Ige's murder is another dangersignal for Nigeria's nascent democracy

Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.comand NigeriaCentral.com

A sad event occurred in Nigeria with the December 23, 2001assassination of the country's federal Attorney-General and Ministerof Justice, Bola Ige.

Why shouldwe care, as Nigerians, Africans or as Houstonians. Or, in fact, anywhere else in the U.S.?

First, it is a rather painful metaphor for how awry and insecurecitizens and international investors have since become under thealmost 3-year old government of Nigeria's retired Gen. OlusegunObasanjo, that his own chief law officer for the 110-millionNigerians and former Govenor of Oyo State (1979-1983) was murdered inhis own bedroom in the Yoruba city of Ibadan.

Second, it basically opens the door for the few attentive andinformed analysts of Africa's and Nigeria's politics and democracy toincrease the valued and critical interest of the U.S State departmentand the White House to the dangers which besot Nigeria's latestefforts at returning to a democratic society, and allow them toexamine facts beyond the saccharine persuasions of Obasanjo'smultimillion dollar lobbyists in Washington, Atlanta, Houston, NewYork and elsewhere.

As I wrote in Houston Chronicle's Outlook page and a number ofother U.S. newspapers on May 14, 2001, day of Obasanjo's meeting with President George W. Bush, in WashingtonD.C., democracy and economic development must rest on the domesticinfrastructure of a country. You attract international investmentswhen lives and properties are safe; just basic safety and developmentequation.

Third,is a significant point, still on the question of national andindividual security; namely: if gunmen can make it into the bedroomof Nigeria's chief law officer in the same state he served asGovernor (1979-1983) , millions of Nigerians are definitely not saferegardless of what Gen. Obasanjo and his canvassers say on the pagesof Nigeria's local newspaper and to the international community.

Fourth, and of historical significance (although it would seemthat Nigeria and Nigerians rarely learn from history but giddilyrepeat the deadly errors of those who led previously), Ige's murderand the overall violence in the same southwest Yoruba region(Obasanjo's ethnic origin), in the early 1960s and 1983 fuelled thefires which burnt down the nascent democracy at the time. Therefore,these all seem, yet another dangerous flashback to the 1960s crisesin the same Western region of Nigeria which latter plunged the wholecountry to the grip of political instability and military coups. Arethe recent intraparty violence and hiring of assassins any way to runa democracy? Is this any way to claim to be the giant of Africa? Arethese the ghost of things to come? It seems more like Democrazy!

I recall calling the Ibadan residence of the late Ige, fondlycalled the Cicero of Agodi from USAfrica's office in Houston on acertain Sunday around noon in September of1998, just before theelections which marked the return to civilian rule in the country ofalmost 110 million.

Ige spoke to me about his hopes for a better Nigeria, remarkingthat a lot of work needs to be done. Alas, he joined the work but thegoons of disorder and merchants of death abruptly cut a remarkableman who spoke many languages and adapted to many situations. I spokemy native Igbo very briefly to him, and he replied very well. And, wesoon continued in the English language.

Amidst these recent events, Gen. Obasanjo, as usual, was"scheduled to travel out of the country", to Zimbabwe; that, anotherirony and metaphor for a president who has had one too many globaljunkets that he's better known as the frequent flier president.

Obasanjo, seriously, needs to shift his focus and efforts toNigeria, get his own house in order.

Nigeria needs more mediation and presidential responsibility byObasanjo and Co for its multifarious conflicts, legitimateenvironmental and human rights concerns of its components, nationaland individual security needs more than increasing the defense budgetor promoting more non-combatant Nigerian generals some of whosebiggest "battles" have been downing a big bowel of fish pepper soupwith pounded yam !

I am not a political prophet but a realistic graduate of politicalscience and public administration, hence I make bold to caution thatif Nigeria's democracy takes its bizarre turn to demoCrazy, thestability and viability of the country becomes a real issue for frankdebate. Afterall, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, former president (notwarlord!) of the defunct Republic of Biafra (1967-1970) may stillhave to continue his recent debate with Obasanjo and othersespecially Nigeria's minister of state for defense Mrs. DupeAdelaja who foolishly called Igbos "traitors"for their historic fight for self-defense and for a zone ofgeopolitical safety at the time called Biafra.That's an issue for another day.

But it's truly sad that some of Nigeria's leaders and politicalappointees still believe that state-sponsored bigotry can be aninstrument for governing and a meal ticket for desperate politicalhacks, pseudo-intellectual pipsqueaks and moral lilliputians who havewrecked Nigeria's better destiny.

No matter how one looks at it, Ige's murder, the murder of publicservant of almost 40 years is a bad omen for Nigeria's democratizingeffort. With the sad event of Ige's death, a dangerous alarm bell hasbeen sounded. Will Nigeria's political elite make any sense of it.The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind....

An iroko has fallen in the Nigerian forest. Rest in peace, ChiefIge!
Chido Nwangwu,recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), is Founder andPublisher of USAfricaonline.com (first African-owned U.S.-basedprofessional newspaper to be published on the internet), USAfrica TheNewspaper, NigeriaCentral.com and The Black Business Journal. He alsoserves as an adviser to the Mayor of Houston on internationalbusiness (Africa) and appears as an analyst on CNN, VOA, NPR, CBSNews, NBC and ABC news affiliates.

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