Transcript CNN International Interview with Nigeria's President Obasanjo and Publisher Chido Nwangwu on Democracy and Security Issues

Nigeria, a terrible beauty

 Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston, The Black Business Journal and

The conclusion of the first stanza of the masterpiece poem about Irish nationalism by William Butler Yeats, titled 'Easter 1916', goes thus:

"All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born."

To be sure, Nigeria has been transforming into some sort of a terrible beauty! What with the bizarre twists and violence which dogged the 2002 Miss World pageant and orgy of killings in the largely Muslim, northern Nigeria, and burning of, at least, 10 churches since November 21, 2002, and 210 dead, after 5 days.

Hence, to make sense of the murderous collision of religion, social life, media viewpoints and politics in Nigeria with the country's bizarre fumble at hosting the Miss World 2002 pageant, you must see today's Nigeria along the trajectory of the events of September 11, 2001. It is vital to note (as I have argued on this same page, in the recent past), the feeble geo-religious foundations of Nigeria reflect, largely, the assaults of both the domestic and international sponsors of 'holy' terror in the country.

Why is this sense of perspective important?

While New Yorkers, Americans, millions of Africans and the civilized world mourned and cried for the victims of the attack on the twin-tower, the same zealots and rag-tag goons of bigotry in Nigeria's Kaduna (and its environs) took out a few days, daily, to chant in fevered, grandiose praises and demented adulation the name of Osama bin-Laden and al-Qaeda, suffused with the litany of 'Allahu Akbar'- 'Allah is great!' and anti-Semitism bile.

In the same Nigeria, the same week in the staunchly Christian, republicanist Igbo south east (defunct Republic of Biafra, 1967-1970), many mourned and demonstrated against the bin-Ladens and their ilk, chanted in support of the U.S. and the security of the state of Israel.

The government of Nigeria, led by retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, the preferred and selected candidate of the predominantly Muslim North and his fellow retired generals in 1999, sent out members of the Nigerian armed forces to "quell" the Igbo youth and elders who were exercising their own views, peacefully and constitutionally.

My key points?

• Nigeria is, at its core, one country with two or more diametrically opposed values, clashing ethos and oppositional worldviews fuelled by ancient hatreds, contemporary marginalization of ethnic nations and groups and persons who/which can fuel the rebirth of the country.

•More significant is that it took Nigeria's zealots of mayhem only a few hours to show and dramatize the operational weakness of both the Obasanjo government and the communications/informational incapacities of the same government. The zealots, sadly but essentially, destroyed Nigeria's long, hard march back into the comity of law abiding societies and westernization since Obasanjo took over government, the second time, in May 1999. Who will now sell tourism and international investment campaigns for Nigeria?

•In one weekend of theocratic exertion, Nigeria's mullahs and ullemahs did not mince words in showing (not just telling) retired Gen. Obasanjo and his handlers that different Nigerians belong to different Nigerias: the increasingly factional One Nigeria versus the other Nigeria where quasi-Talibanism and what I call religio-mobocracy (rule by fanatical mobs who make bonfires of other human beings like live steak to appease their gods). They diminish the civilization index of the so-called Africa's giant. By the way, the same mullahs and ullemahs who sentenced two Nigerian Muslim women to 'death by stoning' have since passed a 'death sentence' (fatwa) on the endlessly apologetic publisher whose reporter suggested that the Islamic prophet Muhammad would have taken a wife from among the beauty queens. Obasanjo's government has since arrested the editor….

•The well-oiled Islamic religious and political forces inside Nigeria (and potentially outside patrons) have shown Obasanjo and the world where the real power resides, and how to show. My thesis, however provisional is this: Nigeria's federal center, events and policies can be made to bend (or in Obasanjo's case, stand at ease, almost) in the face of raw, decisive, naked domestic force as evidenced in the past 148 hours by the northern Nigeria's religious fundamentalists and militants. Anyway, the 'North', the Igbo 'South East', and the minorities of the 'South South' voted and worked Obasanjo into power while Obasanjo's kinfolks of the 'South West' ensured he not only lost his own regional home base but even his own local council ward election!

•In one heady weekend, the fundamentalists have since swept aside Obasanjo's grand policy talk about having 'restructured power' in Nigeria. Now, the beauty pageant violence and impositions by the zealots have recast the political equation for the 2003 elections in the country of 120 million boisterous citizens.

•In one weekend of orgy of violence, the so-called 'ordinary' Nigerian and the middle class Nigerian relived, first-hand, the emptiness of the dizzying shamanist mantra called 'dividends of democracy.' Those dividends have been promised endlessly by political desperados and partisan hustlers who care more about their election, re-election and state-sponsored privileges than the basic protection of lives and properties, fostering an enabling environment which for the pursuit of liberty and freedoms of expression.

Those clashes, killings and hideous power play surrounding the controversial pageant have forced the event, ironically, to be moved to the metropolis of Nigeria's colonial rulers, London.

All those compose defining moments for a country declared on paper, constitutionally, as a secular republic, facing what the distinguished Prof. Samuel Huntington calls a "clash of civilizations."

Nigeria, what a terrible beauty!

Chido Nwangwu, recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), is Founder and Publisher of first African-owned U.S.-based professional newspaper to be published on the internet, He appears as an analyst on CNN International, CNN's Inside Africa, Voice of America, WorldNet tv, and publishes Houston-based USAfrica The Newspaper, and The Black Business Journal. Nwangwu, an oil and gas consultant, has served as an adviser to the Mayor of Houston on international business (Africa).

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Index of Founder's Notes (1)

Index of Founder's Notes (2)

Index of other Viewpoints USAfricaonline contributors and columnists on the issues