurdi, the Benue State capital to sensitise the people of the state on the new national identification number project.

Aziz further said over 75 per cent of the identification cards in circulation in Nigeria were fake as there were no means of authenticating their genuineness.

He said: “Over 100 million of Nigerians have no identification either by phone or any other means; and of those we can be identified, we discovered that 75 per cent of the identification cards in circulation in the country are fake because there are no means of authenticating their genuineness.”

He, however, noted that with the new identification project, Nigerians would be properly identified and documented irrespective of age, sex, religion and social status.

In his remark, Director General of NIMC, Mr Chris Oyemenam, said when fully implimented, the newidentification project would co-exist with the old National Identification Card adding: “But after a period of time, we will phase out the former, and even direct banks not to render services to people who do not have the national identification number.”

In his speech, the Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State, who was represented by his deputy, Chief Steven Lawani, urged the commission to ensure the establishment of tamper proof database for the country.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

'32 Of 606 Oil Wells In Nigeria Are Abandoned'

THE state of abandoned oil wells in the country has become a source of concern to stakeholders in the oil industry.

For instance, Shell, is said to have abandoned 32 of their oil wells in Akwa Ibom State axis of Nigeria. Currently, there are abandoned oil wells in three communities in Eastern Obolo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State for increased daily oil production. A total of 32 oil wells located in Oko, Okoroette and Utapete communities were explored, sealed and abandoned 17 years ago by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria.

Also, the Oloibiri Oilfield is an onshore oilfield located in Oloibiri in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, produced last over 20 million barrels of oil during its 20 years life cycle. Oil production finally stopped in 1978 and the field was abandoned the same year.

The Oloibiri oilfield was abandoned without any improved recovery to drain some of the 21.26 million barrels (3,380,000 m3) of hydrocarbon still left on the field.

According to Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), of the 606 oil fields in the Niger Delta area, 355 are on-shore while the remaining 251 are offshore. Of these, 193 are currently operational while 23 have been shut in or abandoned as a result of poor prospectively or total drying up of the wells.

Expressing his concern for abandoned well in the country recently, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio made said that these oil wells were operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria 17 years ago, which have been locked up and now constitute a nuisance and endanger the lives of the children of Eastern Obolo for so many years.

He said: “These oil wells are on-shore. I appeal to the Federal Government to plead with Shell Petroleum Development Company and the Minister of Petroleum Resources to do everything possible to get the wells functional and reopened, so that business can enter into the towns; our children can have employment opportunities; our state can improve on on-shore oil capacity and so that some industries would come to Eastern Obolo’’.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Recalling A Nation's Ills, Chinua Achebe, Storytelling, The Pogrom And Story That Never Ends


There Was A Country
A Personal History Of Biafra
By Chinua Achebe
Penguin Press: 352 pp., $27.95

A young Igbo boy, surviving the pogrom, back in good health, smiles as he holds his little brother, who has not fully recovered at the UNICEF convalescent center in Okporo, Orlu August 17, 1970. Achebe mentioned the hospitality and goodwill his family received in Okporo during the time of random travels and relocations while the federal Nigeria forces advanced toward the capitulation of Biafra. Image: Bettmann Collection

I had no knowledge of what was going on about a Nigerian national state and what had been the root cause of the outburst of uprising in the 1960’s post-independence nation which had been politically confused from a bad and corrupt leadership when the organizers of the first coup that overthrew the government of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa struck January 15, 1966. But I had sensed as a little kid, that something, somewhere, had gone wrong when my father and his kinfolks would gather to discuss what had unfolded in their native land; that a sitting government had been toppled and war was about to erupt in the ugliest of circumstances, and after all said and done to avert war, and if not for the sudden 180-degrees turn in declining to decisions reached at Aburi, Ghana, by a federal Nigerian delegation and a Eastern Nigerian team led by Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, and, other attempts made to stop what had erupted from killing Igbo on a wholesale scale, the situation wouldn’t have been what the country looks like today.

And I did notice the propaganda from the airwaves my father and his kinsfolk tuned in to from that transistor radio which had become their lifeline in what was going on in their native land, coupled with the pogrom which took place, and all had to wonder if any of their families would survive the ordeal in what Ojukwu had called “ a premeditated and diabolical act,” by the vandals and architects of what Nigeria would not recover from until eventually the right thing is done. I remember the scenario where everybody, of my father’s kin, would sit at the tables talking about the fate of Nd’Igbo with an ongoing pogrom all across Nigeria and what had caused the systematic massacre of Igbo in a country they had engineered its structure from the beginning. Oftentimes, the question popped up in the classrooms; a teacher had asked if we were aware of the ongoing internal strife taking place in Nigeria and how the Hausa-Fulanis with a collaborative Yoruba have singled out a people for mass slaughter. It has become a way of life for the time being and Nigeria had taken the center stage becoming the major topic of all subjects in relative discourses.

Like American leaders (Bill Clinton's formal apology to Japan on the events of World War II), Russian's Boris Yeltsin's formal apology to the Romanov's on that fateful July 17, 1918 when Czar Nicholas II and his household were slaughtered during the Bolshevik Revolution, and just past this July 22, 2012, French President Francois Hollande formally apologized to the rounding up by French police, 13,152 Jewish men, women and children on July 16 and 17, 1942, "locked them up at the Velodrome, a bicycle stadium, and later deported them to German concentration camps" where most of them perished. In Nigeria, the bigots and haters who have lived in denial over the years and continue to tell us no such thing as the pogrom took place when Igbo men, women, infants and children were sought from house to house for extermination, and when children and their mothers were desperately starved to death, should bear in mind that their victims will not fall into oblivion just like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the German concentration camps, the case of the Romanovs, the Rwandan genocide and all cases of that nature. We hope one day the right thing will eventually be done.

As this had happened, nothing that I knew was going on and, I was also not physically there to have experienced Obafemi Awolowo’s orchestrated ‘Economic Blockade’ which had denied access to food and medicine to the children of Biafra during the course of Yakubu Gowon’s-led genocidal campaign against the Igbo nation.

It was not until I arrived my native land as a kid that I began to get a grip of what my father and his kinfolks were doing in the days of a troubled nation and the reasons why they were disturbed. Like my father, his kinfolks had relatives living in every part of Nigeria, thus the worry and the uncertainties, and fate surrounding their relatives when the crisis turned ugly.

The result would be a tragedy. The Igbo nation had been targets of genocide in a deliberate act and conflict that would consume an estimated 3 million people. Upon my arrival to my native land, all I saw was a people in shambles, relatives I have not known and had begun to get the drift, and by listening, I captured the event from the war stories told by my uncle on what had happened in the enclave during the 30-month siege, which included my relatives I did not meet, who did not make it back when the counts began. It was a typical eyewitness account. With my uncle, I was able to adapt without culture shock and his gist about the pogrom and 30-month invasion of Igboland begun my learning on the facts and logics about the Biafran war. And the story never ends.

Before the speculations on the possibilities of Chinua Achebe to tell his story and what he had known about the pogrom and what would eventually erupt as a full-blown war between nations, many did wonder why it had taken the master of letters and storyteller , Achebe, that long to release information in his possession; the stuff he had known based on his personal encounter in what had transpired over time during the Biafra-Nigeria war.

Many had also questioned the relevance of Achebe’s book at this very point when numerous books on the subject matter have told stories of the conflict in a war Achebe had described as the first war of its kind in a warfare on the face of the African continent.

Also, as it had happened, the relevance of Achebe’s book came into question when a literary friend had openly asked and confronted the literary icon’s book, demanding why Achebe “isn’t telling the world” about his American experiences based on the number of years he’d lived on the shores of America and, the importance of a book in that regard since he’s been earning his living on the American shores for quite a while, which concludes the necessity of a book from that perspective. And, that, those big boys who created the mess in the heydays of a fabricated Nigeria are almost gone, that the ones left who have not tracked their stories for book format have nothing much to say, if not at all.

As it had turned out, Achebe explained the delay which is in the body of this literature.

But of course, Achebe had us waiting. And we waited. And the book, as I would say, came out at the right time when stories of the war and its effect have begun to wane in steps deliberately taken by the Nigerian government and the alleged ‘victors’ in order to wipe it out from memory and outrightly to deny generations to come the privilege to know detailed analysis and breakdown of the pogrom and a civil war including the roadmaps to the conflict and what had caused a war of nations with ominous consequences.

Taking into account Achebe’s previous noteworthy books, “Things Fall Apart,” “A Man Of The People,” “No Longer At Ease,” “Home And Exile,” “The Trouble With Nigeria,” and other related stories, it shouldn’t take too much probing to elicit testimony that most of the nation’s problems had been surrounded by social-related issues and bad leadership, lacking since the nation was given its freedom by its colonial master, Britain, in which a Biafra that was left with two choices as a result of the pogrom and failed dialogues to reach a common ground to avert war; and the options to either be free or remain enslaved was what resulted to a brutal war that shouldn’t have taken place if the decisions reached at Aburi, Ghana, were upheld and respected, and if it had been realized by a federal Nigeria mandate that an unprovoked attack would be much more costly, the invaders probably would have done a rethinking of their strategies.

The name Biafra did not surface out of the blue. Biafra was not a fabricated state and was not a one man’s idea. Biafra did not exist as a nation because it wanted out of a fabricated Nigerian republic on purpose. Biafra was born out of having a choice rather than being permanently enslaved. And Biafra was not an idea which came out as a result of being politically impotent. Biafra did send the message. Nigeria would never be the same again.

Then again, fact is, the history of the anti-Igbo pogrom and the war cannot be complete until there are significant accounts, or thereabout of what happened at the federal Nigeria occupied regions of the Hausa-Fulani dominated northern regions, the Yoruba speaking majority of the Western region, the Midwest, an occupation of multilingual people and, the eastern Nigeria inhabitants, and the people among whom the Igbo lived with, in and near the Igbo landscape.

In uncountable occasions, and still counting on a whole lot of complicated issues regarding Africa’s most blood soaked event - the anti-Igbo pogrom and a brutal war that followed - in which its account, assessments and effects by way of casualties from every aspect of the encounter, and from around which the invaders and nihilists took hold, in the attempt for what they had envisioned and conceived, and the people in question to be exterminated, and the stories yet to be wholly told in its entirety, takes into account the timely arrival of Achebe’s “There Was A Country: A Personal History Of Biafra.”

The story not yet told and why it has been very important to be told on a personal experience and from eyewitness accounts perspective which is also necessary for posterity and for humankind to be on alert for it not to happen again, makes Achebe’s new entry to the bookshelves a read that deserves to be well noted.

It has seriously bothered the mind since Achebe’s book release; first, from the British Guardian published excerpt of Achebe’s “There Was A Country,” and as prelude to what would explode among folks who had not read the book but would spew out the venom in them to seek relevance on the basis Obafemi Awolowo was mentioned for his wrongdoing regarding the state of affairs and his participation when children, infants and their mothers were desperately starved to death, and the question of his take on that. The irony in this very outburst of anger and frustration by the Awoist who did not pay attention or care to read the book before the hearsay of this is what he wrote about Awo and things like that relative to tabloid news, was the supposedly fervent Awo followers who had lacked the ability to make sound judgments before displaying their ignorance which did become sickening. Actually, I was not surprised and had expected the ruckus from a people hatred had been baked in their genes it becomes so obvious and impossible to erase.

Oftentimes, situations like this occurs with people in denial which is dangerous and deterrent to seek the truth and notably from a long-awaited book that is still incomplete with a whole lot of stuff not revealed we should assume the author must have been aware of, or must have known either by his running errands for the Biafran state, or, may have been passed through to him during exchanges of correspondences; and, or he must have deliberately wanted not to add for a lack of merit. The Awoists dabbled into name-calling; most, if not all, from a book they were yet to read and analyze.

What the British colonists did which still haunts the country today is unquestionably their leaving serious unresolved internal problems covering every aspect of the nation’s economic, social, and political life despite the fact that British intent was to establish a class of "black Englishmen" who would be their partner in religion and administration that would compel their subjects to abandon their origin and culture in order to assimilate with the British way of life and culture, which in itself was another tragedy. But as the case would turn out to be, Britain played its significant role when Achebe reminds us that the British transition as they prepared the country to independence was profoundly smooth considering himself to be lucky and part of a generation that sprang out in that whole era. Achebe writes;

“My generation was summoned, as it were, to bear witness to two remarkable transitions -- first the aforementioned impressive economic, social, and political transformation of Nigeria into a midrange country, at least by third world standards. But more profoundly, barely two decades we were thrust into the throes of perhaps Nigeria’s greatest twentieth-century moment -- our elevation from a colonized country to an independent nation.”

At a time of a Achebe’s generation that flourished, over "seventy-five percent of Nigerians were illiterates and techniques in development had to be slow," thus tools for modernization largely absent while many suffered from ill health. Nigeria had not been earning from oil. It's foreign revenue was derived from palm oil,groundnuts, cocoa and other cash crops. When the oil production arrived, it was exploited by foreign companies with no regulations and at the cost of a labor intensive indigenous workers. Nigerian college graduates then were very few for the nation's need in skilled labor. There were fewer schools and limited opportunities. Nigeria, at this particular time, was not practically solvent and buoyant in human capital as we find it today. Achebe and his class of intellectuals were very few, ala, not much resistance or challenge when a bunch of ethnic groups were struggling for an identity in the quest for nationhood.

Today, it’s been three generation since the agitation for independence Achebe and his generation found themselves in toward the struggle, coupled with the dialogue for sovereignty which turned out to be very unfortunate in the quest for freedom and independence. The founders of Nigeria’s statehood who hurried for independence did not think about the consequences of joining a collection of nations with different ethnic backgrounds and cultural practices together; thus, in their constitutional conferences to have suggested to the organizing body overseeing the platform for nationhood that the agenda did not add up and was not necessary for the formation which takes into account many instances as to why Nigeria should not have been one country if the agitators had paid attention to the complexities and consequences that may result from the ethnic collaboration for sovereignty under a one Nigeria platform.

But then again, we must bear in mind that a sense of national pride and patriotism took form with Nnamdi Azikiwe, Achebe had held on high grounds for Zik as he was called by his admirers, his insights and what he had tailored for a promising country while negotiations with the colonists about independence continued apace. Achebe does not forget the significant role Zik played during the course of the nation’s independence and the impact it had toward the ideals of a democratic fabric and nationalism and, how finally in championing Igbo (Biafra) nationalism with the presentation of papers seeking resolve to the Biafra-Nigeria war. Achebe reminds us of Zik's attempts to end the war with the speech at Oxford University where Zik came up with “a fourteen point peace plan” for proposal by the United Nations measure seeking resolve to the Biafran war which has become a model adopted by the United Nations in its method of operation today.

While we are at it, Achebe also tells us the friction from around which Zik withdrew his support for the Biafran cause and how Ojukwu had been blamed for Biafra’s demise on the grounds of Ojukwu not listening and taking into accounts, counsels proffered to him as strategies while the war raged on.

The Biafran war, without doubt, has been of utmost concern to many of us, especially those of us who were not in the country at the time, and those not yet born. And it had been on these basis that we were able to locate ourselves and commit ourselves collectively when the Biafra-Nigeria-World and its related sister links was created, to generate a forum for related discourses and dialogue, and also to seek the truth on who had been the key players and what role and decisions were made at the time of an emerging Biafran republic. Precisely, on that score, Chinedu Ibe, who had joined us out of Chicago suggested contacting and connecting with the late Okechukwu Ikejiani who then lived in Canada. Not a whole lot came out from the tele-conferences held with Ikejiani, in the several attempts to eke out stuff with him and what he had known during the struggle for Biafra save for the revival of the Ahajioku Lectures as a backbone to the 1950s, 1960s Igbo Union. Ikejiani died in Canada some years ago while Ojukwu departed just about a year ago.

With all said about Biafra that I have read and still reading from every source even though we will not get to know all the facts with some of the subjects gone without trace of their storylines, Achebe, here, in “There Was A Country” links us to Ikejiani’s thoughts and what Zik had in mind for Biafra while Ojukwu ignored most counsels, in that regard, by way of what probably would have worked if Ojukwu had considered and taken seriously what Zik had observed and thought was proper. In Ikejiani’s own words as Achebe presents it:

“His [Azikiwe’s] feeling was that when a leader of a nation wants to go to war, he should consult people. Primarily Ojukwu should have consulted Zik. Secondly, he should have consulted [Michael] Okpara [premier of Eastern Nigeria]. Thirdly, he should have consulted other leaders. The only people Ojukwu consulted were [Louis] Mbanefo and [Francis] Ibiam. I have Ibiam’s letter here. It was a great mistake. I told Ojukwu [to] invite these people [and inform them]. He told me they would compromise. That’s what he said. He didn’t invite them, never asked them questions. That’s not how to lead. That’s what led us into trouble. There are many areas we would have compromised. Ojukwu did not compromise. That’s one of the mistakes we made in the war...It wasn’t that Zik opposed the war.. Anybody with an intellect, with a sense would consider carefully the implications of a war. War is destructive. There’s no country that went to war that didn’t suffer, not one. When we went to war, we destroyed everything we had. That’s true.”

While Achebe continues with his tales which overwhelmingly transcends the opening acts as in a Shakespearean drama, he drives us through the landscape of his ordeal at the time the pogrom had commenced and a target of the hit list of a battle between his art of using the pen precisely on a book he had just published and the barrels of the military machines in their several attempts looking for him while he hid from place to place until he evaded the experiments of the military firepower that came to find out which of the two had more impact -- the gun or his pen.

In Minna, the case of a six year old, Achebe Michael Okongwu, had already seen what the pogrom looked like when the northern Islamic nihilists who were also hoodlums invaded the classroom where he had begun to take classes in the first grade, came looking for Igbo subjects for termination in what had been premeditated. His first grade teacher, a Yoruba lady mistaken to be Igbo by the nihilist was slaughtered as they were on the rampage looking and searching from spot to spot , locations where the Igbos were hiding. Okongwu continues to tell his story of a six year old who was caught in a conflict he knew not about and had experienced the trauma of dead bodies on the streets while his family flee from Minna and trekked hundreds of miles in between shuttling on jalopies until they found themselves home in their native Ogbunike. Okongwu still do not know how they ended up to a place he’d not seen before that was called home. He had realized Minna was not originally home. His father would join them at a later time after clearing the hurdle with his wounds.

A story that never ends.

In 1982, I had bumped into Okongwu in Lagos and, we were both in our early twenties, and about, youngsters, caught up in the crossroads with a future full of uncertainties in an unstable and unpredictable Nigeria. We had thought Nigeria was beginning to have form with onward objectivity in a second republic that was a little bit over two years old, and with prospects of becoming Africa’s true giant as the new political beginning began to emerge. Both Yakubu Gowon and Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, the culprits of the Civil War who were wanted by a federal Nigeria for crimes the state had alleged they committed, would be granted presidential pardon by Shehu Shagari and, would be free to return back to their native lands. Little did we know that the military juntas would strike sooner than later to place Nigeria permanently in a coma.

On the New Year’s eve of 1984, the Muhammadu Buhari-Tunde Idiagbon-led military juntas would strike and wrestle power from a corrupt administration of Shehu Shagari. Within months of the military takeover, Okongwu left for the United States and I would not hear from Okongwu again; not even a letter on the goings on and how life’s been treating him out there in a strange land.

1989, I had gone to one of the Igbo-related social events in the company of my cousins and friends I have known from Lagos and part of getting around knowing the big city when I bumped into Okongwu and almost could not recognize him from the last time we hanged out in Lagos. He had added a lot of weight. He had wondered what brought me to Los Angeles since I never mentioned about my family all through we were in Lagos. We spoke a little bit, exchanged information and went our separate ways.

And, the late Mark Ojo, too, had a story which bears the same resemblance with that of Okongwu and his sixth grade teacher. Ojo, I had met in Los Angeles through the same kind of social gathering when I encountered Okongwu. Ojo and I, talked at length about the pogrom from around which the Orwellian drama affected him during the northern Islamic nihilists and hoodlums’ invasion of his neighborhood. His father who the nihilists had mistaken for Igbo was stabbed to death while his entire clan watched, somewhere in the woods of Ado Ekiti. Ojo and I spoke quite often, and each time we met our discourse had always been on a fabricated national state, and a country that was not meant to be one in the first place had it not been the events that followed the constitutional conferences miscalculated by the founders and their inability to rethink their strategies on dialogue toward sovereignty with the colonists to have arrived a favorable contract in which the tribes as independent national states should have been given a top priority, and the consideration they were entirely a different people, having no need to be joined together as a one united nation. Ojo did not get to put his story in book format. May his soul rest in peace!

Obafemi Awolowo, during agitation and the followed up constitutional conferences toward independence, had made it patently clear in his assertions he had viewed as legitimate that Nigeria as a nation doesn’t exist, using an analogy akin to the colonists and conquest, that the Scot, the Welsh and the Irish were all different entities which summed up his line of argument that there’s no such thing as Nigeria. Nigeria does not exist; thus a geographical expression.

Eventually, there was a Nigeria, now at a terrible cost. As with men with vision, Achebe had already told us about a nation clouded by social ills with a government that would be impossible to run when he wrote “Things Fall Apart” in 1958, telling us the story of a defiant Okonkwo who would not succumb to a modernization theory and concepts, but a cultural heritage that must be maintained. Achebe retold the story tracing back his family’s lineage and encounters with the missionaries and, the conversion which brought in the push factor era. Born under humble circumstances, Achebe applauds the colonists for smooth transition toward nationhood, considering himself lucky and among the greatest generation that went through series of dialogue with the colonists in what eventually did evolve to an independent national state. Before the UK release date of “There Was A Country,” Achebe in his interview with the Iranian journalist Nasrin Pourhamrang, editor-in-chief for the Hatef Weekly, which was published at The Africanist, and whose [Achebe] book "Things Fall Apart" has been translated in Persia, Achebe told Pourhamrang when asked his about to be released book and what kind of story his readers should be expecting when the book graces the bookshelves and why it took that long for the release. Achebe tells Pourhamrang;

I was telling three interweaving stories using an autobiographical prism to recount two broader stories - the story of pre and post independence Nigeria, and the story of Biafra and its aftermath; and on why it took that long to write about Biafra, I was not ready...I had to find the right vehicle that could carry our anguish, our sorrow, the scale of dislocation and destruction, our collective pain in many ways, I can say that I have been writing this book for about four decades - at least in my head and the very scribbling on paper almost as long - particularly the research, interviews, data collection etc. I discovered while working on the book, quite interestingly, that it would not be a straightforward work.I found that I have to draw upon prose, poetry, history, memoir, and politics and that they were independently holding conversations with each other - perhaps because no one genre or art form could bear the weight of the complexity of our condition. The Biafran war was such cataclysmic event that in my opinion changed the course, not only of Nigeria which has not recovered from that conflict, but of all of Africa.”

On the aftermath of Biafra, a people in shambles, demolished and plundered, was the remains of an agitation in quest for self-reliance in a struggle that lasted thirty months. Achebe had asked from the column that outraged the Awoists, Awolowo’s followers, why has the war not been taught in schools today? And I think, a better question should have been, why are the schools in Igbo-related states not made it mandatory for the pogrom and Biafra war to be taught in elementary civics and government classes? Must a federal government determine every part of our destiny? And why now that democracy surfaced with legislation, why is the matter not yet brought up by the state governors who run the affairs of state and the legislators who make the laws? Why would an issue like the pogrom which affected every family in Igbo land should not be talked about and engaged in relative discourses? Are we pretending nothing really happened? In Igbo land, none of its elite and ruling classes have thought and put into consideration the pogrom and Biafra war scholarship; why is that? Not even a legitimate memorial and museum for the most blood soaked event in the entire region.

Question to be answered: In the thirteen years Ojukwu was in exile, what were his plans on that mantra "whilst I live, Biafra lives," to give hope? Who were his counsels and subordinates during his life in exile? What was his communication with those he left behind on the slogan of 'whilst I live, Biafra lives'? What happened to his presumed memoir on accounts with his commanders' advisers regarding his life in Ivory Coast and his take on a Biafran national state?

On Ikejiani, Achebe did not tell us about his sojourn and possible contacts while he exiled in Canada and what had been planned ahead. Who and who did Ikejiani had meetings with about a postponed Biafra, considering the magnitude of his role during the Biafran war? People like N.U. Akpan, what were the outcome of his meetings and interviews with the international press in London? Where are the papers connecting him to the Republic of Biafra? On Zik, what were his thoughts after ceasefire and how did he connect with Ojukwu both in exile and at home? Would it be all the players went about their separate ways and never mentioned anything about it upon capitulation? A story that will have no end with question marks?

Achebe had told stories like the usual Achebe who is fond of recalling societal problems, and with stories that have been re-told and re-told, over and over again, with formats anew in every detail of his releases. All in all, “There was a country: A Personal History Of Biafra," the long-awaited memoir to have provided us in great detail all that he had known about the errands he ran for his colleagues who called the shots and had been in key positions to have made sound judgments, but took a whole lot for granted in a desperate situation requiring collectivism which was negated by Ojukwu, who had consulted with just a few, according to the report presented by Achebe from Ikejiani, missed a lot of expected gist considering how close Achebe was with those who called the shots.

“There Was A Country,” should not be confused with Achebe’s other projects; it’s not his finest, not even the previously released collection of his essays, “The Education Of A British Protected Child: Essays” “Things Fall Apart” is yet to be beaten by Achebe himself, in all his works.


"Nchamere Nd'Igbo: Evidence of Anti-Igbo Pogrom" - Photo Essay/Documentary by Ambrose Ehirim

"The Crime Committed in France" by President Francois Hollande - Speech to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Vel d' Hiv Roundup.

"Chinua Achebe: Peaceful World, My Sincerest Wish" by Nasrin Pourhamrang, (Interview) The Africanist

"Aburi Accord Plays On" by Ambrose Ehirim, The Ambrose Ehirim Files/Biafra-Nigeria-World

"The Revolutionary Years: West Africa Since 1800. T.B. Webster and A.A. Boahen with M. Tidy. Longman Group; 1980

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Oil Theft - Navy Deploys Eight Ships, Three Helicopters to Niger Delta

The Naval headquarter in Abuja yesterday said it has deployed eight ships, six gun boats and three helicopters to the Niger Delta region to stamp out crude oil theft and piracy.

A statement signed by Rear Admiral E. O Egbo on behalf of the Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba said the joint exercise code named 'Exercise Farauta (hunting in Hausa)' will last between November 11 and 17 in the Bight of Bonny.

"The exercise was in pursuance of President Goodluck Jonathan's mandate to the Nigerian Navy to do all it can to stamp out the prevalence of illegal maritime activities especially crude oil theft, illegal oil bunkering and piracy in the Niger Delta.

"Eight ships, six gun boats and three helicopter including elements of Nigerian Army and Maritime Patrol Aircraft of the Nigerian Air Force will be taking part in the exercise."

According to the statement, the exercise will enable the Navy to assess its operational capability with a view to identifying gaps and taking necessary measures "to fill such gaps for enhanced operational readiness."

The aim of the exercise was to intensify the ongoing naval operations in the Niger Delta region with "emphasis on Bonny-Akassa-Excravos axis (an area notorious for crude oil theft) up to the extent of the offshore oil platforms at Bonga and Bogi."


Thursday, November 08, 2012

Oil Prices Rebound On U.S. Employment Report

CRUDE oil prices climbed from a four-month low in New York after fewer Americans than forecast filed claims for unemployment insurance and Greek lawmakers approved a package of austerity measures needed to unlock further financial aid.

Crude oil for December delivery rose 68 cents, or 0.8 per cent, to $85.12 a barrel at 11:50 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped $4.27 on Wednesday to $84.44, the lowest settlement since July 10. Prices are down 14 per cent this year.

Brent oil for December settlement increased 20 cents to $107.02 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.

Futures rose as much as 1.5 per cent as the Labor Department said applications for jobless benefits fell by 8,000 to 355,000 last week. The Greek Parliament passed a bill on pension, wage and benefit cuts. Oil gave up some of its gains as equities fell and the euro retreated to a two-month low versus the dollar.

“Unemployment claims fell further, which is a hopeful signal about the economy,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York-based hedge fund that focuses on energy.

“Concerns about the euro-zone have eased again with the passage of further austerity measures in Greece.”

Economists forecast jobless claims would be little changed from the prior week at 365,000, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

“The jobless claims are better than expected,” said Gene McGillian, an analyst and broker at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. “The labor picture seems to be stabilising.”

Consumer confidence climbed last week as Americans’ ratings of the economy reached the highest level in more than four years. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to minus 34.4 in the period ended November 4, the best reading since April, from minus 34.7 the previous week. Twenty per cent of those surveyed had a positive view of the world’s largest economy, the most since March 2008.

The U.S. consumed 18.8 million barrels a day of oil in 2011, or 21 per cent of the world’s total, according to BP Plc (BP/)’s Statistical Review of World Energy.

Greece’s bill on pension, wage and benefit cuts was approved with 153 votes in favor in the 300-seat Parliament early yesterday, according to Athanasios Nakos, the acting parliament speaker.

European Central Bank President, Mario Draghi, said yesterday the economic outlook is worsening and the bank stands ready to activate its bond-purchase program if governments fulfill the necessary conditions.


Nigeria Spends $3.7b Yearly On Wheat Flour Importation - IITA

The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has said that Nigeria spends $3.7 billion annually on the importation of wheat flour.

Mr Samiran Mazumdar, the Head, Hotel and Catering Services of the institute, said that on Thursday in Uyo at the opening of a two-day training programme for Master Bakers from South-South region.

The training is a step forward in the execution of the Federal Government’s new policy on the 20 per cent inclusion of cassava flour in bread baking.

Mazumdar said that various countries had different types of bread made from different crops.

According to him, it is not abnormal for Nigeria to have its bread made from cassava flour.

``It is about our survival and eradication of hunger; it will bring down the cost of bread and also satisfy the consumers.

``It is in our hands to have a better tomorrow, maintain food safety and ensure that our people consume the best.’’

The catering expert explained that cassava flour has low sugar content and rich in fibre.

Mazumdar said that it was advisable for diabetic patients to eat the cassava bread.

In a message, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Adewumi Adesina, said that Nigeria was one of the leading producers of cassava in the world.

The minister was represented by his Special Adviser on Technical Matters, Mr Tony Egba.

He said that it was the policy of the Federal Government to add value to cassava outside eating it as foofoo or gari.

Adesina said that Nigeria currently produced 37 million tonnes of cassava tubers yearly.

He said that it was, therefore, necessary to add value to cassava usage in the country.

According to the minister, IITA has produced bread with 40 per cent cassava flour.

He urged participants to take the training seriously so as to achieve the 20 per cent inclusion of cassava flour in the bread baking.

In his remarks, the South-South Coordinator of Master Bakers Association, Mr Ralph Ekun, appealed to the Federal Government to decentralise the training programmes.

He also requested that the recipe for making the cassava bread be made available with necessary incentives.

Ekun expressed the readiness of master bakers to embrace the policy by adopting the 20 per cent cassava inclusion in bread making.

He, however, expressed the hope that NAFDAC certified cassava flour would be made available.


Three million Nigerians to benefit from life-saving de-worming tablets donated by UN

Children confirm haematuria by show of hands during a Schistosomiasis education session at a primary school in Bongo, Ghana. Photo: WHO

8 November 2012 – The United Nations health agency today handed over more than five million de-worming tablets to the Nigerian Government to protect three million people from schistosomiasis, a disease that stunts growth and cognitive development.

The contribution by the UN World Health Organization (WHO) is part of a consignment of over 23 million tablets donated by the pharmaceutical company Merck to boost treatments and combat neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Nigeria.

“Thanks to the generous donation provided by Merck, WHO has been able to donate more than 20 million tablets to treat nearly eight million school children and adults in 12 states, namely, Plateau, Nasarawa, Edo, Delta, Taraba, Ekiti, Jigawa, Ogun, Ondo, Zamfara, Sokoto and Niger,” said the officer-in-charge of the WHO Office in Nigeria, Alex Gasasira, during the hand-over ceremony in Abuja, the capital.

“This next consignment of five million tablets, worth $3.2 million will help us to scale up de-worming activities to reach another three million people,” he added. “In Nigeria, 33.5 million people, mainly children, are at risk of schistosomiasis.”

In addition to stunting growth, schistosomiasis also causes anemia, and in pregnant women, can lead to an increased risk of delivering underweight babies. The disease is spread in freshwater, where parasitic worms infect people while swimming, fishing or washing laundry. They penetrate human skin, enter the blood vessels and attack the internal organs. The infection rate is particularly high among children.

The de-worming tablets will be used to treat school-aged children and adults who are most at risk, such as those in endemic areas, and with occupations involving contact with infested water – such as fishermen, farmers, irrigation workers – and women whose domestic tasks bring them into contact with infested water. The treatment will be complemented with health education, WHO added in a news release.

Nigeria is one of 36 countries in the African region which has received WHO support to develop a multi-year plan to combat NTDs, known as the NTD Master Plan, for the period 2012–2016 which recommends streamlined strategies to combat this type of diseases.

“This donation is even more timely given that the country is gearing up to officially launch its integrated NTD Master Plan soon. Within this context, Merck’s donation is a welcome donation towards ensuring implementation of the country’s NTD plan,” Mr. Gasasira said. “WHO remains committed to supporting the ministry of health and partners in the efforts to reduce the burden of NTDs as well as other diseases in Nigeria.”


Judge rejects e-mail ban in Michael Jackson death lawsuit

Los Angeles (CNN) -- The judge presiding over the Michael Jackson family's wrongful death lawsuit against AEG rejected the concert promoter's arguments that family members were the source of leaked e-mails in the case.

AEG lawyers accused Michael Jackson's three children, his mother and their lawyers of giving the e-mails to a newspaper reporter in violation of the judge's order that they remain under seal.

"It is clear that only one entity could have done it," AEG lawyer Marvin Putnam said in a hearing last month.

Jackson family lawyers became furious in court, pointing out that AEG was accusing 10-year-old Blanket Jackson, the youngest of the children.

"What's the idea, that Blanket Jackson got some documents and copied them and somehow walked them from Calabasas to Harriet Ryan?" attorney Kevin Boyle said, pointing to Putnam.

Kids forgotten in Jackson family feud?

Paris Jackson: MJ wanted normal life

Jackson lawyers denied anyone associated with their legal team or their clients leaked the e-mails, and suggested that AEG lawyers may have done it themselves as a set up.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos issued her ruling on the question this week.

The communications, published two months ago in the Los Angeles Times, revealed the promoter had doubts about Jackson's health and his ability to be ready for his "This Is It" concerts several months before his death.

AEG wanted the judge to punish Katherine Jackson and the children -- Prince, Paris and Blanket -- by not allowing their lawyers to use the e-mails to convince a jury in a trial set for next April that the company contributed to the pop star's death.

Jackson died of an overdose of a surgical anesthesia in combination with sedatives on June 25, 2009, according to the Los Angeles County coroner. Dr. Conrad Murray, who was hired to be Jackson's personal physician as he prepared for the shows, was found guilty last year of involuntary manslaughter in his patient's death.

The Jackson suit contends that AEG contributed to the pop star's death by pressuring him to prepare even though the promoters knew he was in a weak condition and by its hiring and supervision of Murray.

"MJ is locked in his room drunk and despondent," AEG executive Randy Phillips wrote in a March 5, 2009, e-mail, the day Jackson announced the tour plans. "I (am) trying to sober him up."

Reporter Harriet Ryan has refused to disclose her sources, although Howard Mann -- who was once Katherine Jackson's partner in a book venture -- has acknowledged that he gave the reporter a box of documents for her story.

Days after the e-mails were published, AEG dropped its claim against a Lloyds of London underwriter for payout of a $17.5 million insurance policy on Michael Jackson.

The insurer contended AEG hid Jackson's health problems and failed to respond to repeated requests for his medical history when applying for insurance for the 50 shows scheduled for London's O2 Arena.

The Michael Jackson estate, which controls Michael Jackson Company LLC, is still pursuing the insurance payout.

Perry Sanders, who is Katherine Jackson's personal attorney, told the judge that the Jacksons had no motive to leak the e-mails.

"Like we would go and blow up our own case against Lloyds of London?" Sanders said. "Our client and all the plaintiffs in this case are actually the ones who would receive the money."

Sanders also noted that AEG had failed to disclose the e-mails to the Lloyds of London lawyers despite a legal requirement to do so.

While publication of the e-mails might have made AEG look bad, they were "extremely negative against Michael Jackson," painting him "as a basket case," Jackson lawyer Deborah Chang said.

"It's much more negative about Michael Jackson than it is about AEG, by far," Chang said.

The leaked e-mails include one written by Randy Phillips weeks after Jackson's death in which the president of AEG Live -- the concert-promotion branch of AEG -- called it "a terrible tragedy," but added "life must go on."

"AEG will make a fortune from merch sales, ticket retention, the touring exhibition and the film/dvd," Phillips wrote. AEG Live was allowed to sell Jackson tour merchandise and share in the profits from the documentary "This Is It," produced from rehearsal video.

The March 2009 e-mail from Phillips saying Jackson was "locked in his room drunk and despondent" indicate AEG Live's president saw Jackson's problems first-hand the day the pop star was to appear at the O2 Arena to publicly announce the shows.

"I screamed at him so loud the walls are shaking," Phillips wrote. "He is an emotionally paralyzed mess riddled with self-loathing and doubt now that it is show time."

The promoter blamed London traffic when Jackson was 90 minutes late for the announcement that day.

"He's as healthy as he can be -- no health problems whatsoever," Phillips told CNN two months later to refute reports Jackson's health was threatening the concerts.

The Los Angeles Times story, however, said the e-mails indicated major doubts about Jackson's ability to perform.

"We cannot be forced into stopping this, which MJ will try to do because he is lazy and constantly changes his mind to fit his immediate wants," AEG Live executive Paul Gongaware e-mailed to Phillips.

Jackson's missed rehearsals in June triggered concerns in e-mails that he was slow in learning his dance routines and would have to lip-sync on stage, the newspaper reported.

"MJ is not in shape enough yet to sing this stuff live and dance at the same time," one e-mail from the show's music director read, the paper reported.

A production manager wrote: "He was a basket case. Doubt is pervasive."

A loud warning from show director Kenny Ortega, who worked closely with Jackson on previous tours, came in mid-June, just over a week before the star's death. Ortega wrote to Phillips that Jackson had "strong signs of paranoia, anxiety and obsessive-like behavior" and suggested they bring a "top psychiatrist in to evaluate him ASAP."

"It is like there are two people there. One (deep inside) trying to hold on to what he was and still can be and not wanting us to quit him, the other in this weakened and troubled state," Ortega wrote. "I believe we need professional guidance in this matter."

Ortega testified at Murray's trial about his concerns about Jackson's frail condition and missed rehearsals. Those concerns resulted in a meeting six days before Jackson's death in which Murray assured the promoters he would have Jackson ready for rehearsals that next week.

An e-mail from Phillips after that meeting said he had confidence in Murray, "who I am gaining immense respect for as I get to deal with him more."

"This doctor is extremely successful (we check everyone out) and does not need this gig, so he (is) totally unbiased and ethical," Phillips' e-mail said.