By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
LIKE other Nigerians, I was taken by surprise when news broke last week that the Nigerian government had reached a ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram. The announcement was swiftly followed by the Chief of Defence Staff’s directive to all troops to stop engagement with Boko Haram.
It became even more curious when I heard the interview that President Goodluck Jonathan’s Private Secretary and Chief Negotiator, Hassan Tukur, gave to the BBC’s FOCUS ON AFRICA programme. Tukur sounded optimistic that they had achieved a breakthrough, underlining that by saying the people he negotiated with had forewarned about the releases of the hostages freed in Cameroun early last week; therefore the government had no reason to disbelieve their negotiation counterparts.
The most important element of the riddle was that Boko Haram had allegedly agreed to release the Chibok Girls who have stayed six months in captivity. That delighted me as every other Nigerian. Yet, I was as apprehensive as every other person. What if the government had been conned? And too many forces have “invested” heavily and reaped abundantly from the five-year old insurgency!
Twenty four hours later we received a riposte as Boko Haram elements continued their spates of killings in Borno. To underline the gloom, Borno Elders came out publicly to say that they didn’t believe that the government team negotiated with the right people. As I write these lines, Nigerian soldiers are continuing engagements with Boko Haram, thus putting to naught the ceasefire announced by the Chief of Defense Staff, Alex Barde.
It is also instructive that the Federal Government has continued its “negotiation process”, without involving the governments of Borno and Yobe states. Yet President Jonathan needs to deliver on his ceasefire (or what Adamu Adamu once called “seize” fire, in the different setting of conflict in the Gaza Strip), because inability to achieve freedom for the 219 Chibok Girls, will cast a dangerous political pall on his 2015 re-election campaign. And for President Goodluck Jonathan and his handlers, the most important issue at hand is to hit the campaign trail for 2015.
Yes, the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN), blessed with the ample presence of Anyim Pius Anyim and other Jonathan hangers-on are doing a good job campaigning and keep President Jonathan in the minds of the Nigerian electorate. The truth however is that the momentum will gather pace if President Jonathan can deliver an effective ceasefire and freedom for the Chibok Girls.
The cynical exploitation of freedom for the Chibok Girls is a central plank of the political agenda of the Goodluck campaign. In the euphoria that is expected to follow such a release, President Jonathan will be painted as the ultimate patriot who got the job done! The prevarications and irresponsible denial following the kidnap of the girls will hopefully have been forgotten, by a Nigeria that seems ever shallow in its ability to recollect or make the necessary interconnectedness in social and political phenomena.
That is why the apparent unraveling of the process that Marshal Alex Barde and Hassan Tukur so effusively announced a week ago, is not very good for the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign. Mister President, what happened to the ceasefire (who “seized” your fire please?) and may you please hasten to #FREEOURGIRLS? This is their sixth month in captivity Mister President, Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces, Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan. And political time is running out!
General Yakubu Gowon: Officer and gentleman @80
I MET General Yakubu Gowon for the first time in 2005. The setting was Bamako, the Malian capital. I was covering the meeting of the African Statesmen Initiative, a forum of ex-African Heads of State, which brought several old African leaders together in the setting of a lovely hotel close to the River Niger.
When I told him I was a reporter from Nigeria, his face lit up in delight and throughout the conference he was readily available for a conversation, in his typically polite and friendly manner. The Darfur crisis was on the front burner and I was very much interested in getting the former Sudanese Prime Minister, Sadig El-Mahdi to give me an interview on that hot subject; but he was not keen and all entreaties for a couple of minutes away from the Bamako initiative failed to impress him.
I was becoming fairly desperate and just as I was becoming despondent, General Yakubu Gowon came by and greeted me; I saw my opportunity. I told him that I had sought without success an interview with the former Sudanese Prime Minister. Darfur was the most important issue on the African plate and our readers would very much love to read his views. General Gowon promised to convince Sadig El-Mahdi and he did! I got a most illuminating interview on several issues around Sudanese politics and history. The material was later published inside WEEKLY TRUST.
On our way back to Nigeria, I met General Gowon again at the Abidjan airport. This time he asked of the whereabouts of Yakubu AbdulAzeez, famous former editor of the NIGERIAN HERALD newspaper in Ilorin, at the height of its glory in the 1970s. He was very sad to learn that he had died and he then told me that AbdulAzeez was on his entourage to Kampala for the fateful OAU Summit that provided the basis for his overthrew in July 1975. Gowon said Yakubu AbdulAzeez had broken down sobbing when the news broke from Nigeria that he had been overthrown but he was surprised to read AbdulAzeez’s report that he (Gowon) had cried!
He was still looking for the opportunity to correct the report with AbdulAzeez, but that was never to be. Our last encounter was in 2010, in Conakry, Guinea. He was heading the Carter Center’s Observation Mission for the Guinean Presidential elections. I was covering for DAILY TRUST. He was as charming, decent and welcoming as ever during the rounds of visit to polling districts around Guinea and at the dinner party hosted by the Nigerian Ambassador.
But General Yakubu Gowon loomed so large on the consciousness of Nigerians of my generation as the Head of State during the Civil War, 1967-1970. The slogan of: Go-On-With-One-Nigeria (GOWON) was very real for us because the war conditioned lives all through those tragic years. And as a ten year old in 1970, the end of the war was one period that seemed to have spiked a generous level of enthusiasm and patriotism amongst us all. I was very active in the Boys Scout Movement, in the 6th Ilorin Troop.
At the end of the war, General Yakubu Gowon went on a nationwide tour. He seemed more popular than ever; and those of us in the scouting movement were at the Ilorin Railway Station as part of a Guard of Honour and a few days later, a few of us were drafted to arrange the tables at the Government House for the State Banquet in honour of the visiting Head of State! It is remarkable that Gowon was overthrown 39 years ago; there was along list of accusations against his regime and the coup which removed him from power had been wildly celebrated. Yet, given all that Nigeria has gone through since his exit, we can look back and behold the decency of leadership; a more patriotic exertion by rulers and much lower levels of corruption than what we now have in Nigeria.
Today, theft, heist and monumental corruption have become fundamental objectives and directive principles of state. When we look at the states today, there are ex-governors who have become richer than the states they governed while the Nigerian state lies prostrate and enfeebled as a result of its serial rape by a predatory clan of bandit rulers. The Gowon period saw some of the most important development initiatives Nigeria witnessed and the draw back was that the period didn’t achieve as much as it possibly could.
On balance, as the decades have passed, General Gowon has continued to live a very modest life; there are no scandals around him and his family has never been intrusive in our lives.
He exemplified the background that he came out of, from the Barewa College in Zaria and the old values which bound communities and individuals together in the old Northern Nigeria. I think General Yakubu Gowon is the quintessential officer and gentleman who gave his very best in service to his fatherland. His humane leadership of the Nigerian Civil War and equally patriotic management of the aftermath have ensured his place in Nigerian history. Happy 80th birthday to General Yakubu Gowon!
Wanted urgently in all Federal varsities: A faculty of stomach infrastructure
NIGERIA must thank the Political Scientist, Jibo Ibrahim, for his original contribution to our understanding of the intricacies of Nigerian political culture. This is because it was Jibo that coined the term “Stomach Infrastructure”, to help us understand the monumental victory that Ayo Fayose scored in the Ekiti state governorship election.
Fayose wiped out the incumbent in all the 16 LGAs of Ekiti. Since Jibo’s “invention”, the term has a taken a life of its own in Nigeria. Last week, Governor Ayo Fayose proudly owned the term and to show seriousness, he announced and actually appointed a Special Assistant on Stomach Infrastructure.
That is expected to be replicated in all the LGAs and the brand new governor told his jubilant supporters at the Oluyemi Kayode Stadium in Ado Ekiti, that their chickens were fattening and bags of rice will be ready for Christmas, for: “STOMACH INFRA…” and the jubilant crowd added: “…STRUCTURE”!
On the wings of the success of this vote winning slogan and praxis, I want to patriotically urge President Goodluck Jonathan; PDP Chairman Adamu Mu’azu; Party Fossil and Enforcer-in-Chief, Tony Anenih, to consider directing ALL the new Federal Universities that President Jonathan “dashed” Nigeria, from Otuoke, through Lokoja to Dutse and beyond, to URGENTLY introduce a FACULTY OF STOMACH INFRASTRUCTURE with immediate effect.
Professorial chairs can be swiftly endowed to consolidate STOMACH INFRASTRUCTURE as a component part of the Transformation Agenda. Agriculture Minister, Dr. Adesina should also get a remit to include STOMACH INFRASTRUCTURE in the successor programme to OFN and GREEN REVOLUTION, which was launched this week inside Aso Villa.
These are moments of triumphalism in Nigeria; we have been certified free of Ebola by WHO; and we can even EXPORT STOMACH INFRASTRUCTURE around Africa and the whole world, the way that Aliko Dangote is exporting cement plants! Those who cannot see the good coming out of Nigeria should please give themselves the pause; STOMACH INFRASTRUCTURE is the MOST POTENT invention of Africa’s biggest vote-rigging contraption (SORRY PLEASE!), Africa’s biggest political party, the PDP! Governor Ayo Fayose move over and take a bow!