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‘The Igbo Man Doesn’t Kneel For Anybody Except His Chi’ — Abaribe

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By Jideofor Adibe

This week I am continuing with my no-holds-barred interviews with some outspoken Nigerian leaders.

As soon as we settled down for the interview in his office at the National Assembly, my first question to Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the Senate Minority Leader, was to tell me about the three attempts to impeach him when he was the Deputy Governor of Abia State and the circumstances that surrounded his resignation from that office in 2003.

He explained that he and Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, were sworn in on May 29 1999, and by August of the same year, things had begun to go awry between them. There were three attempts to impeach him: the first was in August 1999 but after he responded to the charges by the State House of Assembly within the statutory 14 days he was exonerated. The second attempt was in mid- 2000. The House wrote to him again to respond to some charges but without giving him the statutory 14 days to reply, went ahead to write the Chief Judge of the State to constitute an impeachment panel against him. He refused to appear before the panel but instead challenged the proceedings in court on two grounds – that due process was not followed and that he was denied fair hearing. The court ruled that it did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case. He appealed against the judgment but the Appeal Court upheld the judgment of the lower court by arguing that the “the judiciary should not descend into the murky waters of politics”. Though he narrowly escaped impeachment when the Abia State House voted on the matter, he argued that one of the fallouts from the Appeal Court judgment was a rash of illegal impeachment of Governors – Peter Obi in Anambra State, Joseph Dariye in Plateau and Rasheed Ladoja in Oyo State. He said it was only when Ladoja was impeached by the Oyo State House of Assembly by less than the number of lawmakers required by the Constitution that he went to the Supreme Court, which reversed the impeachment on the ground that due process was not followed.

“The Supreme Court essentially held that the court is not supposed to interfere in the decision of the House of Assembly, but only in so far as they follow due process”, he said. On the third attempt to impeach him in 2003 he decided to resign because by then he had “been suspended and frozen from the party”. He sent his resignation letter by courier on March 7 2003 and decamped to another party to challenged Orji Kalu in the 2003 Abia State Governorship election – but lost. “One of the unfortunate things that happened however was that the young man who innocently received my DHL mail and signed for it was sacked.”

On the real cause of the quarrel between him and Governor Uzor Kalu, he demurred, promising that the details would be in his forthcoming book – though he mentioned that one of the reasons was that “the new set of governors had military mind set and Governor Orji Kalu often boasted of being one of the ‘Babangida boys.’” He said his relations with Orji Kalu these days are cordial.

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I asked him to tell me more about his involvement in securing bail for Ralph Uwazuruike, leader the banned secessionist Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in 2007, and of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of IPOB, whom he stood surety for.

He explained that when Ralph Uwazurike was arrested and detained, the Southeast caucus of the Sixth Senate led by the late Uche Chukwumerije decided to go and see late President Yar’adua – whom he called a “great man”. With Yar’adua they made a fairly simple case for Uwazuruike and MASSOB: those talking about Biafra were essentially crying out because of certain policies of the federal government which gave the impression that the Igbo are being treated unfairly in this country. They advised that the best way to deal with such agitators was not to round and lock them up and then throw away the key but rather to engage them in dialogue with a view to discussing their grouses and finding out how they thought such could be remedied. They were eventually able to secure bail for Uwazuruike and they (the South-east senators) stood sureties for him without any monetary condition being attached to his release.

“For the Nnamdi Kanu saga – there’s a whole lot you can say about it. But when you look at the basics and the fundamentals, it remains the same.” Just like they did with Yar’adua, the South-east senate caucus, now under the leadership of Abaribe, also met Buhari over the detention of Nnamdi Kanu. Nnamdi Kanu was ultimately granted bail but with a “humongous figure of N100m surety for each detained person and there were three of them.” The Senators rallied round ad perfected the bail conditions.

He talked about his experiences as a surety for Nnamdi Kanu, especially after the IPOB leader apparently jumped bail. Senator Abaribe was at a point arrested and detained by the DSS and his home searched.

I asked about the Igbo mantra of marginalization, and whether the internal contradictions in the Igbo society – such as not having a leader they can rally around- is not facilitating such marginalization.

“Let me start from the point at which you also started – that is our different politics – a point that the late Gani Fawehinmi described as the ‘Kabiyesi Syndrome’. He explained that the ‘Kabiyesi syndrome is a situation where you defer to any authority figure to such an extent that you can’t even question anything he does.

“Actually, the Igbo system extols collective decision making. The Igbo egalitarianism is’actually more suited to a democratic system than the other systems – but for the aberration in our democracy. So what is going on today is that whoever emerges as an authority figure in other systems is seen as a Kabiyesi whose word is law and who can do no wrong.

“The Igbo man doesn’t kneel down for anybody except his chi but the man who comes from elsewhere because of his tradition, he can kneel down before authority figures. If you want to know more about the Igbo worldview, I will recommend two books by Chinua Achebe – Things Fall Apart and No Longer At Ease.” He explained that because of the Igbo’s trajectory of egalitarianism, “what you have in Igboland is a collection of leaders – not one single leader”.

He contended that the difference between the north and the east is not the fact of the man in the north being more politically conscious – “ it is the fact of religion. Islam as a religion encompasses your life, your politics, your government and everything. Christianity as a religion does not encompass all that. The man in the north can then be told that person A protects his religion and thus protects his life. But the man in the south who is a Christian but may be Roman Catholic automatically loses interest if the leader in question is Anglican for instance.”

On the Supreme Court judgment which sacked Emeka Ihedioha as Governor of Imo State and declared Hope Uzodinma who came fourth in the election, as the duly elected Governor, he expressed concerns that the Supreme Court’s decision might have gone against its own precedents, which has to do with the Evidence Act. “And in the Evidence Act, and in every decided case that we have had till date, with regard to election cases, it always says that every document you bring to court, you must tie it to whatever you want to prove. So for instance, if you bring a result sheet to court, to tie it to proof, you have to bring the maker of that result.”

He argued that under the Evidence Act, the policeman that brought results from the 388 polling units was more of a third party, and his evidence was more in the realm of hearsay. “The danger today is this, if I go into an election and INEC shows up and conducts the election, I can go behind and print my own set of electoral materials, write my own results and when we get to the Supreme court, my lawyer will now say, ‘my Lords at the point at which this same matter came to you, in Hope Uzodinma vs Ihedioha you ruled to accept the results’.”.

I asked if he has plans to retire – or moving to higher office- having been in frontline politics since 1999.

He argued that politicians do not really retire, though they can ‘change gear’. “In institutions, such as the parliament, the longer you stay the better you become. But then, as they say, nobody knows tomorrow. Everything is in the hands of fate and the hands of God.”

A full version of this interview is available on The News Chronicle (www.thenews-chronicle.com)

Email: pcjadibe@yahoo.com

Twitter: @JideoforAdibe

Opinion

The North And Vanity Of Power

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By Charles Ogbu

Northern Nigeria is a tragic paradox. A walking contradiction, I mean.

For over 40 years, the North has ruled Nigeria and controlled every aspect of her national life. The current President of Nigeria is from the North and virtually every security agencies in Nigeria including the paramilitary ones are in the hands of Northerners. Yet, almost half of the North is firmly in the hands of terrorists, bandits and other criminal elements operating under different names. Both our Army Chief, Defence minister and even the Commander-In-Chief now need to be escorted by almost the entire Nigerian armed forces before they visit their home towns all in the North. As I type, some of the bodies of dozenS of people butchered by bandits Friday evening in President Buhari’s own home state of Katsina are yet to be interred.

Charles Ogbu

Charles Ogbu

All the revenue generating agencies in the country from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) etc are manned by Northerners. The richest man in Africa is from the North. Yet, according to a recent report released by World Bank, 87% of Nigerians living in poverty are in the North.

Beyond poverty and insecurity, the North boasts of having the highest number of out-of-school children estimated at 12 million by a UN report. The worst case of infant and maternal mortality in Nigeria is in the North. The worst case of illiteracy and drug abuse is in the North. It is also in the North that the highest number of unemployed and unemployable youths are found.

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This raises the question: What exactly has the Northern elites done for the North with all the long years they’ve controlled political power in the country? Of what use is power if you cannot use it to change the fortune of your people?

In the midst of all these internal contradictions, why do Northern youths still seem to worship their political elites as some god instead of seeing and treating them as the real authors of their misfortune? Why do Northern youths only care about helping their elites acquire political power without deploying that same energy towards making sure they use that power in a way it will benefit the average Northerner?

Funny enough, despite the consensus on the nothingness that is the Buhari regime and the entire North becoming a hotbed of terrorism and banditry under a Northern Commander-In-Chief, if elections were to be held today between President Buhari who has failed beyond every doubt and a Southern candidate with excellent record and a credible chance of transforming Nigeria, chances are the average Northern youth will vote Buhari even if doing so will conclusively put the country on the way to golgotha. He will, because all that matters to him is having a fellow Northern Muslim at the helm of affairs. Mind you, if the North were to be a separate Nation, Northerners would never elect someone of Buhari’s intellect and competence to head even a hamlet because they know he has nothing to offer. The only reason they support Buhari is because they care more about dominating others than they do about performance.

It is a cultural thing. It has a name: Feudalism.

And this is exactly why the North and the South can never coexist happily because the two regions have a world view and value system that contrasts sharply with each other. One wants to explore the world and her full potentials while the other simply wants to dominate everyone and force others to go back to the dark ages with her.

I understand that we are in a time when truth sounds like hate to those who hate it but it must be stated in an unmistakable term that the Northern part of Nigeria is a huge liability to the rest of the country. If the region fails to take immediate steps to address her issues, the North risks collapsing under the weight of her internal contradictions. And when it happens, it will drag the rest of the country along as we are already witnessing.

Southern leaders must start making preparations for the day-after-tomorrow because if a man cannot stop a bad rain from falling, wisdom demands he should at least take measures to protect himself from being beaten by the rain.

Ogbu is a socio-political analyst and good governance advocate. He tweets from @RealCharlesOgbu

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Opinion

‘Dear Igbo Governors, You Don’t Have Sense!’

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By Baron Roy

The Yoruba governors eschewed party affiliations, personal pride and all. They sought the help of their intellectuals, sociocultural groups and technocrats and established the South West Regional Security outfit.

The Northern Establishment went mad with rage! They got the President of Northern Nigeria to summon them, threaten them and attempted to intimidate them. But the governors, with the backing of their people (and indeed Southern Nigerians) stuck to their guns, and told the Northern President to ‘go f@ck himself!’ We clapped and danced in delight!

Amotekun stays!

And the Fulani Terrorist Herdsmen are on the backfoot in the Oduduwa Region now.

But what did the South Eastern governors do?

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They ignored every single sociocultural group of South Eastern extraction, approached the Northern President like the regular neanderthals they are, and declared their support for his moronic security policies.

Whereas the Yoruba governors align with their citizens to ensure the security of lives and properties in the Oduduwa Region, the gubernatorial slaves of the South East threw their own people under the bus just to get a patting on the back from the Northern President!

Dear South Eastern governors, you don’t have sense! You’re very stupid!

Thank you!

 

Disclaimer: Opinion articles are solely the responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official standpoint of Oriental Times or any of its editors thereof.

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Opinion

Osun: The Storm Foreseen (1)

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By Abiodun Komolafe

To a casual observer, the philosophy of maize signifies that the process of life is gradual. The first thing you see in maize, when it is growing, is the root, followed by the shoot, before the leaves eventually appear.

What this simply means is that, when Gboyega Oyetola came on board as governor of Osun State, he had three notable groups of Nigerians to contend with. The first comprised a cross-section of the people – the agitated, who were banking on the wholesale application of the ‘philosophy of what works’, to demand change ‘with immediate effect.’ To the second class of people, ‘life itself is gradual.’ Therefore, the governor should be given a chance to build development, because ‘destructive change can lead to the disruption of the social order.’ The third category is comprised of the anarchists and pessimists who, right from the first day, have been fortified with the notion that time moratorium is futile; ‘chance or no chance, nothing good can come out of this government.’ In the eye of the objective observer, therefore, how has Osun fared in the last one year, in the context of the hypotheses above?

Well, for those who want ‘immediate change’, it is a lose-lose situation, because, effectively, nothing so spectacular has really changed, except, of course, that civil servants are now paid as and when due, which, in practical terms, is one of the cardinal duties of any responsible government. Talking to facts, policies of government must work; and must be seen to be working. Therefore, the issue at stake is beyond policy formulation because no insight is so far gained or meaningful benefits achieved from the application of sophistry or brand manipulation of government policies.

The most unfortunate thing about the second class of people is that, from the look of things, this set of people will also have to wait, possibly, till ‘Thy kingdom come’ before they begin to see some meaningful development. And the reason is simple: it takes leadership, good vision, foresight, accommodation, resilience and good politics to achieve development in any given society. For Osun, the sad narrative is not about the dearth of competent hands or attributes of leadership. It is, most unfortunately, about a palpable lack of cohesion in the policy machinery of the state. For instance, the newly-appointed commissioners, in spite of an elaborate retreat organized for them at the inception of their cabinet responsibilities, still work as if they are alone, striving individually, rather than as a team, to ‘please Mr. Governor.’

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For the third category of people, history over the time, has shown that, unless something concrete and tangible happens to mitigate their agitations, they are likely to win the day! It is therefore for the government of the day to prove them wrong!

Far from waxing lyrical, the troubles with the current administration in Osun are many, some of which may not have been initiated or caused by the incumbent occupier of Bola Ige House. Nonetheless, failure to address these thorny issues with tact – and holistically too – may spell doom for both the ruling party and the sitting government. To put it mildly, one of its shortcomings is that there are too many neophytes, who call themselves politicians, currently in government. When you have cabinet members who do not enjoy robust political patronage amongst the indigenous people; or, widespread legitimate acceptability; or, whose acceptability profile is defective, such a government will be unstable, lacking genuine respect of the use of state’s unquestionable authority! And, that is dangerous for a transformational democracy like ours!

Well, it is possible to carelessly tag the agitations of the ‘old-guard politicians’ as being inconsequential, but they sure know what it means to lose political capital and commanding influence; more importantly, how to gain back any ‘lost’ political goodwill, more than the greenhorns. The general feeling out there is that the old politicians are no longer relevant and some identifiable groups of people within the ruling party, who sincerely worked for its victory in the last governorship election, are currently left in the cold.

The orthodox market women, aka Iyalojas, are no longer dancing while the usual handshake between the street and the Seat of Government has become a thing of the past. The ‘State Boys’ are reportedly trapped in the nightmares of their neglect while erstwhile conversations between the clerics and their long prayers for the state no longer find accommodation in the government’s scheme of things. The political hangers-on are hungry and are ready to write the prescriptions, even, administer the dosage for an ‘Us vs. Us’ implosion in obedience to the intensity of their resentment. Strangely, too, the opposition, though still licking its wounds, is busy strategizing how to capitalize on the alleged political naivety of the government. To a vast majority of these aggrieved blocs, the unbearable realities are showing on their faces and this may have negative effects on the very foundation of governance in the state if either of two things is not opted for.

The first is to accommodate the old structures with tact and caution and learn how to manage them, especially, taking into consideration the place of August 9, 2014 in Nigeria’s rich political history. As a remarkable Nigerian and an accomplished politician, a time like this presents a tempting opportunity for Oyetola to reach out to the useful ones among existing structures, buy them over and make them work for him. After all, politics is about the people; and policy without the people is a nullity! Interestingly, too, winning elections and governance have obviously moved away from party issues. I will return to that later!

In the alternative, the administration may need to talk to the Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to give state heads of security agencies needed directives and incentives to do the bidding of the governor wholesale. Of course, this may be more costly and unhealthy, especially, in a country buffeted on all sides with problems of insecurity, economic underdevelopment and over-politicization of all sociopolitical issues.

Yes! The political power and influence of the sum total of the diverse politically aggrieved groups of people in Osun may not be able to successfully challenge the state. Nonetheless, the dark side of politics is that, collectively, they stand formidable; and could probably slow the pace of development, or, altogether, render the state impotent. Also, the rightness or otherwise of the structure and relevance of what the active actors do will depend, largely, on who is doing the appraisal or attempting a definition.

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Osun State!

(To be continued.)

~ KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria. He can be reached via email: ijebujesa@yahoo.co.uk

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