African Union: Old wine in new skin?

 

USAfricaonline.com is listed among the world's hot sites by the international newspaper, USAToday.


     

Nigeria's unlovable ones?

By JONATHAN ELENDU

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

Recently, a friend told me a story about his uncle who retired as a top executive of one of the foremost multinationals operating in Nigeria. My friend's uncle lived in the city and only came to
the village during festive periods. He had a very big house in the village, which was far removed
from the houses of his brothers and sisters. My friend's uncle's children had little or no
interaction with their extended family who resided in the village. The only time these children
would reach out to their extended family would be when they needed someone to do menial jobs
which they were loathe to do. They acquired good eductions, within and outside Nigeria, and
continued in the tradition of their father.


A few
years ago, their mother died, and, as is customary in Igbo land, the body was brought back
home for burial. As the dead woman lay in state, people weeped for her. She was acknowledged as a good woman, who inspite of her personal wealth and her husband's high office, interacted with the downtrodden. Her generosity was felt even beyond her immediate family. During the wake, her husband called on his nephews to start digging the grave. As he talked they stared right through him and when he was done speaking they all walked away. "Where are you going to?" he queried, "Our wife is dead and we need to get ready for important visitors who will come for the burial."

One of the young men retorted, "Don't your important visitors have hands to dig graves?
If your friends can't help you maybe your money will." The big shot shed bitter tears. "My own family abandoned me in my hour of need," he wailed. "No," replied one of the young men, "We could not have abandoned you. We never had you. Your family is your children and your money. They should be able to help you out here. What can common people like us do for you? You have never had any need for us until now. Until recently you called us hoodlums and saw us embarrassments to you. Death cannot wipe away all those years we were shunned and ignored by you."


The above story came to my mind on Friday, September 20, as I read a story in the Lagos-based Guardian that I found very offensive and insulting. The story is about the fire incident at the West African Rubber Products Nigeria Limited, Ikorodu. In the said story, Afe Babalola, the company's attorney, claimed that the people killed in the fire were hoodlums, not company staffers. This was the lawyers attempt to minimize the liability exposure of his Asian clients. However, other reports indicate that loss of lives could have been minimized if the company's management had taken steps and committed the necessary funds to provide adequate security for lives and property.


Afe Babalola, is a well-respected legal practitioner in Nigeria. But after reading his utterances concerning the fire incident, one begins to question the rationale for respecting him. While he may be a good lawyer, we ought to be asking questions about his humanity, judgment and character.

For him to dismiss those who died in a fire at his clients factory as hoodlums is outrageous. Even if they were hoodlums, did they deserve to be roasted alive? What about their survivors, did they deserve this kind of insult in their period of grief? If a man does not know when to stop being a lawyer and become a human being, he not only shows that he lacks character, it is a clear demonstration that he is a fugitive from his own conscience.

This is the classic mentality of the Nigerian elite. Afe Babalola, I am sure, has used the services of those he now describes as hoodlums. He would have patronized them at "owambes" (Nigeria's Yoruba show parties) when he had to display his wealth. Certainly, he has used these people as security guards in his home and offices. So-called hoodlums have provided services for the high and mighty, Afe Babalola.

Now they are unworthy of justice. They can be roasted alive so that his clients can go free and continue to take advantage of the loopholes in our labor laws and the ignorance of the poor Nigerian worker. But these people were not hoodlums that died in the factory fire; they were human beings. The Nigerian Labor Congress president, Adams Oshiomhole, says that they were casual workers. And because they were casual workers, they were not entitled to any benefits, including insurance. They were entitled to a decent treatment as human beings and respect, even in death.

Did Afe Babalola not know these, or was he making a feeble attempt at spin?

At every turn, institutions that are supposed to protect the common man from the shenanigans of the rich and powerful leave more to be desired in the way they carry out their duties. The Federal
and State ministries of works and housing are supposed to ensure that buildings are constructed with safety of lives and property as a paramount concern.

The factory fire that killed, by some estimates, one hundred and twenty Nigerians, need not have happened if the regulatory authorities were alive to their responsibilities. If we cannot trust them to ensure that safety regulations are carried out to the letter, how can we entrust them with the awesome responsibility of investigating the cause or causes of the fire? The insurance company that insured the factory and all the buildings in the premises should be held accountable. Did they simply insure the buildings without making sure that proper safety codes were complied with?


Why are the state and federal governments not asking questions? For instance, why were the factory doors locked when workers were inside? Is it really true that one of the expatriate workers had a habit of locking the doors to the factory when he goes out for errands? How many people were killed in the fires and what are their names? Recent reports show that the company has yet to know the exact number of people who were killed in that fire and what their identities are. If this is true, the company management should explain to Nigerians what kind of operation they run that makes it impossible for them carry out a proper census of their staff.


The Nigerian Police has not disappointed us. They have yet to make a single arrest. Adedayo Adeoye, Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 11 is reported to have said that they are investigating gun shots that were fired during the inferno. The bizarre aspect of his statement is that he says he does not suspect anybody for shootings that were done in a private and enclosed compound. The premises is protected by security men employed by the company.
Were they armed on that day? Who reported the shots and in what direction did the shots come from? If this incident had involved poor Nigerians without a Babalola to protect them, many people would have been paraded before television cameras as the perpetrators.


It is sad that Nigerians are not outraged by the Ikorodu fire incident, especially given the stories that have come out about the treatment of workers at that factory. I commend Oshiomhole and I pray that he lead the fight for justice for the common people. Our politicians, once again, have abdicated their duty. Their silence on this issue is deafening. To dismiss the dead as being just hoodlums should be condemned by all Nigerians. I hope that the families of the deceased will take actions that will send a message to Afe Babalola and his clients. After all, even the homeless, insane members of society were born into a families.
Elendu is a contributing editor of
USAfricaonline.com and NigeriaCentral.com. He writes every Friday, exclusively for USAfricaonline.com Archiving of this essay on another web site is not authorized; only web links are allowed.


Is Obasanjo ordained by God to rule Nigeria? And, other fallacies. By Prof. Sola Adeyeye
RELIGION AND ETHNIC CONFLICT: Sharia-related killings and carnage in Kaduna reenact deadly prologue to Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967. By Chido Nwangwu


Impeachment process shows Nigerian democracy "is alive... being tested." Nigeria's president retired Gen. Olusegun
Obasanjo has said that the impeachment process shows that "democracy is alive, is being tested, and being tried.... What they (the legislators) have tried to do in the democratic way, which is not easy, would probably have been done by taking arms or by -- with bullets. So, but with democracy, of course, some people feel that this is the way this should be, and then I have an opportunity to defend myself. There is discussion. There is dialogue. There is a decision. There is fairness." He made these comments when he appeared on Tuesday September 17, 2002 on CNN International to discuss the issues of impeachment facing him, the allegations of corruption, abuse of the constitution and deployment of soldiers ina civilian environment which led to the "massacre of civilians" in Odi (Bayelsa) and Zaki Biam (Benue).

On the charges by international human rights organizations and Nigerian media that his government has been involved in actions which have led to the deaths of thousands of Nigerians, the retired General gave a surprising answer.

He was asked that "as many as 10,000 people, it's being reported, have been killed in Nigeria (in) communal rivalries, and the number is believed to be increasing. And people are saying that although President Obasanjo has done a lot of good for Nigeria, you're accused of not -- accused of failing to halt that spiraling violence."

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.


Obasanjo facing corruption and ineptitude impeachment charges, again since the parliament, a few weeks ago, passed a motion carrying a majority of the members of Obasanjo's party, the PDP.

It's wrong to stereotype Nigerians as Drug Dealers. By Chido Nwangwu
Nigeria as a Nation of Vulcanizers

Africa suffers the scourge of the virus. This life and pain of Kgomotso Mahlangu, a five-month-old AIDS patient (above) in a hospital in the Kalafong township near Pretoria, South Africa, on October 26, 1999, brings a certain, frightening reality to the sweeping and devastating destruction of human beings who form the core of any definition of a country's future, its national security, actual and potential economic development and internal markets. By Chido Nwangwu


22 million Africans HIV-infected, ill with AIDS
while African leaders ignore disaster-in-waiting

Why Colin
Powell brings gravitas, credibility and star power to Bush presidency.

AFRICA AND THE U.S. ELECTIONS
Beyond U.S. electoral shenanigans, rewards and dynamics of a democratic republic hold lessons for African politics.
Osama bin-Laden's goons threaten Nigeria and Africa's stability
What has Africa to do with September 11 terror?
Africans reported dead in terrorist attack at WTC
September 11 terror and the ghost of things to come....
Will religious conflicts be the time-bomb for Nigeria's latest transition to civilian rule?
Conflicting emotions, feeling of disappointment, timing of revelation that Rev. Jackson fathered a child with former aide lead to charges of "right-wing orchestration."
THE FIRST BLACK POPE? To our Brother Cardinal Arinze: May your pastoral lineage endure!


Nigeria's Presidential Election: Is it just for the Highest Bidder?
Wong is wrong on Blacks in Houston city 
jobs
Why is 4-year old Onyedika carrying a placard against killings in Nigeria?
How Nigeria's Islamic Sharia crises will affect the U.S.
USAfrica INTERVIEW
"Why African Catholics are concerned about crises, sex abuse issues in our church" - a frank chat with ICCO's Mike Umeorah
Why Bush should focus on dangers facing Nigeria's return to democracy and Obasanjo's slipperyslide
DEMOCRACY'S WARRIOR
Out of Africa. The cock that crows in the morning belongs to one household but his voice is the property of the neighborhood. -- Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah. An editor carries on his crusade against public corruption and press censorship in his native Nigeria and other African countries. By John Suval.

Should Africa debates begin and end at The New York Times and The Washington Post? No
Johnnie Cochran will soon learn that defending Abacha's loot is not as simple as his O.J Simpson's case. By Chido Nwangwu The Economics of Elections in Nigeria
HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY
How far, how deep will Nigeria's human rights commission go?
Rtd. Gen. Babangida trip as emissary for Nigeria's Obasanjo to Sudan raises curiosity, questions about what next in power play?
COUNTERPOINT
'Why is Bill Maher spreading racist nonsense about HIV/AIDS and Africa on ABC?
USAfricaonline LITERATURE
As Chinua Achebe turned 70, Africa's preeeminent statesman Nelson Mandela, Toni Morrison, Wole Soyinka, Ali Mazrui, Leon Botstein (president of Bard College), Ojo Maduekwe, Emmanuel Obiechina, Ngugi wa Thinong'o, Micere Mugo, Michael Thelwell, Niyi Osundare, and an army of some of the world's leading writers and arts scholars joined to pay tribute to him at Bard College in New York. (Achebe is in pix with Morrison). Meanwhile, the Nobel committee has, again, chosen a relatively less known (globally-speaking) Chinese novelist, Gao Xingjian, rather than Achebe for the Literature prize. Achebe was seen as a top favorite for the 2000 award. What the Swedish Nobel committee will not give, Achebe has, for well over 30 years, won in the hearts of millions in 53 languages. By Chido Nwangwu
Literary giant Chinua Achebe returns "home" from U.S., to love and adulation of community
Hate groups' spin by Lamar Alexander benefits anti-Blacks, anti-Semites, and racists
Annan, power and burden of the U.N

The Civilianizing of African soldiers into Presidents
At 39, Nigerians still face dishonest stereotypes such as Buckley's, and other self-inflicted wounds.

JFK Jr.: Death of a Good Son

'Why is Bill Maher spreading racist nonsense about HIV/AIDS and Africa on ABC?
National
Summit on Africa, Congresswoman Jackson-Lee hold policy forum in Houston
'100 Black Men are solutions-oriented' says Thomas Dortch, Jr., Richard Johnson and Nick Clayton II as they share perspectives with USAfrica's founder on the national
organization.
ARTS
The Life and Irreverent times of Afrobeat superstar, FELA
TRIBUTE Tanzania's founding president Julius Nyerere

 

 

 


Nnamdi Azikiwe: Statesman, Intellectual and Titan of African politics


SOCCER
FIFA chief promises Africa will host 2010 World Cup, if...
Sepp Blatter, president of the world's soccer governing body, FIFA, has promised to lobby and make possible that the continent hosts the championship for the first time if he is re-elected as FIFA president. Blatter's backers say he has the support of almost 105 of the 204 member associations in FIFA. USAfricaonline.com affirms that the African continent has a huge soccer following and enthusiasts and stars who play for the leading teams all over the world. Also, some of the very exciting teams such as Cameroons, Ghana and Nigeria have made international soccer a more popular sport. By Chido Nwangwu


Community Service Awards bring African-American, American policy and business leaders together with African community at Texas Southern University
110 minutes with Hakeem Olajuwon
Cheryl Mills' first class defense of Clinton and her detractors' game 

INSIGHT
A KING FOR ALL TIMES: Why Martin Luther King's legacy and vision are relevant into 21st century. By Chido Nwangwu



INSIGHT: How Obasanjo's self-succession charade at his Ota Farm has turned Nigeria to an 'Animal Farm.' By Prof. Mobolaji Aluko
Obasanjo's 'prayers' and the Abacha path of staying in power. By Nkem Ekeopara
One year after: Reflections on September 11. By Jonathan Elendu


What has Africa to do with September 11 terror? By Chido Nwangwu
Maduekwe, Nwachukwu clash over Obasanjo at World Igbo 2002 convention in Houston. USAfrica Special report
PUBLIC POLICY
Private initiative, free market forces, and more democratization are keys to prosperity in Africa.
The
Civilianizing of African soldiers into Presidents
Why
Dr. Martin Luther King's vision is valid into the 21st century
DIPLOMACY
Walter Carrington: An African-American diplomat puts principles above self for Nigeria  USAfricaonline.com Founder Chido Nwangwu with the U.S. former Ambassador Carrington (right) at the U.S. embassy in Lagos during a courtesy visit.
USAfrica The Newspaper voted the "Best Community Newspaper" in the 4th largest city in the U.S., Houston. It is in the Best of Houston 2001 special as chosen by the editors and readers of the Houston Press, reflecting their poll and annual rankings.

USAfrica FORUM
IN THE HOUSE OF MANDELA: A SILLY CRY FOR REPARATIONS
By Prof. Chimalum Nwankwo






Steve Jobs and Apple represent the future of digital living. By Chido Nwangwu
Apple announces Titanium
,
"killer apps" and other ground-breaking products. iTunes makes a record 500,000 downloads.


The coup in Cote d'Ivoire and its implications for democracy in Africa. By Chido Nwangwu
(Related commentary) Coup in Cote d'Ivoire has been in the waiting. By Tom Kamara
Nigerian stabbed to death in his bathroom in Houston.
DEMOCRACY'S WARRIOR
Out of Africa. The cock that crows in the morning belongs to one household but his voice is the property of the neighborhood. -- Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah. An editor carries on his crusade against public corruption and press censorship in his native Nigeria and other African countries. By John Suval.
Biafra-Nigeria war and history get fresh, critical look from a survivor. By Alverna Johnson and Vivian Okeke.
'Biafra: History Without Mercy' - a preliminary note. By Chido Nwangwu
ODUMEGWU EMEKA
OJUKWU:"It was simply a choice between Biafra and enslavement! And, here's why we chose Biafra"
Biafra: From Boys to Men. By Dr. M.O. Ene
Johnnie Cochran will soon learn that defending Abacha's loot is not as simple as his O.J Simpson's case. By Chido Nwangwu
Should Africa debates begin and end at The New York Times and The Washington Post? No
Nelson Mandela, Tribute to the world's political superstar and Lion of Africa 
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's burden mounts with murder charges, trials

CONTINENTAL AGENDA
Bush's position on Africa is "ill-advised." The position stated by Republican presidential aspirant and Governor of Texas, George Bush where he said that "Africa will not be an area of priority" in his presidency has been questioned by USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. He added that Bush's "pre-election position was neither validated by the economic exchanges nor geo-strategic interests of our two continents."

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.'
Nwangwu, adviser to the Mayor of Houston (the 4th largest city in the U.S., and immigrant home to thousands of Africans) argued further that "the issues of the heritage interests of 35 million African-Americans in Africa, the volume and value of oil business between between the U.S and Nigeria and the horrendous AIDS crisis in Africa do not lend any basis for Governor Bush's ill-advised position which removes Africa from fair consideration" were he to be elected president.
By Al Johnson


HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY
How far, how deep will Nigeria's human rights commission go?
Rtd. Gen. Babangida trip as emissary for Nigeria's Obasanjo to Sudan raises curiosity, questions about what next in power play?
110 minutes with Hakeem Olajuwon
Cheryl Mills' first class defense of Clinton and her detractors game 
Seriously, is your web site a Turkey, too? Get Solutions

PetroGasWorks
Shell picks Leslie Mays as VP Global Diversity
EndGame in Kinshasa: U.S must boot Mobutu for own interest, future of Zaire and Africa
Why Powell's mission to the Middle East failed. By Jonathan Elendu
Will the rash of Ethnic Violence disrupt Nigeria's effort at Democracy?

Arafat's duplicity, terrorism at the heart of Israeli-Palestinian crises. By Barry Rubin

Nigerian stabbed to death in his bathroom in Houston.
Nigeria at 40: punish financial thuggery, build domestic infrastructure
Is Obasanjo really up to Nigeria's challenge and crises? By USAfricaonline.com contributing editor Ken Okorie. Commentary appears from NigeriaCentral.com

BULLET Versus BALLOT
The bloody stain of military coup, on Friday December 24, 1999, sullied the once unique history of democratic rule in the beautiful and historically democratic, French-speaking west African country of Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) by General Robert Guei (inset). USAfricaonline report and commentary.
COMMUNITY INTEREST
Why the revisionist forces of racist oppression in South Africa should not be allowed to intimidate Ron and Charlayne Gault.
SOUTH AFRICA

Nigeria, Cry My Beloved
Country

Index of Founder's Notes (1)


Index of Founder's Notes (2)

Index of other Viewpoints
USAfricaonline contributors and columnists on the issues


BUSINESS
Dr. Anaebonam's strategic vision for BREEJ is a model for business excellence and empowerment.
Pope John Paul, Abacha and Nigeria's Christians
TRANSITION
General Tunde Idiagbon:  A nationalist, an iron-surgeon departs
Abiola's sudden death and the ghost of things to come  
Gen. Shehu Musa Yar'Adua's prison death, Nigeria and The Ghost of Things to come ..... 
Soni Egwuatu, Houston businessman, joins his ancestors