By Nigerian Pro-Democracy Network (NPDN)
Forwarded by Laolu Akande
February 13, 2001
Dr. Elnora D. Daniel, President
Re: Abdulsalami A. Abubakar Distinguished Lecture Series
Dear President Daniel:
e, members of the Nigerian Pro-Democracy Network (NPDN), have been alerted that your university is hosting a group of Nigerian politicians and ex-military dictators at your campus in Chicago on February 23, 2001. At first, members of the NPDN in North America took the information less seriously because we could not imagine your institution being involved in such an enterprise. However, detailed investigation confirms the reports we have received. Following a meeting of leaders of the NPDN in Washington, DC the weekend of February 2 through 4, 2001, the Coordinators and the Legal Department of NPDN were authorized to contact you and to alert you to the dangers involved in your undertaking.
Upon reviews of the list of your invitees to the so-called Abdulsalami A. Abubakar Distinguished Lecture Series this year, we are stupefied that the Chicago State University would support such an amorphous group of Nigerians most of whose members have been discredited in their own country for various crimes against their fellow countrymen and women. These offences range from human rights abuses (including extra-judicial murder of opponents), to their looting of the Nigerian treasury and their wrecking of the country's otherwise potentially vibrant economy. They have systematically dismantled the country's educational system, orchestrated a reign of terror against their own people and, by these and other acts, have jeopardized the very existence of present and future generations of Nigerians.
It is difficult for us to believe, Madam President, that you, as an intellectual and head of an institution that many Nigerians have attended,are unaware of the nefarious and unpatriotic acts, of at least some of the individual Nigerians you have invited, against their people and humanity. Since you seem to feign ignorance, we wish to oblige you with some basic and brief background which connects some of these individuals and others on your list. To recount the records from the 1966 military coup in Nigeria which connects General Yakubu Gowon would be irksome. It will suffice to provide you with snippets from the last 20 years of Nigerian history:
Alhaji Shehu Shagari was Nigeria's civilian president from 1979 to 1983. He acceded to the presidency following 13 years of uninterrupted military rule. During his term in office, Alhaji Shehu presided over a kleptocracy of unimaginable proportions which featured the blatant looting of Nigeria's treasury by those in his government. He was ousted from power in 1983 in a military coup led by General Muhammadu Buhari for those precise reasons.
General Muhammadu Buhari was, in turn, ousted in 1985 by General Ibrahim Babangida who accused Buhari of "human rights abuses" because his methods aimed at sanitizing Nigeria were too harsh. But then, General Babangida's regime was characterized by a well orchestrated "state security" mechanism which eliminated his opponents or hounded them into detention or forced them into involuntary exile abroad. One of the most celebrated eliminations under Babangida was the death by a letter-bomb of Dele Giwa, the world-renowned editor of Nigeria's foremost newsmagazine, NewsWatch. Ever since, accusing fingers have been pointing at Babangida and his operatives in connection with Mr. Giwa's murder. But interestingly, Babangida has rebuffed all invitations by the current Oputa Human Rights Abuse Commission in Nigeria to appear before it to clear his name. Babangida totally obliterated the Nigerian middleclass, the economic lifeblood of any economy!
Following over five years in power, Babangida embarked on a highly farcical charade ostensibly aimed at returning Nigeria to democratic rule. But it became apparent that General Babangida nursed a shameless scheme to perpetuate himself in power as "civilian" president as he postponed election after election. Seeing his scheme exposed to Nigerians and the rest of the world, Babangida reluctantly conducted a presidential election in 1993. That election was overwhelmingly won by Chief Moshood K. O Abiola from the Southwestern part of Nigeria. (President Abiola's area of origin in Nigeria is crucial to your understanding of our concerns over the make-up of your invitees as you will, hopefully, appreciate later in this letter).
To the chagrin of Nigerians and the shock of the international community, General Babangida woke up one morning and annulled an election that was adjudged by Nigerian and international observers as "the freest and fairest" in Nigeria's checkered history. Babangida's action met with stiff resistance by Nigerians and people around the world who stood for fairness, justice and human decency. To shorten a long saga, Babangida was forced out of office by the sheer will of the Nigerian people but not before he had pulled another stunt: To ensure his running in a future presidential election, Babangida APPOINTED Ernest Shonekan, a civilian crony, as Chairman of a so-called Interim National Government (ING) in July 1993. And, as double insurance, or at worst to prolong military rule, Babangida APPOINTED General Sani Abacha, his second-in-command, as Vice Chairman of the ING. Not to the surprise of Nigerian political insiders and observers, General Abacha ousted Shonekan within four months.
The only euphemism we can find in the English language to describe Sani Abacha is that he was a psychopath! The world watched in amazement as Abacha unleashed a reign of terror on his fellow-countrymen and women. His hit-squads openly murdered those he imagined did not like him on Nigerian streets in broad daylight. The world shivered when, in November 1995, in spite of pleas from world leaders, he extra-judicially hanged the Ogoni Nine which included Nobel Prize nominee Ken Saro-Wiwa, simply because they protested the environmental devastation of Ogoniland by Royal-Dutch Shell Oil Company! In broad daylight, Abacha's hit-squads murdered Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, the outspoken wife of the detained President Abiola!!
These are but a few of the atrocities that Nigerians endured under Abacha about which the world knew. Madam President, you may also claim ignorance of the fact that many intellectuals and Nigerian democracy-advocates escaped into exile here in the US and elsewhere, and that many "disappeared" on visiting Nigeria, or that their innocent relatives at home were hounded and murdered! Was it any wonder that Abacha's sudden death in June, imed at returning Nigeria to democratic rule. But it became apparent that General Babangida nursed a shameless scheme to perpetuate himself in power as "civilian" president as he postponed election after election. Seeing his scheme exposed to Nigerians and the rest of the world, Babangida reluctantly conducted a presidential election in 1993. That election was overwhelmingly won by Chief Moshood K. O Abiola from the Southwestern part of Nigeria. ( President Abiola's area of origin in Nigeria is crucial to your understanding of our concerns over the make-up of your invitees as you will, hopefully, appreciate later in this letter).
To the chagrin of Nigerians and the shock of the international community, General Babangida woke up one morning and annulled an election that was adjudged by Nigerian and international observers as "the freest and fairest" in Nigeria's checkered history. Babangida's action met with stiff resistance by Nigerians and people around the world who stood for fairness, justice and human decency. To shorten a long saga, Babangida was forced out of office by the sheer will of the Nigerian people is relevant here to note that, like Chief M. K. O. Abiola whose popular election was annulled by Babangida, President Olusegun Obasanjo also comes from the Southwestern region of Nigeria. Most of your Nigerian invitees who are from Northern Nigeria have been smarting over the "slippage" of power from the North. Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, (the late Abacha) and Abubakar who ruled Nigeria from 1979 to 1999 were all from the North. So was Yakubu Gowon (1967 to 1976). They and many of your invitees have vowed to use any means necessary to ensure that, never again, will the presidency of Nigeria go to anybody not from what they refer to as "the Core North."
You may not understand it, but we know that Ibrahim Babangida is the compromise-candidate of this anachronistic and feudalistic minority who claim to represent the "Core North" to achieve their highly undemocratic agenda. The majority of what used to be "Northern Nigeria" does not even support them! We know that the main intention of your Nigerian invitees is to purchase for Ibrahim Babangida the much needed legitimacy he lacks at home, and to provide a jump-start for his renewed preparations to regain the presidency of Nigeria at the 2003 elections. We also know that their efforts are being stage-managed by their American cronies who may either have co-opted or hoodwinked you.
We of the NPDN do not share in such parochial sentiments. We believe in the democratic right of ANY Nigerian from ANY part of Nigeria to lead our nation as long he or she has the intelligence and ability to move our people forward. That candidate is most definitely NOT Ibrahim Babangida who has exposed all Nigerians to international ridicule. So, while the NPDN does not claim to hold brief for the current administration in Nigeria, we view your invitation to these dubious characters as a threat to Nigeria,s sovereignty. Madam President, your university's website describes the purpose of the Abdulsalami A. Abubakar Distinguished Lecture Series in the following glowing terms:
The present world can boast of tremendous advancement in science and unprecedented global human development. Yet, at the same time, problems of social strife, tyranny, endemic poverty and acute ignorance among humankind persist. The contrast evident in these two scenarios poses the greatest challenge for this generation and calls for appropriate remedial actions. It is a call not only for governments and institutions, but also for each and everyone of us to make sacrifices and contributions, however modest, to the continuing and renewed search for social justice,equality and balance among individuals and the entire human community. It is in this context of social responsibility and active commitment to the service of humanity that the Abdulsalami A. Abubakar Distinguished Lecture Series was conceived and established. If you truly believe in your own statement above, then it is amazing that you would risk the good name of Chicago State University for such a crazy venture of promoting despotism in Nigeria. In your personal welcome to the Abdulsalami A. Abubakar Distinguished Lecture Series on your website, you wrote:
The largesse of His Excellency Abdulsalami A. Abubakar has afforded this opportunity to establish this annual program, which is designed to transcend geopolitical and ethnic boundaries in search of humane and peaceful transitions to democracy. Chicago State University is a wholly appropriate intellectual environment in which to raise critical issues relating to this challenge. Indeed, our reputation for academic excellence in tandem with our longstanding commitment to scholarship and responsibility embodies the goals of the series.
Amen!, Madam President. It is, indeed fateful that you, Madam President, admit that you and/or your institution received a "largesse" from Abubakar for your ignominious services. So, how did Abdulsalami Abubakar acquire the money to set up a Foundation in the US that provides you with the "largess" to establish this annual program" when a majority of children in his own country cannot afford two poor meals a day, and do not have schools or the most basic educational equipment? Having been involved in the long struggle to restore some normalcy to our country, we of the NPDN view your actions with deep concern. We know that in the past, some unscrupulous Americans (including many African Americans, some of them "religious leaders") exploited the death, abuse and misery of Nigerians for their own financial gain. However, your institution has greatly marred its reputation and abdicated its intellectual responsibility as a citadel of knowledge and humanism by joining such a band of charlatans in this immoral fleecing of Nigeria and Nigerians.
We of the NPDN are currently in the process of filing legal action against a number of your Nigerian invitees. We caution that we will not hesitate to include you and members of your Board of Trustees in such legal action if any ill-gotten Nigerian money is traced to your institution.
It is mind-boggling that while your government preaches "democracy" on mountain-tops in Europe, people like you are encouraging tyrants and kleptomaniacs in Africa. It is also singularly obscene that you and your institution chose Black History Month in the US for your sponsorship of despotism and continued corruption in Africa. That is a vicious assault on all peoples of African descent everywhere!
We believe that it is not too late to salvage the situation. Madam President, on behalf of the long-suffering people of Nigeria, in the name of African peoples all over the world, and in the name of morality and human decency, we strongly urge you to "un-invite" your Nigerian guests TODAY because they will earn you and your institution a blight and disrepute that will be difficult to obliterate. Thank you, Madam President.
Alhaji Mohammed Ighile
Kayode Oladele, Esq., LLM
Phones: 248-332-4184; 317-826-4270; 734-973-6844; 770-472-5754. Fax: (US)