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Flashpoint: In15 years: Nigeria could collapse,destabilize entire West Africa - U.S. intelligence analysts claim;Obasanjo calls them"prophets of doom"

'Nigeria needs a democratic system guided bythe truth....'Senator Francis J. Ellah

(Excerpts from his interview with The Chinua Achebe FoundationInterview Series 'Nigeria: A meeting of the Minds')

Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston,CLASSmagazine
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Chief Francis J. Ellah, graduate of the University of London(University College, Ibadan), is Eze Nwadei Ogbuehi of Ogba in Riversstate of Nigeria. He is a highly regarded elder statesman withoutstanding political credentials and a former Second RepublicSenator.

Senator Ellah served as a former Secretary to the Rivers StateGovernment and Head of Service. He is a member of the Rivers StateAdvisory Council.

He is admired for standing by his principles, as many recallthat Senator Ellah resigned from the Nigerian Senate over a matter ofconflicting interest in 1984.

His socio-cultural and political experiences are chronicled inthe critically acclaimed political treatise 'Nigeria and StateCreation.'

Chief Ellah has had a successful business career and continuesto play an important role in the development of the agricultural,banking and oil sectors of the economy. Chief Ellah has servedseverally on the boards of universities, banks, and diversecorporations and is the chairman of Ellah Lakes PLC Nigeria.

The consummate gentleman, Chief Ellah is an expert organist andmusicologist, an avid golfer and author of several books includingAli-Ogba:A History of Ogba People. Chief Ellah is currently anOhaneze delegate at Nigeria's 2005 National Reform Conference inAbuja.



Senator Francis Ellah in Conversation with Professor OssieEnekwe and Nduka Otiono.

Prof. Ossie Enekwe: Professor Ossie Enekwe is a Nigerianpoet, fiction writer, and playwright, and a graduate of theUniversity of Nigeria and Columbia University, where he was a fellowin the Writing Division (1972-4). He is currently a professor oftheatre at the University of Nigeria and the former Director of theInstitute of African Studies at the same university. For over adecade, he has served as Editor of Okike - An African Journal of NewWriting. His published work includes Broken Pots (1977), poems, ComeThunder (1984), a novel, Igbo Masks (1987), non-fiction, The Betrayal(1989), a one-act play, and The Last Battle and Other Stories(1996).

Nduka Otiono: Nduka Otiono is an award-winning writer,General Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors; anassociate lecturer, English Department, University of Ibadan; ajournalist and a freelance publisher; and an active member of theNational Committee on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural heritage.

THE INTERVIEW

On Corruption

The Committee: The government of Nigeria has launched a "waragainst corruption." Already, (then) Senate President AdolphusWabara, Education Minister Professor Osuji, and Inspector General ofPolice Tafa Balogun, have become casualties of this crusade. Somebelieve the government should be praised and applauded for thisaction; others believe the war on corruption is "selective justice."What are your thoughts on this issue?

Chief Ellah: The N55 million matter involving former SenatePresident Wabara and some Senators and Representatives is now incourt after they were forced to resign from their politicalappointments in the National Assembly, though not from the NationalAssembly itself. We cannot discuss details now as the matter issub-judice. I have heard the criticism that the President's presentanti-corruption drive is suspect because he had failed to deal withsome bigger corrupt practices in the past. All I can say is that anyaction taken by the President or anyone else to expose and deal withcorruption, in any shape or form, is commendable. That the Presidentmay have failed to act promptly or positively in the past should notmean that his belated good action should not be praised.

Within two to three months, the Inspector-General of Police hasbeen dismissed and arraigned in court. Two Cabinet Ministers havebeen removed; a number of Senators and Representatives are in dangerof losing their posts and have been summoned to court. We shouldcompare this with the position over the past few decades when somebig fish wallowed in filthy affluence acquired from public fundswithout any checks at all. In the past, such affluence would havebeen used to subvert and pollute the political and economic air ofthe country, causing much distress, dismay, disruption anddisaster.

Only time will tell whether what is happening now is a passing fador a genuine revolution that will clean up the country and restoreits health. If it is genuine, the nation will rejoice; but if it ishypocritical, then the actors will themselves be exposed, sooner orlater. No one can bury the truth permanently.

Tackling Nigeria's Pathologies

Enekwe: Can you identify Nigeria's other major problems? What doyou think would be innovative solutions to them?

Ellah:Firstly, Professor, with due respect, I would like to highlight theseproblems individually, so that we can seek their possible solutions.I see that, today, the Nigerian society is marked by insecurity --moral decadence, political, social, and economic destruction,instability, sporadic ethnic/religious violence, insurgent tribalmilitias, endless fuel price increases that cause runaway inflation,currency depreciation and nation-wide labour unrest. There are, aswell, high bank interest rates which make industrialization and, inparticular, job creation impossible. This situation has caused manyotherwise decent men and women to go into crime and commit violence.The high unemployment issue has led to high crime rates, 419, abjectpoverty, a collapsed educational system and a nation of collapsedvalues - in almost every facet of national life, education, social,etc, there are problems.

Sadly, through international monitoring, we have been rated thethird most corrupt nation in the world. The proliferation of churchesto the level of individual proprietorship, is absolutely scandalous,and presents a possible descent into anarchy. Alright…the nextstep is in pondering how to solve the unfortunate situation we findourselves in.

 

Otiono: In other words we need to be mindful of the often citedadage of knowing when the rain began to beat us… But how did weget to this stage, sir -- when people of your stature have been keyplayers in our society?

 

Ellah: It is easier to enumerate problems than to proffersolutions, unfortunately. Let me acknowledge that the foundingmembers of the PDP are not all together free from blame. As a memberof the Board of Trustees (I resigned from the national ViceChairmanship position, a post I held for a very short time, beforethe primaries of 1998/99), my responsibilities are limited to adviceand caution. The Board has only advisory and not executiveresponsibilities, and I continue to advice, with sympathy andunderstanding. There is no doubt that the way the country wasstructured led to the civil war and military administrations. And theunfortunate and misguided belief of soldiers that might is right isantithetical to democratic principles. Such primitive instincts bythe soldiers attracted other base instincts such as materialism andcorruption, fuelled by the attraction of oil money, and it has beenimpossible so far to repair that damage. You don't have a systemwhere people hand over to others as a matter of principle and law;politics and public office have become a free for all.

Those who came into power with the backward attitude of mightis right, fostered the belief that it is what you have that matters.In a system where three succeeding heads of state hail from the samegeographical area, even village -- M.K.O Abiola, Chief Shonekan, andthen the present one (retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo) -- then thereis cause for worry. So, you cannot say that what we have is a trulydemocratic system.

 

Otiono: Regarding the north, Abdulsalam Abubakar and Babangida arefrom the same enclave/state...

Ellah: Obviously, one cannot be faulted in suspecting that thissituation is being arranged. For instance, let us examine the issueof Salisu Buhari (first speaker of the House of representative in theFourth republic). How is it possible that within a few months of hisdishonourable exit from the House, such a man was granted statepardon? This negative example teaches our youth that there is nodeterrence to misconduct, crime, and that nothing counts for justice.When we talk about youth restiveness…look; our highlyimpressionable youth will regard the Buhari issue and other suchissues as something they can get away with.

Enekwe: How then do we solve these recurrent problems?

Ellah: I believe we should examine how the system broke down, andthen begin its repair! When people have been handed over office, theyshould not hesitate to hand over to others. There must be that kindof practice!!! Some of the issues we pointed out are quite easy tosolve, but we have managed to complicate matters. Sometimes, if thereare nine solutions to a matter and one wrong way to go, we choose thewrong way; that is my general impression.

 

Improving the Agricultural sector

Ellah: Let us take youth restiveness and unemployment for example;if government wants to solve unemployment, then it should genuinelywork towards reviving the agricultural sector in this country.Agricultural development will have a multiplying effect on the wholeeconomy, and thus, enough jobs for every body.

The United States of America is an excellent example of this. Forgenerations, people from all over the world have emigrated there, andthe agricultural sector has become one of the greatest suppliers ofemployment. As standards of living continue to improve, andtechnological/industrial advances &endash; mechanizedagriculture etc &endash; have been applied to the agriculturalsector, the farmers have become more efficient, and are able toproduce even more crops with fewer people. At this point, thelabourers who find that they are in excess of available jobs are ableto move on to other sectors of the economy, and this is becauseagriculture had made the whole country prosperous. Today, 5% ofAmericans feed the whole country, as well as African nations that arestarving. It is said that if necessary, America could feed the entireworld. (In the picture, l-r: Hon. Gershon Guyit, Ambassador ofNigeria in Hungary, Sir Francis J. Ellah (former Senator and Chairmanof Ellah Lakes PLC Nigeria), and Nicolas Patakias from the CDE inBrussels. Photo courtesy www.emrc.be)

Nigeria used to be a major exporter of cocoa, palm oil, andgroundnuts. We could do so much more in the agricultural sector&endash; first provide food for our people, then major employment.The regular income will create wealth, stabilize families, and aid inreducing youth restiveness.

 

Recapitalization of the Banking sector

Enekwe: You mentioned high bank interest rates, which makeindustrialization and in particular job creation impossible -- as anational problem. What are your thoughts on the Banking SectorRecapitalization policy of the CBN?

 

Ellah: Professor Soludo [governor of the Central Bank ofNigeria] is obviously an intelligent man. However, hisrecapitalization policy that calls for about 2000 per cent increasein bank re-capitalization, in one year, worries me. If queried onthis matter, Professor Soludo will likely reply that this is the casein Malaysia… but does this mean that it is a valid and logicalanswer for Nigeria?

If he can list other countries in the world that successfullyincreased by that rate within one year, then I stand to be corrected.That should be the logic of the situation. If one is licensed tooperate a bank, and is asked to pay N50 million in order to have thatlicence, and the next day is asked to bring an additional N25billion; is this fair or morally justifiable? Of course it is not.So, my question is: Cannot the capital base be increasedincrementally; over time? One doesn't really understand this systemat all. It is one thing to be knowledgeable in one particular area,and another to claim knowledge in all areas. I think that this policywill surely disrupt the financial system, and, eventually, the entireeconomy. All these mergers would have serious impacts on the bankingservices.

 

Developing a new generation of leaders

Otiono: This brings us to another crucial issue which has beendescribed by a colleague of ours as the challenge of unleashing a newgeneration of leadership whose action and behaviour is guided bynational or African interest rather than personal aggrandizement. Doyou see this possible in the foreseeable future in this country?

 

Ellah: Yes, if we are able to get people who will adhere toprinciples.

 

Otiono: And how do we achieve this?

 

Ellah: You accomplish this by setting up a democratic system thatis guided by the truth. To begin with, take the last election forexample. If you had a free and fair election that is properlyexecuted, then the public officers produced in this manner will bemainly reasonable people. I am not saying that the present crop isnot reasonable, well…probably a few. Even so, if thesereasonable people are in the minority, their voices will be overrun,and the conscientious ones among them won't even begin to be allowedto make contributions.

You first start from the basics, establish proper electoralprocedure -- overhaul INEC/elections commision, invite foreignobservers, and insist on the kind of people who will hand oversuccessfully, and help create a new generation of public officers whoobserve proper procedure. Not a new generation of people wanting tobe at the top without going through the necessary and legal regimen,which has happened in many cases. There are those who say they wantpower shifted to the youths. For this reason, something called theunder-fifties was formed -- after all, the so-called experiencedpeople are on their way out! However, there is absolutely nosubstitute for experience! In the rural areas/local governments,youth associations have officers, and the local people go to reportto them; on a domestic level, wives may report their husbands tothem, and they are entitled to discipline the men, even though theymay be older than the parents of the youths.

 

The Oputa Panel

Otiono - One major solution that has been explored in dealing withthe Nigerian problem has been the Justice Oputa Panel. It wasconceived as a kind of truth and reconciliation committee, and youwere the Secretary of the Atrocities Commission. How do you see theneed for punishment of crimes committed against individuals and thestate as a deterrent to future perpetuation?

 

Ellah - If you let people get away with murder, then the situationwill continue. People who are thus inclined will get rid of theirfellow men in order to achieve what they want.

 

Otiono - And they will not be found out…even if they do, theyare let off the hook!!!

 

Ellah (nodding) - It is terrible, because in the past, to the bestof my recollection, these disappearances and murders were almostunheard of ,and I know that what we did in those days, one wouldnever dream of doing now. As a District Officer, I can tell of aninstance when I had a problem with my car, on Afikpo road, with mydriver. Just the two of us; we locked up the car, and trekked toAfikpo, which was about 34 miles away. We arrived at the town atabout 4 a.m., having started around 5 p.m. the previous day in thedark. The next day we sent a driver to fix the car, and he found itunharmed. Today, this would not be possible

 

The crisis in Anambra State

Enekwe: What are your thoughts on the recurrent crisis in AnambraState?

Ellah: The Anambra State Crisis is a tragedy; this unfortunatesituation has cost the PDP chairman his job -- he resigned on Jan 10,2005. Of course, the situation could have easily been resolved had weabided strictly by the rule of law. Normally, the election petitionagainst Governor Ngige should have been disposed off within a fewmonths. In the old days, such petitions lasted just a few months;even the 12 2/3 issue did not last up to two months. In fieldadministration, we are asked to retain ballot papers for six months;after that you may destroy them. This confirms that no case shouldlast beyond six months. This does not happen today. As electionpetitions linger on indefinitely, causing all sorts of confusion, thejudiciary contributes its own share of national problems -- justiceis delayed, and thereby denied. In the case of Anambra State, Uba andhis group should have been prosecuted in a court of competence; weshould not have put through all this nonsense.

 

Emergence of militant ethnic nationalism

Otiono - One solution that is being explored now with regard tothe feeling of unfairness and marginalization is the eruption ofethnic nationalism as represented by ethno&endash;political groups(or militias) such as OPC, Afenifere, MASSOB, Ohaneze, ACF, IjawYouth Congress, MOSOP, and so on. What does this development signifyfor the future of the country?

Ellah - We have always had these ethnic organizations committed toself-help, because in the absence of social services they serve avery useful purpose; for example, traders associations and the like.I know the Igbo Union played a big part in the formation of NCNC inthe old days. I think they must be distinguished from the militiaslike the OPC and Egbesus, which is not the same as Afenifere andOhaneze. Why the militias have been allowed to go on, I don't know,but I think partly because of poor economy and the lack of jobs. Markyou -- they were initially created for political purposes.

 

People talk about political engineering, etc, creating a youthministry and officers, but without providing them any real functionsor power. So, once these people come together, they plan how toacquire power, and they hope to do this by organising and fundingcults. However, if one makes sure that people who are qualified orare graduates get jobs and are concerned with their professions, thenanybody who deviates will be pulled down as a way of riddingdestructive roots. Any member of the society with a grievance hasrecourse to the law, so must observe the rule of law strictly bygoing to court to seek justice. However, if such a person takes uparms against the state, then the resources of the state will beemployed in dealing with him.

 

In the not too distant past, the district officer, the president,and then the governor - in that order &endash; assumed the status ofchief security officer. If there was trouble within a division, itwas dealt with, in that order. The chief security officer would beobliged to loudly recite the riot act with the police standing guardaround him. He would then say -- "In the name of our majesty, theQueen, I order you to lay down your arms, otherwise you will beshot." Consequently, if anyone shoots and kills his neighbour, theperson is questioned, after which an enquiry is set up to discoverwhat happened, and to prevent future recurrence.

 

Resource Allocation

Enekwe: Is this state of affairs influenced by economicmismanagement of resources of the country? For instance, our oilresources...we all know that apart from oil, Nigeria depends onnothing else. We have not developed any other natural resource, orindustry. Don't you think that this factor is partly responsible forthe confusion and restiveness of the nation?

 

Ellah: Yes, I agree with you entirely. It is the poverty in themidst of plenty. We have oil money, are rich in oil resources; yet,we have people who are desperately poor, who have no jobs. Thetemptation to take the law into one's hands is very serious. Let usexamine the attempt to address the injustice in the oil policy; Imentioned this before.

Before people can be asked to pay taxes, the government isexpected to have taken excellent care of the environment, theinfrastructure; roads, etc. However, in this country, the unfortunatepractice has been that the government takes the people's moneywithout developing their environment.

This is part of the reason why people are so restive. Initially,this situation did was not aggravated, because the country was inreasonable shape for some years after colonial rule; but as time wenton, the ecological conditions and environment deteriorated. Rightnow, in much of the oil-producing areas, fishermen are no longer ableto catch as much fish as in the past, because water pollution hasdepleted the stores of fish in our waters. Therefore, this professionis no longer what it used to be and is no longer the life sourcefishermen can depend on. Our youths in the riverine areas see thesedevelopments and become very resentful and rebellious.

 

Ethnic tension and Igbo identity in the Rivers delta

Otiono - In Rivers State -- your part of the country -- there isuneasiness about the Igbo identity. Eminent citizens of this statelike the writer, Elechi Amadi, have made certain controversialstatements about where his people belong. How do you see thedialectical relationship among the various Igbo communities inrelation to the Igbo identity?

Ellah - We have described this before; I told you an Igbo is anIgbo. Darryl Ford or someone else has written extensively about whois an Igbo. If you look at the culture, language, etc, these are someof the things that determine an ethnic group.

 

Otiono - I noticed on your bookshelf that you have several bookson Igbo studies -- Elizabeth Isichei and so on. At what point did youdevelop intellectual interest in the Igbo question?

 

Ellah - I am a student of History. I start from the known to theunknown. Being an Igbo, I started with Igbo history, and then studiedother ethnic groups. The educational system we had initially focusedon European Empire history. Now that we don't have to sit forexaminations on that, I decided to venture into my present interest,taking the training I had in the other, and applying to Igbo historyand nation…

 

The Committee: Sir, recently a national daily carried a headline"Ellah gets quit notice." The article opened with the statement: "Thepeople of Ogba ethnic nationality in Rivers State have given one oftheir representatives, Senator Francis Ellah, one week to quit theNational Political Reform Conference in Abuja or face their wrath."Chief, what is your reaction?

 

Ellah: The truth is that I have received no quit notice fromanyone, and I do not see that anyone has any right to fire me anyquit notice; I have done nothing wrong!! I am only striving tocontribute a little towards the building of a better nation, usingthe special background and experience which the Almighty God gave methrough the nation, and thanks to Ohaneze which nominated me toattend the Conference. I believe we have the freedom to exercise suchfundamental human rights in our own country!!! Now -- it is importantto observe that the opening sentence in the publication asks me to:"Quit the National Political Reform Conference in Abuja or face theirwrath."

In view of the high level of insecurity in Nigeria today, thisthreat must be taken very seriously. I have no intention of quittingthe Conference, but I expect that I will receive adequate protectionfrom the Nigerian Police, and that those who issued the threat willbe promptly identified and dealt with according to law.

 

OVERCOMING PESSIMISM AND HOPELESSNESS

 

Otiono - But Chief; do your illustrations not paint a picture ofhopelessness?

 

Ellah - No, no, I don't think it's a perpetual hopelessness. I aman optimist, an incorrigible optimist.

 

Otiono - Even President Obasanjo confessed not long ago that thereis so much pessimism in the country …

 

Ellah - No, this should not be the situation if Nigerians have asense of history. Look at what happened in other countries -- Europefor instance, where there were wars for a long periods; even Americawas not spared. But good always comes out of evil… I think thereis tremendous hope.

 

Enekwe - The problem is that good ideas are often not heeded; itis not because Nigeria lacks intellectual facility or potential. Theproblem, in my opinion, is that good ideas are ignored, marginalized.Do you agree with that?

 

Ellah - Prof, I would say yes and no. When you point out thatideas are marginalized, it might seem as if this is intentional.However, I would like to examine these things sympathetically. Ithink people who go along with a situation simply for the sake ofpower are intent on playing a game of diplomacy. Such people do agreat deal of harm. When, for example, appointments are made that arenot dependent on who the best man for the job is, but on loyalty,there are bound to be problems.

 

Enekwe &endash; Can we assume, then, that our politicians areembattled?

 

Ellah - For instance, when the PDP was initially founded, mostmembers did not know who was who. In a meeting, northerners, peoplefrom the middle belt, southerners, had little idea what thebackground of the next man or woman was; but they respected eachother, and got on the best they could, did the best they could. If apolitical system is in place that has endured over time, it willdemonstrate the value of hierarchical leadership. But at this pointin our nation's history, we have not experienced the system longenough for the necessary culture to have evolved. If a candidate fora top position in government is simply after the status the job willafford him, he will disregard the fact that a great deal of effort isrequired to effectively accomplish a job and attain merit. But when,as we have been unfortunate to experience in this country, a group ofpeople who don't understand this, they will tear whoever thinksdifferently to pieces.

 

Enekwe - That means that those who try to play by the rules areunable to do so, because the contrary is the norm.

 

Ellah - Yes

 

Morality, Religious and Traditional Values

Enekwe &endash; Your generation is generally seen as more sociallyand culturally aware of moral values than this generation; why do youthink this is so?

 

Ellah &endash; That's a very interesting point... Of course it issomewhat speculative to say that, I believe; for every generation,there is a golden age.

 

Otiono &endash; But when we compare what you have had to say aboutadministrations in the past, the kind of news that we hear these daysof millions and billions of naira being stolen by public officers wasnot the order of the day. I think that is one way of examiningProfessor Enekwe's point. Sir - how is it that we degenerated to thispoint of moral decadence?

 

Ellah &endash; From my humble experience, Nigerians suffered nolack of traditional values. When my grandfather was alive, I used towatch him discussing with the other elders. He was very respectful ofpeople's positions and status; people believed the power of so andso, and respected what one idol or the other said. One avoided doingwhat was morally wrong for fear of becoming 'tabooed.' Ourtraditional values became eroded when the colonialists came andintroduced Christianity. In my hometown, I remember that there was abig battle between Christians and the idol worshippers. Christianvalues had begun to take root, to disrupt the traditionalsystem…and as you know, democracy today is built mainly onChristian philosophy.

Successive military administrations, as everybody complains,disrupted both traditional and Christian values, replacing them withthe negative system that might is right. This, of course, led to anacquisitive structure based on the primitive instinct of the survivalof the fittest, and a materialist instinct that spurred society'srapid degeneration. In fact, within our forty-something years ofindependence, the military has been in place for some thirty of thoseyears. What I can't understand is that we have not been able toprogress, even after the return of a civilian government.

For obvious reasons, the present government is not fully civilianyet. There is a general devaluation of values in the system, Ibelieve; this is my gut reaction to your question. What is happeningnow is that governments are creating youth ministries everywhere thathave offices in local governments and even their own flag. Whenoutfits such as these are created without a defined function, theyouth will invent one for themselves; they may decide that demandingmoney from oil companies by showing certificates is one suchfunction. Because these ministries have no genuine function orassignments, and avenues for employment are not readily available,you can see, now, why I insist that this situation can easily beavoided by the serious development of our agriculturesystem…

 

Enekwe - I would like to get back to the question of moral values;in what ways did Christianity undermine it?

 

Ellah - No, no…what I said is this: that the moral standardsof my generation derived from our traditional beliefs. We feared thepower of traditional idols, and so one did not steal for fear ofbeing destroyed by this power. Now, with the advent of Christianity,we were warned not to worship idols, and told to obey the TenCommandments, and the philosophy of the Nigerian government is basedon Christian tenets. Even so, the military came with an ideology ofmight is right, a base instinct that conjured up all other baserinstincts like materialism, etc. In the midst of this, the governmentbegan forming youth ministry associations without assigning themgenuine jobs and functions.

 

Enekwe &endash; In effect, you are saying that Christianity givespeople free choice and Will, because one is not threatened with theloss of life when an offence is committed?

 

Ellah &endash; (shaking his head) But you are threatened that youwill go to hell!

 

Enekwe &endash; However, in the traditional society, it's a matterof life and death if you commit evil. That's the one that motivatespeople to be morally….

 

Ellah - Partly so... But at the same time, government today isbased on Christian philosophy. Even so, Christian philosophy says youwill be punished in the hereafter, while good government punisheshere and now if the judiciary is effective in its work with lawenforcement agents. Unfortunately, none of these organs arefunctioning properly.

 

Enekwe - What it means is that as a result of militaryinterference, they fail to function properly?

 

Ellah- Yes, there is another point that I will like to mention;the transfer from colonialism to independence was not completed inthe way it should have been. The moral values we are talking aboutare transferred from one generation to another; it is not everythingthat one reads from books that you transfer. However, the transferfrom colonialism to independence was broken when the military cameinto power, even though I might add that what the British left forus, was not as good as it should have been. They transferred theirown system of government and set up this tripod, so to speak.

 

The House of Representatives was created with a permanent majorityfrom the North, probably out of sympathy for the Northerners who didnot have much Western education at the time. In 1934-1948, only onenortherner had passed through the Higher College; a man called Dikko,a veterinary surgeon. And at Ibadan in 1948, there were nonortherners, though a few were in Barewa College, Zaria, including(Justice) Bello my good friend. These students had to be taught byassistant lecturers to pass the London Matriculation.

 

Out of the anxiety to protect the north came the suppression ofthe south, and the British declared it the dominant majority. One hasnot the time to go into details about what happened, but I know thatthe 1950 meeting at Ibadan was attended by 18 delegates from thenorth, west and east, and I think 3 British officials. And the northdemanded a majority while the south said there had to be anadjustment with the boundary demarcation between them. Even so, thenorth got what they wanted and the south did not; that was thecollapse of the republic, and how the north came about possessing alarge majority.

 

 

HARD WORK AND DISCIPLINE

Otiono - In your autobiography you are quoted as saying: "…this experience taught me that anyone can surmount any problem inlife if he works hard enough. This understanding helps to boost myself-confidence, and is a prerequisite for a successful career inpublic administration…." Looking back now to that experience andhow it shaped your confidence to overcome the challenges ofadulthood, can you take a quick look at your experiencevis-à-vis your children's, and how it has affected yourpolitical life?

 

Ellah - Well, to tell you the truth, I do not think my childrenhave gone through the kind of experience that I had. They never hadtheir fees in arrears. They did not have to get into only one higherinstitution in the country. Just before the Yaba Common entranceexamination, I sat in the house for three months without goingoutside, night and day, just eating and studying. How can my childrendo that? But because I did not want to end up a clerk, I wanted to goto the higher college as I knew people did not pass easily.Seriously, there were, perhaps, one or two such institutions in thecountry, at the time. So my children did not have to go through thesesorts of challenges. As for their choice of career; by the time theyqualified --I have three boys -- two of them are here, and one inBritain who studied Architecture. The first boy read Economics andthe last one is a lawyer -- they have no respect for a Civil Servicethat is already collapsed, where salaries don't get paid. I could noteven persuade them to go into Civil Service; it is no longer what itwas in my day. My son, the lawyer, works as the company secretary buthe has his own clients, and whatever I give them as emoluments, theylaugh at it and put it in their pockets. They have not had the kindof situation that I had.

 

THE COLLAPSE OF THE EDUCATIONAL SECTOR

 

Enekwe &endash; What about the quality of education? For instance,you were talking about the ratio of teachers to students during yourdays, how do you see that now?

 

Ellah &endash; Well, I had the opportunity to see new institutionsemerge, at Ibadan and Nsukka. I was actually posted to anon-existence College of Science and Technology as a registrar. Iwent there and started the school from scratch. In Ibadan, we werethe pioneer students. In each case, I found that the closerelationship with professors, teachers and lecturers presented a verygreat advantage. Apart from what you read in books, the human contactwas fantastic, and helped, too, to make one understand the world inwhich we live.

Some of the teachers had various ideas, some of which were notreligious. I remember one of them who told me about the After Life.He said to me, if you are dead, you are dead; and he did not say anymore than that. I was terribly scandalized, but I did not tell himso. The man was an atheist. I went to the chaplain and complained,but he told me not to mind the man; otherwise he was a good man. Youare exposed to all manner of things, and that is a reflection of reallife. I think that, for me, close contact with all those people madea lot of difference.

 

Enekwe - In what way did it affect your motivation as astudent?

 

Ellah - Personally speaking, the fact that the teacher knew me andmy abilities, and so on, was a great encouragement. It is a differentsituation today with students whose teachers hardly know them. If youare close to your teacher, even when you omit a paragraph whilereading your script, he already knows what your capabilities are. Ithink this would go a long way in motivating a student, since thelatter is aware he or she is working with someone who understandsthem better. And even when the student slips back, the teacher wouldlet him or her know. That cannot happen nowadays when you have alecturer teaching hundreds of students at the same time. I think thatthe student/University faculty ratio is very important.

 

Otiono &endash; A vital point that you made earlier, and whichstrikes me as someone from a younger generation than yours, is havingto order books from London with a loan. My father was able to orderclothes, shoes, through the postal system as the West. Now, how doyou feel seeing that in the same lifetime, one can no longer orderbooks without their disappearing, and even then, students no longerhave privileges to loans?

 

Ellah &endash; Having access to loans is a slightly differentthing from the other things you mentioned. The issue of studentaccess to loans is a failure of administration, I believe. The postalsystem does not work; the financial system is not working, either.One cannot order books anymore, and even then, it costs a lot ofmoney. We have ministries of communications and finance that are notfunctioning or as efficient they should be. You might order somethingin Europe and America, however once in Nigeria, there is a bottleneck, and it might take a year or two for your order to get to you.In my day, a student might get a loan of twenty pounds from theprincipal, but that was personal; that showed how well disposed theman was to the student...there are still people like that today.

 

Enekwe &endash; Are there any other factors in your earlyeducation that impacted positively on you and other students; factorsthat are no longer visible within this context, apart from what youhave told us? For instance, I know that while you were growing upthere were many bookstores around…

 

Ellah &endash; Wait a minute, yes and no. I don't think readinghas developed much in Nigeria. What I know is that this culture hadnot been well established in the past, and has evolved not much more,today. I did not begin reading in primary school as such. I lived fora time with an Archbishop named Father Greats, and then I discoveredthat I had to sit down and study, otherwise, my position in class didnot go beyond eighth or thereabout. It was only at the secondaryschool level that I developed a competitive spirit, especially livingwith the Archbishop I mentioned earlier. Students always struggled tobe in the lead in class, and so on, and our teachers saw thateducation was something very important and wonderful.

J.A Levin was the first Principal of Sacred Heart College inCalabar. He taught us in level three at Holy Family. The faculty ofthe time was very thorough and tough too. If you did not do yourwork, they made you do it. In the dormitory, there were specifictimes for reading or for other activities. We admired some of thepriests, say a fellow like Father Cookery, who had three doctorates.We admired his method of lecturing, and when he left, we studentsthought we should also aim at such things. Really, the teachers werevery thorough.

 

I think such standards were the same in schools like DMGS (DennisMemorial Grammar School, Onitsha); then government colleges hadeducation officers. If you put in six years, you had a good advantageover others, so we had to struggle harder to catch up. When we allgot to that place, it was a level field, as nobody had any specialadvantage over the other. There was the Great Mission School,Calabar, CKC (Christ the King College, Onitsha) and GovernmentCollege, Umuahia. In Lagos, we had St. Gregory and of course KingsCollege.

 

Otiono &endash; What do you think of the disappearance of suchquality schools, especially as someone who has been involved in theadministrative process in this country?

 

Ellah &endash; My view about education is that there was no goodreason for the take over of the mission schools. Those schools shouldhave been left with the proprietors.

 

Otiono - So you consider the take over of schools a gravemistake?

 

Ellah &endash; Yes, it was a tragedy. The teachers were devotedand dedicated; they were not in the service to make money. And onceyou took over these schools, such people could no longer work thereanymore -- like the priest I mentioned. We lost all that advantage,so -- from the point of moral justification, the government shouldnot take over property like that; government should not monopolizeeducation. The search for truth should not be monopolised in any way.In other countries, people are allowed to establish any number ofschools.

 

Tragically, having taken over these schools, the government wenton to establish a number of schools, but has been unable to maintaina standard. The dedicated teachers are gone, and those presentlyteaching are rarely paid, thus presenting them with little incentivein their chosen profession. These teachers share a large number ofstudents without the proper resources.

 

Enekwe - I would like to go back to the question of our readingculture. From what you have said, even when you were in theuniversity, the habit of reading had not fully developed. Whateffects do you think this has had on the country?

 

Ellah - It is retrogressive. We can't have enough vision of whatis going on elsewhere. Some of our people have a very poor sense ofhistory. We have forgotten what we've gone through two years ago. Wedon't read widely. In our time, we read mainly to pass exams. When weencountered somebody reading a novel, we asked him in Igbo dialectwhat was wrong. In our opinion, he was wasting his time. But I thinkthings are changing now; in fact, you -- Professor Enekwe -- are in abetter position to educate me on the situation. Do students nowadaysread widely? It seems they spend more time watching T.V.; or am Iwrong?

 

Otiono &endash; Now, just to extend that a little bit, because itis very important -- the kind of education people possess, and how itinfluences their adult life. Looking around your office here, onefinds a rich collection of books; how do you see this love ofknowledge in relation to the people you have encountered in thepolitical terrain, and how has this affected the quality of policiesthat have been made over time?

 

Ellah - I must say quite honestly that in many of the people thatyou meet nowadays, it does not appear that the reading habit has beenvery much cultivated. Professor Enekwe can tell me whether there hasbeen an improvement. When I was in secondary school, we had alibrary, and you were made to read a book every month; however, uponentrance into higher education, people seem not to spend much timeover recreational reading. Only school subjects, it seems, are beingstudied. I lost lots of my books in Enugu during the war, because Iwas in London, and my family just managed to leave the house withsuitcases to get on the train to Aba. I lost everything. So the loveof reading is a culture, and just as the political culture, that hasnot developed significantly.

 

Otiono - This must have contributed to the failure to develop thepolitical culture and policy formulation…

 

Ellah &endash; Yes.

 

BIAFRA AND THE NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR (1967-1970)

Otiono - I am aware you set up a Biafran office in London duringthe war, and were also running the Biafran Students' Union. What wereyour personal experiences of the war especially in relation to yourcontemporaries?

Ellah - Well, I didn't fight in the war, so I cannot claim to havemuch practical experience of the civil war; however, I was only adeputy prime minister of trade. Since I had a career in diplomaticservice training, it was decided that I would be posted abroad toestablish the Biafran Embassy in London. I mildly suggested thatAmbassadors, Eastern Ambassadors, who have been removed from serviceshould be sent, instead, so I could be deputy permanent secretary,but I was told -- no, no, no, they are not diplomats; theyunfortunately know nothing about ongoing developments; only officerswere being sent there.

I was actually ordered to take up the responsibility, and was toldthat I had to obey. And so I went and set up the embassy, which Itried to run as a proper diplomatic mission. I sent a dispatch at theend of every month to the home foreign ministry, giving updates ofthe position underground, and making recommendations as to whatactions might be taken. I remember that the last dispatch I wrote wasjust before Kampala. After that I was recalled, and I obeyed theorder, wrote my Will, dropped it with my family in London, and cameback home. Some friends said I should not, but I followed myconscience, and came back to Biafra.

When I came back to Biafra, I was sent to the Ministry ofTransport and Communications. From there I was reassigned asSecretary to the Atrocities Commission, and we had a good recordwhich I doubt can ever be rivalled; that is if it can still betraced. I wrote something on the war effort, which I thought shouldbe published; but the manuscripts were removed by an acting SP(Superintendent of Police) called Mr. Orudoye: he signed for it, butI have not been able to recover it till today.

Otiono - Seriously?

Ellah &endash; Yes…

Otiono - Can you give us an idea of the contents? Just a summary;an insight…

Ellah &endash; My dear friend, this is agonizing…

Otiono &endash; Can you remember the title?

Ellah - This is the year 2005, and I wrote this around April 1970.It is very difficult for anyone to remember a painful thing likethat. I think my work dealt mainly with the diplomatic aspects of thewar, and I cannot discuss diplomatic issues without considering otherfactors. It was simply a public servant's approach to writing. But Ithink it must have been of material interest, because the federalgovernment at that time thought it fit to be confiscated. Even so, Icould never write the same thing again, because the circumstances,the circumstances have changed; it is not easy, not easy.

 

Otiono - In hindsight would you…

 

Ellah &endash; Sorry, I think you are asking about the title, Ithink the title was something like AGAINST FEARFUL ODDS.

 

Enekwe &endash; With the advantage of hindsight, would youconsider the Biafran experience necessary; I mean, was Biafra anecessary historical development?

 

Ellah - I think the circumstances that led to Biafra are veryunique; I remember that when I heard news of the secession on theradio I almost broke down…the causes were quite traumatic. Ithink once secession had been declared, the efforts made to fight thewar were staggering. We were highly impressed by the solidarity shownby the Eastern Region. Then we had a cause we were fighting for. Ithink that around March 1968 when we were in a position to achieve aconfederation we should have accepted the chance or opportunity. Whenwe were insisting that Biafran sovereignty was not negotiable as thegovernment thought at the time, we ought to have considered thetragedy of the situation because this country would have been muchbetter if we had a confederation of four to six states other thanwhat we have now.

 

Enekwe - The impression that was given then was that it was thefederal government that reneged on the peace agreement or the Aburiagreement. Did the Federal Government renege on the agreement; ineffect, leading to the continuation of the war?

 

Ellah - Partly so; but around the time of the Kampala talks, therewere definite signs that a confederation could be achieved. TheBiafran side was adamant on the fact of sovereignty beingnon-negotiable.

 

REMINISCES OF POLITICS, BOOKS AND FRIENDS

 

Enekwe - You have made an important point about the politicalstructure of the country. You said it would have been better off witha confederation of states -- about six states. What do you thinkabout the current six geopolitical structure and agitations of ethnicminorities?

 

Ellah &endash; I observed in my book, Nigeria and State Creationthat the maximum legitimate states of this country should be abouteighteen, and the minimum, anything between four and thirteen. Thisshould address the inequality created by the system handed over to usby the British that permitted the North to have a standing orpermanent majority in the parliament. Once that is achieved, I don'tthink we would get into trouble anymore.

 

But rather than think in terms of zones, I much prefer thegeographic term, regions. At present, zones are simply for sharingposts and so on. If they were to operate autonomously with their owngovernors, then we must retain thirty-six groups -- which might meanproviding another term for it -- but which could be a big improvementthat saves significantly on the expenditure already made on theexisting states. The present system is expensive, and with 36 states,there's certainly need for worry.

 

Now, some people talk about America having 50 states; therefore 36for Nigeria is okay. But that's absurd, because Texas alone is almostas large as Nigeria. The creation of states must not involve creatingpostage stamp sized entities; it must be based on history and abackground of development, so that people can effectively staytogether. No ethnic group in any of the entities should be greaterthan all the others put together; I think that this is what happenedin the First Republic, and which caused much trouble in Nigeria. Onceyou bear that in mind, there ought to be limitations in thecombinations that are adopted, in order to have well balancedstructures. This is not accomplished by simply creating innumerablestates in the hopes that this will solve our problems.

 

Enekwe - Were those with experience in administration not closelycontacted and encouraged to contribute ideas when these matters werebeing discussed?

 

Ellah &endash; Could you please specify what matters, inparticular, professor?

 

Enekwe - For instance, in the creation of states...

 

Ellah - You know that this situation is what my unfinished motionin the Senate was based on. I was trying to move a motion at theSenate, at the time, that I thought was highly crucial to theprogress of Nigeria -- the structure was the problem. But I wasstopped from giving the speech...

 

Otiono &endash; Sir, just to sharpen your reflections on thisissue, would you also like to comment on how this led to yourprincipled resignation from the Senate, which is perhaps the onlysuch example we know of in this country?

 

Ellah - Well, that is why I had the motion written out; actuallydelivered in the course of the debate. However, the way it washandled by the senate president… Well I don't want to comment onhis efficiency.

 

Otiono &endash; Please remind us who the Senate president was atthe time?

 

Ellah - Joseph Wayas.

 

Otiono - This was in Nineteen Eighty…

 

Ellah &endash; 1981; November, 1981…so I thought I shouldquit. The parliament is a speaking house; if one cannot speak, thereis no freedom of speech! The parliament is a talking house; youshould be free to talk. So I said if I wasn't free to talk, I shouldbe free to write, and I wrote the book, Nigeria and State Creation.But did it change anything? Did it? And I am not sure how widely readit was, but in the book, I addressed this problem we are talkingabout today. I said that the creation of states should be left to thedemand of the people; especially when this demand has a possibilityof growing indefinitely.

 

Enekwe - Of course...

 

Ellah - And even if we have a thousand states, people will stilldemand more states. That is the basis of Nigeria and State Creation.In the book, I considered all the criteria for state creation; forinstance &endash; the state of Rhode Island in the United States isas small as a local Government here, while the state of Texas is aslarge, or, perhaps, larger than Nigeria; so the creation of states ishardly a case of just dividing the place like a crafts man; theremust be the history of the place and other considerations to be takeninto account!!!

 

Enekwe &endash; So this relates to what you were saying about ourreading culture. I mean…the fact is that you have alreadywritten about these issues even if it appears nobody has paidattention. Was the book ever reviewed?

 

Ellah &endash; I think so. In fact, Professor Chinua Achebe and Iattended the launch ceremony in Lagos, and the attendance was poor.Then there were one or two reviews of the book. Apart from that, themedia did not pay much attention to what we are talking about.

 

Otiono &endash; Well, Chinua Achebe wrote the Foreword?

 

Ellah &endash; Yes he did…

 

Enekwe - And I know also that you are one of the patrons of OkikeJournal which Chinua Achebe founded.

 

Ellah &endash; Hmn? Is that so?

 

Enekwe &endash; (amused) Sir; we are aware of that!

 

Ellah (chuckles)

 

Enekwe - Sometimes I wonder… How did you meet Chinua Achebe;at Ibadan?

 

Ellah - Yes, we were classmates.

 

Otiono - What is your relationship with Chinua Achebe?

 

Ellah - We were very close. As I told you earlier, Ibadan was asmall community in our time; the total number of students was about270. And speaking for myself, I didn't know what I wanted to study; Ionly wanted higher education. When they asked me what I would read, Imentioned the subject I did best in the entrance examination. Peoplehad different opinions on my performance, but Chinua Achebe came inand said he wanted to study Medicine. Some where along the line, hechanged to English. The world would have lost a great writer, indeed,had he become a Medical officer.

 

Otiono &endash; At the time, did you share a similar interest inliterature?

 

Ellah - By the way, I used to write in the Herald and The Bug. Iremember one of my earliest writings was called From Dawn to Dusk.There were other writers like Mabel Imokhuede - Mabel Segun now, etc;however, I did not survive, I did not write a lot.

 

Otiono - What did you finally study?

 

Ellah &endash; I read History.

 

Enekwe &endash; And Chinua Achebe read History also?

 

Ellah &endash; Yes, a combination of History and Literature.

 

Enekwe &endash; Beyond that, what other relationship did you havewith Chinua Achebe?

 

Ellah - When you leave a place like Ibadan and you come out intoreal life, you don't meet your formal colleagues too often. How manyof us of that generation came from the East and how many were Igbos?You can imagine those of us like Chinua Achebe, Sam Nwoye, JohnMunonye, Ben Nwosu, and James Ezeilo... When Chinua was Director ofExternal Broadcasting at NBC, we didn't see much of him, but when hecame to the East and began lecturing at Nsukka, we saw often. When Iquit the Senate, he was among the few who showed interest when I toldhim I was writing about the experience. I showed him my writing fromtime to time and he made his contributions. He was very touched bywhat was going on, and he showed much concern. I had developedinterest too in his writing, and I tried to study them; that's thebest I could do.

 

Otiono - Christopher Okigbo was in Ibadan, as well; what you'reyour memories of him?

 

Ellah &endash; Yes, Chris was a very sociable type. And Chinua wasquite reticent, but Chris talked all the time, telling everyone hemet what he thought of the person (laughs). Chris read Classics butnobody knew that his poems meant anything. We read them and then hepublished a few of them, and they turned out to be monumental works.The last time I saw Chris was when I came back from London, and heregaled us with detailed account of his exploits. At one time when hewas Librarian at UNN (University of Nigeria), and I had just startedwork with the Foreign service in 1962, I built a home near Enugucampus, and was within 300 yards to Chris Okigbo's home on thecampus. This brought us closer together. Then of course, I met hisolder brother, Pius.

 

Enekwe &endash; What about Wole Soyinka?

 

Ellah - We shook hands from time to time.

 

Enekwe &endash; What other poet and writer did you meet then; whatabout Okara?

 

Ellah - He was in my Ministry. After the war, I was PermanentSecretary for the Ministry of Information and Local GovernmentAffairs (in Rivers State), and he was already there. When I becamethe Secretary to government and Head of service, we brought him asCommissioner of Information, but he did not stay long.

 

Otiono - How were you able to be this close to all these writersand did not desire to become one? We know that John Munonye wrote TheOnly Son at your place. What were your attempts at writing?

 

Ellah - I was serving as District Officer in charge of OrluDivision, in 1958 when John Munonye, my friend and an educationofficer then, came on leave to visit me. He was considering whetherhe was interested in writing; we wondered that our classmate, Achebe,wrote Things Fall Apart and is known all round the world, and so wesaid -- why don't we write, as well? Was he the only one with analpha in English at Ibadan? We then decided that we were going towrite like Achebe, and produce our own Things Fall Apart.

 

So I told John I would allocate a Guest house to him so we couldwork together and meet every evening. We met the first night and heselected the title, "The Only Son." I chose some title that I cannotnow remember. So, the two of us began to write feverishly. About twoweeks after, I saw that my files at the office were suffering. At thetime, in the administrative service -- with all the eagle eyesexpatriates -- about fifty indigenous workers were chucked out or notconfirmed. Those who were confirmed had to sit tight or be shown theway out. I told John that I didn't want to lose my job; that thiswriting business…I no longer thought I was gifted for it. I thenbrought out my manuscript of about a hundred pages or so, and tore itup. John almost wept. But he said he would go on writing, though hewas unhappy with what I did. I offered him my home to stay as long ashe wished, and promised to visit him from time to time. That was mylast attempt at writing. I later recounted this story to ChinuaAchebe, and he laughed his head off.

 

Otiono -   At what point did you decide to go intoactive politics?

 

Ellah - I never got into active politics, as such. I retired fromthe public service voluntarily in November 1978, and civilian rulewas just around the corner. People actually thought that I hadretired in order to go into politics and run for a post; but I hadretired in order to follow my investments and make greater headwaywith business. But then it turned out that I had to run for theSenate. When I eventually quit as a senator, I said I would neveragain go anywhere near politics. But that was until about December1992, and then Sanni Abacha rang me up saying that I was in theTransition Council. I said -- "What is that?" He explained that itwas a council preparing for the hand over to a civilian regime. Itold him I would think about it. By 9.00 pm, he rang me again, andthough I told my wife I was going to reject it, she persuaded me toserve.

Otiono &endash; Did you think it was an illegality as the courtdeclared, and was that why you didn't want to go back?

Ellah -It was strange to me. In any case, the annulment waswithout our knowledge. We had no idea what was happening, even thoughwe were on the cabinet. The next thing was to hear on the radio thatan annulment of the June 12 election had taken place -- that was badenough in my view. I thought of the reluctance with which I went toserve on the council then wondered again how it was that I foundmyself in politics afterwards. But this was because Alex Ekwueme andBola Ige -- another of our illustrious classmates -- came to me andsaid: "You are like us, and since we are not in the Five Governmentcreated parties (Bola Ige described it as five fingers of a leproushand), we should get together." I said I thought it excellent that weshould be discussing the affairs of Nigeria, so we formed theInstitute of Civil Society in Lagos…in my office.

This Institute enlightened us as to the fact that Abacha wasactually planning his self succession, and we thought this was a bittoo much. So we turned out the G-34 protest. It was the G-34 thatbecame the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party). That's how I found myselfinvolved again in politics without my planning it. I found that afterthe initial arrangement that we made at the party, I became appointedthe National Vice Chairman, South-South, and I launched all thebranches from Edo to Calabar. There were so many uncertainties andeven rumours about the Presidency being zoned to the South-South; yetthe constitution was not even out, and we did not know what toexpect.

However, I found that all people were saying was that they wantedto be President of Nigeria. I finally decided that I was no longer inthe mood to play a supporting role to such people. As a matter offact, I realized that my name should have been among the candidates.That gave me the opportunity of actually resigning from the post ofNational Vice Chairman as one was not allowed to combine posts. So Ifinally resigned. I think that this is what saved me because may be Iwould have been assassinated before now. You can see, what happenedto my two successors. It's a very frightening and sad situation. Ithank God that I resigned. I am only a member of the Party's Board ofTrustees today, which is a purely advisory body. We don't takeexecutive decisions; it gives you an opportunity to see what is goingon.

Enekwe and Otiono: Thank you very much, sir, for sitting down totalk to us.

Ellah: Thank you; it was a great pleasure.

(The views expressed in the preceding intervieware not necessarily those of the Chinua Achebe Foundation. The ChinuaAchebe Foundation, an intellectual and cultural organization,believes in the right of every Nigerian to express their opinion).


Osamabin-Laden's goons threaten Nigeria and Africa's stability.USAfricaonline.com Special Report by ChidoNwangwu
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Achebe, scholar, social conscience, cultural historian and globally-acclaimed writer, has been a significant and binding source for an engaging understanding of African pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history and realities. I believe that such insight has made him a favorite of African-Americans, and other scholars and regular folks in search of a better, realistic understanding of Africa, at least, from Achebe's utilization of his rich and dynamic Igbo ancestry, in south eastern Nigeria. I share the same ancestry, and he's one of my mentors.
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Why is 4-year old Onyedika carrying a placard against killings in Nigeria?
How Nigeria's Islamic Sharia crises will affect the U.S.
USAfrica INTERVIEW "Why African Catholics are concerned about crises, sex abuse issues in our church" - a frank chat with ICCO's Mike Umeorah
Johnnie Cochran will soon learn that defending Abacha's loot is not as simple as his O.J Simpson's case. By Chido Nwangwu The Economics of Elections in Nigeria
HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY How far, how deep will Nigeria's human rights commission go?
Rtd. Gen. Babangida trip as emissary for Nigeria's Obasanjo to Sudan raises curiosity, questions about what next in power play?
COUNTERPOINT 'Why is Bill Maher spreading racist nonsense about HIV/AIDS and Africa on ABC?
Hate groups' spin by Lamar Alexander benefits anti-Blacks, anti-Semites, and racists
Annan, power and burden of the U.N
The Civilianizing of African soldiers into Presidents
At 39, Nigerians still face dishonest stereotypes such as Buckley's, and other self-inflicted wounds.
JFK Jr.: Death of a Good Son
'Why is Bill Maher spreading racist nonsense about HIV/AIDS and Africa on ABC?
National
Summit on Africa, Congresswoman Jackson-Lee hold policy forum in Houston
'100 Black Men are solutions-oriented' says Thomas Dortch, Jr., Richard Johnson and Nick Clayton II as they share perspectives with USAfrica's founder on the national
organization.
Community Service Awards bring African-American, American
policy and business leaders together with African community at Texas Southern University
110 minutes with Hakeem Olajuwon
Cheryl Mills' first class defense of Clinton and her detractors' game 
Nigeria, Cry My Beloved Country


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

Index of Founder's Notes (1)

Index of Founder's Notes (2)

Index of other Viewpoints USAfricaonline contributors and columnists on the issues


Will the rash of Ethnic Violence disrupt Nigeria's effort at Democracy?
USAfrica FORUM
IN THE HOUSE OF MANDELA: A SILLY CRY FOR REPARATIONS By Prof. Chimalum Nwankwo
Nigerian stabbed to death in his bathroom in Houston.
EndGame in Kinshasa: U.S must boot Mobutu for own interest, future of Zaire and Africa
Seriously, is your web site a Turkey, too? Get Solutions
PetroGasWorks Shell picks Leslie Mays as VP Global Diversity
Why Powell's mission to the Middle East failed. By Jonathan Elendu
TRANSITION
General Tunde Idiagbon:  A nationalist, an iron-surgeon departs
Abiola's sudden death and the ghost of things to come  
Gen. Shehu Musa Yar'Adua's prison death, Nigeria and The Ghost of Things to come ..... 

USAfricaonline.com INSIGHT:
How
Obasanjo's self-succession charade at his Ota Farm has turned Nigeria to an 'Animal Farm.' By Prof. Mobolaji Aluko


Is Obasanjo ordained by God to rule Nigeria? And, other fallacies. By Prof. Sola Adeyeye
Obasanjo was not sworn in merely to
"mean well" for Nigeria. By Obi Nwakanma

Obasanjo's 'prayers' and the Abacha path of staying in power. By Nkem Ekeopara
Creative writing, publishing and the future of
Nigerian Literature. By Prof. Chukwuemeka Ike
APPRECIATION
A young father writes his One year old son: "If only my heart had a voice...."
Nigeria, a terrible beauty. By Chido Nwangwu
Why Nigeria and Africa's leaders are leading us to nowhere. By Professor Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, contributing editor of USAfricaonline.com, author of the highly-acclaimed African Literature in Defence of History: An Essay on Chinua Achebe and a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics.

Abati's Revisionisms and Distortions of history. By Obi Nwakanma, USAfrica The Newspaper contributing editor and award-winning poet
Reuben Abati's fallacies on Nigeria's history and secession. By Bayo Arowolaju
How Abati, Adelaja and others fuel the campaign of hatred against Ndigbo. By Jonas Okwara
"Obasanjo, secession and the
secessionists": A response to Reuben Abati's Igbophobia. By Josh Arinze, USAfricaonline.com contributing editor.
Abati and other
anti-Igbo bigots in Nigeria. By Chuks Iloegbunam, USAfricaonline.com contributing editor and author of Ironsi

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



Anambra's rigged 2003 elections: Chris Uba's confession at WIC 2004 in Newark, USA. In a matter-of-fact manner, PDP's chieftain in Anambra Chris Uba stood up and astonished all that were present in Newark when he said, "We, the PDP, did not win the election (of 2003). I have gone to church to confess. The election had no document. I called the result before 12 midnight. I gave INEC the money and asked them to call the result." The revelation caused an uproar as well as some applause in the hall. "The person we took his thing is here," Uba said, pointing at Peter Obi (the APGA candidate) who was sitting among the audience, in the back row.

USAfrica The Newspaper voted the "Best Community Newspaper" in the 4th largest city in the U.S., Houston. It is in the Best of Houston special as chosen by the editors and readers of the Houston Press, reflecting their poll and annual rankings.
DEMOCRACY WATCH: Obasanjo raped Nigeria's constitution by suspending Plateau Assembly and Governor. Prof. By Prof. Ben Nwabueze, leading constitutional scholar in the Commonwealth for almost 45 years, former Nigerian federal minister and SAN.
OIL in NIGERIA: Liquid Gold or Petro-Dollars Curse?
Investigating Marc Rich and his deals with Nigeria's Oil
Through an elaborate network of carrots and sticks and a willing army of Nigeria's soldiers and some civilians, controversial global dealer and billionaire Marc Rich, literally and practically, made deals and steals; yes, laughed his way to the banks from crude oil contracts, unpaid millions in oil royalties and false declarations of quantities of crude lifted and exported from Nigeria for almost 25 years. Worse, he lifted Nigeria's oil and shipped same to then embargoed apartheid regime in South Africa. Read Chido Nwangwu's NEWS INVESTIGATION REPORT for PetroGasWorks.com
MEDIAWATCH
Should Africa debates begin and end at The New York Times and The Washington Post?
Nelson Mandela, Tribute to the world's political superstar and Lion of Africa  
TRIBUTE
Nnamdi Azikiwe: Statesman, Intellectual and Titan of African politics

CONTINENTAL AGENDA

Bush's position on Africa is "ill-advised." The position stated by Republican presidential aspirant and Governor of Texas, George Bush where he said that "Africa will not be an area of priority" in his presidency has been questioned by USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. He added that Bush's "pre-election position was neither validated by the economic exchanges nor geo-strategic interests of our two continents." These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.' Nwangwu, adviser to the Mayor of Houston (the 4th largest city in the U.S., and immigrant home to thousands of Africans) argued further that "the issues of the heritage interests of 35 million African-Americans in Africa, the volume and value of oil business between between the U.S and Nigeria and the horrendous AIDS crisis in Africa do not lend any basis for Governor Bush's ill-advised position which removes Africa from fair consideration" were he to be elected president. By Al Johnson
ARTS
The Life and Irreverent times of Afrobeat superstar, FELA

 

 

PANAFRICANIST
Tanzania's founding president Julius Nyerere    

 


Impeachment process shows Nigerian democracy "is alive... being tested." Nigeria's president retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo has said that the impeachment process shows that "democracy is alive, is being tested, and being tried.... What they (the legislators) have tried to do in the democratic way, which is not easy, would probably have been done by taking arms or by -- with bullets. So, but with democracy, of course, some people feel that this is the way this should be, and then I have an opportunity to defend myself. There is discussion. There is dialogue. There is a decision. There is fairness." He made these comments when he appeared on Tuesday September 17, 2002 on CNN International to discuss the issues of impeachment facing him, the allegations of corruption, abuse of the constitution and deployment of soldiers ina civilian environment which led to the "massacre of civilians" in Odi (Bayelsa) and Zaki Biam (Benue). On the charges by international human rights organizations and Nigerian media that his government has been involved in actions which have led to the deaths of thousands of Nigerians, the retired General gave a surprising answer. He was asked that "as many as 10,000 people, it's being reported, have been killed in Nigeria (in) communal rivalries, and the number is believed to be increasing. And people are saying that although President Obasanjo has done a lot of good for Nigeria, you're accused of not -- accused of failing to halt that spiraling violence."

Obasanjo: "Let me say this to you, when you put the question of 10,000 -- 10,000 people dying in Nigeria, of course, for a population of over 120 million people...." But USAfricaonline.com Founder and recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), Chido Nwangwu, who appeared on the same program as as a CNN International analyst (Africa) pointed out that "when (President Obasanjo) answered that in a country of 100 million that 10,000 people are said to have died, as if that was a small number, that in itself reflects a disconnect with the concerns of Nigerians. The second one is that when the risk is civil disagreement, the police are required to intervene in the country. And the deployment of the armed forces of Nigeria requires at least some consultation, however modest, with the parliament." Nwangwu, former member of the editorial board of Nigeria's Daily Times continued that "the third factor that is equally important to underscore is that the armed forces of Nigeria moved in for a punitive action rather than just containing a civil disagreement." He noted in USAfricaonline.com backgrounder "it was revealing and interesting interesting discussing Nigeria's issues with its leader - under the current circumstances of an increasingly out-of-schedule elections and the gathering storm of an impeachment process by a majority of the members of the National Assembly, predominantly by Obasanjo's party members." See rush transcript of the CNN International news program.


Obasanjo facing corruption and ineptitude impeachment charges, again since the parliament, a few weeks ago, passed a motion carrying a majority of the members of Obasanjo's party, the PDP.
RELIGION AND ETHNIC CONFLICT: Sharia-related killings and carnage in Kaduna reenact deadly prologue to Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967. By Chido Nwangwu
ELECTIONS
Gigolos on the Campaign Trail. By Prof. Walt Brasch
Can Africa live a future without war? An Open Letter to Mandela. By Fubara David-West
Sex, Women and (Hu)Woman Rights. By Chika Unigwe
WILL ARINZE BE THE FIRST POPE of RECENT AFRICAN ORIGIN? To our Brother Cardinal Arinze: May your pastoral lineage endure!

The Democratic Party stood for nothing in 2002 election cycle. By Jonathan Elendu

HEALTHWATCH
EVA champions efforts to combat AIDS among Nigerian youth. By Jessica Rubin
Pros and cons of the
circumcision debate. By Ngozi Ezeji, RN
TRIBUTE
Prof. Chimere Ikoku: Remembering the legacy of a pan-Africanist, scientist and gentleman. By Prof. Chudi Uwazurike
 
Can Africa live a future without war? An Open Letter to Mandela. By Fubara David-West, USAfricaonline.com contributing editor
COUNTERPOINT
Tiger Woods is no Nelson Mandela! By Chido Nwangwu
SPORTS: Tiger Woods makes more history with another golf Masters win. He shot 12-under-par 276 and a final round 71 at Georgia's Augusta National Golf Club event and collected $1,008,000, on Sunday April 14, 2002. With it, the world's golf phenom added another green jacket to his array of championships and titles, placing him, in this instance, in the same respected Masters' league as Nicklaus (winner 1965 and 1966) and Nick Faldo (1989 and 1990). The three are the only men to win back-to-back Masters. At 26, Woods has since become the youngest golfer to win his seventh professional major championship. He was joined by his parents and his 22 year-old Swedish model girlfriend, Elin Nordegren.
It's wrong to stereotype Nigerians as Drug Dealers. By Chido Nwangwu
Nigeria as a Nation of Vulcanizers
Why Colin
Powell brings gravitas, credibility and star power to Bush presidency.
PUBLIC POLICY
Private initiative, free market forces, and more democratization are keys to prosperity in Africa.
The
Civilianizing of African soldiers into Presidents
Maduekwe, Nwachukwu clash over Obasanjo at World Igbo 2002 convention in Houston. USAfrica Special report

DEMOCRACY DEBATE
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 USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. Transcripts are available on the CNN International site.

Steve Jobs and Apple represent the future of digital living. By Chido Nwangwu
The coup in Cote d'Ivoire and its implications for democracy in Africa. By Chido Nwangwu
(Related commentary) Coup in Cote d'Ivoire has been in the waiting. By Tom Kamara