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.
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)
Social Housing And The Spirit Of Jakande In Cross River
By Jerome-Mario Utomi
Justice according to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is centrally a matter of how individuals are treated, it is also possible to speak of justice for groups – for example when the state is allocating resources between different categories of citizens. Here each group is being treated as though it were a separate individual for purposes of the allocation.
Here there is a contrast with other virtues: we demand justice, but we beg for charity or forgiveness. This also means that justice is a matter of obligation for the agent dispensing it, and that the agent wrongs the recipient if the latter is denied what is due to her.
Definitely not a false argument but there is an important distinction to make.
In a country like Nigeria, the position of justice when allocating resources, in absolute terms, is not a substance of obligation, but largely a function of behaviour, character, habits, of the personality in public office (the agent dispensing justice).
Using as focal points the right to adequate housing which is both a human right and one of the basic needs of man borne out of desire for security, privacy and protection from negative impacts of the environment, it was Alhaji Lateef Jakande as executive governor of Lagos State in 1979, that his administration was sincerely effective, open and implemented the four cardinal policies of; housing, education, transportation and infrastructure.
It is factually documented that he introduced housing and educational programs targeting the poor, building new neighbourhood primary and secondary schools and providing free primary and secondary education. He established the Lagos state University. Jakande’s government constructed over 30,000 housing units. The schools and housing units were built cheaply, but were of great value. Some of the housing units include low cost estates in Amuwo-Odofin, Ijaiye, Dolphin, Oke-Afa, Ije, Abesan, Iponri, Ipaja, Abule Nla, Epe, Anikantamo, Surulere, Iba, Ikorodu and Badagry.
To fund some of the projects, Jakande increased the tenement rates and price of plots of land in affluent areas of Victoria Island and Lekki Peninsula and the processing fees for lottery, pools and gaming licenses. He also completed the construction of the General Hospital in Gbagada and Ikorodu and built about 20 health centres within the state. As a governor, he established 23 local government councils which were later disbanded by the military. He also started a metroline project to facilitate mass transit. The project was halted and his tenure as Governor ended when the military seized power on 31 December 1983.
Since that date, the spirit of social housing-an umbrella term used to refer to rental housing which may be owned and managed by the state, by non-profit organisations, or by a combination of the two, usually with the aim of making it affordable, departed the country.
But however resurfaced recently after about three decade’s this time around in Cross River state, Nigeria.
Its first manifestation in the state was on Friday, May 29, 2020; at Ifiang Ayong- a sleepy riverine community in Bakassi Local Government Area which came alive as dignitaries from all walks of life gathered to witness an epochal and life- changing event. The commissioning of an ultra-modern Estate comprising 52 units of 2- bedroom bungalows built by Governor Ben Ayade. ‘He did not build it for commercial purposes; the sprawling Estate, fully furnished and complete with essential amenities, is the new home to the displaced Bakassi people who lost their ancestral land, homes and livelihoods to the Republic of Cameroon in 2002 following the ceding of the Peninsula to the Central Africa country’.
Looking at commentaries, one major reason that triggered plaudits and encomium for the state government from various quarters across the nation is that in the early 2000s, the Federal Government inaugurated a Special Committee on National Social Housing Scheme (NSHS) with a presidential mandate to provide housing for its less privileged citizens. In the pilot phase of the scheme, the committee was to build 18,000 units of houses across the country before the end of 2006. However, the Committee could not deliver because the principles of social housing and values were yet to permeate the “development and management” of government’s housing plan and delivery systems. And since then, little has been done to translate such objectives into actionable plans. Or clarify processes and opportunities for citizen’s participation in the development and management of social housing in Nigeria.
But before the happiness elicited by the development at Ifiang Ayong could settle, another was up this time around at Obudu Ranch Resort in Obanliku Local Government Area.
Worried by the squalid and deplorable living conditions and abject condition, highlighted by shanties and dilapidations of the host communities of the Obudu Ranch Resort in Obanliku Local Government Area, Cross River State governor, Sir Ben Ayade who was on a one-week working visit to the Obudu Ranch Resort, promised to change their situation with the provision of social housing.
“We are here at the Ranch and when you look to the left and right, what you see in the entire place are the aborigines, the original owners of Obudu Cattle Ranch. “They are relegated to the worst form of human existence; reduced to want, in body, in spirit, in soul and in the most sub-human living conditions with collapsing roofs and huge massive temperatures that run your blood chill and your bones cold.”
And so my government is committed to constructing social housing to change their course and prove to them that God uses humans as a vessel; to make your town and your place look beautiful as well. So, for us as a state, we are committed to exterminating this kind of extreme poverty.
On his one week visit to the Ranch, he disclosed that the visit was meant to give him the opportunity to see things for himself as his administration gets ready to revamp the prime jewel of hospitality in the state.
“I decided to take a guided tour to spend one week with the people to feel their pulse as we prepare to make the Ranch the most attractive centre for visits in Nigeria. I want to see how the citizens, the aborigines have been living side by side with the glaring reality of the luxury of the ranch resort.
In what could be likened to a tale of two cities, Governor Ayade lamented: “It is a shame that where I live which is the presidential Villa is as if am in Europe and just a few minutes walk from there, this is what you find. The contrast is unacceptable to my conscience because I have a background akin to this people and so I understand the feeling. I understand the pain.”
“My performance efficiency should be measured by how much I have lifted people from extreme poverty to comfort not by how many culverts, how many bridges, how many superhighways, how many deep seaports I have built. The real growth is human growth and that is why I do not believe in Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
“I believe in human happiness index. I want to be assessed on the basis of how happy these people are with the onset of me being governor. When I leave office, what will be the difference I have in their lives? Until I make such a difference, I would have failed as governor.”
On his determination to reposition the ranch, Ayade hinted: “Very soon the ranch will be the biggest attraction in this country because we are building an international airport to support the ranch for export of potatoes and export of ornamental flowers.
“So, if we are going to do that, and go into commercial farming in Obudu cattle ranch and industrial tourism, where does that leave the host communities? That is why we are here today to assure them that they have a critical role to play. We had a meeting with the leaders of the community and have assured them that the squalor and the sub-human conditions will be exterminated in the next six months. We will be here and you will see the difference.
“Cross River does not have enough but I care enough to make a difference for them and we surely will as a state.This is my commitment.”
Indeed, this is true justice coming from a man who similar to Pa.Lateef Jakande, loves his people and is passionate about their development. Interestingly also, Ayade in my estimation stands out at the forefront of the crop of patriots wanting the best for his community, state and country, Nigeria.
Utomi is a Lagos-Based Media Consultant. He can be reached on email@example.com.
‘Mr. Thomas Osuji Tells The Greatest Lie About The Igbo’
By Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
I am from Owerri; I think that Igbos behavior has to do with our specific psychology. The Igbo is very competitive. He works for his self, not for the collectivity. He wants to succeed at all costs and does not care about other people. In Igbo society you are rewarded if you work hard and compete and succeed. If you fail you are considered a bush animal (anuohia), a no-body, so every person works hard to succeed and not pay attention to the rest of the people.
Mr. Osuji was born in Lagos, grew up in Lagos except for a few months spent in Owerri during the war. He went back to Lagos immediately after the war and went Lagos primary and high schools and from thence to USA. He probably lived in Igboland for a maximum of four years. And did not get any schooling (primary or secondary) in a school with majority Igbo pupils. And therefore very little street education. His further studies has been mostly science with occasional dabbling is philosophy and religion. But no Igbo studies not even as a hobby.
Having not studied Igbo formally or indirectly by living and going to school with his peers, Mr. Osuji often uses his “common sense” to tell incredible stories about the Igbo. Common Sense can be very much misleading. There are many real things that do not conform to Common Sense. The concept of “Evil Forest” is one example, but more on this at a later paper.
The great lie in the Osuji’s thesis (extract above) is this:
In Igbo society you are rewarded if you work hard and compete and succeed. If you fail you are considered a bush animal (anuohia), a no-body, so every person works hard to succeed and not pay attention to the rest of the people.
It is true that the Igbo society encourages hard work and success and rewards people accordingly. But it is absolutely false that Igbo people do not pay attention to the rest of the people.
The truth is that part of the measure of one’s success in Igbo land is “how much one contributes to the welfare of others”. Here are some proofs:
1. The first young people that went to secondary schools from my town and almost all other towns were sponsored by the Town Improvement Union.
2. Nationwide there was Igbo Improvement Union to take care of those living in faraway places like Kano and Lagos. Igbo Improvement Union (IMU) built and managed schools for every town resident in those faraway places for all Igbo or non-Igbo.
3. Most of the first Igbo university students were sponsored by the town unions or by a wealthy brother, uncle, or cousin of nth degree separation.
4. A successful Igbo merchant in Kano would be expected to take with him many from the village to teach them how to succeed and after several years of apprenticeship will “settle” them. To settle here means give them capital to start on their own.
5. Everywhere you go to in Nigeria one would see clusters of Igbo from one SE town. If you probe further one would see the “Big Brother” that brought them there. This applies to all major cities around the world.
6. A common Igbo title name is “O chili O zua” one who gathers (people) and trains them.
7. Many of the pre-war secondary schools in Igboland were founded by town union. There were levies (taxes) imposed on all able residents (at home and abroad) to fund such projects. Not just schools but also hospitals and Town Halls. In some towns there are age grade projects. It is still going on even in USA and EU.
8. There is a negative side to this. The Igbo is likely to support another Igbo even when the support is not merited. Most corrupt politicians are supported because of their contributions to town projects even when the money comes from the constituent budgets and not from the politician’s pockets.
I suggest that Mr. Osuji should do a little research on Igbo people before accusing them of selfishness. It will help if he would join the prominent Imo Organizations that abound in most US cities or even Owerri town union. He will see the serious competition that goes on as towns try to fund development projects. Of course sometimes a crook gets hold of the fund and the project will not be completed.
The Igbo is one of the most patriotic nations in Nigeria. I can attest to that.
~ Aduba writes from Boston, Massachusetts.
2023: South-East Presidency Or Igbo Presidency?
By SKC Ogbonnia
Since zoning of political offices has become the order of the day in Nigeria, an equitable consensus would follow that Southern Nigeria—the Igbo in particular—will produce the next president of the country, come 2023. But such zoning convention has begun to beg the question: Would the candidacy be open to the entire Igbo nation or would such opportunity be limited to the South-East zone of Nigeria?
The answer is a no brainer: The ticket ought to be open to the entire Igbo nation of the Southern extraction. Here is why.
The proponents of rotational presidency argue that the concept would ensure a sense of belonging among Nigeria’s disparate ethnic groups. Of the three Nigerian major tribes, namely, the Igbo, Hausa-Fulani, and the Yoruba; only the Igbo are yet to lead the country under a democratic setting.
The Igbo nation—that is, people sharing similar heritage, including culture, names, language, and religion—is beyond the South-East zone. But many political pundits understandably like to paint a marginal picture, and the gullible society, the Igbo not excluded, never hesitates to buy the gambit. This distortion has perpetuated because of the fleeting nature of memory in the Nigerian state, where true history has been tabooed.
Besides Igbo indigenous communities in other states; the Ohaneze Ndigbo, the umbrella Igbo socio-cultural group, is a seven-state structure, denoting areas with sizeable Igbo population, namely: Abia, Anambra, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, and Rivers states. The key offices are also distributed and rotated among the member states.
For example, while the current President General of Ohaneze, Barrister John Nwodo, is from Enugu State of South-East zone, the General Secretary (Barrister Uche Okwukwu) and Vice- President General (Dr. Sylvanus O. Ebigwei) hail from the South-South states of Rivers and Delta, respectively. Needless to mention that Ambassador Ralph Uwechue, an indigene of Delta State, was the Ohaneze President-General between 2009 and 2013.
A defining muddle is that, of the seven Ohaneze states, only Delta and Rivers are in the South-South zone. The implication is that the Igbo indigenous communities have found themselves in the minority among the ethnic nationalities that make up the South-South zone. Therefore, if the presidency is to be zoned based on the existing six zone-structure of Nigeria, a South-South Igbo of this generation cannot realistically aspire to lead the country, his or her credentials notwithstanding.
The foregoing hypothesis was tested in 2007 when the South-South zone lobbied for the presidency. The South-South Igbo, remember, were told in unmistakable terms to explore such ambition whenever it is the turn of their kith and kin in the South-East.
It is on such backdrop that Pa Edwin Clark, the Leader of the South-South zone, made the infamous (or rather the rational) statement that Dr. Peter Odili, a former governor of Rivers state, had no moral right to encroach on the turn of the zone. Even though Mr. Odili was arguably the most compelling presidential aspirant of in the 2007 electoral season, he was blackballed mainly because of his Igbo heritage.
The South-South Igbo must not be allowed to suffer a double political whammy. Having been sidelined by their South-South neighbors in 2007, based on ethnic orientation, it behooves the South-East Igbo to accommodate their kith and kin in the race for the 2023 presidency.
Make no mistake about this: The South-East is the only zone in Southern Nigeria that is yet to produce a democratically elected president. Therefore, embarking on the presidential project solely through prism of the South-East can be superficially plain. But the Igbo must be careful not to tempt a pyrrhic victory.
Politics is a game of number. We can take a cue from the political genius of our Hausa-Fulani counterparts. Despite their vastly disparate ethnic origins, the Fulani and the Hausa groups in the three Northern zones have molded into a seemingly homogeneous political block. It is not surprising, therefore, that they show a united front in the different political parties whenever it is the turn of the North to produce the president.
Though the North-West zone has dominated over the years, the people go the extra mile to ensure that the inherent zoning arrangement does not foreclose the aspirations of the Hausa or Fulani-speaking people from the North-East. That is how recent doyens of the North-East politics, such as Adamu Ciroma, Bamanga Tukur, Atiku Abubakar, and Nuhu Ribadu, were able to mount respectable presidential bids.
Broadening the Igbo political map is a win-win. It will offer Nigerians a larger pool of aspirants to choose from. Besides a galaxy of presidential aspirants from the South-East, it would also address the aspirations of the South-South Igbo, particularly those in their prime, for example, Patrick Utomi, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Ifeanyi Okowa, Tony Elumelu, Peter Odili, Mike Okiro, Chibuike Amaechi, and Nyesom Wike, to name a few.
Unity is power. A united Igbo front has a better chance of winning the zoning debate, to begin with. Further, a Nigerian presidential project anchored through the entire Igbo nation has the potential to unite the people towards common purpose. It can halt the defeatist trajectory of postwar politics and de-Igbonization policy of successive national governments, which have combined to fracture the Igbo unity to the point where some never hesitate to deny their Igbo heritage either for post-war survival or in exchange of political porridge. It can equally instill commonsense to those who use mere political affiliations or boundaries to assume superior Igbo heritage over the others.
Igbo bu Igbo! The hint is that the South-East and South-South Igbo share a common destiny in the Nigerian experience. And they ought to share good fortunes, as they did past misfortunes. For instance, the South-East Igbo bore (or have continued to bear) the brunt of the first Nigeria coup, led by Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, a South-South Igbo. Similarly, the South-South Igbo were not spared by the actions of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, a South-East Igbo, who led the Biafran war. The bond between the two Igbo groups is not lost in the fact that they have sustained similar voting patterns in national elections, despite postwar feuds, orchestrated by successive national governments.
A Nigerian president of Igbo extraction will not only heal the wounds of the past, it is also a bold step in harnessing the country’s abundant potential towards the greater good. It is an opportunity for equity and justice. It is an opportunity to assuage the long-standing distrust against Igbo-speaking people of Nigeria. It is a profound opportunity for the Igbo to reverse the downward spiral of distrust created among themselves by artificial post-civil war boundaries.
~ Dr. SKC Ogbonnia, a former presidential aspirant, writes from Ugbo, Awgu, Enugu State
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