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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Obafemi Awolowo and Chinua Achebe’s Tale of Fantasy – By Femi Fani-Kayode

I am a historian and I have always believed that if we want to talk history we must be dispassionate, objective and factual. We must take the emotion out of it and we must always tell the truth. The worst thing that anyone can do is to try to re-write history and indulge in historical revisionism. This is especially so when the person is a revered figure and a literary icon. Sadly it is in the light of such historical revisionism that I view Professor Chinua Achebe’s assertion (which is reflected in his latest and highly celebrated book titled ”There Was A Country”) that Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the late and much loved Leader of the Yoruba, was responsible for the genocide that the Igbo suffered during the civil war.

This claim is not only false but is also, frankly speaking, utterly absurd. Not only is Professor Achebe indulging in perfidy, not only is he being utterly dishonest and disingenuous but he is also turning history upside down and indulging in what I would describe as ethnic chauvinism.

I am one of those that has always had tremendous sympathy for the Igbo cause during the civil war. I am also an admirer of Colonel Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who stood up for his people when it mattered the most and when they were being slaughtered by rampaging mobs in the northern part of our country. At least 100,000 Igbos were killed in those northern pogroms which took place before the civil war and which indeed led directly to it. This was not only an outrage but it was also a tragedy of monumental proportions.Yet we must not allow our emotion or our sympathy for the suffering of the Igbo at the hands of northern mobs before the war started to becloud our sense of reasoning as regards what actually happened during the prosecution of the war itself. It is important to set the record straight and not to be selective in our application and recollection of the facts when considering what actually led to the starvation of hundreds of thousands of Igbo women, children and civilians during that war. And, unlike others, I do not deny the fact that hundreds of thousands were starved to death as a consequence of the blockade that was imposed on Biafra by the Nigerian Federal Government. To deny that this actually happened would be a lie. It is a historical fact. Again I do not deny the fact that Awolowo publicly defended the blockade and indeed told the world that it was perfectly legitimate for any government to impose such a blockade on the territory of their enemies in times of war.

Awolowo said it, this is a matter of historical record and he was qouted in a number of British newspapers as having said so at the time.  Yet he spoke nothing but the truth. And  whether anyone likes to hear it or not, he was absolutely right in what he said. Let me give you an example. During the Second World War a blockade was imposed on Germany, Japan and Italy by the Allied Forces and this was very effective. It weakened the Axis powers considerably and this was one of the reasons the war ended at the time that it did. If there had been no blockade, the Second World War would have gone on for a considerably longer time. In the case of the Nigerian civil war though, the story did not stop at the fact that a blockade was imposed by the Federal Government which led to the suffering, starvation, pain, death and hardship of the civilian Igbo population or that Awolowo defended it. That is only half the story.

There was a lot more to it and the fact that Achebe and most of our Igbo brothers and sisters always conveniently forget to mention the other half of the story is something that causes some of us from outside Igboland considerable concern and never ceases to amaze us. The bitter truth is that if anyone is to be blamed for the hundreds of thousands of Igbos that died from starvation during the civil war, it was not Chief Awolowo or even General Yakubu Gowon but rather it was Colonel Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu himself. I say this because it is a matter of public record and a historical fact that the Federal Government of Nigeria made a very generous offer to Ojukwu and the Biafrans to open a road corridor for food to be ferried to the Igbos and to lessen the suffering of their civilian population. This was as a consequence of a deal that was brokered by the international community who were concerned about the suffering of the igbo civilian population and the death and hardship that the blockade was causing them. Unfortunately Ojukwu turned this down flatly and instead insisted that the food should be flown into Biafra by air in the dead of the night. This was unacceptable to the Federal Government because it meant that the Biafrans could, and indeed would, have used such night flights to smuggle badly needed arms and ammunition into their country for usage by their soldiers. That was where the problem came from and that was the issue. Quite apart from that Ojukwu found it expedient and convenient to allow his people to starve to death and to broadcast it on television screens all over the world in order to attract sympathy for the Igbo cause and for propaganda purposes. And this worked beautifully for him.

Ambassador Ralph Uweche, who was the Special Envoy to France for the Biafran Government during the civil war and who is the leader of Ohaeneze, the leading igbo political and socio-cultural organisation today, attested to this in his excellent book titled ”Reflections On The Nigerian Civil War”. That book was factual and honest and I would urge people like Achebe to go and read it well. The self-serving role of Ojukwu and many of the Biafran intelligensia and elites and their insensitivity to the suffering of their own people during the course of the war was well enunciated in that book. The fact of the matter is that the starvation and suffering of hundreds of thousands of Igbo men, women and children during the civil war was seen and used as a convenient tool of propaganda by Ojukwu and that is precisely why he rejected the offer of a food corridor by the Nigerian Government. When those that belong to the post civil war generation of the Igbo are wondering who was responsible for the genocide and mass starvation of their forefathers during the war they must firstly look within themselves and point their fingers at their own past leaders and certainly not Awolowo or Gowon. The person that was solely responsible for that suffering, for that starvation and for those slow and painful deaths was none other than Colonel Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the leader of Biafra, himself.

I have written many good things about Ojukwu on many occassions in the past and I stand by every word that I have ever said or written about him. In my view he was a man of courage and immense fortitude, he stood against the mass murder of his people in the north and he brought them home and created a safe haven for them in the east. For him, and indeed the whole of Biafra, the war was an attempt to exercise their legitimate right of self-determination and leave Nigeria due to the atrocities that they had been subjected to in the north. I cannot blame him or his people for that and frankly I have always admired his stand. However he was not infallible and he also made some terrible mistakes, just as all great leaders do from time to time. The fact that he rejected the Nigerian Federal Government’s offer of a food corridor was one of those terrible mistakes and this cost him and his people dearly. Professor Chinua Achebe surely ought to have reflected that in his book as well.

When it comes to the Nigerian civil war there were no villains or angels. During that brutal conflict no less than two million Nigerians and Biafrans died and the Yoruba who, unlike others, did not ever discriminate or attack any non-Yoruba that lived in their territory before the civil war or carry out any coups or attempted coups, suffered at every point as well. For example prominent Yoruba sons and daughters were killed on the night of the first Igbo coup of January 1966 and again in the northern ”revenge” coup of July 1966. Many of our people were also killed in the north before the outbreak of the civil war and again in the Mid-west and the east during the course and prosecution of the war itself. It was indeed the predominantly Yoruba Third Marine Commando, under the command of General Benjamin Adekunle (the ”Black Scorpion”) and later General Olusegun Obasanjo, that not only liberated the Mid-west and drove the Biafrans out of there but they also marched into Igboland itself, occupied it, defeated the Biafran Army in battle, captured all their major towns and forced the Igbo to surrender. Third Marine Commando was made up of Yoruba soldiers and I can say without any fear of contradiction that we the Yoruba therefore paid a terrible and heavy price as well during the war because many of our boys were killed on the war front by the Biafrans.

The sacrifice of these proud sons of the South-west that died in the battle to keep Nigeria one must not be belittled, mocked or ignored. Clearly it was not only the Igbo that suffered during the civil war. Neither does it auger well for the unity of our nation for Achebe and the igbo intelligentsia that are hailing his self-serving book to cast aspertions on the character, role and noble intentions of the late and revered Leader of the Yoruba, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, during the civil war.

The man may have made one or two mistakes in the past, like every other great leader. And of course, there was a deep and bitter political division in Yorubaland itself just before the civil war started and throughout the early ’60′s. Yet by no stretch of the imagination can Awolowo be described as an Igbo-hating genocidal maniac and he most certainly did not delight in the starvation of millions of Igbo men, women and children as Achebe has tried to suggest.

My advice to this respected author is that he should leave Chief Awolowo alone and allow him to continue to rest in peace. This subtle attempt to denigrate the Yoruba and their past leaders, to place a question mark on their noble and selfless role in the war and to belittle their efforts and sacrifice to keep Nigeria together as one will always be vigorously resisted by those of us that have the good fortune of still being alive and who are aware of the facts. We will not remain silent and allow anyone, no matter how respected or revered, to re-write history.

Simply put, by writing this book and making some of these baseless and nonsensical assertions, Achebe was simply indulging in the greatest mendacity of Nigerian modern history and his crude distortion of the facts has no basis in reality or rationality. We must not mistake fiction and story telling for historical fact. The two are completely different. The truth is that Professor Chinua Achebe owes the Awolowo family and the Yoruba people a big apology for his tale of pure fantasy.

 

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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Thoughts

 

Chinua Achebe, Africa and the Peril of Monologue (Part 2) By Tunji Ariyomo

In the first part of this essay, I examined how what I called monologue has become a powerful weapon and instrument for conveniently disguising or altering historical narratives and how it has been extensively used in Africa especially by despots and their lieutenants as well as hundreds of African tribes and ethnic nationalities with the goal of altering historical perspective. I also indicated that one of African’s iconic writers, Prof. Chinua Achebe, generously employed this in his retelling of the Biafran account in his memoir “There was a country”.

On Page 51 of the 333-page book, Achebe wrote that “The original ideal of one Nigeria was pressed by the leaders and intellectuals from the Eastern Region. With all their shortcomings, they had this idea to build the country as one. The first to object were the Northerners led by the Sardauna, who were followed closely by the Awolowo clique that had created the Action Group. The Northern Peoples Congress of the Sardaunians was supposed to be a national party, yet it refused to change its name from Northern to Nigerian Peoples Congress, even for the sake of appearances. It refused right up to the end of the civilian regime.”

What Achebe penned partly violently disagrees with what actually happened thus reinforcing the assertion that he was merely deploying the power of monologue as part of a convenient history retell in loyal service to his tribe. Herbert Samuel Macaulay from Isale Eko (part of Western Region of Nigeria) and the grandson of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther (originally from Osogun in present Oyo State), it was who crystallized events in his days that fermented into concepts and ideals that later energized other future nationalists that an independent and united Nigerian state was feasible. He actually led the first pan-Nigerian struggles favouring Nigerians being in charge of governance, which later culminated into the struggle for the independence of a united Nigeria. Twice the British jailed him as a direct result of his activities, which placed him in confrontation with the colonial power at that time. Before Macaulay, Nigerians’ aspirations were mostly along ethnic and tribal lines. Macaulay took his initiative beyond mere ideals by forming the first political party in Nigeria in 1923, the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), which was recognized by the Clifford Constitution of 1922. By the time Azikiwe was born in Zungeru in 1904, Herbert Macaulay was already 40 years and 2 days old while his legendary exploits against the British was already well established. It can be comfortably said that Macaulay inspired the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe (who would later play very critical role) and other nationalists at that time. This is what agrees with history.

James S. Coleman, in his scholarly work published in 1958 titled “Nigeria: Background to Nationalism” acknowledged the pioneer role of Macaulay and that he was the dominant personality and the bane of the British indirect rule. According to Coleman, Nigerians regarded Macaulay as a great nationalist crusader and the father of Nigerian nationalism at that time. Some of those interviewed by Coleman for his work were Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello. If Azikiwe did not dispute the superior and preeminence of this Yoruba man in the nationalistic struggles for Nigeria in his days, how would Achebe’s 2012 A.D narrative, which presented the contrary pass credibility test? Achebe was not born until 7 years after Macaulay had formed the first national political party that laid the foundation for future self-rule. So effective was Macaulay that he was the bête noire of the British’s indirect rule. They disliked him so much for his role that they happened upon him jail convictions to arrest his strides.

By his statement, Achebe overlooked the roles of nationalists like Dr. J. C Vaughan (Yoruba), Ayo Williams (Yoruba) and Ernest Ikoli (Ijaw) who inaugurated the Union of Young Nigerians with the goal of galvanizing the interest of Nigerian youths in national affairs in 1923 and later sought to take the quest beyond Macaulay and Dr. John Ran Randle or the role of people like Dr. C. C. Adeniyi-Jones or that of Ladipo Solanke from Abeokuta who founded what would later be known as the West African Students’ Union (WASU) in 1924 which until 1945 remained the principal social and political centre for galvanizing Nigerian students in the United Kingdom (all identified in Coleman’s work) towards national awakening and a possible Nigerian nationhood.

Having extensively addressed the role of chronology and pre-eminence that showed that other Nigerian regions were involved and could even be said to be ahead in championing the ideals for an independent Nigeria, the role of Nnamdi Azikiwe was equally central, critical and it is not the intention of this writer to play down his significance. Azikiwe was to later join and serve under the aging Macaulay when they formed the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) in 1944. The explanation provided inter alia was meant to present the facts of history in their undiluted form in order for Nigerians to be able to situate them in context and side by side with the Achebe 2012 narratives.

Other facts of history that will pass credibility test and which would directly dispute Achebe’s claims are the roles of other nationalists like the late Anthony Enahoro (from the then Western region) who successfully moved the historic first motion for the independence of one united Nigeria as part of the Action Group (AG) agenda in parliament in February 1953. The AG leader was another personality from the Western Region named Obafemi Awolowo. After Enahoro succeeded in moving the motion and it was tabled for debate in parliament, Northern delegates in the Federal House of Representatives rejected the 1956 date and moved an amendment that would lead to independence for Nigeria when applicable (i.e., without a date). Thus AG’s motion was defeated by majority vote of northern members (Whiteman, 2011) under the leadership of Ahmadu Bello because they were opposed to self-rule at the time. This bold historic action by a party led by Western Region rising stars was not in vain as it cemented their place in history as frontline leaders of the quest for independence and succeeded, as noted by Whiteman (2011), in pressurizing “the British into political advance, and shook the north into accepting a faster pace towards independence”. It must be quickly added that the NCNC founded by Macaulay which was then under the leadership of Azikiwe, following the former’s death, was wholly involved and actively supported the effort of the Western Region-led quest for independence and joined the Action Group in staging a walk-out in protest of the action of northern delegates. These are facts of history relating to the roles of leaders of the various regions and not a tale.

Another part of Achebe’s memoir where he employed what I have described as monologue is his account of the role of Obafemi Awolowo in the prosecution of the civil war. This is contained on Page 233 of the Achebe’s memoir. Using a combination of carefully constructed suggestio falsi with embellished hearsays, Achebe challenged history and attempted to substitute his opinion as a fact. This is the portion that panders most to ethnic solidarity and that has now cemented Achebe’s place as a champion of the Igbo cause since it resonates with millions of young Igbos. Dwight Eisenhower said that “the search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions” ― just hang unto it the entire fault! Of course “excuses changes nothing, it would only but make everyone feel better” – Mason Cooley.

It must be stated that within the context of that time and now, the idea that Awolowo would seek to exterminate the Igbos as a way to secure political advancement is most incongruous. The Northern part of Nigeria had a majority advantage politically. This was still a relevant fact in 1967 and it is still a relevant political fact in 2012. Exterminating the Igbos would only turn the South West into a minority region as the North would then be an absolute majority.

On the direct allegation of starvation, the fact of history shows that as federal commissioner of finance, following the lingering war and the state of finances of the nation, Awolowo visited the warfront only to discover that the food meant for the war-ravaged Eastern region never got to the Igbo people. He saw many starving children and women while it was discovered that Biafran soldiers seized the food meant for the people. As Awolowo re-stated in 1983 in Abeokuta, this led to the decision of the federal government to prevent airlifting of food to Biafran soldiers – opting instead for supplies through land in manners that would enable the Red Cross coordinate delivery of food to civilians while enabling the federal government to be sure that what would be delivered were indeed food and medicine and not arms. Up till that time, Biafran forces, for which Achebe then served as a roving ambassador, orchestrated the most infernal and villainous wartime crime that saw the soldiers diverting aid food supplied by the International Red Cross from the target civilian population to rebel fighters thereby starving to death the civilian population.

This is the account corroborated by active participants on the Biafran side such as Ambassador Ralph Uwechue who facilitated French support for Biafra and Robert S. Goldstein, who served as Public Relations Representative of Biafra in the United States. The discovery of this crime in fact was chiefly responsible for Goldstein’s angry resignation. Earlier, Goldstein was principally responsible for petitioning the US State Department, which resulted in more food, medicine and milk being sent to the “only available ports open for immediate shipment to ‘Biafra’ via land routes through Federal and Biafra territory, under the auspices of world organizations such as the International Red Cross among others”. His annoyance resulted from Ojukwu’s rejection of these food items and his insistence that food could only be “acceptable until there was a complete ceasefire, and that an airlift was the only solution to feed the starving”. Tagging it an inconceivable act, Goldstein further stated that “It is inconceivable to me that you (Ojukwu) would stop the feeding of thousands of your countrymen (under auspices of world organizations such as the International Red Cross, World Council of Churches and many more) via a land corridor which is the only practical way to bring in food to help at this time. It is inconceivable to me that men of good faith would try to twist world opinion in such a manner as to deceive people into believing that the starvation and hunger that is consuming ‘Biafra’ is a plot of Britain, Nigeria and others to commit genocide.)” – From Goldstein’s letter of resignation, published in the Morning Post, Lagos, August 17, 1968.

It must be noted that as history clearly recorded the facts of those horrific years, before the invented Awolowo’s anti-Igbo policy as expressed by Achebe in his memoir, Biafran children and women were already starving to death. A non-monologue narrative would acknowledge who was responsible for that. This is the clear difference between the position of Ambassador Ralph Uwechue and Prof. Chinua Achebe. Such questions as raised by Achebe in his memoir which he claimed would be debated for generations on the security reasons behind Ojukwu’s rejection of Nigeria’s federal government’s proposal for a road corridor had been eternally settled by Goldstein. The federal government would not be responsible for the handling of food meant for the Biafran territory. The International Red Cross and the World Council of Churches already took up that responsibility! This erased the possibility of food being poisoned by the federal government. Hence, the real motive for the rejection of the road corridor proposal was because Ojukwu needed the starving children as primary driver of world sympathy as documented by Goldstein in his resignation letter.

On the allegation that Awolowo deliberately devised a diabolical plan to reduce the numbers of his enemies, Achebe was only hammering home a conclusion based upon the shuffled premises he has established.

To further examine the issues in the context of that time, it is good to briefly touch the rivalries that culminated in possible enmity. In terms of political power, the Northern Region under Ahmadu Bello and ably supported by Azikiwe was the dominant obstacle to Awolowo’s legitimate quest for the leadership of Nigeria. Awolowo had brought to the scene a vivacious political energy and unprecedented organizational capacity that was premised upon a philosophy that made proper education of each member of the voting public a prerequisite to nation building and the abiding need for would be leaders to convince the voting masses rather than defaulting to feudalistic hegemony that commanded followership as a matter of hereditary right or social status. Because of his belief in a united Nigeria, he actively made forays into several other regions in search of potential believers in his political ideology. Awolowo even made frantic overtures to Azikiwe so that both could form the first government in 1960. Azikiwe rejected the opportunity and that marked the descent of the new nation into an abyss it has found difficult to recover from. Granted that the NCNC led by Azikiwe at the time ultimately colluded with the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) to sponsor division in the Western Region, it was first and foremost a schism orchestrated by the NPC. Facts of Nigerian history confirmed that Azikiwe-led NCNC teamed up with the NPC under Ahmadu Bello to undermine Awolowo’s leadership in the Western Region and eventually had Awolowo jailed. That was the first blood.

Interestingly, as Achebe launched his anti-Awolowo attacks, he was full of praise for his kinsman, Nigeria’s first ceremonial President, Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe, who he described as the father of African independence. “The father of African independence was Nnamdi Azikiwe” (page 41) “There is no question at all about that. Azikiwe, fondly referred to by his admirers as “Zik,” was the preeminent political figure of my youth and a man who was endowed with the political pan-Africanist vision”. This effusive praise was showered by Achebe upon Azikiwe despite the latter being on record as having been part and parcel of the federal government’s apparatus that worked to undermine Achebe’s Biafran dream at the time.

Achebe’s thought on Chief Obafemi Awolowo evident concealed hatred and envy. He was willing to deploy his powerful prose in sidestepping historical facts if only to posthumously indict Awolowo and rubbish his reputation hence his readiness to cast him out of context. Get it right. Achebe is an iconic writer. He like all others who witnessed the horror of the war has the right to express their opinion on the civil war. As an elder statesman however, who has had the opportunity of years behind him to reflect on facts of that era and the various revelations by the dramatis personae as well as the mighty significance of stories to the emergence and progression of human dynamics, neighborliness and unity, his expression of his opinion would be expected to be guided by the facts of that history in order not to lend his powerful voice to the propagation of untruths that could further stoke enmity and prepare ground for future pogroms.

Despite the recast of Awolowo as desiring to cause his Yoruba people to dominate the Igbos, as attempted by Achebe, after the war, Awolowo’s Yoruba people ensured that the properties of the Igbos in the South West region never remained abandoned properties. The policies they put in place in Lagos ensured that even if the government were to seize such properties as a punitive measure against leading members of the rebellion, government would fail. Ojukwu himself later exploited this in claiming his father’s estate in Lagos when the successor government tried to take those properties. Other states like Rivers frustrated the Igbos. Today, the Yoruba Region of Nigeria remains one of the safest places for the Igbos, rivaled only perhaps by the South East Region while it does appear that the Igbos and the Yorubas intermarry more than they do with their brothers and sisters from the Northern part of the country.

It is logical to look back and imagine what the fatality of that war could have been had Awolowo not intervene by ensuring that enemy soldiers were not being fed at the expense of the starving folks of the Eastern Region. It is also important to note that Ojukwu, the supreme figure of the Biafran resistance gave Awolowo that unique epithet after the latter’s death ‘The greatest President Nigeria never had” as well as acknowledging him as “one of the most principled leaders he had ever met”. I postulated as a teenager that the reason Ojukwu did that was his guilt from missing a unique opportunity to partner with a forthright and honest Nigerian – a foe without malice – who if he told you it was one o clock, you would never need to check your watch.

The iconic poet, Odia Ofeimun, in a television interview confirmed one thing my father told me, whenever a man takes Awolowo on, if you conduct an independent research, you are most likely to discover that Awolowo was right and that man in the wrong. If our icon, Prof. Chinua Achebe had put Awolowo’s contribution into context and his memoir devoid of envy and tribal solidarity – the part that deals with the person of Awolowo and the Yoruba people would have read differently. Storytelling or tale bearing is easy because the writer is only limited by the extent of his own imagination. Writing histories is however difficult because of the need to keep within the facts of time.

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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Thoughts

 

Chinua Achebe, Africa and the Peril of Monologue (Part 1) – By Tunji Ariyomo

I grew up taking for granted the veracity of the account of what has been described as the most heinous crime committed against Africans by Europeans. Slavery. Until my father confronted me with hard questions wanting to know whether I had ever read of European invasions of Isikan, Akure, Iwo or Popo in raids for slaves, I never considered the possibility of a different narrative – that our famed slavery story could be slightly at variance with the entire truth of history. As I later discovered – powerful African kings and intolerant leaders of those days raided neighbours’ homes, sacked towns and villages and took fellow Africans as slaves – after which their European business partners involved in slave trade bought those slaves from them. I found out that recalcitrant opposition leaders and conquered enemies in ancient Africa were potential candidates for slavery. Those despotic kings saw slavery as an opportunity to acquire riches as well as permanently get rid of opponents. But the well-known slavery accounts by Africans conveniently overlook or understate this part of the entire business preferring to accentuate the evils of Europeans while conveniently burying in the belly of time the gruesome evils of our forefathers. That is the African version, our monologue which places the entire blame on the ‘doormouth of Oyinbos’.

Monologue is a powerful weapon that can easily lend credence to apostrophic chronicles. It grants its wielder the uncanny ability to act in a way that assumes that he is the only one involved – the only sane person in that exclusive universe of knowledge. Monologue’s use is not restricted to individuals or to just story telling. With monologue in place, a government can – in the language of the streets – do and undo. From the struggle against the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) introduced by General Badamasi Babangida to the arguments advanced in June 2003 by the Nigerian’s federal government for increased fuel prices few days after a general election to the January 2012 removal of fuel subsidy by the Nigerian government and the well funded defences mounted by iconic Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, brilliant Lamido Sanusi and beautiful Diezani Allison-Maduekwe, the same trend run through – Nigerian leaders, like typical Africans, love monologues. With monologue established, whatever others say or think does not matter – they do not know, they are not technically proficient nor ‘do they see what we see from our vantage position as members of government’. When Christiane Amanpour in October 2012 looked President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea in the face and pointedly asked him if he did not think it was high time he abdicated his exalted democratic throne which he inherited in a military coup 33 years ago, he too rearranged himself on his seat, adjusted his voice and pointedly educated Amanpour that Western countries cannot understand African democracy! Catch him – he was using the power of monologue. In Mbasogo’s world, he and only he understood Africans’ understanding of African democracy.

From my primary school in Isikan to Aquinas College Akure, for every Yoruba friend I had on my street, I had two to four Igbo friends. We saw ourselves as people – not as Yoruba or Igbos. That was after the war. I learnt about the horror of the war from them, mostly accounts related to them by their parents, and a little bit more from my Yoruba friends whose parents were victims of the Ore encounter and the rest from my parents. When you combine what I learnt from them with other legendary tales from my father, at a very tender age, I became a moving encyclopedia on the why and why not of the war. From that tender age till we were old enough to ‘get scattered’ all over the world in pursuit of our destinies, there was never a single instance we learnt that the Igbos were being targeted for extermination in any Yoruba town or village in my country. My Igbo friends and I were always unanimous in condemning each incidence of ‘kill the Igbo’ that we heard about mostly from Northern Nigeria years after the civil war. Ambrose, one of the Igbo friends I grew up with in Isikan, once said the North was yet to end the war against the Igbos. My friends and I maintained a common ground because we were involved in a two-way discussion.

In October 2012, a book written by one of African’s legendary writers, Prof. Chinua Achebe, titled “There Was a Country” generously employed monologue in his retelling of the pogrom that consumed Nigeria between 1967 and 1970 and for which many Nigerians and many more on the Biafran side lost their lives. It must be stated that the philosophy of the war was wrong. The essence of the war was wrong. The motivation for the war was wrong. The premise of the war against the Igbos was basically that of domination. The motivation was domination. The purpose was domination – to dominate the Igbos and prevent them from exercising their right to self-determination. The question then arises, why despite conceding that the Igbos had the inalienable right to self-determination would this writer suggest that one of Africa’s most famous authors generously employed monologue? This is because while the fact of the heinous and avoidable bloodshed is never in dispute, the retelling of the tale as brilliantly executed by Prof. Chinua Achebe, especially his attempt to locate culpability where he deems appropriate, is patently skewed against historical evidence and did not reflect roles allegedly played by the ‘culprits’ within context – a situation akin to employing convenient tactical amnesia. I will cite the two examples that have been identified.

On Page 51 of the 333-page book, Achebe wrote “The original ideal of one Nigeria was pressed by the leaders and intellectuals from the Eastern Region. With all their shortcomings, they had this idea to build the country as one. The first to object were the Northerners led by the Sardauna, who were followed closely by the Awolowo clique that had created the Action Group. The Northern Peoples Congress of the Sardaunians was supposed to be a national party, yet it refused to change its name from Northern to Nigerian Peoples Congress, even for the sake of appearances. It refused right up to the end of the civilian regime.” As rightly noted by Monday Ateboh, despite the mighty significance of this weighty and damning assertion, Prof. Achebe did not did give any details regarding how and where the Northern and Yoruba leaders opposed the idea of a united Nigeria.

On Page 233 of the book, Achebe wrote “The wartime cabinet of General Gowon, the military ruler, it should also be remembered, was full of intellectuals like Chief Obafemi Awolowo among others who came up with a boatload of infamous and regrettable policies. A statement credited to Awolowo and echoed by his cohorts is the most callous and unfortunate: all is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don’t see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder. It is my impression that Awolowo was driven by an overriding ambition for power, for himself and for his Yoruba people. There is, on the surface at least, nothing wrong with those aspirations. However, Awolowo saw the dominant Igbos at the time as the obstacles to that goal, and when the opportunity arose – the Nigeria-Biafra war – his ambition drove him into a frenzy to go to every length to achieve his dreams. In the Biafran case it meant hatching up a diabolical policy to reduce the numbers of his enemies significantly through starvation — eliminating over two million people, mainly members of future generations.”

Why is it important to address the issues raised in the Achebe’s memoir? Principally because there is a need to place the monologue side by side with alternative narratives for prosperity. Also because of the stupendous power packed in the prose of Achebe that could legitimize his personal opinion and narrative nuances as unimpeachable facts of history. To underscore the significance of this, one only needs to examine the statement of leading British publisher Allen Lane on the Achebe’s memoir “There Was a Country is a distillation of vivid observation and considered research and reflection.” If reputable British outfits are already of the opinion that the memoir is a product of considered research and vivid imagination, then essentially, Prof. Achebe’s opinion is likely to be accorded the status of historical actuality if the rest of the world is unable to test the veracity of each damning or controversial claim.

The final part of this essay shall examine each of the earlier listed claims by this Africa’s iconic writer and situate each within the context of 1967 and 1970 as part of my contribution to knowledge.

 

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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Thoughts

 

#DO U KNOW# That the World’s Longest Personal Name Ever Is 746 Characters Long?

The longest personal name ever is 746 characters long

The shortened versions include Mr. Wolfe+585 Sr, 585 being the amount of additional letters in his last name and Hubert Blaine Wolfe­schlegel­stein­hausen­berger­dorff Sr. This man also had 25 middle names.

His full name is Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe­schlegelstein­hausenberger­dorffvoraltern­waren­gewissenhaft­schaferswessen­schafewaren­wohlgepflege­und­sorgfaltigkeit­beschutzen­von­angreifen­durch­ihrraubgierigfeinde­welche­voraltern­zwolftausend­jahres­vorandieerscheinen­wander­ersteer­dem­enschderraumschiff­gebrauchlicht­als­sein­ursprung­von­kraftgestart­sein­lange­fahrt­hinzwischen­sternartigraum­auf­der­suchenach­diestern­welche­gehabt­bewohnbar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wohin­der­neurasse­von­verstandigmen­schlichkeit­konnte­fortplanzen­und­sicher­freuen­anlebens­langlich­freude­und­ruhe­mit­nicht­ein­furcht­vor­angreifen­von­anderer­intelligent­geschopfs­von­hinzwischen­sternartigraum, Senior. 

Mr Wolfe+585 is ‘senior’, he gave the exact same name to his son, Hubert Blaine Wolfe­schlegel­stein­hausen­berger­dorff, Jr., who learnt to pronounce his full name by the age of 3. 

His long surname has an equally interesting meaning: “a descendant of Wolfeschlegelstein (one who prepared wool for manufacture on a stone), of the house of Bergerdorf (mountain village) who before ages were conscientious shepherds whose sheep were well tended and diligently protected against attackers who by their rapacity were enemies who 12,000 years ago appeared from the stars to the humans by spaceships with light as an origin of power, started a long voyage within star-like space in search for the star which has habitable planets orbiting and whither the new race of reasonable humanity could thrive and enjoy lifelong happiness and tranquillity without fear of attack from other intelligent creatures from within star-like space.” 

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Do You Know?

 

The Gospel of Lazy Bones: 10 Ways to Look Busy in the Office – By Anonymous

1.  Never walk around without a document:

People with documents look like hardworking employees headed to important meetings. People with nothing in their hands look like they are headed for the cafeteria. People with newspapers in their hands look like they are headed for the toilet. Above all, make sure you carry loads of stuff home with you at night, thus generating the false impression that you work longer hours than you really do.

2.  Use computers to look busy:

Any time you use a computer, it looks like “work” to the casual observer. You can send and receive personal e-mail, update Facebook status, chat and have a blast on Twitter and other social networks without doing anything remotely related to work. These aren’t exactly the societal benefits that the proponents of the computer revolution would like to talk about, but they are not bad either. When you get caught by your boss – and you will get caught – your best defence is to claim that you are teaching yourself to use new software, thus saving valuable training expenses.

3.  Have a messy desk:

Only top management can get away with a clean desk. For the rest of us, it looks like we’re not working hard enough. Build huge piles of documents around your workspace. To the observer, last year’s work looks the same as today’s work; it’s volume that counts. Pile papers and files high and wide. If you know somebody is coming to your cubicle, bury the document you’ll need halfway down in an existing stack and rummage for it when he/she arrives.

4.  Don’t always pick your call and use voicemail:

Rarely pick your call and use voicemail most times. People don’t call you just because they want to give you something for nothing – they call because they want you to do work for them. That is no way to live. Screen all your calls through voicemail. If somebody leaves a message for you and it sounds like impending work, respond during lunch hour when you know they are not there – it looks like you are hardworking and conscientious even though you’re being a devious weasel.

5.  Look impatient and annoyed:

According to George Costanza, you should always try to look impatient and annoyed to give off the impression that you are always busy.

6.  Leave the office late:

Always leave the office late, especially when the boss is still around. You could read magazines and storybooks that you always wanted to read. Make sure you walk past the boss’ room on your way out. Send important e-mail at unearthly hours (i.e. 9:35 p.m., 7:05 a.m., etc.) and during public holidays.

7.  Creative sighing for effect:

Sigh loudly when there are many people around, giving the impression that you are under extreme pressure.

8.  Have a stacking strategy:

It’s not enough to pile documents on the table. Put lots of books on the floor (thick computer manuals are the best), etc.

9.  Build your vocabulary:

Read up on some computer magazines and pick out all the jargon and new products. Use the phrases freely when in conversation with bosses. Remember; they don’t have to understand what you are saying, but you sure sound impressive.

10.  Do not forward this to your boss:

Except you have found a new job, do not forward this Gospel to your boss by mistake.

Twitter: @ Femiolas

https://femiolas.wordpress.com

http://femiolabisi.blogspot.com

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Comic

 

Local Government: A Sine Qua Non for National Development – By Femi Olabisi

The universal need for the establishment of the local government system in any polity is not controvertible. It appears to be a general agreement among nations that for grassroots development, the local government institution is the most veritable catalyst. The following are some of the essential justification of the local government system vis a vis its importance in the socio-political and economic development of a nation:

There are many social amenities which the central government alone cannot provide. Local government is needed for local initiatives in the mobilization of human and material resources for the provision of such amenities which they cannot provide for individually. Therefore, local government becomes a viable arena for the collectivity of people by pooling their resources together to provide for such amenities like roads, electricity, water supply, health centres, etc.

In the same vein, the central government is too remote from the local communities. The local communities are more familiar with their problems, thus it is through the local government institution that local initiatives can be galvanized to provide solutions to those problems.

Similarly, there are different people living in different communities with varying cultures, traditions and languages. Local government provides a good platform for the preservation of these cherished customs and traditions. In addition, local government provides the mechanism through which tension is reduced at the centre by spreading authority and power on geographical basis, and thereby disabusing the minds of the local people from the notion of being alienated

Of importance also is that local government provides the opportunity for local people to participate in the act of governance and provide leadership training in the use of power and the consequences in the abuse of power. More importantly, it inculcates in participants democratic culture and practices. The act of representative government derives from the local government. This is because it is usually made up of either elected or selected representatives of the people.

Local government equally provides criteria for measuring development in the society. This is because, in establishing local government, there are certain established standards or functions which are expected to be performed by local government institutions. The argument is that if all the local government units in a country meet up with these standards invariably, the country would have experienced development. Put differently, if all the 774 local government units in Nigeria have affordable and adequately equipped health centres, it translates that the whole of Nigeria is enjoying good health services.

Based on all the aggregates of the immense benefits derivable from the local government system, the institution has become to be regarded as a sine qua non for rural and national development.

Twitter: @ Femiolas

https://femiolas.wordpress.com

http://femiolabisi.blogspot.com

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Thoughts

 

Facts of Life!

FACTS OF LIFE:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z is equal to 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.

Thus,

H+A+R+D+W+O+R+K = 8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%,

K+N+O+W+L+E+D+G+E = 11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%,

L+O+V+E = 12+15+22+5 = 54%,

L+U+C+K = 12+21+3+11 = 47%

(None of them makes 100%).

Then, what makes 100%? Is it money, power, fame or what?  It is your ATTITUDE!

A+T+T+I+T+U+D+E = 1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%.

In the final analysis, your ATTITUDE determines your ALTITUDE and movement to the Zenith of success.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Thoughts

 
 
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