Thursday, December 26, 2013

APC Stupid Blunder

Let me start out by saying that I am no fan of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and based on current performance index, I do not believe he deserve to win a second term. My missive today however has more to do with the blunder of his political party opponents than anything GEJ has done or is doing.

What APC did recently beggars belief and may cost them the opportunity of becoming a viable opposition to People’s Democratic Party vice grip on Nigeria political terrain. Imagine your political opponents are locked in a deadly schism. The implosions are public and comedic. One of the leaders of your party opponent, an ex president wrote a scathing damning letter to his party’s current president and made the missive public. This was before your party opponent governors decamped to your political party and made it a condition that you have to meet with some of the scions of their erstwhile party. The list of the people you are asked to meet consist of the folks you have successfully ran against and won elections by labeling them as satanic politicians. You then sheepishly agreed to these conditions and then set out to meet with these characters at their respective abode.

Permit me to state that the essential gripe of the arrow head of this diatribe against the sitting president by the letter writer's own admission is that the sitting president allowed the oppositions to win a free and fair election in his enclave when the president should have rigged the election in favor of their party!

If this scenario appears to you like a bad Nollywood script and stranger than fiction, you are not alone. But sadly, it is very true. The fledgling opposition party in Nigeria made a serious blunder this month when it decided to meet with former president Olusegun Obasanjo. What they stand to gain from that meeting beats me and why they trudge to his enclave remains a mystery. It is not that the governors who championed the visit have anywhere to run to if the leadership of APC refuses to meet this ludicrous demand. What is more, at the end of the meeting they gained nothing!

As Professor Wole Soyinka rightly stated “the opposition party's approach as [is]lacking in moral focus and tantamount to political prostitution” . It was also downright stupid and I am sure they will rue the day they made that journey to Ota. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Nigerian Civil Right Activist Wins Human Right Award

Student, individual and organization receive City’s first award
A North Central High School student, member of the City Public Defenders Office and the NAACP were honored Thursday morning as the inaugural winners of the Spokane Human Rights Award during a ceremony in City Hall.

Winners were announced in three categories: individuals, youth (under 21) and organizations, for their commitment to promoting human rights.  The winner for the youth award is Purnima Karki, a North Central High School student.  The individual winner is Francis Adewale with the City of Spokane’s Public Defender’s Office and the organizational winner is the Spokane NAACP.  All of these awardees have worked diligently in 2013 to promote human rights in Spokane. 

“It has long been our goal to honor the individuals and organizations who make a difference every day in our community,” Lisa Rosier, chair of the Spokane Human Rights Commission said. “Now we are able to say thank you with the City’s first award recognizing the citizen’s commitment to human rights in Spokane.”

The Human Rights Commission strives to promote and secure a mutual understanding and respect among all people.  The Human Rights Awards were created to recognize the outstanding commitment of those who support human rights and make a difference in Spokane.

Karki, a refuge from Nepal, has dedicated her time to acting as an interpreter for the Nepali community and helping this community understand American culture and what they need to do to become a citizen. She also volunteers her time weekly to read to students at Holmes Elementary. She was nominated by Paula Korus.

Adewale, an assistant public defender, helped people from different nations integrate into our community and connected refuges to resources and information.  He was instrumental in hosting an annual training symposium at Spokane Falls Community College to help refugees and immigrants with the basics of state law, and participated in a street law program on the weekends to help low-income people with a variety of legal issues.  He was nominated by Kathy Knox.

The NAACP has been instrumental in promoting diversity in the community, sponsoring and producing the annual Martin Luther King Jr. march in Spokane. Members of the NAACP participate in a variety of social events every year to promote human rights and social justice. 

Presenters at the ceremony included Mayor David Condon, City Council President Ben Stuckart, Tony Stewart from the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations and Lisa Rosier from the Human Rights Commission.  Transitions New Leaf Bakery provided breakfast.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The State of the Nigerian nation

"We have reached a moment in time when the national condition seems neither
lifeless nor deathless. It’s like the barren but sensuous serenity of the
natural world in late autumn, before Thanksgiving, containing the promise of
rebirth and the potential for resurrection."-anon

I am so saddened by the current state of affairs in Nigeria that I feel like drowning my lap top in my bathtub. Not only has the leadership failed the people but the people of Nigeria themselves leave a lot to be desire. No one is speaking against evil. Crime after crime, daily kidnappings, armed and pen robberies, the society just moved on. We are now so impervious to things that we do not care anymore. It is sad and saddening indeed.

Monday, October 28, 2013

When you need a panel to fire a corrupt Minister you have failed as anti-corruption crusader

"Nations have been known to survive in a state of advanced decay or through merely living on the brink. Some are dubbed banana republics, others client nations to more forceful and productive ones. They carry out orders which may or may not coincide with the interests of the people who constitute the nation. “ – Wole Soyinka (2011)

The problem with Oduahgate is not just the level of impunity exhibited by the leadership of Nigeria in every strata but the brazen stupidity of the bureaucrat we employed to man the gate. The defense of indefensible is laughable. The denial of the obvious is ludicrous. The cover up is criminal. We are at a point in our democracy where corrupt politicians need to know that the people of Nigeria may not have power to remove them through the ballot box due to the corruption of the electoral process but we do have power to embarrass and shame them.

The fact that the mainstream press initially shy away from the story is in itself telling on the complicity of the press in Nigeria. Without the ever present vigilance of the burgeoning blogosphere in Nigeria, we may as well give up on our democracy. The valiant work of the likes of Saharareporters and others should be commended. Sometimes they get it wrong and we rightly excoriated them, but in the long run the internet self publishing journalism has saved us more than our mainstream press have done. Their fearless work in mobilizing the citizenry against corruption in the governance of Nigeria should be commended. This is not however to say that we do not need the mainstream press. Their reach cannot be understated. It is heartwarming that they immediately jumped on board as soon as it was apparent that the scandal of overpriced bullet proof car for an aviation minister who celebrate deaths on our airways is for real.

The question is what is next. Many have asked that the president should suspend the minister. I concurred. This will follow the precedent set with former minister, Adenike Grange and Gabriel Aduku. This is the standard worldwide. You don’t allow a suspect to guard the crime scene. There is prima facie case that a crime was committed, the president appears to have agreed, what should follow is suspension. Nothing more and nothing less, every day the minister spend in that position give her opportunity to tamper with evidence, intimidate witnesses and interfere with investigation. The panel set up by the president is at best a ruse and a cover up. Members of the panel are neither prosecutors, lawyers of law enforcement. The NSA chief is incapable of identifying a crime if it smacks him in the face. The other panel member is a military officer and former head of service. To quote one recent writer “What's needed is expertise, patience, and methodical reasoning.” These have long since banned from Goodluck Jonathan administration.

Nevertheless, this scandal is a big test on President Goodluck Jonathan readiness to defend the integrity of our democracy and fidelity to our constitution, if he failed to dispense justice in a bid to protect his hirelings we should be ready to expose his regime for what it is: corruption ridden malfeasances!

We need to continue to put pressure on the president and the national assembly to expose every facet of corruption in Nigeria. Our future and the future of democracy depend on it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

When the Hunter Became the Hunted: The Ironic case of Olagunsoye Oyinlola

“History proves that all dictatorships, all authoritarian forms of government are transient. Only democratic systems are not transient. Whatever the shortcomings, mankind has not devised anything superior. -Vladimir Putin

There are some Nigerians who enjoy the coterie of power so much so you can’t remember when they were ever out of the loop of power. They are the AGIP-Any government in power- group. They are constantly moving up in governmental circles; in fact they will do anything to stay in power. They have little or no scruple or principles; they abuse those who dare criticize their masters. They are always available to be use to launder the image of whoever the traducers in power might be. Among these motley lots is my state former governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola (I say Prince guardedly as that is what he now wishes to be called, even though he was a former military man turned militricians).

Oyinlola has been within the circle of governance in Nigeria since 1993, holding the levers of power as military administrator (Lagos State), governor (Osun State) or national secretary (People’s Democratic Party). In any and all of these positions there is nothing you can point to as achievement during his misrule. On the other hand, there are abundance of evidence pointing to corruption, abuse of power and anti-democratic tendencies. For example, in September 2009, a spokesman for the United Action for Democracy (UAD) accused Oyinlola of being the 'chief conspirator' in the alleged murder of Kudirat Abiola, wife of the acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential election Chief MKO Abiola, who was assassinated on the road between his (Oyinlola’s) office and that of the Canadian High Commission.

In July 2009, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, banned Igbo people in Osun state from parading themselves as Eze Ndigbo (king of Igbo), an unprecedented executive overreach. In his words he did this “in order to protect the Igbo culture and traditional institution from ridicule.” At the same time, he sought constitutional responsibilities for traditional rulers in the country, something outside the current constitution, he had sworn to protect and defend. He used the levers of power to hound his opponents as governor of Osun state, so much so that at one time he practically put the state capital on lockdown for more than 48 hours in other to stop the opposition party from campaigning against him. He empowered the local government administrator he handpicked to ride roughshod over the citizen of the state with impunity, and one of them actually crush the skull of a respected citizen of my hometown-Ilesa. He used his power as state governor, to detain and brutalized his then opponent, who is now the current governor of Osun state, Comrade Rauf Aregbesola. In April 2009, as national secretary of PDP, Next magazine reported that Olagunsoye Oyinlola was caught on tape telling local PDP politicians he would supply army uniforms, arms and ammunition so they could rig the runoff elections in Ekiti State. I could go on and on, but you get my drift, the lists of his misdeeds are endless.

Now fast forward to present interesting times. After 20 years of hobnobbing with the rich and almighty in Nigeria, he has now found himself out of corridor of power for the first time in over 30 years. Not only is he out of power, he is also getting a huge dose of what he doled out to democracy activist when he was in power. His new PDP has been locked out of their secretariat contrary to an order of court which expressly prohibits police officers from interfering in intraparty brouhaha. He is now constantly watching over his shoulders as he could be arrested by agents of President Goodluck Jonathan and Alhaji Bamanga Tukur-the party chairman. He is hunted by the ghost of his past and the realities of his present. He is as much a wanted man as he once made many who oppose his misrule.

The ironic thing here is that he now runs to some of us in the prodemocracy activism in Nigeria to rescue him. And sadly, we have to defend him. As our principles, especially on freedom is not hinged on who is being deny the rights we are fighting for but the very existence of freedom itself! The fact that Oyinlola is suddenly a “democrat” at least for the moment, matters little to the fact that freedom endures. He is now ruing the misrule at the center, attacking his party boss with the constitutions, the same paper he never read but used to wrap “akara” and “boli” when he was in power. Let me made it abundantly clear though that the irony is only lost on him.

I think it was Vladimir Putin (himself a dictator) who was quoted to have said “History proves that all dictatorships, all authoritarian forms of government are transient. Only democratic systems are not transient. Whatever the shortcomings, mankind has not devised anything superior.” I wonder why they never learned this homily when they are in government. Irony does writ large at these interesting times of mankind history.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Impending book publication

As I make final preparation for my new book launch, this quote came to mind:

“Outside of a dog a book is a man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”- Mark Twain

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Where are the Nation's Leaders???

There was a time when people look to Nigeria for leadership in all spheres. In recent years, leadership in Nigeria is in the negative ...(cont'd)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Amaechi, GEJ and Patience: Who is on the side of Nigeria

The question should not be about whose side you are on in the ongoing struggle for the very existence of democracy in Nigeria but on who is on the side of Nigeria.- my 2 cents.

So color me blind: I am neither a pro Amaechi, pro-Patience or pro-Jonathan. I am solidly pro-Nigeriana!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Adieu Senator Pius Ewherido: Nigeria Lost a Rare Breed and Great Debater

I have not found a Nigerian politician I can endorse and celebrate. I have found Nigerian politicians with little or no conscience. There are many who will sell their offspring if it will get them to any position of power and money. So I write this sad commentary not as an avid fan of Senator Pius Ewherido, the politician, but as an alumnus of Obafemi Awolowo University where our paths crossed briefly in the late 1980s.

Before there was ever a Senator Pius Ewherido, there was a student activist known simply as Pius the Great Debater. At the then University of Ife, faculty of Law, we all knew those who have seeds of greatness in them. We knew those who would graduate and steal $1 billion from shady government contracts and then spend one thousand dollars of that ill gotten wealth to buy bags of rice for distribution to the poor and the needy at Christmas time. We knew those who will take the law profession to lofty heights and those who might soon become senior advocate of Nigeria. Pius Ewherido was definitely among those in the latter category. None of us thought he will ever join politics or even aspire to be one. He was brainy, intellectually savvy and a great debater. We all thought he may end up becoming a law professor or a Supreme Court Justice one day. At Ife Law, he is one senior every junior looks forward to his appearance at the moot and mock trial. Along with Isaac Kekemeke, Raji Owonikoko, Mutiu Ganiyu, Churchill Oliseh, and of course the Odidis clan, there was never a dull moment at the faculty of Ife foyer in those days.

Pius the great debater will often convince his opponent to abandon their principled stands and join his side of argument not by any appeal to force but by sheer art of elevated sophistry. You know going in to a debate with him that you had to be prepared. Any opponents who make the mistake to enter into such debates unprepared will rue the day they join issues with him. His appeal is not just words but the soundness of his arguments, backed by facts, figures and statistics. He is a delight to hear in several impromptu debates at Fajuyi hall in those days. He was also a member of the student representative council where he moved the assembly to achieve greatness.

Whatever happened between his transition from Ife and his political days will remain a mystery for sociologist and anthropologist to dissect and researched. When I learnt he won election to Delta state assembly I was excited but then my euphoria was tempered by the platform he ran on. Some of my colleagues cautioned me to never give up and that at least Pius will change the politics of my adopted state-Delta. Unfortunately, Delta politics went from bad to worse. Massive corruption by the convicted former governor of Delta impoverished the state and turned a prosperous state into a pauperized state.

Senator Pius Ewherido eventually left the party and ran on the platform of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and won. Free of the constraint and baggage of PDP he had turned his attention to crafting legislations that address the myriads of problems that ails his people when the cold hands of death cut him down recently.

I stand with Delta people to mourn the demise of a friend, learned colleague and astute debater. Adieu Senator Pius Ewherido

Friday, June 7, 2013

Blast from the Past: Sycophancy and the Nigerian online Columnist

I am on vacation this month, so enjoy one of the blast from the past. Even though it still rings true today, if not truer still.

Sycophancy: the new directive principle for Nigeria web columnist?

I thought we have heard the last of them, but hell no! They are still very much lurking around. Their mouths is their god, their goal is our ruin. Their plan is their corrupt enrichment and nothing will stand in their way, truths will be sacrificed, facts will be turned into farce as long as their pockets is lined. The new Nigeria web columnists are one hell of a motley crowd. They come in all shapes, forms and hue; they churned out volumes of words like wordsmith every week, all at the biddings of their masters. When they are not calling for the “balkanization” of Nigeria they are urging us to join them in their morbid opera where they “praise sing” their ways to hard earned currency doled to them by Nigeria current rulers, i.e. governor/president/minister/legislators celebrating their 100 days in office.

Not too long ago, I wrote about the so-called “me-too” web-columnist, now they have refined their acts. They no longer stop short of praising their “ogas”-masters with subtlety, they brazenly inflicts us with their “praise singing” gibberish daily. To imagine that a Nigerian will sit behind his computer and praise the perfidious regime presently stalking our land beats me hollow. To still imagine that these writers will turn truths on its head is incalculable. What drew my ire, is not just that this conscience-less Nigeria are doing this for lucre, but they are so ignorant of the implication of what they are doing.

One writer recently wrote a flattering prose on the 100 days of President Olusegun Obasanjo and Governor Fayose. (See OBJ'S DISCIPLES - HOW CHIEF BODE GEORGE, GOV. FAYOSE AND OTHER PDP APPARATUS CELEBRATED THE FIRST 100 DAYS by Charles Olaiya, Nigeriaworld 9/11/03) I bet readers will like to know the premise for his vaunted piece, well it is simple: to him the fact that Governor Fayose commissioned GSM line for Ekiti state at his 100 days in office is enough. Can you imagine how low our expectations of governing and rulership have sunked! Kai! Well my friend didn’t just stop at that, of course he has to earn his pay, after all his own democracy dividends will be paid into an offshore account! That writer concluded as follows:

“The Nigerian political process has not matured to the level where accomplishments can be counted after 100 days in office. This is a mythical benchmark intended to hold elected officials and political appointees to their promises, which may not be fulfilled. Many democracies around the world, including the U.S., mark such milestones, but not to the point of celebration.”

In other words setting a benchmark for elected officials is now mythical, and our political process has not matured to the level where accomplishments can be counted after 100 days? Haba! Mr. Paid-Writer, are you reading yourself at all. In the previous paragraphs, this web columnist had earlier praised the same governors and his hero- Olabode George for their political sagacity. He committed the worst faux pas when he wrote:

“Chief Bode George was not a known name. But his spectacular rise and effective leadership are a force in a country where good leadership is hard to find at any price. Chief Bode George has succeeded in transforming the southwest into a new frontier of hope where the old politicians, both dead and alive, have failed.

He successfully managed the last national election in Nigeria with spectacular success. His followers, men such as Chief Ropo Adesanya, Chief Olofintuyi and others from the southwest, are just as effective as he is.”

I wonder how much this PDP commissioned public relations job will cost the taxpayers of Ekiti and Ondo State. I never imagine that some one will one day claimed to have “successfully managed the last national election in Nigeria with spectacular success”. An election where results released at polling booth is diametrically different from that announced at the collation center. An election the Commonwealth monitoring group refused to certify. An election where the ruling party with active connivance of the Nigeria police force openly employed thuggery and brigandage. An Olabode George that lost his very ward and local government in Lagos thanks to the vigilance and education of Lagos electorate!

It is a well accepted principle of logic that you can approbate and at the same reprobate, how this particular writer ever get away with this should be left to the publishers of Nigeriworld and indeed the Nigeria people to decide. At one breath he praised the corrupt regime of Fayose, (by the way may be we should asked him why he refused to address the certificate issue?) and also gave thumbs up to the nepotistic regime of Agagu, who in one breath appointed virtually all his children, and in-laws into salary-earning paid positions at the Government House in Akure. In another breath, he admonished them:

“Our system is a bit different. We are a more corrupt, less transparent and less focused nation than the countries we are trying to mimic. The politicians should save themselves the public embarrassment of adhering to this "100 days" myth. The celebrations and fanfare - without any legislative, industrial or economic achievement - are deceitful and a waste of government resources.”

Perhaps his idea of industrial and economic achievement is GSM lines! What a benchmark! I once wrote that some of these paid writers masquerading as web columnist had a sinister objective to annihilate Nigeria, and they will stop at nothing until they achieve their nefarious act.

When I wrote my last piece on similar subject, there was a deluge of emails from this “circus crowd” of paid writers, and I will take the indulgence of the reader to quote one of them:

“I am one of the ….columnists you seem to be railing against …. I found your perspective interesting even though too hard to understand because of the impediments you loaded in your write-up. I found your definitions utterly laughable and your complaint … pitiable. Probably there is some bit of envy implicated in your write-up”

Imagine, been accused of “Envy”. To be envious of disillusioned and myopic writers whose god is his belly is the height of infamy. Envious ke? I have never and will never write to praise a government or an individual for the love of lucre! Mr. Writer/columnist whatever you are getting out of this enterprise, at the expense of Nigeria political stability is at best ephemeral. If you make profits out of the money you get from the contracts awarded to you by this individual or government official, you will use the money to pay hospital bills. The holy book says it is the blessing of God that maketh rich without adding sorrow. All writers who are making dollars at the expense of a critical appraise of current Nigeria government will never live to enjoy the proceeds of their lucre! Nigeria will survive these charlatans in the corridors of power, and their cohorts in the media but for it to do so, the eternal vigilance of all Nigerians home and abroad is required.

Don’t sit back and allow these scum turned our country into another Rwanda. One out of every five Africans is a Nigerian, we cannot afford to give up on our motherland. Pick up your pen, get behind your keyboard and tell their publishers we are sick and tired of this charade. Enough is enough!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

SaharaReporters interview Soyinka

This month I am taking the liberty to repost Saharareporters interview with Professor Wole Soyinka. Enjoy!

SaharaReporters Interview Exclusive: Achebe A Celebrated Storyteller, But No Father Of African Literature, Says Soyinka

By SaharaReporters, New York

Also: Why He Wished Achebe Had Not Written His Last Book; What He Told Ojukwu Before The War; Genocide, And Other Issues

.Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has described Africa’s most well known novelist, Chinua Achebe, as a storyteller who earned global celebration, adding, however, that those describing Achebe as “the father of African literature” were ignorant.

In a wide-ranging interview with SaharaReporters, Soyinka paid tribute to the late novelist who died on March 21, 2013 at 82. Soyinka, who won the 1986 Nobel Prize for literature, also spoke on his personal relationship with Achebe and other Nigerian writers; his regrets about Achebe’s last book, There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra; and his attempt to talk the late Biafran leader, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, out of fighting a war. Soyinka also answered questions about Heinemann’s African Writers Series and scolded “clannish” and “opportunistic hagiographers” fixated on the fact that Achebe never won the Nobel Prize.

Below is the full text of the interview.

Question: Do you recall where or how you first learned about the death of Professor Chinua Achebe? And what was your first reaction?

Soyinka: Where I heard the news? I was on the road between Abeokuta and Lagos. Who called first – BBC or a Nigerian journalist? Can't recall now, since other calls followed fast and furious, while I was still trying to digest the news. My first reaction? Well, you know the boa constrictor – when it has just swallowed an abnormal morsel, it goes comatose, takes time off to digest. Today's global media appears indifferent to such a natural entitlement. You are expected to supply that instant response. So, if – as was the case – my first response was to be stunned, that swiftly changed to anger.

Now, why was I stunned? I suspect, mostly because I was to have been present at his last Chinua Achebe symposium just a few months earlier – together with Governor Fashola of Lagos. Something intervened and I was marooned in New York. When your last contact with someone, quite recent, is an event that centrally involves that person, you don’t expect him to embark on a permanent absence. Also, Chinua and I had been collaborating lately on one or two home crises. So, it was all supposed to be 'business as usual'. Most irrational expectations at one’s age but, that's human presumptuousness for you. So, stunned I was, primarily, then media enraged!

Question: Achebe was both a writer as well as editor for Heinemann’s African Writers Series. How would you evaluate his role in the popularization of African literature?

Soyinka: I must tell you that, at the beginning, I was very skeptical of the Heinemann's African Series. As a literary practitioner, my instinct tends towards a suspicion of “ghetto” classifications – which I did feel this was bound to be. When you run a regional venture, it becomes a junior relation to what exists. Sri Lankan literature should evolve and be recognized as literature of Sri Lanka, release after release, not entered as a series. You place the books on the market and let them take off from there. Otherwise there is the danger that you start hedging on standards. You feel compelled to bring out quantity, which might compromise on quality.

I refused to permit my works to appear in the series – to begin with. My debut took place while I was Gowon's guest in Kaduna prisons and permission to publish The Interpreters was granted in my absence. Exposure itself is not a bad thing, mind you. Accessibility. Making works available – that’s not altogether negative. Today, several scholars write their PhD theses on Onitsha Market literature. Both Chinua and Cyprian Ekwensi – not forgetting Henshaw and others – published with those enterprising houses. It was outside interests that classified them Onitsha Market Literature, not the publishers. They simply published.

All in all, the odds come down in favour of the series – which, by the way, did go through the primary phase of sloppy inclusiveness, then became more discriminating. Aig Higo – who presided some time after Chinua – himself admitted it.

Question: For any major writer, there’s the inevitable question of influence. In your view, what’s the nature of Achebe’s enduring influence and impact in African literature? And what do you foresee as his place in the canon of world literature?

Soyinka: Chinua's place in the canon of world literature? Wherever the art of the story-teller is celebrated, definitely assured.

Question: In interviews as well as in writing, Achebe brushed off the title of “father of African literature.” Yet, on his death, numerous media accounts, in Nigeria as well as elsewhere, described him as the father – even grandfather – of African literature. What do you think of that tag?

Soyinka: As you yourself have observed, Chinua himself repudiated such a tag – he did study literature after all, bagged a degree in the subject. So, it is a tag of either literary ignorance or “momentary exuberance” – ala [Nadine] Gordimer – to which we are all sometimes prone. Those who seriously believe or promote this must be asked: have you the sheerest acquaintance with the literatures of other African nations, in both indigenous and adopted colonial languages? What must the francophone, lusophone, Zulu, Xhosa, Ewe etc. etc. literary scholars and consumers think of those who persist in such a historic absurdity? It's as ridiculous as calling WS father of contemporary African drama! Or Mazisi Kunene father of African epic poetry. Or Kofi Awoonor father of African poetry. Education is lacking in most of those who pontificate.

As a short cut to such corrective, I recommend Tunde Okanlawon's scholarly tribute to Chinua in The Sun (Nigeria) of May 4th. After that, I hope those of us in the serious business of literature will be spared further embarrassment.

Let me just add that a number of foreign “African experts” have seized on this silliness with glee. It legitimizes their ignorance, their parlous knowledge, enables them to circumscribe, then adopt a patronizing approach to African literatures and creativity. Backed by centuries of their own recorded literary history, they assume the condescending posture of midwiving an infant entity. It is all rather depressing.

Question: Following Achebe’s death, you and J.P. Clarke released a joint statement. In it, you both wrote: “Of the ‘pioneer quartet’ of contemporary Nigerian literature, two voices have been silenced – one, of the poet Christopher Okigbo, and now, the novelist Chinua Achebe.” In your younger days as writers, would you say there was a sense among your circle of contemporaries – say, Okigbo, Achebe, Clarke, Flora Nwapa – of being engaged in a healthy rivalry for literary dominance? By the way, on the Internet, your joint statement was criticized for neglecting to mention any female writers – say, Flora Nwapa – as part of that pioneering group. Was that an oversight?

Soyinka: This question – the omission of Flora Nwapa, Mabel Segun (nee Imoukhuede) – and do include D.O. Fagunwa, Amos Tutuola, Cyprian Ekwensi, so it is not just a gender affair – is related to the foregoing, and is basically legitimate. JP and I were however paying a tribute to a colleague within a rather closed circle of interaction, of which these others were not members. Finally, and most relevantly, we are language users – this means we routinely apply its techniques. We knew what we were communicating when we placed “pioneer quartet” in – yes! – inverted commas. Some of the media may have removed them; others understood their significance and left them where they belonged.

Question: Did you and Achebe have the opportunity to discuss his last book, There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, and its critical reception? What’s your own assessment of There Was a Country? Some critics charged that the book was unduly divisive and diminished Achebe’s image as a nationally beloved writer and intellectual. Should a writer suborn his witness to considerations of fame?

Soyinka: No, Chinua and I never discussed There was a Country. Matter of fact, that aborted visit I mentioned earlier would have been my opportunity to take him on with some friendly fire at that open forum, continuing at his home over a bottle or two, aided and abetted by Christie’s [editor’s note: Achebe’s wife, Professor Christie Achebe] cooking. A stupendous life companion by the way – Christie – deserves a statue erected to her for fortitude and care – on behalf of us all. More of that will emerge, I am sure, as the tributes pour in.

Unfortunately, that chance of a last encounter was missed, so I don't really wish to comment on the work at this point. It is however a book I wish he had never written – that is, not in the way it was. There are statements in that work that I wish he had never made.

The saddest part for me was that this work was bound to give joy to sterile literary aspirants like Adewale Maja-Pearce, whose self-published book – self-respecting publishers having rejected his trash – sought to create a “tragedy” out of the relationships among the earlier named “pioneer quartet” and, with meanness aforethought, rubbish them all – WS especially. Chinua got off the lightest. A compendium of outright impudent lies, fish market gossip, unanchored attributions, trendy drivel and name dropping, this is a ghetto tract that tries to pass itself up as a product of research, and has actually succeeded in fooling at least one respectable scholar. For this reason alone, there will be more said, in another place, on that hatchet mission of an inept hustler.

Question: One of the specific issues raised constantly in recent Nigerian public “debate” has to do with whether the Igbo were indeed victims of genocide. What are your thoughts on the question?

Soyinka: The reading of most Igbo over what happened before the Civil War was indeed accurate – yes, there was only one word for it – genocide. Once the war began however, atrocities were committed by both sides, and the records are clear on that. The Igbo got the worst of it, however. That fact is indisputable. The Asaba massacre is well documented, name by victim name, and General Gowon visited personally to apologize to the leaders. The Igbo must remember, however, that they were not militarily prepared for that war. I told Ojukwu this, point blank, when I visited Biafra. Sam Aluko also revealed that he did. A number of leaders outside Biafra warned the leadership of this plain fact. Bluff is no substitute for bullets.

Question: Your joint statement with Clarke balances the “sense of depletion” you felt over Achebe’s death with “consolation in the young generation of writers to whom the baton has been passed, those who have already creatively ensured that there is no break in the continuum of the literary vocation.” How much of the young Nigerian and African writers do you find the time to read?

Soyinka: Yes, I do read much of Nigerian/African literature – as much as my time permits. My motor vehicle in Nigeria is a mobile library of Nigerian publications – you know those horrendous traffic holdups – that's where I go through some of the latest. The temptation to toss some out of the car window after the first few pages or chapter is sometimes overwhelming. That sour note conceded – and as I have repeatedly crowed – that nation of ours can boast of that one virtue – it’s bursting with literary talent! And the women seem to be at the forefront.

Question: In the joint statement issued by J. P. Clarke and you following Achebe’s death, you stated: “For us, the loss of Chinua Achebe is, above all else, intensely personal. We have lost a brother, a colleague, a trailblazer and a doughty fighter.” There’s the impression in some quarters that Achebe, Clarke and you were virtual personal enemies. In the specific case of Achebe and you, there’s the misperception that your 1986 Nobel Prize in literature poisoned your personal relationship with a supposedly resentful Achebe. How would you describe your relationship with Achebe from the early days when you were both young writers in a world that was becoming aware of the fecund, protean phenomenon called African literature?

Soyinka: Now – all right - I feel a need to return to that question of yours – I have a feeling that I won’t be at ease with myself for having dodged it earlier – which was deliberate. If I don’t answer it, we shall all continue to be drenched in misdirected spittle. I’m referring to your question on the relationship between myself and other members of the “pioneer quartet” – JP Clark and Chinua specifically. At this stage in our lives, the surviving have a duty to smash the mouths of liars to begin with, then move to explain to those who have genuinely misread, who have failed to place incidents in their true perspective, or who simply forget that life is sometimes strange – rich but strange, and inundated with flux.

My first comment is that outsiders to literary life should be more humble and modest. They should begin by accepting that they were strangers to the ferment of the earlier sixties and seventies. It would be stupid to claim that it was all constantly harmonious, but outsiders should at least learn some humility and learn to deal with facts. Where, in any corner of the globe, do you find perfect models of creative harmony, completely devoid of friction? We all have our individual artistic temperaments as well as partisanships in creative directions. And we have strong opinions on the merits of the products of our occupation. But – “rivalry for domination,” to quote you – healthy or unhealthy? Now that is something that has been cooked up, ironically, by camp followers, the most recent of which is that ignoble character I’ve just mentioned, who was so desperate to prove the existence of such a thing that he even tried to rope JP’s wife into it, citing her as source for something I never uttered in my entire existence. I cannot think of a more unprincipled, despicable conduct. These empty, notoriety-hungry hangers-on and upstarts need to find relevance, so they concoct. No, I believe we were all too busy and self-centred – that is, focused on our individual creative grooves – to think ‘dominance’!

Writers are human. I shudder to think how I must sometimes appear to others. JP remains as irrepressible, contumacious and irascible as he was during that creative ferment of the early sixties. Christopher was ebullient. Chinua mostly hid himself away in Lagos, intervening robustly in MBARI affairs with deceptive disinclination. Perception of Chinua, JP and I as ‘personal enemies’? The word “enemy” is strong and wrong. The Civil War split up a close-knit literary coterie, of which “the quartet” formed a self-conscious core. That war engendered a number of misapprehensions. Choices were made, some regrettable, and even thus admitted by those who made them. Look, I never considered General Gowon who put me in detention my enemy, even though at the time, I was undeniably bitter at the experience, the circumstances, at the man who authorized it, and contributing individuals – including Chief Tony Enahoro who read out a fabricated confession to a gathering of national and international media.

But the war did end. New wars (some undeclared) commenced. Chief Enahoro and I would later collaborate in a political initiative – though I never warmed up to him personally, I must confess. Gowon and I, by contrast, became good friends. He attended my birthday celebrations, presided at my most recent Nigerian award – the Obafemi Awolowo Leadership Prize. JP was present, with his wife, Ebun. What does that tell you? Before that, I had hosted them in my Abeokuta den on a near full-day visit. Would Achebe, if he had been able, and was in Nigeria, have joined us? Perhaps. But he certainly wouldn’t have been present at the Awolowo Award event. That is a different kettle of fish, a matter between him and Awolowo – which, however, Chinua did let degenerate into tribal charges.

Well then, this prospect that “my 1986 Nobel Prize in literature poisoned my personal relationship with a supposedly resentful Achebe” – I think I shouldn’t dodge that either. Even if that was true – which I do not accept – it surely has dissipated over time. For heaven’s sake, over twenty-five people have taken the prize since then! The problem remains with those vicarious laureates who feel personally deprived, and thus refuse to let go. Chinua’s death was an opportunity to prise open that scab all over again. But they’ve now gone too far with certain posturings and should be firmly called to order, and silenced – in the name of decency.

I refer to that incorrigible sect – no other word for it – some leaders of which threatened Buchi Emecheta early in her career – that she had no business engaging in the novel, since this was Chinua’s special preserve! Incredible? Buchi virtually flew to me for protection – read her own account of that traumatizing experience. It is a Nigerian disease. Nigerians need to be purged of a certain kind of arrogance of expectations, of demand, of self-attribution, of a spurious sense and assertion of entitlement. It goes beyond art and literature. It covers all aspects of interaction with others. Wherever you witness a case of ‘It’s MINE, and no other’s’, ‘it’s OURS, not theirs’, at various levels of vicarious ownership, such aggressive voices, ninety percent of the time, are bound to be Nigerians. This is a syndrome I have had cause to confront defensively with hundreds of Africans and non-Africans. It is what plagues Nigeria at the moment – it’s MY/OUR turn to rule, and if I/WE cannot, we shall lay waste the terrain. Truth is, predictably, part of the collateral damage on that terrain.

Yes, these are the ones who, to co-opt your phrasing, “diminished (and still diminish) Chinua’s image”. In the main, they are, ironically, his assiduous – but basically opportunistic – hagiographers – especially of a clannish, cabalistic temperament. Chinua – we have to be frank here – also did not help matters. He did make one rather unfortunate statement that brought down the hornet’s nest on his head, something like: “The fact that Wole Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize does not make him the Asiwaju (Leader) of African literature”. I forget now what provoked that statement. Certainly it could not be traced to any such pretensions on my part. I only recollect that it was in the heat of some controversy – on a national issue, I think.

But let us place this in context. Spats between writers, artists, musicians, scientists, even architects and scientific innovators etc. are notorious. They are usually short-lived – though some have been known to last a life-time. This particular episode was at least twenty years ago. Unfortunately some of Chinua’s cohorts decided that they had a mission to prosecute a matter regarding which they lacked any vestige of understanding or competence or indeed any real interest. It is however a life crutch for them and they cannot let go.

What they are doing now – and I urge them to end it shame-facedly – is to confine Chinua’s achievement space into a bunker over which hangs an unlit lamp labeled “Nobel”. Is this what the literary enterprise is about? Was it the Nobel that spurred a young writer, stung by Eurocentric portrayal of African reality, to put pen to paper and produce Things Fall Apart? This conduct is gross disservice to Chinua Achebe and disrespectful of the life-engrossing occupation known as literature. How did creative valuation descend to such banality? Do these people know what they’re doing – they are inscribing Chinua’s epitaph in the negative mode of thwarted expectations. I find that disgusting.

China, with her vast population, history, culture – arts and literature – celebrated her first Nobel Prize in Literature only last year. Yet I have been teaching Chinese literature on and off – within Comparative literary studies – for over forty years. Am I being instructed now that those writers needed recognition by the Nobel for me to open such literary windows to my students? Do these strident, cacophonous Nigerians know how much literature – and of durable quality – radiates the world?

Let me add this teacher complaint: far too many Nigerians – students of literature most perniciously – are being programmed to have no other comparative literary structure lodged in their mental scope than WS vs. CA. Such crass limitation is being pitted against the knowledgeable who, often wearily, but obedient to sheer intellectual doggedness, feel that they owe a duty to stop the march of confident ignorance. For me personally, it is galling to have everything reduced to the Nigerian enclave where, to make matters even more acute, there are supposedly only those two. It makes me squirm. I teach the damned subject – literature – after all. I do know something about it.

So let me now speak as a teacher. It is high time these illiterates were openly instructed that Achebe and Soyinka inhabit different literary planets, each in its own orbit. If you really seek to encounter – and dialogue with – Chinua Achebe in his rightful orbit, then move out of the Nigerian entrapment and explore those circuits coursed by the likes of Hemingway. Or Maryse Conde. Or Salman Rushdie. Think Edouard Glissant. Think Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Think Earl Lovelace. Think Jose Saramago. Think Bessie Head. Think Syl Cheney-Coker, Yambo Ouologuem, Nadine Gordimer. Think Patrick Chamoiseau. Think Toni Morrison. Think Hamidou Kane. Think Shahrnush Parsipur. Think Tahar Ben Jelloun. Think Naguib Mahfouz – and so on and on along those orbits in the galaxy of fiction writers. In the meantime, let us quit this indecent exercise of fatuous plaints, including raising hopes, even now, with talk of “posthumous” conferment, when you know damned well that the Nobel committee does not indulge in such tradition. It has gone beyond ‘sickening’. It is obscene and irreverent. It desecrates memory. The nation can do without these hyper-active jingoists. Can you believe the kind of letters I receive? Here is one beauty – let me quote:

“I told these people, leave it to Wole Soyinka - he will do what is right. We hear Ben Okri, Nuruddin Farah, even Chimamanda Adichie are being nominated. This is mind-boggling. Who are they? Chinua can still be awarded the prize, even posthumously. We know you will intervene to put those upstarts in their place. I’ve assured people you will do what is right.”

Alfred Nobel regretted that his invention, dynamite, was converted to degrading use, hence his creation of the Nobel Prize, as the humanist counter to the destructive power of his genius. If he thought that dynamite was eviscerating in its effects, he should try some of the gut-wrenching concoctions of Nigerian pontificators. Please, let these people know that I am not even a member of Alfred’s Academy that decides such matters. As a ‘club member,’ however, I can nominate, and it is no business of literary ignoramuses whom, if any, I do nominate. My literary tastes are eclectic, sustainable, and unapologetic. Fortunately, thousands of such nominations – from simply partisan to impeccably informed – pour in annually from all corners of the globe to that cold corner of the world called Sweden. Humiliating as this must be for many who carry that disfiguring hunch, the national ego, on their backs, Nigeria is not the centre of the Swedish electors’ world, nor of the African continent, nor of the black world, nor of the rest of the world for that matter. In fact, right now, Nigeria is not the centre of anything but global chagrin.

Chinua is entitled to better than being escorted to his grave with that monotonous, hypocritical aria of deprivation’s lament, orchestrated by those who, as we say in my part of the world, “dye their mourning weeds a deeper indigo than those of the bereaved”. He deserves his peace. Me too! And right now, not posthumously.

It is not all bleakness and aggravation however – I have probably given that impression, but the stridency of cluelessness, sometimes willful, has reached the heights of impiety. Vicarious appropriation is undignified, and it runs counter to the national pride it ostensibly promotes. Other voices are being drowned, or placed in a false position, who value and express the sensibilities between, respect the subtle threads that sustain, writers, even in their different orbits. My parting tribute to Chinua will therefore take the form of the long poem I wrote to him when he turned seventy, after my participation in the celebrations at Bard College. I plan for it to be published on the day of his funeral – my way of taunting death, by pursuing that cultural, creative, even political communion that unites all writers with a decided vision of the possible – and even beyond the grave.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

PDP’s Control of Abuja Federal High Court and the Rule of Impunity

“What I fear most is power with impunity. I fear abuse of power, and the power to abuse.”
 -Isabel Allende

Every time an extra judicial overreach by a sitting judge occurs in Nigeria, everyone waits with bated breath for reactions from those saddled with management of the third estate of the realm in vain. The silence of the top echelons of the judiciary in Nigeria is often baffling. It is now a norm that whenever the Chairman of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) seeks to remove any executive members of the party, federal or states, he simply arrange for faceless members of the party to go to the Federal High Court, obtain a temporary injunction and pronto such orders fait accompli. The people affected by such orders are usually those at logger heads with the presidency either on policy issues (sans Governor Amaechi on Sovereign Funds) or enmeshed in party politics (sans former Governor Oyinlola). The chairman of the party usually finds it too easy to comply with such orders while it deliberately ignores other orders against his factions of the party.

There has been little or no discipline within the judiciary in Nigeria hence impunity reigns without end. Even when judicial officers are punished it was never swift and immediate, it usually occurs years after the judicial officers would have retired to enjoy the fruits of his/her illegalities. Nigeria judiciary used to be among the best in Africa. Even at the height of military rule and during the Second Republic when dictatorship rues the day, the Nigerian judiciary shown like a bright star in the midst of darkness. In cases such as Adigun vs. AG of Oyo State (1984), the Supreme Court lambasted a state government that excuted an accused whose appeal has not been exhausted. In Government of Lagos State vs. Ojukwu (1986), the Supreme Court deplores the use of forcible ejectment to obtain possession and excoriated military government for executive recklessness. In Garba v. Federal Civil Service Commission (1988) it directed the Babangida military government to respect due process. In cases such as Fawehinmi v. Akilu (1987) it emphasized access to justice and ability of private citizen to prosecute criminals where the government declines to prosecute. In Ariori vs. Elemo (1988) it upholds respect for due process. It is sad and saddening indeed that the judiciary in our present dispensation is now, more or less, an appendage of the government in Aso rock and an extension of PDP executive committee.

There is no doubt that the PDP has succeeded in larding every judicial positions in the country with its appointees who are sometimes “no nothing” card carrying loyalist members of the party, and their wives. What we now have as judiciary in Nigeria is an hollow shade of what we used to know. The days of Kayode Esho, Chukwudifu Oputa, Mohammed Uwais is long gone. Those who are now in authority can’t even sit at the body of benchers without taking directives on what to do from Aso rock. The fact that the former president of the Court of Appeal reinstatement remains in limbo even after the highest body charged with running the judiciary met and reinstated him speaks to this subservient status of the judiciary in Nigeria. Those who should stand up to speak up are too satiated with the crumbs of the office that they will rather look the other way. Affairs of political party, the Supreme Court once ruled is totally within their domain and ought not to be an issue that concerns the court, and yet courts in the land ignore such lofty precedents and choose to entertain frivolous law suit meant to take sides in dispute that is entirely within the confines of the political party, while serious issues remain in limbo. A court that does not have enough bailiff or sheriffs to enforce his own judgment is a toothless bulldog.

The Supreme Court of today is known more for prevarications and speaking with both sides of the mouth than clear and convincing judgment and directives to lower court. No decision is final in Nigeria, if the Supreme Court rules against you, all you need do is go to Aso rock and seek out a powerful man willing to play for the pay and pronto another injunction will issue side stepping the ones against you. In this way, the rich always get “justice” in Nigeria. They do, because they can pay for it. The general masses of people who had to wait in line for justice are the ones suffering from the dysfunction in our judicial system. It is sad and embarrassing. Femi Falana, the Gani Fawehinmi of our time, in an interview recently with Channels Television sounds a note of caution to his colleagues in the privileged Senior Advocate of Nigeria (by the way, how can a country governed by constitution runs its court with privileged lawyers?), by decrying the evil perpetrated by delay of justice and preferential treatment of rich parties before the courts of law in Nigeria. He warned that such evils will soon consume the nation in a conflagration and yet no one listens to him.

A country where an ex-governor obtained a perpetual injunction against investigation of his corrupt activities in government is a dangerous land. Now imagine that the wife of that same governor now sits at the highest court in the land, by virtue of a rapid promotion through the system orchestrated by successive PDP government! We are indeed in trouble in Nigeria. You then wonder why there is so much angst in the land; you wonder why MEND declared war on the nation that seeks to pay it to lay down arms. Impunity breeds more impunity until the whole land is consumed in impunity. This is why the president’s pardon of Alamiesigha matters little. He could have easily obtained perpetual injunction against his extradition to the UK. Ooops! He did that already!

While all this was going on, the poor and the dispossessed suffered hardship from power drunk law enforcement officials who used to call themselves Nigeria Police Force. A police force so benign in brute force and power that the rule of law dare not stop it from impunity. One of such sad story is typified by the incarceration of Mr. Egbeyemi Boluwaduro, who spends six years in prison on trumped-up charges. He was tried in a magistrate court by a police officer who never went to law school and barely completes West African School Certificate. My little brother success in getting in getting him released from Ilesha Maximum Prison was published in Sunday Punch Newspaper on March 13, 2011. The story brought to focus the sad situation where non-lawyers, without any regard to constitutional principles, are often authorized to prosecute criminal cases in Nigeria with severe consequences on rights of citizens, even while those who stole billion of dollars easily obtain perpetual injunction against criminal prosecution.

Who will save Nigeria from reckless impunity of its rulers and ruling class. As Simon Wiesenthal enthused, “When history looks back, I want people to know that the Nazis could not kill millions of people with impunity”. The Nigerian ruling and moneyed class may end up killing more people than the Nazis ever did while the whole world looks on.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Of palm wine, shrine, oath and family coup by Palmwine Drinkers Party of Nigeria stalwarts

Below is a draft of a piece I was writing in 2003 before something happened and I couldn't continue. The truth therein is still as true today as then, given the crisis PDP is plunging our country. I wish I had finished the piece then:
“On the role of AIG Rapheal Ige, Ngige noted that he saw Ige at about 2.30pm at the residence of Uba in Enugu drinking palmwine and wearing mufti on the Tuesday preceding his arrest last Thursday.
According to him, "as I came out of the residence of Uba, I noticed the official vehicle of the AIG and I asked Uba if the AIG was there. He replied yes and I asked why he didn't allow me to greet him and he told me that the AIG was in another sitting room. I went to see him and both of them saw me off to my car."
-This Day Newspapers 20/07/03

Only in Nigeria will you watch politicians do a macabre dance with gusto! Only in Nigeria will you see politicians (albeit one under investigations for corruption, murder et al) hobnob with senior police officer with reckless abandon. Tell me what should an assistant inspector general of police be doing at the residence of Uba wearing mufti, drinking palmwine at 2.30 pm on a working day. Arresting palmy? Your guess is as good as mine. Do we need to look far in searching for the low productivity? Nigeria is in a vice grip. The grip of politicians who are high on palm wine.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Excerpts from my upcoming Book: Over the Mountain & the Hills

Life is like a mountain, the masses of people are at the bottom, the few who distinguish themselves are at the top. Masses run from ascending, the few bold ones runs to the peak at great expense. The outstanding few who will stand at the apogee will endure hardship, forsake many life pleasures and summons something deep within them that is higher than the mountain before them to enable them reach the zenith.

I wrote the above paragraph on a doodle note on my Ipad long before the thought of writing this book crossed my mind. At least until late one Friday afternoon, in the dark of winter, when one of the support staff at the public law firm where I worked in the Pacific Northwest, noticed me lugged around tomes of books on rock climbing tapped me on the shoulder and inquire what I intend to do with all those books on a subject I had hardly exhibit any interest in before then. I was a bit nonplussed but then I looked up and explained to her that each time I look back at my life I felt like someone climbing an insurmountable mountains. She looked at me deadpanned, turned around and walked silently away. She came back a couple of hours later, and quietly asked me if I am serious about what I said earlier and I answered in the affirmative. I then asked her why she walked away without letting me explain what I meant to say. She said she thought I had probably overheard her talk about her own life as she had always felt her own life had been a series of difficult and insurmountable challenges with little or no training or skills on how to navigate its many contours and jagged edges drives her crazy.

I immediately sat up from my desk with rapt attention. I had planned to write this book to reflect my experiences and challenges in life climbing life’s many “Rocky Mountains” and troubles. The thought of someone else having the same experience immediately peaked my interest and confirmed to me that this is indeed a book I needed to write. I had been studying mountains, hills and rocks in history and Scriptures; as well as learning about the many courageous people who dared to climb them. This book is an attempt to share my experience navigating life’s many mountainous travails, as well as my studies of scriptures and history, with the hope that many will read it and find some of my suggestions helpful in their own journey.

There are many who believes that no personal experience is necessarily replicable and that each and every one of us has to experience life mountainous challenges in our own unique way. John Muir, the Scottish-born American author of the widely read book on adventures in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California was once quoted to have said, “I have a low opinion of books; they are but piles of stones set up to show coming travelers where other minds have been or at best signal smokes to call attention. No amount of word-making will ever make a single soul to know these mountains.” I am however convinced that while this may be true of mountains, we still learn from each other, as we are all pilgrims of the vertical.

The task is also not necessarily meant to enable us know the mountains but to conquer it and emerge victorious in the journey of life. Knowledge, after all is a powerful tool in driving away fear and ignorance. As Don Mellor was famously quoted to have said in the book Pilgrims of the Vertical, every mountain sojourners and travelers often “read the same news and editorials, climbers across the country share the same information, if not the same values.” In fact, as we often heard people say “experience is learning from our mistakes and wisdom is learning from the mistakes of others who had gone before us”.

Many give up on life challenges often because they look at it as insurmountable. Some gave up looking for the compass they need to navigate life. Some make it to the bottom of the mountain, raise up their heads to look at the top and then throw up their hands dejectedly walking away with sullen faces; choosing to dwell in the low lands than face life difficult challenges. Some even summoned enough courage to ascend the mountain and midway tumbles down, crashing back to earth as soon as they suffered a bit of a setback. I write not as someone who had attained or reach the pinnacle of my own life mountainous challenges but as someone who is determined to continue the journey to the zenith using the experience, skills and discoveries made so far on my way.

I am convinced I am not alone in this quest and many will come away from this book delighted to find the mental attitude to surmount their challenges. While others find it to be a confirmation of what they already know.

My approach is to look at life mountainous challenges from the totality of my relationship with others, as well as my experience as an African and as a naturalized American. No one can lay claim to a magic formulae that will cure all of man’s life challenges and I do not posit to have all the answers, what I do know is where to search for answers. My search for answers had inevitably led me to the source and creator of all things.

There is no doubt that man’s greatest ignorance is lack of knowledge about his own source and potentials. When we discover our source we would surely be on our way to fulfill our potentials; as our source will direct us to the manuals he prescribed for us. I am convinced that some of the unique attitudes or qualities require of a good rock or mountain climbers is uniquely relevant to our life challenges. Attitudes such as vision, passion, initiative, teamwork, innovation, persistence, discipline, focus, time management, confidence, positive disposition, patience, peace and compassion will be explore in this book so that we can all discover how to cultivate them in our life.

This book is dedicated to helping millions of people who seems stuck at the foot of the mountain when the peak beckons them. It will help you discover again your true potentials and equip you with the mental attitude to start ascending that height you thought is out of reach for you. As I reiterated earlier, wisdom is learning from other people’s mistakes and challenges, so get ready to learn from others who had gone before you.

Monday, February 4, 2013

An Analysis of Nigeria's Super Eagles Superlative Performance Against Cote d' voire

I yield this page to Professor Onwumechili. His analysis of the Nigerian team in the African Nations Cup match between Nigeria and Cote d'ivoire is spot on! Please read on.

As we all know, Nigeria went into the Ivory Coast game as the underdog. Ivory Coast is the No. 1 ranked African team and their galaxy of stars playing in the best clubs in Europe were clearly, on paper, expected to overwhelm a rebuilding Nigerian team that had few recognizable players.

When the Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi claimed that he had a game plan for the Ivoreins few believed him because it is not just about having a game plan but the question is do you have the players to execute such a plan against a perceived superior opponent. What we saw on Sunday was the coach’s game plan designed to take advantage of weak spots in the Ivorein team and the self-belief of the Nigerian players that victory was indeed possible.


Nigeria played a tight formation, still using its 4-3-3, but leaving few gaps between the midfield and the defense and thus limiting passing channels for their opponents. This did not always work as Drogba’s running behind the defense proved problematic a few times when he was not cut out by the offside trap. Nigeria used its variation of passes between the short possession play and the long balls exploring behind the Ivory Coast defense that was designed to take advantage of the pace of Nigerian forwards. Early on, however, the long balls that have been helpful in some of the previous games failed to work for two major reasons. First, the surface was slick with the rain which caused the ball to skid slightly and secondly, the surface with the rains slowed the ability of the forwards to get to the ball. Thus, several long balls went unutilized forcing the team to switch away from the long balls after half an hour or so. The possession short passes worked, however, as Nigeria surprisingly dominated the Ivoreins in this phase with well over 50% of the possession in the opening half. Importantly, we also saw Nigeria’s creative use of the set pieces with Ideye being the target on the weak side of the defense on several of Moses’ free kick. Though Ideye failed to score he proved a handful as Ivory Coast struggled to defend this.

The major change in Keshi’s game plan that we rarely saw in the previous games was the decision to shoot at goal from distance. It is clear that this was the new wrinkle designed solely for this game because the crew saw Barry’s goalkeeping as a weakness. That Victor Moses shot from as far as 25 or 30 yards out after only nine minutes of play underlined this focus.

Defensively, Nigeria was solid. The most important tactics was closing down the gap between defense and midfield which nullified the pace of Kalou and Gervinho that was so evident in previous Ivory Coast games. Then late in the game, Nigeria killed off any Ivory Coast chance of coming back by not only possessing the ball and delaying the game (This was the issue in the Burkina Faso game) but for the second game running the coaches introduced Yobo in the center of the defense switching to a 5-4-1 to protect the lead.


In my opinion, there remain a few concerns with this team. There are concentration lapses. One led to a goal but there were a few others. The Ivory Coast goal was surprising with lax marking in the box that left Tiote completely free to connect with a header at the back end of the defense. Another occurred in the 85th minute when Lacina Traore was left free to bring down a ball deep in the six yard box and it was only Mikel’s alertness to slip the ball away that preserved the 2-1 lead.

My tuppence
Professor Onwuemechilli

* this piece was first posted on the popular Nigerian Soccer fans board: Cybereagles and it is reproduced here with permission.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Imperial CBN Governor and his Assault on the “Pesky” Constitution

“The higher the rank, the more necessary it is that boldness should be accompanied by a reflective mind . . . for with increase in rank it becomes always a matter less of self-sacrifice and more a matter of the preservation of others, and the good of the whole.” - Karl von Clausewitz

For those of us who fought to drive the military out of governance in Nigeria, it was a rude awakening when we woke up to the news that the current Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, recently called for the ban of Arewa Consultative Forum, Ohanaeze, Afenifere, Jamatul Nasril Islam (JNI) and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). I do not want any reader of this piece to think that I have any admiration for these organizations, in fact I detest their stand on the unity of Nigeria; but I will defend to my grave, their right to express themselves and freely associate. Many will recalled that during the inglorious Babangida regime banning associations that the state view as too confrontational is a directive principle of state policy. We may have driven military rule from office, but as is sadly self evident, it will take a lot to drive them out of Nigerian psyche!

The irony of a well educated, Oxford trained, governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank calls for banning ethno-religious associations at a conference organized by a so called Northern Reawakening Forum (NRF) is lost only on him. I bet he never gave too much thought to the name on the invitation card when he received it. And I want to clearly state here that I am not saying his motive for calling for the ban is not lofty, at least if as he claimed, it is to defend the unity of the country; but I just believe a ban of those organizations is too anti-democratic and surely sound militaristic. After all, it was not too long ago that many in the southern part of the country decried his attempt to restrict donations of CBN money to indigenous northern victims of disaster and terrorism without any commensurate donations to those from the South. (He later gave a tepid donation to families of victims from the south once the press pointed out the lopsidedness).

But that is actually not the reason why everyone should excoriate him for this latest gambit. The more important reason is in defense of that little document with great ideas, called the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That a Central Bank of Nigeria could be so ignorant of the basic tenet of our constitution is baffling indeed. Section 38, subsection 1 of the 1999 Constitution specifically provides that “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

At the said conference, Sanusi seems to hang his call on ban of ethno-religious organizations on the fact that these organizations are more political than religious or cultural. Section 40 of the Constitution states that

“Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests:

Provided that the provisions of this section shall not derogate from the powers conferred by this Constitution on the Independent National Electoral Commission with respect to political parties to which that Commission does not accord recognition”

It is clear from the provisions of this section that nothing gives associations which are political in nature or by conduct from existence as long as they do not derogate from the powers conferred on INEC. The constitution do not in any way prescribed banning of associations which appears political in nature. In fact as long as they do not seek to contest any elective positions they do not come under INEC supervisions. Many political associations that are not registered with INEC exist all over Nigeria. The Save Nigeria Group, to mention but one of such organization, literarily saved Nigeria from a self inflicted constitutional crisis recently. I am sure Sanusi is not calling for such organizations to be ban, his call for the ban of Arewa Consultative Forum, Ohanaeze, Afenifere, Jamatul Nasril Islam (JNI) and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) could only be explained by his dislike of the way they express themselves. As they say in America, his objections to them are speech based and therefore an affront on the Constitution. Governor Sanusi may not like these associations, in fact, I found many of these associations discomforting to put it mildly but there is nothing you or I could do about it. The earlier we start to understand that constitutional rights cover those we like and those we dislike the better for us and our own freedom. As one French writer once said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” What we can do is to organize our own associations that will take them on, rather than call for them to be banned

I think it was Voltaire who said that ” Not only is it extremely cruel to persecute in this brief life those who do not think the way we do, but I do not know if it might be too presumptuous to declare their eternal damnation.” It is high time Sanusi Lamido Sanusi take a crash course on Nigerian Constitution. We all know he is a scion of the royal family and the imperial majesty of his lineage may sometimes make him think less of those mortal who do not have similar blue blood in them. Sadly, I am sure Sanusi is not the only Nigerian government official or politicians who have little or no knowledge of our Constitution, and the earlier we make an understanding of our constitution a litmus test to holding elective office in Nigeria the better for us.