TranscriptCNN International Interview with Nigeria'sPresident Obasanjo and Publisher Chido Nwangwu onDemocracyand Security Issues,first African-owned U.S.-based professional newspaper to be publishedon the internet, is listed among the world's hot sites by theinternational newspaper, USAToday. USAfrica has been cited by the NewYork Times as America's largest African-owned multimedia company.8303 SW Freeway, Suite 100, Houston, Texas 77074.Phone: 713-270-5500. Cell direct:832-45-CHIDO (24436)

Obasanjo, Go! Just go!

Prof. WOLE SOYINKA's January 19, 2006 pressstatement/conference in Lagos on the crisis in Oyo State and allegedroles and incapacities of President Olusegun Obasanjo:

"In the name of that very God whom you thank for yanking youback from the abyss, I implore you-Go! Go while it is still possibleto forgive you for robbing us all of our earned retirement.Go!Just go! This is no time to beat about the bush. The presidentialhand in this (Oyo State) affair is blatant. Obasanjo has openlyendorsed violence as a means of governance, embraced and empoweredindividuals whose avowed declarations, confessions and acts arecynically contrary to the democratic mandate that alone upholds thelegitimacy and dignity of his office. Let me repeat this: thecontempt of President Obasanjo for the demands for a democraticself-realisation by the electorate is no longer in doubt, and can beproved, chapter and verse - from Anambra to Oyo.... We are confrontedby a mind that has gone awry, a mind that is subject to no orderexcept that of the crudest, most despotic notions of dominance in aprimitive society. Nigeria is not a primitive or private fiefdom. Itis governed by law. The respectful 'Baba' accolade has turned to beyet another Baabuism, mimics the culture of the 'dons,' literallyactualised by Obasanjo as that of a Mafia godfather whose hand youeither bow and kiss, or receive the kiss of death."

Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.comand CLASSmagazine and The BlackBusiness Journal

I shall immediately start by denying a statement attributed to mein a report of the brief press encounter that followed the openingevent of the Development Policy Centre Workshop on Corruption inIbadan this Monday the 17th (2006). That statement claimed thatregarding the ongoing Oyo crisis, I demanded that the President ofthe nation, Olusegun Obasanjo, should speak up.

I could not have made such a demand, and the reason is simple: Iam not deaf. President Olusegun Obasanjo (in picture) has alreadyspoken. He has spoken loud and clear over the Oyo crisis, and that isleft is for the people to respond. Actions speak louder than words -that's common wisdom. And for those who try to suggest that there hasbeen no overt action by the President before, during, and after theOyo State crisis, I can only respond that there are times wheninaction, speaks even louder than both action and words. Inactionbecomes eloquent when it involves a deliberate avoidance of duty, afailure, in the case of any citizen in a responsible position, totake preventive action to head off anarchy and disaster. Inactionbecomes even criminal where such an individual, by virtue of his orher special position is saddled with that very specialresponsibility.

However, it would be pure self- deception to propose thatObasanjo's conduct lies in inaction, in a failure to arrest the stateof anomie into which Oyo State has now plunged. He has been active,propulsive and unabashedly partisan participant in the formulation ofthat crisis, so the burden of guilt that rests on the presidentialshoulders is not simply one of failing to act, but of instigating,stoking an guaranteeing the state of chaos.

This is no time to beat about the bush. The presidential hand inthis affair is blatant. Obasanjo has openly endorsed violence as ameans of governance, embraced and empowered individuals whose avoweddeclarations, confessions and acts are cynically contrary to thedemocratic mandate that alone upholds the legitimacy and dignity ofhis office. Let me repeat this: the contempt of President Obasanjofor the demands for a democratic self-realisation by the electorateis no longer in doubt, and can be proved, chapter and verse - fromAnambra to Oyo.

For Nigerians who may be somewhat befuddled by the legal issuesinvolved in the impeachment saga of Oyo State, let another laymanprovide an illustration. You will know that legislators constantlytravel out of this country for various causes - some purposeful andproductive, others purely opportunistic jamborees. Well, imagine that12 out 20 legislators take off to attend a Trade Exhibition abroadany rich individual can even offer to underwrite their expenses ifthe stakes are high enough - the goal is simply to ensure theirabsence for the execution of some political conspiracy. Well then, intheir absence, the remaining colleagues impeach their governor,claiming that they have two-thirds majority among the sittingmembers. This, in the simplest terms is the constitutional issue atstake. This is why certain safeguards have been implanted within suchprocedures to ensure that the elected representatives of the politydo not act frivolously, mischievously - or at least, ensure that theydo not have an easy time doing so. If 'suspension by causes' thistime, believe me, the next proceeding will be absenteeism throughdeception. We are moving towards a total mockery ofconstitutionalism.

First with Anambra, and now Oyo State, the President has crossedthe line of political toleration. You failed in Anambra, but you feltyou had learnt certain lessons in the use of state coercion. Hencethe armed take-over of Bayelsa's state radio by federal might duringthe Bayelsa impeachment saga an illegal and unnecessary act thatmerely pandered to presidential ego and lust for domination. You feltthat you had been too subtle in Anambra in the use of the police -poor Ige was a mere fall guy - and so in Oyo you decided to go thebrutal distance with what overt state power can do. If you succeed inOyo, the nation will be at your feet. The nation? No, the statemaybe, but not the nation. And even less likely, the people. Do notbe fooled by appearances.

The authorship of the ongoing illegalities and abuse of theNigerian constitution in Oyo State - this being the latest of suchmanipulations - lies squarely within the presidency. There are onlytwo relevant questions: has the police, by its actions, notflagrantly set itself above and against he judiciary, whose decisionsit is lawfully bound to enforce? And the second question follows fromthis: who gives the Inspector-General his orders? The finger pointsin only one direction - President Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo'smisuse of the Police to enforce his private political vendettas hasbecome a notorious governance perfidy that screams for remedialaction.

I am no acquaintance or partisan of Governor Ladoja. Theintra-party politics of any political organisation is none of thebusiness of non-members of the party. They became the business of oneand all however, indeed a life-and -death issue, when the protocolsthat binds us together as a nation are flouted, mocked and debased.Those protocols are not articles of convenience, to be cited asguiding authority when convenient, then discarded at will wheneverthey prove an obstacle to misgovernance. Obasanjo has mangled theconstitution and turned its polluted pulp into a weapon of offenceagainst the rights and legitimate expectations of the people.

We are confronted by a mind that has gone awry, a mind that issubject to no order except that of the crudest, most despotic notionsof dominance in a primitive society. Nigeria is not a primitive orprivate fiefdom. It is governed by law. The respectful 'Baba'accolade has turned to be yet another Baabuism, mimics the culture ofthe 'dons,' literally actualised by Obasanjo as that of a Mafiagodfather whose hand you either bow and kiss, or receive the kiss ofdeath.

Let me ask this of our president: are you proud of what you haveunleashed? When the chairman of your political party insults theNigerian people by referring to a state as a garrison, and instructselected representatives to obey orders, do you voice any disapproval?And was Chairman Ali's pronouncement merely the arrogant advancenotice of a well-laid conspiracy to destabilise that state? Did youwatch, by any chance, yesterday's NTA news at 9 p.m. - WednesdayJanuary 18? Did you watch the raucous debate on the Oyo Stateimbroglio? Is this what you planned? Is this what you wanted? Is thisthe crowning glory of the politics of your second term in office? Theperennial battle of Conscience and Corruption, played out in seamycorridors of power.

Till today, we have yet to sort out the origin of N70 millionbribes offered to legislators in the House of Representative with ahundred million promised to senators for promotion of the scramblefor a Third Term agenda. These accusations are in the public domain,outlined with details of place and time, and we await in vain theprobing of this and other signal contradictions of high-profileexposures with their commendable punishments for corrupt acts. Haveyou publicly denounced the givers? Have you let loose the agencies ofinvestigation on them? The EFCC especially? These are not facelesssaboteurs of the political will-is their purported act criminal, oris not? Why is there deafening silence from the man who would havebenefited from these corrupt practices? Are the moves over, or isthere still a constitutional joker to come?

I met former President Arap Moi a few years before his'retirement' from office. At that time, he was still in that nowpainfully familiar phase when the incumbent cannot imagine life afterpower. We met at his request, and I ensured that I was accompanied bya Nigerian who was then working for a UN Agency - I was afraid thatthe civilian dictator might later use our encounter as some kind ofphoto-op for boosting his then ongoing last-ditch intrigues to clingon to power.

When our conversation offered the desired opening, I said to him,Mr. President, what are your plans after you quit office? He wastaken aback and mumbled something about returning to his village anddoing some farming etc. Good, I said, I shall come and visit you. Thefinal and lasting service African leaders can provide futuregenerations is just a manner of departure that would make it possiblefor one to visit them in retirement and drink from their wisdom andexperience. Arap Moi appeared to relax, brightened up somewhat at theidea, and assured me I would be most welcome... and we parted,promising to keep in touch.

I was never an acquaintance of Arap Moi, but the nation knows thatI can claim some kind of friendly relations-albeit quirky-based onmutual though critical respect. I thus feel that, in your case, I canclaim a sense of personal commitment to your well being. In yourheart of hearts, you cannot evidence of this.

And my urging today is the same as that offered to Arap Moi: Leavequietly, peacefully, take your quite considerable successes ingovernance policies with you. Make it possible for us to call on youin retirement as a respected elder statesman. Do not leave the nationwith such lacerating memories, with such a bad taste in the mouththat the people dismiss even your successes as mere accidents, asflashes in the pan or the work of others. Leave now, pleadinggovernance, exhaustion, age, betrayal, resentment at the ingratitudeof the governed, anything at all but-leave. Leave today, rightnow.


If you do wish to serve out your term however, which ispredictable, then you must begin a reversal of unconstitutional acts.You must begin by obeying the decisions of the courts to the letter.No hedging, no trimming, no renewed delaying tactics-just obey them,and get on with the positives of your administration. Anything lesswill be unacceptable. It is time to remind the Nigerian people thatin the mad days of Sani Abacha, a march on Aso Rock was actuallyplanned. Those who were in the know can attest as to why that marchwas eventually aborted. You will recall that the strategy was mappedout at Mayflower School Ikenne, even as the Mobile Police surroundedthe assembly hall, fully armed and kilted, noisy. Restless andmenacing, awaiting orders. At that point, Abacha had not yet reachedthe absolute height of impunity, and there was indecision at the top.Heaven alone knows what the result would have been if the likelyorders had been given and carried out, but they were not. After thatconference, pressure was mounted on us to abandon the march on thegrounds that too many innocents would be needlessly slaughtered by ademented dictator. Why do I nurse that feeling in my stomach that,under this regime, those orders would be given, and they would becarried out with a sickening brutality? Well perhaps it is time toput it to the test.


The instrument for the removal of a sitting president, is howeverlaid out-impeachment. If this presidential conduct persists, we havean obligation to call on our legislatures to rescue that instrumentof constitutional remedy from current debasement and apply it to theauthor of our present predicament. And so I urge the nation tocommence plans for an orderly convergence on our electedrepresentatives from all parts of the nation to compel them to act.We know that the instruments for coercion are in the hands of oneman, whose rationality we now have every cause to question, but thepresent presidential rampage must be stopped. If anyone has moreeffective ideas, we would gladly consider them, and would mostcontentedly follow any lead, as long as such a lead takes intoconsideration the daily consolidation of anti-people power by one whois now convinced of his divine immunity and blatantly tramples on theconditions of association that hold this nation together. A campaignof civil disobedience is another option-it remains a legitimateinstrument of resistance against governance by illegalities.

We must exhort the Nigerian Bar Association, the civil rightsmovements but especially the NLC-you have made a good beginning, butdo not let us down. Do not back down, or the consequences of anyrecourse to extreme, uncoordinated responses will be on your head.You are the best placed to undertake the leadership for thecontainment of this rampaging bull-oh, what jokes history plays onus!

Was this not the same individual who, during Babangida'sdiscreditable ploys to cling to power used words to the followingeffect: 'When you see a mad bull in a China shop, you must find waysof leading it out gently so as to avoid destroying the contents ofthe shop'-words that effect by Olusegun Obasanjo. Our situation todayis identical, and the question I ask the NLC is simply this: can youaccept the responsibility of leading this bull, through peacefulaction, out of the China shop that is called Nigeria? It is not theresponsibility of the Labour movement alone however, but that of allthe civil rights movements, the professionals, student organisations,the clergy of every faith, women movements...indeed of every citizenwho cherishes decency and justice in governance.

We know what risks we run, and when people ask us sometimes-why doyou not rest? At your age, why do you continue to confront theseogres? Well, the answer to that is obvious. If another old man of 70can muster the energy to conspire against a nation, there should beenough old men of 70 to say no?

So, desist, I urge, so we can all go into peaceful retirement.Retire, so I can visit you in your farm and resume our days of bothharmless and pungent controversies over pounded yam and egusi. Butyour conduct robs me of sleep, deprives me of my planned retirement,encroaches on my normal preoccupations, plays havoc on myconcentration within my own field but most of all-desecrates all Ihave ever believed in, fought for all my life, including those yearswhen you had one foot at the very edge of the grave.

In the name of that very God whom you thank for yanking you backfrom the abyss, I implore you-Go! Go while it is still possible toforgive you for robbing us all of our earned retirement. Go! Justgo!
Prof. Soyinka, a Nobel laureate for literature, is a Nigerian-bornplaywright, critic, author, artiste and essayist.

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Chinua Achebe returns "home" from U.S., to love and adulation of community.Achebe on oral tradition, juxtapositioning of language and linguistic colonialism. World-famous Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe has said that Africans should not be overly concerned if the long-established tradition of oral storytelling dies out. Achebe, once described by Nelson Mandela as "the writer in whose presence prison walls fell down," told the BBC that he agreed that the art was dying out - but insisted it could be revived "if we decide that the oral story is absolutely necessary." "Oral storytelling was important when I was writing - it may not be important when the next generation is writing," he said. Achebe, who is very critical of colonialism and its aftermath in Africa, explained that he himself writes in English because he is a victim of linguistic colonialism. But he added that he felt it was important not to "lose sight of the need for our mother tongue."

"I hope I have shown it is possible to show respect to English and Igbo together. Chinua Achebe added that "The situation may well develop in the future, in which the different languages of Africa will begin to reassert themselves," he added. "I have made provision for that myself, by writing certain kinds of material in Igbo. For instance, I will insist my poetry is translated back into Igbo while I'm still around."

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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 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 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.
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CNN International debate on Nigeria's democracy livecast on February 19, 2002. It involved Nigeria's Information Minister Prof. Jerry Gana, Prof. Salih Booker and Publisher Chido Nwangwu. Transcripts are available on the CNN International site.

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