Category Archives: Ogbuagu Anikwe

Ogbuagu is the immediate past Enugu State Commissioner for Information. He is a highly experienced media editor & manager, and a strategic communication consultant.

Osinachi and her Igbo marriage

Let’s talk religion, and thereafter interrogate the actions of late Mrs Osinachi Nwachukwu in relation to her Igbo marriage.

Osinachi is another example of how we crucify justice, truth and compassion in the country. But at the end of the day, she won, and we lost.

Ogbuagu Anikwe

The late gospel singer qualified to be called and addressed as nwa Jesus. Ndigbo brand Christians who genuinely strive to be holy and upright as nwa Jesus  (son or daughter of Jesus). The tag is a fulsome praise for folks living exemplary lifestyles anchored on Christian ethics. Nevertheless, Ndigbo equally use the tag as a backhanded salute to the hypocritical who seek to impress with hollow displays of piety. In Osinachi’s case, Nwa-Jesus is positive praise for this God-fearing woman ‘martyred’ during the Holy Season of Lent in 2022.

Her life and death mirror that of Jesus Christ in many ways. Her suffering and death also reflect her name. Loosely translated, Osinachi means “destiny” In Igbo. It is a declaration that who we are and what we become are subject to God’s will. Thus, humans experience things in life to fulfil a purpose. Instinctively, she saw it as her destiny to suffer. Marriage became the cross and crucifixion that she bore with equanimity. This is why, in a sense, her death looks like pre-ordained martyrdom.

Viewing her passage from this window of martyrdom opens a world of parallels between hers and the life of Christ. Because death happened during the holy season of lent, characters that witnessed to her death assumed biblical associations. The characters are all of us, who are spouses, pastors and relations in marriages.

Biblical Actors

Spouses are central characters in a marriage setting. Spouses that abuse their partners are the Pharisees and High Priests of our time. They have antiquated philosophies of what it means for two persons to come together as partners in marriage. In different Christian denominations, separation and divorce attract terrible consequences for the female partner. Some have suggested, for instance, that if Osinachi separated from her husband or asked for divorce, her career would crash . This was how one member of her sect explained it to me:

“No Pentecostal church will invite a separated singer or divorcee to perform at their events. What kind of message would we be sending if we allowed that? She knew this consequence. It explains why she begged everyone not to trigger an action that potentially leads to separation or divorce.”

Wives, like floormats

I have heard more than one pastor preach about husband-wife relationships and the role of the wife in that relationship. Listening to Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, for instance, the wife can as well be a foot mat for the man to step on. Again, most churches preach against divorce. But there are nuances in their approach to divorce and separation that differentiate the Christian denominations. This is a subject for another day.

For our purposes here, let’s leave it said that Osinachi’s pastors carried on like Pontius Pilate on the matter of her avoidable death. They washed their hands by pretending not to be aware of the plot to have her crucified.

Finally, what about the Congregation of Christian acquaintances that saw her serial abuse? Friends, artiste colleagues and church brethren. They witnessed the abuse are like the Biblical Peter. Most stood by and watched and, like Peter, denied many times the opportunity to identify with a suffering soul. This is what modern civilisation has done to us

Increasingly, urban Nigerians are no longer their neighbor’s keeper. Ironically, elsewhere in the world that we imitate, neighbours report to the authorities those who mistreat humans and animals. Those authorities also make – and enforce – laws for abuse of human and animal rights. Unfortunately, our case is that urban dwellers express outrage depending on how close to us an abuse victim is. When victims are not close, they become like logs fed into a bonfire. We sometimes lose the meaning of sanctity of human life.

The late gospel singer Osinachi is not Jesus the Christ and can never be. But like all of us,she’s created in God’s image, and is therefore like God in all things minus sin. Yes, she used her songs to play with our emotions and to connect us powerfully to the creator. Yet, she remained a sinful pilgrim groping in darkness, like all of us, to find a pathway to eternal life.

Igbo Marriages

The Igbo recognize that physical abuse happens in marriages. Spouse abuse demonstrates levels of maturity and tolerance at a given point in a marriage. But at some point, everyone draws a line. The Igbo wife flees to her father’s house to escape physical abuse when it reaches the point.

Ogbuagu Anikwe

The Igbo culture does not lionize a wife abuser, and a woman abusing her husband is an abomination. A man who raises his hand on his wife acquires the image of a coward and a loafer. He is a coward for leaving the “stronger sex” with whom real men test their strength to turn on his wife. And he is a loafer because only idle men abandon onerous family responsibilities to bicker and fight at home. What we’ve read thus far gives Osinachi’s husband out as a loafer and coward, a true ambassador of wife beaters.

Because this was an Igbo couple, it is difficult to appreciate the conduct of both Osinachi and her relations. Her people, like Jews of Old, watched from the sidelines and did nothing to save her. Modern social convention forced them to play sympathetic but largely inactive roles. As close acquaintances, its not enough to offer sympathy, sighs and a sense of resignation at her attitude to the oppression. Doing this is negligent conduct. The Christians among us who do this are biblical Judases. They accept 30 shekels of silence to helplessly watch their relation suffered unto death.

That this was an Igbo marriage makes it not only annoying but downright wicked that she had to die. Both Osinachi and her relations misconstrued or chose to forget custom and conventions that nurture Igbo marriages. Every public account we’ve read so far about how Nwachukwu allegedly abused his wife is a desecration of Igbo tradition.

The Igbo recognize that physical abuse happens in marriages. Our wise old men know that they demonstrate levels of maturity and tolerance at a given point in a marriage. The husband undergoes informal counseling from older, more experienced folks. But at some point, everyone draws a line. The Igbo wife flees to her father’s house to escape physical abuse when it reaches the point.

Separation & Divorce

Fleeing from an abusive marriage triggers various remedial community actions in Igboland. Although not encouraged, persistent wife abuse rouses incensed brothers to waylay and beat the living daylights out of their brother-in-law. What the community encourages is for a repentant husband to go with relations to plead for forgiveness. They take wine and colanut as peace offerings. Doing this demonstrates that the wife beater was acting under influence and actually adores his wife. Expectedly, he also undertakes never to lay hands on her again.

However, where a husband decides not to beg for her return, she lives in separation, and is free to re-marry. When she finds a new husband, her family returns  the brideprice paid by the abuser-husband and the marriage formally ends. Similarly, the husband’s plea hits the rocks if his wife refuses to return to the marriage. Separation begins for a woman at that point. This separation ends only after she remarries or her her family refunds the bride price. In Igbo culture, separation and divorce are therefore clearly established.

From the foregoing, it is possible that both modernity and Christianity figuratively murdered soul-lifting singer, Osinachi Nwachukwu. When tragedy results from criminal silence, eyewitnesses can become accessory to murder. We spit on the body and grave of abused spouses with every attempt to tell the truth of what happened, after enabling it with our criminal silence.

Osinachi is another example of how we crucify justice, truth and compassion in the country. But at the end of the day, she won, and we lost. She is a winner because God lifted the crown of suffering she wore to the bitter end. We lost a powerful voice for moral and ethical change, for justice, truth, and compassion.

Letter to 2023 Party Delegates

This letter to party delegates for the 2023 conventions to choose candidates reflects on the choices that delegates hitherto made.

Dear Party Delegate,

Permit me to write to you o the consequences of making the same mistakes that delegates made in 2014 and 2018. I beg you in the name of everything you believe in to be careful how you vote for aspirants in your forthcoming party primaries convention.

Simply put, those delegates are the major reason that Nigeria is in bad shape today! They are the reason why so many things have gone wrong with our country. I don’t have to enumerate what has gone wrong but ask yourself one question. Am I better off today than I was four or eight years ago? Am I safer?

Dear delegates, rather than blame past governors and presidents, those to censure for the way things turned out are the previous delegates. At federal and in many states, they allowed themselves to be cajoled and accepted bribes to select and present party candidates sponsored by governors and those who showed up with pots of money. The candidates they selected went on to win the general elections. Then they became either a curse or a blessing to their states.

Our people live in unimaginable misery and hardship in states where we installed bad characters as governors. Yes, we can blame the governors for lack of imagination, poor capacity and selfishness. But what about the delegate majority that chose and imposed them on us to vote into office? Shouldn’t we say a word to them for throwing up candidates without morality and competence over good and capable ones? What they did was to make it difficult for us, the voters, to choose by presenting a line-up of poor capacity candidates.

The action of the 2014 and 2018 delegates had far-reaching consequences. We immediately felt the impact before, during and after the general elections. Before the elections, we came down with a terrible disease known as voter apathy. There are three major symptoms of this disease that everyone of us can recognize.

The first symptom of this civil rights disease is voter alienation. Voters became indifferent and lost interest in participating in subsequent political activities. We sadly realized that we the voters are not the ones choosing who should rule us. Rather, it is you, the delegates, that are empowered by law to help us separate good aspirants from bad and thereafter presented to us to vote for whoever you selected, good or bad.

After evaluating the line-up of candidates and how they emerged from your parties in 2014 and 2018, we the voters became further disillusioned. Some of us began to grumble that the political system is not working for Nigeris. Most of us now believe that it is fruitless to attempt to influence it. The way our electoral laws were crafted leaves us at the mercy of you, the party delegates.

We got tired, another symptom known as Voter fatigue. Voters became tired of being cajoled to vote for the not so good and many of us consequently stayed home on election days. Poor turnout of voters in federal, state and local government elections in Nigeria became recurrent. Since 1999, less than 15 percent of registered voters have bothered to vote in state and federal elections. Voter fatigue set in after series of disappointments with voting exercises and because delegates ambushed us with terrible candidate choices.

There is a third symptom of voter apathy but this has nothing to do with delegates. This symptom reflects in poor management of the logistics of voter registration and actual voting. Logistics challenges make it difficult to register, review, and collect voter cards from the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Our question to you, dear delegates, is this: How do you, as a delegate, recognise the good candidate to select for us to subsequently vote for? There are three major criteria to guide you in making this first choice. One is perceived experience and capacity of the aspirants. What did they do previously, and with what impact? Another is their understanding of voter challenges and a plan or blueprint to deal with them. Are they coming to the convention with a well thought-out plan on how to help us surmount the economic hardship we currently face? What is their plan to secure us from robbers, kidnappers, cow rustlers and marauders, and insurgents? A third is to look at who is sponsoring each aspirant. Are they state-sponsored or self-sponsored?

Consider the influence of the sponsors in the process. Where we have a governor that has shown capacity to deal with voter challenges, we can trust him to recommend a successor who may do well. However, if delegates are dealing with a bumbling governor who wants to “anoint” a candidate to succeed him, alarm bells should ring. Similarly, when the anointed comes to the primaries without a specific plan that shows an understanding of what voters are suffering now and how to help them deal with issues and challengers, the red lights should be flashing to halt them.

The man or woman to select for us voters is therefore the person with capacity and experience, who comes with a clear and workable plan to deal with voter issues and challenges. Godfather sponsor should not be the primary reason for choosing, even when he is a good governor or moneybag.

I write this letter to you because, since 1999, sponsors a.k.a godfathers have come to dominate the leadership selection process. It is so bad now that governors see this as a right to choose successors. In Enugu State, for example, proponents of this idea brazenly call it “a right” and “a tradition.” To enforce this “right” or “tradition” Nigerian governors and godfathers deploy bags of money, a horde of hired writers, and a gang of thugs to emotionally and physically wear down delegates. But dear delegate, do you know that the sponsors are doing it out of fear!

It’s true that, at this moment, their hearts are pounding, their blood racing. Note however that as I said before, there are good sponsors who will be desperate to install successors with capacity and pedigree. I doff my hearts to those. I also wish and pray that Nigeria will throw up more of these blessed sponsors. We saw and appreciated their efforts in Borno and Anambra States, to give two examples.

Regrettably, Nigeria is the way it is today because majority of the sponsors are nothing short of political bandits. They use three canes to whip delegates into line: hired writers, thugs and bags of money. Hired writers confuse us all by often claiming that white is black especially on issues of godfather “rights” and “traditions.” Pots of money, given to delegates as increased allowances or outright bribery at convention ground, softens you up and blindfolds you to vote for their candidate. Thugs are selected and inserted into ward executive and local government council to put the fear of man into delegates. By their calculation, all of this will influence, buy or enforce “loyalty” to the “anointed” candidate.

Dear delegate, allow me to conclude with two things that most of you do not know.

One: what you’ll be doing on the convention ground has absolutely nothing to do with the boss. Rather, it has everything to do with you, your family and children, and societal wellbeing. Think about this: the mistakes that delegates made in 2014 and 2018 are the reasons why a bad omen has enveloped Nigeria. The delegates selected and presented us with leadership that made our economy worse, society more unsafe, citizens more frightened. By their action, ethnic, religious and political groups became more divided than ever before.

The results of poor delegate choices are the dire consequences we face today. We can identify increased armed robbery and banditry, escalation of kidnapping incidents, stepped up insurgency, and separatist agitations. To the list can be financial fraud, advanced fee fraud, and forced economic migrations. All of this are happening now because 2014 and 2018 party delegates chose the best of the worst and ambushed us to vote for them to mislead Nigeria and its constituent states.

Two: there’s actually no difference between some of the political sponsors and highway bandits. Bandits use money they extort to take care of people in their inner circle and to buy more weapons to force more money out of the pockets of their hapless victims. Similarly, political bandits use public funds (our money) to take care of people in their immediate circle and to buy thugs, hire quack writers and give delegates enveloped to follow “tradition.”

But dear delegate, do you know that sponsors struggling to enforce the “tradition of anointing” successors are carrying out an immoral and illegal action? It is immoral because they are using stolen funds to snatch your future, mess with the destiny of the nation, and complicate the future of youth. Equally, it is illegal because the law empowers only you, the party delegate, to select capable and experienced persons to help over 70 percent of our people who continue to live in abject poverty. As delegates, the governor, the President and every moneybag selected to vote at the convention each has a single vote. Thus, they won’t outvote thousands of delegates from the wards if they were determined to vote for change.

Sponsors cannot stop setermined and committed delegates who choose to help themselves and their families by selecting a god-fearing person to contest the general election. They are doing everything they can to make you vote for a continuation of the situation in which Nigeria finds itself. If you’re happy with the way things are going in the country and your state, vote to show it. If you’re not, vote to show it. As you journey soon to the convention ground, recognize that the fate of Nigeria is in your hands.

You have a choice to make. The choice before you is to support a god fearing and capable person who will look after your interest and ours from 2023. Or to choose someone else even when you feel in your heart that he will look after the interest of those who sponsored and mortgaged him to come to power. In making this choice, kindly note that you are free to collect money from anyone that offers to you.

Do not reject their money offers. Chances are that it’s your money anyway, stolen by the sponsors and saved for the purpose of confusing you to vote for another bandit. Their envelop is useless money; it won’t last for more than a month. But if you make the mistake of 2014 and 2018, the consequences will remain with Nigeria, your state, and your family for another eight years. May Almighty Allah and the Great I Am guide, protect and direct you with His wisdom as you journey to the convention to help your family, your state and Nigeria survive the harsh reality of the moment which delegates inaugurated in 2014 and 2018.

Ogbuagu Anikwe

Letter to 2023 Party Delegates

Politics of Pastor Tunde Bakare

Ogbuagu Anikwe interrogates the unfortunate politics of Tunde Bakare, pastor of Nigeria’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Pastor Tunde Bakare is in the news, and again for the wrong reasons. He declared from the pulpit that, at the point of death, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa pronounced a curse on Ndigbo. This strange curse, he says, is what continues to thwart attempts by the Igbo to become president in Nigeria. In other words, the Igbo are good to go, but cannot because they are a people under a curse. After injecting this poison into the body politic, Bakare made a hollow show of attempting to remove the alleged curse.

Outraged Nigerians wonder from where he got this story.

My position is that we shouldn’t blame Pastor Tunde Bakare for announcing that a First Republic politician cursed the Igbo. Keep in mind that the pastor made this pronouncement from the pulpit, in God’s presence. He obviously meant what he said, based on “facts” at his disposal.

The question however is what were those facts?
In January 1966 when the the Prime Minister died, Bakare was a nine-year-old pupil of All Saints Primary School, Kemta, Abeokuta. In other words, he was nowhere near Lagos at the time. Neither was he in a position to even understand that Nigeria was experiencing political turmoil at that time. Furthermore, there is no public account of this chilling version of events when Balewa came face-to-face with the military adventurers.

Finally, didn’t an Igbo became head of state after Balewa died? Was there a time frame for the curse to take effect? How come it that it didn’t stop an Igbo from becoming President? More to the point, where did Bakare get the information that he regaled and mesmerized his congregation with? What motivated him to render this new and terrible version of how the renowned Sardauna’s met his end?

Facts and assumptions

These questions can lead us to certain deductions. We can infer that the pastor merely repeated a secondhand tale. Because he spoke from the pulpit, we can also reasonably assume that he was speaking truthfully about what he was told. We further assume that he heard this version from those with a passionate interest in promoting a Fulani-Igbo political rivalry. Or is this an attempt to add fuel to this rivalry in the context of the current maneuvering for power?

Was Bakare cleverly sending a message to the core North to resurrect old wounds and ensure that they turn away from an Igbo Presidency? And for whose benefit?

There is something else. The assumptions point to people that the pastor hobnobs with since 2011 when he was made a vice presidential candidate. They remind us that this is the fourth time we are hearing how terrible the Igbo are during and immediately after an election season. In 2019, we heard it from the same pastor. His poison was repeated and amplified by Chief Doyin Okupe. Thereafter, the megaphone, Femi Fani-Kayode, sang it from the rooftops in an interview which is still available as a public record. Fani-Kayode regaled the public with his knowledge of a deep-seated hatred of the Igbo by a certain northern political figure.

Here is why we should worry about the politics of Pastor Tunde Bakare, from my experience.

I took away two pieces of knowledge from my brief sojourn in government at federal and state levels in this Republic. One is the limitless capacity of most Nigerian politicians to use falsehoods to advance their personal ambitions or agenda. The other is the ease with which leaders and followers buy dishonest fabrications without interrogation or a simple verification.
Power of suggestion

It is not for leaders but for followers that we should worry about the politics of Tunde Bakare. In every culture, simple human minds act on powerful suggestions. When repeatedly made, these suggestions harden into stereotypical verities the the unreflective among us hawk from generation to generation. These stereotypes subsequently influence the nature and quality of relationships between and among individuals and groups.

Here is a recent example, taken from what is currently playing out in my home state of Enugu. It has been conclusively proved that since 1999, political gamesmanship rather than formal rotation governed nomination of succeeding PDP governorship candidates. This notwithstanding, we still see intellectuals and otherwise intelligent people clinging to what their favorite politicos said on the issue of zoning. They stoutly dismiss every suggestion that zoning of political offices was not the norm.

This is the same with opinions on the January 1966 first military attempt to topple a democratically elected government. Everyone knows that the coup idea was a patriotic effort by a group of Nigerian military officers, most of who were Igbo. We also read from credible sources that the beneficiary, if it had succeeded, would have been a non-Igbo. Still, intellectuals and otherwise intelligent people continue to cling to and promote the notion that this was “an Igbo coup.”

Pastor Tunde Bakare doesn’t realize that it is challenging to preach the gospel in Nigeria with her deep-seated ethnic and political polarizations.

Nigeria is at a crossroads over the question of whether a southeasterner should rule in 2023. Everyone appears to have an opinion on the matter. Politicians like Sen Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Vice President Atiku Abubakar voted on the issue by purchasing presidential nomination forms.

Politics of Pastor Tunde Bakare

As for Pastor Bakare, he appears oblivious of the reality that meddling in partisan politics dents his pastoral credibility. Since 2011, pronouncements that he makes from the pulpit continue to be carefully scrutinized for motive. Same goes for his silences as well.

In politically tense times, every pastor walks a tightrope on what to pronounce from the pulpit. Should they go beyond the good news and issues that tug at the heart of morality and justice? Pastors that focus on these twin gospel standards (the golden rule) can safely preach on political issues. The golden rule summarizes what it means to love God and neighbor.

Pastors fail the test when they use their homilies to satisfy personal political agenda, or worse, pander to partisan loyalties. Longsuffering Nigerians look up to their pastors to make meaning of the constant divisive rhetoric that define our local power contests. Desperate politicians cannot show the light because they are more invested in ambitions that are altogether personal and selfish.

In their various struggles for power, politicians habitually complicate the crisis of religious and ethnic identities among the people. It therefore becomes a tragedy of gargantuan proportions whenever any pastor mounts the pulpit to also join in exacerbating this identity crisis.

I do not blame Man of God, Pastor Tunde Bakare, for his politics from the pulpit. I rather pity and pray for him to repent.

An unending cycle of doom

Ogbuagu Anikwe

Reflecting on our nation’s unending cycle of doom reminds me of an incident that happened around 2.00 a.m. on 14 November 2021. I woke up when I heard noises from outside my hotel room door at a Southeast state capital. A gruff voice was complaining that the key to my room was not working. Shortly after, the hotel receptionist joined gruff voice to try the key. I imagined hearing two other voices beside gruff voice.

unending cycle of doom

As you would expect, my heart began pounding. The incident at Ile Ife a few months before flashed through my mind. You remember the story of a postgraduate student found dead and buried in a shallow grave a few days after checking in at a hotel in the ancient city? The hotel initially pretended that they did not know him as a guest. Unfortunately, the victim had taken steps to wire his check-in documentation to his wife. Presented with incontrovertible evidence, the Nigerian system sprang to the rescue. An attempt is on to exonerate the hotel owner from complicity in what looks like ritual murder.

When therefore I woke up to noises outside my door, fear naturally kicked in. What to do? I looked for possible escape routes in the room but decided against all. Instead, I braved it by quickly turning the keys on and violently jerking open my door. Three men and a lady, the receptionist, starred at me.

The suddenness of my bold move momentarily shocked and paralyzed them. In that split second of confrontation I noted that they had no weapons. No guns, no knives, and no clubs that I could see. My fear waned a bit.

“Yes?” I inquired as calmly as I could, looking disdainfully at each person in turn. I half expected the men to rush me any moment, but they held back. They just stood there in shock at my audacity and seeming bravery.

It was the receptionist that found her voice first.

“Sir, you got that toothpaste you asked for?” she asked.

“What has that got to do with you trying to force open my door in the middle of the night?” I shouted. I did it in hopes that it was loud enough to wake up other guests.

“What are you people looking for in my room at this time of the night?” I shouted again.

The three men quickly withdrew from the scene, leaving me alone with the receptionist.

“Please I’m sorry sir. I didn’t remember someone is in the room”, she said.

I went to great lengths to prove to her that she was telling lies. Then I asked again why she brought strangers to my room in the middle of the night. She continued to stammer incoherent excuses until I stopped her with a wave of the hand.

“You guys are lucky.” I injected a quiet menace to the words. And then, I waved her away.

She was shivering as she left.

Sleep subsequently fled from my eyes. Three hours later, on my way out, she disappeared from the frontdesk. Two other guests waited to check out and grumbled loudly. She refused to budge from wherever she was hiding. I simply dropped their key on the reception table and walked away.

The night before, I got into the city late and decided to book my trip for Abuja the following day before finding a hotel for the night. My favorite transport company had their buses and taxis fully booked. One of the tellers suggested that they could use me to replace habitually late passengers if I came in early. The company warns passengers to arrive early or risk missing the bus.

I became aware of how the midnight plot was conceived when I returned to the station that morning. I carelessly discussed with bus drivers about my plans, including needing a decent hotel nearby to sleep. When they asked me which hotel, I told them I had no preference other than decent. So, they decided to assist me. Two drivers initially took me in their bus to a place that was supposed to be a hotel. The place looked dark and desolate. Then they turned back and deposited me in a hotel on a street behind their bus station, the same place where the midnight visitors came calling in the wee hours.

How did I know? I read the shock on the drivers’ faces when I showed up at their station that morning. It took them almost a minute to recover from the shock of seeing me. Then they quickly composed themselves and came to greet and ask me how the night was. So, they never expected to see me alive this morning, I wondered. Fear returned, fear of what could have happened in the wee hours from noisemakers outside my hotel room door.

All through the journey back to Abuja, my mind went through all the foolish steps I took on the journey.

The biggest mistake was not booking a hotel room online when I decided to sleep over. They welcomed me as a total stranger rather than a guest with international credentials. No one would have come knocking on my door, if I had “insured” my arrival through any of the international hotel booking sites.

I was also careless with the check-in process. The receptionist insisted on cash payment. After paying, she promised to bring the receipts to my room after checking in another guest standing behind me. She never did. In that moment, I forgot my original plan to immediately snap the hotel receipt before her and make a show of sending it to my wife. I also forgot to call my wife before the receptionist to tell her the room number assigned to me.

The third mistake I made was to carelessly discuss with bus drivers about my situation for that night. My carelessness was most unforgiveable. I had in my hands a phone that could have shown me all hotels nearby. There were also  private taxis and commercial tricycles aka keke that could have taken me to any hotel I named from the list. Instead, I allowed bus drivers take me on a journey that could have ended in grief for my family.

My singular luck was that the hotel door had an old-fashioned key lock. So, after locking myself in, I twisted the key sideways to ensure that no outside key could fit in to open the door. This was what sowed frustration as they tried to open the door. And led to the noises that woke me up, otherwise I could have woken up after they burst through.

One thing puzzled me though. Up until this moment, I have not figured out why my opening the door prevented them from carrying out whatever were their plans. Could it be that they saw I was ready to provoke an altercation that rouses other sleeping guests? The way our country is, majority of those guests would have crouched in their rooms, listening to the din with hearts pounding. Only a few would brave it to investigate or help.

Let’s just say that it was grace that saved me that night.

An unending cycle of doom

I recalled this incident last week following news of reported attempts by terrorists to waylay a plane about to taxi off at the Kaduna Airport. My mind also went back to it two days ago following successful bombing and interception of a Kaduna-bound train by terrorists. Some passengers died and others were abducted. With these two incidents, Nigeria has now completed an unending cycle of doom. Before now, roads were the most dangerous means of travel, thanks to highway bandits and kidnappers. Each day, they invent creative tactics to intercept and abduct innocent travelers for ransom. Those that survive the highway siege still worry about their safety in hotels. The dangers are no less severe on city streets.

The tragedy of our state of insecurity is that our compatriots continue to live a lie. In the southeast, everyone knows that it is a risk to do business on Mondays. Those who venture outside were either killed or maimed. The miscreants routinely destroy property. Is the rest of the country safer? Everyday has become a challenge to common people who work hard to make ends meet. Everyone is tired of blaming government over the halo of insecurity hanging over the nation.

Why is this a tragedy? The people who run the governments – and who are directly responsible for the mess we are in – have found the formula to keep things the way they are. They are currently seducing us  to make a seamless transition to a worse state of affairs. After massively failing to secure us, and mindlessly looting the treasury, and messing up the economy, they are set to “anoint” successors to continue the aggravation. At states and federal levels, they play on our emotions, evoking divisive rhetoric. Zoning, power rotation, religious and ethnic fidelity take the place of party platforms and candidate blueprint to take us out of the woods. They come from a familiar playbook that lulls citizens from asking hard questions.

What plans do political aspirants – and future candidates – have to rescue Nigeria from the insecurity and economic swamp in which we find ourselves?

There are no answers. Soon enough, we shall see anointed candidates and their godfathers graduate to flashing Naira, dollars, food and clothes to distract poor people from recognizing them for who they truly are. They are the ogres, not the highway bandits and kidnappers. Their actions and inactions directly create the situation that drive desperate people to the highways to rob and steal. With our intellectuals and the mass media reporting Elections 2023 like a horse race, I see no hope. We shall continue in our induced sleep until 29 May 2023 when another set of the thieving elite class takes office nationwide.  And then, Nigeria will enter a new phase in her unending cycle of doom, with misery and hardship foretold.

Ogbuagu Anikwe – An unending cycle of doom

Enugu, like lambs to the slaughter

Enugu voters are no longer looking like lambs to the slaughter, thanks to Sen Ike Ekweremadu’s weekend public declaration. That singular action – boldly stepping out to contest the governorship of Enugu State – has suddenly made Enugu a democratic state.

While I was in Lagos, my colleagues used to tease me that Enugu, politically speaking, is the land of sheep. By this, they meant that godfathers easily cowed and intimidated everyone into running away while they grabbed the governorship position. To an extent, my friends were right about the intimidation which began long before 1999. We only had a brief respite when Gov. Sullivan Chime brought cold water into Enugu by focusing on governance rather than politics. Today, many miss the Sullivan touch of inclusive governance. Chime’s administration sowed the seeds of stability and growth. He did this by making efforts to solicit citizens’ input and providing services to all of the constituents equally.

Like Lambs to the Slaughter

Gov Chime did away with the intimidation. Sadly, something more pernicious and retrogressive has supplanted it. Our people are herded like chickens into pens in a political farmhouse. Here, Enugu politicos cluck and scratch in the dirt while waiting for occasional bowl of corn from the farm manager.

The result is there to see. Less than six months to the beginning of party primaries, no Enugu politician has publicly declared interest to succeed Gov. Ugwuanyi. Politicians in both the ruling PDP and the opposition APC in Enugu State are in a state of nervousness. None has the liver to declare an intention to run. Why is this the case? Some put it to the effects of godfathers’ subtle intimidation and systematic impoverishment of the people. Others point to the total emasculation of the opposition in the state.

Everywhere in the world, godfathers aim to close the democratic space and so it is with Enugu. The godfathers have served a warning, asking everyone to stay away because the governor will handpick his successor. Governor Chimaroke Nnamani proudly speaks of how he singlehandedly handpicked a successor. Sullivan Chime is more restrained. He speaks about how the governorship went to the northern district for the sake of equity and fairness.

We commend Chime because his decision did not lead to a fait accompli. Instead, there was a healthy internal battle for the ticket between two northern district warriors – Rep. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and my friend, Sen. Ayogu Eze.

Chickens in a barn

Sadly, things have changed for the worse. Before this time in 2014, Gov. Chime had made clear his preference over where the governorship slot should go, and why. He preferred the northern district in order to achieve fairness and balance among the senatorial districts. The current tenant of Lion Building refuses to speak about what is fair and just in choosing our next governor. Consequently, our state has transformed into a huge playground for divisive gossip and political gamesmanship. Today, the noise of marginalization, zoning, rotation, micro-zoning and whatnots echoes in an intentional leadership silence chamber.

Politicos caged in the farmhouse are no longer waiting for the “owner” to arrive whenever he pleases with the cornmeal. Potential aspirants pray to be handed the bowl. They are ready to pledge to continue a proxy task of feeding all of us trapped in the farmhouse.

This animal farm in a nutshell is what the Enugu godfathers describe as “political tradition” in the State. As a very prominent godfather explained it, the tenant that Enugu people put in Lion Building should become the landlord. As landlord, he will determine the next tenant, who in turn will become the landlord to determine the next tenant. And so on, ad infinitum. When you think about it, this is what a “political structure” like Ebeano seeks to achieve in Enugu. It created a cabal of politicos that determines who should manage the people’s barn every four years.

Leadership selection

The godfathers have warned the people about two things as sure as tomorrow sun. The governor will choose his successor and whoever he chooses becomes our next governor. As far as Enugu is concerned, the choice is not about competence and experience. Of course, they usually rig the primaries and delegates system to favor whoever the governor selects. After this, the choice of the people is of no importance. We are presented with the prospect of installing a government of the people by a Cabal for the Cabal.

For now, I am not concerned about the Senator’s qualifications for the job or whether he will win or lose. Neither is this about whether or not the so-called zoning favors him. Nor is this an argument about whether he should not have aimed for a higher position. What’s important is that he rescued Enugu from the dirty image of a people that do nothing about leadership selection. Without his intervention, Enugu politicos will still be sitting in their cages waiting for a godfather anointing.

Our mumu don do. Let other politicians emerge and throw their hats in the ring.

Enugu State is not the private property of Governors Chimaroke Nnamani and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. They were and are our servants. We elected them to take care of our affairs. We expected them to help organize things so that our youths will have jobs. With good men at the helm, Enugu residents will have peace. Life will become easier for people in the villages whose votes gave each of them eight-year tenancy at the Lion Building.

The Warriors of Old

They cannot therefore turn around to choose those to replace them as tenants in a house that belongs to the people. In the choice of a new tenant at Lion Building, they have only two votes between them. Their two votes cannot make anybody governor. We the people have the rest. This is the time that people power counts.

Enugu used to be a vibrant political setting. I witnessed the tail end of the First Republic as a child. My father told me stories of the grandmasters of the game from Wawaland, the likes of Chief Christian C. Onoh, Igwes Charles Abangwu, Dennis N. Chukwu, Basil C. Okwu. In the First Republic, for instance, NCNC had a run for its money when they passed over D.N. Chukwu to select another to run for House of Representatives for old Awgu Division. Denchukwu, as he then was, decided to run as an independent candidate, from where he bested the NCNC. This impressed Zik so much that he quickly made peace. His colleagues nicknamed him “hurricane,” and oku n’agba ozara (harmatan fire) in the House.

I also recall the yeoman battles put up by proponents of Wawa State that led to creation of Enugu. And, before then, the titanic battles between C.C. Onoh and Zik over who governs old Anambra State, with Chief Jim Nwobodo as Zik’s surrogate. Undaunted, Chief Onoh, Aninefungwu, deployed federal machinery of the ruling National Party (NPN) to crush Nwobodo. It was a spectacle watching our beloved Jim, “a sitting governor,” crying like a baby on national television.

Where did our warriors disappear to, leaving us like lambs to the slaughter? Why should we accept the boasts that a governor will choose who to succeed him? Who wants to make Enugu people look like lambs to the slaughter?

Democracy redefined

During the Third Republic and a good part of this Republic. we encountered a vibrant set of inheritor politicians, firebrands that gave godfathers a run for their money. The names that jump to mind at this time are Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu and Ugochukwu Agballa from the West. What about gladiators from the northern district? We had radicals such as Barrister Okey Ezea and Peter Okonkwo, as well as Chief Fidel Ayogu. Gov. Chimaroke, as dreaded as he then was, could not halt the surge of his deputy, Ezenwata Okechukwu Itanyi. These were folks with the heart of a lion, going by what we saw them do.

As a top Government official during 2019 electoral battle, I was very glad when a stout opposition arose. This was after my friend and brother, Chief Ayogu Eze, left the PDP to fight Ugwuanyi from the opposition camp. He may have gallantly lost the battle, but he scored a big victory for democracy. He made Enugu a home where democracy lives and breathes. It is this same warm sentiment that I now extend to brother Ekweremadu over his governorship declaration. He made a loud statement that cleans Enugu from being like lambs to the slaughter, politically speaking.

He is saying that Enugu should vote for, not anoint, a new governor for 2023. And before this vote happens, we demand to hear what prospective tenants intend to take to Lion Building. He will make it possible for us to hear them, judge them, and choose the best manager for the job.

Let the chickens continue clucking and scratching in the dirt. They will join the lions who have already made a headway and are warming themselves into the hearts of the people. And they will eventually meet Enugu State voters who determine the next tenant to occupy the Lion Building. We shall be waiting for them.

Enugu like lambs to the slaughter by Ogbuagu Anikwe

Should Airpeace Apologize to the Emir?

Should Airpeace apologize to the Emir of Kano for discomfort of missing a second local flight from their international journey? A spokesperson for the Kano Emirate appears bent on instigating a discord between Kano people and the national airline.

There is a need to douse the smoldering fire before this turns into an ethnoreligious conflagration that consumes the airline. In our country, many factors ruin a business outside what is commonly understood as failure causes. On this one, we only have to look at claims that the combatants are pushing into the public sphere. They bespeak unwise courses of action by both parties.

Pugnacious Messenger

It’s difficult to understand why the Emir’s spokesperson wanted a plane about to take off to turn back. And we are talking about a commercial airliner, not a hired or owned private jet. And it is also difficult to understand why the spokesperson wants to drag the two principals into the matter. 

The fact, however, is that the Emir’s entourage boarded an Airpeace flight from Banjul, final destination Kano. But it was not a connecting flight from Lagos to Kano. Howbeit, it’s also easy to see what upsets the Emir. Airpeace is the carrier for both the Banjul – Lagos and Lagos – Kano flights. Which means that if the airline kept to schedule from Banjul, there wouldn’t have been any cause for worry. In other words, the international passengers expected the airline to keep to its published schedule which it failed to do. And this affected the second leg of the journey. 

Clearly, Airpeace is to blame for not keeping to its schedule. So what does this say about the justification that it has put up?

Airpeace did not contest that it came later in the day into Lagos from Banjul than it originally scheduled. It also didn’t contest that the spokesperson made effors to avert undue delay of his principal in Lagos. Instead, it focused on two things without ever mentioning its delayed flight from Banjul. One was the consideration for other passengers on the plane about to take off. The other we have mentioned is that the Lagos to Kano flight was not a connecting flight.

Airpeace is not without blame

Most people who have commented on the matter appear to take the airline’s side. I daresay this is not out of a sense of empathy for the Emir. Every customer of the airline is a victim of its habitual lateness. So ordinarily, people should have been empathetic to the challenges of the Emir. The truculent messages and threats from the Kano spokesperson accounts for why public opinion shifted against the Emir. A secondary reason is the airline’s eagerness to publicise its operational loopholes. Yet, some of these loopholes were deliberately created to justify future actions such as this. And it freely deployed them to win the moral battle.

Clearly Airpeace is trying to win a war that is yet to begin. 

Why so? Look at the two statements from the Airline, particularly the second statement. Airpeace emphasizes that Lagos-Kano was an independent local flight to avoid responsibility. If the Lagos-Kano route was not a connecting flight, why was this so? Evidently, the Emir had no business stepping out of the airport in Lagos, rather than Kano. I checked the website of Airpeace. On its West African route (Accra, Banjul, Dakar, Freetown) all Airpeace flights terminate in Lagos. Yet, the airline accepts international passengers from Kano, Enugu, Port Harcourt, and Asaba. It does not make sense. Why should anyone from Enugu for instance, leave Ethiopian Airlines and go to Lagos to board Airpeace? Especially when they know that Airpeace will still leave them in Lagos on their return?

But it makes sense for the airline, as several passengers have testified on social media. According to them, Airpeace does not terminate international flights at local airports in Nigeria because of its habitual lateness. Consequently, it dumps international passengers from the West African routes into Lagos. Even at the dead of night passengers are abandoned in Lagos to fend for themselves. They suffer the inconvenience and costs of finding accommodation. They overcome security challenges. And they return the following day to board another Airpeace local flight to their final destination. 

Cost considerations

Clearly, the airline is trying to avoid associated costs that arise from its tardiness. In the case of the Emir, the airline would been forced to make expenses if it was a connecting flight. They would have put the Emire and his people on another flight. Or paid for their hotels and lunch before their evening flight. So should Airpeace Apologize to Emir?

One can therefore understand the frustrations of the Kano Emir. Everyone knows that this is what Airpeace does to avoid liability for its unstable scheduling and late flights. There is also a second silly defense that Airpeace put up. The airline offered to fly the Emir to Abuja and put him on a Kano flight at no cost. What a silly thing to say. Airlines, including Airpeace, habitually combine Lagos – Abuja flights with other flights terminating at Maiduguri, Kano, Gombe, Yola and so forth. Do they charge the passengers going beyond Abuja double fare? There is no free ride in the equation if the Emir paid for a Lagos-Kano flight.

This is why I said that Airpeace is fighting a battle that is yet to begin. I would have used a stronger word than “weak” to describe both justifications.

Should Airpeace Apologize to Emir? The chairman of Airpeace has repeatedly stated that the airline business is not profitable in Nigeria. He also explained that Airpeace covers unprofitable northern routes because of the interest and support of concerned state governments. On this basis, Airpeace should carefully weigh the cost-benefits of waging a battle with an influetial passenger from that region. 

Should Airpeace Apologize to Emir? I have nothing more to say.

Ukraine and the Nigerian Shame

Playing underneath the crisis in Ukraine are a number of narratives that are familiar. America’s East-West rivalry aka Cold War. Russia’s return to imperialism. International border demarcations. Minority rights. Human rights. I add another: racism.

My concerns are human rights enforcement and the racism that has reared an ugly head.

The crisis in Ukraine once again exposes Nigeria’s lack of planning. We show our total disdain for the Nigerians overseas even in countries where we maintain diplomatic presence. There are over 4,000 Nigerian youths that flocked into Ukraine in search of education and better life. They hole up in various shelters and borders, wondering what becomes of them as big Russian tanks roll in.

Enugu Metro Editorial

The Nigerian Embassy in Kiev gives a poor image to our country. Embassy officials give the impression that Nigerian learnt nothing from the Liberian tragedy of over three decades ago. In that conflict, Nigerians in Liberia desperately searched for how to get out of a growing internal conflict. The Embassy of Nigeria in Liberia became a refuge for those who could dash in. Fortunately, many who could not managed to find escape routes. The Embassy provided no refuge as the Charles Taylor-led rebels soon surrounded and captured as many Nigerians as they could. From all accounts, Taylor made a sport of bringing out our nationals to slaughter every morning.

Contingency Plan

Three decades down the line, we have repeated the Liberian Mistake. There appears to be no contingency plan on how to save our people in conflict situations. When other countries were busy flying their nationals out of Ukraine, we were busy sending useless messages. And when the Russians moved in, we essentially told our people that they were on their own.

One of the good pieces of advice we gave to the students was to head to the Polish border. And that is because Nigerians in Poland threw the lifeline first. They asked their colleagues to head to the border where they will be welcomed and sheltered until the war abated. But the Embassy did not make any arrangements on how people were to get to the borders. Which is where racism comes in. The Ukranians themselves ensured that Nigerians and blacks did not board trains taking people to safety. And border police refused entry to Nigerians and blacks who wanted to gain access to Poland.

How did some of us think that an international crisis management plan exists in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

Should Airpeace Apologize to the Emir

How we deal with ASUU strikes challenge

A reflection on how we deal with ASUU strikes problem – and free our children and institutions from the stranglehold

There are two reasons why Nigerian parents shouldn’t be at the mercy of Association of Senior Staff of Universities (ASSU). One is our tendency to glamorize university certificates. The other is failure to properly implement the 6-3-3-4 education system which Nigerian launched almost 40 years ago.

The glamorization of tertiary certificates elevated university degrees into some kind of elite turbanning or chieftaincy titles for our children.

Failure to implement the Basic Education programme opened the floodgate for every child to go to university. Consequently, exploding population of young people weighed down government capacity to adequately fund public tertiary institutions. This, in turn, has created a union of overworked and underpaid teachers who lash out in frustration every now and then.

The World Bank summarized the consequence of what our universities have become in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Bank concluded that our students “do not graduate with locally relevant skills for a successful integration into the labor market.”

Locally relevant skills

So, there we have it. Parents assume wrongly that children graduate from our universities with locally relevant skills. And that tertiary education is the only avenue to acquire lucrative, locally relevant skills. Because of these assumptions, every child must therefore go to a university. And because government also promotes tertiary education as a social service, every child must see university as continuation of the failed Basic Education programme.

I confess that, as a parent, I lived with this mindset. But you can excuse the likes of me who can scratch out moderately priced education for their children. One of my daughters, a final year university student, brought the issue home in an article she wrote. What she wrote was however already playing in my mind since June 2021 when I came across the current West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) timetable. Nigerian students write about 30 vocational and technical subjects in that examination.

Allow me to list the subjects.

Air-conditioning & Refrigeration, Auto Body Repairs & Spray Painting, Auto Electrical Works, and Auto & Mechanical Work. There are also Animal Husbandry, Block Laying, Bricklaying & Concrete Works, Bookkeeping, Carpentry & Joinery, Catering Craft, and Cosmetology. The calendar also lists Data Processing, Dyeing & Bleaching, Electrical Installation & Maintenance Work, Fisheries, Furniture Making, and Garment Making. Also listed are GSM Phone Maintenance & Repair, Leather Goods Manufacturing & Repairs, Machine Woodworking, Mining, and Painting & Decorating. The rest include Plumbing & Pipe Fitting, Photography, Printing Craft, Radio, Television & Electronic Works, Salesmanship, Store Keeping, Store Management, Upholstery, and Welding & Fabrication Engineering.

Here’s something to think about. Artisans without formal education in the building and construction industry who do some of the physically demanding jobs above earn daily wages of between N2,500 and N3,500. This works out at a monthly average of N65,000 – which is twice the minimum wage and the equivalence of entry level pay for most Nigerian graduates.

The fact that our children learn these skills in school gives them a good opportunity to become specialists who can trade their skills internationally. And the opportunity to be equipped with vocational skills that can deliver extra income. The 6-3-3-4 plan is for students and pupils to learn these skills at the foundational education level, not at the university.

Obasanjo Assist

But do they? My wife, a teacher, says students are taught less than 60 percent of these skill subjects. They haven’t been able to learn because the 6-3-3-4 scheme, as usual, failed at implementation stage.

President Olusegun Obasanjo rejuvenated the scheme in 2006. He merged six years of primary to three years of junior high to form Basic Education, aka 9-3-4 system. His was a grand vision and plan designed to achieve 100 percent literacy rate in the country among other benefits. The first nine years of basic education are free and compulsory. It still is. Nigerian parents, no matter how poor or indigent, have no excuse for not enrolling their children and wards in school.

To ensure that states and local government councils do not complain of funds to implement the scheme, the federal government decided to pay 66 percent of the cost of infrastructure, facilities and training of teachers for the scheme.

Again, we failed at the point of implementation.

There’s something good to say about the Basic Education Programme. It is an excellent scheme. School teachers use it to identify innate skills and career interests of children before they get to the 9th grade. Students with high scholastic aptitudes progress to senior high schools (including technical schools) to prepare for tertiary education. Those with other non-academic skills choose vocational schools and apprentice schemes. There, they will specialize in some of the less intellectually demanding skills among which we listed above.

If faithfully implemented, made-in-Nigeria products and services will cross our borders and become export earners. Ghana showed this during her years of the locust. Highly educated Ghanaians earned reasonable and sustaining income through “mundane” tasks that they e expertly performed. We see it today with skilled labour from our neighboring countries that we increasingly prefer to our own.

But we didn’t faithfully implement.

Root of the problem

There are three impediments to the implementation of the Basic Education Programme. One is socio-cultural practices, such as street children (almajiri) and itinerant pastoralism. Ignorance and peer-group pressure is the other. A third is the will to use the massive funding available for this scheme to implement the programme, rather than massive pilfering of the funds by our officials.

Many poor parents do not know that education in Nigeria is free up until the 9th grade. Many of those who know are also unaware of their rights and responsibilities under the scheme. Which is why we groan without protest when unscrupulous administrators force children to pay levies that make nonsense of the free education programme.

By far the bigger challenge is that parents ignorantly look down on the “lower level” skills we listed above. They think that this translates to lower level earnings or possession of lower social capital for their children. This is wrong. It’s silly because all around us are evidences that tertiary education is not the only or even the best entry to high paying careers.

We see young people who developed their innate vocational or athletic skills travel abroad to work. Or admitted to good schools with fully funded scholarships. Those who work abroad as sportspersons or skilled labour earn monthly incomes the equivalent of millions of Naira. Their counterparts in Nigeria live on a basic monthly wage of $60. Again, those of us who live in cities prefer to engage skilled labour from Benin Republic and Togo rather than our unlettered cousins who failed to go to school. The key is getting basic education, followed by vocational and internship opportunities that create the difference in skillsets. Finally, a skilled worker who earns N3,500 per day (standard wage) will out-earn a graduate in monthly wages.

How we deal with the ASUU challenge

So, how do all of this solve the ASUU problem in Nigeria?

The day Nigeria faithfully implements the 9-3-4 education system is the day that ASUU strikes will gradually begin to die a natural death. To do this requires massive reorientation and mind change, especially for parents. Students, especially those whose parents cannot afford it, will no longer hanker after tertiary education. Identifying and nurturing of skills happen outside the ivory towers. When this happens, educational policies will shift to identifying and training only geniuses among the poor by giving them scholarships. Rich people who can afford it will fund the universities through appropriate tuition for their children.

With cost-reflective tuition, university managers will no longer go cap in hand to government. Or intermittently hold poor Nigerian parents to ransom with incessant strikes. And government can invest the billions they waste on university infrastructure to give scholarships to the exceptionally brilliant from rich and poor parents alike. If ASUU chooses, they can continue with their union but face the Vice Chancellors who mess up their system. And government regulates teaching to maintain teaching and learning standards.

The Ghana Example

I noticed two things about Ghana when I visited Kumasi where one of my children initially enrolled. Ghana has three public universities that are prime foreign exchange earners. For international students, average tuition at Kumasi and Accra is higher than what 80 percent of private universities charge. Nigerians are classified as international students. I saw white and Asian students who enrolled at Kumasi. The attractions were cheap tuition and quality of teaching. The fees in those three public universities are higher than what private universities charge in Ghana. Nigeria is the opposite.

Let’s deemphasize university certificates as a basis for fixing and standardizing work compensation. As my daughter wrote in her article, “there is some truth that having a bachelor’s degree increases jobs earning potential. Yet it is also important to note that not all jobs require you to have sat in a classroom for 4+ years. Sometimes it just requires you to be creative, skilled or in good standing with the right people.”

Ndi-Zoning of Enugu State are at it again

Ndi-zoning of Enugu State are gladiators at each other’s throats over which local government area should produce the next Governor. Ndi-Zoning are at it again, now that a new election cycle is upon us.

My friends keep asking why I keep out of the zoning conversation. My answer is that I find disheartening what happens to my dear state at every electoral cycle. Ndi-zoning confuse voters and induce them to vote for anything but what takes them out of an unending cycle of misery. In their campaigns, gladiators hardly address the state of our State and how to make it better. All we hear are quarrels about where the next governor should come from. At its base, these quarrels are nothing but elite conspiracy maneuvers to grab power for selfish ends.

So, there you have it. I personally find the idea of zoning gross, even as I appreciate the motive behind it. I detest the idea of zoning governorship positions because it basically says that we cannot guarantee electing an unselfish manager that will plan and execute a wholistic development agenda for our dear state. Consequently, we must rotate the position for every zone to have someone to look after its interest.

But has zoning worked well in practice? Doesn’t it rob governors of the crucial global planning outlook that jumpstarts real development? My intervention here is not about the zoning argument we hear from Enugu East. Like the East, Enugu West is also pushing its own brand of zoning, a re-zoning arrangement if you will. Their argument appears different from the restart-zoning-from-our-side demand from Enugu East. In principle, both are however about zoning.

Zoning without end?

ndi-zoning of enugu state
Enugu Governors (from left) Nnamani, Chime and Ugwuanyi

The question for ndi-zoning of Enugu is therefore for how long? How long should zoning last? How long should we endure an agreement that sustains and guarantees lopsided development of Enugu State? Why not review the march of zoning since 1999? Such a review exposes what the state and its constituent units have gained from the practice so far. And do not tell me that zoning has worked well. If it has, why are we having complaints from all over the place? Why is Aninri, Awgu, Enugu East, Isi-Uzo, Nkanu East, and Oji River – more than a third of Enugu local governments – complaining of marginalization and abandonment? We may hear of more when Gov. Ugwuanyi steps down and people of Enugu North feel it’s safe to complain!

Enugu needs an honest review on zoning. This will tell us whether to continue – or to discard zoning for something else. This point bears repeating because this is the best time to do a review, now that every zone has had its turn.

The alternative is to continue with today’s brinksmanship masquerading as political gamesmanship. This is why I passionately despise the Enugu zoning charade. And I know that I’m not alone. Many concerned professionals from Enugu lament that zoning has stunted Enugu’s development efforts.

Industry and manpower Legacies

Our story is heartbreaking because the Coal City State inherited manpower and industrial assets. These assets are enough to transform her into one of the wealthiest States in Nigeria.

Enugu’s manpower assets today derive from the decision by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s to plant two university campuses in the State (UNN and UNEC). Ajie Ukpabi Asika’s followed up by converting IMT into a citadel of academic excellence. Thereafter, Chief Jim Nwobodo further boosted the efforts by establishing ASUTECH (now ESUT) as another engineering and technology institution. There was also the Federal College of Education at Eha Amufu. Enugu is lucky to inherit these institutions after sharing the assets of the defunct Eastern Region and old Anambra State.

Zik and Dr. MI Okpara laid the groundwork for today’s Enugu’s industrialization. They originally carved out Emene district in Enugu as an industrial hub. The region subsequently manufactured steel rods, asbestos, cement products, oxygen and acetylene gases, among others from this hub.

The founding fathers strategically located the hub to transport products from it by road, rail and air. The Eastern rail line passes through Emene, and by the corner of Enugu International Airport. In addition, the Abakaliki-Enugu highway passes by Emene and terminates at the East-North road at 9th Mile Corner. As already stated, nationwide distribution of manufactured products from Emene industrial corridor became easy from the air, rail and road.

After the Civil War, Administrator Ukpabi Asika established PRODA, the engineering and technology research and development hub at Emene. Asika also began construction of a vegetable oil refinery plant at Nachi in Oji River and on the East-North highway. Military Governor Emeka Omeruah completed and commissioned the plant in 1978. In the Second Republic, Chief Jim Nwobodo approved land for the construction of a vehicle assembly plant, also at Emene.

Years of the locust

Today, Enugu is essentially an industrial wasteland. The Emene industrial corridor exemplifies the degradation we witnessed in our dear State. How many of the First Republic Industries are still standing? Nada. Officials ran the Second Republic car assembly plant aground, gobbled up and is its assets and subsequetly downgraded it to a local autobody fabrication workshop. PRODA produces antiquated machineries for garri processing and such like.

Similarly, public officials also mismanaged the vegetable oil refinery plant and privatized the asset under Robert Akonobi, another military governor. Mismanagement, coupled with regional geopolitics, led to its eventual shut down. Hoodlums set the plant ablaze, twice. Today, the AVOP plant is a shell of concrete and blocks sheltered by a thick forest.

Since the current republic started in 1999, the industry we grow in Enugu is an army of vulnerable urban youths composing political praise songs and raining abuses in the social media. And their destitute rural cousins celebrating their bleak future in puffs of Indian hemp and swigs of nkpuru-mmiri and ogogoro. We cannot help the youths because there are no employment-purposed sectors to fit them. Is this not food for thought for ndi-zoning of Enugu State?

An elite conspiracy

These are my concerns. And the concerns of the average voter as we watch ndi-zoning of Enugu State going at each other’s throats. Ndi-zoning beneficiaries are literally killing the people they rouse to vote at every election season. Will they ever stop to consider what Enugu needs to cater for its army of unemployed youths? For rural folks too weak to continue with backbreaking subsistence farming using ancient implements? And for educational institutions focused more on where a vice chancellor comes from than the products they churn out?

I’m unable to see how rotation enables us plan how to produce world class graduates, empower youth entrepreneurs and incentivize local industries to boost employment. How will zoning facilitate tech hubs and direct our youths to profitable careers in diverse areas such as sports, music and entertainment? What are we in Enugu State today exporting to Nigeria and the world? How do we re-educate youths currently chanting party slogans and abusing each other in the social media?

Finally, did Enugu intentionally plan and agree on a zoning arrangement to start with? The maneuvers of ndi-zoning of Enugu State is an elite conspiracy that managed to produce governors from three zones. And, as former governor Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo said recently, PDP’s idea of zoning stops at the point that power goes around. In Nigeria, it hasn’t gone around yet, but it has in Enugu State. Frankly speaking, something has to give in Enugu, if you ask me. Clearly we need a third force that can bring ndi-zoning back to their senses. Such force connects with people who vote and persuades them to understand that, oftentimes, zoning is a mere ploy to grab power for selfish ends.  

Join the Conversation on this feature

Copyright @ Mulltia Limited 2021. All rights reserved . Ozubulu Street, Independence Layout, Enugu 400271

Ndigbo may miss the presidency

An old friend recently asked why I think Ndigbo may miss the Presidency in 2023. On the contrary, I am more optimistic than ever, I retorted. I am optimistic because I see contenders from other regions furtively looking behind at the Southeast.

It does not matter that some are sharpening anti-Igbo rhetoric to undermine Southeast regional contenders. Everything they do further thrusts the Igbo Presidency question in the limelight.

However, I also said that this optimism is the reason why Ndigbo should look at the hurdles on their way. And deal with them now. 

Hurdles to Scale

Ndigbo may miss the Presidency if they do not scale three major hurdles. By far the biggest persistent is the attitude of the political class to national geopolitics. This is followed by the perennial matter of poor governance in Southeast states. The most recent hurdle is the issue of unknown elements enforcing sit-at-home in the region on behalf of IPOB. Together, these hurdles transform Southeast into a blinkered political landscape so easy to overrun by other regional power players. And this could potentially make it difficult to sell a candidate from the zone. 

Regional powermongers know and take advantage of this weakness. Observe the recent bold move by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to canvass for support from the Region. I believe Atiku will be a capable president if elected. I worked for him and observed how he calmly coordinates strategic planning, displays confident decision-making skills, and adroitly manages human resources. This is why I was puzzled – and disappointed – that he could display insensitivity to the issue of Igbo Presidency by coming to the region to shop for support at this time. This junket unfortunately projects him as a man of blind ambition. 

Still, the former Vice President and his political strategists could only have done this for a reason. They understand the attitude of the Igbo political elite class. Deep down, it appears that the elite political class is rather unsure of the prospects, an anxiety that their opponents can feel and see.

Power of optics

Optics are important. Save for Gov. Dave Umahi, what are the Southeast governors saying or doing? We are left with two impressions. One is that they probably do not believe it is feasible for an Igbo to become President. Consequently, they are unwilling to muster non-partisan supportive actions needed to produce an Igbo candidate for any or all of the two dominant parties. Finally, it is doubtful that they will support a common candidate. Not even their chairman, Gov Dave Umahi who is running will get an endorsement.

The Governors are the most effective brand ambassadors for the Igbo Presidency – if it were to become an actual project. Intentionally working their phones and doing shuttle diplomacy for the project will at least show them what is feasible and what is not. At this moment, no one can predict with any accuracy which region the presidency wind will favor.

Ndigbo may miss the presidency if it turns out that Southeast governors, including Umahi, are eyeing the vice presidency slot? Southern Governors have become used to angling for subordinate positions at federal level while arranging to remotely control governance at the local. Long before the end of their tenure track, they struggle to invest in three things. Each wants to become vice president or senator, as well as kingmaker for elective offices in their states. It betrays a blind ambition to continue to control things from outside the seat of power. Even when experience shows that this desired control is never fully achieved, this does not stop the next governor from taking a chance. It is simply an elite class mindset steeped in selfishness.

An elite class mindset

Igbo presidential aspirants understand the selfish dispositions and therefore stay away from the State Houses during political consultations. Instead, they visit stakeholders and governors of other states. APC office seekers among them queue up to shake Mr. President’s hands.

This is disturbing because the Governors provide the best pathway to national acceptance There should be a meeting of minds on the issue to serve an important message. It shows other regions that Southeast means business. And it discourages aspirants from other regions from approaching the Southeast for support. Only APC’s Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu has so far demonstrated this understanding. His recent visit to the PDP Governor of his home state attests to this.

When Ndigbo are accused of not being united politically, the people bristle at the accusation. They fail to understand that the accusers are merely struggling to describe non-singularity of vision. This failure, in my view, is not fully explained by the famous republican character of the average Igbo. It can also be appreciated in what I described before as “The colors of an Igbo Presidency” (11 February 2021).

Bad Governance as a hurdle

Our governors are not doing well, most of them. They actively place banana peels before their opponents and use these to cancel those who could have stood as tall as Anambra’s Obi to aim for the highest office.

Bad governance is not only about stealing money – and the reason why Ndigbo may miss the Presidency. It reflects in the ways that the governors make it difficult for people to choose good men for public office. Most of the governors retreat into their cocoons as soon as they are elected and ensure that the people who elected them are given as little information as possible. They easily buy off hapless local journalists whose lives are a constant struggle to make ends meet. To them, democracy is no longer “government of the people, by the people.” Good governance is however  leadership that recognizes people power and is totally transparent and accountable. So why is there this tendency to transform governance into a secret cult?

Governors grant favors to alleluia singers and punish those who rightly ask how people’s funds are being spent. Our leaders invest in taking as much money from the system into private pockets as it possibly can. President Muhammadu Buhari lamented the attitude of the Governors who force local council chairmen to give them a lion share of federal allocations to their local governments. He did not make an exception, which implies that your governor is equally complicit.

The irony of the situation is that governors shoot themselves in the foot with the way they manage public funds. Bad governance transforms the southeast into an arid political landscape, difficult to recruit credible candidates for the presidency of Nigeria.

Security is key

Finally, those enforcing sit-at-home on behalf of IPOB may become the answer to question of why Ndigbo may miss the presidency. In 2014 when Gen. Muhammadu Buhari contested the presidency for the fourth time, he had a similar security smoke in his northern backyard. He however promised to use his experiences as a general to deal with the insurgency in the Northeast. And Nigeria gave him the mandate to rule on the strength of his many assurances on security matters.

Look around us. Neither the governors nor other presidential aspirants have had the courage to make such assurances on security of the Southeast. Unknown gunmen and other faceless criminals are running riot over the land.

The president of Nigeria is commander in chief of the armed forces. Not one aspirant is speaking or acting like a future commander in chief. And Nigeria is looking for the person of character who can tackle headlong the economy and security issues that have defied solution thus far. 

It’s already late to do anything about poor governance. But it is not to do something about those causing security problems for the region.

Since IPOB says it is not responsible for those disrupting business and education in the Southeast every Monday. What stops the political class from quietly containing the criminal and giving the region peace? There are enough guns and local intelligence sources to harvest and deploy to confront the miscreants. There are enough guns in the hands of paramilitary agents under the control the governors.

Ndigbo may miss the presidency in 2023 if…

Why Buhari won’t release Nnamdi Kanu

OGBUAGU ANIKWE examines the hurdles standing between Nnamdi Kanu and his freedom and predicts that President Buhari won’t release him.

Why Buhari won't release Nnamdi Kanu
Mazi Nnamdi Kanu

It’s obvious that IPOB members and their enablers are living in a fool’s paradise. They refuse to accept that it’s almost impossible to free Nnamdi Kanu from detention and trial. Why can’t they see that it’s neither practical nor commonsensical to do so?

The practical approach is to accelerate the court process and get him out on bail. However, everything happening in court right now suggests that prolongation of court dates is the name of the game. The court process may therefore most likely continue to run until well after the President hands over power in 2023.

The commonsensical approach is to continue to explore a political solution that leads to his release. But political solutions are always about interests. What overarching interests can influence the release of Kanu. Consider these interests from the geopolitics of the Southeast, the impact on the rest of Nigeria, and the mandate and disposition of the President.

What does the rest of Nigeria stand to benefit from the release of Mazi Kanu? Is there any quantity of suffering IPOB heaps on Southeasterners that can move Nigerians beyond sympathetic clucking? In particular, are non-Southeast States suffering economic losses as Igbos are bullied to stay indoors whenever the whim catches IPOB? Are their children prevented from learning on Mondays? Are lives being lost outside the Southeast as a result of IPOB Monday theatrics? To paraphrase a governor’s joke, Ogbasara Nigeria? Beyond these, what impact will his release have on the peace that President Buhari enjoys since he recaptured Kanu?

To dive deeper, the overriding interests of the nation can be captured in three hurdles that stand between Mazi Kanu and his freedom. The personality and mindset of our President is a big hurdle. The geopolitics of the Southeast Region is another. And then, there is a third hurdle, embedded in the history of old Biafra, not the current agitation theatrics. The personality and mindset of our President are merged with this history and so, we deal with the two hurdles as one.

There are certain character dispositions that forewarn us that President Buhari won’t budge on issue of Mazi Kanu’s freedom at this time. President Buhari is the torchbearer for an elite group of powermongers which executed the July 1966 countercoup. Members of this group speak to Igbos only in “the language they understand.”
They learnt this language and have been employing it to address Igbo matters since 1966. In July of that year, some of them coordinated the arrest and execution of over 300 military officers and men from the defunct Eastern Region. All of them looked away while the northern civilian population descended upon and slaughtered thousands of Easterners living in the North. And then, they were mobilized to brutally prosecute a war that cost an estimated two million more lives. Millions of civilians ended up paying for the sins of officers from the East, West and Mid-West Regions who executed the first coup d’état in January 1966.

The elite powermongers salved their consciences by promoting the resulting genocidal war as a patriotic action to reunite the country. When the war ended, they proudly sang a “no-victor, no vanquished” refrain. They did all of this to assuage feelings of hurt among civilian population that they visited with anger and disdain. Then they retired with feelings of self-righteousness and effusions of renewed patriotic fervor.

Among members of this military elite, this self-righteous and patriotic mindset is not bound by religion or geography. Today, if a journalist scratches any of the surviving members of this gang (Gowon, Obasanjo, Danjuma, Buhari), they’ll sing a similar refrain from the maledictions of the past. In their minds, Southeast remains a conquered territory, despite the no-victor-no-vanquished mantra. And they are the conquerors with divine mandate to sustain the unity they won through tears and blood in battlefields.

It is for this reason that civil unrest anywhere in Nigeria evokes potential uprising a la Biafra that must be violently put down. The unity won in the battlefields of Biafra became non-negotiable, as long as they’re in power. Nigeria won’t renegotiate her unity but would rather enforce and sustain it with guns and bullets.

President Buhari restated the group’s mandate to an Al Jazeera interviewer in 2019: we cannot allow Igbos to leave a country that millions died to keep as one.

It is important to understand why this military gang has this mindset and why efforts are always made to extend it to the rest of Nigeria. An Igbo adage offers one explanation: “if a finger brings oil, it stains the rest.” In Nigeria today, the sin of one Igbo, more often than not, becomes the sin of all Igbos. In virtually every interview granted since he assumed office, President Buhari betrays this mindset whenever asked about IPOB. He particularly finds it difficult to separate a tiny band of separatist agitators from the entire Igbo populace. In interview responses, IPOB is magnified as an Igbo insurrection that must be crushed as in Old Biafra.

A second reason why Buhari won’t release Nnamdi Kanu is a common defensive strategy that I call leadership capture. The tactic is to capture the leader and keep him away and thereafter disorganize and disband the followership. The tactic was first used to convict and put away late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. It is used today to keep Sheik el Zakzaky out of sight, no matter what the courts say. Protests and clashes with security have so far failed to free the Islamic cleric from detention.

What makes IPOB enablers think that Mazi Kanu will be treated differently?

The third is the geopolitics of the Southeast region. The influences at play are both internal and external. Internally, it is the challenge of managing legally constituted territories that IPOB strives to turn into ungoverned spaces. The external is the politics of managing unwanted Igbo demand for the Nigerian presidency, which I propose to deal with only as a question in the end.

Besides skirmishes with federal security forces, IPOB is currently locked in a supremacy battle with constituted authorities of the Southeast. In the popular imagination, the separatist group has already won the mind battle, thanks to the enablers.

IPOB enablers are few but influential. They embolden the separatist group to seek to lord it over the rest of the population. In some towns, one can liken what is happening to the symbolic hoisting of jihadist flags by religious fundamentalists in the Northeast. And then the army moves in.

Today, through skillful use of digital propaganda, IPOB successfully cows the southeast population into silence and sheepish surrender to the orders of faceless groups operating in its name. The region’s State Governors appear powerless as citizens are forced indoors every Monday through this violent propaganda.

Everyone can see that IPOB’s confused and disorganized leadership is no longer in control. They cancelled the sit-at-home when the horse already bolted from the stable. Consequently, rogue elements of the movement, aided by criminal interlopers, exploit the confusion to visit violence and destruction each Monday. Those who go out in search of daily bread return with horrific stories, if they survived the adventure.
Incredibly, enablers of IPOB interpret this fear-induced sit-in as evidence of the people’s obedience and support for Biafra agitation! The point, however, is that the leadership of the Southeast may have lost but IPOB gained a Pyrrhic victory.

IPOB is not only turning the Governors’ territories into ungoverned spaces but have also made them enemies of the people. And yet, the governors remain the only authorities that can call for and enter a meaningful dialogue with federal authorities in a different, effective language. It is good for IPOB enablers to hope and pray that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu regains his freedom from the Monday havoc they wreak in the Southeast. But if you were a governor, will you champion Kanu’s release to complete the takeover of your State by a non-state actor?

And then this: if you were a presidential aspirant from outside the Southeast, will you also encourage peace to reign in the region – when the next president is expected to come from there?

Why Buhari won’t release Nnamdi Kanu