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Opinion

The Open Society Endangered ― Wole Soyinka

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Wole Soyinka

(Being a talk delivered at the UN World Anti-Corruption Day, Abuja, Dec. 9. 2019)

Present here, I fully expect, is the youth contingent of this undertaking. We are still within the United Nations designated Year of the Child, and that makes youth involvement doubly appropriate as an integral part of our encounter.

This is not a mere sentiment. As some of you here may recall, I have referred to my set on occasion as the Wasted Generation.

I recall that this led to some members of the generation after mine referring to theirs as the Lost Generation. It all happened during a lecture, and the speaker’s comment went thus: “Professor Soyinka does not know how lucky he is. His generation has been merely wasted, ours is lost.” I do not know if that speaker was right, or I was, or maybe both were.

Frankly, I am not even sure which is worse – to be lost or to be wasted. All I am certain of is –moral endangerment, the degradation of moral sensibilities in the vulnerable sector of any society, however, defined. That impressionable sector is always at risk wherever abnormalities become accepted as the norm, and the jettisoning of moral restraints is lauded, through example, as the basis of routine existence.

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If I may use a notorious example, can anyone of us have failed to remark how the phenomenon of cultism has penetrated downwards, lower and lower in generational infiltration until we now read of it even in some elite primary schools?

Children may not find themselves in situations where they can actually engage in corrupt practices, but they grow up eventually into that stage, and if they have been raised in an environment where adults are exposed as corrupt, even expelled from their positions of status, only to return to their home base, to be lauded by their communities, received with pomp and pageantry and garlanded with chieftaincy titles, it requires no special exercise of the imagination to project what the future holds for overall society.

The principle of “catch them young” is one that pervades most spheres of human activity, so it’s all a question of who does the “catching”. If we are serious and convinced about a foundational principle of social conduct, then we obviously cannot leave others to do the catching.

One of the most telling exercises I have indulged in my creative career was one which evolved from my activities in the Lagos Black Heritage Festival. We initiated a youth item called “The Vision of the Child”. This consisted of members of that yet undefined generation being set a theme for creative interpretation –in painting, essay and even poetic forms. We encouraged them to let their imagination roam free in all directions.

One such theme that I set them was “The Thousand And One Faces of Corruption”. The results were remarkable. If anyone thought that children even at the ‘innocent’ age downwards from thirteen or fourteen all the way down to seven or six, do not know what ‘corruption’ means, how it works, how it affects their lives and their families, they should see some of those visual and literary compositions, talk to their authors and artists, and ask the latter to explain some of the seemingly abstruse images they create.

You would be thoroughly chastened. For example, even I had not thought of dragging Sambisa forest into the geography of corruption, being too preoccupied with the horror of that outrage in itself. They did, albeit inspired by an earlier thematic imposition – THE ROAD TO SAMBISA. This is how it all begins – read their submissions – with corruption overwhelming even basic social and governance responsibilities.

Mr Magu, the chairman of EFCC happened on that exhibition and was sufficiently struck as to request that it tour the nation. We were more than willing. Some of his staff visited the exhibition at Freedom Park and went into preliminaries with our young collaborators. That was – how many years ago? More ruefully, will that exhibition ever travel beyond its present confines?

Since then, that initiative has metamorphosed into an even more elaborate movement with the name Corruption Busters – launched in Lekki in December 2017. I was able to attend just the beginning of the event but, from the evidence of the video recording, the Vice-President threw himself most vigorously into that initiative.

So did a couple of supportive foreign embassies Since then, however, that movement appears to have gone into recession – but I may be wrong. I would be curious to see if they participated in the Walk from EFCC to this venue this morning. If not, Mr Magu, you and I have a problem!

The coincidence of global affirmations of past agreements on social conduct such as the ongoing celebration of the Convention on the Rights of Children, the World Anti-Corruption Day which is today, reinforced by the World Human Rights Day on Tuesday, tomorrow, should be exploited to the fullest, not merely to involve that generation in a progressive seizure of society and humanity, but also to compel adults to see both themselves and the society they have created through the eyes of children, obtain a glimpse of how that generation itself views and assesses the conduct and values of their parents, uncles, aunts, chiefs, their ministers, even their priests and supposed moral exemplars.

Youth participation takes multiple forms, even where the youths are not physically present. Images are useful ‘take-away’ teachers. The venue of this encounter could have been festooned with the results from that – or similar –exhibitions, or other related exercises that represent minds yet under formation.

If you must take on corruption, which runs 24/7 all-year-round, then we must be alert to all opportunities to propagate the counter-gospel 24/7 all year round, with bonus ‘opportunity targets’ – to borrow from military parlances – such as the mentioned triple notations on the UN calendar. Do some of us sometimes perhaps appear obsessed by this problem? Of course.

Long before any government ever thought it to make it its business, hundreds and thousands of Nigerian individuals in their fields of activities have tackled it head-on with all attendant risk. The choice was to ‘join them or fight them’. How many here are old enough to have heard of the civilian Anti-Bribery League headed by the owner – I hopefully recollect — of Lisabi Mills in Yaba? Or later, of the government’s short-lived initiative, the X-Squad with offices in 5(?) Milverton Street, Ikoyi?

Somehow or the other it takes on the intensity of a personal battle, for which agonizing setbacks, such as the assassination of the late Bola Ige, a personal friend, but also Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of this nation, only serve as a further spur. Only the cynical fail to accept that it is a contest that transcends politics, partisanship and even governance, which, in this particular instance, has sunk in recent times to its lowest ebb.

Corruption triggers off numerous collateral activities in institutional conduct and governmental interface with the citizenry, confrontation with its effects is thus plainly transformational.

This means that, for any corruption degraded society, it should be nothing less than revolutionary in approach – call it by that or any other word, it is still a revolutionary undertaking. Revolution Now? Or Soon? Later or Whenever? An anti-corruption focus is surely integral to any revolutionary agenda, often it constitutes its very trigger – checks any society you wish – from Cuba through China to Egypt or Myanmar.

Corruption is hardly ever omitted in the list of indictments that justify that very undertaking called a revolution. Thus, anti-corruption activism is a conscious, revolutionary offensive that aims at the transformation of the totality of the social phenomena. Those agencies, or governments that permit themselves to be terrified by the word had better learn to live with it.

Even governments sometimes pride themselves with claims that they have revolutionized this or that facet of society or indeed, of governance itself., meaning that such a government embarks on a drastic self-transformation in both form and practice. So much, in general terms.

Now we turn our spotlight more specifically on that agency that appears to consider the word treasonable. Has anyone been following recent testimonies in the media by those who have entered the dungeons of the state security agency and lived to tell the tale?

What has emerged in these past few days is that the very agency that recently desecrated the sanctum of justice is itself charged with corruption. It is publicly claimed that extortion has become commonplace, inflicted on helpless citizens, some of whom lack a voice, or influential contacts, unlike the yet ongoing instance of a former media publisher and presidential candidate.

Corruption can only be fought and degraded, if not entirely destroyed, within the reality of an open society. And an open society is built and sustained on the freedom of expression.

And here comes the complement to that assault. We need only veer laterally and consider a recent – perhaps merely fortuitous act of – partnership by another governance installation – the legislative houses.

We must thank the DSS for impressing on us the same obligatory call to interrogate any proposition that curtails that right of free expression, even where camouflaged under the rubric of Hate Speech. Or Fake news. Both, we all agree are not only harmful but cowardly and despicable.

However, combine these recent sample offerings from the two institutional within the context of an Open Society and where do we find ourselves? Let me repeat: a legislature proposes nothing less than capital punishment for what it deems Hate speech.

First, are we really prepared to take on the awful responsibility of telling our children that the rational response to any kind of social outrage is to kill? Does that truly reflect the ascent of humanity from instinctive animal predatoriness? Let us take a moment to follow the trajectory of what amounts to nothing less than a vicious cycle.

This very setting in which we are assembled, Aso Rock, could not be more appropriate for charting the perilous waters into which this nation is being plunged. So, here goes, a reconstruction that should by no means be considered a worst-case scenario.

Society does not operate in virtual reality. We exist palpably. The structure that is constitutionally empowered to determine what is denounced as

Hate or Toxic Speech is rendered ineffectual daily through acts of executive condescension and disdain from the peak of governance. The seal of desecration was finally planted on the institution of law, the sole legitimate adjudicator, by an agency that now stands accused of violating the very principles that this agency, the EFCC and its sister ICPC, were set up to uphold.

Is it excessive to consider the possibility that other potential accusers of that security agency are locked up in dungeons, some forgotten for upwards three to four years? Kindly check the media for testimonies of those who have recently been discharged from or discovered in DSS custody after years in their hellholes.

How would the DSS now respond, given the protection of this ready-to-kill Bill on Hate? Obviously, with a complaint of Hate Attack by the accusers, punishable by death. The agency proceeds to arrest the newspaper staff and the accusers. The case goes to hearing. The judge sets a date and grants the accusers bail.

What happens next? The agency under accusation invades the court, scatters everyone, pounces on the recently bailed ‘felon’ and drags him off struggling desperately for life and liberty. That, I repeat, is not a worst-case scenario, nor is it far-fetched. The blueprint is out in the public domain.

The anti-corruption offensive, on which we are hopefully sincerely engaged, is meaningless without complete openness and without the total liberty of every citizen, subject only to constraints imposed under the law.

It is, therefore, most heart-warming that civil society is waking up to its responsibilities and has called strongly for an apology to the nation from the so-called Directorate of State Services.

We must proceed further. We need from the DSS a list of all its current detainees, their names, addresses and records of confinement. I see no security issue fulfilled in keeping such names secret. Why is any citizen reduced to paying 50,000 Naira to bribe an officer to procure a cellphone, just to let his family know that he is alive but immured in a dungeon?

The right to information must be exercised comprehensively and most certainly in favour of citizen liberty, in conformity to that third United Nations notation – Human Rights – that it has designated for tomorrow. So perhaps something positive will be extracted from this collective violation that this nation has recently undergone.

With that foregoing, Greetings on my own behalf, and on behalf of – shall we call them? – the anxious generation, on this World’s Anti-Corruption Day. Let this morning’s overture, the symbolic walk from the designated citadel of ethical transformation to this venue be absorbed as a walk to freedom within a corruption-free air for those forgotten Nigerians in illegal captivity.

A LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, wrote Nelson Mandela, a victim of a vicious system called apartheid. We do not labour under apartheid terror, so let us shorten that walk and open up society by giving voice to the voiceless, and presence to the absent, held under our very noses under inhuman conditions, forced to pay for the privilege of reminding the rest of us, in approximate freedom, that they still exist. In short, let us embrace the liberating, transformative spirit of — if not exactly Revolution Now – then at least, maybe — Liberation Now?

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Opinion

Project 002: The Wonders Of Nigeria (Clinical View)

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Nigeria

By Ikechukwu Agada

When duty calls, the vast majority of men sprout emergency wings and fly away to safer heavens where the clarion call of service cannot reach. An anonymous cocoon might be a good temporary place to hide away from the missiles and derision of traducers but it is no permanent place for a champion and certainly not as roomy as a palatial home.

The Southeast and Southsouth leaders should as a matter of solidarity constitute its own community security outfit similar to Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed(Operation Amotekun) to show southern oneness and to declare the Nigerian Security Agencies incompetent of protecting the life and properties of its citizenry which is the cardinal objective of any responsible government as enshrined in the constitution. The current Nigerian Security architecture dressed in a tribal gown cannot guarantee the safety of life and properties.

Earth Shaking! Grand Breaking! Mind boggling! Ordinarily, these terms are used as exaggerations but on this creative innovation(Operation Amotekun), they could even be said to be understatements. When you think of Nigeria and its stupefying wonders, you cannot but believe that there are a lot of mudslinging and tirades that comes with the terrain of politicking.

It is therefore no coincidence that the Northern Youths and Miyetti Allah who are the unofficial spokespersons of the Presidential Cabal would flippantly unleashed missiles against this responsible community security outfit structured to save lives. It is unpatriotic and abuse of office to declare Amotekun illegal without the law courts. Every citizen has the right to protect himself or herself. Such illegality should also be extended to civilian JTF in the Northeast and Hisbah police in the North. Those opposed to the security outfit are insensitive to the plight of people suffering from insecurity.

The Southeast and Southsouth leaders should outwit the bobby trap of the Northern Oligarchs by fronting its own security outfit via the State Houses of Assembly to colour it with constitutionality. The greatest threat to the community security outfit is not the vocal Northern Groups and their sponsors but desperate 2023 Presidential Secret Southern Conspirators who are overwhelmed by political correctness and fear of being viewed with restructuring lenses(Anti-North). These ambitious men do not want to offend their Northern masters. This conspiracy played out during the inauguration of the Western Security Outfit where a top Presidential hopeful from the Southwest after observing the body language of the Presidential Cabal instructed his three coronated governors to steer clear of the venue in an apparent loyalty to the northern forces allegedly sharing presidency. He flew to Aso Rock to have a conversation with the President to technically exonerate himself of any possible backlash arising from the initiative in order to advance his candidacy. Those who are hobnobbing with these northern power brokers should learn from the political calamity that befell some former confidants of these men in total obedience to the wonders of Nigeria.

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The just concluded Supreme Court pronouncement is not only a 9th wonder of Nigeria but a doctored political miracle which can only happen in the giant of Africa’s soil. The former Eastern Heartland’s helmsman was axed because of his total loyalty to the then ruling party where he held the reins of power as Deputy Speaker Federal House of Representatives. Similar fate awaits his boss the then speaker who is now a governor except by divine intervention to punish them for frustrating legislations encouraging Project 002 conspiracy theory. All the arguments and prayers in support of this Marlian judgement are mere political cosmetics conjured by integrity stunted jurists.

A courtesy visit to the top Nigerian Agencies and Parastatals will leave you with official shock because they are peopled with certain tribe from head to bottom(Organogram) making you wonder if “One Nigeria” still exist.

It is high time the Southern leaders revisits the native intelligence deployed by their sages like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Ajayi Crowther, etc to beat a smart retreat because the North preserved and uses leadership ethos they mastered from their patriarchs like Ahmadu Bello and Usman Dan Fodio to distribute influence.

The outcome of the Amotekun Debate will shape the 2023 political games as those in support and against will be profiled. This is why most Gubernatorial and Presidential hopefuls are being careful of speaking out on the matter for fear of victimisation. If the South loses the battle to stamp its feet on this community security outfit(Which the Core North interpretes as restructuring in disguise) then the alleged Southern Presidency will die a natural death (because insecurity can never birth credible elections) and Project 002 will be fast tracked.

If the illegality tag handed on Operation Amotekun is not removed despite Southwest leaders responsible and objective dialogue approach, then “ONE NIGERIA” will remain the tallest wonder ever recorded in the history of the world. Nigeria obviously needs rebooting.

GOD BLESS YOU

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Opinion

‘Amotekun, What Is The Arewa North Afraid Of?’

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By Charles Ogbu

The level of apprehension, paranoia, and panic that has gripped the Arewa North since the inauguration of the Yoruba Regional Security Outfit codenamed Operation Amotekun (which is not even going to bear arms) is indicative of something very positive for the non-Caliphate rest of the country.

In the entire southwest, there are state owned vigilante services helping to provide security for the locals. In the East, you have the Forest guards in Enugu, the Homeland Security (not fully operational but has been approved by the police) in Abia and one of the best organized vigilante services in Anambra. Yet, neither the Northern controlled security agencies nor the Attorney General has declared those ones illegal.

Why Amotekun?

Well the answer is not far fetched.

It is not really the Amotekun the Danfodios are scared of. It is the fact that a Southern region was able to find the needed UNITY and COURAGE to look beyond partisanship and other mawkish considerations by setting up a regional security outfit to protect their people from a govt sponsored terrorist group masquerading as cow herders. The Caliphate sees this as a form of defiance on the part of the Yoruba. But even more than this, the Arewa North fears the ripple effect of the success of operation Amotekun and one of those ripple effects is that other regions which have been victims of the murderous indiscretion of the fulani killer herdsmen will follow the Yoruba example by setting up their own regional security. And when this is replicated in most part of the country, you will have Organic Restructuring even without amending the Constitution. This is their biggest fear.

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As for Miyetti Allah, their fears are understandable; no thief will be happy that his victim has decided to put measures in place to secure his home.

What the Jukun people of Taraba just did, announcing their own security outfit is what every non-Caliphate part of this forced union needs to do. Don’t just stop at showing solidarity to the Yorubas, come out with your own regional security outfit. This is not about the Yoruba as a people. This is about every region in the country making a bold statement that a govt which has refused to protect her citizens has no right to stop them from protecting themselves especially when the killers of these citizens are being protected by the same govt.

There is something the Southeast can learn from Amotekun.

The fact that both the official inauguration of Amotekun and the back and forth verbal gymnastics with the affidavit Attorney General are being handled by the duly elected governors of the SouthWest (most of whom are APC and even in their first term) has a lesson for Ndigbo: YOU CANNOT LIBERATE A PEOPLE WITHOUT BEING IN CHARGE OF THEIR POLITICS. It is your being in charge of their politics that will give you the needed legitimacy, platform as well as the structure to be their savior. As a matter of urgent importance, we must take more interest in the caliber of men and women managing our affairs at home. If we don’t, by 2023 which is almost here, this same crop of politicians will still be running our affairs and no amount of social media insult and name calling will change that. When your regional politics is controlled by men who think of their political interests before thinking of your safety, you stand absolutely no chance of being liberated. You can dislike your politicians. But you cannot hate politics itself because it is the key to everything including your liberation. Political power is the number1 controller of all other powers. It is the reason some clown in Abuja can sit in some office and declare a regional security effort illegal. It is also the reason the Yoruba governors who are resisting him haven’t been “gifted” with Python dance.

~ Charles Ogbu is a social-political analyst and a good governance advocate.

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Opinion

Amotekun By South-West Is Illegal: How To Respond To AGF’s Opinion

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By Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba

The governors of South West had recently established Amotekun, a regional security organization to protect the people of SW. Mr. Malami, the attorney General of the federation has declared this formation to be illegal. The leaders of SW, SE and NC have cried out against the proclamation by AGF as not correct and Mr. Falana, a well know civil rights leader and a respected attorney has said the AGF is wrong. Merely saying that the AGF is wrong is a timid response to AGF and the federal government that the represents.
No matter what the Supreme Court declares as the constitutional requirements, the first law of nature is self-preservation. Anybody, who fails to protect himself from any enemy has himself to blame. Any government that is incapable of protecting its citizens has lost the authority of the people. And lost the reason for its existence. The leaders of SE, SS and NC should go beyond verbal challenge of AGF’s opinion (it is only an opinion). They should move on to form their own versions of Amotekun. They should also sign a cooperative agreement whereby an attack on one Amotekun is an attack on all the others.

The reign of King Muhammadu Buhari has been nothing than a reign of terror. It has showered a situation in the places around and below the confluence of Niger and Benue where neither life no property is safe. Ordinary citizens, in pursuit of their legal businesses are kidnapped and killed; their property, like farm lands, have been taken over and if they dare resist, their lives go with the property. These criminal activities are blamed on Fulani Herdsmen, yet nobody is in the police custody, nobody has been tried. The laws and the law enforcement apparatus are incapable of protecting innocent citizens from the attacks by enemies within and without.

We the people have absolute right to protect ourselves and in situations where one cannot do so by himself, one should form alliances to help. That is what Amotekun is intended to do.

Man is not made for law; but laws are made for man.

What should the federal government do?

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1. The FG should listen to the voice of the people (onuorah) and hear the fears that are driving the formation of Amotekun.
2. The FG should come to the negotiation table in good faith and negotiate with the zonal leaders to amend the laws and allow for the regional protection forces and establish the modus operandi by the forces.
3. The regional leaders must show that they could control the forces they have created so that they don’t become another kind of armed marauders. In USA each municipality has its police force which calls on neighboring police for help in difficult situations. This round robin calls go all the way to the state and FG police until the emergency is resolved and eventually to the armed forces of the US if the enemy is from without.

The emergence of Amotekun is not good for Nigeria, but it is an opportunity which if seized would make Nigeria better and safer.

If President Muhammadu Buhari is indeed interested in the future of Nigeria he should seize this opportunity or he will be forever remembered as the architect of Nigeria’s collapse.

~ Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba writes from Boston, Massachusetts.

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