Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi At 72: ‘Boko Haram lesson for Nigeria: Stop ignoring grievances’

on   /   in Interview 1:19 am   /   Comments

*Lists challenges, gains of Presidential Committee on Islamist group
*Says those calling for National Conference boycott are wrong
*’Why Nigeria was snubbed at Mandela’s funeral’

It was the first day of the year, January 1, 2014 – just some four days to Professor Bolaji Akinyemi’s 72 birthday. He had invited the quintet of President of the Guild of Editors, Femi Adesina, Editors of the Sunday titles of ThisDay (Tunde Rahman), The Nation (Festus Eriye), Sun (Alhaji Abdulfatah) and I for lunch. It was there that Akinyemi bared his mind on some very important national and international events in a manner only a man with uncommon intellect and insight would. Excerpts:

By Jide Ajani

How do you see the APC developing?
I have often said and I have been on record for saying so that a two-party system is a positive development for nation-building to overcome our nativistic cleavages. It is one of the legacies of IBB that was jettisoned ill-advisably. I welcome the coming of the APC. I must also say I think people who are talking about the lack of ideological orientation in the PDP or the APC completely miss the point in that political parties are there to win elections and they will configure themselves in such a way as to maximize their electoral support. You look at the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States, there is always a mixture. The southern element, for example, in the Republican Party in the United States have nothing in common with those in Montana and those from Massachusetts. The same thing with the Democratic Party.

We should start to give up this missionary concept with which we the judge our politics, whether domestic politics or foreign. It must be so pure that you would think we are electing the Pope. With Snowden and Wikileaks now, we know that those who mount the pulpit at the UN or wherever and preach pure values, their agencies are busy doing the filthiest things possible against even some of their own major allies. It doesn’t bother me. It is a welcome development and then, of course, we must not forget that the Labour Party is coming up. So, if you don’t like the PDP or the APC, the Labour Party is there for you. And, remember, in the United Kingdom, you have the Labour Party, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The Labour Party in Nigeria will always be for those of us who want to vote our conscience. The Labour Party may never win an election in the Presidency, but they will make you feel good that you still voted but not for either of those two characters.

We’ve heard a lot of criticisms about APC poaching in the PDP waters…

(Cuts in) In what other waters would they poach?

Is that the same way you see the APC attempt to woo Obasanjo; and Tinubu describing him as navigator and asking him to come and navigate for them?

Politicians will do anything to get into power. I’m not surprised and I’m not going to lose any sleep over what any politician says or does in order to win over people. I’m not saying I support what they do. I’m just saying I’m not going to lose any sleep because it  doesn’t surprise me. I have experienced a situation where you have a meeting that breaks up at 11pm and you have reached certain decisions about what to do and some of the people who were at the meeting, leaving your house, have gone on to another meeting of the other side; and in the morning you remind them, ‘don’t forget our decision’, and they reply, ‘ahh… Things have changed. There are different colours… What different colours? I had gone to sleep, believing decisions have been reached. So, I wont lose any sleep and won’t be surprised.

Could we then be talking about the death of ideology?
Ideology, in this country, died a long time ago. It’s just that things that we got from the Western or the Eastern countries, long after they are dead, are still wagging their tails. There are people still preaching Marxism in Nigeria.  Ideology in terms of inflexible beliefs are long gone except if you are talking about North Korea. But that’s a one-party system. The death of ideology is long celebrated.

From your observation about what is going on, do you think this is a major shift in the balance of power in Nigeria or just a cosmetic game show that, after a while, things will settle down in the same old fashion? Are we seeing a major shift?

I don’t really know. And that’s the honest truth. I am old enough to have witnessed alliances between political parties always on the eve of elections or, at times, after elections. It happened in 1959, on the eve of our independence at  Action Group. Half of the Action Group was negotiating with Zik. The Akintola wing was sending messages to NPC, which the Sarduana saw as duplicity and so it ended up with the NCNC. Then UPGA was also an attempt at shaking hands across the Niger. Then in 1979 between UPN and NPP, they were again negotiating, while the NPP was also negotiating with the NPN. So, I am old enough to have gone through and seen that all those alliances falter on two platforms. Disagreement over who runs for what office or if it’s after elections, who issues the best offer for post?

That is why I said I don’t know how fundamental this is. Because it then takes us back to the question I addressed earlier on  ideological posturing. If a party is not founded on a firm set of beliefs, that it is just to get rid of the ruling power, if you don’t succeed electorally, you are going to break up. If the issue then starts about who runs for governor, president and so on, because also politics is about power and the power could be power within the party or power over the country…..

But if you have fixed ideological postures, then the people you will invite to join you must be people who have the same ideological beliefs, who see things the way you see them. That is most likely to hold together. But in a multi ethnic, multi religious country like Nigeria, you’ve got to broaden your base.

Then it will mean that if APC does not get power at the centre in 2015, that coalition will not survive.

Yes, but I will even modify that by saying let us watch out for when candidates start being adopted because this is Nigeria. I am a political scientist. Let us be practical. I have seen and you have seen, in the past how many years, a man is not adopted today to be a candidate for governor, tomorrow he moves to another party. Now,  what was his belief in the party he is leaving and then, after some time, he comes back. We have even had it at the presidential level, so many of them. Do you really believe that this will change within one year, that, all of a sudden, people will now embrace the values that there is nothing wrong in being in the opposition. Even the way we run the National Assembly, I am quite surprised that we really haven’t had people do an analysis of that.
Nigeria is the only country that I know where, without forming an alliance, members of the minority party are made chairmen or deputy chairmen of House and Senate committees. I’ve never heard of it. How can you claim that you are in opposition and yet you are the chairman of a House committee ruled by another party? Whereas, technically, they can say ‘no, we are in opposition. We accept we are in opposition and we will fight the battle of opposition.’ But when in fact you have already been sucked into what I call status politics, how can you then say you are running a viable opposition?

You have applauded what looks like an emerging two-party system. But if you look at the current configuration, would you say it poses a potent threat to the PDP in 2015  the same way you would look at that time that the military thought NRC was going to beat the SDP but they were wrong?

Which means that Nigerian politics makes a fool of all of us who dare prophesy. Well, I must agree with you that the configurations show that nothing must be taken for granted whether by the ruling party or the APC coming up. That’s good for our country. Politicians are likely to be more respectful of the citizens, of the people when they actually have to fight for their victory. I think that is good for us. When nothing can be taken for granted, that is good for us. We do need the politics of citizen control, the politics of citizen respect, the politics of citizen appreciation where things centre around the interest of the citizens. Whether vote is really going to count, we need that and not where, ‘What the heck… E dibo fun wa, e o dibo, a ti wole.’ (Whether you vote for us or not, we have won).

You served on this Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenge in the North and the report is ready. Things are fairly better now, but do you think the worst is over?
No. I don’t think the worst is over.

Things are a bit better?
Oh yes.

To what extent did your committee play some strategic roles in creating the kind of situation we have right now?
I would rather put it this way, that the carrot and stick method adopted by the president is something that needed to be applauded. I would rather actually give more appreciation to the military intervention. I think that the symbolic value of the presidential dialogue committee was that it showed the preparedness of  the federal government to negotiate if the other party is willing to negotiate. It was a diplomatic gesture. Right now, the President of the Southern Sudan and his former Vice agreed to go to Ethiopia to talk, even though the official army of the Southern Sudanese is actually giving the rebels a bloody nose. It’s like if you want to talk, I am ready to talk. But if you want to fight, I am ready to continue fighting.

A government should never be afraid to negotiate. But like Kennedy said, you  should never negotiate out of fear. At the time we were set up, the Boko Haram had already overrun most of Borno and Yobe states. There were some people who were beginning to feel that our committee was set up as a kind of appeasement. Therefore, it was necessary for the president to let these people know that I can use the military just as well. I think that things are better now. I would give the appreciation to the military intervention.

The reason I said no to the president is because we tend in this country to think that because things have gotten better, maybe Boko Haram is finished.
But Boko Haram has become an affiliate of an international movement that is not finished. If the major tree trunk is not finished, how can you say that the branch is finished? I just don’t want Nigerians to relapse into a state of complacency, where they will later turn around tomorrow and say, ‘we thought this thing was finished’. No.

Number two, the factors that led to the emergence of Boko Haram are still there: Massive youth unemployment, disillusionment with the system, loss of values, loss of faith in the judicial system. These issues were raised with us by the Boko Haram members we spoke to. These were their grievances. They are all still there. You must address the issues of massive youth unemployment. It is a time bomb. You must address the issue of caring for the widows, the fatherless, orphans. You must address those issues. You must curb corruption. These people can see. Even the blind who stumbles into a pothole on a road that was constructed three months ago knows why. He walks confidently because the road is only three months old but, all of a sudden, he falls into a pothole. He then knows why that pothole was there. We must address all these issues. They are beyond partisan politics. That is why I said Boko Haram would continue. Boko Haram will continue to afflict us. In any case, mention to me one country in the world where you had religious-based insurgency and it has been defeated.

I was very critical of the committee for a couple of reasons. Number one, the example you gave about what is happening in Southern Sudan. You are talking about two reasonable people who probably are people you could deal with. But here you have a bunch of people who are not doing anything that you can describe by any means as reasonable, slaughtering people. You don’t even know what their demands are. I don’t think the leadership of Boko Haram has ever come out to say that they are fighting for economic emancipation. It has always been religion-based.   How do you begin to negotiate with such people who have demands that are not negotiable? They want to install theocracy in the North. How do you negotiate with that bunch of people.
And then the people that your committee was meeting were hired hands. There was no evidence that your committee met with the members that mattered. If you really met with the leadership, perhaps you would have seen something more substantial?

My reaction to your point is, look at where the demand for negotiation was coming from -the northern elite. The Sultan and Western countries -The United States and Britain. What do you lose by saying, ‘ fine. I’m ready to negotiate’. You’re right, the pressure didn’t come from Boko Haram members. But it came from prominent and eminent Nigerians. What do you lose by saying, ‘alright, I am ready to negotiate’. If I should turn the question around, what do you gain by saying, ‘I am not ready to negotiate’. Then they turn around and say it is because you are refusing…

My point is, if people are saying negotiate, then the government should have had discussion with the  northern elite and ask them to provide credible people to negotiate with. Your committee met with some of the prisoners. We still have Shekau in the bush somewhere slaughtering people.

Then, what did we lose by setting up that committee and saying we are prepared to negotiate. What did we lose?

Frankly, I thought the government was just embarking on a wild goose chase?

We didn’t lose. A government must always…In fact, this is a  classic management technique. You want us to talk, ‘I am ready to talk’. And then you fold your hands. You didn’t lose anything. You have allocated manpower resources for this, but then, that’s part of management. You have lost nothing. It would be different if the president has taken up the position, ‘because I have set up this committee, I will order the military to stop action’ and then Boko Haram had continued to gain ground. Then you will have a point. On the other hand, rather than have to confront a situation where the president will be accused of showing lack of respect for the northern elite, showing insensitivity to the people who are actually suffering and who have come up with a solution package…. And also, the Americans and the British saying you are just using iron fist, which is not working, according to them. The president said, ‘Okay, here is a committee headed by a minister in my government’. He gained because he was prepared to negotiate.

Apart from those prisoners, we did meet important leaders of the sect, not Shekau. Last week, somebody still came up to say he was Shekau. The CIA confirmed that those tapes are fake. I had come to the conclusion that actually what Boko Haram has decided to do is that every leader of the sect would be called Shekau. There was another spokesperson for Boko Haram that they kept using his name – Abu Qaqa. There is no way to find out the real fact. Except if you conduct DNA and even at that, do you know who Shekau’s father was, because you have to get a relative of his? What happened with Boko Haram is that they have been trained by the Al-Qaeda international network.

It is not true that it was just the foot soldiers that we met. Even with the foot soldiers, meeting them served a very good purpose. For the first time in my life, I met Nigerians who could not be bribed. Money was nothing to them. Just as they were prepared to kill, killing them also was nothing to them because they believed in a cause. So, it was that cause that you needed to attack.

And that was where some eminent Sheiks who were on our panel took them on, based on the issues of the Quran. At the end, those Sheiks were able to persuade them that the interpretation by Yusuf and Shekau of the Quran was wrong. That was why they were able to go on tape and they did. And the advantage of it was that when this tape was then played, there were other foot soldiers who then said, ‘Wait a minute…if our commanders are saying this’…all these efforts were to make them understand that their cause and their interpretation of the Quran given to them by Shekau was faulty.
They were not offered anything,  not even their freedom. As far as I know, they are still in the prisons. There are some of them who didn’t give us the light of the day. You could tell from their body language. But there were others who listened, who were persuaded and were convinced.

What lessons have you learnt from the exercise?
Dealing with Boko Haram has alerted me, and this is the message I would like to give to Nigerians. Usually, we think every man has his price. Therefore, don’t worry. How much? But I met a group that couldn’t be bought and they may not be the only group. If you push people to the wall, whether in the Niger-Delta, or in any part of Nigeria, you may never know when they cross that boundary.   And then you know you really have trouble on your hands. Up till now, we always believed that money could solve all the problems. ‘Throw money at them’. But these ones couldn’t be bought. There was a guy, when he was arrested, his wife was pregnant and he had a little baby and they were separated. He was imprisoned somewhere.   The wife and the kid in another prison. He was aware of where they were. So it was like, ‘look, cooperate with us, and, incidentally, your wife had a baby boy’. He said he knew. Don’t think because you separated them he didn’t know. Of course, prison is porous.

Then we said to him, ‘don’t you want to go and visit your wife and new baby?’ And  he said, ‘What for?’ He said where he was, that was the way Allah want  it and where his wife and baby were, that was the way Allah wanted them to be. It is a struggle that does not allow for family sensitivity. That one, are you now going to say we’ll give him  money? So, that is a lesson that was imprinted on my mind, which I would like Nigerians to pay serious attention to. Let us stop doing things as business as usual. Things are not business as usual in this country.

There are the aggrieved and you are right that in the case of these people, they found a religion on which to hook on their grievances. There may be other groups. It could be ideology that they would hook their grievances on. Let us stop ignoring grievances.

This could tie to the issue of  National Dialogue, National Conference that the president is calling. From your experience, would you say that the engagement  would yield something profound to address this type of challenge?

I am a firm believer in National Conference. People have been demanding it. People had thought this would be a solution, a platform that will address grievances, fears and come up with a solution. Somewhere along the line, the president seemed to have become persuaded that he could pull it off, that the situation is ripe enough for him to attempt this. Would he succeed? I don’t know because the conference is not by the president for the president. It is for you and I and the kind of people we elect that will go there. It’s going to depend on the seriousness of the delegates you send. It is unfortunate that the APC has decided to boycott it. I think it is gravely unfortunate. Another lesson I have learnt in life, don’t boycott things. Life goes on. We have suffered. It has never worked in Nigeria, we have boycotted, boycotted and the country continues. And, unfortunately, you can’t reverse it. When you then decide to join, maybe whatever system they put in place, you can’t say let us go and revisit…I am not a believer in boycott anymore. Elections were boycotted in 1960. Whatever it was, the elections were  held. Government was still formed and, until the military came in, that government was ruling. General Abubakar offered to meet NADECO. We are on record. I know the messages sent to me: ‘Don’t take part in the transition.

The transition is not going to last. It’s a contraption’. The contraption is in place since 1999. If  somebody like Tinubu had decided to obey NADECO and not take part, what would have happened today?

Number two, the outcome will depend on the discussion there. The success will depend on the attitude of the National Assembly because, frankly,   the Constitution did not make any provision for National Conference. But this is a country where we came up with the Doctrine of Necessity when we were confronted with a problem. I’m sure we have enough SANs, who can come up with how to get the National Assembly and the president to read from the same page so that the outcome of the National Conference can become law.

But I must say this. I admire the president. If not for anything for one thing. I may be wrong, I don’t believe I know of any government in the world that would decide to embark on a major programme and put critics of the government on the advisory committee to come up with modalities. If you know Femi Okurounmu, Professor Nwabueze was there to start with, he (Nwabueze) dropped because of old age. Asemota. I can mention about six. These are difficult people to deal with and you now put them into a committee to come up with modalities. It takes courage. Normally, government will say ‘we are looking for our own people. ‘That one is on the same page with us, put him there. That one is not our friend. No, no, no remove him from the list.’ That is how government operates, frankly, whether here, in America or Britain. They will say ‘don’t put him on the committee, he is a troublemaker’. These are the people the president looked for. I admire Mr President for that, it shows courage. I am not even sure I have that kind of courage.

I want to ask two questions. Please encapsulate the gains of that committee. What would you say the committee achieved? Two, from what you said earlier, it’s like you more or less canvassed compensation for victims of Boko Haram. And I know the president had said there wouldn’t be compensation. Did the committee recommend that? Is the committee in disagreement with the president on that?
Let me take the last question first. No, we didn’t canvass compensation. We canvassed victims’ support. What’s the difference between the two? A man, a driver loses his left eye in the bombing.

If he goes to court, the judge can award N2m  to N3 million compensation. We said no. Instead, look at the man. He lost one eye and can’t drive again. What does he want to do? What do we suggest to him to help him maintain his family, educate his children and put food on the table and have another life? He might decide to become a carpenter. In this case, government pays for the man to be trained to be a carpenter. You set up a workshop for him after he graduates. You give him the running capital, so that from the proceeds of that workshop, he can now maintain his family. That is victims’ support. All the money you are going to put into it may not  be more than N5m. You don’t even know the figure. We are not concentrating on the figure. We are concentrating on giving the man an alternative life. Take a woman who lost her husband. Maybe, she has run away from Maiduguri to settle in Opebi, Ikeja. Resettlement. Is it a small shop that will set up this woman who lost her husband, the breadwinner, and left to cater for the children? How much will it be to set up a shop for her and give her running capital? That is victims’ support.

But the moment you talk about compensation, it is a legal term.  Then, you have to start setting up a committee to decide how much you compensate the woman for the loss of her husband. We didn’t want to go down that road. We were reading on the same page with the president. I was the Chairman of the Victims’ Support Committee. We wrote the draft for a Victim Support Agency that would handle this matter.

Did the president accept that?
Yes, he did. Now the first part of the question, what were the gains. The committee took a holistic look at the problems facing Nigeria that encourages insurgency all over the country. We came up with a recommendation for a Marshal Plan for the whole country. Not just the North-Eeast but for the whole country.

Manifestations of insurgency are kidnapping, blowing up of oil wells, armed robbery. We didn’t put a figure on it but we suggested a Marshal Plan that would rescue Nigeria. Recall that in the new budget, the president said N2 billion intervention fund for the North-east and, when they complained that it was too small, the Minister of State for Finance said that was just the first tranche for this year out of the total amount. I am not privy to what the president is going to do with our report. And I am   not privy to what he has decided to do, but, obviously, he has accepted the concept of an intervention fund.

The other gain, as far as I am concerned, is the way we reached out to the victims. We had a meeting with the surviving victims of the Madalla bombing as well as the surviving victims of the NYSC office that was blown up. I remember one of the priests who still had shrapnel wounds and lost one of his children. He brought another son who had metal plate…Frankly, there was no dry eye. Everybody was moved to tears. But the man said the ‘healing has just started by the fact that the government sent you people’. He said apart from the government delegation that came the day after the bombing, they had seen nobody, such that they thought they had been forgotten.

So, you have that psychological reaching out to them. And it happened to me also in Kano when I went to the hospital. There was a man on bed who, first of all, told me off. He asked, what did I come to the hospital to do? Have I come to say sorry? Is that what he needed? I asked, did he mind if I sat on his bed? He told me to sit wherever I wanted  to sit. I sat next to him on his bed and we just allowed him to talk. And it turned out that he lost his three children and when he removed the clothes covering him, he had tubes coming out of…I saw he had lost his vital organ. He said even if  he wanted to start all over again, he could not  start.

After he had talked, I started calming him down. I said I was  not even going to say  sorry, because I didn’t do it. I told him the president sent us to let him know that he knew they exist. I spoke to him and gave him a little package. He calmed down and gave us advice on what to do for the victims. We went around the country, reaching out.

This is a remarkable difference from what used to happen in this country where no one remembers such victims. I remember when Yar’Adua became president, I called one of his aides to tell the president to write a letter to victims of a major accident that happened at that time somewhere in Delta and a lot of people died. Let us try to show that government can be  compassionate.

This is what I expect First Ladies to be doing, frankly. When there are disasters, I expect the First Lady to go to the hospital. Obviously, she can’t go to every home. This is the compassionate face of government. We did that. We showed the compassionate face of government. To me, those are what we count as gains. Obviously, we didn’t persuade  Boko Haram to give up but we came up with what I would regard as an exhaustive report on what causes insurgency. If you go to government archives, there are up to 50 of such reports that had been written. I cannot claim that to be our own success. But those two, victims’ support and proposing a Marshal Plan to actually pull Nigerians out of the gutters of misery, I would regard those as having been worth the time spent on it.
As a fallout of the work of your committee, you have said that things have improved. Maybe you have Boko Haram boxed into the corner, but you have also seen them grow in terms of their capability. Before, you didn’t have columns of pick-up vans. Now they have all that. They have more ordnance. They even attacked military bases. They never had that kind of capability. So when we say things have improved….
(Cuts in) When the president asked me, I said, no. He asked me, do I think…

Now what I’m getting at is, how do you rate the capability of the military to deal with this problem?

I am not in a position to answer that question on the military tactics being adopted. But this has to do with the fact that I am not the Minister of Defence, a service chief, not the National Security Adviser; so I don’t really know. Do we have operational drones? I know the president went to inaugurate one, but is it operational? If those drones are operational, you will be able to pick up. Although they are expensive to run, you need drones. You have to pick up the columns and before it gets there, you can send bombers after them or you set an  ambush for them.   I, myself, have questions to ask. Let me use this opportunity to say this. There was a front page story in one of the newspapers last time. Somebody designed toys for his child. And he has designed this thing that can actually fly. I looked at that thing. Believe me, if I were the president of the country, my National Security Adviser would have gone to pick up that man. So, you’ve got brains to do this. How can we make this thing operational? First of all, what other brain waves have you got?   This is how to make a breakthrough. Obviously, the guy has the technological skills. This thing flew out of his compound and crashed into another place. That is the way to develop Nigeria, not through PhD.

Yes, you need PhDs, but research and development. Go back through history and see. There was this man, during the Italian renaissance, he’s noted now more for sculpture. They came up with files of his drawings. He was able to dissect the human body, that showed where muscles are. He did designs for submarines at a time nobody even heard of ships apart from wooden canoes. He designed space ships. He never went to school.

Americans spent $300billion on their space programme. India spent $1.65billion on their own. You want to tell me that Nigeria cannot afford $1.65billion? I am sure, in one month, we steal more than 1.65billion in Nigeria.

That’s how much Indian space programme cost. The Chinese did the same thing. Simply because while America will spend $50 million trying to develop a pen that would not drip in space, the Chinese would just take a pencil along into space. It doesn’t cost them anything, the pencil is already there. So, the Chinese spent $1.6 billion. And they have put an explorer on the moon now. Nigeria can afford this. I know I have been preaching this since my days at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs about what Nigeria can be doing, even before it has solved its poverty problem. Other countries have done so. Give us something to make us proud. I’m 72 now. I want this country to do something so that on my death bed, I can smile and say yes, my country made it. Right now, there is nothing to make me say my country made it. I believe in celebrating 100 years. I am not looking down on that. It has been a difficult existence for us.

But whether we become so pessimistic or so depressed about the performance of our leaders, that even things we should celebrate, we don’t want to celebrate them.

But a hundred years of our existence, not so peaceful, can’t be peaceful. It cannot. We are human beings, we are not robots. Human beings with fears, with misunderstandings. No, it can’t be peaceful. That we are still together after 100 years is worth celebrating.
But I want something more than that to celebrate on my death bed.

What is your comment on Obasanjo’s letter to Jonathan?
All that needs to be say has been said by the exchange of those letters. I shy away from getting myself involved in a situation where the whole purpose is to say, ‘Hey, I’m still alive. I’m still relevant’. I shy away from that. Enough have been said about those letters. Some of the comments have been useful, some to add fuel to the fire. The other comments not useful at all. They were just drawing attention to themselves.
This is a New Year. I prefer to just watch and see things unfolding. Even though, I am a professor of political science, I am not a prophet. So, I will join all of you in folding my hands and watching events unfold and let the waves carry us to where the waves are going.

Was Nigeria snubbed by South Africa at the funeral of Nelson Mandela?
Yes we were snubbed. There is no other answer to that question. But the Jonathan administration is not to blame for that. If the snub had been directed at the president, then why were other Nigerians who are prominent internationally not invited and given a prominent mention? The root cause lies in the propensity of so-called eminent Nigerians   going round backstabbing other Nigerians, running them down internationally, all in an attempt to give the impression that nobody else counts except themselves. Since 1979, we have always had two presidents on each occasion, one located at the capital and the other self-styled located elsewhere, entertaining and gossiping with members   of the diplomatic corps and running down state functionaries. There were others who also indulged in these disgraceful and shameful practices. However in the process, the international community saw through the despicable characters and adjudge them worthless.

The end result is that it is the whole of Nigeria that suffers as the international community decides to give Nigeria a wide berth and not get involved in the Nigerian wahala. That explains why those who trumpeted their relationship with Nelson Mandela were nowhere to be seen at the funeral.

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