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DÉJÀ VU – In Tragic Vein

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By Prof Wole Soyinka

I arrived home from external commitments just over a week ago to an extraordinary homecoming gift. It took the form of a movement — sometimes angry, sometimes entrancing, poignant, sometimes strident, certainly robust in expectations but always moving, visionary and organized.

That movement demanded an end to brutality from state security agencies, focusing on a notorious unit known as SARS. But, of course, SARS merely stood for the parasitic character of governance itself in all ramifications. That dimension – albeit not in those very terms of course – was acknowledge by the first formal response of government, delivered through the Vice-President.

The movement involved members of the Nigerian Bar Association, Feminist Groups, Professionals, Technocrats, Students, Prelates, Industrial institutions, and Artistes – writers, cineastes, actors, musicians. It was markedly a youthful movement, its energy, creativity and resolve diffused throughout the nation through impressive strategies. It was, above all, orderly.

In places, one felt vibrations that seemed to echo concert grounds like Woodstock, other times, the massed processions of France’s Yellow vests or waves of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement. Even closer, more recently and pertinent, the patient, stoical gatherings in Mali that lasted weeks and, in whose resolution, our own nation played a critical role.

As I stated in my Message to Youth at the Freedom Park 10th anniversary events on Saturday, 17th, these youths brought fresh blood into tired veins. It was bliss indeed to be alive, to watch youths finally begin to take the future into their own hands.

But – and haven’t we been here before? — Suddenly, virtually overnight, it all changed. State security services – which specific branch, we have yet to identify – transported thugs to break up the protests. The videos exist, they have been widely disseminated – sleek motorcades with number plates covered – moved to recruit and disgorge thugs and breeds of hoodlums to break up the peaceful protests.

Those mercenaries set fire to the protesters’ vehicles where parked, set upon the gathered youths with cudgels and machetes. They broke open at least one prison to let out the inmates. It has since been established that some of those vandals were actually recruited prisoners who, we can only presume, have been paid not only in cash but in kind. Casualties began in single, sporadic numbers, climaxing in the shooting dead last night of a yet undetermined number of protesters in a Lagos sector called Lekki.

The mood, and climate of protest changed abruptly, and devastatingly with that diabolical intrusion. For the first time, anger and nihilism entered the lists, moving to dominate emotions. Organized militancy has been replaced by vengeful, omni-directional hatred. The capital, Abuja, has been torched in places, including the famous Apo market – that name itself evoking memories of an ancient massacre of youth – known as the APO Six — by SARS.

Yesterday, October 20, I set out to drive to my hometown, Abeokuta, to be on my own turf as the violence was spiraling mindlessly in multiple directions. After negotiating my way through some eight or nine protesters’ road-blocks, I was compelled to turn back. It was all déjà vu – the uprisings in the former Western Region of Nigeria, the anti-Abacha movement etc. etc. etc. The attempt however enabled me to assess the mood and transformation of the movement. I was better prepared. I rescheduled my trip for the following day ,– that is, this morning.

In the meantime, however, that is, within the next eight to ten hours, the tension has become unimaginable! At that earlier mention Lagos sector, Lekki, where most of the affirmative action gatherings had taken place, soldiers opened fire on unarmed demonstrators, killing and wounding a yet undetermined number. One such extra-judicial killing has drenched the Nigerian flag in the blood of innocents – and not symbolically. The video has, in accustomed parlance, ‘gone viral’. I have spoken by phone to eye-witnesses.

One, a noted public figure has shared his first-hand testimony on television. The government should cease to insult this nation with petulant denials.

I resumed my trip to Abeokuta at 6 am, this morning as scheduled, again negotiating road-blocks -– this time somewhere between twelve and fifteen, all distinguished by an implacable state of rage. It was in stark contrast to the inclusivity of the protesting ‘family of common cause’ of earlier days. All inherent beauty of instant bonding and solidarity evaporated.

At the block just before the Lagos Secretariat, the protesters proved the most recalcitrant. In the end, they exacted from me just the one offering to the rites of passage – I could sense it coming — I had to come down from the car and addressed them. I did. Little did they know what was churning in my mind: This is not real. This is Back to Abacha – in grotesque replay!

It is absolutely essential to let this government know that the Army has now replaced SARS in the demonic album of the protesters. My enquiry so far indicates that the Lagos governor did not invite in the Army, did not complain of a ‘breakdown in law and order’.

Nevertheless, the Centre has chosen to act in an authoritarian manner and has inflicted a near incurable wound on the community psyche. Need I add that, on arrival in Abeokuta, my home town, I again had to negotiate a road block? That went smoothly enough. I expected it, and have no doubt that more are being erected as this is being written.

It is pathetic and unimaginative to claim, as some have done, that the continued protest is hurting the nation’s economy etc. etc.

COVID-19 has battered the Nigerian economy – such as it is – for over eight months. Of course it is not easy to bring down COVID under a hail of bullets – human lives are easier target, and there are even trophies to flaunt as evidence of victory – such as the blood-soaked Nigerian flag that one of the victims was waving at the time of his murder.

To the affected governors all over the nation, there is one immediate step to take: demand the withdrawal of those soldiers. Convoke Town Hall meetings as a matter of urgency. 24-hr Curfews are not the solution. Take over the security of your people with whatever resources you can rummage. Substitute community self-policing based on Local Councils, to curb hooligan infiltration and extortionist and destructive opportunism.

We commiserate with the bereaved and urge state governments to compensate material losses, wherever. To commence any process of healing at all – dare one assume that this is the ultimate destination of desire? — the Army must apologize, not merely to the nation but to the global community – the facts are indisputable – you, the military, opened fire on unarmed civilians. There has to be structured restitution and assurance that such aberrations will not again be recorded.

Then both governance and its security arms can commence a meaningful, lamentably overdue dialogue with society. Do not attempt to dictate — Dialogue!

* SOYINKA wrote from A.R.I. Kemta Housing Estate, Abeokuta, Ogun State

October 21, 2020

Opinion

Buhari rests in London, Nigeria boils by Tunde Odesola

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(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, April 12, 2021)

As a herdsman, ‘yowwa’ is the likeliest gratifying word to escape from the tight-lipped Nigerian President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) if his cows nuzzle their muzzles against him as they eat hay from his outstretched hands during a random visit to his herd.

And as a devout Muslim, ‘Auzubillahi!’ is the likeliest word the President would utter if a dog mistakenly snuggles up against his ankle; Islam forbids human-dog embrace.

Aside from the religious injunction, however, the 78-year-old northern leader is unlikely to prefer the dog to the cow. Quite unlike the slow, witless and clumsy cow, the dog is a very intelligent, friendly, sensitive and witty creature. Universally, the dog is seen as man’s best friend, not the cow. Notwithstanding all these attributes, President Buhari’s preference will still be for the cow, not the dog, any day, anytime – for ancestral reasons.

The age-long ‘yes-sir!’ military mentality that upholds loyalty to superiors over patriotism to Nigeria, predisposes Buhari, a veteran soldier, to choosing the pliant cow over the witty dog.

Surely, the flunkey ‘yes-sir’ mentality is the reason why the Nigerian military, police, DSS and other security agencies put Buhari far above the country and the Constitution, and would shoot at innocent youths at Lekki tollgate even when such an order is in clear breach of the rules of engagement and the Constitution.

Indeed, the distinction between sycophancy and patriotism was what saved the US when subversive forces rose against its democracy on January 6, 2021 at the Capitol as the judiciary, the legislature, the military and all other institutions of government stood in defence of the American Constitution over the shenanigans of former President Donald Trump and his cohorts.

The understanding of the distinction between racism and patriotism is what is currently playing out in the trial of the white police officer, Derek Chauvin, who knelt on the neck of African-American George Floyd on May 25, 2020, sending him to an early grave in Minneapolis city of Minnesota, USA.

Chauvin’s ongoing public trial, which commenced on March 29, 2021, displays the unquestionable ability of the American nation to reinvent itself when faced with challenges.

For the average Nigerian like me, it beggars belief to think that serving and retired Nigerian police officers would enter the witness box and vehemently condemn one of their own as it’s being done in the trial of Chauvin, who faces up to 40 years in prison if the second degree murder charge, which presupposes that he didn’t intentionally kill Floyd, is upheld.

Since public hearings on police killings and brutality opened in various states of the Nigerian federation, following the #Endsars nationwide protests last year, no ex-security officer or serving security officer has come out to condemn army-police extrajudicial killings.

Public officials’ arrogant misuse of state power against the citizenry is one of the reasons for the overwhelming call for the restructuring of the country.

The monumental failure of the Buhari-led regime in tackling insecurity, corruption, nepotism, poverty, ethnicity and government insensitivity is the fuel to the agitation for the break-up of the federation.

Arrogant, insensitive and utterly reckless, the All Progressives Congress-led Presidency, in 2019, released the picture of Buhari picking his teeth, probably after drinking some (nunu) milk from his cows – while the citizenry groaned under the weight of unemployment, lack and dejection. Only our I-don’t-care President would pick his teeth after drinking milk.

Commenting on the tooth-picking picture, presidential aide on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, displayed the characteristic arrogance and insensitivity of the Buhari regime when he said in a tweet, “It’s hard to understand why some people are genuinely angry because of this innocent pic. When I innocently snapped it on Feb 27 and posted (it) on my Snapchat, it didn’t occur to me that it’s going to give wailers that strong hit…”

As Nigerians have been gnashing their teeth since the beginning in 2015, so shall it be till the end in 2023. Nothing will stop the plunge. Buhari is on an eight-year vacation.

Displaying his nonchalance to public outcry for the umpteenth time, Buhari, on march 30, 2021, embarked upon a two-week medical check-up in London, despite the nationwide strike by medical doctors in public hospitals back home.

Without a word on the plight of millions of sick Nigerians condemned to attend public hospitals nationwide, the President hopped on a plane and zoomed off to England, probably with two toothpicks in his mouth after a meal of tuwo and isi ewu.

Defending Buhari’s shameless medical trips, the most meritless of Buhari’s media aides, Lauretta Onochie, tweeted on April 7, 2021, “NEXT YEAR. PRES. @MBuhari WILL GO FOR A ROUTINE CHECKUP.

  1. We have been here since 2016. Its been the same wailing. So the response will also be the same. At least, once a year, People across the world see their personal Doctors especially one they have seen for about 40 years.’

It’s not hard to distinguish the noise of an empty barrel. So, Buhari, Onochie and the wastrels that make up the Presidency see nothing wrong in wasting Nigeria’s hard currency abroad in the last 40 years?

That Buhari cannot give Nigeria just one hospital he can attend, despite ruling Nigeria for eight years now, summarises his failure as a leader. It’s scandalous that Buhari didn’t feel ashamed about going to England still – for treatment – when he’s in an opportune position, in the last six year, to turn around Nigeria’s health sector.

The latest trip makes it Buhari’s 12th time to run off to London for medical treatment, despite his country having 72,000 registered medical doctors with over 50,000 of them, shamefully, out of the shores of the country due to lack of facilities and adequate welfare packages.

Buhari’s insensitivity doesn’t stop at the medical sector alone, where nurses, physiotherapists, health technologists etc are leaving the country in droves, the lethargy of his regime permeates every fabric of our national life, and holds the country down to slow death.

Even his wife, Aisha, left her matrimonial home, and took off to Dubai for six long months. It’s unheard of anywhere in the world that the wife of the president of a country, which isn’t at war, would go on vacation abroad for six months! Or, could it be that oga madam went on antenatal vacation ni?

Henceforth, I’ll be on the lookout for a bulge in the mid region of the beautiful Aisha. If Aisha gets pregnant penren? Eeeehhh!! Nigerians will put Buhari to the sword online. I bet you, trolls against the Buhari family will burn down the internet!

But seriously speaking, President Buhari won’t touch the dog. I’m sure he won’t touch the pig, either, because he’s a very pious Muslim. However, Buhari is the chichidodo, a bird that passionately hates feces but loves to eat the maggots in feces.

Buhari hates corruption, but corruption has been the signpost of his administration with millions of dollars yearly disappearing into non-working refineries and his former EFCC chair, Ibrahim Magu, enmeshed in financial scandals.

Buhari promised to stop medical tourism when campaigning to be President, but he and his family have made England, France, Germany, Canada, Dubai and the US their second homes.

Buhari promised to revamp the education sector, but his children never graduated from a Nigerian university.

Buhari, in 1983, promised to build infrastructure when he seized power in a military coup, but he cancelled the lofty Lagos metro line project initiated by the late Lateef Jakande administration, throwing the traffic of the lagoon city into eternal chaos. He came back in March 2019 to inaugurate a bus-stop in Lagos, though. Chai!

The alarming picture just keeps flashing in my head: Nigerian President on the bed of a random London hospital in an age when microchips can be implanted to monitor and control patients. Unmh!

Buhari rests peacefully in London while peace has fled his own country, Nigeria. Terrible.

Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com

Facebook: @tunde odesola

Twitter: @tunde_odesola

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Video: Nigerian leaders won’t be part of a decision that will take them out of power – Fr. GEORGE EHUSANI

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Demise of Yinka Odumakin, a dependable ally of the masses

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By Lai Olurode

The passing away of Chief Yinka Odumakin was a great loss to this country.

He was committed to a great but restructured Nigeria.

He was a dogged and committed fighter for causes that he believed in. And really, he was committed to fighting whatever would rob off negatively on the masses, no matter their ethno-religious identity.

To my mind, not many living Nigerians are as committed to a restructured Nigeria as he is.

Odumakin was courageous, bold, painstaking in the pursuit of facts and figures.

He had a robust and versatile mind. He speaks fluently and unrelenting and consistent in the pursuit of truth.

He had no permanent friend except in what is just, fair and right

The last time he was in touch with me was a couple of weeks back and in respect of the death of yet a greater Nigerian, Alh. Lateef kayode Jakande. He wanted some clarifications about LKJ’s unbelievably spartan life, which I obliged him.

May the soul of Odumakin rest in peace and may God be with his wife,  Dr. Mrs. Joe-Odumakin and the children he left behind. His death is certainly a devastating loss to the progressive camp and to all lovers of a great and peaceful Nigerian.

 

*Olurode is a former National Commissioner at the INEC and professor of Sociology at the University of Lagos.

April 3 2021

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