All posts by Oti Omatsone

Don locates root of Nigerian power rivalry in “nature of friendship”

Professor Adebanwi

The key to understanding the true nature of power and political competition in Nigerian politics lies in the structure of friendship, a leading Nigerian political anthropologist has stated.

Dr. Wale Adebanwi, who teaches at the University of California, Davis, USA said this on Tuesday while delivering the 2013 Annual African Studies Lecture at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University, United Kingdom. The lecture was entitled, “What are Friends For? The Fatality of Affinity in the Postcolony.”

“Politics seems a real testing ground of friendship chiefly because it is a testing ground of character and goodness” remarks Adebanwi who avers that “In the context of political competition, friendship is often not used for virtue but for utility thereby turning friends into enemies.”

The hint is vivid in Adebanwi’s reasoning that the veins of political fellowship in Nigeria maintain a pattern of ‘disastrous friendships’ that contain the possibility of danger and death,” an experience that he says should challenge African scholars to pay attention to friendship among powerful people in understanding the nature of power and political competition in Africa.

He cites philosophers who state that friendship can be used for three things, including virtue, pleasure and utility; and adds that in the context of political competition, friendship fosters utility rather than virtue which is why it easily turns friends into enemies.

He illustrated his point with the friendship between President Olusegun Obasanjo and late Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige, and that of former military president General Ibrahim Babangida, former Head of State, General Sani Abacha and the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief M.K.O. Abiola.

Adebanwi, the author of Authority Stealing: Anti-Corruption War and Democratic Politics in Post-military Nigeria, also analysed the friendship between Babangida and his late friend, a former Minister of Federal for the FTC, Abuja, Major General Mamman Vatsa, Abacha and late Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and former Burkinabe leader, Captain Thomas Sankara and President Blaise Compaore. He concluded that the friendship that existed between these competing and ambitious leaders contained the possibility of danger and death.

Adebanwi stated that it was not a surprise that the kind of “instrumental” friendship that these leaders shared among them led to the death of some of them in their pursuit of power, position and prominence.

To press home his thesis, he offered the following illustarions:  the execution of Vatsa by his friend and best man, Babangida; the assassination of Sankara by his friend, Compaore; and the alleged murder of Yar’Adua through the injection of a killer virus into his body by the agents of his friend, General Abacha; the annulment of Abiola’s election by his friend, Babangida, and the imprisonment in solitary confinement of Abiola by his friend, Abacha. Adding finally, the assassination of Bola Ige while serving under his friend, Obasanjo.

He added that it is ordinarily surprising that in spite of the gruesome way in which Ige was killed and his loyalty to President Obasanjo, Obasanjo later dismissed his friend as someone who did not know his left from his right.

He told the audience that Ige was assassinated while planning to return home to stop Obasanjo’s party from rigging the 2003 elections in the southwest. The lecturer also reminded the audience of the famous statement by the philosopher, Aristotle, “O my friend, there is no friend!”

Adebanwi, a former Bill Gates Scholar at Cambridge University, explained further that, “from the profile of all these men, their roles, and the positions they occupied in Nigeria’s national life, it is already evident that their friendships could not but have been politically consequential.

“However, the fact that their friendships were also fatal in virtually every case invites us to examine the potential fatality of friendship when friendship intersects with the search for power in Africa. Secondly, the friendships and ambitions of these men have largely defined the political history of Nigeria in the last three decades and half. Thirdly, the friendships of these men were largely cross-cutting.” He stated.

Adebanwi, whose much-expected book on the Awolowo political movement will be released by the Cambridge University Press in 2014, recalled the secret execution of General Vatsa and General Domkat Bali’s expression of regrets many years later.

General Bali had stated that there was no clear evidence that Babangida’s friend, Vatsa, was really involved in the coup plot for which he was executed. He also recalled Babangida’s statement that he realised after the execution of Vatsa that he and Vatsa had been involved in a competition for most of their lives.

Dr. Adebanwi traced the personal and political history of the friendship of all these Nigerian leaders and quoted someone who said that “Politics seems a real testing ground of friendship chiefly because it is a testing ground of character and goodness.”

He added that political friendship does not only have disastrous consequences for individuals who are involved in the friendship, but also for nations, as in the example of the Nigerian leaders and the Bukinabe leaders show. The lecturer also stated that Nigeria’s crisis is not unrelated to the fact that the “disastrous friendships” of these Nigerian leaders have defined the fate and destiny of Nigeria in the past 30 years.

The chief host, Dr. David Pratten, the Director of the African Studies Center, Oxford University and Fellow of St. Anthony’s College, Oxford, stated that the University was happy to invite Adebanwi to give the annual lecture which had been delivered in the past by distinguished scholars from all over the world.

Those who attended the lecture included the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and his wife, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, representing Ekiti Central at the National Assembly, Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, Edward Dickson, the Managing Director and Editor-In-Chief of the Tribune newspapers, former editor of TheNEWS, Mr. Muyiwa Adekeye, popular Punch columnist, Mr. Tunde Fagbenle, a famous British publisher, Mr. James Currey, and Dr. Anthony Akinola of Oxford.

Technology freak, Phemmy Alade, breaks the tablet barrier

Phemmy Alade

Nigeria’s youth technology entrepreneur, Phemmy Adeola Alade, has introduced a new learning device into the market that he says will revolutionise the way children learn by adding fun to the process of education.

Alade, nominee for 2013 Abuja Young Entrepreneurs award, told Premium Times in his office in Abuja that the new device which is a complete notebook, is an electronic wifi android tablet, that can be used to access information via text messaging and can also allow access to learning in audio, visual and interactive forms.

Tagged the Vivlio, the tablet is a cute stylish 8 inch handy computer, stocked with digital multimedia information that would aid in fusing education and the learning process of students with technology now acting as a playful companion.

Mr. Alade, initiator of Pliris Mobile Limited, says that he is committed to contributing his quota to empowering Nigerians by providing enterprise –wide solutions, information technology and telecommunications solutions. He says his ultimate vision is “to provide turnkey mobile solutions for citizens of Nigeria and Africa”.

Students carrying a whole library in a portable form would be a proof of how Nigeria is adapting to the global change in technology, says Mr. Alade who reasons that the Vivlio is an opportunity for people to experience mobile learning at really affordable cost. Sounding excited he says, some other features of the Vivlio are 1.7 quad core processor, 2Gb ram, dual camera, android jelly hand writing recognition and lots more. The specs are available on www.plirismobile.com.

Wearing a boyish grin, with the collar of his casually tucked-in shirt bouncing in random motion, Mr. Alade said he currently is “working seriously for a couple of months now on creating a project, called Radio Pool that will provide mobile portability of radio stations using a common platform.”

This project is intended to ease access to information centers by removing the strain of tuning to live content radio stations via the internet, using mobile phones and other tech devices.

blaze+

With this device, Mr. Alade expects the geographical barrier in radio broadcasting to be breached, and since radio broadcast reaching a wider audience utilizes the internet, he says this breakthrough will be achieved through the streaming service and deployed through major mobile devices.

The fair complexioned six-footer Pliris entrepreneur is consumed in a world of digital gizmos. He told Premium Times of a handful of other devices in the work like the digital receptionist that promises to bring a “dynamic office experience to the working environment.”  In his words, “it is more than a receptionist”.

He also talked of the Pliris texty platform, which provides free text messages from a service provider to the public. With this, texting just got useful, it is about getting information out there to those that would need it. Then there is the Pliris Blaze+, a mobile android phone. This is a smart phone designed with the Nigerian in mind affordable and very functional; he was reflective at this point and really enthusiastic about creating usable cultural adaptable solutions for the country.

Mr. Alade puts all his drive to one word: “God,” and a precociousness and compulsiveness that come from an inner voice always saying, “whatever your hand finds to do, do it!”

Thatcher’s demise spur chart buster for song on death of a witch

wizard of Oz

In life and death, former British Prime Minister, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher continues to stair the hornet’s nest.  Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead, a 74 years soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz, has made the top 10 hit of the British midweek charts on account of her death, according to The Guardian of London.

The British midweek chart is published on Wednesdays, and the paper said the spur for this chart ascent was propelled by a campaign on Facebook.

There has also been a surge in downloads of the song, which has been appropriated by the former prime minister’s critics since her death said the paper, which also predicts that the song “is on course to be one of the top three sellers by the end of the week.”

For the lady that was famously called “the Iron Lady” and “a witch” by her opponents, a cocktail of tributes and criticism, have poured in from around the world since Monday when she died at 87 after suffering a stroke.

President Barrack Obama of the United States, citing her humble beginnings as a grocer’s daughter, described her as a great champion of “freedom and liberty’’ and an example to women around the world.

“Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history, we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will,’’ Mr. Obama said.

From the left of the political spectrum however, it has been harsh words. Former London mayor, Ken Livingstone, said she was responsible for “every real problem’’ in Britain today, because “she was fundamentally wrong.’’

David Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, who turned 70 on Monday, said “this could not come soon enough and I’m pleased that I have outlived her” adding that “It looks like one of the best birthdays I have ever had.’’

The Official Charts Company, according to The Guardian, said the song, credited to Judy Garland, had been bought more than 10,600 times by midnight on Tuesday. The company also said the Garland version of the song was around 5,000 sales away from a place in the top three selling singles of the week.

There was also a small increase in sales for a 1961 cover version of the song, sung by Ella Fitzgerald, which just nudged into the top 150, the paper said.

When is a student truly upright?

Students of Loyola Jesuit collage

Students in Abuja work on dilemmas that build leadership.

Students of the Loyola Jesuit College in Abuja took time Tuesday to examine the challenges of leadership by working their way through the types of dilemma that test the conscience, ethics, obedience to rules and authority of citizens in a political situations.

Led by its Executive Director, Mr. Soji Apampa, and its Regulatory Affairs Officer, Ms. Kyura Nyam, the Integrity Organization, a national anti-corruption group based in Abuja, clustered with 28 students and four teachers of the college’s integrity club to generate and resolve scenarios of moral conflict in a typical student’s school life.Students of Loyola Jesuit collage

“It is just a way of helping the kids get a feel of how it is in a real world using the context of examination malpractice, to test moral courage ” said Ms. Nyam.

The students were divided into two groups and presented with a scenario of two friends nicknamed “Siamese twins”, who entered an examination setting unevenly prepared because one had been ill. Since the school had a zero tolerance policy on cheating, one of the friends watched her “twin” unable to succeed in the examination, facing the prospect of failure, for no reason other than illness. The dilemma was whether she should offer help to a dear friend, violate the school rules, and risk expulsion.

“One group was to argue “Yes” to exam malpractices and the other “No”. In the process the students reasoned through the challenges of managing ones integrity in the presence of peer pressure, societal pressure and I will say the lines were evenly divided” commented Ms. Nyam at the resolution of the students.

She said “It was obvious from the responses that this was a real dilemma for the students. You either risk your integrity for the sake of a dear friend, or for the sake of loyalty to your friend risk getting both of you suspended/expelled/punished for “helping” your friend, or not help your friend and risk losing a longtime friendship and maintaining your integrity.”

At the end of the day’s activity Integrity Organisation shared its  “7- Way Test Of Integrity” with the students governed by the following questions:

Are you who you say you are?

Those who observe you, would they find that you are who you say you are?

Do you do the right things when no one is looking?

Do you do what you say you will do, how you say you will do it, when you say you will do it?

Do you act in ways that protect and preserve your credibility?

Do you answer to authorities and your colleagues in ways that are appropriate?

Do you strive for distinction in the quality and efficiency of what you do?

The club matron, Mrs. Okhideme, introduced the new Executives of the School’s Integrity club to the visitors, with Mojeku Chukwudera as the new President, taking over from Ms. Aidevo Okaisabor.

 

Groups plot battle against corruption in Nigeria

tranparency international

Transparency International is planning to return to Nigeria.

Global integrity organisation, Transparency international (TI), in a just-concluded strategy meeting, huddled with about a dozen local integrity organisations in Abuja all  burdened by what they describe as “the systemic and endemic state of Nigeria’s corruption.” Their mission today, however, is more focussed:  they are  mapping the return of TI to Nigeria, after about a decade of absence.

The meeting, according to its facilitator, Hernan Charosky, was  organized to “discuss the re-engagement of Transparency International in Nigeria, and explore what partnership opportunities were open with the broad integrity network in the country.”

Mr. Charosky who is former Executive Director of TI in Argentina, along with Marie-Ange Kalenga, who is West Africa’s officer for TI, explained that the organisation desires to understand what specific roles the Nigerian integrity movement expects Transparency International to play.

The discussions were energized the first day when Jibrin Ibrahim of the Center for Democracy and Development made his submission, arguing that the administration of the justice system had to be fixed as a matter of urgent priority for public corruption to be curbed.

He examined the examples of impunity and the light sentences granted by courts to show that the administration of justice system tends to favour those who steal big. It was observed that those who steal above 1million naira tend not in the main to escape severe punishment, than those who steal less.

Lilian Ekeanyanwu of Technical Unit on Governance & Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR) emphasized the need to build integrity in our public institutions by strengthening the systems and ensuring better prevention of corruption. In the very animated discussion that ensued, participants discussed how to put even their grandmothers in the villages in a position to express their outrage over the magnitude of corruption and the let-off permitted by Nigeria’s administration of justice system.

On the second day, Soji Apampa, Executive Director of Integrity Nigeria flagged off the brainstorming session by addressing the question, “What will success look like: expected outcomes”. Mr. Apampa noted that the rate of growth of corruption was much faster than the rate of growth of the movement to curb it and that except a step change was introduced into the strategy of the movement to meet the challenge of corruption in Nigeria head-on by 2015, there would be dire consequences for Nigerians in general.

He traced trends in the political, social, economic, technological, legal and energy environment of Nigeria drawing out their implications for the anti-corruption movement in Nigeria. In particular, Mr. Apampa noted that given the trends the size, pace, strategy and risks for fighting corruption would have to shift more onto the shoulders of non-State actors, adding that international legal instruments and jurisdictions will become all the more important to the fight against corruption.

Youth and the terrain of technology will be the context of the next battle around corruption, Soji Apampa said.

“Those who want to keep corruption going will recruit the youth and those who want to stop corruption will have to recruit the youth also. Those who want to subvert the course of justice and thwart the movement for transparency will turn to technology and the same goes for those who want to stop corruption as well – telephony, social and other electronic media used more than others” he stated.

Experts to discuss stronger value for citizen rights in Nigeria

osiwa logo 2

The experts will gather in Abuja on Wednesday.

The real content of citizenship rights in the country is the theme of  a high-level colloquium organized for Wednesday, February 20, in Abuja, to help remedy what constitutional experts believe is one of the major weaknesses of the Nigerian constitution

Leading the charge are eight constitutional experts who will analyse and propose how a future Nigerian constitution should treat the rights of its citizens.  The debate will hold at the auditorium of the National Human Rights Commission, one of the three sponsors of the event. The other partners are the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA), and PREMIUM TIMES.

Speaking for the partners, Udo Jude Ilo, who is acting country head for the Nigerian office of OSIWA, said the debate is urgent and cogent because “the current constitution treats too many Nigerians as visitors in the country”, simply on account of where they live as against where they are presumed to hail from.

Mr. Ilo blamed this for what he characterized as “fundamental flaws” in the content of citizenship rights in the current constitution. He argued further that, because the constitution is imprecise about the exact value of rights and privileges, citizens of state and local governments have resorted to narrow definition of citizen rights, to the detriment of many Nigerians.

Mr. Ilo pointed out that this silence in the constitution has been the cause of many ethnic and religious tensions in places like Plateau, Kaduna, and Abia States which in turn has caused the loss of many lives.

“If there is anything Nigerians need right now, it is an opportunity for them to feel that they are a part of a national discourse that addresses the myriads of tendencies that expose Nigeria to destabilization. Citizenship is at the core of our national existence and as presently defined, it will only take a while for the fractures it has created to escalate. A national dialogue is timely and urgent” Mr. Ilo said.

The partners are hoping, with the debate, to provide recommendations and suggestions on the nature of an effective constitutional architecture that addresses the problem of citizenship rights in the country.

The speakers expected at the meeting are: Yusufu Pam, former Attorney-General of Plateau State; Sam Egwu, Political Scientist and Governance Adviser, UNDP, Nigeria; Ayisha Osori, Executive Director, Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund; Dr. Ukoha Ukiwo, Department of Political Science, University of Port Harcourt; Professor Mohammed Kuna, Political Scientist & Adviser, INEC; Dr. Abubakar Muazu, Department of Mass Communications, University of Maiduguri; Maryam Uwais, founder, Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative in Kano and Yakubu Sankey, a one time member of the Federal Legislative House of the Nigerian Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS in Jos.

Human Rights Agency moves to strengthen citizen rights

map of Nigeria

Nigeria’s National Human Right Commission, NHRC, says the time has come to trash the constitutional provision and political practices which define Nigerians first by states of origin than as citizens.

The agency now plans to back its view with a national dialogue on citizenship and inclusion, arguing that to treat individuals primarily by their religion, state, or ethnic identity rather than their citizenship is “socially retrogressive.”

Six constitutional experts drawn from the academia, civil society, faith and gender communities, and the legal industry are to lead the national dialogue in February, at the agency’s auditorium in Abuja.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) whose chairman is Professor Chidi Odinkalu, a leading African authority in the field of citizenship and migrants rights, said it hopes to realize five objectives from the dialogue, which include: the provision of a “credible platform for robust national discussions on the proposed amendment to substitute state of origin in the constitution with state residence; and the attempt to identify the concerns that sections of the society have regarding proposed citizenship provisions in an amended but improved Nigerian constitution.”

Other objectives in the mind of the NHRC are an attempt to explore the “dynamics of the indigeneship practice around the country…the need to explore a platform and common agenda for advocacy on citizenship rights and reform in Nigeria…as well as provide recommendations and suggestions on the nature of an effective constitutional architecture that address concerns and ensure progressive enjoyment of citizenship in Nigeria,” the agency argued in a planning paper made available to PREMIUM TIMES in Abuja.

The NHRC says it is doing this because of a concern that participatory democracy cannot endure in an environment where the constitution fails to recognise the reality of ethnicity.

About 28 key political and civic constituencies in the country have been invited to send delegates to the dialogue, according to Udo Jude Ilo, a constitutional expert at the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, sponsors of the event.

PREMIUM TIMES is a strategic partner to the dialogue and will provide media messaging support at the event, which will parade many of the nationality groups in the country, some states with difficult experience of ethno-national relationships, traditional institutions, employment regulating agencies, the Federal Ministry of Justice, and security agencies.

The NHRC insists there is need to urgently address the content of citizenship in Nigeria because, it contends, current statute suffer from two major flaws: “the inability of the constitution to define exactly what rights and privileges citizenship confers and the eagerness of states and local governments to qualify and define these rights in the narrowest of terms.”