CNNInternational interview withNigeria's President Obasanjo and Publisher ChidoNwangwu on Democracyand Security Issues

Anarchy rules when corruptiontakes over

Exclusive commentary for USAfrica TheNewspaper, Houston

Nigeria is a troubled country.  These days, everywhere is abuzzwith fear over going home and visitorsare rethinking their options when it comes to visiting Nigeria. Under this state of mind, how does one invite a friend to visitmuch less invest in Nigeria?  At the height of his brutalregime, most Nigerians believed that the late General Abacha was theworst thing to happen to Nigeria.  Recent happenings suggest wemay have spoken too soon.  The current state of fear and feelingof insecurity among Nigerians -- since retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjotook over in May 1999 -- may be doing far greater damage than Abachain all of his crudity.  

Without doubt, the ongoing rash of killings allover Nigeria cannot be armed robbery or routine crime. Something deeper, something more troubling is going on. PDP National Chairman Chief Audu Ogbeh reportedly shared thesefeelings in a recent statement from Lagos.  Interestingly,spirited defenders of the former Works Minister, Chief Tony Anenih,whom Abia State Governor, Orji Uzo Kalu, has directly and publiclyaccused of plotting to kill him have remained silent on ChairmanOgbeh's comments.  One must wonder why?  Both Chief Ogbehand Chief Anenih are big wigs within the ruling Peoples DemocraticParty (PDP).  

Early in March 2004, armed intruders at Alvan Ikoku College ofEducation shot a Professor to death in his office.  AnotherProfessor was also murdered at the Federal Polytechnic Umuagwo. Both institutions are located in Imo State.  Theseincidents have since been followed by two incidents in Edo State: theassassination of the Director of the Institute of ContinuingEducation (ICE), Benin, Mr. H. Ogierakhi and an attempt on the lifeof Edo State Commissioner for Environment and Solid Minerals, Mr.Paul Fashanu Udofe at a PDP meeting venue.  Each of thesekillings or attempted killings further validates the theory that whatwe are seeing is not random violence by common criminals, but may besomething worse and far ominous.  Society can contain commoncrime if the rule of law and instrumentalities of governance are dulyapplied, as they should.  Politically motivated killingsresulting from deliberate political designs are far more ruthless anddangerous and can undermine our system of governance.

Governor Orji Uzor reportedly explained to journalists at the MurtalaMuhammed Airport, Ikeja, nearly Lagos that his life was threatenedafter he raised questions on how N300 billion earmarked for roadconstruction during Chief Anenih's tenure as minister was mismanaged. He also voiced disappointment over the manner in which somemembers of PDP were trivializing the issues, insisting it is not aparty problem.  He reportedly had directly confronted PresidentOlusegun Obasanjo over these concerns in a recent Council of Statesmeeting in Maidugiri.  

The bane of Nigeria's problem may be imbedded in this unfoldingstory.  How could the Attorney General of the Federation, ChiefBola Ige, be killed in his house nearly two years ago and there isyet to be an arrest?  How did former Deputy Governor Omisore ofIge's home state, accused of involvement in the killing, win electionfrom jail and without being first cleared of the allegations? And how is it that the same Omisore continues to be allowedparticipation in federal Senate proceedings from detention?  Dowe now have a clear case in which anarchy rules because corruptionhas taken over?

The manner in which the President's ruling PDP quickly dabbles intothese matters, seeking to transform criminal incidents into partypolitical issues is very ominous for Nigeria.  This patternimplicates a motive to cover up.  When the saga and intrigues ofAnambra State governance began last July, the PDP set up a mediationcommittee that led to the so-called Concorde Accord between GovernorNgige and renegade Chris Uba.  The National Senate President,Hon. Wagbara, led that mediation.  

To be clear, this is a situation where private individuals concocteda plan to remove an elected governor using a phony letter ofresignation and the instrumentality of the State's legislature. Rather than arrest or detain the perpetrators of this illegalhoax, the Police removed the governor's Security detail and has sincenot reinstated it.  A subsequent attempt to overthrow thegovernor by the same forces this January was thwarted.  Today,the Governor remains without police protection even after the courtshave ruled in his favor.   

In the wake of Governor Kalu's accusations against Chief Anenih, PDPhas again engaged itself in night long meetings to "resolve thematter" in the language of Party Chairman Audu Ogbeh.  WhatGovernor Kalu has alleged is a crime, possibly multiple crimes, thatmay include attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, criminalfraud, abuse of power, among many more.   A political partydoes not investigate or adjudicate crimes, the police and the courtsdo.   Meantime Anambra's Governor Ngige and his supporterscontinue to believe that all that has happened to him is rooted inthe Presidency.  In his recent allegation of threats to hislife, Governor Kalu has now asserted possible criminal disposition orinvolvement by the Presidency. These are not just ordinary crimes;they are nefarious crimes that implicate state security.  Ifproven, they could constitute grounds for impeachment and removal ofthe President.  These matters are too serious for PDP to keepmonkeying over.  They also worsen PDP's image and blemish fromthe notoriety of widespread rigging of last year's elections. 

These are not indicators of a country that is either normal orsecure, or a leadership that can be trusted in such matters.

How does crime become a problem for a party rather than for thepolice?  Thus far the Police, which is the primary investigativeand prosecutorial arm of Nigeria's government, and the Courts seem tohave acquiesced to this pattern of constant meddling by partisanpolitical interests?  Granted that many of the recent murdervictims have been highly placed PDP members, the criminal nature ofthe cases is not altered, and it also is no license for PDP'smeddling and injecting itself into the criminal justice process.

President Obasanjo recently had a run in with the family of PDP'sChief Dikibo when he trumped any investigation or verification toannounce that the death of the PDP chieftain was the result of armedrobbery.  Following that incident, many more killings haveoccurred, the latest of which include a narrow escape by the Governorof Benue State.  His companion, former Nigeria Airways ChiefExecutive, recently nominated to PDP Trustee, was not as lucky butwas shot to death during the encounter.

Add to all of this the declassification announced only yesterday byBritish underwriters following an agreement by leading Hull War Risksinsurers to cancel coverage for vessels bound for Nigeria, and aparallel ranking of Nigeria atop countries presenting high riskcharacteristics among 50 nations in the world profiled by UnitedStates-based A-on.  The picture emerging from all of this isdeeply troubling at best.  

Nigeria is a troubled country.  These days, everywhere is abuzzwith fear over going home and visitors are rethinking their optionswhen it comes to visiting Nigeria.  Under this state of mind,how does one invite a friend to visit much less invest in Nigeria? 

At the height of his brutal regime, most Nigerians believed that thelate General Abacha was the worst thing to happen to Nigeria. Recent happenings suggest we may have spoken too soon. The current state of fear and feeling of insecurity amongNigerians -- since retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo took over in May1999 -- may be doing far greater damage than Abacha in all of hiscrudity.  
As an organized national enterprise, Nigeria is finished when itscitizens cannot be sure that their government will protect them thatjustice will not be allowed to function.  Foreigners will alsofind little reason to risk even a brief visit much less investing! I ask again of Nigeria's leadership, and of President Obasanjopersonally, what manner of democracy are these anomalies dividendsof?

These are sad times for Nigeria.  The problem with maverick OrjiUzor Kalu is knowing where he will surface next.  Sometimes youjust want to embrace him for saying the right things; other times hesays and does things that make you wish you never heard his name. Whichever direction Kalu's kite flies in this gathering storm,the words attributed to him, if true, evidence rare courage...thelevel of courage more people must show if Nigeria is to ever get outof its current deeps!
Okorie,attorney at law, is a member of the editorial board of USAfricaMultiMedia Networks, Houston

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