Things I should have said....
Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.com,and TheBlack Business Journal and CLASSmagazine
Lansing, Michigan, October 25, 2004: This is my 100th article forthe USAfrica MultiMedia Networks, Houston. I felt the best way tocelebrate this milestone is to talk about things I should havecommented on, but for some reason did not. Although, first I wouldlike to say that being a columnist for USAfrica publications has beena very rewarding experience, intellectually and otherwise.
I started writing columns in 1990 for a Lagos based children'smagazine, which I also edited. By 1992, I was writing for Affairs, asoft-sell magazine also based in Lagos. The column was entitled,Broken Dreams, and therein, I wrote about relationships and thespiritual dimensions to the things we think, say and do when we arein a relationship.
My writingcolumns had to take a back seat when I started "Weekend Matinee" and"Music In Video" on Nigerian Television, Aba and later, "Prism" and"High Flyer" on cable television and Rivers State Television,Portharcourt. In 1997, there was a strong urge to get back to theprint media. I started publishing Zika, a magazine for every childunder 80. For Zika, I wrote a column entitled, Gist.
I was pleasantly surprised when ChidoNwangwu, the Founder of USAfrica emailed me in 2000. Chido, aformer reporter and anchor for Nigerian Television, Aba, has been afamily friend since the 1970s. I started writing for USAfrica duringthe thick of the 2000 elections. You may remember the series, "Roadto the White House," which reflected my view of the contest for thePresidency of the United States between Al Gore and George Bush.
Back to the things I should have said:
Shortly after the Congress passed the USA Patriot Act and Pres.George Bush signed it into law, I attended a workshop on the Act atMichigan State University. The workshop was conducted by the ACLUunder the auspices of the Unity In Community Coalition. Thefacilitators at the workshop, who were mostly lawyers and lawprofessors, explained the provisions of the USA Patriot Act and itseffect on civil liberties to Americans and most especially as itconcerns immigrants.
After the workshop a friend pulled me aside and said, "I hopeyou'll be careful about your writingâ¤?you don't want togo back to Nigeria just yet, do you?" Sadness and anger overwhelmedme. I was saddened by the attacks on 9/11. I remember filing my firststory on the attacks the day after and following up with morestories. I called for those, who attacked America on that day, andtheir supporters to be bombed out of existence. However, after theworkshop on the USA Patriot Act, it dawned on me that the wounds ofAmerica arising from 9/11 might never heal completely. The reality Ihad to come to grips with was that 9/11 would be used as an excuse toperpetrate all kinds of acts against the American people, includingthe curtailing of civil liberties. Having lived and practiced mytrade under a dictatorship, I did not want to go back to an era ofgovernment clamping on people's freedoms, using flimsy excuses. I hadlived in that environment and I know how it feels.
Shortly after this workshop, the drums of war with Iraq startedbeating loudly. I was aghast that journalists and politicians wereall dancing to the same tune. Only few voices sang discordant notesto the drums of war. There were too many questions that nobody wasasking, or answering. I wanted to have answers to these questions,yet I did not ask. I was so disillusioned that I did not write formonths either before and after the war began.
I am ashamed that concerns for my personal safety and comfort mademe impotent in the face of what I considered an unwarranted andunjust exercise in the use of power. It was a very heartbreakingmoment for me. Recent reports and events have shown that the Americanpeople were led into war on lies masked as "intelligence." Even worseis the realization that those who beat the drums of war knew thatthey were doing it for reasons other than the ones they gaveAmericans and the world.
The so-called liberation of twenty-five million people stillremains a ruse. Iraqi's live in constant fear of American bombs andthose of their allies, as well as bombs from enemies within their ownranks. What good is liberation if people are afraid to step out oftheir homes for fear of being killed by roadside bombs or being shotby insurgents? How many of us know what it feels like to see so muchdestruction on your own streets? And how do Iraqis feel now thattheir country has become a vortex of terrorism?
The argument that Saddam Hussein was a bad man who murdered somany innocent people is balderdash! There are many Saddams in manycapitals of the world. How many are we going to invade? Links to AlQaeda? There were none and even if there were, Al Qaeda operates insixty countries. How many of those did we invade? Weapons of MassDestruction? You do not need to be a foreign relations expert to knowthat using the ownership or acquisition of WMD as a justification forattack is stupid. At least 30 countries have WMD. How many countrieshas America attacked preemptively? I should have spoken out when thedrums started beating. I did not and I'm sorry.
Nigeria, my native land had a general election in 2003. PresidentOlusegun Obasanjo and all the thirty-six state governors ran forreelection. Although I wrote a few stories about certain aspects ofthe process, I did not do any serious analysis of the elections. Thesimple reason is that I did not really believe in the integrity ofthe elections and therefore felt disillusioned. My feelings about theelections remain the same.
On July 10, 2003, policemen led by Ralph Ige, an AssistantInspector General of police, removed the elected Governor of AnambraState, Chris Ngige, from office. A coup is the only word that aptlydescribes what happened. This incident was so shocking that theentire country reacted. Regrettably, I did not respond. I abhorredwhat happened, but I felt this was a natural consequence of the kindof politics we have had since Nigeria started experimenting with thedemocratic process. Therefore, I did not comment. I was wrong.
The situation in Anambra State is still very precarious. Anelected governor of a state was removed by the police acting at thebehest of an individual, without a court order or an impeachmentorder from the State Assembly. This individual, Chris Uba, stillwalks the streets of Nigeria as a free man. There has been no attemptto prosecute him for treason or any other charges, even when headmitted engineering this felony.
At the 2004 meeting of the World Igbo Congress held in Newark, NewJersey, Chris Uba dropped another bombshell - as reported byUSAfricaonline.com. He claimed that he thwarted the will of theAnambra people by rigging the elections. He claims that the candidateof another political party won the elections but he got his men toannounce Chris Ngige as the winner of the elections. I have beenwaiting to hear that Uba has been arrested on charges of electionfraud and treason. Nothing has happened. Why?
The only reasonable explanation is that he is in cohorts with thepresident of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. No less a person thanAfrica's literary luminary, Chinua Achebe agrees with my assertion.In an open letter to the Federal Government of Nigeria on reasons forrejecting a national award conferred on him, he described thesituation in Anambra State as "a small clique of renegades openlyboasting of its connections in high places, seems determined to turnmy homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom" with "the silence,if not connivance of the presidency."
There were so many things I should have said. There are yet moreto say in the coming days, months and years. I remain grateful forthis opportunity.
Elendu is acontributing editor of USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica The Newspaper.Other USAfrica essays by Elendu include:Judging Andrea,Talibansand Osama: A tale of cowards;and The Desperateand theUngrateful. Hisspecial report on Democratic Party rising senatorial star BarackObama will appear in Classmagazine Vol.2.5 on November 9, 2004.
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Obasanjo: Let me say this to you, when you put the question of 10,000 -- 10,000 people dying in Nigeria, of course, for a population of over 120 million people...." But USAfricaonline.com Founder and recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), Chido Nwangwu, who appeared on the same program as as a CNN International analyst (Africa) pointed out that "when (President Obasanjo) answered that in a country of 100 million that 10,000 people are said to have died, as if that was a small number, that in itself reflects a disconnect with the concerns of Nigerians. The second one is that when the risk is civil disagreement, the police are required to intervene in the country. And the deployment of the armed forces of Nigeria requires at least some consultation, however modest, with the parliament." Nwangwu, former member of the editorial board of Nigeria's Daily Times continued that "the third factor that is equally important to underscore is that the armed forces of Nigeria moved in for a punitive action rather than just containing a civil disagreement." He noted in USAfricaonline.com backgrounder "it was revealing and interesting interesting discussing Nigeria's issues with its leader - under the current circumstances of an increasingly out-of-schedule elections and the gathering storm of an impeachment process by a majority of the members of the National Assembly, predominantly by Obasanjo's party members." See rush transcript of the CNN International news program.
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