FEATURE ARTICLE

Patrick OdionikhereSunday, July 19, 2009
odionik.patrick@hotmail.com
Austria

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CONSCIENCE IN CRISIS

nly absent minds are not purged by the level of moral decadence and the arrogance of the elite class in Nigeria. Each passing day reveal disturbing new level of corruption, police brutality and extortion, and crimes. The situation could be said to be the climax of the work of those who set Nigeria on the part of failure. Even so, you wonder by the event of things whether there are still wise men abound anymore for the restoration of conscience in Nigeria. With this in mind, however, this article is intended to discuss a couple of contemporary issues including some critical thoughts and exposition on the militancy in the Niger Delta.


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The lack of rule of conscience by the ruling elite has led to the resistance movement in Niger Delta, unrest and violent crimes in Nigeria. There is no debate whether the demands by the people of the Niger Delta are legitimate. The palaver though is whether a genuine political roadmap exists for the Niger Deltans and all the deprived people of Nigeria in getting their fair share of the national wealth. The manifestation of arm struggle is the outcome of lost of faith in the political process that had dragged on for decades of injustice. The arm resistance on the banner of MEND (movement for the emancipation of the Niger Delta) to some extent if not sabotaged by some criminal bandits achieved some feat - making government to shift position so drastically by concession of political amnesty; creation of ministry of Niger Delta and tactic of passive political engagement. Nevertheless, the government must do more and expedite the withdrawal of JTF (joint task force) men from all parts of the Niger Delta. Moreover, the JTF has been acting like an occupying force and violating the international law of war that prohibits any form of maltreatment of non-combatant civilians. Again, how do we immune JTF's men against Nigeria's disease of corruption? Who knows whether some of them are not serving their personal interest than the desire to put down the resistance?

Anyway, government's carrot and stick - amnesty and money for gun policy may seem appropriate and attractive in light of the huge revenue that Nigeria is loosing. Unfortunately, the gesture is cheap and hallow. It is unlikely to meet the desire of those who are fighting the injustices in the Niger Delta if not combined with serious political dialogue to address the injustice. Our people do not want our national resources to be in hands of only few people. Whom, I guess are more happy that the chaos and militancy never end so that they use the cover of militancy to conceal their nefarious activities for MEND to pick the blame. Finding political and lasting peace is paramount to Nigeria's developmental renaissance. Yes, no criminal within the rank and file of MEND deserves amnesty. So also should JTF's men who are found to have committed any unlawful act to escape the long arm of law. Sadly, government's amnesty has not been well conceived. Since, it is collective criminalisation of the struggle of the people of Niger Delta, which is wrong. The demand for the righting of a legitimate cause can never be offensive. Even more contentious is the idea of gun for money policy. This depicts that the government is becoming apprehensive about the consequences of the militancy. Therefore, anything that will make the militants to lay down their arms including financial bribery is okay. You do not need to be a genius to know that it is no wise strategic policy. It is going to backfire and the government is in for a long war, which might not be confined to just the regions in the Niger Delta. Unless, Nigerian elite class become men of conscience and end all forms of injustices.

The trouble in the Niger delta has been covered up and localised despite the war crime committed against a people. Yet, it has hardly been given any international coverage due to foreign and internal economic saboteurs. The criminal element within the MEND has earned genuine freedom fighters a negative image to undermine its central goal of challenging the impunity of recklessness by all those who hold stake in Nigeria's oil and other natural resources. The bribe policy is no more than a quick-fix-thing. It is an irresponsible policy that only those who take to arm get attention as opposed to the unarmed civilian population who are suffering from untold hardship caused by JTF (government's joint task force) terrorism.

Irrespective of what the militants make of the government's unconditional amnesty offer, it is a farce - not honest and a criminalisation of a legitimate struggle. Amnesty for what - no court of law has proscribed the MEND organisation that its activities becomes unlawful. Inasmuch as it remains so, there is no basis for amnesty no matter its imperative. Otherwise, the president's action amounts to an accusation of collective guilt on all the militants. Even though, only a few could be said to be engaged in criminal activity or have infiltrated the agitation struggle for their selfish interest as opposed to the fight for equitable share of our nation's resources among our people than for a few people.

Odd, is the failure of MEND to ask for the withdrawal of the federal government's JTF first before considering the merits of government's position and the possibility of ceasefire agreement. The failing to do this simply lead to an understanding that those engaged in militancy are bunch of hungry criminals who have forsaken and betrayed a legitimate resistance movement. Those who have never engaged in a struggle won't understand the psychological trauma put on those that have remained faithful to duty of sacrifice. Today, Nelson Mandela has become an icon and a celebrated world citizen because he abandoned his self to fight against evil no matter the price. Nigerians forget history so quickly to realise that without the struggle of Nelson Mandela, that South Africa, which has become their second home and haven for their ill gotten wealth would not have come about; needless as a place to find dignity as human beings. No struggle ever ends in vain; unless, it is not informed by self conviction. Therefore, for those still incarcerated for the struggle, this is an advice, freedom without blood is not genuine; the fight is usually a long one; the outcome is sure with a daunting price - only the liberation of your people and anything that serves the common good should be the premise for negotiation. Mandela was imprisoned for 27years and never compromised for anything short of the unconditional freedom of his people no matter the losses he suffered. Ask your subjugator whether right ought to be rewarded with wrong and in so doing, you will break and weaken the spirit of the evildoer in achieving freedom not just for yourselves but for the oppressed people of Nigeria.

It is not only the people in the Niger Delta that are suffering from economic deprivation and other forms of injustices. Regrettably, the pain of the people of the Niger Delta has become a moral burden; apart from the fact that any injustice is a wrongful wrong, which must be fought together. MEND as organisation must learn from the BIAFRAN experience and why it failed. It is missing a point by making it an ethnic affair instead of giving it a national reach so that it ought to be a battle between the ruling class and the ordinary Nigerians. The development of Nigeria has been sabotaged by a few who have cornered the wealth of our nation to leave our people improvised and in darkness. Northern ruling class have held our nation and people hostage that Ghana, whose people until 1983 were economic migrants in Nigeria to surpass our country in every sphere of activity. Nigeria is sixth oil leading producing nation, yet, World Bank poverty index show that 75 percent of our people live on less than a dollar a day. The ruling elite may not agree or may call it another western blackmail because of the desire to conceal the truth. Yet, they won't put it for a public debate. If they are honest, why can't it be debated publicly? After all, we should be able to deal with any criticism, positive or negative if we are aspiring to become relevant economically - the yardstick for measuring progress and development. Do our political elite need someone to remind them of their obligation to invest on our people as our nation's capital for global competitive market where human capital are becoming vital because of dwindling natural resources? If not for the selfishness of our ruling elite, why should fighting malaria become a problem of the international community who are using the trick of aid to corner developing world into more debt burden. Anyway, AREWA, a mouthpiece forum for northern ruling elite to spread malicious propaganda has not been helpful for a better Nigeria that is free of economic parasites. Hence, it wrongly accused Mr Soludo's of being responsible for the extreme poverty in the North with his bank consolidation policy even though it is contrary to logic. Instead of blaming its corrupt political elites who not only held its ethnic group backward but put scrum on Nigeria and its people that no amount of re-branding is able to redeem our international image.

Nigeria is troubled by enemies within. These enemies have improvised us that we have less energy to think like rational beings. The chaos by these thieves who call themselves leaders has led to extreme poverty across Nigeria except for those waiting for stipends from their loved ones abroad. The pressure on the overseas Nigerians by their relative has not made matter easy back in Nigeria as well as for the Nigerians abroad, who now bear the burden of our state's failing. Their financial remittances have postponed an uprising and civil unrest. Otherwise, our ruling class ought not to be waiting for a people's revote before declaring poverty as evil and take the moral lead in ending it. Time is running out and I suspect they want a street fight before poverty becomes a fundamental human right in Nigeria.

Obama's statement in Ghana was unambiguous. He had spoken the language of the common man that the destiny of our continent is in the hands of Africans. Further, that we must hold our leaders to account. Imperatively, he was indirectly saying that he was expecting Africans to engage their leaders in a street fight for failing to do the right-thing. We must underscore his words to ask questions and demand answers from our respective political leaders. The deception of the people of Nigeria whether it is in the Niger Delta, West, East and North must stop. We must reclaim our sinking nation from the ruling Oligarchs who have brought shame and humiliation on our nation and people. There are very many enlightened northerners who, no longer want to be used by its oligarch to cause disunity, while the miscreants launder our nation's resources abroad for their selfish and unpatriotic interests. MEND must stay firm and extend the hand of brotherhood to all the people across Nigeria in stating its case and vociferously. It should stick to the culture of discipline and follow a more intellectual approach. In doing this, it could maximise its political gain. It should not capitulate yet; until oppression is ended in Nigeria.

The idea of one Nigeria may appear to be fading due to the fact that our people have been prevented from coming together to discuss the kind of union they want to create. It has remained so because of the fight over oil revenue control; even though nobody knows what will become of oil in the next decade. As such, it is no waste of effort to seek a united country in view of the prosperity it holds for all of us. Even then, we must resist the fraud, which has been instigated by the elite ruling class to divide our people in securing a better life for themselves, their children and their children's generation.

If you would recall in my last essay - Nigeria is under siege… in which I highlighted some hypothetical questions on President Yar'Adua and the misconception against him. My doubts are coming real on account of the present drama in Bauchi State; where governor Yuguda, the son in-law of President Yar'Adua has abandoned the ANPP, the political platform on which he came to power to join the PDP. In an ideal scenario, I find nothing wrong if his action was informed by his own ideal and ideology - being a man of himself and own mind. In other words, living up to moral stricture as demanded by the duty of public service; if inconsistent with his ANPP's narrow interest in crossing the line for public good. Unfortunately, the coincidence of being the President's son-in-law, who is himself in PDP, another political group, renders the latter thinking overzealous and wishful. Nevertheless, the dilemma in the drama was that his deputy governor has refused to move with his master to cause a double jeopardy. The coup against ANPP would have been perfect if both men had moved together to PDP. Their departure could have left ANPP without any legal option and in a political limbo. Fortunately and good news for the ANPP, the coup became staled as a result of the deputy governor's renegade in sealing the coup. His disloyalty to his master who still holds the upper hand is likely to earn him impeachment as being considered by the state's legislators. The unfolding twist is one-upmanship to the governor and a thorough understanding of politics in action. Nevertheless, it is an outrage and ought not to have public approval. As an advice though, the ANPP and the deputy governor should seek an order of mandamus from the supreme court to compel the chief judge of the state to swear in the deputy governor as the governor. Since, Mr Yuguda has de facto resigned on account of the forbidden cross-carpet fallout with his sponsoring political party. The deputy governor ought to be acting quick in view of the state's assembly contemplation of impeachment. Any inaction on his part is not just a crisis of conscience but a rape on the will of a people whose mandate had been subverted.

However, in addition, ANPP must compel the court to ask INEC to declare the seats of all those legislators who had cross-over from their sponsoring parties to be vacant and conduct fresh election as required by law. The erring legislators stand barred from any rerun as they are not allowed to profit from the evil of their own making. They have breached a law as well as a moral obligation, which they owe to society and their constituencies. We should have no understanding for the governor and those legislators irrespective of what informed their decisions of leaving their initial sponsoring political party. The politics of political prostitution should not become the ideal of our democracy.

What was witnessed in Atiku and Obasanjo's fiasco poses a serious threat to our democratic experiment. Maybe, we could have addressed the madness if not for Obasanjo's self hostage in pursuit of term elongation that Atiku got away with his unforgivable sins. Even then, reprimanding him would not have been easy because of the power mistrust between north and south, which has impeded Nigeria's economic and political development. Unfortunately, Obasanjo's self interest denied Nigeria of leading Africa both in politics and economic development. It counts for the quarrel that most people have against Obasanjo for holding our people under the bondage of some selfish few. As, he said himself, that he got power for the sake of preserving the unity of Nigeria and not to develop it. Obasanjo can afford his careless talk because he lives in a land of women; a reason that he is still free to enjoy his loot for occupying a public office like the Abachas and Babangidas. I am not undermining women but acknowledging their natural of resilience to absorb long pains.

That, section 68 (1) (g) of the constitution only provided for law makers not to cross-carpet - change political platform was a moral wrong. I dealt extensively with the provisions in my book - bringing down this house. Look it up in that book. The provision ought not to find place in our presidential system of government. The provisions make sense in a parliamentary system where people vote for political parties than on the popularity of candidates.

Even when the constitution was silent on the position of cross-carpet in respect of the office of the president and state's governor, it did not envisage that the holder of any of the mentioned offices would contemplate doing so; as they are already too powerful politically by virtue of office to control everyone and including the political party at the different level. Imperatively, the simple fact that governors follow the same election process like legislators mean that the rule of section 68 of the constitution ought to apply to them by way of reasoning and analogy despite the constitution being silent about cross-carpeting. The court is again forced to unravel the legal puzzle. That the court room has become the arena for deciding the people's democracy must be discouraged. All the same, we expect our judges to be intellectually creative in using their wisdom to make sound decisions, which are free of bias. They should be exploring the benefit of our common law system in filling the gaps in our laws because of our politicians of shame, who have become magicians of wonder. The unfolding Bauchi political drama must be stopped through a test case even if it might lead to judicial law making. The judges must remain present wherever the politicians fail - a good thing about the common law. The judicial activism of judges would speedy law reform if their decisions offend the politicians. Also, it might force the politicians to act morally and bring development to Nigeria by the time our judges begin to use their wisdom.

Nonetheless, Nigeria's problem is not per se the lack of good laws but lack of strong and sufficient institutions that are devolved of political interference. It is unacceptable that we still stick to the colonial bureaucracy that served a different purpose and unfit for self rule. By now, one should have been expecting the government of Nigeria to have established a constitutional court, whose judges should have the same status as those of the Supreme Court. After 10 years of electoral democracy, a one-stop court for all matters on constitutional breaches is imperative. Again, President Yar'Adua does not need more than five personal advisers and the illegal office of the first lady with public money. It applies equally to the governors and local government chairmen. It is not right to use public money to promote political patronage at the expense of creating collective wealth for national progress and development, which is necessary for the redemption of our dignity and race.

If our politicians have conscience, they can't be at peace to see our youth roam the streets because of the striking university teachers, whom I have no sympathy or understanding for. I would be the first to support them if their action were motivated by genuine demand in the interest of the students. If the university teachers aren't bedfellows of politicians, I expect from a reasonable minister and government to go in the offensive of exposing the dirty deeds in the university system, which led to the collapse of higher education in Nigeria. Is it right that taxpayers should continue to fund the ostentatious lifestyle of university teachers, whose extravagant fridge benefits are not found elsewhere? Does a university need a guest house, villas for principal and senior officials, primary and secondary school for university staff's children, chauffeur driven cars and other privileges? Nigerians would like to know from the minister whether the children of top officials of the university attend public universities in Nigeria. We should be prepared to shame any official whose child is not affected by the strike action. Furthermore, the minister must ensure that whenever the strikes ends, the striking teachers will get pay cut for the period the strike lasted. The time has past for arrogance by academic teachers. They take too much from taxpayers, parents and students that they must return unconditionally to the classroom while stating their case before government.

The corruption disease perpetuated by the ruling elite in all the strata of our national system has become a burden that we have now lost focus on how to unbundled the university system of politics. If we are to get it right, we should be thinking along a new model of funding universities like in UK and USA, where universities are autonomous. We could begin for instance by ending the central salary structure for universities. They should operate like every independent public liability company - each university with its own salary structure based on its financial resources - government grants, student's fee, research earnings, endowment aid and its investment revenues. Government grants must be tied to other conditionality such as the impact in community development and research, quality standard test and student's academic achievement - number of first and 2.1 degrees. These measures could invariably mean that government's grants could vary from university to university in the future, which is subject to government's set rules and target. In addition, the federal government should put a uniform tuition fees for both federal and state universities in Nigeria. Only private universities should be exempted from uniform tuition regulation. Again, scholarship or education grant scheme should be establish to provide help for poor students; with a clause that they repay any loan taken once they graduate and secured a paid employment. See more on my book - bringing down this house.

The lack of conscience by striking university teachers mean that we must address the problem of higher education on a sound fundamental basis for ensuring that our youth are not short changed by learning less and yet spend longer time in pursuing a standard degree, which should not normally last than three years and also due to industrial strikes. Our nation will loose so much if we fail our youth by not preparing them for global market due to poor teaching standard and lack of good infrastructures in our schools. Leadership is about focus and vision for common good. Strikes should be seen as economic sabotage and betrayal of conscience independent of who is responsible.

Again, if is true that Abacha's son is nursing the desire to contest in governorship race in one of the northern state in 2011 as reported by the news media, then, the street fight that had been held back won't be long. The Obasanjos, the Babangidas and the Abachas should be happy to live in a land where there are no men of honour, who have allowed them peace despite the evil they put on Nigeria. They should not forget that those doing their biding have created the blockhead that our people are still accommodating them. We have reached the stage of crisis of conscience that we should trouble the people that wronged Nigeria. Unless they return our looted national wealth without a legal compulsion; and disappear from public affairs.

Experience has shown that whenever a tragedy is the offing, wise men become foolish. Our leaders need to learn from the history of great tyrants and their end. The ills of Babangida and Abacha ought to make such names a forbidden name like Hitler. The dividing line between law and morality is very thin. In view of this, those who have raped our democracy should not be allowed to define the standard of moral behaviour. Any immoral failing that ache conscience must end in public shaming and expulsion of the person from public duty for life; whether or not the immoral failing was regulated by law. Unless, this becomes the ideal on which our nation rest, our nation will collapse.

Today, Nigerians have become enemy number one because of the smear campaign by western world to destroy our people's self esteem. Yet they have forgotten that they incubated the corruption in our ruling elite without concern for its spill over effect and the burden it posed to our society. Now that the pain at home has been taken to them in a new form, the west is becoming nervous. Whether the smear campaign is deliberate or not, in part, it is a kind of blessing in disguise. Because, if our politicians can evaluate what is at stake, maybe, they will begin to be open to discuss in all sincerity the kind of society Nigeria should be. Equally, I sense, it is a calculated indictment on the common man to compel them to take the fight to their ruling class. As said by President Obama that African's destiny is on Africans. We may despise the recklessness of the west nations towards Africans but the harm of our leaders is the worst scandal and evil.

There is no Nigerian international traveller that has not suffered one form of humiliation no matter his or her social status; because of the wrongs of a few people. No country is immune from crime hence prisons are built in every country. Subsequently, every country has a duty to keep criminals who pose threat to public interest and security. Therefore it is unwise that countries contemplate exporting criminals no matter the public sentiment and popularity, which is set by media. Any reactionary policy to secure political victory is dangerous and divisive. That UK's government is planning to build a prison in Nigeria for our citizens convicted in Europe must be resisted. Yes, Nigeria should accept any of its citizens irrespective of the gravity of their crime. Citizen diplomacy ought to be about protecting the interest of our nationals and their human rights. If any nation violates any of the rights, Nigerian government has an obligation to pursue the appropriate remedy on behalf of its citizen at whatever cost. After all, USA will go to war for the sake of a single citizen if harmed by another country. Even when the merit in having our prisoners back home seems persuasive, we cannot accept a British financed prison even if it has happened elsewhere - be it in Pakistan, Ghana or Zimbabwe. Nigeria does not need a prison of UK's making no matter the condition of our prisons. They can act morally by building vocational schools to remove our youths from the streets of evil.

Even though our leaders of shame have dragged down our national pride, those of us still passionate about the fate of Nigeria do so because it is intrinsic to our identity and tells our history. We must work together to resist the negative stigmatisation of Nigeria and its people. In light of this, we should go to any length to make President Yar'Adua to do what is right and to succeed so that our people are not defined by the wrongs of a few people. Interestingly, the international bashing of Nigeria has come at the right time for our people not to accept the fraudsters who call themselves leaders. To speak Wole Soyinka words: THOSE WHO MAKE PEACEFUL CHANGE IMPOSSIBLE MAKE VIOLENT CHANGE INEVITABLE. If I were President Yar'Adua, after hearing President Obama's words of wisdom in Ghana, I would return to the path of conscience to make a new Nigeria that is free of injustice and poverty. Nigeria and its ruling class have so much to gain by addressing what led to President Obama's snub and remarks about our underdevelopment. We may not be able to change history but we are in position to rewrite a new one. There is a serious crisis of conscience in Nigeria, which must be addressed if we are to avert a calamity.

This essay is a long one; all the same, I hope you can now smile on viewing this new Naira.

When my friend surprised me with this new Naira note, it reaffirmed my belief on the intellectual capacity of Nigerians who are now singled out and collectively punished because of its bumpkin ruling class. My respond to him though was that I had wished it comes true. After all, why can't Nigeria take the lead other than just following? You know, we have bunch of idiots, who call themselves leaders without understanding its burden. Otherwise, the Blackman by now ought to have reclaimed his dignity. I thank whoever so designed this wonderful new naira. I hope the CBN's governor has noted it for implementation. We can showcase it to the rest of world. I bet you the new naira will become a hit and a useful foreign revenue medium.

Michael Joseph Jackson has done his part to change our world. It is left for Nigeria's leaders to compliment him in restoring a positive image to our folks.

Patrick Odionikhere is an author and legal advisor at the Austrian Federal Asylum Office

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