CNNInternational interview with Nigeria'sPresident Obasanjo and USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu onDemocracyand Security Issues
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Is Obasanjo ordained by God torule Nigeria? And, other fallacies
By Prof. Sola Adeyeye
Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston andUSAfricaonline.com
(first posted/published here atUSAfricaonline.com March 3, 2002)
Becauseof a juvenile interpretation of Scriptures, especially the 13thChapter of Paul's Epistle to the Romans, there are those whoconstantly assert that Obasanjo was raised by God to provide the onlyneed of Nigeria-a good government. Such people should be remindedthat God was alive when Mussolini, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, IdiAmin, Mobutu Sesesoko, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and otherdespots ascended to power. The point here is not that Obasanjobelongs to this phylum of despots. Rather, one is debunking thefallacy of ascribing all events in history to God. My EvangelicalChristian faith is comfortable with the notion of God's permissivewill enabling Obasanjo to become our President. However, Christiansknow that sometimes, the permissive will of God is completelydifferent from His directive will. The election of retired GeneralObasanjo (in pix) as the President of Nigeria was directed not by Godbut by a survivalist, self-serving cabal of current and retiredGenerals.
Fallacy Number One: God loves Nigeria and Only God will saveNigeria:
Whenever Nigeria's problems are discussed, it does not take longbefore someone asserts, with an air of sanctimoniousness, that "onlyGod can save Nigeria." Sometimes, those who make such assertionscloak themselves in the toga of intellectual sophistry as theymockingly ask an activist: "What changes have been achieved onaccount of your activism?"
Ofcourse, it is easy to countermand such scoffers by asking them inreturn: "Why has God not changed Nigeria despite your prayers and thereligious fervor of Nigerians? Despite endless prayers, fasting,retreats, revivals and million-man jamborees, why do Nigeriantelephones and power supply constantly fail? Most Japanese carenothing about the Bible or the Koran but their telephones work, as dotheir railway system and other public utilities.
By contrast, why are Nigerian post offices, passport andimmigration offices, educational institutions and public utilities insuch state of chaos and dysfunction? Does God not love Nigeria? Canthe omnipotent God not cure the problems of NEPA in an instant? Whydo preventable diseases like meningitis, cholera, typhoid, malariaand malnutrition continue to denigrate the lives our people to afragment of hell? Does God not care? Is He not able to save?
The answers are simple: God cares; He is able to save. But we,Nigerians, deceive ourselves when we parade religious dogma asauthentic spirituality.
In today's Nigeria, the name of Jesus has been reduced to amagical mantra invoked like a metaphysical abracadabra by those whoare doctrinally too erroneous, intellectually too lazy, politicallytoo obtuse, socially too reactionary and ideologically too confused.Because they are also spiritually too undiscerning, attitudinally toomiserly, physically too undisciplined and psychologically toodetached, they are of little use to God or man! For Moses, Joshua,Nehemiah, Esther, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Nahum, Obadiah, Micah, Habakkuk,John the Baptist and yes, Jesus Christ, faith was not a fatalisticresignation in the face of challenges.
Indeed, even in the most supernal of tasks, that of saving of asoul, the Apostle Paul says, "we are laborers together with God" (1Corinthians 3: 9). God loves Nigeria and will use Nigerians to rescueNigeria from its rut. Those who use God's holy name as canopy fortheir inaction and dereliction of civic duty forget that the essenceof true religion lies not in sanctimonious creed but in sanctifieddeed.
It is true that the Bible says that the just shall live by faith(Habakkuk 4: 2). However, faith without works is metaphysicalhogwash. Indeed, the Apostle James bluntly calls it "deadreligion."
Fallacy Number Two:
All that Nigeria needs is a good government, and God has raisedObasanjo to provide it.
Because of a juvenile interpretation ofScriptures, especially the 13th Chapter of Paul's Epistle to theRomans, there are those who constantly assert that Obasanjo wasraised by God to provide the only need of Nigeria-a good government.Such people should be reminded that God was alive when Mussolini,Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Mobutu Sesesoko, IbrahimBabangida, Sani Abacha and other despots ascended to power. The pointhere is not that Obasanjo belongs to this phylum of despots. Rather,one is debunking the fallacy of ascribing all events in history toGod.
My Evangelical Christian faith is comfortable with the notion ofGod's permissive will enabling Obasanjo to become our President.However, Christians know that sometimes, the permissive will of Godis completely different from His directive will. The election ofChief Obasanjo as the President of Nigeria was directed not by Godbut by a survivalist, self-serving cabal of current and retiredGenerals.
On at least two occasions, I published articles about Obasanjo'santecedents showing why he would be a very bad President at thismomentous pass of Nigeria's history. Of course, the view of oneperson, no matter how considered, need not prevail. Flawed as theelectoral process was, Chief Obasanjo emerged as President anddeserved the support of all Nigerians.
In accordance with the finest tradition of democratic liberalism,I immediately not only offered President Obasanjo my congratulations,I pledged to him my daily prayers and whatever support I can renderto ensure his success. Hence, despite the personal discomfort of theexercise, I published a scathing article in six Nigerian newspaperstaking the leadership of the AD and Afenifere to task over theirobjection to Chief Ige serving in the Obasanjo cabinet.Unfortunately, it is now obvious that all Nigeria will get fromPresident Obasanjo is administrative tinkering. A federalism goneasunder is the albatross strangling Nigeria's neck. Obasanjo has nointention to free us from this Draconian octopus with its suffocatingtentacles.
In any case, in the name of national unity, it was Obasanjo'searlier regime that buried voracious termites beneath the wood ofNigerian federalism. Nigeria will never know peace or prosperity foras long as we adhere to the current overbearing, centralist system inwhich the Federal Government has the audacity to fix the salaries ofstate functionaries.
Is it imaginable that the US Federal Government would establish asalary structure that binds the States of California, New York,Mississippi, Texas and Minnesota? In what other federal system in theworld are taxes collected from one state and dispersed to others? Thefundamental defects in the structure of Nigerian Federation willstill be with us after Obasanjo leaves office. Unchanging changes:forbacky dance indeed!
Why are Delta region states not given the control of the resourceswithin their territory? Does the United States Federal Governmentcontrol the oil of Texas, Oklahoma or Louisiana? Why should only theFederal Government have a police force? Some have argued that becauseregional police forces had sometimes been used as instruments ofvictimization in the past, they should remain disbanded. By that verylogic, the Nigerian Police Force and the entire Nigerian Militaryshould be disbanded. Certainly, they too have been used on too manyoccasions as instruments of oppression.
Were we not eyewitnesses to the use of the Nigerian Police Forceto subvert the electoral wishes of the people in many parts ofNigeria during the 1983 election? Was the apparatus of the federalpolice and the military not used to terrorize the Nigerian peopleduring the dark days of Babangida and Abacha? Should they too bedisbanded?
As military dictator, Obasanjo's regime was the first in Nigerianhistory to assign military officers as governors of states from wherethey did not originate. The fixation on unity, as if it is an endunto itself, was the pernicious foundation for the internalcolonialism of the Babangida-Abacha years.
As military dictator, Obasanjo's regime was the first to forciblyeither ban or acquire the ownership of private newspapers. Today, westill do not have any constitutional guarantees against suchacquisition.
As military dictator, Obasanjo's regime was the first in Nigerianhistory to sack Nigerian workers en masse without established dueprocess. The Nigerian civil service, once among the best in theworld, collapsed under the weight of misguided passion for so-callednational discipline because sober judgment and due process wererecklessly trampled.
Twenty-five years later, among Obasanjo's first acts as Presidentwas the sacking of workers who, again, were denied due process. Asmilitary dictator, Obasanjo's regime was the first in Nigerianhistory to forcibly acquire state properties and institutions withoutany compensation. Twenty-five years later, Obasanjo has given us noindication that he now understands the deleterious consequences ofthis malignant centralism.
As military dictator, Obasanjo's government eroded the autonomy ofstate-owned television and radio stations by imposing so-callednational programs. As a consequence, those stations asphyxiated underthe burden of intemperate centralism. For example, Western NigerianTelevision, once the best in Africa, became a caricature of itself.Indeed, Obasanjo prepared the ground for the use of those stations infurthering the satanic ambitions of more heinous despots that laterascended to power.
As military dictator, Obasanjo's regime was allergic to opendiscourse and criticism. Obarogie Ohanbamu, Edwin Ikechukwu Madunagu,Areoye Oyebola, Gbolabo Ogunsanwo and many other illustriousNigerians were forced to lose their jobs when they dared criticizeObasanjo. Twenty-five years later, in Atlanta Georgia, when aNigerian expressed the concerns of his people, our supposedly"democratic" President lashed out in an autocratic outburst: "Go tohell!" Without doubt, Nigeria needs good governance. However, thereis no indication that Obasanjo now has what it takes to provide thevisionary leadership that this moment demands. In any case, even ifby some miracle Obasanjo were able to provide good governance, whathappens when he leaves office?
Wisdom dictates to us all that this simple question be given oururgent and grave attention. We desperately need a better structure, anew political arrangement in which the Presidency does not suffocateour lives by its omnipotence and omnipresence.
Fallacy Number Three: Nigerian unity is our highest nationalpriority
At independence, our nation adopted a simple motto- Unity andFaith. But the metastases of military oligarchy and its centralisttendencies have ruined Nigeria's unity.
Today, the Federation of Nigeria is a fatally flawed structuralabnormality. The inordinate concentration of power in the centralgovernment is a mockery of federalism. For too long, by dishonestlytouting unity as an end unto itself, survivalist dictators havecreated Federal monsters that gobbled at our innate diversity as ifour God-created diversity is, of itself, an evil!
It is now certain that President Obasanjo can never lead us out ofthis political silliness and intellectual dishonesty. An African doesNOT cease to be human simply because he is African; a Nigerian doesnot cease to be African simply because of being a Nigerian. Forheaven's sake, the diversity of our nationalities as Tiv, Jukum,Ijaw, Ibiobio, Hausa, Igbo, Ogoni, Fulani, Yoruba or what have you,in no way detracts from Nigerian patriotism.
In any case, our checkered history leaves us with absolutelyirrefutable evidence that the harmonious coexistence of Nigeriannationalities will not be erected on the foundation of a coercive,centralist structure that discountenances our diversity. Moreover,contemporary events in many parts of the world clearly reveal thatthe issue of nationality is not one to be buried under the carpet ofmere pretense and coerced relationship.
Ask the people of Bosnia and of Yugoslavia. Ask the people of ourformer colonial masters, the so-called "United Kingdom" of GreatBritain where the Scottish, Welsh and Irish now assert theirnationalities after centuries of rigmarole.
Recently, I read a brilliant and most evocative article entitled"Stop the bus" by Orok Edem. Edem likened Nigeria to a bus thatperennially travels in the wrong direction. He opined that NigerianMinority ethnic groups will be better by getting off the Nigerianbus. One wishes that the Nigerian experiment will succeed and theNigerian bus will commence traveling in the right direction.
Without question, a big size confers some advantages to a nation.But if our size and heterogeneity remain a hindrance to ourprosperity, all of us will be better served by getting off theNigerian bus.
The legacies of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in Western Nigeria bearwitness that even without oil resources, the Yorubas will be farbetter off the Nigerian bus. Awolowo demonstrated that with Spartandiscipline and judicious husbandry of limited resources, quantumleaps of progress are possible even if a people have no oil.
Likewise, the Hausa-Fulani would be better off the Nigerian buswhere they can resume the tremendous multi-faceted development thattook place under the leadership of the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir AhmaduBello.
Needless to say, the legacies of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr.Michael Okpara resoundingly prove that the Igbos would have been farbetter off had they not been forced back into the Nigerian bus.
Needless to say, the Nigerian Minorities such as those in theDelta region or the Middlebelt would have done far better on theirown. What is the logic or morality of this fixation on unity? Let usstay united if and only if being "united" will foster peace, libertyand prosperity for our people. Otherwise, let us convoke around amahogany table and discuss the terms of our parting of ways.
What we call unity today is nothing but coerced co-existence inwhich all of us are equal opportunity victims of distrust andconcomitant marginalization.
Fallacy Number Four: Our part of Nigeria ismarginalized
In traveling across Nigeria, one commonly encounters the fallacyof the greener grass. "Those in the other parts of Nigeria are doingmuch better than "we" are; "they" have better schools, hospitals,roads etc." Quite commonly, southerners portray the north as a regionflowing with milk and honey; easterners think the westerners aredoing swell; the westerners think that life is more abundant innorthern and eastern Nigeria!
This myth is echoed daily across Nigeria. In sad reality, Nigeriahas been reduced to a fragment of hell, from Port Harcourt to KauraNamoda and from Lagos to Nguru.
Today, a Yoruba is the President in Nigeria. But how has thatpreferentially benefited the workers of Osun State whose salaries arerarely paid on time? We must not discountenance the ethnocentricundercurrents of Nigerian politics. But we must not allow corruptleaders to exploit the concern about marginalization for theirself-serving purposes.
In any case, when a Nigerian politician decries themarginalization of his people, his primary concern is often forhimself not the people; he is craving more opportunities for graftand embezzlement.
If a Yoruba Stealator enriches himself by inflating the cost ofprocuring computers, does that make Yorubas less marginalized thantheir Ibiobio compatriots? Our elite, regardless of ethnic origin,are plundering Nigeria's treasury while sentencing the masses of allethnic groups to marginal existence.
How many of our senators or ministers are concerned that after 30years of service, the total gratuity of a professor, engineer,lawyer, surveyor, teacher or civil servant is less than the furnitureallowance of a senator or minister? What is needed is a united frontby the marginalized masses of Nigeria against adventurers in powerand career opportunists who have turned public service into lootingservice.
Fallacy Number Five: Nigeria is a rich and great country
It is true that God has bequeathed Nigeria with abundant naturalresources that can make us a rich and great nation. However, thetruth is that nations do not become rich or great simply because theyhave natural resources. The Soviet Union, a nation with a surfeit ofnatural resources, languished in economic stagnation and eventuallyimploded under the crushing weight of its own internalcontradictions.
Their experience and ours epitomize the great gulf betweengreatness and potential greatness. Those who enjoy the thrill ofwatching a buffoon making a fool of himself may deceptively call usthe "Giant of Africa" but we must not be hoodwinked by suchfrivolity.
Of course, the antics of a buffoon in the market square is a comicrelief but those who enjoy and laugh at such antics never wish tohave a buffoon for a child. The whole world has become a globalvillage in which being "the giant of Africa" while remaining a "dwarfof the world" is nothing to sing about.
The pandemics of grinding poverty, preventable diseases,ridiculous superstitions cloaked as religion, environmentaldegradation and technological backwardness, all sprawling acrossNigeria are not indicators of greatness. Do we talk of greatnessabout a country where educational institutions have broken down,transportation services are backward, physical infrastructures aredecrepit, and agricultural technology is primitive?
Can we describe as great a nation where medical services areextremely poor, water supply is episodic, and power supply isepileptic? These variegated but all-too-familiar woes inflicteconomic asphyxiation and physical debilitation on our people. Yet,we talk about greatness!
Likewise, how can we say that Nigeria is rich when there is morewealth in this city, Dallas Texas, than the entire country ofNigeria? Sure, Nigeria has the potential to be rich. As we speak,there are many individuals in this room today who have the potentialto be rich. But unless they develop that potential, they will neverbe rich. Likewise, the wealth of nations is not created by wishfulthinking or bloated ego. Rather, it is created and sustained by theconcerted application of human ingenuity and discipline in theexploitation of natural resources.
Whither the Nigerian Bus?
It is clear by now that I have not come here to paint for you arosy picture about Nigeria's future. I have long disqualified myselffrom the membership of OFN (Operation Fool the Nation). Problems arenot solved when we shy away from them.
The perennial recurrence of our woes is sufficient proof thatproblems do not disappear just by being neglected. The Nigerian busis badly damaged. Together, we can repair it. Every bus needsheadlights. Nigeria will not prosper until we embrace a collectivevision of justice for all.
If unity is our goal, justice must be our guiding light. When anation sows the seed of injustice, it inevitably reaps disunity.Together, we must fight injustice in every part of our land. Everybus needs a roof, windscreens and a protective frame.
For the Nigerian bus, the Rule of Law together with an unflaggingadherence to universal human rights must be our roof and windscreen.Nigeria will not prosper until the winds of tyranny and the disregardfor due process are structurally disabled from ever assaulting ourhuman rights and civic liberties. These liberties are our God-givenunalienable rights.
Any government attempting to infringe upon these liberties must beresisted by any means necessary.
Every bus needs a steering wheel. For the Nigerian bus, thesteering wheel must be discipline. And by discipline, I speak not ofthe regimentation of our lives by military or civilian autocrats.Rather, national discipline is the singular focus on noble goals andthe rational process for achieving them. It is not about morbidcentralism; it is about the resolute choices of a free people inmoral pursuit of progress.
Every bus needs brakes, and seatbelts. For the Nigerian bus, ourbrakes and seatbelts must be constitutional checks and balances thatsafeguard our nation against governmental excesses. Of course, everybus needs an engine, a battery, tires, wheels accelerators etc. Ihave no doubt that together, we can provide the Nigerian bus needs.However, Ladies and Gentlemen, the issue is not what we can dotogether; it is what we shall do together.
The options before us are limited- only three.
First, we may leave the bus unattended and continue our journey ofharrowing woes. Needless to say, it is suicidal for anyone toknowingly travel in a bus that is in a state of disrepair. Sooner orlater, such a bus will crash. Ask the Soviet Union, India, Pakistan,Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia all of whom imploded under the weightof internal stress. We must reject this option.
Second, we may repair the bus and take a ride to peace andprosperity. Examples abound in history about nations that rebuiltfrom disrepair.
Third, we may disembark the bus and let the passengers get untonew ones according to their sovereign and free wishes. That was whathappened when Denmark peacefully broke into Sweden and Denmark;Sweden later peacefully broke into Norway and Sweden. That was whathappened when Czechoslovakia peacefully broke into Czech andSlovakia.
Quite frankly, I am completely comfortable either with joining torepair the Nigerian bus or helping to peacefully dismantle it so thatwe all can be spared the agonizing but inescapable destiny of ridinga damaged bus to our collective perdition.
And so, to that infinite Source of vision, wisdom, courage andgrace, the Supreme One we call Allah, Chineke, Obong, Oghene,Olodumare, Ooundu, Osalobua etc., I say: So Help us God to eitherrepair soon or peacefully and quickly dismantle our hapless bus!
Adeyeye is Secretary-General of the United Democratic Front ofNigeria (UDFN). Also, read his incisive insight,Nigeria's destiny, democracy and itscorrupt Forbackydances
Chinua Achebe wins Man Booker International Prize 2007. The highly-regarded Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe has won the Man Booker International Prize, which is worth £60,000 and awarded only once every two years. Achebe, who was born in 1930, is best known for his first novel, "Things Fall Apart," written in 1958, though he has written more than 20 books. In "Things Fall Apart," Achebe portrays Nigerian tribal life in an Ibo village before and after colonialism.
Judges for the prize were American author and Princeton University professor Elaine Showalter; South African writer and 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Nadine Gordimer; and Irish author Colm Tóibin. In her comment on the prize, Gordimer said, "Chinua Achebe's early work made him the father of modern African literature as an integral part of world literature." Tóibin said, "Chinua Achebe has been one of my heroes since I read his book Things Fall Apart." The Man Booker International Prize can be won by a living author of any nationality, as long as his or her work is available in English. It is given for a body of work rather than one book and is different from the Man Booker Prize. It was first awarded in 2005 to the Albanian writer Ismail Kadaré. NY Newsday/June 13, 2007