By Yinka Odumakin
I WAS worried when I saw a presenter on a breakfast show engaging a senator during an interview session last week.The intelligent and highly professional lady was very aggressive and combative that morning. She would not allow the Senator’s thoughts flow with intermittent and hostile interjections such that the interviewee who was very soft spoken almost lost his cool insisting she let him make his point.
It was obvious she wanted him to be boxed in to her line of thought as she raised her voice and drilled him in an inquisitorial manner like Adams Oshiomhole in an encounter with Bukola Saraki.
I tried to find out from some contacts later what was responsible for that line of interviewing. I gathered that the station had come under intense pressure from government that it was doing the bidding of the opposition, a baseless accusation.
It dawned on me that the lady who was forced not to be herself signposts the danger we face as representative government becomes daily repressive and conditioning our people to become what they are not and what they should not be.
Nigeria is known for a peculiar vibrancy. Many of the countries it gained independence with about the same time soon slipped into one party state or one man is the saddle for life. We owe gratitude to Oloye Obafemi Awolowo who refused to participate in a National Government in the first and Second Republics and instituted a culture of opposition for pluralistic purpose .
Time was when we heard of shenanigans in other African countries, we used to say ‘it cannot happen Nigeria.’
The creeping dictatorship in the land is almost changing our bragging right as we are gradually becoming a cowed (even cows are more assertive in our land !) people. It is punishing listening to censored analysts trying to be careful in order not to offend the powers that be.
One good example is the current National Assembly recess and the budget for 2019 elections. A lot of ‘analysts’ are up in arms that the National Assembly went on a statutory recess and are not interrogating why the executive that knew elections would hold next February failed to submit a budget for it for over eight months. We saw the conflicting figures between what the President forwarded and what INEC came to defend and the loud silence of our commentariat on such shoddiness and gross incompetence. They are only interested in parroting Oshiomhole’s narratives.
We are seeing a regime becoming past masters at manipulating group dynamics: the youth group, the leisure-time association, the media and intellectual class. There is also the patriotic majority shamed or intimidated nonconformists into at least keeping their mouths shut. It reminds one of Sebastian Haffner recollection of how his group of apprentice magistrates was sent in 1933 summer on a retreat, where these highly educated young men, mostly non-Nazis, were bonded into a group by marching, singing, uniforms, and drill. To resist seemed pointless, tame to lead nowhere but to prison and an end to the dreamed-of career. Finally, with astonishment, he observed himself raising his arm, fitted with a swastika armband, in the Nazi salute.
We must not allow that to happen to us as a people and we just need to look at some societies that surrendered to dictatorships and the dire consequences they suffered.
And while the vast majority of dictators fall short of Hitler- or Stalin-like levels of cruelty, history is rife with oppressors, war criminals, sadists, sociopaths, and morally complacent individuals who ended up as heads of government — to the tragic detriment of the people and societies they ruled.
Francisco Solano Lopez (Paraguay, 1862-1870):Paraguayan president and military leader Francisco Solano Lopez unwisely provoked neighbouring Brazil and Argentina by meddling in a civil war in Uruguay in the mid-1860s. After that war ended, Brazil, Argentina, and the winning faction in Uruguay secretly agreed to a plan in which they would annex half of Paraguay’s territory. Lopez rejected the peace terms offered by the ‘triple alliance,’ incurring a full-on invasion.
What followed was a devastating conflict in which an overmatched Lopez conscripted child soldiers, executed hundreds of his deputies (including his own brother), incurred steep territorial losses, and triggered an eight-year Argentine military occupation. When Lopez died in battle in 1870 and the war’s subsequent end, Paraguay’s population had plunged from an estimated 525,000 to 221,000, and only 29,000 males over the age of 15 were left alive.
Jozef Tiso (Slovakia, 1939-1945): A Catholic priest who led Slovakia’s fascist moment, Tiso was in charge of one of Nazi Germany’s numerous satellite regimes for most of the World War II period . Although arguably a less energetic fascist than the leaders of comparable Nazi puppet regimes, Tiso led a brutal crackdown after a 1944 anti-fascist rebellion. He also either facilitated or had first-hand knowledge of the deportation of the vast majority of the country’s Jews to Nazi concentration camps. At the time, Slovakia had a Jewish population of over 88,000. However, by the conflict’s conclusion, only 5,000 were left in the country.
Döme Sztójay (Hungary, 1944): Horthy began attempting to chart an independent path from the Nazis as the German war effort flagged in 1944 and largely refused to deport the country’s Jews — triggering a Nazi invasion and Döme Sztójay’s installation as the country’s puppet leader even while Horthy officially remained in power. During Sztójay’s six months as Hungary’s prime minister, more than 440,000 Jews were deported from Hungary to concentration camps in one of the last major forced population transfers of the Holocaust.
Khorloogiin Choibalsan (Mongolia, 1930s-1952): After several meetings with Stalin, Choibalsan adopted the Soviet leader’s policies and methods and applied them to Mongolia. He created a dictatorial system, suppressing the opposition and killing tens of thousands of people. Later in the 1930s, he ‘began to arrest and kill leading workers in the party, government, and various social organisations in addition to army officers, intellectuals, and other faithful workers,’ according to a report published in 1968 cited in the Historical Dictionary of Mongolia.
We have to protect the Nigerian vibrancy by resisting the temptation to dictatorship lest we enter the book of warning!
We have to protect the Nigerian vibrancy by resisting the temptation to dictatorship
Celebrating Ornament Odili@70
WHEN my friend, Keneth Kobani, Secretary to Rivers Government called me that Dr. Peter Odili was going to be 70 last Tuesday and I was expected to give an epilogue at a lecture being organised by the state government to mark the day, I had to move my scheduled trip out of Nigeria by two days.
Dr. Odili is a perfect gentleman,charming and reliable older friend who deserves it and I was glad I was in Port Harcourt to be part of the celebrations.
The events turned to be one of the best harvests of goodwill Ihave seen in recent time as friends and well wishers came from different corners of Nigeria to celebrate the man the guest speaker, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN)described as the ‘ornament of River’.
For all the time Mr. Agabi spent on the microphone before the organisers pleaded with him that his time was up, he was able to deal with only 10 out of 30 pages he wrote on the celebrant because of how rich the subject is .
I met Dr. Odili intimately when our seats were assigned next to each other at the 2014 National Conference in alphabetical order. We bonded immediately and spent quality time in his home where we met regularly with other conferees like Prof. ABC Nwosu, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Barr. Dan Nwayanwu and host of others. We enjoyed regular sumptuous meals in the house courtesy of his extremely warm wife, Hon. Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Their home radiates love and warmth with their cultured and well trained children always friendly and courteous to us as we regularly ‘invaded ‘their home.
As Dr. Odili joins the club of Nigerian elders, I pray for God’s mercies to continually shield him and his family.
…Be of good cheers, Ayefele
I WAS about concluding this week’s copy when I received the bad news abroad that the ‘Constituted Authority ‘ in Oyo state has demolished popular musician,Yinka Ayefele’s radio station in Ibadan.I wept bitterly as I could not understand how anybody could do such damage to a physically challenged person who ordinarily should have been a burden to society but has been able to use ability in disability to create opportunity for scores of those working with him.
I shudder at how a government that is not creating jobs and not paying those in its employ regularly would destroy such investment for obviously politically -motivated reason.
Ayefele should hold himself as a man that he is at this unfortunate period.The talent that produced what was destroyed will still yield greater things for him and he will smile even when those who wield temporary power become footnotes of history.
I remember how I got off a plane in Abuja three years ago and a man ran after me to catch up with me. When I stopped, he said he wanted to get acquainted with me. He introduced himself and I realised he was a Military Administrator I used to watch on TV in my secondary school days .
If I were to recommend a song Ayefele should be listening to now,it is his own ‘Goodness of God.’ It is well!