Monday, March 30, 2009


The gruesome and fatal death of Mrs. Elizabeth Yakubu, has again brought to the fore the endemic problems of domestic violence in Nigeria. According to the news story published online by Sunday Sun, March 29, 2009, Mrs. Yakubu was purportedly hurled down by her husband from the third floor of their house by her husband, Yusuf Yakubu, a 47-year old Senior Inspector with the Nigeria Customs Service.

It is instructive to state that Mr. Yakubu for the record, is denying the charge, he claims that his estranged wife took the fatal plunge herself following his refusal to allow her leave for her house shortly before midnight on the fateful day. Even if that were to be true, his admission still warrants at least a charge of criminal false imprisonment, a veritable tool in the hands of domestic violence perpetrators.

According to the report, Mr. Yakubu’s problem with his wife always starts when he drinks. Alcoholism and drug abuse most often are gateway to domestic violence. The report states that “Anytime he was drunk, he would turn her into a punching bag. She was always leaving him, but he would always go and beg her, saying he had changed.”

Sadly, in Nigeria we have no program geared towards addressing this type of problem. Most of our politicians are men anyway and they are active perpetrators themselves. I recall reading sometimes ago about a Nigerian first lady who boasted how her husband, the then Nigerian president, take pride in whipping her with a horse whip in front of her children if she refused to follow his instructions.

In Nigeria, a woman is expected to follow her husband instructions no matter how warped and illogic that instruction might sound. Nigerian Christians and pastors are directly culpable for this. They stressed the fact that the husband is the head of the wife. They stressed “the head” in the scriptural references they use to justify their stand even to the detriment of the biblical injunctions to husband to love their wife as Christ love the church. No Nigerian church, Pentecostal, orthodox or otherwise have any program directly addressing the prevalent problems of domestic violence in Nigeria. I have also not found any Islamiyya group combating this evil in our society.

Nigerian pastors will often preach against the many evils of “gays and lesbianism” in America and western society whilst they ignore “the specs” in their own eyes. The Imams in the North will rather preach a vitriolic sermon about the neglect of sharia laws in the north than address the injustice against women in many “purdahs” in Nigeria.

We are a nation with culture, they say, but how long will this culture that openly permits the neglect, abuse and discriminations against women last. There are many Yakubu’s in Nigeria who gets drunk at the beer parlor on his way home from work, and gets home to smack their wives around. In Nigeria, neighbors don’t call police to report a domestic violence, when you asked why; they say “we don’t wash our dirty linen in public.” Often time, my retort to them is that this is not just a dirty linen it is a crime. One of the laws my criminal procedure lecturer at the Nigerian law school stress “ad nauseam” is assault and battery. If we don’t report battery against defenseless women and children we should not expect help when those children grew up to invade our homes with armed gangs.

I asked a many Nigerian what aspect of Nigerian life needs immediate attention in what I called “priority of government” series (POGS). The unanimous agreement I got from my unscientific survey points inevitably to security. Not power generation, I guess Nigerian have resigned themselves to living in darkness for the rest of Yar’adua’s regime. No one even mentioned the global financial meltdown or the Nigerian stock exchange imbroglio. Everyone is uniformly concerned with the problem of armed robbery and violent crimes in Nigeria.

In a country where politicians hired armed gangs to run their campaigns Nigerians have cause for concern. I informed a friend recently that I am as impressed with the extreme makeover Governor Fashola is giving Lagos state as everyone else, but all these will be to no avail as long as the problem of security of life and property continues to “dog” the populace.

And it all starts with law enforcement, Nigerian don’t trust their security and para -military apparatus. The police officers carry guns at every “road blocks” and yet you can’t find them around when armed robbers strike at the same location. Sometimes the citizens of Nigeria can hardly distinguish between the armed robbers who invaded their homes at night and the one who invaded their pockets at the road blocks. The Nigerian army will forever live in infamy for the crimes committed against the Odi people on the order of then President Obasanjo.

Someone once said “in the state of lawlessness” it is illegal to be lawful. This is the state we are in Nigeria. This is why husband beat their wife with impunity and nothing happens. This is why we are raising kids who all they know is abuse, physical, mental and political. We have an attorney general that openly cuddles corrupt governors, and will do anything to ensure the long arms of the law will not reach his former clients.

Mrs. Elizabeth Yakubu’s life was wasted by her husband, just as Nigerian government in Abuja is wasting our hard earned democracy “while we stand aside and look.” Like Bob Marley sang years ago, “some says it is just part of it, we’ve got to fulfill the book” as our Imams and pastors regurgitate to our ears at every Sunday and Jumat services.

I say it is time to start a conversation with the pastors and imams and asked them why they keep as friends politicians who mortgage their congregation’s future. It is time to ask them why they refuse to engage the husband who drinks and beat his wife and kids all because he pays a fat tithe and offering.

Francis Adewale
Spokane, WA

Thursday, March 26, 2009


“The truth is, for our democracy to work it needs not just an engaged citizenry,
but an informed one. We've known this since this nation's earliest days. …
"Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of
the people," they wrote, are "necessary for the preservation of their rights and
liberties." -Lee Hamilton “The Center on Congress Indiana University”
The impetus to write this piece came from no other place but Lee Hamilton brilliant piece where I extracted the quote above. I am going to be borrowing heavily from his writing. But let me take the liberty to give a little background to this piece. We learnt recently from This Day newspapers that Lagos State government and indeed Lagos State governor maybe doing an awesome job. Thanks to a columnist from ThisDay Newspapers, Simon Kolawole who wrote “My write-up today should help us understand the Fashola Phenomenon and put things in proper perspective. We can then ask: what can the rest of Nigeria learn from this?” The article went on and on to extol the many virtues and achievement of Fashola to the exclusions of all others.

When I first read this piece my mind immediately went back to ThisDay’s earlier hit piece on the same Lagos state governor. I am sure Mr. Kolawole, as editor of Thisday newspapers know one thing or two about that piece. Here is my riposte on that saga: “In a news story that is clearly a cut between an “hit piece” and an otherwise intelligent investigative report, we learnt of the shenanigans and hypocrisy of the former governor of Lagos State and his connections with the disgraced Abacha’s family friend-the Chagoury’s; as well as the multi billion naira awarded to the latter’s company-Hi-tech Construction company by the Lagos State government.” Thisday ended that news story titled “The Abacha Henchmen’s Chagoury Take Over Lagos” with a clincher “this article is the first in Thisday series on state government.” That was over 6 months ago, nothing but laudatory praises have appeared in Thisday. We are still waiting on their expose’

To Thisday newspapers all of that is water under the bridge, they have patched up with Tinubu, Fashola and the Lagos state government and it is back to business as usual, but to those of us who fought to enthrone the same democracy they are frittering away we are not done yet.

Thisday is not alone in this “jankara” journalism. The Nation newspapers purportedly owned by Tinubu acolytes fought back with their own hit piece on Thisday and its publishers. Other newspapers around the same time “led concurrently for three weeks with damning exposure of questionable award of pension by Gombe State House of Assembly to Governor Danjuma Goje. When adverts from Gombe State and friends of Gombe State started appearing in the pages of this newspaper and other newspapers, nothing was heard of the Goje pension saga” according to a Nigerian blogger who had observed this shameful practice.

This “jankara” journalism practice is also extended to corporate Nigeria. A GSM service provider gave tariff free lines to major columnists and editors. “This Greek gift has ensured that this company does not get the truth about the company activities reported. When any columnist or editor runs out of weekend cash, or money for staff salary, a not too favorable report is done, which is automatically followed by an advert or appearance on the cover of the weekend edition/centre page special report or pull out from the affected corporation or individual. This is how Nigerian media runs.”

When I started a column about Nigerian columnist I received a deluge of emails and text messages from Nigerian, most of whom wanted us to call them out. Many Nigerian can see through these shenanigans but do we have enough informed Nigerian to do something about this charade? One elderly Nigerian called me from Washington DC, an accountant by profession, he was so bitter about the piss poor state of Nigerian journalism that his son said he almost broke his vein speaking to me on the phone. He said he wanted me to concentrate on Reuben Abati. He wondered why I feature more positive and above board columnist like Sonala Olumhense and Okey Ndibe when I could have devoted more space to graft seeking columnist like Reuben Abati, shaming them every week. I told him my attempt is to show there is a better way. He concluded by reminding me that up till now, no one, not even the management of The Guardian newspapers have been able to come up with a reasonable explanation about how and why Reuben Abati accepted land titles from former FCT minister El-Rufai even whilst he writes glowing article about the latter’s tenure in Abuja.

Getting the basic facts right is essential to governing well, especially in a democratic setting. One of the most critical job facing political leaders in a society as complex as Nigeria is to forge a consensus among many people and interests holding competing views. This is difficult enough to do when everyone agrees on the underlying facts; it is virtually impossible when there is no agreement on them. Voters' misperceptions, in other words, can become formidable obstacles to the functioning of our representative democracy. This is why an informed citizenry is imperative for a successful democratic experiment and an articulated media without ulterior agenda is synthetically unavoidable if our experiment is going to last.

Misperceptions develop for many reasons. It can be wearying to sort through all the sources of information—the media, advocacy groups, the Internet, politicians, commentators—on any given subject. And there are always political leaders, lobbyists and others who are willing to let misperceptions linger. After all, if all you need do to win an election is bribing a few journalists why bother with campaigns.

By the same token, there is no single fix. Part of the answer lies with Nigerian growing members of Congress and other public officials, who have a responsibility to correct public misperceptions. Part of it lies with the media, which in recent years has shown a worrisome tendency to downplay its role as even-handed, in-depth civic educator and to focus on entertainment or once-over reporting. Part of it lies with civic groups—some of them do their level best to counter the flood of misinformation, but they often seem outmatched. Lee Hamilton wrote this about politics in the United States of America, but you can apply this mutatis mutandis to the on going situation in present day Nigeria.

In the end, the burden lies with each of us as citizens. A lot of powerful groups and interests in Nigeria try to manipulate public opinion, and they're very good at it. Yet a democratic society depends on its citizens separating the wheat from the chaff, forming good judgments, and putting pressure on their representatives to act accordingly. If ordinary people can't do this or don't want to devote the time and energy, the country suffers. No matter how good our leadership, if we don't have discriminating citizens, this nation will not work very well.

There is an old observation that a society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves. Living in a democracy may be a basic right, but it is also a privilege, and it is one that must be earned by living up to the fondest dreams of our founders for a well-educated and knowledgeable citizenry.

One good thing about the state of media in Nigeria is that the traditional media no longer have sole control of the message. Thanks to the innumerable Nigerian online bloggers populating the internet. A stark contrast between the approach of the traditional media and online blogosphere could be seen in the coverage of a certain Professor Gabriel Oyibo, who claimed have answered questions that Einstein tried to address until he died regarding the origin of the universe. Nigeria Guardian Newspapers through its United States correspondents Laolu Akande published a glowing tribute “celebrating” the achievement of the so-called Oyibo, based entirely on claims made by him. Several months after the publication the said professor surfaced in Abuja and was hosted and feted by Nigeria University Commission, apparently acting on the news report of Guardian.

Thanks to Elendu reports, who dispatched their reporter, Omoyele Sowore to investigate Professor Oyibo’s claim, it turns out many of the professor’s claim are either downright fraudulent or laden with delusions. You can read his report here. In that report Sowore took the pains to verify every claim and contact every institution referenced by Guardian newspapers. At the end of day Guardian newspapers got eggs on their faces, but don’t think that is the end of the saga. It turns out Professor Oyibo is an Idoma who happens to come from the same region as the current attorney general of the federation, Michael Aondoakaa, a man who had sworn to do everything in its power to exterminate eviscerate the very real threat the Nigerian blogosphere posed to their murderous hold on power in Nigeria.
Here is where you as a reader come in to help defend democracy in Nigeria. We all needs to be better informed. Don’t take everything you read from the traditional media or that you watch on NTA or AIT as gospel truth. Challenged them by writing a rejoinder, if they refuse to publish your piece sends it online. Let’s tell them we would no longer sit idle whilst they destroy our hard earned democracy. A better informed citizenry is a requisite vanguard to an enduring democracy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009



“Well I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead.
But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountain top. And I
don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its
place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And
He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen
the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight,
that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” –Dr. Martin Luther King

At the pace we are going in Nigeria, we may end up redefining what democracy truly mean. We are getting to a point where election and electoral victory is just a process. The most important victories we have witnessed so far in Nigeria nascent democracy have all come from the court. No thanks to our “wuru wuru” and “mago mago” fraudulent electoral officers. Victory on Election Day matters little. Turning out the vote and mass appeal and followings by the electorates count little.

We learnt again through the judicial victory granted Oshiomhole and Mimiko by the Court of Appeal that democracy truly needs an independent judiciary to survive. You can spend millions on “get out the vote,” you can go out on election day to knock on doors and appeal to the voters to turn out “enmass” to vote for your candidate, nothing is assured. If you are a politician planning to contest in the next election, you are better advised to save enough money not just to pay for posters but also to pay lawyers to defend your mandate if you ever won! This is the new face of democracy, a democracy for the people, by the people through the court of appeal!

There is nothing inherently wrong in judicial victory on electoral matters, we should be happy that we have independent judiciary willing to stand up for what is right. But then you ask? Why does it have to get to this level before the right thing is done? Why can’t Mr. Iwu get it right? What does he or anyone gain from subverting democracy by stealing the people’s mandate?

And by the way, are we sure the judiciary will always get it right? You only need to look at the electoral tribunal in Osun state to see how a subverted judiciary can make a mess of the process. In Osun state the chairman of the Electoral Tribunal was caught exchanging text messages with one of the counsel to the petition before him. It turns out the text messages were not just greetings, they happened to contain briefs on how to win the case he is supposed to be an impartial arbiter on. That case is still pending in the Court of Appeal and the court’s decision is been eagerly awaited by many pro-democracy activists in Nigeria and abroad.

To echo Comrade Oshiomhole ““truly, truly, now we can discuss democracy. From the point of view of making democracy work, we can discuss democracy. From the perspectives of reforming democracy, now we can discuss democracy. From the hallowed chambers, through the courts, from gavel to gavel, now we can discuss democracy,”

Friends, it is time to tell us what you think? It is time for Nigerians to stand up for democracy.