Was Lanre Shittu sold out by Obasanjo'sgovernment to U.S. law enforcement agencies?
By Jonathan Elendu
It's been reported that Alhaji Lanre Shittu, the owner of LanreShittu Motors, a company situated on Western Avenue, Surulere-Lagosis in New York. Why is it a story that is newsworthy? What is ourbusiness with a Lagos motor dealer visiting New York? The Alhaji isnot visiting New York; he is an unwilling guest of the Americangovernment. United States drug enforcement officers with theconnivance of the Nigerian government abducted the man from Nigeria.Extradition? Nonsense!
Lanre Shittu was standing trial before a Lagos High Court. He hasbeen in detention for many years at the Nigeria Drug Law EnforcementAgency. To the best of my knowledge, his businesses have been closeddown for years, in accordance with the laws of the Federal Republicof Nigeria. I have no problems with that. If the man is a drug dealerhe should face the full extent of the law.
I am outraged by reports that he was abducted by American Securitymen from detention in Nigeria after a court appearance. It is anoutrage that President Obasanjo would approve American Drug LawEnforcement personnel taking a Nigerian out of the country to standtrial in America while he is still standing trial in a Nigeriancourt. This is a rape on our sovereignty and must not becondoned.
The National Assembly must probe this incident.
A few days after the last Presidential elections in Nigeria, I haddiscussions with a Nigerian diplomat in Europe. We talked about thePresidential elections and the failure of Dr. Alex Ekwueme to clinchthe PDP nomination. The diplomat told me Ekwueme would not have wonthe Presidency even if the Peoples Democratic Party had nominatedhim. I reminded the man that I lived in Nigeria then and I knew themood of the people. He asked if I knew what the moods of America andEurope was? I replied that I didn't care what their moods were. Theguy smiled. I pressed for explanations. He told me that America andother Western leaders did not trust Ekwueme. They felt he was tooindependent and therefore risky. I did not understand what thefeelings of Clinton and Tony Blair had to do with Nigeria's internalpolitics. "Someday you will understand," he replied.
Now I do. And I hate the taste of it. A Nigerian President willpay lip service to the maltreatment of her nationals in foreigncountries. Our President has more confidence in a foreign court thanour own courts. Clearly President Obasanjo suffers from a high doseof colonial mentality and is increasingly losing his credibility asthe commander in chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. Worse, he flexesmuscle on Nigerians, especially the latest humanrights abuse of citizens of Okigwe by Nigerian soldiersand police He is a disgrace to the office he holds. The firstassignment of our elected officials is to run off to Europe andAmerica to study how to rule us. Last week, Nigeria's Minister ofState for Foreign Affairs summoned the British Deputy HighCommissioner to Nigeria, to complain about the refusal of visas tomembers of the Nigerian government and National Assembly. It seems tome some members of Obasanjo's administration are out of sync with thePresident. The President has sold us cheaply to foreign governments;why should they respect us? Why would they grant visas to us whenthey can abduct us at will?
Any leader that is worth his salt and understands leadership wouldput his nation's interest above everything else. What is moreparamount than the safety and well-being of the nationals? AmericanPresidents have been willing to go to war to defend the rights ofAmericans. Inspite of all the extradition treaties America has withother countries, I have not heard that an American has beenextradited to another country to stand trial.
Americans believe that their country is the best in the world,despite the imperfections. Americans, big and small, would readilygive their lives to protect their country. Irrespective of theirfeelings towards their President, they would happily go into battleif called. There is every reason for an American to be proud ofAmerica. He knows his leaders would not sell him out to othercountries. The American knows that the system, though imperfect,works.
To this day, the Nigerian National Anthem arouses deep emotions inme. I have never been a member of the Nigerian Armed Forces, yet Ifind myself standing at attention anytime I hear the National Anthem.Even at the height of the maximum ruler, Sani Abacha, I believed inmy country. I did not believe in the Head of State but I would nothave hesitated to wear my country's uniform if called upon.
I remember telling friends in Lagos that I would bear arms ifAmerica tried to abduct our Head of State like they did Noriega. Idid not like the Head of State. I believed he was very corrupt. Buthe was my Head of State. Obasanjo has lost his respect with me. If hecould sell out Lanre Shittu, he would find sufficient reason to saleany of us. To your tents....
Elendu is a columnist for NigeriaCentral.com
December 3, 2000
These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.'
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