By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
I arrived in Los Angeles, California, on the 15-hour Emirate Airline flight from Dubai, last Saturday. This is the second leg of my four-week holiday, out of Nigeria. I spent last week in Dubai; and I think a conversation I had with a mother and daughter from Norway, just summed up the city.
They had been visiting every year, since 2005, and they never stop marveling at the constant improvement in the infrastructure of Dubai. The buzz last week was about Dubai’s new tram system, which was expected to commence operation by November 11. I did several trips on the Dubai metro, commissioned five years ago: clean, convenient and modern.
Very modern! And each time, I couldn’t help think about Nigeria; the arrested development and unrealised potentials. Dubai expresses the triumph of thinking, commitment and action, even when there might be underlining currents of efforts to retain the legitimacy of a feudal order that has latched on to capitalist modernity and made a huge success of it.
Ruling classes all through history have been obliged to invent methods to achieve legitimacy and shore up hegemony. Even Abdulkareem Al-Maghili, in his treatise for the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Rumfa, “OBLIGATION OF PRINCES”, had emphasized the importance of legitimising hegemony through winning of subjects’ consent.
As our country lurches from one crisis to the other, I was wondering just how incompetent our ruling elite has increasingly become in the forging of processes that can assist their class project. The country is being killed by installment by its current set of rulers; they on the contrary, think they are the best to ever have had the opportunity to husband its welfare in recent years.
And the fanfare, which enveloped the declaration this week, by President Goodluck Jonathan, just underlines the fearful reality that confronts Nigeria today. The backdrop of the killing of 47 students in a Potiskum secondary school was poignant in telling the country’s tale of woes, as much as the report I read online, in one of the Nigerian newspapers.
It had stated that some supporters of the President, headed by Senator Aniete Okon, told a press conference that President Jonathan could no longer wait for the 219 Chibok girls to return home. Life must go on without them because there is the politics of re-election and it is the only thing that matters; just as much as a sense of urgency can no longer be devoted to the struggle against the Boko Haram insurgency.
Nigeria has lost a huge swathe of territory to the insurgents but party hacks in Abuja ensured a lockout of the city, in order to do the “Power Show” appropriate for the President’s acceptance of the challenge to run in 2015. The BBC was surprised that most Nigerian newspapers were sucked into the occasion, with the “wrap around” advertisements that graced most of them on this week’s Tuesday. A newspaper editor posted on an online chat site, that newspapers were paid the handsome sum of N15 million by the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN, to wear the Jonathan toga around them. And who would dare to reject such tidy sum?
So we are poised for the mother of all electoral battles, if Jega’s INEC can pull through a credibly free and transparent electoral process next year. There must be a reasonable dose of apprehension in presidential circles, despite the public expression of bravado, given the manner that the insurgency has been badly handled by the government.
And how will the elections be held in the states consumed by the insurgency? If President Jonathan can be remorseful, won’t he honestly now publicly apologise to Kashim Shettima, the Borno State governor, who all those months ago, forewarned Nigeria about the different levels of equipment and morale between our troops and the insurgents? Was the governor not abused and called all kinds of names by presidential handlers?
Didn’t President Jonathan threaten on national television, to pull out troops from Borno, in order to see if the governor would be able to stay in Maiduguri Government House, for daring to tell the uncomfortable truth? How will the response to the insurgency condition the President’s electoral fortune?
Will Nigerians be easily manipulated into ethno-religious laagers that make the exploitation of emotions easier? Or shall we for once use our ballots and patriotic indignation to construct an electoral architecture very much in tune with what the present and future of Nigeria demands of all of us? The questions are legion!
I am writing these lines from the city of Buena Park in California’s Orange County. And as I had said earlier, I am very much in holiday mode. It was a really long flight from Dubai and because I am an almost incurable insomniac, I got the opportunity to indulge myself. I was finally able to watch Biyi Bandele’s HALF OF A YELLOW SUN, based on the novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I wondered why the censors had stopped the showing of the film in the first place. There might be reservations about its perspective on Nigeria’s tragic Civil War, but there can never be one definitive narrative on any aspect of Nigeria’s history. And the film ought to be seen by all Nigerians, to help us have a greater appreciation of that phase of our history. We need a re-engagement with history, in my view, as a vital element of building national consciousness. The lessons of the Civil War, the triggers and consequences should become better known by our young people as much as all other phases of our national life.
Ours is a young country today and they have been or are being educated at a period when history has literally disappeared from our schools’ curricular. I was also able to watch the old Second World War classic, CASABLANCA and the comedy, GOOD MORNING VIETNAM.
I was pleasantly surprised that Emirates Airways had 15 classic songs by Fela Anikulapo Kuti; I tucked into them with relish as much as I had time to also read a couple of chapters from Mary Gabriel’s LOVE AND CAPITAL, the remarkable book which told the story of the love life of Karl Marx and his wife, Jenny. They were a wonderful way to break the boredom of the long distance flights.
The time difference between California and Dubai is 12 hours and with Nigeria, nine hours. That should give you a peek into the kind of turmoil my body is going through this week. Next week, I will be in Dallas, Texas. I will definitely try to reflect on Nigeria and the world of travel, ensconced in the belly of the whale of empire, the most powerful imperialist system in human history, the United States of America.
100 years of Government Secondary School, Ilorin
In the past two weeks, a number of activities took place in Ilorin, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the foundin of the Government Secondary School, GSS, Ilorin. One of the grand old schools of Northern Nigeria, the school started in 1914 as a Middle School, it made a transition as a Provincial Secondary School, PSS, before it became the Government Secondary School, Ilorin. It was the school attended from my grandfather’s generation; my father and mother attended the school and I was also privileged to go through it. The motto is: “MANJADA WA JADA (NO STRUGGLE, NO SUCCESS)”.
And it was indeed a remarkable school in our times and there is no gainsaying the fact that character formation was central to the education that we received at GSS Ilorin.
They were some of the best years of our lives, and they reflected very much, the high levels of commitment that our country has increasingly lost over the past couple of decades.
It is part of the tragedy of our country today that parents have to spend huge sums of money to educate our children in very expensive private schools. In those years that we were at GSS Ilorin, it was only those who could not secure admission in public schools that attended private schools; and we always felt that they had an inferior education.
In our years, GSS Ilorin had superb laboratories for the sciences: physics, chemistry and biology. We even had a geography laboratory as well, not to forget that the education obliged us to learn a trade and for that we had very well-equipped wood works and metal works workshops. We also learned Technical Drawing. The sports infrastructure was excellent!
There were facilities for football (two fields), track and field, basketball, volleyball, lawn tennis, badminton, squash racket, fives, hockey and cricket. The school’s elite athletes were highly respected and had a special diet, while the four houses of my times: Fulani, Gambari, Alanamu and Ajikobi, healthily competed against each other in sports and the weekly Inspections to determine the cleanest house.
And the Advanced Level students had a special hostel, the White House; they dressed and carried themselves with so much grace. Science students were the stars of the school and there were really brilliant students who inspired the younger ones as role models of academic excellence.
The late Agbo Abegunde was certainly one of the most charismatic principals we had in my years; he ensured that academic standards were high while similarly placing sports at the very top of the school system.
He was the Nigerian Team Manager to the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. He wore the jacket emblazoned with the Nigerian crest proudly to the school assembly when he returned to the delight and spontaneous applause of students. It was testimony to the high standards of those years that the school’s relay team (BRAVO, ALL-AFRO, ROCHESTER and AWALU ALIYU) won several invitation relays around the state and in states near and far. Awalu Aliyu was my college brother, and together with my cousin, Hameed Adio (ADIQUE), from Offa Grammar School, would run for Nigeria. Hameed Adio was in fact the captain of Nigeria to the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.
They were all athletes from the well-structured schools’ sports programme that has gradually died in our country. Young people got a good education and also combined that with an active life in sports. No more! In 2013, I took my children to visit my alma mater, GSS Ilorin.
The state of rot shocked me and I couldn’t stop the tears that dropped from my eyes. My children couldn’t wrap their heads around what they saw of the school I had romantically described to them so many times before their visit. Things have deteriorated badly, but GSS Ilorin remains central to the human being I became. It is 100 years old this year.