NIGERIA: The Truths Which Are Self-Evident

 Saturday, January 15, 2000

 Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu
 Forwarded by: Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD
 [email protected]


NIGERIA: The Truths Which Are Self-Evident

Being the full text of the lecture delivered by Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi, on the occasion of TSM's 2nd Diamond Lecture to mark the fourth anniversary of the magazine on February 22, 1994 [NOTE 1].


Before I say anything, I would wish first of all to congratulate The Sunday Magazine on this occasion of its fourth Anniversary. In particular, I must thank Mrs. Chris Anyanwu and her courageous hand of Pen-Warriors. Madam, permit me, on behalf of those whom I am proud to represent, to say how proud we have been of the various assaults you have launched and waged successfully and the numerous assaults on your establishment which you have withstood with equal success. Madam, we thank you for your availability to those voices who are relentlessly drowned by the clamour of prejudice and the distortions of mischief. Madam we thank you for the truth which your team publishes, for the high journalistic standard which, for four years, your magazine has exemplified. Madam, on behalf of Nigeria, I thank you for ensuring that despite the cacophony of deceit and personal ambition, despite the menace of intolerance and despite the very real antagonism and the meanness of a rabid mob, like Horatio in Macaulay's "Lays of Ancient Rome," stood firm and held the Bridge. In holding the Bridge, Nigeria remained conscious of the fact that there are always two sides of the coin. Ladies and Gentlemen, I salute The Sunday Magazine and I recommend the Magazine to all those who wish to keep a balanced viewpoint on Nigerian affairs.

It was sometime, last November, that I was approached to fill in this gap of Guest Speaker which I understood had been filled at the first Diamond Lecture by no other personality than General Olusegun Obasanjo. For this second lecture, President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana had been contemplated but had to be changed because of the heavy load of protocol and logistics that would impose on the organization for the event. So sandwiched between such eminent sons of Africa, you can imagine my reaction. For the first time since my return in 1982 from exile in the Ivory Coast, I really wished that I had never returned. I was afraid and wished that this cup would be taken away from me. Three times, I was asked, each time I wished the cup away. I went East for Christmas, deliberately, I overstayed in the hope that my pursuers would relent but all was to no avail. When finally I returned to Lagos on 20th January, I found waiting for me, notes reminding me of the dreaded date. With trepidation, I accepted. I accepted on the assurance that I would not be expected to do anything other than be myself.

When I look at Nigeria, when I read our newspapers and magazines, the picture that emerges is not unlike that of an adult who on hearing the cry of a child exclaims - "That child again!" At the ripe old age of 60, I believe I can claim the right to be counted amongst the elder statesmen of our beloved country. As an elder, let me advise that whenever the voice of a child is heard in agony - your duty, the duty of all of us, is to find out what is wrong.
In being myself, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, let me seek your indulgence. I shall not give a lecture. I cannot give a lecture. I have never given a lecture and I do not know how to give a lecture. Intellectuals give lectures - the profane, such as I, can only give TALKS. For the subject of my TALK, the TSM gave me absolute freedom. I have, therefore, chosen, in view of the current temper and preoccupation of Nigeria, to talk to you, with all humility, about Nigeria. My title is "Nigeria - The Truths which are Self-Evident."

"We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, as if you did not know, these words which I have just read were composed in 1776 as the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. I first read those very profound words at the age of ten, some half a century ago. Ever since that first reading, only heavens knows how many times I have returned to the words - each time in search of inspiration, each time in search of direction. Never have I read them again without my body being covered with goose-pimples. This is the foundation upon which the United States of America was erected:

Equality of all men
Rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

This is the purpose of government. It is the inspiration of American justice, it is for the United States the universal idea for all men not just Americans, hence this is also the context within which the United States foreign policy is also played. In that [statement]....the soul of the United States is encapsulated. The Irish, the Jews, the Puritan Anglo-Saxon, the African-American (later), the unending streams of emigrants that flock to the Air and Sea ports of the USA look upon this as a beacon - the end of one life and the beginning of another. The USA was unlike nations before it, the work of man whilst the old World which existed prior were the work of God. In USA, it was essential that reason be adduced and hope inspired to attract and to commit her new citizenry who came to her shores in order to join and assist the new enterprise of Nation Building.

In Nigeria, despite over 30 years of corporate existence, despite the fact that our primordial nations are compelled to embark on an adventure in nation building, Nigerians till this day have not found it necessary to enunciate its "raison d'etre", its idea, its universal concept. It is for this reason that we hold these truths to be self-evident that Nigeria cannot be a nation unless its fundamental law is articulated and is accepted by Nigerians for universal application. The fundamental law is the Constitution.

Ever since the independence of Nigeria in the year 1960 all crises in the country have sooner or later led to a widespread demand for a Constitutional review. At the end of each Military regime the withdrawing military has sought to put in place a new Constitution ostensibly to reduce the incidence of coup d'etats, to establish a better system of government for the country and to harmonise the haphazard enactments of the military in power, whenever it appears necessary for the military in power. The resultant effect of this is that the sovereign people of Nigeria have never succeeded in designing for themselves their own society. Nigerians have never been able to articulate for themselves the general and fundamental ideas of Nigeria.

It is very pertinent to note that traditional societies usually have no written constitutions. What fulfils the functions of the constitution is the culture of the people - their habits and ways of doing things. The need of a constitution arose only when two or more cultures inhabit one polity. In the countries of the new world, this was so and we find the same situation also in the countries of the Third World where different cultures were merged into an awkward polity. We also find this constitution-writing phenomenon in countries that have gone through a revolution - when an old culture was overtaken by a new culture. In both these instances the aims of a written constitution are two-fold - to promote peace and limit conflict. A constitution for Nigeria is the Memorandum and Articles of Association of our Enterprise, our Nation Building Enterprise - Nigeria Incorporated. As a good businessman would be well advised not to enter a corporation without agreeing to its Articles of Association, so a people entering into a pact of Nationhood are well-advised to study and agree to the Articles of the Constitution.

It has been suggested that there is no need for a Constitutional Conference at present in Nigeria. I hold the opposite view. When in the late 50s Nigerians saw the departure of our delegates to the London Constitutional Conference, the mandate given the delegates was clear and simple - negotiate with the Imperial Government and bring back to us Independence. Faithful to our mandate they went, they negotiated, they brought back to us our very much cherished independence. We welcomed them with joy, we sang in our home and danced in our streets, we embraced with ectasy the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If we had any reservations about the conference that gave us Independence this was not the time to raise doubts. We have been granted Independence, what did it matter if it was at all costs?

A Federal Constitution was foisted on us. An unbalanced polity handcuffed to our hands. We woke up after our celebrations to discover that Prometheus unbound remained Prometheus encaged. Nigerians had given no mandate for Federalism. All Nigeria wanted was Independence. It might be said with some validity that our political leaders expected that the agreement reached in London would be sufficiently elastic to allow for later adjustments. Later our leaders realised that the Constitution handed down by the United Kingdom was like a strait-jacket and it gave very little room for manouevering. Naturally, the first Independence Constitution followed the pattern of the colonial constitutiions - the Richards and the Macpherson constitutions. They were in essence master-servant agreement. The Independence constitution was different only in that the master was represented by the master's agent - a trusted servant.

With this beginning seemingly etched into the national psyche, Nigeria has not been able to evolve and produce a free constitution. For thirty-three years, we Nigerians have borne our constitution as a heavy cross. Every military government has tinkered with it and has prevented meaningful popular participation in the constitution-making process. We Nigerians, Ladies and Gentlemen, hold these truths to be self-evident, that Nigeria has never had a free, sovereign constitution.

Many Nigerians on the pages of daily newspapers have questioned both the need and the usefulness of a Constitutional Conference, as proposed by the current Military Government of Nigeria. As a democrat, I accept and respect all opinions including even those on the lunatic fringe of our f society. It is however necessary to underline this fact - that NOT all Nigerians have the same Nigerian experience. Some Nigerians, indeed some group of Nigerians, have benefitted immensely in and from Nigeria. At the same time, some other Nigerians have suffered immensely in and from Nigeria. This second group has suffered varying degrees of deprivation in Nigeria. Whilst some have enjoyed almost exclusively the monopoly of executive power at the highest levels. Whilst these have had at the command, the distribution of patronage both to individuals or to collectivities, it is only natural that such a lucky group would wish for the "status quo" to continue. The other group naturally would wish for change and would strive for change. For this group only change can give hope - hope that an unsatisfactory situation could be ameliorated. A constitutional conference holds this possibility, if not the probability of the emergence of change and it is only those who benefit from and enjoy the present situation who should and do fear the proposed conference. Those whom I have been condemned to serve and represent, having nothing to lose but having the possibility of gaining much from the conference, should be and are very enthusiastic about the conference. We hold these truths to be self-evident that dialogue is a very valid system for rectifying a wrong. Dialogue is of greater benefit to the deprived rather than to the privileged.

For those who enjoy the executive control of Nigeria, for those who enjoy almost exclusively the resources of this country, the term One Nigeria is like music to their ears. They love it, they want it to remain for ever, and if it became necessary to maintain One Nigeria by force they would do so. If it became necessary to hold their partners in the Nigerian enterprise hostage, indeed captive, in the corporation all the better.

For fear of being misunderstood or misrepresented, let me repeat. One Nigeria is a good idea but my objection lies in the idea that One Nigeria cannot and must not be questioned. A state is constructed for the benefit of man and not vice versa. A man to whom the state brings no benefit has every right and indeed is obliged to question the oneness of that state if per force it must include him. For a man to whom unity remains that of Jonah in the belly of the whale, that man must question his situation. He is not comfortable in the whale's belly. It is dark. It is soggy. He wants out lest he dies. This man owes it to himself to get out despite the fact that the wahle has felt no discomfort. To this man "in extremis" lies the obligation to quit.

A man who questions the oneness of his state has the unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness whilst the man who opts out or secedes is very probably exercising his right to life. It is very wrong to refuse to discussion on oneness. Nigeria can most certainly remain one if oppression ceases and if the Nigerian polity is adjusted to accomodate the legitimate aspirations of every group in Nigeria and if the members of every constituent group feel equal and secure in Nigeria. The happiness of the citizen is and must remain more important than the forum and structure of the Nigerian polity.

In 1960, we accepted an incongruous package of Federalism - a Federalism in which one federating unit was designed to surpass the other units put together in every aspect except in the production of wealth. Federalis m became for some the philosophy which would guarantee them first a share, then the lever for control and finally the right to acquire the resource which they lacked. For others Federalism became the debilitating philosophy which ensured the continued haemorrhage of their precious resources. For some the Federal Republic became an unbounded opportunity whilst to others it was a crippling disaster. We hold these truths to be self-evident [about....these] two federating units.

This conflict in philosophical experience naturally led to greater distortion of an already incongruous and unbalanced polity. The privileged got stronger whilst the deprived got weaker. Power emboldened the privileged whilst fear rendered the deprived more and more unsure and nervous. It was purely a matter of time when the unease gave way to violence and then from violence to war. The Tivs were in open revolt right from the dawn of independence, the West joined in this revolt in the fourth year of Independence, Isaac Boro proclaimed his republic in the next year. In 1966 came the attempted coup led by Emmanuel Ifeajuna. Between 1966 and 1967 came the massacres in the north of Nigeria. One fascinating aspect of all this chaos is that Nigeria only went to war against Ndigbo. The Tiv riots only provoked police action and the rebel leader Joseph Tarka eventually became a national hero. In the West the Action Group which was rebellious was led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, he too became a national hero. Iin the Rivers area, Isaac Adaka Boro became a national hero. I have often wondered why in respect of the Igbo resistance it became necessary to seek the final solution - why this double standard?

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the Nigerian Odyssey of Ndigbo, their journey from slavery, through colonialism to Independence - their journey through crisis to crisis, into war, their journey out of war into crisis again has been a route-march through the fields of Golgotha. Today Ndigbo are plying their trade everywhere in Nigeria. We are bent but are most certainly not broken. We are bent because we are, to a large extent, devitalised and our presence in every aspect of Nigerian life understated. We are not broken because we have hope, we have intellect and we have energy. I believe that one of the biggest problems which Nigeria has to face derives from Nigeria's inability to absorb Ndigbo. This problem is not new, the whiteman never could either. The war has come and gone but we remember with pride and hope the three heady years when we had the opportunity to demonstrate what Nigeria could have been even before 1970. In the three years of war, necessity gave birth to invention. During those three years, knowledge, in one heroic bound, we leapt across the great chasm that separates knowledge from know-how. We built bombs, we built rockets, we designed and built our own delivery systems. We guided our rockets, we guided them far, we guided them accurately. For three years blockaded without hope of imports, we maintained engines, machines and technical equipment. We maintained all our vehicles. The state extracted and refined petrol, individuals refined petrol in their back gardens. We built and maintained our airports, maintained them under heavy bombardment. Despite the heavy bombardment, we recovered so quickly after each raid that we were able to maintain the record for the busiest Airport on the continent of Africa. We spoke to the world....[and the world] spoke back to us. We built armoured cars and tanks. We modified aircraft from trainer to fighters, from passenger aircraft to bombers. In three years of freedom we had broken the technological barriers. In three years we became the most civilised, the most technologically advanced black people on earth. We spun nylon yarn, we developed seeds for food and medicines. At the end of the war this pocket of Nigerian civilisation was systematically destroyed, dismantled, scattered. What a great pity - this was a beginning of a truly Black risurgimento. The men who achieved this breakthrough - where are they?

"Ask for this great deliverer now
and find him
eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves."

These our Samsons are available ready to lift Nigeria up from her technological lassitude by her bootstraps. All these men require recognition and a feeling of belonging. We hold these truths to be self-evident that Nigeria has adequate manpower to transform our economy. All we require is the wisdom of putting round pegs into round holes.

The war which gave birth to the technological awakening of Ndigbo did not do the same for our partners in Nigeria. Whilst in the East of the Nigera we scraped and joined, on the other side, countries and gun runners were over reaching themselves in order to supply Nigeria with every type of ammunition. During the war Nigeria had no need, it would seem, to maintain her equipment or to economise her consumable items. On the Nigerian side, equipment were abandoned for want of very minor spare parts - we on our side, promptly recovered them, we quickly machined out a part that would serve. Once fitted, the recovered equipment would be re-deployed in the battlefront. For near three years, whilst Biafra was a vast workshop, it appeared Nigeria was, at the same time, a vast show-room. Biafra was not defeated in the war. Biafra achieved her war aims. The aims were never to capture Nigeria or indeed any territory for Biafra. We were attacked, we successfully defended ourselves - the costs were heavy yet we survived. We went to war in order to survive. We

"faced the fearful odds for the ashes of our fathers
and the temples of our Gods."

At the end of the war, whilst we mourned our gallant losses, we took solace in the fact that we had protected both the ashes and the temples. We were not defeated, had we been, there would have not been the policy of "no victor, no vanquished." Had we been defeated it would have taken long to re-people our communities at the furtherest ends of Nigeria. Our adversaries on the other hand have yet to return to our area in numbers comparable with those of our dynamic diaspora. Since the end of the war, we live everywhere in Nigeria, the others merely visit areas outside their homes. We hold these truths to be self evident that the people of the east of Nigeria are not a defeated people.

[...some unclear text..]

(b) That a free and unfettered dialogue is best likely to bring about the articulation of the philosophy, no half baked ideas which some 'genius' in uniform has forced on us from high.
(c) That Nigeria has never had a free constitution hence the urgent need to frame one NOW.
(d) That the peoples of Nigeria have not, but should have had, the same or simliar benefits and privilege from the Nigerian polity. Rather, whilst some have experienced joy, others experienced pain.
(e) That Nigeria is possesed of adequate manpower for a technological take-off if only we decide to place round pegs in round holes.
(f) That the Nigerians East of the Niger are not defeated people. They are very dynamic, if not the most dynamic and talented of our society.

For months, Nigeria has been poised on the cutting edge of a precipice - a strong gust of wind is sufficient to send us plunging into the abyss below. For thirty odd years we have stumbled from crisis to crisis. Prior to Independence we can only look back at a chequered past. Our primordial ethnic sovereignty was assaulted by a people who had ostensibly come to trade with us. Their greed knew no bounds as they not only traded in goods, they bought and traded in men, women and children. When slaves were no longer required we then became colonised, and we were pacified at one point or the other. Together we struggled for independence and won. Together we fought each other yet have stayed together and in my own personal opinion I would support any genuine effort of continued staying together. This however must not be at all costs. We got into our troubles when we received Independence at all costs. It would therefore be very wrong if we pretended everything was alright. What we should do is to find ways and means of correcting a situation which we find bad.

Recently, some respected personalities have written articles and given speeches or interviews which acts were deliberately distorted and banalised. Such intellectual dishonesty is at the root of our leadership crisis in this country. For the record let me emphasise that citizens from the North of the country have held power longer than citizens of the South of the country. This is a self-evident truth. There could be mitigatin reasons for this. Such mitigating reasons could be argued. But to deny this fact is a self-evident distortion, and does the speaker no credit. Recently also, facts and figures were given of government appointments over a specified period showed that particular peopls of Nigeria have been marginalised. It is not enough to dismiss these facts and figures as "emotion rousing sentimentality." What would be more useful would be for a different set of figures (if available) to be put forward in refutation. It was asserted that a section of the country had been sidelined in the governance of the country - facts and figures were again given which prima facie authenticated the assertion. The answer is not and cannot be the veiled threat that "they would do well.....[to be] national giants in these [OR THOSE] areas all because of one Nigeria." I do not know what the intention of this speaker is. Any Nigerian should be welcome anywhere in Nigeria. Every Nigerian has right to the protection of his life and property everywhere in Nigeria. This right cannot depend on whether he is a tycoon or a laborer.

As I had indicated earlier, I believe we have stayed together for some 30 odd years. I believe that with hard work and the concerted will of the various peoples of Nigeria we can fashion out any type of government and such a government can bear any name we choose to give it. The problems of this country cannot be solved by a mere change of name. Nigeria ceased to be a Federal Republic from the first day of the first military government. The hierarchical structure of the military command made Federalism obsolete. Subsequently General Ironsi kept the term Federal purely for propaganda reasons. All other military governments that followed have followed the same centralised fashio. During the Nigeria/Biafra War, Federalism became the first casualty. To make matters worse, the military created more states raising the numbers of the federating units from 4 to 12 and on to 30 plu Abuja. This proliferation of states meant that governors had less, much less to do but still retained all protocol and the ceremonies of a full fledged Lieutenant-Governor.

What Nigeria needs is a true Federalism. The Federating units should not be more than six and each of the six should consist of a cluster of states put together on the basis of ethnic homogeneity. I would suggest that each cluster be headed by a Governor. There should be a President whose terms should be the same but those powers would be adjusted downward since he would have a power-sharing arrangement with the 6 Governors. The Governors would be members of a Presidential Council which will deal with Constitutional matters, The Prerogative of Mercy and the Economic Council. The Armed Forces should be decentralised along the lines of the ABURI Accord. The force should be allowed to be humiliated out of power. Officers and men who take part in a coup d'etat should be considered to have committed treason and should be treated as such without the benefit of any statute of limitations for the coup d'etat and for any wrong done in usurped offices. The legality or otherwise of any de facto government shall need to be pronounced upon by a Privy Council which shall include all ex-heads of State and all ex-Governors and ex-Chief Justices. Every cluster of states will draw up its own Constitution in consonance with the Federal constitution and will also be responsible for the Census. Revenue allocation shall be in line with the principle of ownership. I would suggest that everybody owns all that is one's land or under it. The funds for running the Federal account shall be allocated to reflect the duties of the Federal Government. Residual powers shold belong to the cluster of States. I would finally recommend a 3 tier systme of government.

[....unclear]...[I would recommend] a compulsory review of the Constitution every fifteen years. Today as we approach the Constitutional Conference, please permit me, Ladies and Gentlemen, to make a few direct comments on the subject. Let me first and foremost make this very clear - I am Igbo - I am a full-fledged citizen of Nigeria. What I say today in this Forum, I say as Dim. CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU OJUKWU, IKEMBA NNEWI, DIKEDIORAMMA NDIGBO. I speak only for myself. I don't speak for any group in Nigeria. I am not an Igbo leader.

As we review our living together in Nigeria, as we try to set the parameters of our governance, the extent and limits of our Rights, Responsibilities, let me take this opportunity to educate some of my compatriots on MANNERS. In 1967, the Igbo people were forced into WAR. Prior to that WAR, Ndigbo under my leadership had declared the Republic of Biafra. This act was termed Secession. Unfortunatley during this ongoing crisis and as we position ourselves for the Constitutional Conference, many have tried to raise the bogey of secession whenever an Igbo speaks. I do not deny the fact of secession in 1967 - this is a historical fact. What I deny is that the Igbo community to which I belong has been planning for SECESSION. Secession is not like COCAINE - it is not addictive. TOday other people are feeling the pangs of what I felt some twenty-five years ago. These people have my sympathies. THese people not having the guts to say so have continued to murmur the word in the hope that I will take up the refrain. I will not. Today I have more reasons to seek a better Nigeria than I did. Today as we all take stock, I find that I have invested so heavily in Nigeria. Some try to frighten me with the word SECESSION. I am not afraid, it is only a word. The mere mention of the word can not throw me off balance. I intend fully to participate in the discussion about our future - all discsussion as you remember, that I did 25 years ago. Journalists take note.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Nigeria is sick. We must cure her. It is our duty - each and everyone of us, to help cure her. Nobody will cure Nigeria if Nigerians do not. Whenever I consider what I see in this country, sometimes I laught but mostly I want to cry. I want to run. THe only possible and charitable rationale is to accept that our problem is IGNORANCE and that we have to be forgiven for we know not what we are doing or what we are saying. This is probably because we are forced to operate in a language in which our proficiency can be termed at best approximative. If this were not so, how can we accept in 1994 certain publications in our Journals. I do not refer to the sleazy headlines, lies and insults the tupe of which some newspapers have associated with my name. When I see such I laugh because I am a man, not an institution. If it helps the newspapers to make money, I wish them luck. But liberty turns to LICENCE when one considers the recent publications about Judges of our Supreme Court. [NOTE 2] God forbid that I should ever refer to their Lordships in these terms so I show you what I mean. It is disrespectful, it is distasteful......I understand the matter has been taken to Court and I ask myself whose court? Ladies and Gentlemen, I cannot judge, I do not wish to judge, all I want to say is this, that as reprehensible as the publication might have been, going to court by such eminent personalities for such a matter in such a circumstance looks and sounds very much like a charade. Whilst our zealous newspaper owes the nation an apology, our Judges should find a better way of reassuring the NATION.

As for the other Judicial matter, I regret that the allegations cannot and must not be swept under the carpet.....Caesar's wife must remain beyond reproach. When the honour of an office is at stake, the person becomes only a spoke in a wheel. Some years ago, I was told this story of a German general who found himself surrounded by the enemy. In desperate straits he signalled his desperation to the Headquarters. A message returned in which he was promoted. Promoted to Field Marshal. The next day a message from the Commander-in-Chief. A package containing a congratulatory message, a Marshal's baton, a gold plated pistol with ammunition and a Card. On the card was written these words: "No German Marshal has ever been captured alive in War." I am not asking the honorable Attorney-General to be quite so drastic.

When I look at Nigeria, when I read our newspapers and magazines, the picture that emerges is not unlike that of an adult who on hearing the cry of a child exclaims - "That child again!" At the ripe old age of 60, I believe I can claim the right to be counted amongst the elder statesmen of our beloved country. As an elder, let me advise that whenever the voice of a child is heard in agony - your duty, the duty of all of us, is to find out what is wrong.

Our Brothers and Sisters of the Rivers State are crying. Before Biafra they cried. They have not stopped. It is our duty to stop, listen to their woes and bring help to them - that is, if we truly believe that they are our Brothers and Sisters. They say they are being cheated in the matter of the exploitation of their Resources. The Rivers say so, the Delta says so. Even recently, Ondo State joined in the howling. CLearly, something is wrong. Call it blackmail if you wish, it is a fact of life that one fights with whichever weapon one has. For how many years have bee been blackmailed with population? The oil, the gas, the mineral found under a man's property belongs to the man. This is a principle we must establish in this country. Every owner decides how much to pay and how much service to give. The fact that the areas that provide the national wealth look poorest in the country is provocative. Therefore, my brothers and sisters of the Oil Producing States, I say this "ALUTA CONTINUA."

Very often when Nigeria is mentioned abroad, people snigger. It does not take long for the conversation to enter the embarrassing area of corruption. Corruption like many Nigerian ills is something we all take delight in talking about but do absolutely nothing about.

Ladies and Gentlemen, wealth is possessed of a certain odour - you cannot hide it all the time. Now there is nothing wrong with it except that it has a habit in Nigeria of being acquired through corruption. Like all of our social malaise, the aim should not be to eradicate it completely - no, what we can do is to bring it to manageable proportions by reducing it drastically. I belive that if we are serious about this we must institute a mechanism for discovering the source of wealth. In Nigeria, many of our heroes live at range which cannot be justified by their salaries. We must do something about this. The citizen who exhibits wealth beyond his known means must be assumed guilty until hhe can take us into his secret - until he shows us the miraculous tree in his garden whose leaves are 50 naira notes. Until he does explain satisfactorily, the offending wealth should remain forfeit to the nation. We could add to this by taxing luxury items and status symbols more seriously. I will not go on at this forum because this matter has been flogged ad infinitum ad nauseaue - we are not serious.

We are not serious about ending corruption nor are we serious about reducing crime. If I am wrong, then please may someone tell me the reason for our Police being perhaps the worst paid and worst taken care of of our public servants. I hear that the Police is sometimes owed 4 - 5 months salaries. I am sure most of you here, like me, are scandalised by this, yet, it is true. How can we say we are serious about Nigeria when her Police force is treated in such a cavalier fashion? I for one feel for them whilst I urge them to continue to give Nigeria their best.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, my talk has come to its end. If there is some confusion in your minds about where I stand on some of the issues I have raised, let me say quickly that I am not intellectual - my thoughts are not framed in cast iron ideology. I have talked about what I see in the manner in which I feel. I believe that Nigeria is big enough to contain all of us and our various vaulting ambitions. Our problems come only when our wants constitute and oppression to someone else. When such happens, all must, in a human society, we must show sufficient CONCERN to repair the ill. If we do not, the sore caused will fester. It is because of this that I feel bold to commend NIGERIA, General Sani Abacha and his respected team. When we talk too much or too loudly, let him and his team remember that we are masters and they are servants. We are the sovereign at the name of whom every knee shall bow.

Therefore, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu





For the historical context of this speech, information on some of the named individuals, and constitution-making issues, please note the following dates and events:

    October 1, 1960:   Nigeria attains Independence from Britain

    January 15,1966:   First military coup; Ironsi later becomes Head of
                       State Ojukwu later becomes Governor of Eastern

      July 29, 1966:   Second military coup; Ironsi killed.  Gowon later
                       becomes Head of State

       May 30, 1967:   Biafra (former Eastern Region) declares secession,
                       with Ojukwu as Head of State

          July 1967:   Nigeria/Biafra war begins

   January 12, 1970:   Ojukwu goes on exile to Ivory Coast; Biafra
                       surrenders and war ends

               1982:   Ojukwu returns from exile.

          1982-1993:   Civilian Rule (under Shagari 1979-83), then
                       military coups and counter-coups (Buhari 83-85,
                       Babangida '85-93, Shonekan, '93 Abacha, 93-'98)

      June 12, 1993:   Presidential election; Abiola wins over Tofa

      June 23, 1993:   Military President Babangida cancels election

    August 27, 1993:   Babangida steps down as president; Shonekan takes
                       over as Heas of Interim National Government (ING)

  November 17, 1993:   General Abacha coups Shonekan;  begins to talk
                       about National Conference; Attorney-General
                       Olu Onagoruwa also talks of (Sovereign) National

   January 18, 1994:   National Constitutional Conference Commission
                       (NCCC) inaugurated

  February 22, 1994:   THIS SPEECH BY OJUKWU

      June 11, 1994:   Abiola declares his own presidency

      June 23, 1994:   Abiola is arrested and detained

      June 27, 1994:   Constitutional Conference of 367 delegates (98
                       chosen by government, others elected) opens in
                       Abuja; Ojukwu, Yar'Adua and 365 others are

    January 9, 1995:   Constititutional Conference Adjourns abruptly

      February 1995:   A number of military people (Gwadabe, Fadile, etc.)
                       arrested for alleged coup plot

      March 6, 1995:   Constitutional Conference recovenes and closes
                       after reversing terminal time for military

      March 9, 1995:   Yar'Adua (a conference delegate) arrested for
                       alleged coup plot; several others arrested
                       about the same time.

         March 1995:   Obasanjo arrested for alleged coup plot

       June 1, 1995:   Chris Anyanwu arrested for alleged coup plot

      June 27, 1995:   Constitutional Conference turns in draft report

      July 14, 1995:   Obasanjo, Anyanwu, etc. sentenced for alleged coup

    October 1, 1995:   Jail sentences of Obasanjo (life), Anyanwu etc.
                       commuted to 15 years; 38 other commutations. Abacha
                       announces new three-year transition program and
                       approval of new Constitution

       June 8, 1998:   Abacha dies; Abubakar takes over

          June 1998:   Obasanjo, Anyanwu others released from prison

       July 7, 1998:   Abiola dies in detention

      July 20, 1998:   New transition programme announced by Abubakar

  February 27, 1999:   Obasanjo elected civilian president

       May 28, 1999:   New Constitution (based on 1979 and 1995) revealed

       May 29, 1999:   Obasanjo begins tenure as civilian president


Several Supreme Court judges had been accused (in a Concord magazine publication; Concord was owned by Abiola) of receiving car gifts from Babangida (?). They then proceeded to sue Concord. Eventually, this suit led to the judges having to recuse themselves from Abiola's detention trial, ostensibly causing a "lack of quorum" on the Bench, positions which were never "filled" by Abacha. Again, at the time of this speech by Chief Ojukwu's, Abiola had not been detained.