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Hope, delusion and Jonathan’s National Conversation

By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
EXPECTEDLY, Dr. Femi Okurounmu, chairman of the 13-person Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue, was especially effusive about the committee’s assignment.

In response to President Goodluck Jonathan’s speech, the Afenifere chieftain commended Jonathan for not establishing ‘no go’ areas for his committee. He then assured that the exercise to be embarked upon was not going to be “another case of failed expectations”.

When Jonathan inaugurated the committee he had also explained his conversion from skeptic to promoter of what he described as a national conversation.

President Goodluck Jonathan 
President Goodluck Jonathan

At least that way, from the onset, GEJ established a grundnorm that should not be lost on all Nigerians, especially those who for a very long time had built a cult following, especially in Southern Nigeria, with a persistent agitation for a Sovereign National Conference, SNC. He dodged SNC but opened the avenue for a veritable shouting match between different tendencies of Nigeria’s eternally fractious elite.

Ideological coup

I read Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah’s interview with SUNDAY TRUST, and his view that those who always underrated Jonathan must now eat their own hearts out, because as the Bishop puts it: “ He has snookered the opposition. Jonathan has just successfully staged a bloodless ideological coup against the agitators and his enemies”. And frankly, I cannot agree any less with the Bishop.

Soon after the announcement of the committee, some of the members, such as coup plotter, Tony Nyiam, were already grandstanding about latitudes they were allegedly given by the President. It is still early days, but clearly there is a groundswell of hope and delusions all riding on the basis of President Jonathan’s masterstroke.

But it is also significant that Jonathan’s “national conversation” has tripped on the wires of politics when some of the natural agitators for SNC, like Bola Tinubu, who Femi Okurounmu described as “one of the financiers of the agitations for national conference”, now came out to denounce the effort: “I see diversion here.

I see deception here. I see lack of honesty and integrity here. Nigerians are being deceived”. Tinubu added that Jonathan had merely presented the nation a “Greek Gift”! Significantly, located at a different political remove from Tinubu, Sule Lamido also called Jonathan’s proposed conversation “illegal” and without constitutional backing.

There is a long list of individuals and an assortment of hired guns rooting for Jonathan, who must be enjoying his moment under the African sun. But between the two camps is a long list of national issues which might still lead to the logjam that often dog these conferences; they tend to end up an avenue of grandstanding and shouting matches, where dividends do not necessarily match the invested emotions and hope.

But we must still find the mean to keep hope alive that somehow, some serious attempts will be made to look ourselves in the face to tell each other some home truths. I think that we have profiled ourselves into unacceptable corners all over the country to the extent that reality of our situations has escaped most of our compatriots.

One of the most incredible omissions was the constituency of the young, who make up the overwhelming majority of Nigerians today.

I think it is unacceptable. Never mind that in many instances, especially since 1999, far too many young people were trusted with responsibility who turned out to be no better than armed robbers. Or the fact that, as Sanusi Abubakar wrote for DAILY TRUST a few weeks ago, we suffer the crisis of a young population which has grown on a diet of Premiership football, ethnic insularity, spewing hatred on the internet and so ignorant of the history of the country!

But there are questions that I have turned round severally in my mind in the past few days. Do the proponents of SNC truly believe their time has finally arrived? Or will they make the effort to face down others to get their way?

What exactly do we think a conference (or conversation) can realistically achieve? What will trump in the long run, the hope or the delusion? I honestly hope that Femi Okurounmu’s effusiveness will not evaporate as fast as it built up when confronted with the hard realities of the complexity of Nigeria.

We  must wait with bated breath to see how things will pan out. In the final analysis, President Jonathan has delivered a political masterstroke with his national conversation. So let’s start talking!

JIGAWA TELEVISION: From technical committee to implementation

Last Friday in Dutse, JigawaState, the Technical Committee on the establishment of the Jigawa State Television, submitted its report to Governor Sule Lamido. So happy was the governor with the work that our committee had done that he announced that the team was to be retained as the Implementation Committee to actualise the television station.

In the past seven months, since the Technical Committee was put together in March, 2013, we had travelled back and forth to Dutse to carry out the assignment, which allowed me to work with some of the most professionally competent broadcast personnel, academic and administrators, drawn from all over Nigeria.

In the seven months of work, we examined the law which established the Jigawa Broadcasting Corporation; explored the history of broadcasting in Nigeria in general and television, in particular; took a look at the problems and opportunities that such a television service, as envisaged, was going to confront in the setting of Jigawa.

The government has a very ambitious perspective about the possibilities for television broadcasting in the state in the context of the developments in the world of the 21Century.

For Gov Lamido, only the very best professional and technical basis must be set for the television service and if I had not participated actively in the work done these past couple of months, I would probably have also been slightly ill at ease with the prospects being drummed up for Jigawa State television. And believe me when I say that those ambitions are as high as they are lofty!

Already, the building to house both the radio and television stations are under construction and it is an architectural masterpiece.

Staff were sent to the BBC training institute as well as the TV College in Jos, and the government smartly went for some of the best, state-of-the-art equipment. Lucky Omoluwa’s Pinnacle Communications delivered on the contract in record time and for all intents and purposes, Jigawa should be the very proud owner of a television service that will make a mark in Nigeria; poignantly, it will come on the eve of the transition to digital broadcasting and that was envisaged in the contract between the Jigawa government and Pinnacles Communications Limited.

Professional  platform

So our work is cut out; we will have to implement the recommendations we presented as a Technical Committee which took all of seven months to reach. I think its such a privilege to work on this very professional platform, to assist in midwifing a new television service for JigawaState. When I look around me, and see Alhaji Muhammed Ibrahim, former DG NTA and Radio Nigeria; Tonnie Iredia, former DG NTA; Timawus Mathias, celebrated TV broadcaster; Adamu Aliyu Kiyawa, former BBC broadcaster; Ahmed Aminu, former MD of CTV in Kano; Professor Umaru Pate, Northern Nigeria’s first mass communication professor and Sabo Guri, MD of Jigawa Broadcasting, I think about how dedicated they all were to get to the point we arrived. Look out for Jigawa television very soon because it should offer an interesting perspective to television broadcasting in Nigeria!

GENERAL VO NGUYEN GIAP: Anti-imperialist war hero

Last Friday, the famous Vietnamese General, Vo Nguyen Giap died in a military hospital, in Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, at the age of 102 years. Most people reading my piece today might not even know who the man was.

But he was one of the greatest military leaders of the 20th Century who lead the Vietnamese people to defeat two imperialist powers: French Imperialism at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in May 1954 and American Imperialism in the 1970s, leading to the re-unification of Vietnam. General Giap was among the great survivors of the communist revolutionaries who defeated colonialism in Indochina.

Giap was a teacher and journalist who earned a degree in law and political economy in 1937. He was to become a Marxist and with no formal military training but in joining the Communist Insurgency led by Ho Chi Minh, he built the army into a highly disciplined force able to achieve remarkable military victories.

Military victcories

The Vietnamese people’s struggle against colonialism and the American occupation cost the country over three million dead, but the heroism of that struggle defined the lives of activists for most of the 1960s and ’70s, with Vietnamese solidarity movements being built all over the world. General Giap had spoken of the Vietnamese war in 2005, that “no other wars for national liberation were as fierce or caused as many losses as this war”.

Vietnam’s heroism inspired the revolutionary struggle in many parts of the Third World, including those in Africa, but especially in Algeria, Guinea Bissau, Angola and Mozambique.

It is part of our neo-colonial baggage today, that the military teachings of General Giap might probably not be taught or even known in our military academies, given the subservience to the colonial powers, but General Giap taught the poor people of the world how to struggle for their independence and dignity.

I am on the eve of my first visit to Vietnam and it is a journey that I am looking forward to with great anticipation. It will be good to learn from the Vietnamese at first hand, how they found the will power to fight and defeat two imperialist powers and when peace returned they also began to fight the more difficult battle against underdevelopment.


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