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Opinion

BIAFRA, KANU AND NIGERIA

Senator Enyinaya Abaribe

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~Sen. Enyinaya Abaribe

Enyinnaya Abaribe, is a Nigerian Senator representing Abia South Senatorial District who signed the bail bond for the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu when the later was incarcerated. Recently in Mississippi, USA, he delivered a speech on Igbos and Nigeria. Every Igbo who is concerned about the present state of the Igbo man, and the future of our people should see this as a must read. We invite you to read as presented below:

What I will say here today may come as a surprise to many of you. For those that I will rub the wrong way, I apologize in advance.

However, “NDIGBO si na owu onye nke mmadu na ghu ya ahu na agbata ukwu”. If I fail to say the truth about the existential challenges that we face today in our country Nigeria, and how we believe we should face them, then I would not be true to myself and to you who sent me to represent you in the red chamber.

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From the Past to Today

1970

We can situate our position today following the end of the civil war in 1970. Igbo’s in 1970 were impoverished having lost an estimated 3 Million Igbo souls in the war, with a ruined and destroyed landscape and infrastructure. Every Igbo man/woman with savings in the banks before the outbreak of hostilities were pauperized as the military government decreed that one would only get 20 pounds notwithstanding the amount you had. The indigenization decree was passed in 1972 and no Igbo could participate since all had been reduced to penury.

2017

Today the Igbo have the largest pool of educated Nigerians. In 2007, Imo State had more subscribers to the JAMB UTME exams than the 19 Northern States put together. In 2017, 56% of of NYSC members are from the South East. Our feat in education means that we now have the army to win the war of competition in a market driven economy. Since 1999, the south east states have been the best in all exams.

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The largest group of direct domestic investors in Nigeria are from the south east. Igbo investments in property in Abuja alone probably has more than any other ethnic group. We are the most travelled in Nigeria. In all parts of Nigeria after the indigenous population, Igbo’s are the next largest group. We are the largest propertied class of all ethnic groups in Nigeria and despite all this confusion, we have grown the most economically since the inception of the current democracy in Nigeria. We have the richest and largest pool of Nigeria diaspora population.

Taking an example of Lagos state, Ndigbo form a large proportion of the economy of the state. We created the following from nothing;
Computer Village in Ikeja. Ladipo Spare Parts market. Alaba Electronic Market. Balogun Int’l Market.
Balogun (Trade Fair) International Market. Aspamda market in Festac.
Orile Market for house fittings & appliances etc.

All second hand clothing markets in Lagos. About 4 markets. The combined turnover daily of these markets run into billions daily. Lagos state benefits by collecting taxes and now its economy contributes 56% of all VAT collected in Nigeria. Above scenario is replicated in most big cities in Nigeria. Go to Kano, Port Harcourt, Benin City, Kaduna, Sokoto, not to talk of Abuja. Ndigbo are very large players in the economy of all parts of Nigeria. I will return to this.

*The ALLURE of BIAFRA*

So the question is, given all the advantages that we as Ndigbo have in Nigeria, why the clamour by our youths and others for a separate state of Biafra?

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The present agitation in the South East for a sovereign state of Biafra seems very tempting under the prevailing circumstance given the manifest sectional approach to governance at the center. To some especially the youth and the disadvantaged it is the way to go and when viewed critically you cannot help but to agree with the agitators. Of a truth there is an obvious feeling of alienation within the Nigerian state today. But has this always been the case? Apart from the civil war and the pernicious policies of the military regimes, we have not fared badly during civil rule until presently.

Given that following the civil war, there seemed to have been a glass ceiling in certain professions in Nigeria where it looked as if Igbo should not aspire to. In the police, military etc. But we can posit this as the lingering effects of the war where the victor in a war finds it very difficult to fully integrate the other party they fought with into all areas. In the US for example, I understand that it took a very long time for someone from the southern part of the US several decades after the civil war which they lost to break the stranglehold of the north for the presidency of the US. (Correct me if I’m wrong).

But come to think of it, Dr Alex Ekwueme became the Vice President of Nigeria barely 9 years after the civil war. The glass ceiling was on its way to being broken! The military interregnum from 1993 led by the same Muhammadu Buhari put a hold on this. In the US, Germany, Japan and other climes deliberate policies were used by governments to build stronger ties among groups and opposing tendencies. This helped to forge a bond within their nations. Nigeria seemed to think that a policy of benign neglect will resolve our problems. Of course it didn’t and that’s why we are seeing a resurgence of separatist agitation going on all over the country.

Fast forward to the civil rule era starting from 1999. Nobody would accuse Presidents Obasanjo, late Yar’adua, or Jonathan of what seemed like sectionalism as state policy. A look at the pattern of appointments by President Obasanjo evinced the fact of an all inclusive government from all parts of the country. Same as President Yar’adua. President Jonathan took it a step further by appointing the first Igbo chief of army staff, first Igbo secretary to the federal government, coordinating minister for the economy etc. In fact, one of the criticisms we face today in Nigeria is to explain why should this agitation for separation be under President Buhari when it was not done under the previous administration? However, that criticism is not true. Recall that under President Obasanjo and Yar’adua there was Massob which was managed much better than today.

However, you will recall that when this government came into place, President Buhari went to the US where he made a most unfortunate statement that was widely condemned at that time. He reportedly said that he doesn’t need to bother about the 5% that didn’t vote for him but will rather concern himself with the 97% that voted for him. I had at the time the statement was made raised concern that such declaration from an elected President sounds discriminatory and may create the impression that our elected President Buhari is sending a message to those who didn’t vote for him that he will be partial in his decision making. Unfortunately, it seems also that the people who are in and around the president didn’t advise him properly.

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They left him to make appointments and take decisions that gave the impression that there are some parts of the country that are not supposed to be part of Nigeria. Little wonder that our youths feeling left out and not having anything to give them hope in Nigeria, started believing that a separate country would be better. But I say it is NOT. I will come to this later.

I recall that in November of 2016, after seeing how things were going, the South East caucus of the Senate sought for and got an appointment with the President Buhari. Our discussion centered on the south East perception of not being part of this administration thereby giving rise to our people feeling disconnected from the government. We pointed out that it should be a cause for concern if a major part of the country is not represented in the security architecture of the country in addition to other critical sectors from the inception of the administration. We were promised that our concerns would be looked into. Sadly, this was not done till today.

Our country Nigeria is supposed to be for inclusion; for making sure that everyone makes his or her input into its affairs. Allowing such fairness and equity to prevail in a plural society like ours will make us a bigger and better nation. Today that is not the case. Either as a deliberate act as it seems or a willful omission geared towards achieving a pre-determined goal, Ndigbo have been pushed to the fringes of the Nigerian Union in so many ways by the present government. The unfortunate scenario is enough for one to ask the hypothetical question….why am I here?

WHAT ALTERNATIVES

As much as the music of separatism stirs the soul, one must ask the question; Is relapsing into a sovereign state of Biafra the optimum option or is it a restructuring of the state such that all the federating units would have greater autonomy in the mould of a near quasi self determination the better option? When these two options are posed; a sovereign state of Biafra or restructured Nigeria, the position of most Nigerians as of today is for the latter.

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Apart from the problem of even determining the boundaries of the state of Biafra and the multifarious and multifaceted problems a simplistic solution such as Biafra poses, perhaps it makes more sense for those who have tasted war to be a little more discerning when matters affecting their race comes up in Nigeria. Nigerians have been known to come together to use the Igbo head to break coconuts (apologies to late Abiola). Despite the problems that befell the Yoruba race following the annulment of the June 12 elections, they didn’t seek to break out out of Nigeria despite some of them calling for an Oduduwa country. They simply used the sympathies of other Nigerians to create an economic haven for themselves which has led to massive relocation of industries by all Nigerians to Lagos and Ogun States. They also got the Presidency of Nigeria.

Our brothers from the Niger Delta have not sought to go away either. They also got the Presidency of Nigeria. However we seem to be in the unfortunate position of seeming to drag the Niger Delta into a Biafra unwanted by them. The agitation for Biafra and how it was being prosecuted by IPOB has rather elicited hate and disdain for our people from other ethnic groups notwithstanding that they may have been nursing such tendencies. The agitation as championed by IPOB somehow gave muscle to traditional traducers of Ndigbo to spew out hate and envious vituperations. This was exemplified by the October 1st quit notice given to Igbos to leave the North by the so-called Arewa youths which persons are yet to be arrested for hate speech and breaching the law. They claimed to be responding to our own hate speeches etc.

Indeed, other people seem to want to see us fall into the trap for them to use us to solve their own problems with Nigeria. That notwithstanding, we as political leaders from the South East were unequivocal in asserting that that the rights of Ndigbo to peaceful and democratic engagements must be respected. On this score we made it clear that no amount of threat will cow Ndigbo from consistently demanding for an equitable, fair and just society within the Nigerian State. We also cautioned our youths on their vituperative calls and employed the Igbo concept of “bu uzo chu fuo Ufu, tutu ta wa Okuko uta”! This of course was misunderstood by other Nigerians as support rather than constructive engagement.

WHY NOT BIAFRA?

We believe that the best way to go given our situation today is to look before we leap. We must not be pushed to abandon our huge contribution to the modern Nigerian state. As we pointed out in the beginning of this paper, Ndigbo have been the single ethnic group that have welded the country Nigeria together given our way of life as sojourners everywhere in Nigeria, West Africa, Africa and the world. I dare say that we make up to 50% or more of Nigerians in the US. The question is why would we look to confine ourselves to a small landlocked entity when we have the whole of Nigeria to cavort in?

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I have deliberately left out of this discussion the practical impossibility of even getting our brothers from the Niger Delta to go with us in this quest. Not to talk of the Idoma or the Kogi that we insist are part of us.
One thing seems to elude our people when these questions are posed. We look at the determination of the present government to treat us dismissively and feel that it is well nigh an impossible task to get our wish for a just society but we fail to look at the historical evidence before us.

When the 97% vs 5% controversy erupted, I told our people that my people the Ngwa says that “Ohu afor abughi ndu ebighi ebi”. Governments come and go. PDP government lost election and quit the stage for this APC government. Who says they cannot also lose? Why are we then acting as if it’s the end of the world? The maximum any government can stay is two term totaling 8years. “Obughi ndu ebighi ebi”!

Restructuring is an idea whose time has come and it will happen.
Biafra should be a last option, only after every other avenue to realize a restructured Nigeria where every component part is allowed a measure of autonomy and self determination fails. Let me state here that if the dominant views in Nigeria is for restructuring, then that should be the minimum that Ndigbo should demand, so that every component part of this country can substantially harness its resources and develop at its own pace.

Do not forget that the breached Aburi accord was about restructuring and today this call has garnered overwhelming momentum even from quarters that hitherto opposed it. Just recently former President Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and lately Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and a host of others have joined the fray. Restructuring has become a singsong which we must explore vigorously. Even the ruling APC has set up a committee led by Governor el-Rufai to bring about a considered view on it. Forget the fact that it was part of their manifesto. The fact is that the discussion is on, as it should be.

I recall that in August, the Igbo political elite, Ohaneze, Governors, National Assembly Caucus met in Enugu and affirmed that the terms of our marriage in Nigeria is stifling to everybody and therefore we must have another look at it. That position has not changed but has in fact been reinforced by the agreement by other parts of Nigeria that it is time to look at the matter as evidenced by the South West Political Summit where they endorsed restructuring back to the 1963 constitution.

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To me the strident calls by IPOB for a referendum should be seen as a legitimate demand to compel the state to see the urgency of having a second look at our marriage, with the ultimate aim of enthroning equity and fairness, where our people will no longer be treated as second class citizens in Nigeria. Though the methods may be misconstrued, the true colour of the agitation would have come out had there been a concerted effort at dialogue. The agitations gives fillip to the Igbo idiom…”Ma Opara emeghi nkpotu, agaghi ilughi ya Nwanyi “.

Our people are saying this union is stifling us, and we are making a lot of noise so we can find a solution.
The solution I think can be found in a restructured Nigeria. The beauty of it is that while we can enjoy near wholesale autonomy, our people as itinerant business people could have an unrestrained space in a larger market provided by a united Nigeria.

We should not be swayed by what we think is the attraction of an exclusive opportunity to be provided by a sovereign Biafra. No. That would box us into a tiny corner which has its own challenges which would prove overwhelming as time goes on. This is a topic for another day.

DIASPORA IGBOS AND US

One of the problems those of us who attempt to show a direction to our people at home is the near universal disdain that some of our brother Ndigbo in Diaspora have for our leaders and elected representatives at home. Nowhere is it more apposite than in this matter of Biafra agitation. While some of our brothers/sisters here in the comfort of their homes seems to urge our youths through their utterances and actions to use unconstitutional means and disparage other ethnic groups that which actions seems to alienate us from our neighbors and the Nigerian State, we the leaders at home have been been left with the task of intervening in such a manner to dissuade the government from deploying the coercive instruments of state against the agitators. The aim was to stop bloodshed and waste of human lives. We have lost enough from the civil war. Those egging our youths on from here do not seem to appreciate this fact.

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Most distressing is the labeling of those who disagree with their positions as “cowards, saboteurs, Hausa slaves etc”. This tends to discourage those who genuinely strive to lead our people through a very distressing period in our history as a nation.

Nnia Nwodo as President of Ohaneze has been vilified for taking a stand for restructuring in Nigeria for Ndigbo, a position agreed by all of us in the earlier summit I referenced. Governors come in for bashing everyday. As for us legislators, we have been called all sorts of names such as ‘legislooters’ etc.

Yet, when it came to taking a stand at ground zero, to bail Kanu; to reject the Federal Government ascribing Terrorism to IPOB, we are the people doing so and we never hesitated to say that agitation in every clime is constitutional. We take the bullets from other ethnic groups and the government for standing firm and demanding that Nigerians should be left to talk to each other about the best way forward without preconditions. We would use this opportunity plead with our internet warriors who stay here in their comfort zone here that our Igbo say, “ma Opara nzuzu adighi nwuo, Opara ma izu aga beghi ibichi ezi”.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

Why are we not Investing at Home.

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Lack of Infrastructure.

Should we continue to blame the Federal Government for the dilapidated infrastructures in Ala Igbo? What of our home governments in Igbo States? Sam Mbakwe of blessed memory did not wait for the Federal Government before undertaking massive rebuilding of old IMO State. We think that we have not given our best to our people with the little we got.

Insecurity

Nowhere have we hurt ourselves and investment in Ala Igbo than in the insecurity pervading all parts of our homeland. Of course the latest imbroglio in Abia especially in Aba and Umuahia has worsened matters. We run the risk of undoing all the efforts made in promoting ‘made in Aba’ that we had embarked on as a catalyst for growth in Ala Igbo. Industries have relocated from Ala Igbo to other parts of Nigeria especially Lagos and Ogun States because of the very serious insecurity such as kidnappining and armed robbery faced by those who invest at home. We cannot be looking for investors and yet make our place not conducive to investment.

Unemployment

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Unemployment is the single biggest problem we have in Ala Igbo today. Before this time due to our domestic investments and industry, this was not a very big problem but due to the dis-investment going on today in Ala Igbo today we are faced with a existential problem in our hand. Diaspora Igbo’s have to assist us to also invest at home despite the problems and reduce the unemployment in Ala Igbo. Once we get Ala Igbo right the frustrations that fuel the agitation in ala Igbo will be dampened. What we have playing out in the world today is a knowledge economy. Oil is going out of fashion. As I pointed out earlier, we are poised through our educational exploits in Nigeria to dominate the economy of tomorrow. Why would we turn a blind eye to this emerging scenario?

In ending let me quote what the great son of Igbo land, the great Zik of Africa said about himself:

“Despite the mythic heights to which he was raised, Azikiwe was nothing if not pragmatic, a realist, always conscious of his limits and ever eager to extract all that was possible from that limited horizon”. May we be guided by such humble thoughts as we seek a better Nigeria for us all. What we should look for is a BIAFRA of the MIND like some have suggested in order to play our role in the emerging Nigeria that will come.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Gillis Onyeabor

    June 21, 2021 at 7:30 pm

    My favorite quotes from this.

    “Indeed, other people seem to want to see us fall into the trap for them to use us to solve their own problems with Nigeria.”

    “We cannot be looking for investors and yet make our place not conducive to investment.”

    How about filani herdsmen, our farmlands, forests, raped women snd murdered men?

    • Admin

      June 22, 2021 at 9:06 pm

      My brother Gillis you got it right. I believe that the Igbo will lead this nation but we only need to re-strategize.

    • Admin

      July 15, 2021 at 8:51 pm

      Thank you for this thought-provoking response Moe.

  2. Chijioke Ogbodo

    June 22, 2021 at 7:31 am

    A long read but very interesting. This is exactly the way to go.

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Opinion

“JUSTICE RREFLECTS PUBLIC OPINION”

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By Abraham Ogbodo

I have known Dr. Reuben Abati almost from the cradle. We were not only in the same university but the same department. When he was leaving University of Calabar in 1985, he had in his bag, all the prime prizes. The best graduating student of the University which meant he was also best in the Department of Theatre Arts and the Faculty of Arts. I can therefore say without fear of being contradicted that he is not pretentious. He is brilliant; intellectually loaded to the brim. He left two years ahead of me which does not in any way suggest he is older. He was apparently faster and more brilliant. His law degree at the Lagos State University was a latter day addition after he had earned his PhD from the University of Ibadan and in fact already on the Editorial Board of The Guardian Newspaper.

  Of late however, Dr Abati has been projecting rather too forcefully his legal background on the Morning Show programme on Arise TV which he co-anchors with two others. He gets tutorial and even magisterial as he pushes through all the fine points of law when occasion calls for it. He was at his best last Friday following the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the election of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the February 25 presidential election and dismissal of the appeals of the PDP and LP candidates, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Mr. Peter Obi the day before.

  Altogether, Abati sounded as if law is not also common sense. As if procedural law is sacrosanct and no matter the weight of evidence, a procedure cannot be overtaken to lay substantive claims or facts. He was a kind of saying the law is independent of truth and even if justice is not served in the process but the law is duly followed, the outcome should be applauded to high heavens. This is taking the Realist School of Jurisprudence too far. The school that says law does not have to go on an endless excursion for meaning beyond what the court says. It is best captured in the words of American jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes that: “The prophesies of what the courts will do and nothing more pretentious are what I mean by the law.”

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  It amounts to open acceptance of the tyranny of the court, however, on the fundamental assumption that the operating and human agent in the court system is rational and far from being a tyrant. That way, the court for instance, will not say crime, without punishment, should be statue-barred or vitiated by the mere passage of time and a very short time for that matter. Such is the consolation and indeed the intention of the realist school. It was not propounded to lead the court into a web of legalese and reverse its very essence as the temple of justice.

  If I may ask, what is law if it does not serve the purpose of justice or the hopes of the people? No jurisprudence aspires higher than the aspirations of the people or subordinates justice and morality to law. Law itself fails woefully if it only massages the intellect and ceases to be an instrument for social justice. The Supreme Court in any legal system is beyond reproach. It can only fine tune itself. Beyond it, no legal arguments stand. Its role in jurisprudence is enormous and it does not include the convenience of hiding behind procedural infractions to obfuscate substantive law and justice. On the contrary, the Supreme Court is remarked for its boldness to rise up to the exigency of changing the position of the law to serve justice and the hopes of society.

  The strongest reference point in jurisprudence today, Lord Alfred Thompson Denning, did not ascend that height by just running with extant codes. Real jurists are defined by their audacity to push the frontiers of substantive law and morality to enrich Jurisprudence. They do not mark time forever upholding the law even when the law has become anachronistic and a clear affliction to society. Needless to say that the majesty of law is its inherent dynamism to translate to justice. For, in truth and as noted by Lord Denning; “law is not an end in itself but a means to achieving a fair and harmonious society.” It is also not some technical game to be manipulated for personal advantages by experts but a “force to be applied with wisdom and compassion” by the sitting judge to serve society.  

  I also heard Dr. Abati saying public opinion does not matter in law. Really? The thing about law is that it is 110 per cent intellectual intimidation and posturing. Whoever holds the high end in sheer sophistry and pedantry also stands on a high ground in real advocacy. Whereas the law may have just an intention, what makes it an interesting practice is the near infinite capacity of its practitioners to create intentions and intrigues to detract from the real intention.  From where does common law, including written and codified law, derive if law is so insulated from its human setting.

The truth is that such legal maxims can only stand firm if other things remain equal. If in any context the ratio decidendi , that is, the reason for the judgment, repudiates facts and common sense and instead celebrates methodology or even mediocrity, public opinion will rise irrepressibly like the morning sun whether you like it or not. The position is that public opinion matters and there had been reviews of case laws on the strength of public opinions alone. For instance, the M’Naghten Rule which set the test for the defence of insanity in criminal responsibility, especially in a murder charge, was forced by public opinion.

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  The views of Dr. Abati were to receive huge validation by Chief Robert Clarke (SAN) who was on the Arise TV Morning Show programme last Frday to specifically discuss the Supreme Court’s decision of the previous day. Abati must have felt within himself like the first and only winner of the Nobel Prize in Jurisprudence as Papa Clarke loaded him with encomiums for a job well done. The only additional point made by the old lawyer was the call for the reordering of the statutory frame work so that elections can be decided by the electorate in the polling booths and not in court rooms by judges. Excellent point I must say.

  As God would have it, while Abati and the old lawyer were in the television studio engaged in a rigorous post-ruling advocacy to dress up the Supreme Court, an old Judge, Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad who retired after 36 years on the bench, 11 of which were spent in the Supreme Court, was reading his valedictory speech to dress down the Supreme. Details of the speech are too heavy to fit into this purpose. It is important to note that Justice Dattijo is more than just an eye witness. He was an active participant. He was the second longest serving Justice of the Apex court and next to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Olukayode Ariwoola. The balance of probabilities tilt heavily in his favour.

  It was like the Supreme Court was put on trial in the court of public opinion and while Abati and the old lawyer appeared for the Supreme Court (I will resist using ‘defendant’), old judge appeared for aggrieved Nigerians. The thesis and antithesis are in search for a synthesis. The verdict lies both in history and posterity. GMTNews

_Abraham Ogbodo started his journalism career in 1989 in The Guardian Newspaper. Retired in 2019 as the Editor of the paper after 30 years of reporting across subject matters. He has been in private business since retirement. He is member of the Governing Board of Cecilia and Michael Ibru University, Agbarha-Otor_.

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Opinion

Good Signals from Akwa Ibom

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Pastor Umo Eno

By C. Don Adinuba

In the most cited line from his 1983 book, The Trouble With Nigeria, Chinua Achebe, raconteur, novelist, and thinker, declared that Nigeria’s problem is the leadership which, unable to rise to the true challenges of national development, cannot provide inspiring examples to followers. Achebe’s assertion was in line with the thinking of most researchers of that era. In the last few years, however, some scholars have come to think that Africa’s problem is actually societal rather than just leadership. In a scintillating 2008 academic article, Larry Diamond of Stanford University, one of the leading lights on democracy research, argued that followers of African leaders do not disapprove of the sacrilege committed by their leaders but rather support it out of primordial solidarity; some benefit directly from the system.

Still, the primacy of leadership anywhere in inspiring the confidence of the people, in setting a development agenda, and in defining a moral climate for the larger society based on a regime of sanctions and rewards cannot be overlooked. Africans generally, however, have a fundamentally flawed view of leadership, whether in the private or the public sector. They see leadership from the royalty prism, equating with it bigmanism and all manner of ostentation. Our leaders are expected by society to wear fancy, flowing clothes with big caps and expensive bangles and trinkets, and move in long and expensive motorcades, with large contingents of praise singers, as well as security and protocol officers—all at public expense!

That’s why we are delighted to see something different coming from Akwa Ibom State. The new governor, Umo Eno, flies Ibom Air, rather than use the existing state government-owned private jet. This is in contrast to the practice of most of his contemporaries who consider it infra dig to travel by commercial planes, even when the Singaporean prime minister travels always by commercial flights, to say nothing about Scandinavian leaders who frequently fly budget airlines or use the economy class in overseas trips.

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In his famous memoir, From the Third World to First: The Story of Singapore Since 1965, Lee Kuan Yew, arguably the most important transformative leader since the Second World War, expresses shock that African rulers attended the 1980 Commonwealth Summit in Ottawa, Canada, with their presidential jets. To exacerbate matters, they were asking for aid for their countries from such foreign leaders as the United Kingdom prime minister who arrived by commercial airlines. African rulers appropriate more and more for themselves even when the resources of their countries are depleting fast.

Leaders who are so callously selfish are referred to in modern social science theory as operating the self-protective leadership style, a term coined in 2004 when 97 social scientists from 62 cultures led by (the late) Robert House of Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania produced a path-breaking book on the effects of cultural values on leadership styles across the world. In his excellent book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap, and Some Don’t, Jim Collins, formerly a Standford Business School professor, shows that American organisations which indulged in this practice in the 1980s performed suboptimally—some actually crumbled. Any wonder why Nigeria and the rest of Africa are in a development morass?

I was pleasantly surprised to watch on television Governor Umo hold the umbrella while speaking to people when it was drizzling. The umbrella could have been handed over to his aide de camp (ADC), orderly, or any of the numerous security and protocol officers which every Nigerian governor has. But he was making a point: leadership is about service, and not lording it over your people. The leader has to serve, and not to be served (Matthew 20: 28). Servant leadership is now a buzzword, but in Africa, it is observed more in the breach. Servant leadership is about humility; it is taken straight from the New Testament where Jesus Christ chose to wash the feet of his apostles instead of the other way (See John 3: 1-5).

If only Africans knew that the most successful leaders are frequently the simplest and the humblest, former Delta State governor James Ibori would not have chosen the jawbreaking but meaningless sobriquet of Odidigborigbo of Africa. Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of Congo would not have elected to be known as the Redeemer of his people. Nor would Idi Amin of Uganda, a barely literate person, have announced himself the head of the political science department at Makerere University, in addition to making himself a field marshall. Bola Tinubu would not have allowed about 100 blackened SUVs to accompany him from Lagos Aiport to his residence in Ikoyi, a distance of only 28 kilometres, at a time of extreme economic difficulties. Nigerians will always miss Donald Duke, Lateef Jakande, and Babatunde Fashola in public office.

He may not have coined the term, but Steve Jobs, co-founder and chairman of Apple Incorporated, one of the most admired and storied firms in recent decades, popularised the idea that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. In his absorbing book entitled The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation, Jay Elliot, the human resource and operations team lead at Apple, reveals how Jobs wanted an atmosphere at Apple where any of the 100,000 staff members worldwide could approach him in the office without going through the secretary!

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Jobs was so obsessed with simplicity that iPad, which he invented, could be operated within minutes by an illiterate Colombian teenager who had never touched a computer, as reported in Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Jobs’ critical biographer who is a history professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, after working as editor in chief of Time magazine and serving as president of the Aspen Institute, a think tank in Washington, DC. The simplicity of Apple products is a chief reason why Apple has hypnotised the world. Simplicity (and humility) is not just personal virtue but also critical management and leadership requirement.

Governor Eno says he is on a mission to demystify leadership. It is a noble enterprise. But he doesn’t need uniformed security around him. He needs to learn from Anambra State Governor Chukwuma Soludo. There are no security officers in uniform around foreign leaders who are, of course, far better protected than African rulers. All the same, signals from Akwa Ibom State so far are encouraging.

At the recent development conference in Uyo, Eno chose the best from different parts of Nigeria, regardless of their political, sectional, or religious affiliations, to participate in it. Bart Nnaji from Enugu State, a globally renowned engineering professor and chairman of the Geometric Power group whose only one-year tenure as the Minister of Power remains Nigeria’s gold standard, chaired the breakout session on power and is now assisting the state with an electricity development roadmap.

There is still hope for Nigeria. GMTNews

Adinuba, the immediate past Commissioner for Information & Public Enlightenment in Anambra State, is head of Discovery Public Affairs Consulting, Lagos.

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Opinion

Re-awakening Africa in an Era of Resurgence of Coup d’etat: A Call for Leadership, Integrity, and Progress – Chijioke Ogbodo

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Introduction:

In the heart of Africa lies a diverse continent abundant with resources, culture, and vibrant communities. However, hidden beneath its surface are deep-rooted challenges that continue to hinder its growth and progress. Today, we stand at a critical juncture, urging African countries and their leaders to wake up, shun corruption, and take back their countries. It is time for a self-awakening, a collective movement that fights despotism and confronts the numerous ills that bedevil Africa. This call for change aims to rally citizens, leaders, and communities, fostering a future of hope, integrity, and sustained progress.

The Re-awakening of Africa:

Africa’s history is rich with stories of resilience and triumphs in the face of adversity. However, standing on the present horizon is the continuous struggle against corruption, poor governance, and despotism. It is time for African countries and their leaders to awaken from the clutches of these destructive forces, as these acts only serve to undermine the progress that could be realized. By acknowledging the urgency of this call to wake up, we can pave the way for a brighter future that embraces integrity, transparency, and true leadership.

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Shunning Corruption and Embracing Accountability:

Corruption, like a cancer, has spread throughout many African countries, stifling development, hindering investment, and eroding public trust. It is essential for African leaders to demonstrate a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption, ensuring accountability and enforcing strict penalties for those who engage in such practices. By shunning corruption, African countries will create an environment conducive to economic growth, attracting local and foreign investors and enabling sustainable development for present and future generations.

Fighting Despotism and Upholding Democratic Values:

Despotism and autocratic rule pose immense threats to Africa’s progress. It is crucial for leaders to understand that true power lies in serving their citizens, respecting human rights, and upholding democratic principles. By fostering inclusive governance, enabling freedom of speech, and ensuring fair and transparent elections, African countries can stand strong against despotic tendencies, guaranteeing lasting peace and stability.

Confronting the Ills Bedevilling Africa:

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To achieve real change, African countries must confront the ills that plague them. This calls for addressing issues such as poverty, lack of access to quality education and healthcare, gender inequality, and regional conflicts. By prioritizing these challenges, African leaders can develop comprehensive strategies that empower their citizens and create a platform for upward mobility. Collaboration within and between African countries, as well as partnerships with the international community, will be crucial in overcoming these ills and achieving sustainable development.

A Future of Hope, Integrity, and Progress:

Awakening Africa requires a collective effort; it demands the commitment of citizens, leaders, and communities to create lasting change. The potential of this diverse continent is immense, waiting to be fully harnessed for the benefit of all. By waking up, shunning corruption, and fighting despotism, African countries can embark on a journey towards a future defined by hope, integrity, and progress. Together, we can overcome the challenges that bedevil Africa, allowing its true potential to shine and uplifting the lives of its people.

Conclusion:

The call to awaken Africa is a call to action. It is time for African leaders to take ownership, reject corruption and despotic tendencies, and work towards the collective well-being of their nations. By confronting the challenges head-on, fostering transparency, and upholding democratic values, Africa can pave the path towards a future that is free from corruption, characterized by true leadership, and filled with boundless opportunities for growth and prosperity. GMTNews

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Chijioke Ogbodo, former OAP and broadcast journalist, is the Managing Editor with GMTNewsng.

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