Nnamdi Kanu, Nigeria, And Wasted Opportunities By Charles Odimgbe

What is going on in Nigeria today is beyond comprehension. I have no clue what the young man called Nnamdi Kalu wants from the Igbo, or how he came to such huge fame so quickly. However, his rise strikes me as indicative of the state of the Igbo in the current dispensation. It goes to say that the Igbo, especially those at home, have no faith in their leaders—hence the blind adoration and celebration of Nnamdi Kanu, a man whose academic and professional biography is as shrouded in mystery as his political antecedents are unknown.

I have said on several occasions that Nnamdi Kanu was dancing with the devil. The court granted him bail on certain conditions, but he arrogantly violated all the conditions in the name of Biafra. My position is simply that the federal government and the judiciary, so far, have shown significant restraint in dealing with him. They could have rightly picked him up on the first violation. However, in the interest of political expediency, they looked the other way while Mr. Kanu flapped his wings.

An Igbo proverb states that a fly with no advisers always gets buried with the corpse. Mr. Kanu lacks political savvy. Rather than antagonize the federal government, that already set a trap for him, he should have focused on using his newfound position to galvanize the entire Igbo land against their current corrupt and unruly elite.

Charity, it is said, begins at home. This young man had the opportunity to change the political landscape of the entire Igbo land, but chose to squander it all in this battle with his “chi”. He could have mobilized the throngs of Igbo youth who have been charmed by him, using their numbers to vote out all the Igbo leeches we call our representatives who have been sucking the life out of the Igbo collectivity, both at the federal and state levels. He could have used his just-acquired charisma with the teeming Igbo youth to set a new standard for any Igbo man or woman presenting themselves for election.

Instead of his childish rants, Kanu could have lent his voice in support of restructuring, a much better deal for Igbo people. He could have forced our so-called Igbo leaders to work on drafting a restructuring agenda for us while speaking with one voice. He could have used his position to begin to influence and reinvigorate the Igbo mentality of “live and let die.” He could have helped persuade the Igbo elite to get serious about investing in their homeland even as they prosper in regions outside. How about using his newfound status to demand accountability and answers regarding the state of infrastructural development in the Southeast?

He certainly had the platform, he had the voice, he had the channels, but he decided to embark upon this dead agenda called secession. These opportunities beckoned, but he decided that he had eaten to his fill, ready to challenge his “chi” to a battle.

Mr. Kanu should understand that he is now the target and no longer the leader of IPOB. His agitation for a sovereign Biafra has just come to screeching halt. Any and everything he does today will be subject to close scrutiny by the military and the world.

I have friends who have been agitating for an independent Biafra since the war ended. A few years ago, that mantle was taken up by MASSOB ever so subtly. However, Kanu came assuming he knew more than those agitating for Biafra before him. He has now become the proverbial nwanza, and has overstepped his bounds. He got so enamored of the crowd that followed him every day that he coveted his own army or militia, demonstrating the folly of the weak human mind and the seduction of absolute power.

His decision to form a militia is enough to bring on charges of treason against him.  Those of us in the US well remember Ruby Ridge, the Black Panther Party, Waco Texas, etc. In the US, as in Nigeria, any threat to the sovereignty of the nation is often met with overwhelming force. Why, then, are some surprised that the military suddenly showed up at Kanu’s doorsteps with guns blazing? Mr. Kanu was toying with the tail of the Lion. He should be bold enough to deal with the consequences. My hope is that he does not become the meal of the day.

Now, this matter of Operation Python Dance II. What an ill-conceived notion. When you think that our leaders will show no more stupidity they often will surprise you with worse. I would have loved to be a fly on that wall where this plan was conceived. To think that someone looked our president in the eye and said, “Mr. President, I think we should move our arms and ammunition to the Southeast to make a ‘show of force,’ to tell this Nnamdi Kanu guy that we mean business.

The Buhari administration lost the confidence of many supporters in the Southeast when it allowed Nnamdi Kanu to violate the conditions of his bail. This action, “Operation Python Dance II”, highlights the effects of “brain drain” on the Nigerian psyche. It is clear that our current leaders lack advisers with common sense. What is even more appalling was the speech by the operations’ commander. Ok, let’s assume that all the intelligence gathered by our intelligence agencies indicated that the federal government needed to take this action. Did the military not understand that using a commander who was not of Igbo extraction would raise suspicion? Are they so oblivious of all the cries of marginalization, lopsided appointments and the fact that the Igbo hardly trust the other ethnic groups? Wow!

As I watched civilian trucks roll through the southeast loaded with all these armored vehicles, what went through my mind was, “My God, the Nigerian military in all its pomp and pageantry could not afford armor and personnel carriers?” Really are those civilian trucks being used to transport our military gear to a war zone? Then my thoughts shifted and I wondered if all these armored vehicles were meant for Mr. Kanu and his rag tag militia—a militia whose members on social media looked like what they needed most was some good home meal? This is overkill! What a waste of millions of naira to accomplish something the police could have handled in no time. Ah my brothers, Nigeria is jaga-jaga!

President Buhari’s advisers got it wrong with this purported “Operation Python Dance II.” You do not need to waste your bullets and millions of naira on innocent youth trying to get some attention. That’s what young people do. You should focus on Boko Haram, the very group that is threatening your downfall and that of Nigeria—and they are in your backyard. President Buhari ought to ask why many groups clamor to leave Nigeria. The answers may surprise him. It’s all about equity and fairness. A show of force in the Southeast will not revive your war on corruption—a war we seem to be losing. That war was the core of your agenda as you campaigned for election. “Operation Python Dance” will not change the facts that your own cabinet is in disarray. We may not be at Aso Rock, but we can see Aso Rock through the actions of your own staff. If Kanu violated the terms of his bail, pick him up and lock him up, and then, let the legal processes take their course. Looking the other way for fear of offending the Igbo only served to make the situation worse.

One question. Through all the military buildup, where were the governors of these southeast states? Why were they so silent? Why had they not spoken out either for or against this military action in their states? Did they know something that we didn’t? Was the military operation a prelude to declaring a state of emergency in the Southeast? Were they so afraid of Nnamdi Kanu that they did not care what and how the federal government shut him down? Were they even made aware; and were they fine with this military action in their states?

We need answers to these questions to help us understand the actions of our erratic leaders. Now I am beginning to wonder if our president did not cut his medical treatment short to come home and deal with Nnamdi Kanu. My frustration is that Nnamdi Kanu does not warrant the kind of attention he is getting from the Igbo and the federal government. If the federal government wants to train their army, an excellent training ground would be in the Sambisa forest against Boko Haram and not in the Southeast. Another area would be protecting our farmers from the marauding cattlemen and not a bunch of hungry looking youth seeking whatever opportunity to make a dime—a condition that we created due to bad governance.

If Nigeria’s intelligence agencies were worth anything, they would have known by now that most of the Igbo people do not support seceding from the Union. All the Igbo desire is fair treatment and a piece of the national pie, a “pie” that has eluded us since the Nigerian Union was formed—and history tells us so. So: why all the hoopla? What has the federal government done to reach out to the silent majority who go about their businesses everyday contributing to the progress of Nigeria? Why has the government not tried to use those that believe in our nationhood to counter the bombastic behavior of Nnamdi Kanu? Why, why, why?

Bloody clashes occurred between the army and the Igbo youth. Now what? Do we understand that these incidences, currently trending on social media, will do nothing but widen the gap of distrust between the Igbo and our federal and state governments? How is that helpful to anyone? And there’s the audacity of the military to call this a “show of force”? Force against whom?

We are truly a weird country full of wacky leaders, ideas and ideals. For those of our youth who did not get killed or injured, I will echo one advice I saw on social media: ”Go home and be safe”

I wish Nnamdi Kanu did not lead some young men and women to their early graves—their blood forever on his head. The military has now categorized IPOB as a terrorist organization. The southeast governors have proscribed it. It all points to Kanu’s wasted opportunities. He could have used his influence to reshape the political landscape and strengthen our position in Nigeria. He could have deployed his charisma (which he was counting on to mobilize two million youths he promised to take to Abuja if arrested) to get the same youth to vote the current inept and corrupt political officials out of office. If he had done this, we would have seen and cheered his power. He should have fought to set the stage for a new era in politics in the Southeast as this chop-I-chop mentality is killing us and needs to go.

The Igbo have always been some of the originators of great ideas and ideals in Nigeria, and it should not stop now. With the wide recognition he currently enjoys among the Igbo, he could have helped create jobs for youth, his largest followers and the greatest assets of our people. We must be mindful that any country in which the federal government is the largest employer is doomed. Yes, think globally but act locally.

I urge the silent majority of the Igbo to disavow silence. Unless they speak, they run the risk of finding themselves behind a war zone. This is no time to sleep or be sheepish. This is the time to make your opinion known through whichever medium you use. Let’s remember it was partly our gullibility that led to the last civil war and the loss of more than one million lives. Forget your history and you are bound to relive the grave mistakes of the past!

My fellow Nigerians, regardless of your position on the tense and unfolding situation in our country, please exercise restraint and display commonsense. Remember: a child who says his or her parents will not sleep, will not sleep either. Nigeria should be “one nation, with one destiny.”

Policy Activists And Technology Growth By Victor Asemota

The next billion
Google launched a new payments product in India this week, it’s called Tez. While I was surprised at the choice of product, I was not surprised at the selection of market to launch it. It is most likely going to be another one of their next ‘Billion Users’ product or platform. Google currently has seven products with over a billion users.

I attended Google’s most recent annual developer event in Silicon Valley in June and saw a presentation titled “Building for your next Billion users.” Brazil, India and Indonesia are identified as places with the fastest Internet user growth in the world. India alone adds 100 million new users each year, yet 65% of the population is still without Internet access. That deficit is viewed as growth potential.

Nigeria was mentioned in the presentation as the African country with the largest number of internet users and also with the fastest growth rate. We are experiencing growth, but two-thirds of Nigerian internet users still use connections with relatively limited bandwidth. America and most of the Western World seemed to have no growth at all. They have reached their Internet saturation point. It is quite clear where the next battles for consumer internet products would be.

India, Brazil, and Indonesia also share a lot of things in common with Nigeria and the purpose of the Google presentation was to let developers know that these countries were the places where the fastest rate rates of growth were occurring now and in future. In 2020, Google expects one billion unique mobile internet users in India alone.

While Nigeria may not have the same population or growth rates as India, the similarities of these high growth emerging markets present opportunities for products built in any of these markets to scale rapidly throughout all of these countries. We have similar challenges and similar issues.

The African barrier
There are opportunities all over the emerging markets, but a few African technology companies have crossed the African barrier into those markets. On the other hand, a lot of Asian companies have crossed into Africa with great success. The Chinese are even putting significant infrastructure in place to enable growth in some African countries. They are influencing governments from the very top to make these inroads.

Africa is very diverse. While this diversity is an asset, it is also a liability. It could be argued that beyond massive infrastructure deficits, language and culture seem to be a problem limiting regional growth. Access to capital and education are also other hindrances. The same barriers exist elsewhere but why do they still grow? I believe it is because they have forward-thinking governments. Policy and governance seem to be the missing link in Africa.

A lot of African governments are not only unfriendly towards citizens of other countries but their citizens as well. The only common thread with the attitude of African governments towards innovation and technology seems to be a negative one. Over-regulation, red tape and sometimes outright repression are common.

Some African countries have successfully shut down the internet in the last one year just to stifle opposition political activity. These actions are not only harmful to local innovation; they scare away potential investors. I have always fought hard and made a case for Africa with global technology companies that these barriers should be opportunities rather than seen as hindrances. I have also suffered as well. We started a major educational sector technology project in Tanzania that died after the government changed. Inconsistency is also a problem.

Policy
I believe the African barrier is surmountable. Work should start with influencing Policy rather than starting from below. Paul Ahlstrom of Alta Ventures told me recently in San Francisco that it is always better to start at the very top of government. Once national leaders become convinced that innovation is essential for growth, friendlier policies will be established. I agree now from my Tanzania experience.

The internet represents rapid change. It is probably the most significant phenomenon that has happened in the history of humankind. I discovered it late in my 20s, but now, my entire livelihood and work depend on it. It has transformed entire societies mostly for good and recently, it has been used for a lot less than good as well. A lot of governments focus on the negative instead of the positive. They associate internet growth only with political activism. China has a successfully proven model they all seem to emulate.

One hundred million new internet users yearly in India has not caused upheavals, but rather it has created economic growth. I read recently that for the very first time, India may surpass China in exports because of this increase. That is the power of favourable policy. It is policy that has changed Israel and made them a global technology powerhouse in the middle of strife and conflict. The same thing turned Rwanda around and made it arguably the most desirable African technology destination. We cannot hope to create products from the next billion in Africa if barriers prevent this from happening.

I believe that changing policy is not the responsibility of individuals in certain positions, it is the job of everyone in African technology. What have we done today to change status quo? Twitter rants and Facebook posts are not enough. I think the time for cosy armchair engagement is over. Building for the next billion has to start with engaging at the very top to remove policy barriers.

A Million Pythons Cannot Dance Away The Biafra Question By ‘Fisayo Soyombo

Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. — Albert Einstein

Whoever he is, the military officer who coined the codename ‘Python Dance’ is a genius. Although an original version of the military operation, the Python Dance I, held between November 27 and December 27, 2016, no one should have looked any further than the codename to deduce the possible outcome of the army’s latest incursion into the south-east. As a rebel scientist, I’ll break this down.

‘Python Dance’ more than mere nomenclature

Although they are a family of nonvenomous snakes, pythons, scientifically Pythonidae, can be extremely dangerous. They are some of the largest snakes in the world, and are notorious ambush predators in that they typically lay motionless to evade the notice of a passing prey but then suddenly strike when danger is least expected. Ordinarily, no one should tease the python — that is where Nnamdi Kanu and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) got it wrong. Even though it looks innocuous when motionless, a python cannot be active without inflicting harm — that’s the misjudgment of the army, the thought that the operation would run without tension.

Prior to the take-off of the operation, the Nigerian Army acted like a python, listing a raft of harmless activities to cover up it’s one controversial aim of the operation. David Dawandi, a Major-General and Chief of Training and Operations of the army, said in a statement on September 8, that “during the exercise, emphasis will be placed on raids, cordon-and-search operations, anti-kidnapping drills, roadblocks, checkpoints, patrols, and humanitarian relief activities such as medical outreach.” That’s the motionless python. The statement also made it clear that there would be a “show of force to curb the rising threat to national security in the south-eastern part of the country.” A “show of force”? That’s a python in ambush mode. The summary is that it was an unnecessary operation. For many reasons.

Needless dance

Nnamdi Kanu’s court trial is ongoing. When he returns to court on October 17, the court will hear the federal government’s application for the revocation of his bail. There is no chance Kanu will win that argument — unless Justice Binta Nyako, who granted him bail in April, wants to make a mockery of herself and the judiciary. Kanu has repeatedly violated his bail conditions, the most obvious being his prohibition from hanging out with a company of more than 10 or granting interviews. The violation of the latter Kanu has already tried to defend, bizarrely claiming that he doesn’t “grant interviews” but he only “answers the questions” of journalists because it would be “rude and arrogant” of him to keep quiet when asked a question! But no such ingenious explanation exists for the former; there are numerous footages of him among scores and hordes of people, including videos of him preaching raw hate. Kanu’s return to prison will be permanent in October, so the first question for the army: why roll out the pythons against a drowning adversary?

While the pythons were still dancing, the defense headquarters rushed to designate IPOB a terrorist group without even taking a moment to find out the procedures, as laid down by the same law they claim to be enforcing. The army erred by failing to follow the provisions of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011, amended in 2013, that “setting up or pursuing acts of terrorism, the judge in Chambers may on an application made by the Attorney General, National Security Adviser or Inspector General of Police on the approval of the President; declare any entity to be a proscribed organization and the notice should be published in official gazette.”

Even that move itself is an overkill. Of course, Nnamdi Kanu is very annoying — I can imagine the Chief of Army Staff watching him in one of his numerous hate videos and itching to grab his throat and strangle him. There can be no arguments that he is unstable: how can a man who so passionately preached Nigeria’s unity under Goodluck Jonathan now so vehemently champion secession? But a more careful look at him will reveal his true nature: a mere radio/internet noisemaker elevated to the status of Biafra champion by a zealous and unlawful Muhammadu Buhari government. Kanu would never enjoy half his current popularity if he wasn’t repeatedly denied bail. Kanu talks too much; die-hard rebels talk less and act more. His Biafra Security Service (BSS) is toothless; not one of the so-called trainees carried any sort of weapon. They, in fact, looked too confused to be able to withstand confrontation by a private, the lowest-ranked officer of the Nigerian army. Little wonder Kanu himself is now in hiding.

Lessons and questions

The deployment of soldiers to the South-East has caused needless tension. The death of a hard-to-ascertain number of people, the assault on suspected IPOB members (which, by the way, will go unpunished despite the army’s claim to be investigating it), the combing of buses by IPOB members in Aba for Hausa to harm, the Igbo-Hausa tension in Jos and Port Harcourt are all worrying scenarios that would have been avoided without military action. The seething inter-ethnic tension is worrisome; this is how wars start. In the past week, whether we admit it or not, Nigeria took one giant step towards a second Civil War. The good thing, though, is that the situation is still reasonably under control. To avert a total breakdown of law and order, our leaders must learn from our history and ask themselves the hard questions.

Speaking of lessons, it is hard to imagine how quickly our leaders have forgotten the role of military action in the escalation of Boko Haram from a nonviolent ideological group under Yusuf Mohammed to a ruthlessly violent one under Abubakar Shekau. The 2009 police crackdown on Boko Haram in Bauchi led to violence in Kano, Yobe and Borno states; and after Mohammed’s capture by the military and extrajudicial execution by the police, the reins of Boko Haram fell on the bellicose, blood-thirsty Shekau. The rest, as they say, is history. It will take decades for the north to recover from the ruin of this insurgency — the deaths of hundreds of thousands, displacement of at least 3 million people, the humanitarian crisis, the sheer destruction of flora and fauna, the physical and socioeconomic regression. So, even if the military succeeds in taking out Kanu, the Biafra mantle will naturally be transferred to someone else, who may even be more dangerous than Kanu. Tact, not force, is what President Muhammadu Buhari needs to handle Kanu and the Biafra agitation.

There are two questions the government must answer if Nigeria must remain peaceful. Why, despite his apparent weakness of character, lack of purpose, unruly choice of words, does Kanu continue commanding huge youth following? And, why, after almost four decades post-Civil War, are we still discussing Biafra? I do not have all the answers, but I’ll supply some.

First question: as I said earlier, Kanu is the number-one beneficiary of government’s misuse of power. But more importantly, Kanu’s followers are mostly made up of unemployed or unprofitably employed, disillusioned youth who have finally found someone to identify with their struggles. For the second, it must mean that the Biafra question was never addressed after the war. Buhari must think long and hard about what the Igbo want, why they feel sidelined, and what he can do to make them feel part of Nigeria.

Otherwise, a legitimate Biafra question will be left in the hands of an opportunistic Kanu, and we will lose a golden opportunity to once and for all resolve our differences and strengthen the bond of our nationhood. Buhari should let the courts decide Kanu’s fate. He must jettison the use of force and embrace dialogue — because whether we like it or not, a million pythons cannot dance away the Biafra question!

 

How The Naira Devaluation Impacted Agriculture By Feyi Fawehinmi

The Partnership Initiatives for Niger Delta (PIND) recently sent Dr. Ogho Okiti and Mr. Al-Habib Onifade out into the field to find out the impact of the naira’s devaluation on different parts of four key agricultural value chains (palm oil, cassava, aquaculture and poultry) in the Niger Delta. The question of whether to devalue the naira was of course a big debate in Nigeria in 2015 and 2016 with the President himself weighing in.

 

The binary nature of the debate meant there was very little time devoted to the question of what to do next after the naira was devalued. The inevitable devaluation happened and Nigeria simply walked into it. This report is thus useful for insight into what happened to the aforementioned parts of the agriculture industry after the effects of the devaluation had flowed through.

 

In the main they looked at two effects – income and substitution. That is, how did the devaluation affect people’s incomes? And – how did it change behaviour in terms of how people switched products? Naturally, the impact of the devaluation was felt in different ways in different parts of the agriculture value chain, but one can summarise by saying it made everything more expensive.

 

Imported goods got more expensive for obvious reasons – more naira was needed to buy the same amount of stuff. But the reason the local substitutes got more expensive is that when people ran away from expensive foreign products, the local guys were not able to meet up with increased demand and had to increase prices. This was partly because things like fertiliser and pest control, needed to increase productivity, are all imported and had to be paid for upfront. This automatically ruled out a lot of smallholder farmers from taking part in the benefits of the increased demand for their products. This is something that could have been mitigated with policy responses but farmers were pretty much left to their own devices.

 

Another thing the research paper highlights is, how much poorer the combination of lower oil prices, naira devaluation, inflation, and population growth, made Nigerians. The researchers calculated that GDP per capita fell from $2,200 in 2014 to $1,180 in 2016 – a shocking 47% drop. Again, when something like this happens, one way to reduce the impact is by ensuring that people have access to cheaper goods. But as we’ve seen, it was not only the devaluation that raised prices, it was also deliberate policy of banning the import of some items that caused local prices of things like palm oil to shoot up.

 

A big part of the debate around devaluation of the naira and economic policy in general has been that Nigeria should produce its own food and not import. Be careful what you wish for. This policy has largely been ‘implemented’, based on the findings of this research paper, and the results are not altogether pretty. Taking rice as an example, the price of foreign rice increased following the devaluation. But the price of local rice went up as well. This meant that the overall demand for rice went down even though demand for local rice went up. In other words, ‘the substitution effect was greater than the income effect.’ A second order effect of this was that, the overall drop in demand for rice was replaced by an increase in the demand for garri and other cassava products. There have even been newspaper reports of increased cyanide poisoning because of people switching to garri away from rice.

 

One final interesting effect had to do with crop protection products. The researchers found that most of such products used in Nigeria are produced in China under commission from Nigerians who then brand them for sale locally. A lot of these businesses shut down completely in the wake of the devaluation while others who survived increased their market share – the researchers founds one such company that increased market share by 28% and value by 45% (the difference reflecting increased prices). But something else happened beyond devaluation to cause this shift.

 

The Chinese government cracked down on producers of sub-standard crop protection products in China and many had to shut down. This reduced production capacity from the Chinese side meant that prices of these products increased in China. In other words, Nigeria was at the mercy of a Chinese government policy that had nothing to do with the naira’s devaluation. Between 2014 and June this year, the prices of some of these products increased by as much as 157% as a result.

 

What are we to make of all these? The obvious lesson is that the actual devaluation of the naira was the easy bit. There was no point wasting so much time on that part of the equation because after devaluing, there was still plenty of work to do. Devaluing the currency was to allow the economy to adjust to its new reality but even that adjustment required an understanding of its impact and how best to cushion the blow.

 

The other lesson is that the economy is an incredibly complex machine. I’m always reminded of a quote by Larry Summers – former US Treasury Secretary and World Bank Chief Economist – where he said, ‘it is not easy to understand how an economy works.’

They say you should never let a good crisis go to waste. Nigeria is now out of recession officially so maybe there is no incentive for policymakers to consider a report like this. But the effects it highlights can be lessons for good and bad times in terms of how to respond to difficult situations and where exactly to channel resources.

ASUU And The Seasonal Union Shakedown By Nonso Obikili

Every couple of years, we seem to go through the same episodes. ASUU goes on strike due to the government failing to implement an agreement. Talks are held, and after deliberations, the strikes are called off, typically with some new agreement signed. In most cases, the strikes last a few weeks, although there have been instances where the strikes have lasted for months. The strikes are not unique to ASUU though. For some reason, the strikes are typically followed by strikes from SSANU, JOHESU, and a lot of other unions. Almost as if they operate on some type of schedule. But why do these strikes occur so frequently?

 

To get a grasp of this it is important to understand the political cycle and the constraints that the federal government faces. We have had four-year terms since we returned to democracy in 1999. The four-year term means the federal government faces a similar cycle in terms of its interaction with the populace, which presumably has the power to retain or remove the government. To this end, the government is at its freest immediately it is elected. Right after elections, it typically has the goodwill of the people, and more importantly, it has time to rebuild that goodwill in the event it loses it doing something unpopular.

 

However, as time goes on, and as it gets closer and closer to the next set of elections, the government loses that opportunity to rebuild goodwill if lost. What this means in practice is that the closer you get to elections, the more difficult it is to implement policy that is unpopular, even if it is a good policy. As is common knowledge in policy circles, if you have a difficult policy to implement, do it early and quickly, so you can demonstrate the benefits before the next elections come around.

 

The goodwill cycle also means that there are times when the government is at its most vulnerable. As you may have guessed, it is not when the government is just freshly elected as at that point, it can still rebuild goodwill. It is also not right before elections, as at that point it can just blame whatever hostility on politics. The point when the government is at its most vulnerable is somewhere in between the two, where it does not have enough time to rebuild good will but also does not have the opportunity to blame it on politics.

 

It is this vulnerability that ASUU, and other unions, have exploited since the return of democracy in 1999. Since 1999, ASUU has embarked on no less than 14 strikes, although some of those have been just week-long warning strikes. More recently, the strikes appear to have come at the time when the government was most vulnerable. The latest strike is coming just over a year before the next set of elections, at a time when the government has little room to rebuild any lost goodwill. In 2009, it went on strike for three months starting from June, shortly before the death of then President Umaru Yar’Adua. In July 2013, it embarked on another 5-month strike, which ended roughly a year before the elections. Here we are again in 2017, again just over a year to the election season.

 

Given the vulnerability, what is the best response by the government to the strikes? It is always to make a deal. A deal that reduces the potential for destruction of whatever goodwill the government has left. Goodwill that it will not have the time to rebuild. The deal is typically unimplementable and includes a pay bump and a gentleman’s agreement to not go on strike at least until after elections. The deal works for both parties. For the government it ends the strike, and even though the deal is unimplementable, it can worry about that later. For ASUU, the deal comes with a pay bump, but crucially a deal which will serve as the basis for a future strike. And so, the cycle continues.

 

To be fair to ASUU, its mandate is to fight for the wellbeing of its members, which unsurprisingly does not include all Nigerians but only those who are academic staff at universities. To that objective, it has done extremely well. It is also not the only union that uses this tactic so it would be unfair to only call them out. Still, it is yet another example of how many of our institutions have turned into rent-seeking agencies focused strictly on getting their share of the national cake.

 

How do we break out of this cycle of strikes and unimplementable deals? I don’t know, but sooner or later, someone is going to have to figure it out.

The Python Does Not Dance, By Reuben Abati

Operation code-names have been an important part of military operations since the Germans first applied them in World War 1 but it may be said that the recent (or ongoing?) controversial military exercise in the South Eastern part of Nigeria codenamed Operation Python Dance II is the first major incident in Nigerian military history to draw attention to this seemingly routine aspect of military operations worldwide. An operational code name requires creativity, it is meant to be a cover-up, hide the real intentions of the operation, achieve a public relations stunt if possible, and ease communication and strategic documentation within the military hierarchy.

 

The Nigerian military has never been so clever in coming up with operation code names: many of them are dead giveaways  (Operation Lafiya Dole, Operation Pulo Shield, Operation Maximum Safety, Operation Crackdown) or so stupidly incongruous they evoke instant suspicion (Operation Python Dance, Operation Crocodile Smile). Pythons don’t dance. Crocodiles don’t smile.  Wars have been fought over the use of wrong codes; nations have been sabotaged due to poor communication. Whoever came up with the code name – Operation Python Dance- (sometimes a code name may be computer generated) may have been aiming for irony, but it was strange irony given the facts of the situation and the manner of operation. I make this point to argue that the Nigerian military has messed up Operation Python Dance II in the South East conceptually and operationally, and the attendant arrogance does not serve the Nigerian state well in my view.

 

A dance is accompanied by music, it is celebratory in its kinetic and spatial expressions, and it is probably one of the most ingenious explorations of the human frame. Accompanied usually by music and the symbolism of movement and flexibility, a dance, vertical, horizontal or earth-bound is one of the wonders of human creativity and the most universal of human languages.  There is something called snake dance.  It is of course celebratory. To say a python is coming to a community to dance is a revelatory oxymoron. A python swallows, it cuts off blood, constricts and suffocates, it is a pretentious animal that curls itself up when it is ready to eat, and then strikes, employing the techniques of velocity, ambush, and surprise.

 

In December 2016, the pythons of the Nigerian military went to the South East on Operation (I) but they did not blow their cover. They said they wanted to help reduce crimes during Christmas.  In September 2017, they blew their own cover and revealed the absurdity of their cryptonym. They did because they behaved exactly like pythons.  If that was meant as a covert operation to protect the sovereignty of the country in the face of “seen and analyzed threat levels” in the South East, the Nigerian military got it terribly wrong. There is every reason for other military authorities in the international community to laugh at Nigeria.

 

The military admittedly can conduct routine exercises to prepare its men, to tune up or to check out the country’s territorial integrity. Before and even shortly after the civil war, Nigerian soldiers occasionally came out of their barracks and drove round the town. They used to sing, march on the streets and dance inside their trucks and wave at the people. The people waved back, and in due course, many children mastered some of their songs. In our neck of the woods at the time, there is an Alamala barracks in Abeokuta, one popular song was: J’amala n si ko, mo ti j’amala ki n to lo s’ogun, j’amala n siko”.

 

Soldiers were honored in those days for protecting and saving the country, but since the Nigerian military became politicized and greedy, soldiers have lost so much respect. The proposed demilitarization of African governments, long after the second wave of democratization in Africa has not yet yielded significant outcomes. The soldiers tasting politics has been like the tasting of the forbidden fruit. In and out of uniform, they have retained their hold on power and when one of their own manages to return to power in a civilian dispensation, they simply lose their nerves.  The Nigerian military has fallen victim in this regard on many occasions since 1999. This is what we are dealing with.

 

The latest instance is the bungled operation in Abia State. Operation Python Dance II did not have to take place in the streets of Isiama Afara in Umuahia, Abia State, close to Nnamdi Kanu’s father’s house. The public show of force could have been done anywhere else in the South East.  Strutting military force close to the home of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, who in the last year has been busy mobilizing his people, and making demands on the Nigerian state is an undisguised act of provocation with all the pythonic elements of invasion, surprise, and suffocation. It was the equivalent of the state descending to the level of rabble-rousing. This happens when an institution like the military opts for street politics, and our military certainly exposed itself in ways that called its professionalism to question in the last few days.

 

One, the Nigerian military has consistently usurped police functions since the return to civilian rule. The functions of the military are properly spelled out in Sections 217-219 of the extant Nigerian Constitution. But the leaders of the Nigerian military and their retired masters in partisan politics like to behave differently. They’d rather do police work in pursuit of a responsibility expansionist agenda.  In a statement issued by Colonel Sagir Musa, of the 82 Division, we are told that Operation Python (II) is meant “to sharpen the skills of the participating troops in the conduct of Internal Security Operations” and these include challenges such as “kidnappings, farmers-herdsmen clashes, secessionist agitations and insurgency of any form… armed robbery and traffic gridlock.”  Colonel, sir! There is no insurgency or insurrection in the South East, and it is not the duty of the military to focus on armed robbery and traffic gridlock!

 

If the issue is the country’s sovereignty, the simplest thing to do would have been for the police to invite Kanu for questioning, or ask the courts to revoke his bail, or declare him and his associates wanted if they fail to cooperate. The continuous reliance on the military for virtually every national security matter overstretches it and renders it less efficient for its core mandate, and by the same token weakens law enforcement agencies.

 

Two, the military performed a political function and committed a procedural error when on its own, it declared IPOB, a terrorist organization. Senate President Bukola Saraki has already dismissed this as an ultra vires act. The grounds for declaring a group a terrorist organization in Nigeria is already defined in the Terrorism Prevention Act of 2011 (as amended), and as outlined in Sections 3-15 thereof. I admit that IPOB may have engaged in acts of provocation within the purview of these provisions given the establishment of the Biafra Secret Service and the Biafra National Guard, but it is not the duty of the military under a democratic dispensation to act as judge, jury and executioner.  What exactly is the level of threat actually posed by Kanu and his followers? The military talks further about “unauthorized blocking of access roads, extortion of money from innocent civilians at illegal roadblocks and militant possession and use of stones, Molotov cocktails, machetes and broken bottles…” The Nigerian military is now looking for machetes and stones? It is also in charge of the monitoring of hate speech?

 

The Governors of the South East also announced that the IPOB had been proscribed in all five states of the South East. They simply made a pronouncement, without any legal backing whereas in a decided matter, the IPOB had been declared legal and legitimate and that Federal High Court ruling has not been vacated. The panic response by the Governors can probably be excused. It must be clear to some people that with Kanu’s increasing messianism and popularity, the South East was clearly one step away from Operation Python Dance II to the declaration of a state of emergency.  But the Governors may just have been more interested in their own political survival.

 

What has been achieved in the South East right now is a profit and loss situation for all the parties concerned. The military is certainly not looking professional enough. The reported abuse of human rights in the wake of Operation Python Dance II is bringing nothing but shame to Nigeria in the international community, and many Igbos at home and in the diaspora who were aloof towards the IPOB campaign have suddenly been woken up to express concerns about the politics of being Igbo in Nigeria.

Tourism Potential For National Development By Tayo Ogunbiyi

Tourism is a veritable instrument for socio-economic development as it impacts directly on the economy through the provision of resources and income that could be deployed to enhance economic growth, accelerate development and reduce poverty. Similarly, it is a good public relations mechanism through which a city, state or country could attract needed foreign investment. Having come to term with the socio- economic benefits of tourism, all over the world, tourism has now become very important that today it is a major source of income for many countries as it affects the economy of both the source and host countries.

Tourism is also an important mechanism for social exchange and identity building at all levels. Currently, the rate of tourism development has increased across the globe. Multinational investments in hotels, resort complexes and infrastructure, together with major heritage conservation projects are catalyzing significant social changes, environmental changes and re-shaping new regional and international relationships. In contemporary time, tourism can be clearly defined as the new socio-economic game changer.

The economic potential of tourism is remarkable, with direct and indirect impact on employment. Similarly, it is a good public relations mechanism through which a city, state or country could attract needed foreign investments. The MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index report of 2016 indicates that based on air traffic, Bangkok in Thailand tops the table of top ten most popular destinations of international tourism with 21.47 million tourists. Cities like, London, Paris, Dubai and New York City are also top tourists’ destinations.

In-spite of accounting for 15% of the world population and the fact some of the fastest growing economies are domiciled in the continent, the potential of Africa’s tourism remains untapped as it receives only about 3% of world tourism. And while tremendous opportunities exist to further expand tourism across the continent as expected revenues that would be accrued from this sector can make up for double the amount of donor aids received from developed countries or international organisations; However, lots of challenges are still militating against these. These challenges mainly have to do with poor infrastructure and unimaginative governance.

Nevertheless, some African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt and South Africa are making wave as famous tourist destinations. However, in Nigeria, tourism is still in its infancy considering the large accumulation of resources which are yet untapped and the institutional structure which is yet to be regulated to compete favorably with other fast growing international and continental tourism destinations. This is largely due to years of the oil boom and over dependent on the revenue from the sale of crude oil for actualization of plans and projects of successive administrations in the country. So, putting it succinctly, the country operates a mono economy.

With its dwindling economic fortune, the country has to explore other avenues to sustain the economy as well as provide necessary dividends of democracy for the citizens. One of such ways is through the development of the tourism sector which has been explored and still being explored by nations globally to generate the needed revenue to drive their economies. One of such countries as already mentioned is Thailand. Available data indicates that the country made over $60 billion from tourism in 2016.

Nigeria is abounding in various tourists sites scattered all over the country as well as cultural festivals which mirror the lifestyles and heterogeneous nature of the people who occupy the space called Nigeria. In the Northern part of the country, the Yankari game reserve, Argungu fishing festival and different Durba displays among others are popular tourists’ attractions. Ikogosi warm spring, Erin Ijesha water fall as well the Osun Osogbo festival and a lot of other sites and festivals are famous in the South Western part, in the South Eastern part is the Calabar carnival, staged every yuletide period to reflect the influence of Christianity on the historical town, where Mary Slessor, a Christian missionary eradicated the killing of twins.

But despite these enormous tourist potentials as well as successive governments’ efforts to put the tourism industry in the national economic map, the country cannot meet up with up with the exclusive listing. This is due to lack of political will and legislation to regulate the industry to keep abreast with the United Nations framework on sustainable tourism development efforts.

In order to fully develop the potentials of the tourism sector, it is crucial to train personnel who will help make our dreams of a prosperous tourism sector a realizable one. One of such personnel and are tour guides who are quite essential to the thriving of the industry. In Israel, for instance, tour guides are so efficient, passionate and so enthusiastic that they make tourists feel immensely excited and somehow fulfilled.

Also, all tiers of government need to produce carefully researched and professionally produced tourists guidebooks which prospective tourists could find handy when they plan or decide to visit the country. It should contain everything required information about the country such as its geography, economy, hospitality, system of government among others. This could be made available at major international and local airports across the world as well as various other platforms with mass appeal. This way, prospective tourists have essential information about the country and its tourist sites on their fingertips.

Vital infrastructures that are quite essential to the growth of tourism must also be developed as any visible defect in infrastructure will surely dissuade tourists. It is pertinent to provide these supporting infrastructures for leisure and business travel for the industry to really grow. For instance, a poorly managed public transportation constitutes a serious disservice to tourism. Equally, our hospitality industry has to be top notched by every world standard. Additionally, we need to put in place a clear cut strategy to professionally manage all attractive festivals and carnivals in the country.

With many attractive tourist centers, diverse cultural heritages and a resilient people the country certainly stands to gain a lot if all stakeholders evolve new strategies to explore its huge tourism potentials.

IPOB: A Terrorist Organisation? By Eze Onyekpere

In the last one week, the South-East geo-political zone of Nigeria has witnessed crisis arising from the deployment of troops in an operation termed the Python Dance by the Nigerian Armed forces. A curfew has been declared in Aba, Abia State and there have been reports of the loss of lives and severe violations of the right to human dignity of fellow Nigerians.

A number of very well meaning Nigerians have called on the president, Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the soldiers to prevent a further escalation of the conflict, which may lead to blood bath. The arguments are based on the fact that the military have no business in the routine maintenance of law and order and they can only be called in when the challenge overwhelms the normal police, and they are specifically invited by the civil authorities as a matter of last resort. Again, there was no reported breakdown of law and order in any part of South-Eastern Nigeria. Rather, the zone has witnessed loud agitations and complaints about not getting its due in the scheme of things under the present federal administration. This discourse admits that there is a certain Nnamdi Kanu leading the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) who has made provocative statements and taken steps that could be considered irritating by the federal authorities.

The current declaration of IPOB as a militant terrorist organisation by the military authorities seems to be an escalation of the crisis to a new level that may precipitate unimaginable bloodshed and violation of human rights. The Terrorism (Prevention) Act of 2011 and its 2013 Amendment are clear on how to identify a terrorist or a terrorist organisation. Section 1 (3) of the Act states of the act of terrorism as one which is deliberately done with malice aforethought and which involves or causes an attack upon a person’s life, which may cause severe bodily harm or death; kidnapping; destruction of government or public facilities; seizure of aircrafts, ship or other means of public transportation. It also includes the manufacture, possession, acquisition, transport, supply or use of weapons, explosives or of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, as well as research into, and development of biological and chemical weapons without lawful authority; the release of dangerous substance or causing of fire, explosions or floods, the effect of which is to endanger human life; interference with or disruption of the supply of water, power or any other fundamental natural resource, the effect of which is to endanger human life; and an act or omission in or outside Nigeria which constitutes an offence within the scope of counter terrorism protocols and conventions duly ratified by Nigeria.

Terrorism further includes acts which may seriously harm or damage a country or an international organisation; is intended or can reasonably be regarded as having been intended to unduly compel a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act; seriously intimidate a population; seriously destabilise or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation; or otherwise influence such government or international organisation by intimidation or coercion.

Even though the provisions of the Act seem very wide, they must still be contextualised within the purview of the mischief the law was intended to cure. A literal meaning of these last parts of the definition may equate strong advocacy (unduly compel a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act) to terrorism. A careful examination of the above definition of the provisions on terrorism and our ordinary day-to-day knowledge of groups that have been declared as terrorists show that IPOB is nowhere near the status of being a terrorist organisation. Pray, can anyone in good faith argue that IPOB, Boko Haram and ISIS are on the same pedestal? Alternatively, can anyone point to the destruction of lives and property or the sabotage of public facilities that have been wrought by IPOB? One must distinguish irritants and persons who do and say things that may offend the sensibilities of others from terrorism. Again, even if the leadership and members of IPOB have been accused of hate speech – is this now the same as terrorism?

The second part of this discourse is that this declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organisation by the military high command is unknown to the law. The power to declare a group as a terrorist organisation lies with the Federal High Court upon an application made by the attorney general, the national security adviser or inspector general of the Police on the approval of the president. Although the order is obtained ex-parte, it is to be published in the official gazette, in two national newspapers and such other places as may be determined by the Judge. The proscribed organisation and persons affected have a right to seek to upturn the order through an application to the court on notice. This enables the court to further review other materials and facts which may not have been brought before it when the initial order was made. For the military high command to have failed, neglected and refused to follow the steps laid down in law, their action is ultra vires, null and void and of no effect whatsoever. And any steps they take in furtherance of their declaration will be in clear violation of the law.

In declaring IPOB a terrorist organisation and taking the entire South-East as its terrain means getting the authority to lock down the entire region and treat anyone suspected of being its member as soldiers will treat combatants who are out to attack them. In essence, their rules of engagement may permit the so called “terrorists” being neutralised or killed. It will legalise all forms of searches, seizures, detentions, curfews and other violations of fundamental human rights without the luxury of the declaration of a state of emergency. Thus, not just IPOB members alone are likely to be taken out, their purported financiers, supporters, sympathisers, accessories before and after the fact will all face the law as defined by the military authorities.

Can anyone in good conscience declare that there was a breakdown of law and order in the South-East before the deployment of the troops? Assuming without conceding that it is answered in the affirmative, was the breakdown of the magnitude that is beyond the capacity of the police and other civil authorities? Clearly, the agitations in the South-East are political in nature and require mature political negotiations to resolve them. It is important to recall that then acting president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo had held several meetings with stakeholders and was in the process of calming frayed nerves before the president returned and things started getting out of hand. Deploying soldiers and letting the agitataions escalate to the point of taking lives will only drive the agitation underground. And no one can predict if it goes underground whether it will not lead to a mutation and what kind of new demons that may emerge from the mutation.

Dear Mr. President, do not allow this crisis to degenerate, call back the soldiers; withdraw the declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organisation; give a sense of belonging to all Nigerians. Finally, call in good faith for a pan-Nigerian dialogue and settle the troubled waters of Nigeria by implementing the outcome of such dialogue.

The Drums Of War By Shola Oshunkeye

Even a stranger would not need any comprehensive briefing to know that Nigeria is not at ease, and Nigerians are not sleeping easy. All a first comer to the country needs to comprehend the situation is to scan the headlines, listen to radio news bulletins and watch prime time television.

The past week had been particularly frightening. During the week, the country’s political temperature spiked dangerously toward a boiling point. Apart from Boko Haram, which continues to unleash mayhem in some parts of the north, especially North East, despite being ‘defeated’, the South East, and some parts of the South-South, have been on edge. The spiralling tension was largely induced by the increased intensity of the campaign by Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, for the actualisation of the Republic of Biafra.

Signs of trouble emerged, last weekend, as the military announced that it was commencing Operation Python Dance II on Friday, September 15, running through October 15. Like its precursor, Operation Python Dance I, the military high command explained that the second stanza aims at fighting rising crime in the state. But many citizens saw the move as targeting Kanu and his co-agitators.

However, true to its words, the military, over the weekend, moved soldiers and equipment to strategic towns in the state. This led to a violent, last Sunday, between IPOB members and soldiers, in Umuahia, the Abia State capital. Several people sustained injuries during the face-off.

Tuesday afternoon, another confrontation at a military check-point at Obehie, Abia State, but which spread to Oyigbo Junction in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, resulted in the death of a policeman. Three other policemen were reportedly injured while two Police vans were burnt. On Thursday, a Chief Magistrate Court sitting in Port Harcourt, ordered 32 persons, all suspected to be IPOB members, to be remanded in prison. That was after they had been arraigned for murder, armed robbery, unlawful assembly and treasonable felony.

By the same Thursday, the fire had spread to the middle belt. According to reports, an altercation over the appropriateness or otherwise of the violent clash between IPOB members and soldiers on Operation Python Dance in Abia State triggered a war between some Hausas and Igbos in parts of Jos, the Plateau State capital. By the time the storm subsided, two people had been killed. Since then, Jos, like Aba and Umuahia, has been under a security lockdown. Governor Simon Lalong, like Okezie Ikpeazu, his Abia State counterpart, promptly clamped a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the tin city.

With all these, some people have been beating the drums of war at ear-tearing decibel. Many have been baying for blood. The social media is threatening to burst at its seams with the tons and tons of hate messages. Brothers are tearing brothers apart with all manner of invectives. Facebook, twitter and whatsapp are brimming with all kinds of pernicious propaganda. The maze is an admixture of truth, ‘truths’ cloaked in variegated colours, half-truths, and outright lies packaged and delivered with patriotic fervour. Then, there is this vulgarity that makes the blood boil and the heart threatening to jump out of the thoracic cavity.

You also see people coming out boldly to express their willingness to die for the cause they so fervently espouse. It is so scary you would think we are on the verge of war. Things may get worse if the Muhammadu Buhari Administration fails to handle the very volatile situation with wisdom. Like experiences have shown around the world, tanks do not necessarily bring peace. Dialogue does. Frank talk does. Negotiation does. The spirit of give-and-take usually prevails.

It is very easy to start a war. But when wisdom takes a flight and the first shot is fired, and force and brutality takes over, and men, women, children, the infirmed and the vulnerable begin to die, the road to resolution becomes tortuous. And extremely costly. Think of the destruction that accompanies wars. Think of the humanitarian catastrophe that signposts wars. Think of the lives that would be scared and irremediably ruined in the aftermath of war. Think of those who would die that don’t have to. Think of the despoiling of land and nature. Add all these up, and ask yourself if war is worth the sword. The truth is, the cost of war is difficult to quantify.

Another truth is, no matter the justification or morality for war, irrespective of whatever motivates the gladiators to bombs and nukes, combatants would still come to the roundtable one way or another. Even in the bitterest of wars, people must still meet at some point to talk.

The Colombian situation best illustrates this point. For 50 years, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (or Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC, in Spanish), alongside some guerrilla movements, fought the Columbian security forces to a standstill. The masterminds of FARC formed the movement to pursue a campaign of agrarianism and anti-imperialism. Like most insurgencies, they funded their operations through kidnap, ransom, illegal mining, distribution of illicit drugs, and sundry taxation of economic activities.

For 50 years, FARC and their fellow guerrilla organisations unleashed some of the worst mayhem the world has ever known, resulting in thousands and thousands of deaths. The war claimed 220,000 lives; and between 1985 and 2012, about five million people got displaced, creating the world’s second-biggest humanitarian crisis. Still, in the midst of those annihilating crises, the combating sides still found time to talk. And after many rounds of talks and negotiations, FARC gave up the fight and surrendered their arms. Like a compassionate father welcoming his prodigal son home, Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia since August 7, 2010, opened his arms to welcome FARC and its leaders. On September 1, 2017, the former guerrilla movement transformed to a political party known as the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force. This was made possible through dialogue; repugnant as FARC’s activities had been to a majority of Colombians and the civilised world.

Imagine how many lives would have been saved had both rebels and government talked, say at the onset of the crisis. Most of those thousands that died would have been alive. The point is, it is much easier and far less agonising to jaw-jaw than to war-war; if you permit the cliché. My prayer is that wisdom would not fail all the armies involved in the ongoing sabre-rattling and they would converge in a room, or a hall, or inside the rock, or wherever, look one another in the face, and talk sincerely. And sort things out.

To many Nigerians, Nnamdi Kanu is a terrible irritant. To many more, he is one malignity they would do anything and everything to avoid. Others see him as an ethnic irredentist who lacks a sense of history and is hell-bent to lead his people to Golgotha. Yet, to those who believe in him and his crusade, he is a patriot who wants the best and is canvassing what he thinks is the best for his people. And this category of people would lay down their lives to defend him.

The reality is, hate or like his ways, the young man has been able to build a cult of followership that if he’s not carefully handled, he could give the country some truly agonising moments. That is the last thing any right-thinking person would wish for Nigeria at this point. Or, don’t we have enough problems as thing are?

No matter how irritating Nnamdi Kanu may sound in his separatist agitation, the Muhammadu Buhari Administration must talk with him. There is nothing under the heaven that cannot be discussed and negotiated. If the federal government can talk and, indeed, negotiate with Boko Haram, an organisation that has wreaked so much havoc in most parts of the north, especially the North East, there is nothing sacrilegious in discussing with Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB. The administration must consider dialogue in this case for the sake of the poor masses of this country who have nowhere to run to if the situation snowballs into war, and for the sake of generations on the way.

God bless Nigeria.

The Nigerian Army Is A Terrorist Organization By Emmanuel Ugwu

Last Friday, the Defence Headquarters drew itself to its full ethical height and declared the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) “a militant terrorist organization.” It managed to achieve this fantastic feat in pot-calling-kettle-black by avoiding the mirror.

If the Nigerian Pentagon had looked in the mirror, it would have seen the likeness of a thoroughgoing terrorist concern in the Nigerian Army. The Nigerian Army reflects the best practices of globally renowned terrorist groups far better than the amorphous personality cult that has formed around Nnamdi Kanu.

The spokesman of the Defence Headquarters, Major-General John Enenche, said the following supposed treasonable offenses earned IPOB the designation of a “militant terrorist” designation:

·         The formation of a Biafra Secret Service.

·         Claimed formation of Biafra National Guard.

·         Unauthorized blocking of public access roads.

·         Extortion of money from innocent civilians at illegal roadblocks.

·         Militant possession and use of weapons (stones, Molotov cocktails, machetes and broken bottles among others) on a military patrol on 10 September 2017.

·         Physical confrontation of troops by Nnamdi Kanu and other IPOB actors at a checkpoint on 11 September 2017 and also attempts to snatch their rifles.

·         Attack by IPOB members, on a military checkpoint on 12 September 2017, at Isialangwa, where one IPOB actor attempted to snatch a female soldier’s rifle.

Obviously, the above mentioned articles of indictment, both individually and collectively, does not suggest that IPOB boasts a credible capacity to cause destruction on a scale that could be reasonably termed terrorist. The list is a pathetic but unimaginative attempt to hype IPOB as an armed rebel group actively working to dismember the Nigerian state through violence. It is a tissue of thin, transparent propaganda, literally calling attention to the ludicrousness of its own claim.

In citing “a Biafra Secret Service” which exists solely in the realm of rumors; the “claimed formation of Biafra National Guard” which is a matter of hearsay; “the blocking of public access roads” which, at worst, amounts to obstruction of traffic; “militant” ownership of stones, machetes and broken bottles; Nnamdi Kanu’s “altercation” with troops at a checkpoint; and an IPOB member’s attempt to snatch a rifle from a soldier as reasons for labeling IPOB a terror organization, the Defence Headquarters showed that it was ignorant of the textbook definition of terror. The IPOB it purported to branded a terror organization does not meet the irreducible minimum criteria to be so qualified. And the military’s cynical exaggeration of IPOB’s conduct is insufficient, in itself, to make it the insurgent group that it is not.

If anything, the awkward designation “militant terrorist organization” is more befitting of the Nigerian Army than IPOB. As a matter of fact, IPOB has been the long suffering victim of the army’s terrorist campaign for a while. The alleged “confrontation” of Nigerian troops by IPOB and attempts by its members to disarm the Python Dance soldiers in Abia State were informed by the Nigerian Army’s proud record of killing pro-Biafra activists at any given opportunity.

On February 9, 2016, a group of IPOB members assembled at Aba National High School for a peaceful protest. No sooner had they begun deliberation than the Nigerian troops surrounded them and began firing live ammunition at them, without prior warning.

When they stopped shooting, they collected the dead bodies and disappeared. Thirteen of them were later found, dumped, like unwanted trophies, in a roadside pit.

Later in May, during the 2016 Biafra Remembrance Day celebration, the Nigerian Army led Nigerian security forces to open fire on unarmed pro-Biafra activists on the streets of Onitsha. The protesters did not hurt a fly or cause a breach of the peace. It was enough that they publicly identified themselves as Biafra sympathizers.

Before the smoke cleared, blood had begun to dye the ground red. Thirty-five civilians were dead.

The Nigerian Army had actually prefaced that daylight massacre with pre-dawn foreplay. They invaded the premises of a Catholic church at Nkpor Agu where the pro-Biafra activists were camped for the night and opened fire on the sleepers. They left 5 dead and 10 injured.

When the world stirred in outrage, the Nigerian Army contrived an excuse for the unprovoked attack on the activists. It said the troops went killing “due to the widespread panic, tension and apprehension generated from the activities of the MASSOB and IPOB members.”

Between the sleeping activists and the soldiers who murdered their sleep, who acted in a manner capable of engendering chaos?

Last Sunday, September 10, 2017, the Nigerian Army drove combat-ready troops to Kanu’s Umuahia home. They shot 3 people dead and wounded 20. Though the pictures and videos instantly spread on the internet, the Assistant Director of Army Public Relations, Major Oyegoke Gbadamosi, mustered the brazenness to lie that the troops merely “fired warning shots into the air.” And that “No life was lost.”

To be fair, though, 3 is too low a fatality figure by the Nigerian Army’s standards. In Zaria, they massacred 348 Shiites, in a binge-killing orgy that lasted 3 days and 3 nights. They explained that the butchery was a fair and right punishment for followers of Sheikh El-Zakzaky. They dared to block the convoy of the chief of army staff, Tukur Yusuf Buratai.

President Buhari endorsed the slaughter on live TV. He said the Shiites asked for it. He judged them guilty of trying to “create a state within a state” and for “virtually hitting the chest of generals.”

Apparently, those whom Buhari wants to kill, he first labels rebels…and sends troops after.

He has proved to be an unreconstructed dictator; as bigoted, clannish, and sadistic as his critics had warned he would be. He can’t abide dissent. The tyrant in him condemns the contrarian: and the ethnic chauvinist covers the multitude of sins of his own tribe.

Buhari saw Fulani herdsmen wax into a globally dreaded terrorist group. He saw them kill over 808 people in Southern Kaduna, 400 in Agatu, 40 in Nimbo, 30 in Kodomun, 12 in Tarfi, 11 in Godo and in many parts of Nigeria. He pretended they were not terrorists. As the patron of the nomadic herdsmen, he protected them from the law and flinched from calling them by the right name. When he was shamed out of his silence as the attacks escalated, he grudgingly framed their acts of terror as “farmers-herdsmen clashes.”

Up till now, his government has yet to prosecute one Fulani herdsman for the wanton murders they perpetrate across the country. He has yet to speak an unkind word about them or order a military operation targeted at them. He rather thinks they need to be appeased with Brazilian grasses, a grazing bill and grazing reserves.

But he has no compunction mandating the army to “crush” pro-Biafra activists because they are not his tribesmen. He has no qualms sanctioning the massacre of Shiites because they follow a different version of his religion.

Buhari has turned the Nigerian Army into a death squad that happily runs off with his hit-list. He has sent them after Biafra activists, Shiites. And he won’t mind sending them after any other demographic that he ha a reason to hate.

The Nigerian Army has failed to tackle the real terrorist organization in Nigeria. They have yet to defeat Boko Haram or capture Shekau. The day they stumbled on his flag and Koran, they celebrated the discovery as if they had won the war. It’s a shame that they relish flexing muscles against civilians.

The Nigerian Army is a terrorist organization. Rationalizing their massacre of civilians is partaking in their crimes against humanity.

Averting Environmental Disaster In Nigeria By Sade Padonu

“Mother Nature is just and fair to all. But I am not sure whether we reciprocate her kind gesture as we often deal unjustly with nature”. Those were the disturbing words of my daughter as we recently drove round some parts of Lagos, observing man’s unbelievable thoughtless treatment of his environment. Being the commercial hub of West Africa, Lagos has obvious environmental concerns. But then, over the years, subsequent governments in the State have endeavored to make sustainable environmental regeneration a core part of the ultimate goal of transforming the City-State into a Smart city.

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction describes Environmental Degradation as “the lessening of the limit of the earth to meet environmental and social needs and destinations.” This basically means the act and process of disrespecting the environment. Particularly in Lagos State, the activities that render the environment unhealthy and unsuitable over time include littering, noise, water and air pollution, loss of green cover and biodiversity, giant landfills caused by indiscriminate dumping of refuse resulting in land damage, deforestation, overcrowded tenements and poor sanitation.

The effects of harmful actions on the environment are unwholesome and we all consciously or unconsciously responsible for it. When we purchase stuffs either in traffic or elsewhere and indiscriminately fling the remnants on the road or other such inappropriate places, what we do is to desecrate the environment. Unfortunately, what we fail to realize is that our seemingly harmless actions have far reaching consequences as it might take close to 900 years for such remnants to actually decompose. That is simply 900 years of infesting pests and trapping stale water which in turn comes with its own bacteria and then pathogens which all lead to life threatening diseases.

When you live in a neighbourhood and decide to blast music so much that the entire vicinity vibrates with amazing venom, unmindful of the peace of others, what you do constitutes serious injury to the health of others. As apparently not detrimental as some infamous environmental acts look, they can spur ripple effects on an entire community. The Ebola virus epidemic in some parts of West Africa and Lassa fever cases in some parts of our country are clear pointers to this. Thus, whenever anyone wants to embark on harmful practices with grievous implications on the environment, it is quite logical to think twice.

Environmental degradation can turn a bustling metropolis into a cluster of slums and a bustling crime zone. People need to realize that individuals who live in overcrowded spaces are more likelyto be exposed to scenes of violent schisms that inspire wild reactions like domestic and verbal abuse among others. Though these acts are not really limited to these areas, but they are most likely to occur there due to psychological effects of being deprived of private space.

The cost of our damaging behaviour against the environment is by no means minimal. For one, it makes government spend unnecessarily while trying to undo the harm done. And really, such fund could have been expended in meeting other crucial societal needs. Also, public health is sometimes seriously hampered as filthy practices tend to lead to outbreak of tragic epidemics which could lead to needless waste of lives.
The economy also takes a hit with instantaneous effects manifest across all sectors. Tourism, for instance, cannot thrive in any place where the environment is treated irresponsibly. Equally, potential investors will not make such a place a destination of choice. The bottom line is that insensitivity towards environmental issues would do us more harm than good.

What then can be done to positively alter our attitude towards the environment? First, we need to get a proper grasp of the way the environment works and the elements that form that complex whole. It is only when we truly understand what our environment means to us that we could see the danger inherent in its unwholesome treatment. In as much as the bulk of the responsibility seems to hang on the shoulder of all tiers of government with greater need for investment on infrastructural development alongside environmental rehabilitation, nevertheless, without the corresponding attitudinal change from the public such investments would amount to little or nothing.
Presently, in Lagos, the state government has come up with the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) to address solid waste management through massive emphasis on sensitization, regular checks and inspection, landscape beautification and rehabilitation and replacement of outdated machinery and infrastructure. With this new policy and many others, the Lagos State government has no doubt invested much into environmental conservation, preservation and development. It is, therefore, baffling to see some residents denigrate the environment in such abysmal manner.

The implication of this is that for our environment to sufficiently reflect the enormous government investment on it, both the government and the governed must be mutually involved. Japan did not get to the enviable position of having the cleanest cities in the world by leaving the business of environmental rehabilitation to the government alone. No! It really began when Japanese began to take responsibility over their environment.

Like Japan, with the needed discipline and conscious determination, we could also turn most of our cities into amazing haven of cleanliness. This could begin with a simple habit of not throwing dirt in unauthorized places. It could be as simple as not urinating in public places. It could also be as simple as not patronizing illicit waste disposal agents. It could be as simple as not turning parks and gardens into cattle ranches or party spots.

If advanced nations of the world such Australia, United States of America, China and others that pay utmost attention to environmental issues could be threatened with massive environmental hazards as some of them currently experience, it is a wakeup call for us to turn a new leaf by treating our environment fairly.

Consequently, we must jointly resolve to save our environment and, indeed, ourselves from the dreadful effects of environmental degradation. We must understand and appreciate that the survival of future generation depends on how well we treat the environment now. So, for everyone, this is the time to work and walk together in a renewed commitment to preserve our environment. God bless Nigeria.