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‘Our members are hungry, our members must not be hungry’

By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
“My brother governor, Uduaghan said our members are hungry and that we must put food in their stomach so that they don’t stray to other parties. I am giving all the state chairmen of the party N1million each for lunch. Our members must not be hungry”
Godswill Akpabio, Akwa Ibom governor, at the recent South-South PDP gathering

OUR quotation above was taken from the impromptu speech made at the weekend, by Godswill Akpabio, the Akwa Ibom governor, during the South-South leg of the PDP’s reconciliation tour. As newspapers all reported last Monday, the six South-South PDP chairmen all chorused that they were truly “hungry”, and before anyone could spell Uyo, Akpabio gave a total of N6 million to the “hungry” chairmen for “lunch”.

It was an act that ordinarily should rile the sense of decency, but the PDP hierarchy came out in defence of Akpabio, who was also recently made chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum. Politics, according to the PDP was “an expensive” venture therefore the “small sum” of N6million for lunch, should not raise an eyebrow.  Godswill Akpabio has carved a niche for himself in recent times for his “donations” of funds and vehicles. A fortnight ago, he donated two SUV jeeps to musician Tuface Idibia and wife, after their celebrity marriage and just last Saturday, he gave N230m on behalf of PDP Governors, to President Jonathan’s hometown fund raising project.

Indecencies have become a major presence at the heart of Nigerian political life since the 1999 transition to civil rule. We have almost become numbed to the point where people literally do not seem to care anymore. But we must continue to care! And there can be no gainsaying the fact that in Akpabio’s statement, is the underlining context and content of the politics of our ruling elite and why they continue to under-develop Nigeria.

When he said the “hungry”chairmen should not be allowed “to stray” to other parties, he conjured the image of mongrel dogs straying from control; and who can deny that this imagery represents exactly how these local, governor tyrants see the individuals they impose as party chairmen and other party hacks; who often depend almost completely on handouts from their ‘principals’.

In my M.Sc. Political Science class in the 1990s, we studied the prebendal content of Nigerian politics of the Second Republic, 1979-83; but things evolved for the worst with the emergence of civil rule in 1999.

The “Executive Governor” phenomenon gave birth to monsters; and these caricatures of Nigerian dictatorship, from the colonial and military regimes, were transformed as a result of huge sums of money they sit atop, especially in the oil-producing states, where there is so much money to buy loyalties; bribe communities and individuals or to create a whole generation of thugs and ‘militants’, used to settle political scores and steal elections or even threaten the life blood of the nation’s economy.

If any individual has represented the best and worst of the “Executive Governor” phenomenon, it must be Godwill Akpabio. Last year, I attended the Nigerian Guild of Editors conference in Uyo. There was considerable evidence of the infrastructural improvements the state has witnessed under Akpabio. But there was also the sickening level of sycophancy; the personality cult of the governor and his immodesty in speech. The statement about hungry partymen who should not be hungry was therefore true to type.

In the past two weeks, the performance of the Lagos state head of the NSCDC, Mr. Obafaiye Shem, went viral on the net. The faux pas about “MY OGA  AT THE TOP”, led to the emergence of video re-mixes; t-shirts and dance steps. Everybody apparently saw the absurdity of the poor man’s performance, but I wonder just how many of us bothered to interrogate the fact that his statement spoke to the Nigerian condition.

We have a country littered with puny dictators of all descriptions. The OGA AT THE TOP is available in all corners of the country, running his position with shades of cruelty and petty dictatorship. The “OGA” knows it all! After the 1999 transition, these closet dictators were let lose on our society, while the indecency at the top is then spread around by their subordinates.

There was a governor I knew, who slapped one of his commissioners, between 1999 and 1983. Routine visits to Government Houses often kept commissioners and other top officials of government waiting for hours; while it is normal in many states, for these officials to go back and forth for days, before getting the opportunity to see OGA. In turn, the commissioners and LG chairmen visit the same or greater indecencies on their own subordinates. State activities do not get done on time, while the recruitment pattern ensures that the least qualified and sycophantic get a look in.

Of course, the quality of service delivery suffers. That is why subordinates hold the OGA AT THE TOP in awe, doing everything possible to be in OGA’s good books. It is the level of groveling surrender that might determine promotions or access to lucrative postings and perks!

This is the situation in Nigeria today and when Godwill Akpabio said“our members are hungry; our members must not be hungry”, he spoke for the Nigerian ruling elite and the mindset with which they run our country. It was therefore no surprise that the PDP leadership lept to his defence with the absurd statement that politics is an expensive business.

The question they will not answer is whether the money came from his pocket or was it the fund of Akwa Ibom state? And furthermore, was that the right reason to expend state funds? It might be “good” PDP politics to throw one million naira each to the PDP chairman from the South-South, so they won’t like s**t-eating local dogs “stray” to other parties.

But it dishonours the whole concept of politics as service to the Nigerian people. It is this level of impunity along with the continuing underdevelopment of Nigeria by the Akpabios and their PDP politics of hunger, that have been at the base of the crises phenomena in Nigeria today.

Iraq: 10 years after the illegal Anglo-American invasion and occupation

THIS week, the world has been remembering the tenth anniversary of the illegal Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq. The invasion was one of the greatest crimes of the beginning of the 21century; an invasion/occupation which violated the UN Charter and was conducted on the basis of lies, about alleged Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction and the even more absurd lie of an Alqaeda presence in Iraq. George Bush and his sinister poodle Tony B-Liar, cobbled together what they called a ‘coalition of the willing’ to invade Iraq and in the ten-year occupation, destroyed the fabric of Iraqi society.

The country with the oldest civilisation and nationalism on earth was systematically dissembled and turned against itself. Iraqis were proud of their country; its old civilisation; high level of education and a huge reserve of scientists, men and women. The invasion turned Iraq against itself and the confessional differences were played up: Sunni against Shia; Arab against Kurd, Turkoman and Jew; Muslim against Christian.

On the eve of the Anglo-American invasion, I was editor of DAILY TRUST newspaper and I had been the only Nigerian journalist invited along with other media representatives from around the world, to travel extensively in Iraq. The country had been under a UN flight embargo, and arriving in Baghdad was some experience; we travelled through Egypt and Syria and then joined a group of Shiite pilgrims from Iran, visiting the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, and using an unreliable, Soviet-era aircraft from Damascus to Iraq.

Our fifteen-day sojourn in Iraq took us to Baghdad; Samara; Ur; Nineveh; Babylon; Najaf; Karbala and Basra. It was clear that the invasion was inevitable and while Iraqis detested the Saddam Hussein dictatorship, they hated even more the imperialist powers, USA and Britain, who had imposed the punishing sanctions that had killed half a million Iraqi children, a crime that the American Secretary of State Madeline Albright, had described as justified!

The invasion led to the death of over 120, 000 Iraqis, the displacement of millions and the systematic assassination of Iraqi scientists, especially when they refused to go work for imperialism. These killings, according to an international conference on the assassination of Iraqi scientists, were systematically carried out by the Zionist secret services. Before the war, Iraq’s oil industry had been nationalised and out of the claws of the western oil monopolies; but one of the outcomes of the war, is the opening up of Iraqi oil to imperialist oil monopolies.

As Editor of DAILY TRUST, I authored a frontpage editorial condemning the illegal invasion/occupation of Iraq, and while most Nigerian newspapers moved on to other stories, I feel proud to say that we kept up an anti-imperialist coverage of the crimes being committed against Iraq for years.

It is the crime committed against Iraq that hurts me very deeply everytime the war monger, Tony B-Liar saunters into Nigeria, pretending to be a “do-gooder” statesman. Tony cannot even walk freely on the streets of London and yet, he is received as some kind of international superstar in Nigeria; he comes to do deals here when the most decent thing is either to arrest or bar him from entering our country.

Nduka Obaigbena’s THISDAY newspaper has been responsible for some of the invitations as well as that of the other war monger, George Bush! Such invitations always call to question the consciousness of these individuals and institutions. But ten years down the line, it is gratifying to note that the world continues to condemn the illegal invasion of Iraq by the USA and Great Britain. What remains is for the war mongers, George Bush and Tony B-Liar to get their day in court and their time in prison for the crimes they committed against Iraq and all of our humanity!


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