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Saturday, 26 July 2014


kani kayode kani kayodeApproximately two weeks ago President Goodluck Jonathan retired a course 18 General of the Nigerian Army who was Chief of Army Staff and replaced him with a course 25 one simply because he wanted an ijaw man to head the army.
By doing so he retired and destroyed the careers of no less than 50 serving and experienced generals just to make way for and ensure that his kinsman is head of the army. This is the first time this has ever happened under a democratically-elected government in our history.
There are speculations that he wishes to do the same sort of thing with the police by appointing a relatively junior officer as the next Inspector General of Police and retiring many senior officers just to make way for him simply because the man is an ijaw.
How desperate and wicked is this son of Otueke that he feels that he must destroy the careers of senior army and police officers and retire them prematurely just to ensure that his own ijaw brothers control our army and police?
And all this simply because he wants to remain in power beyond 2015 and he wants the guns and bullets to vote for him and keep the people in line. If only he knew his history he would know that this kind of thing won’t work in our country.
The Nigerian people cannot be coerced or intimidated and any attempt to rig the governorship elections in Osun and Ekiti later this year or the Presidential elections next year will be resisted by the people. A word is enough for the wise.

Reuben Abati: Nigeria’s Most Evil Genius?

Reuben abati
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23rd July, 2014
Nothing is more dangerous than when a good man goes rogue. Most of the worst criminals in history were good men in society who either voluntarily or by virtue of circumstance, went rogue. We all know the award winning, chairman of the editorial board of the Nigerian Guardian, Dr Reuben Abati, our guy, a staunch truth shooter and government critic bar none. But when Reuben was sucked into the Jonathan Government, Lord have mercy!
One can only imagine what Reuben is up to today: conspiring, orchestrating, plotting and conniving. There is nowhere where you will not find Reuben or pick his dangerous scent. Reuben works between party lines, he sneaks up on activists, media editors; selling his paymasters’ wares in the last places you expect. If you are an activist or politician, you will know precisely what I am talking about. If the unbelievable story can be written, Reuben wrote it; if the unimaginable can be invented and spun, Reuben spun it. If it can be blown-up, Reuben is blowing it.
To get a clearer picture of the danger of this man, one simply has to think back and review the post election events of Nigeria, 2011. We all have it somewhere in our minds that former Head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari threatened something about making Nigeria ungovernable after he lost in 2011… and some other stuff like that? If we do, Reuben spun that. This libel was pretty much entirely cooked up by Reuben Abati to discredit the person of Gen. Buhari who was legitimately contesting the election process in 2011. This was the copyright invention of Reuben in that evil memo he spun one dark midnight in April of 2011, the Reuben memo: ‘For the attention of General Buhari.’
The evidence of this is the reality that Buhari took Reuben Abati and the Guardian he used to edit to court and Reuben begged and settled out of court. Reuben and his Guardian quietly published a retraction of the slanderous and libelous charges against the person of Buhari, as quoted below in the Guardian of July, 2013.; but few read it and the damage was already done. Buhari would remain tainted till the day he dies, thanks to a very sinister, evil genius Reuben.
GUARDIAN  Re: For the attention of General Buhari
Thursday, 11 July 2013 00:00 Editor
SIR: “On April 22, 2011, The Guardian Newspaper published an article on page 51 titled “For the attention of General Buhari” wherein certain allegations were made against General Muhammadu Buhari’s alleged role in the violence emanating from the elections.
The publication was based on information which we believed to be reliable at that time. Since the publication, however, we now have reason to believe that certain parts of the story were not verified to be correct before the publication.
We assure General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) GCFR of our highest esteem and regret any distress or embarrassment which the said publication may have caused him.”
— Editor
In our March 15th article, ‘Now that Nigeria is ungovernable, what next?’ we examined all available public evidence of statements credited with the ‘ungovernable’ threat. See: . There is no link. Buhari only warned of consequences for similar rigging and malpractice as occurred in 2011 if it was repeated in 2015. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, unlike bad news and slander, this apology hardly spread past the 20,000 copies it was printed on and was hardly read or re-visited more than 24 hours after it was published. Reuben Abati had done his worst and a perhaps too gentle soldier, Buhari made little noise to repair his image after the out-of court settlement.
Talk about plain evil that continues to pollute; sin upon sin for the slanderer. Even a recent conservative ‘Tory tradition,’ Anglican group, the Bow Group, recently sponsored a report making reference to these imaginary inventions of Reuben. To no surprise, the report by a certain Zenn failed to reference the spurious allegations – because there simply is none. To attribute animal to Reuben’s ethos, the serpent is his perfect fit.
At this time in Nigeria’s history, as bombs and snipers start to target public cleric critics of this administration and opposition politicians, and millions out of stolen billions ($) are used to create chaos in every state and between families, one must keep an eye on the evil genius and the chartered opinion machines, #SomeoneTellLEVICK anyone, who are spending our nation’s billions in expensive media propaganda, like the forward  Positive Nigeria social media campaign and other powerfully sponsored campaigns popping up all of a sudden. These people are dangerous, to say the least!
Be alert and shine your eye.
Dr. Peregrino Brimah; [Every Nigerian Do Something] Email: 

We’re Ready For Inquiry On B’Haram, APC Tells Jonathan

The All Progressives Congress has said that it is ready to answer any inquiry over allegation by the Presidency that it was sponsoring the violent Boko Haram sect.
The APC stated its readiness to answer the inquiry following accusations by the Peoples Democratic Party and some foreign agencies that it was using the militant sect as a tool to disrupt President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
In a telephone interview with our correspondent, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described those who claimed that the party was behind the activities of the Boko Haram as hacks and prostitutes hired by Jonathan to destabilise the opposition.
He said, “They are nothing but hacks, hired hands who are on the payroll of the PDP and Jonathan. Otherwise, they should substantiate and mention who in APC is behind Boko Haram.
“We know many of them. Once they are out of office and are broke, they are hired by anybody who is ready to pay them. They are just tools in the hands of Jonathan. Let them name any APC chieftain who is financing Boko Haram.
“Some individuals have even said that former military leader Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was behind Boko Haram financing. They are so shallow in their analyses. When did Boko Haram start? Was it in 2011? People like them just try to leverage on their past glories.
“What have they said that Femi Fani-Kayode and Olisa Metuh have not said? This accusation is not new to us because none of them could prove what they said. They just belong to the category of fake analysts who are out there for the money they can make.
“Whether they are Russians or Germans, a hack is a hack. That does not make any difference. They are broke and are political prostitutes. They are hungry people.”
Lai Mohammed added that the PDP had hired some individuals, “just like they hired the PR firm who went to raise inquiries at the British Parliament,” and that the APC was waiting for the international inquiry.
The APC spokesperson also said that the party would soon publish the statement of agreement that the PDP made with a foreign PR firm that it hired to crush the activities of the opposition.
He said it was high time the President told Nigerians how much he was ‘wasting’ to hire foreign individuals and organisations to crush the opposition in the country as the 2015 elections approach.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

PDP’s Death, A Bit Exaggerated


Postscript By Waziri Adio

After published reports of his supposed illness and death, Mark Twain gifted the world one eternal line: “the report of my death was an exaggeration.” The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could tell those eager to script its obituary the same thing, and justifiably so. With the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) last year and a string of lightning reversals for the ruling party, the long-projected implosion of PDP was thought nigh. In retrospect, that was an exaggerated forecast.
In the last six months, PDP has managed a remarkable rebound that puts it strongly back in play. And it has done this through a combination of direct action and some good luck. The exit of the governors and legislators of the New PDP (nPDP) to APC seems to have been more of a boon to the ruling party than a real bust, as it rid the party of strong internal opposition. There has been relative calm in PDP since. And this relative calm has allowed the party to put its house in order and be in a position to launch a very devastating counter-attack.
A turning point in PDP’s resurgence was that it was able to stymie the wave of cross-carpeting in the National Assembly by going to court and using its control of the leadership in the Senate to strategic effect. In the past, legislators had freely moved from other parties to PDP, and had always been welcomed with red carpet by the ruling party. But the party that wrote the manual on poaching obviously also understood how to handle it. It went to court and filibustered, and legitimately so. Were things not so tied up, and given the well-documented proclivity of our politicians for band-wagoning, APC could have become the majority party in the House of Representatives and assumed leadership of the House, and possibly could have done same in the Senate but without changing the entire leadership. That scenario would have altered the field of play significantly. But it didn’t happen.
PDP also wisely relieved itself of its former chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, whose leadership style had alienated some critical stakeholders in the party, especially the all-powerful governors. His replacement, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, seems to be more of a team player and bridge builder. Muazu has been widely celebrated in PDP as a master strategist and the game changer. There might be a hint of exaggeration there, if you remember that as a sitting governor, the same Muazu was defeated in the race for the Bauchi South senatorial district in 2007 by Senator Bala Mohammed, now the minister of FCT and a PDP member, but then the flag-bearer of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). However, this little fact does not diminish what Muazu might have brought on board nor does it erase the fact that the resurgence of PDP happened under his watch.
What I think is the most critical endogenous reason for PDP’s resurgence is its ferocious fight-back. If the APC had expected the behemoth to roll over, it was clearly mistaken. With state resources and apparatus under its firm control and with no scruples about deploying them unfairly to its advantage, PDP took the battle to APC. The ruling party has opened fire from three flanks: counter-poaching legislators and leading members of APC, challenging APC’s hold in the two states up for election, and destabilising the opposition party by propping up challengers and instigating impeachments. This lethal combination has since put APC on the back-foot and significantly eroded its standing.
While not taking anything away from PDP’s strategists and while taking account of how state power has been crudely pressed into enhancing PDP’s advantage, I will also argue that APC has more than facilitated PDP’s dramatic comeback by leaving both the field and its flanks open. And it has done so in four ways. One, APC stopped growing about eight months ago. When the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) gave approval for the merger of three and a half leading opposition parties into APC on 31st July, 2013, that news was greeted with so much enthusiasm largely because Nigerians had been hankering for a credible and viable alternative to PDP and because of the inherent promise that a real contest between two strong parties holds for good governance.
So APC came into being in a very receptive and conducive environment. APC’s stock swelled dramatically when in November last year it received five governors and scores of legislators from PDP, with the promise of more to follow. The party continued its bullish run with its open outreach to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and others in December last year and when former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar defected to it in February this year.
But APC got high on its presumed, hypothetical strength and lost both the steam and the plot. APC’s recruitment strategy seems to have revolved solely around wooing the disaffected and poaching the available. I have argued on another platform that having an intimidating assemblage of established politicians in APC definitely conferred some initial advantage. But that should be the starting point. For APC, however, that appears the end point. Poaching as a recruitment strategy is deeply flawed because it is unsustainable for an opposition party in patronage-driven polity as the ruling party is almost in absolute possession of the means of coercion and seduction.
Poaching also presents a major challenge for differentiation, as politicians cannot be deemed changed just by changing platforms, a point I will come back to shortly. APC has not reached out to the generality of Nigerians in a strategic and sustained way. For a party that claims a progressive outlook to politics, mass appeal should be its forte. But APC seems to have preferred to just appeal to a section of the elite, who possibly would be expected to pull their sheepish followers in line, while those not in the pocket of godfathers would be expected to follow suit because of their presumed distrust of PDP. Well, that has not happened, and may not happen. And besides, APC’s over-reliance on power blocs has exposed it to serious blackmail from those with the hypothetical followings in its fold. 
APC has adopted a start-stop approach to selling itself. Yes, a sizeable number of Nigerians reportedly obtained the party’s membership cards, but registration cards are not same as votes. In March this year, APC held a national summit with a lot of razzmatazz in Abuja and launched the draft of its manifesto, “Roadmap to a New Nigeria.” This is a decent even if not a perfect document that speaks to the progressive credentials of the party in terms of approach to education, health, housing, job creation and safety nets.
Personally, I have questions about whether this is actually a road map or just a statement of intentions and about how to fund and implement the plan. But this document has the ideological coherence and the practical potential for human development that was last seen with the four cardinal programmes of the Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led defunct Unity Party of Nigeria in the second republic. Nothing has been heard of this road map since the summit. This document offers the party the opportunity to differentiate and market itself to Nigerians. But it is an opportunity the party has not taken. Lack of differentiation has been a blessing to PDP, with the possibility that Nigerians, like risk-averse people everywhere, will rather stick with the devil they know.
Also, despite the fact that APC is enjoying a lot of airtime and print space, the messaging of the party has been very weak. APC dissipates a lot of energy on defining PDP and the present administration. It is doubtful if there are many Nigerians who have not made up their minds on these two already. So as election campaign strategists will say, there are not many ‘persuadables’ on defining PDP and the administration. What Nigerians need to be persuaded about is, beyond sloganeering, what APC stands for, how it is different from the party it seeks to displace, what it brings to the table and how it will make the difference in their lives.
Above all else, however, APC’s major challenge is that it is riven by internal contradictions and conflicts. Instead of strengthening accommodation and concentrating on building and growing the party, APC’s leaders are engaged in an intense battle for control and are deeply suspicious of, and intent on undermining one another. The battle for control has become an end in itself and is so intense that APC’s congresses from ward to state levels were attended disturbingly by violence across the country. The June 13 national convention of the party did more to showcase the internal jostling and prise open the cleavages than strengthen the party for the future. APC has not shown that it has a robust conflict management system, nor has the party demonstrated that it has the capacity to develop a strategy to tame and roll back PDP’s resurgence.
APC’s presidential primaries pose an even greater threat to the party, and could further weaken its capacity to vigorously challenge PDP next February. All these notwithstanding, it is still too early to write off APC yet. This is because politics is forever a dynamic game and the general election is still more than six months away. There is still enough time for APC to recover and for PDP to score own goals. As any student of politics knows, even an hour is a long time in politics. So like PDP’s projected demise, APC’s apparent decline might be a bit exaggerated.

Okey Ndibe
Last week, as part of festivities celebrating the 80th birthday of Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, Bishop Matthew Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto delivered a lecture titled “Wole Soyinka: 80 Years of Genius and Prophetic Outrage”. It was a remarkable lecture in several ways, including its sweep, its blend of anecdote and analysis, and its ecumenical spirit—a Catholic cleric engaging robustly with Soyinka, an unapologetic devotee of Ogun, the Yoruba god whose catholic offices include war, metallurgy and creativity. 
Bishop Kukah’s lecture was also remarkable for a more dubious reason, one that pertains to me. In a bizarre turn in his talk, the bishop singled me out for furious verbal attack. It was a most unbecoming assault, precisely because it was based on a grave (and perhaps deliberate) misreading of a column I wrote two weeks ago titled “Something Really, Really Dangerous”.
Here (culled for brevity) is what Bishop Kukah had to say about me (and, in an indirect way, about some Nigerian “brethren in the Diaspora”):
“Nigerians love to criticize their country, perhaps, far more than any nation I know of in the world. Yes, we have all earned the right to be cynical and even contemptible about the way we have been governed and about how the resources of our nation have been frittered away mindlessly. I am even more amused by the criticisms of some of our brethren in the Diaspora, especially those who think that simply being abroad has set them apart from their fellow countrymen and women, those who believe that those of us, who are here are so because we are not good enough to be abroad…
“It is about time we took off the gloves and speak [sic] honestly to ourselves about our future as a country, our mistakes, our fears, anxieties and deep hope. We are not the worst people on earth nor is our country the worst piece of God’s real estate. We have to seize this narrative and re-define ourselves…
“Since the outbreak of the tragedy that is Boko Haram, one has seen another side of our citizens that is quite tragic. Rather than trying to stand together to rise beyond this in hope together, I find some of my fellow citizens creating more confusion and using the insurgency as weapons of politics. The President and the security agencies have become the objects of attacks and vilification and yet, there is very little that is being done to point at the way forward. I know that as day follows night, we shall pull out of this tragedy that we face as a nation…
“In a recent piece, Okey Ndibe literally overreaches himself and engages in what is at best a verbal overkill in his Naija pessimism. He says he regrets writing and calling Nigerians chickens. Now, he realizes that chickens are better off than Nigerians. Rather, he says, Nigeria has become the federal republic of ants. Does Ndibe now imagine that he has ceased to be an ant because he resides in the comforts of the United States, a country that was constructed on the back of the same ants hundreds of years ago? This is most pathetic, despicable and grotesque to say the least. Can anyone, in all honesty, call a nation of 170 million people, doing their best despite the difficulties, a nation which has produced and parades some of the most brilliant and gifted people in the world, a nation with perhaps, the most vibrant and informed media outlets in the developing world a nation of ants? If Ndibe were a Ugandan, Rwandan, Zimbabwean or indeed, from most African countries, would he write this and still come back to his country? Indeed, the answer is that there is hardly any other African that can write this rubbish about their own country, even if they had no family in the country. How much further can you overstretch logic and common sense? Do ants win Nobel Prizes or has Mr. Ndibe lost his own anthood by sojourning in America?”
On first reading the quoted section, I cringed in embarrassment on the bishop’s behalf. For years, I have followed the man’s public commentaries. Even when I disagreed with his posture on public issues, I was never in doubt that he was an educated and well-informed man. Hence my dilemma: How could a person as educated as the good bishop of Sokoto so totally misread my piece? 
But for the high esteem in which I held Kukah, I would have suspected him of being up to great mischief—if not more sinister purpose—in reacting to my piece the way he did. I was tempted, then, simply to ask the bishop to go back and reread my piece, and this time to bring a discerning mind to the task. 
In launching his unwarranted attack, Bishop Kukah came across as desperate to find a straw man. It was the desperation of a man reluctant or afraid to take on the real foes—the militants who, in the alleged name of God, kill Nigerians as if their victims were ants, and the political authorities that are doing little or nothing about it. Instead of addressing the real issue, our revered bishop picked on a convenient, harmless target: Okey Ndibe. 
The attack was a shameful distraction unworthy of Bishop Kukah. Interestingly, his full-throttle attack on me was delivered the same week Human Rights Watch released a report disclosing that Boko Haram insurgents had slaughtered 2,053 Nigerian civilians in the first six months of 2014. That grim report could stand as my ultimate rejoinder to the bishop. I happen to believe—and have always argued—that one Nigerian unjustly killed is one death too many. On the other hand, the good bishop appeared willing to quibble endlessly, content to reduce the death of more than 2000 innocent Nigerians to “difficulties.” 
Anybody who reads Kukah’s attack on me without the benefit of reading my original piece could run away with the impression that I’m a haughty, condescending guy who regards fellow Nigerians as ants. Yet, any literate reader who reads my column would come to a different—in fact, opposite—conclusion. I had complained in an earlier column that Boko Haram was butchering Nigerians as if their victims were chickens. Rather than abate, the scale of the horrific killings continued to escalate, with little serious action by the political leaders who are paid (in fact overpaid) to protect Nigerians. That worsening tragedy forced me to bemoan the plight of Nigerians whose deaths went largely unnoticed, as if they were ants. 
That Bishop Kukah sought to mischaracterize my piece speaks volumes, I suggest, about his politics. His line of attack was certainly curious. Faced with the specter of Boko Haram, he chose, instead, to lash out at critics of the government’s inept response. For him, there was little moral distinction to be made between Boko Haram and social critics. Indeed, given the severity of his rebuke of me (and other misguided “brethren in the Diaspora”), the bishop appeared to regard me as more dangerous than Abubakar Shekau who proudly boasted of abducting and enslaving more than two hundred schoolgirls! In fact, the bishop was so vexed that he all but called on the Nigerian state to declare me persona non grata (in line with what he presumed that Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other African countries would do to my ilk)!  
Curiously, nowhere in Bishop Kukah’s lengthy lecture did one find an expression of outrage about Boko Haram’s carnage to match the fury he marshaled against me. Which all betrayed a dodgy stance on the part of the bishop. I am amazed that this bishop expended so much breath to portray me as an enemy of the people precisely because I challenged the government to live up to its duty to protect Nigerians’ lives and property. How his attack must have shocked the bard he was invited to honor!
So here are a few questions I’d like to address to the dear bishop. The Catholic Church to which you and I belong teaches the inherent dignity of every human. What, then, accounts for your silence about the 2,053 innocents callously killed by Boko Haram? Where, in your lecture, was there that stipulation about the irreducible dignity of human lives? Are you at peace, sir, with the incessant massacre of hapless Nigerians? You were in such haste to berate me and other foreign-based critics simply because we ask more of Nigerian leaders and security agents. Are you satisfied, bishop, with what the government has done so far in response to the scourge of Boko Haram? 
One is astonished that a bishop would be content to proclaim that Nigerians “are not the worst people on earth nor is our country the worst piece of God’s real estate.” Is that the extent of your dream of Nigeria? Isn’t this a lazy, even complacent, posture?  Archbishop Hassan Kukah
Let’s be clear: Bishop Kukah’s attempt to create a division between home-based and foreign-based Nigerians is an old trick, but it’s a tool of deception. Many Nigerians, whether they live at home or abroad, speak courageously about the shortcomings of their country. They dare to dream of a better, more humane and more just country. Enlightened Nigerians must reject Kukah’s false and dangerous dichotomy of home-based and foreign-based Nigerians. 
I see two kinds of Nigerians: those who are content with the way things stand—a Nigeria bereft of healthcare, electric power, good roads, sound education, and infrastructure—and those who insist that Nigeria can and must be better. The former are often profiteers from a system that enables a few to live off of the misery of the larger populace, in fact a system that empowers a few to treat the majority of Nigerians as if they were ants! 
I am proud to be counted among the latter group. It’s up to Bishop Kukah to disclose on whose side he plays/speaks.

Wole Soyinka: 80 Years Of Genius & Prophetic Outrage By Matthew Hassan Kukah

I want to thank the members of the Pyrates Confraternity for their doggedness in pursuing me all these years to speak at one of these events.
Having failed to deliver this lecture on two different occasions, I am pleased that the doggedness of Mr. Chiemeka Ozumba and his friends has paid off and I have the last laugh. I feel quite honoured to be here especially given that this is the nearest we will come to a Church celebration of this great man even if St. Jero’s Church were open. Having just presided over the funeral of the distinguished jurist, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa a week ago, I feel quite honoured to be part of this historic celebration and at this stage.
Like the rest of us, my introduction to Wole Soyinka was motivated more by the need to massage my ego and feel a sense of being educated too. I do not recall how I first heard of Professor Wole Soyinka as a great writer. However, the publication of The Man Died was my introduction to the man. One of my teachers in the Seminary spoke about the book in class and immediately after, I asked if I could read it. He said he still had the last ten pages to finish and could I remind him after supper. I did and he handed the book to me. I took it, spent most of the night reading and finished it the next day. When I returned it to my teacher, he smiled and asked how I had found the book. I think he suspected my response so, I simply said, Fine. He saw from my face that I was not exactly excited and took back the book. It was the first time I would finish a book and not be able to tell anyone exactly what the book was all about.
I was determined to read a Wole Soyinka book and so I went in search and found, one, titled, The Interpreters. I felt as if this would interprete whatever I had missed in The Man Died. I plunged into it immediately. I read the first 10, then 20 and 30 pages and made no headway. None of my mates in the Seminary was reading Wole Soyinka nor were there colleagues whom I could turn to for help. I gave up and did not finish the book. My ego was rather bruised especially as I had taken up the challenge of reading Soyinka so I could also count myself educated enough to contribute to any discussion on the man if the need arose.
After these two books, I thought I would rather abandon this and go back to reading people like Chinua Achebe. Then I went to the bookshop in Jos and tried again. This time, I asked one of the staff if he could recommend a Wole Soyinka book to me. I think you should read, The Trial of Brother Jero especially as you are in the Seminary. You will like it. I paid for it and was happy that it did not look big. I read it at one sitting, intrigued by the story line. I was even happier over the fact that I realized that perhaps I was not as uneducated as I had thought. I did not become a serious Wole Soyinka reader as such, but I became interested in his works.
Our paths did not cross and like millions of other Nigerians, I was just content with knowing that he was a famous man from my country. A first meeting took place much later in far away Ohio, in the United States. I had been invited to present a paper at a Conference on Constitutionalism. My flight had arrived a bit late and I got to the venue of the meeting around 7pm. I had barely put my bags down when my host said to me, You must meet Professor Soyinka because he will leave immediately after his keynote address. I had jumped at the thought that I would finally meet the man, but was disappointed that it was not going to be a long meeting but I was delighted to take advantage of this rare opportunity. It was my first meeting, but it was memorable because Professor Soyinka cheated me. I forgave but have not forgotten and he himself might not even remember. This was what happened.
When we got to where he was seated, he was alone with only a bottle of red wine for company. He had already drunk nearly half of it. When he offered me a glass, I was quite pleased to accept the offer. He then poured me a glass. We toasted. He finished his glass and filled it up again. I had just had my first sip. Then he filled his glass again. We drank and chatted, but he made greater progress than myself. Next, he emptied the bottle into his glass again and that was it. I could not challenge him for obvious reasons but I felt rather cheated. But that was not the end because this serial offender was soon to repeat his offence again.
The second instance was in Benin when Comrade Adams Oshiomohle invited us to the One Man, One Vote march in Benin.  I arrived Government House at about 8.15am and the sitting room was full of many other colleagues of the Comrade Governor. There was Professor Soyinka sitting down with a bottle of red wine planted right in front of him. I went straight to greet him. After the pleasantries, I decided to appeal to my moral authority to denounce his action. Prof, it is barely 8am and you are already drinking wine so early? Now, come on, he said with that baritone of his as if ignoring my clerical authority: Is it not you Catholics who encourage us to have communion? That is exactly what I am doing. As if to let me know that I was wasting my time, he lifted up his half empty bottle, made no attempt to ask if I was interested and poured himself another long glass. My mind went back to Ohio, I made a mental note but I was too polite to complain. I know one day he will pay for his many sins. Today is a good a chance as any for him to redeem himself.
I will like to do three things in the course of this lecture. First, I will like to briefly look at the celebrant and appreciate his exceptional gifts and expressions of his genius by way of his troublesomeness and daring rascality. Secondly, I will look at the theme of rebellion and revolt as a metaphor for prophesy and argue for its nobility in nation building. Thirdly, I will address the theme of religion in society, a theme that has often appeared in the intellectual universe of the celebrant. By way of conclusion, I will look at the future of the vision for a new form of literature in which art imitates life.
1: Wole Soyinka and the birth of a Genius:
I want to thank God for sending this great son of Africa to this great country called, Nigeria. Whatever may be Wole Soyinka’s claims as to how he got to be where he is, whether he believes God has brought him here or not, whether he wishes to celebrate or attribute his profound contributions to chance, intelligence, or Ifa divination, I am far from being concerned. All I know is that I am personally eternally grateful to God that he was born here and not there.
As usual, many people will ask, what is Bishop Kukah doing with these people? Has he joined them? I often feel quite glad and vindicated when partisans who believe they own you raise these questions feeling that you are sleeping with the enemy. Some two weeks ago, I was at a lecture in Lagos organized I think by Asiwaju Tinubu’s office. Most of the members were APC partisans and I knew that. I had quietly taken my seat when someone came to say that my friend Governor Amaechi whom I did not even know was in the hall insisted that I should come and sit beside him. I did and I had barely sat down when he said to me; I had told them that you are a PDP sympathizer. I told him that it made me feel quite glad because I had heard some of my PDP friends say that I am an APC sympathizer. In any case, I said, he had been a PDP stalwart.
Three weeks ago, I was at the mosque in Sokoto for the wedding of the Governor’s daughter. In shock, one or two of my friends asked what I had gone to do in a mosque Someone called me to ask what I was going to do at Wole Soyinka’s birthday when the man is supposed to be an unbeliever. I told my friend I was going to baptize him as part of his birthday celebration. He seemed to have believed me, but that ended our conversation. I am quite pleased that God has offered me these very rare opportunities and I do thank those individuals, groups and communities who keep opening their doors and letting me into their world. I do not take this honour lightly.
Our African cultures are not favourably disposed to the notion of protest. Obedience and compliance have always been presented as noble ideals required for forging a collective sense of family and community. At meetings, the young are supposed to be seen and not heard. Younger people can often be scolded for daring to speak while elders are speaking. Consequently, obeisance has been built into the thread of African life. A parent who concedes to a young person the right to contribute to public discussion in the presence of elders would often be considered to be encouraging irresponsibility and disobedience.
This applies to the women in African society. Men who give their wives license to speak are equally considered to be effeminate. How often for example do we hear the expression; Imagine her, men are talking and she is also talking. This is in spite of the fact that the woman in question may be a Professor and the man a driver or a cook. I make this point merely to underscore the fact that we need to thank the parents of our celebrant for coping with this young man whose troubles started too early in his life.
I am sure that perhaps more than any other work, Wole Soyinka’s Memoir, You Must Set Forth at Dawn offers the reader the most penetrating insight into the life of this great man. Not only do I consider it his greatest work, but I believe it should stand shoulder to shoulder with such phenomenal biographies as Mandela’s, Long Walk to Freedom. What is most interesting for me is not so much how it illuminates the man, but the fact that in the book, one sees clearly the biography of a man who had revolt in his DNA. Having ascended to such heights, only very few admirers of the man know how much has been packed into his life or the many things he tried to do in life and rebelled against himself. Sending this young man to the University of Leeds was a risk that only a man of the faith of his parents could have undertaken. Not unexpectedly, Leeds proved to be both a laboratory for his literary experiments and an incubator encasing the seeds of his genius.
His memoir presents the reader with literally every angle of the celebrant’s middle and adult life. You encounter the early stirrings of anger, revolt and outright defiance in his years in Leeds. The language in the poem, Telephone Conversation is dripping with veiled contempt and seething anger but it is also a warning of the lurking genius looking for an escape route. There is evidence in this poem that here was a rough diamond waiting to be polished and that if only he could stand still, sooner than later, the world would definitely stop and take notice.
His experiments with his literary talent showed a young man who was not afraid to sail so close to the wind. In 1959 he wrote a play titled, The Invention. It was supposed to climax with an explosion killing white scientists who were conducting research to determine racial types in South Africa. Strange enough, when the play was finally staged at the Royal Court Theatre, he state that the explosion refused to come on cue! Here was already a clear lesson, but WS did not learn that perhaps, contemplating wiping out white people even if in a play will not be such a good idea to be pursued. His sights were set on a project not far from the idea of the play.
For WS, white oppression, injustice, the conquest and occupation of African lands and resources was an unforgivable crime. He was determined to play a role in ridding the continent of these usurpers. He and his colleagues believed that the liberation of Africa was a project that was within their reach. In his words he believed that he and his friends:….would be the transforming auxiliaries of an inchoate substance, a yet undefined entity of space that just happened to be called Nigeria, Gold Coast, the Rhodesias, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Cameroon, etc. The future spread itself before us, a vision of the re-assemblage of a much abused, much violated people on whose head the ultimate insult had been heaped-broken in pieces and then glued together like the shell of the tortoise in folk mythology. We were unstoppable.
While in the University, he was really in search for a platform to realize his dreams. His education was also important only to the extent that it served as a platform for learning and acquiring the skills to embark on this mission of liberation of Africa. He took a bold step in order to actualize this dream. He went on to enroll in the officer training corps of the University of Leeds in 1955, opting, in his words, for Infantry corps. He apparently had not prepared himself for the implications of his foolhardiness. For, barely a year later, he was summoned to go to fight his fellow Africans in Egypt in the Suez war in 1956. He thought he had joined the training corps to exploit the British system so as to prepare himself for the liberation of South Africa. He wrote to decline the call up, only to realize that he was liable for court martial. Getting out of this impending court martial shows the celebrant’s ultimate rascality as genius. He devised a get away plan that only his kind of mind could conjure.
First, realizing that he was bound by the oath since he had appended his signature (and that meant he had no reason not to answer his call up to go and fight in Egypt), he came up with a most bizarre plot. He convinced himself that he had actually recited the oath in Yoruba and not English and therefore, the oath had lost its potency and efficacy. Again, he reasoned, even if these words had passed his tongue, he would cleanse his tongue so as to eradicate any further feeling of guilt.  He went straight into the Mess and bought a glass of sherry to wash down and cleanse his tongue. He then hid his kit somewhere and fled! Last time I checked, AWOL, desertion is still a crime. Getting off one AWOL was not enough and he was still not done with wanting to save the world.
He signed up again, this time, it was to go to Hungary to help ward off the Soviets who had invaded that country. Again, his real intentions lay elsewhere, namely, to acquire enough skills to help liberate South Africa. Again, just when it mattered, he chickened out. In his words: I could not really see how a black face could be justified in slinging Molotov cocktails in the streets of Budapest. The prospect of getting killed in such a strange land struck me as grotesque- a black festering corpse alone in a snow-clad street, all other casualties vanishing into the protective colouring of their natural environment. So, our celebrant is still on AWOL and awaiting court marshal in two different British Military Barracks. General Gowon, Chairman should take note.
This is not a book review. I have made these references just to illustrate a combination of the genius of the celebrant and his penchant for trouble. By the time he returned to Nigeria, his seeds of trouble had fully blossomed. Thus, anyone looking for the reasons why the celebrant would later emerge in Ibadan as the mystery gunman, as the founder of the Sea Dogs Confraternity and other allied organisations, a messenger for both sides in the civil war, moving between Ojukwu, Victor Banjo, Awolowo and Obasanjo and many other key actors so as to change the course of events leading to the civil war, planting a secret telephone in Obasanjo’s room, etc, are just a few snap shots into the troubles of the celebrant. Little wonder, prison and solidary confinement became merely period of meditation and reflections. His defiance did not change. Little wonder, he would admit that the Secret Service agents were his eternal chaperons.
2: Prophesy, Vision and Nation building.
In the little book titled, Night, Elie Wiesel the hero of the Holocaust narratives and memorials, tells a very powerful story of a woman, Mrs. Schachter who, along with Jews in her neighbourhood had been rounded up and thrown into a train to a destination they did not know. As those journeys to unknown destinations are wont to be, they all travelled in silence. Midway through a voice pierced the silence with shouts of; Fire! I see a Fire, I see a Fire! The startled passengers looked at her and, in the words of Wiesel, she looked like a withered tree in a field of wheat. She continued howling: Look! Look at this fire! This terrible fire! Have mercy on me! Frustrated and unable to calm her down, her fellow passenger rained heavy blows to her head and body.
Gradually, since no one had seen any fire, other passengers began to move away from her, believing that she was out of her mind.  Her ten-year-old son with no choice, stuck with her in confusion since he too had seen no fire. Through the journey, she remained mute, absent, and alone. Then again, she suddenly stirred and began the shouts: The fire, over there! This time, she was pointing at somewhere in the distance. But no one felt like beating her anymore. Even the passengers had become tired of beating her. Mr. Wiesel stated that the heat, the thirst and the stench were nothing compared to the screams of Mrs. Schachter which psychologically tore the group apart. A few days later, with all passengers hungry and tired their train pulled up at a station. Everyone peered out in curiosity and anxiety. There, before them was written boldly, the name of the station:Auschwitz!
What does this tell us about prophets and prophesy? It is important to interrogate the notion of prophecy, expressed through protest as a vocation.  I will argue that indeed, protesters or rebels have often been the prophets every society requires to grow. They are often despised and vilified in their societies. Very often, for they suffer, harassment, imprisonment, banishment/exile, torture and even gruesome death is often their lot. They are often considered enemies of state, traitors of a cause, turncoats, villains, or saboteurs. Most prophets often die in ignominy and often, the fruits of their prophecy ripen years or even centuries after they are gone. Damned is the society that neglects the voice of the prophet or does not possess the capacity to discern the seeds of prophesy. Prophets sail against the wind.  Lofty as we may sound, not everyone who stands against the order of the day is necessarily a prophet. By their deeds, we will know them. As we know, like everything else in life, it is also the domain of scoundrels.
What this says to us is that prophets often see what those around them do not see. Writing or other forms of artistic expressions, songs, music, dance, sculpture and so on are merely outlets for this gift. As with Mrs. Schachter, the challenge is not so much that of the prophet, but whether those who listen can discern what is being said. Whatever their weaknesses, the world today would be different without the vision of prophets.
I use the word prophet for want of a better word and it is important to state that religious prophets are not necessarily cast in the same mould with other forms of secular prophesy to which I refer. Here, I speak of many prophets to the extent that they like Mrs. Schacthter point at fires that we do not see. In various ways, people like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Che Guevera, Fidel Castro, Solinitsyin, Sharansky, Vaclav Havel, Malcolm X, Chris Hani, Lech Walesa, Rosa Parks, Steve Biko, Ruth First, would be classified as prophets in their protests against injustice though they applied non religious means of fighting for their society. Our celebrant would fall within this category of those who used their skills and lend their voices to the quest for a better society. The likes of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Pope John Paul 11, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Oscar Romero or Helder Camara would be prophets based on a theological platform different and distinct from that used by what I call secular prophets because they derived their inspiration from the material conditions of their people while the second set of prophets drew from divine sources of inspiration. There is of course a convergence in their quest for justice, equity and the quest for a new order. There might be differences in orientation, goals and visions of what a just order might be, but that is not really the issue here. These terms are imprecise but they are important in our appreciation of the works of our celebrant in this light.
3: Religion and the Trial of Brother Jero:
Perhaps one area that stands out in the works of our celebrant has been his views about religion and its place, if any, in society. The Trial of Brother Jero is a timeless and priceless piece of writing and perhaps it really highlighted our celebrant’s deep insights into religion and the power of manipulation. If we are looking for evidence of the author’s genius right from the beginning, it is hard to surpass this piece of work given the time of its writing, fifty years ago. Perhaps what is most significant is the fact that the work itself was prophetic in a sense. However, beyond that, we must address the issues of the resilience of religion, given how Brother Jeroboam has re-invented himself and almost literally now taunts his creator today.
Did the celebrant imagine that the descendants of Brother Jero would go beyond Bar Beach and take over most of our express high ways across the nation as they do today? Did the writer imagine that the descendants of Brother Jero would be the centre of political gravity around which all office holders from top to bottom would hover and grovel in search of blessings and anointing? Did he imagine that the descendants of Brother Jero would own choice private jets, choice real estates, banks, business and so on. Did he imagine that their empires would stretch from state to state, coast to coast and sea to sea? This is the dilemma of those who studied religion purely and simply in materialistic terms, believing that believers were the subject of mere manipulation and craft. Clearly, Brother Jero has done far better than the Confraternities which set out to denounce them. Surely, Brother Jero has spiraled while the Confraternities have descended from the ignominy of cultism to mere whispers in the scheme of things.
Cast your mind back and recall Brother Jero on Bar beach very early in the morning. He  has actually set forth at dawn to face his business of the day. He says to himself: I am glad I got here before any customers- I mean worshipers…l always get a feeling every morning that I am a shopkeeper waiting for customers. He justifies his ministry’s strategy, saying: I keep my followers dissatisfied because if they are satisfied, they won’t come again. And, boy, have they come back over, and over and over, in all colours, shapes, classes, genders, faiths, all with single intentions of arm-twisting God to their cause. They include politicians troubled by impending election losses, Presidents, Governors, Ministers, Chief Executives of Banks and corporations, ex convicts, Chief Executives fleeing the long arm of the law, those seeking public offices, businessmen facing ruination and so on. So, is this religion or are we faced with evidence of a state in the throes of renal failure? This is the place to look, not religion.
We are therefore compelled to address a more fundamental question as to what the role and place of religion are in shaping society. For us in Africa, the popular thinking among popular social theorists is that religion has become the problem in Africa. Nowhere is this more visibly demonstrated than in our dear country Nigeria. Those who hold these views cite the endless spates of violence, upsurge of intolerance and divisiveness in the name of religion. They blame religion for sheltering criminals and corrupt people as if the Church or the mosque is a replacement for the Police and the Courts. Rather than examine more closely the real role of religion in society, African social theorists have caricatured and uncritically applied Karl Marx’s rather weak materialistic tools of analysis and concluded that first, religion is the opium of the people and the preoccupation of the poor and ignorant. Now, religion has come back with a vengeance to taunt and discount these shallow claims. Indeed, as Napoleon said, rather than blaming Religion, we should be thankful because, It is religion that stops the poor from killing the rich!
Across the universities, various kinds of Student movements and associations emerged to fill what their teachers claimed was a moral vacuum. The stories of the emergence of a deluge of Fraternities such as the Pirates, Sea Dogs, Buccaneers, Skulls and Bones, Palm Wine Drinkers and among many others are well known. The celebrant’s role in this phase of our history is well known. The counter narratives have not wiped away the perception. It was interesting that when the Pirates came to invite me in 1996 or so to deliver the inaugural lecture, they dangled their Catholic credentials as a means of convincing me that they were not cultists. Whatever the case, the point I am making here is that perhaps with hindsight, I hope that the critics of religion are now better informed and disposed to conversion. Perhaps that is why I am here, who knows?
The critics of religion often do not have problems with religion per se. Often their problems lie in the perceived manipulation by those they see as the oppressors. Yet, in the end, what we have come to see is that from Latin America (Liberation Theology), the anti apartheid movement, Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution in Iran to the collapse of the Berlin wall and the end of Communism, prophetic religion has always been deployed to rescue a society weighed down by injustice.
It is often tempting to think that what we need to struggle against is the removal of the structures of power such. Religious leaders are often summoned to speak out, to speak truth to power. Often the Opposition wants to court the religious leaders and they believe that the good religious leader is the one who is on their side, the one in opposition to the government of the day. So, they see religion and religious leaders as players on the reserve bench who can be called upon to change the course of the game to their own advantage. This is where religion and religious leaders need wisdom and counsel. This is where we must realize that religion has an overarching reach beyond the confines of other fault lines in the society. Indeed, this is at the heart of why the Catholic Church in her wisdom insists that her clergy can be political, but not politicians. I am often accused of being a politician, but I ask the same people to tell me why my liking music has not made me a musician!
As history has shown us, the mere removal of structures of corruption or injustice do not by itself (whether through elections, coup or protests) justify and end to oppression or corruption. We are seeing all of this across the world but especially in Africa and the developing world. More often than not, the same human beings replicate the same contradictions and re-enact the same injustices and corruption, merely using the same weapons of torture, only with a splash of new brushes, paint and actors. This is what the Catholic Church experienced in most parts of Latin America where Liberation theology had served as a mobilizing tool, the same problems it had to face in Poland or the Philippines, etc. It is also the same battle that Archbishop Desmond Tutu has had to wage with the upper crust of the ANC who have almost so quickly forgotten their history. His near isolation by the ANC in the burial of Mandela was the telling lesson.
4: What Next Africa, What Next After WS?
What next for Africa? It seems rather curious that Europe has always seen in Africa what Africans themselves seem unable to see. First, despite labeling it, in the words of Conrad, the heart of darkness, it still went on to invest thousands of the precious lives of its young citizens who fought and died in wars so as to occupy this house of darkness. By conquest, despoliation and death, Europeans went on to invest rather heavily in both the enslavement of Africans and the dispossession of the continent’s resources. Despite the scorching heat in Africa, Europeans were still glad to carry this very heavy white man’s burden as Rudyard Kipling called the colonial project. This is neither the place nor the time to investigate this phase of our history. But this notion of investing in darkness and willingly going to war to carry a burden it must be a telling metaphor of the conflict between danger and opportunity in Africa. Going forward, we must ask why Africans have refused to shine their eyes and whether the future lies in continuing on this path. Why does the prospect of a good life for Africa remain only an emblem of possibilities and promise? Why does the good life remain a shifting kaleidoscope? Why is our narrative constantly a movement of possibilities never really embraced, just an endless burst of conflict of lights and shadows.
At the end of the last century, Afro pessimists and Afro optimists both contested for the best projections of the continent’s future. In March 2000, the very influential UK Economist Magazine ran a cover story titled, Africa the Hopeless Continent. Barely ten years later, precisely in December 2011, it did another cover story. This time, it made a complete turn around and captioned it: The Hopeful Continent: Africa Rising. Where exactly Africa was rising from and how long the continent had been dead, what killed it and what might a resurrected Africa look like, the magazine did not exactly say. But these conflicting signals and dominance of our narrative should worry us as Africans.
Our celebrant has committed most of his adult life exhibiting genius and making trouble by banging on the doors of African leaders. But at best, he might have been blowing a muted trumpet. Of course, at another level, we could ask why, beyond the entertainment and artistic value, what is the value of writing? Who exactly are we writing for and for what purpose? Why has writing not effected any change in our societies? What is the scope of our narratives?
We blame our politicians but in reality are they not doing much better than us? Are there no lessons we can learn from the distances they cover to sell their messages? How is it that members of political parties crisscross the country in a way and manner that writers do not? I know very little of the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, but without seeking to cause offence, what do other Nigerians know about them apart from their meetings, Awards and so on? Can ANA make literature cross boundaries, cultures, region and religion? How can ANA and Nollywood recreate a new Nigerian persona, away from the villainous role we have been conscripted to play by our enemies? Most of the negativity we imbibed has remained with us and threatens to continue to define us. This must be carefully thought through and reversed. Are we going to continue to choose between ethnicities in Nollywood or will there ever be something bigger?
We hear that the works of the celebrant, those of Chinua Achebe have been translated into 50, 80 or 100 languages. Yet, how many of these works have been translated into Nigerian languages, such as Angas, Fulfulde, Nupe, Hausa, ijaw, Efik, Tiv, Igala, Idoma, Jukun, or Ikulu? (I have added the last because the ethnographers do not know we exist and this is the only chance I have to mention us!). But seriously, what is the relationship between the celebrant’s works and the works of other artists in Nigeria outside Yorubaland? The works of Amos Tutuola for example, have been taken, raw as they were and turned into an art form. How come, we have not been able to find a place for the poetry of the likes of Mudi Sipikin, or the works of Mamman Shata, Dankwairo, or Danmaraya? Where do all these fit in the national narrative?
Despite a much coveted Nobel Prize, how come that only very few Nigerians across the length and breathe of this country can speak about the celebrant? How come that young Eskimo children in schools as far as the North Pole know about Chinua Achebe or Wole Soyinka but young children in Nigerian schools know almost nothing?
Nigerians love to criticize their country perhaps far more than any nation I know of in the world. Yes, we have all earned the right to be cynical and even contemptible about the way we have been governed, and about how the resources of our nation have been frittered away mindlessly. I am even more amused by the criticisms of some of our brethren in the Diaspora especially those who think that simply being abroad has set them apart from their fellow countrymen and women, those who believe that those of us who are here are so because we are not good enough to be abroad.
To be sure, there are many who are struggling to see what they can contribute to building a new nation, but I often resent the condescending attitude and outright smugness of some Diaspora Nigerians who believe in their superiority simply because they have a second passport. Yet, when some of them have had the chance, they have done far worse than those of us they have left behind. However, nothing excuses the degree of self-deprecation and flagellation that one often reads in the essays and commentaries about this country. It is about time we took off the gloves and speak honestly to ourselves about our future as a country, our mistakes, our fears, anxieties and deep hope. We are not the worst people on earth nor is our country the worst piece of God’s real estate. We have to seize this narrative and re-define ourselves.
The measure of the greatness of a people or even individuals is based on how or where they stand in moments of trials and tribulations. Nigeria is going through such a phase now. Since the outbreak of the tragedy that is Boko Haram, one has seen another side of our citizens that is quite tragic. Rather than trying to stand together to rise beyond this in hope together, I find some of my fellow citizens creating more confusion and using the insurgency as weapons of politics. The President and the security agencies have become the objects of attacks and vilification and yet, there is very little that is being done to point at the way forward. I know that as day follows night, we shall pull out of this tragedy that we face as a nation. But the least we can do is to stand in the comforts of highways and homes that someone else constructed and thrown stones at ourselves and our people simply because we are living off someone else’s sweat.
In a recent piece, Okey Ndibe literally overreaches himself and engages in what is at best a verbal overkill in his Naija pessimism. He says he regrets writing and calling Nigerians chickens. Now, he realizes that chickens are better off than Nigerians. Rather, he says, Nigeria has become the federal republic of ants. Does Ndibe now imagine that he has ceased to be an ant because he resides in the comforts of the United States, a country that was constructed on the back of the same ants hundreds of years ago? This is most pathetic, despicable and grotesque to say the least.
Can anyone in all honesty call a nation of 170 million people, doing their best despite the difficulties, a nation which has produced and parades some of the most brilliant and gifted people in the world, a nation with perhaps the most vibrant and informed media outlets in the developing world a nation of ants? If Ndibe were a Ugandan, Rwandan, Zimbabwean or indeed, from most African countries, would he write this and still come back to his country? Indeed, the answer is that there is hardly any other African that can write this rubbish about their own country, even if they had no family in the country. How much further can you overstretch logic and common sense? Do ants win Nobel Prizes or has Mr. Ndibe lost his own anthood by sojourning in America? This is my dilemma, how to recreate our new narrative.
What we require now are new visionaries to set higher standards. What we need now are new dreamers with the necessary imagination to summon our people to a greater tomorrow. Yes, we Set forth at dawn and are still on The Road. Yes, we have beatified many area boys. Yes, we were the running sore of a continent. Yes, we all stood by when the man died. Yes, we have lived through the Penkelemes years. Yes, we have witnessed the Trial of brother Jero, but, where are the Interpreters today?
Finally, the challenge now is not so much what the celebrant’s legacy should be. His place is already assured among in the pantheon of the great men and women of letters. The next generation of writers must address the questions of the relationship between Life and Art. Perhaps we are can argue that the writings of the celebrant have attempted to useart to imitate life, drawing inspiration from the realities of the society, warts and all. What we now need is new generations of Nigerian artists who will make Life imitate Art. By doing this, they can hold before us a world that is not here, but is possible. They can offer us a vision of a society that is not here yet but one to which we can align our politics, religion and culture as a people. They can summon to bear our burden with joy, to conquer our darkness with courage. That is the only spirit that can summon us to say,Yes, we can and Yes, we Must. It is the only spirit that can bend the arc of justice in our direction.
This is the spirit that rallied the Chinese to undertake the long trek. It is the spirit that summoned the Mau Mau to defend their land. It is the spirit that flowed in the veins of Nelson Mandela. Let me illustrate with the late President John F Kennedy.
John Kennedy’s Presidency was short but historic for due to his application of an incredible vision and imagination of possibilities. When he promised Americans that  they would land a man on the moon, it sounded like madness. We now know better. He imagined the creation of a non-racial and equal society. In a national broadcast on June 3, 1963, he proposed legislation to end discrimination and hasten integration and equality. Five months later, he was dead, but the project was irreversible. On July 3, 1964, his successor, Lyndon Johnson saw to it by signing the Civil Rights Act into Law. Lofty as this idea was, law by itself is not self-actualizing or self enforcing. While the struggle went on by other means, Hollywood stepped in. Hollywood chose the theme of inter-racial marriage to make the point.
The aspirations, ideals and visions encapsulated in the Civil Rights Act found expression in the historic film, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner which was made in 1967. In an unforgettable performance, Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier combine with Catherine Hepburn and Catherine Houghton to offer the life changing performance of a lifetime. Cecil Kellaway’s brilliant performance cast him as Catholic priest, Msgr Ryan, Tracy’s Golf mate and friend who served as a mediator and moderator on his friend’s excesses. That film had tremendous impact on the world.
Even as an outsider, it had a great impact on me. Think for example if some Nigerian dreamer, artist, writer, film maker had the imagination to craft such a powerful story in this our thoroughly divided society where in some parts of Nigeria, as the one I come from, some Muslims believe it is haram for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim! Human beings, as we see from childhood and through life, live by imitation. Imagine what so many young people dream of becoming in life. This is what I mean by life imitating art.
There are as different views, opinions, and perceptions of the celebrant as there are Nigerians. This is how it should be. Fame breeds controversy. Unfortunately, I personally do wish I had known him more and that his works had been more accessible even in our Seminaries. What impact or what influence has the celebrant had on Nigerians? This is hard to gauge and I am not so sure whether it matters. However, it does seem clearly that as we have tried to show, controversy and trouble have been his middle names.
Whereas most Nigerians knew his vile hatred for Abacha, few including myself believed that he did not get on with some of the people or institutions we thought he was close to. For example, he found Abacha so detestable and disgusting that he did not wish to be buried in Nigeria as long the General was Head of State. His note or warning to his friends: Let no well meaning relation even think of bringing my body home as long as that monstrosity holds power over a portion of earth that I consider my own. Even in exile one would have thought he was the brain box of NADECO. Here, again the reader is shocked because of NADECO, he said: I was temperamentally ill suited to that company.
The celebrant and Tony Enahoro were the only twosome who opted out of the Obasanjo Political Reform Conference with fanfare. Like millions of Nigerians, I believed that both of them were birds of the same feather and that they were busy working out a new Constitution for the country based on their radical ideological convictions. But, no, for, on Tony Enahoro, he said: He thrived in endless meetings, corpious minutes, points of order, standing orders and moving and seconding motions….he galvanized the already simmering rivalries within the movement, causing them to burst open.
More interesting is his comment on Gani Fawehinmi. Of him, he said: Nearly every colleague, collaborator or beneficiary of Gani, virtually without exception, has gone through a phase of temporary derangement when they wondered whether it would not be much better, for the sake of the very cause that he advocated, if Gani were to be heavily sedated, kidnapped and hidden away, then revived and released only when the challenge had been resolved.
My intention has not been to assess the celebrant and his works. Professor Abiola Irele who knows him and his works will be doing that on Sunday. My job has been to use the platform I have been offered to celebrate a very complicated man of genius. My view is to see him as an extra ordinarily talented man whom God has endowed with incredible gifts of dreams and imagination and equipped him with the tools to express himself. As for his politics, his abilities to play football or tennis, his place of worship and so on, I have no idea. I have simply come to celebrate one of the greatest writers to come out of our country and continent.
One last word: Prof, had you listened to your mother, life would have been easier for you. Remember she warned you: Wole, Itirayi ni gbobo nkan. Perhaps it is just as well that you did not believe in merely trying for then, you would not have had a Nobel Prize. For a failed trader, failed farmer, a soldier on AWOL, you did well by choosing Literature and Art. Unless the British come to arrest you for court martial, I wish you many more years of good health, joy and peace. As you walk towards the sunset, turn to the Lord and may He let His face shine upon you and bless you. Thank you very much for the rare opportunity to be here. God bless you. God bless our dear country.

2015: APC Exposes PDP Vulnerability In Many States, Plots Counter Impeachment Moves Against Fayose, Others

APC ready to also take advantage of PDP vulnerability in many states
APC ready to also take advantage of PDP vulnerability in many states
The opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), appears to have woken up to the realities of politicking as the party has resolved to put up a hard fight with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), following the impeachment last week of Murtala Nyako and the ongoing move to impeach Governor Tanko Al-Makura.
A credible source said leaders of the party have decided on a three-way approach towards staving off impeachment against their governors. The three approaches include employing public sympathy against impeachment moves on its governors especially Governor Al-Makura; embarking on lobbying of principal PDP stakeholders as well mobilization of media opinion against the planned impeachment.
It was gathered that the APC blamed the success of the impeachment plot in Adamawa State on Governor Nyako who was said to have failed to employ any of the stated measures. Beyond the approach however, a source said the party has resolved to direct it’s governors to also target PDP interests.
“The PDP is vulnerable in some states. They are vulnerable in Sokoto, where the deputy governor, Mukhtar Shagari is hanging on just by the goodwill of APC lawmakers despite the defection of Governor Aliyu Wamakko and majority of House of Assembly members to APC. We also have the situation in Ekiti, where we have 24 members in the House of Assembly compared to one member of the PDP. If they continue to impeach our governors, Ayo Fayose will not last one day in Ekiti,” said the source. Even in Osun state, the case isn’t different as a PDP governor would be given the impeachment treatment, should the party win in the August 9th election.
It was gathered that the leadership of the APC has, in the wake of the defection of five PDP governors to its fold in November 2013, asked its governors to firm up control of their states ahead of the succession battles, while ensuring that any deputy governor that refuses to join his governor in the defection train should be removed.

2015: Don’t declare now, PDP govs caution Jonathan

by Olusola Fabiyi

President Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan has been advised to tarry a little, before attempting to declare his second term ambition.
Governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, stated this at a meeting they had with the President at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Monday night.
Though the governors   were in support of the President’s bid for re-election, they said the nation’s mood was not ripe for such a declaration.
Investigations by our correspondent in Abuja on Tuesday and Wednesday showed that the meeting considered the plight of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls and security challenges facing the country.
It was learnt that based on these two major issues, the governors asked the President to study the mood of the nation more before considering an open declaration for re-election.
Two of the governors, who were at the meeting and spoke with our correspondent separately, said that the President was advised to either visit Chibok or in the alternative, allow the parents of the kidnapped schoolgirls visit him at the Presidential Villa.
One of them said, “The meeting was a painstaking one. We considered so many things. We talked about so many issues. While it was true we spoke about how to reposition the party and the gains we are making across the country ahead of the 2015 general elections, we also considered the probability of when the President could make his open declaration.
“Some of my colleagues argued that the time was ripe, but others felt that the mood of the country and even the international community are not favourable.
“We argued that if the President declares now, it will be seen as being politically bad and not in the best interest of the nation and that it could be termed as being against the spirit of fatherhood.”
He said based on this, the President was “advised to meet with the parents of the girls, even if some are going to see it as coming a bit late. It is better done now instead of allowing it go into history that the President did not visit or invite them for a meeting.”
Apart from this, another governor said that the meeting also noticed that the Independent National Electoral Commission had yet to release the guidelines for the election.
“We know that the campaigns are for him and part of efforts to strengthen the image of the government and that of the President. The position does not have this opportunity,” he added.