Total Pageviews

Friday, May 21, 2010

Discourse 215 Immunity Must Go

Monday Discourse (215)

Immunity must go
Dr. Aliyu Tilde

I did not know that Governors also cry until last week when they met the President and bitterly complained of their exclusion from the benefits of third term, immunity and other matters that border on their selfish interests in the constitutional amendment report presented to the Senate. The President assured them that something will be done. Shamelessly, his agents smuggled a revised copy of the document that takes care of the governors’ grudges, but thanks to the patriotism of majority of senators, it was thrown out. What a pity!
In our support to those senators, we are today reprinting our 185th discourse which was published last year. In it we reviewed the origin of the doctrine and how illogical it will be to retain it in 21st Century Nigeria when even Britain , its source, has stripped the Queen of its benefits long ago.
Immunity is an old common law doctrine that is rooted in the dictum ‘the King can do no wrong’. In a book widely read by students of administrative law, Nigerian Administrative Law, P. A. Oluyede located the relevance of the dictum in the feudal structure of old England, saying:
“Under feudal system no lord could be sued in the court which he held to try the cases of his tenants. Similarly, the King of England as the apex of the feudal pyramid was not subject to the jurisdiction of any Court in the realm. The basis of the concept is clear. It is simply not that the King could do no wrong, but that no action could be brought against him in his Court without his consent. Ironically however, the oft cited expression that ‘the King can do no wrong’ has been completely misunderstood…
“Another reason for the development is that the true meaning of ‘the King can do no wrong’ is that the King has no legal power to do wrong. The King’s legal position, the powers and prerogatives which distinguish him from an ordinary citizen, is given to him by law, and the law gives him no authority to commit wrong. Much too often it was not appreciated that the King as a human being had a personal as well as a political capacity. In his personal capacity he was just as capable of acting illegally as was any one else.”
In other words, the immunity of the King arose from two reasons: one, the fact that the Court was his and so he cannot issue a writ against himself without him permitting the Court to do so through his endorsement of petitions; two, the society does not expect him to do a wrong, so he did not have the legal capacity to commit it. Following this, a civil servant in those days could only nominally be a defendant in an action brought against him; the government was responsible for fulfilling any obligation arising from his actions.
Things changed in 1947 when the Crown Proceedings Act was promulgated. Under this law, the King became a subject of private law, though not in his personal capacity, and a citizen can seek redress against the injustices committed against a state or its official by ordinary court procedure.
“It is noteworthy at this juncture,” Oluyede wrote, “to point out that the practice which had been in operation in England up to January 1948 was imported to Nigeria and the practice is still in existence in this country even after it attained republican status. It is on record that Britain has, since the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, came into operation, made it possible to sue the Crown in the Courts by the ordinary process of law in all cases where a Petition of Right or a special statutory procedure had hitherto been the practice. In sum, civil actions by and against public authorities and officials in connection with acts or omissions which normally give rise to cause of action between two citizens are now on the same footing. There is no difference in procedure adopted.”
From the immunity of the Crown, let us move to the immunity of its inheritors. In Nigeria the rights of the crown are vested in our Heads of Governments by provisions of the Republican constitution in 1963. In 1979, following the adoption of a presidential system of government, section 276 of the constitution stated that “without prejudice to the generality of section 274 of this constitution, any property, right, privilege, liability and obligation which immediately before the date when the section comes into force was vested in, exercisable or enforceable by or against (a) the former authority of the Federation representative or trustee for the benefit of the Federation; or (b) any former authority of a state as representative or trustee for the benefit of the state, shall on the date when this section comes into force and without further assurance than the provisions hereof vest in or become exercisable or enforceable by or against the President and Government of the Federation, and the Governor and Government of the State, as the case may be.”
It must be noted here that the Crown Proceedings Act did not strip the Crown of his immunity in private and personal capacity. The immunity provision of section 267 of the 1979 constitution was a logical flow of the above quoted provision of section 276. “The section (267),” wrote Oluyede, “provides that no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against the president, Vice-President, Governor or Deputy-Governor during their period of office. They can neither be arrested nor imprisoned during that period in pursuance of the process of any Court or otherwise. While they hold office no process of any Court requiring or compelling their appearance shall be applied for or issued. This is not to say that they are not liable for any civil or criminal act or omission done in their personal capacity while in office. It only means that action cannot be taken against them at that material time.” This provision is replicated in our 1999 constitution.
That is law. It did not envisage that a King can do wrong. It never foresaw a situation where criminals will become kings or kings becoming criminals. The old philosophy is that a king lives well above his servants in his display of majesty and pride; hence, he will not condescend to the level of criminality. Thus we have never heard, until recently in Nigeria and other developing countries, that a President of a nation or a governor of a state can reduce himself to the level of a thief. What a terrible person would he then be in the contemplation of our grandparents?
In the relationship between a king and wrongdoing, three situations can be discerned. The first is that he lives above the level of wrong, and remains free of the consequences of wrongdoing. In this dimension, the provision of immunity makes a lot of sense. But what happens if the king does wrong? That is where the remaining two options come into operation.
When he does wrong, it means the immunity granted him has failed. Under the presidential system of government, the constitution provides for an impeachment clause which could be invoked by the legislature after a procedure that ascertains his guilt is duly followed. Remembering Clinton , that is when the king becomes demystified; he loses his majesty and looks like a cock beaten by rain, as the Hausa will put it.
In Nigeria too the constitution relies on the impeachment clause to guard the executive against doing wrong or in removing him from office when he commits one. Unfortunately in practice, it is used to settle scores between the executive and the legislature or in the attempt of the latter to extort money from the former. A case to recall here is that of former Governor of Kaduna State during the Second Republic , Alhaji Balarabe Musa who was impeached not for reasons related to theft or any misdemeanour but ideological difference between him and the legislature. The impeachment clause here has been used negatively. The impeachment clause was also used to remove many deputy governors thereafter who could not dance to the tune of their governors.
Today, the impeachment clause is used by the legislature to extort money from a wrong doing king, and almost all the kings in Nigeria are wrongdoers. Whenever they learn about a wrong committed by the governor or the President, they raise the card against him and, behold, Ghana must go begin to roll out. Then they drop it. I wish Balarabe Musa were so wise. That is how Baba Iyabo has been able to navigate on the turbulent water of the politics of the second, sorry third, most corrupt nation on earth. During the first term of this administration, the House of Representatives listed over thirty offences committed by President Obasanjo, including forgery. They would have impeached him, if it were not for the power of Ghana must go. Here, impeachment has failed to secure justice for Nigerians due to the susceptibility of the legislature to corruption.
It is the case of Dariye that brought the immobilizing effect of the immunity clause to public glare. He and other governors are good specimens of wrongdoing kings. He is allegedly guilty of negligence of duty that has caused the lives of thousands of people in the ‘home of peace and tourism.’ In addition, records have shown that he has stolen billions from the public treasury. The President, we learnt, tried to persuade the Plateau State legislature to impeach Dariye or else face the imposition of State of Emergency as a consequence. They chose the latter over the removal of their benefactor.
While away during the state of emergency, the presidency and M15 exposed the corrupt practices of Dariye. He was arrested in Britain and granted bail on charges of money laundering. A case was brought before the Court and his immunity right as a governor was upheld. While the law allows him to go free, for now, his collaborators in the same crime are standing trial. Meanwhile, no one can assure us that Dariye has not resumed the perpetration of his corrupt practices which will go on, unfortunately, until 2007. Other corrupt governors are also temporarily relieved by that verdict of the fear of prosecution; they can continue filling their Ghana must go jus qua 2007. We can only wait for the end of their tenure and think of how to drag them to court thereafter for the offences they committed with impunity before our eyes. It is clear, therefore, that we cannot rely on the impeachment clause, just as we feel the immunity clause is archaic and unjust ab initio. Here, again, the law has failed to secure justice.
It is when a judicial system fails to check the excesses of the king that citizens resort to solutions outside the law. Where the law ends, anarchy takes over. In the realm of anarchy, people have found various ways of dealing with the problem. Civil war is one, often ending with the king as the loser, as it happened to Charles I in 17th Century England . Revolution is another, as it happened in France in 1789 against feudalism and Charles XVI to usher in Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen which guaranteed “liberty, equality, the inviolability of property and the right to resist oppression.” The same thing happened to the Russian Tsar in March 1917 leading the takeover by Bolsheviks in November. Recently, the revolution of 1978 in Iran saw the final exit of the Pehlavi Monarchy and substituted it with a questionable marriage between democracy and theocracy. On the African continent we have seen the fall of Haile Selassie in 1974. I wonder if the ruling houses in the Middle Eastern kingdoms will survive the end of this century.
Military coups have been popular means of getting rid of corrupt governments in Africa . The Second Republic in Nigeria was brought to an end because the legislature could not simply recognize that the country was collapsing, hence the need to impeach the President. Some say that the era of coup is over. I will prefer to advise the king that he should not take chances; he should do no wrong…
Finally, in the debate over the immunity of the executive, supporters of the provision have dubiously avoided mentioning its actual (historical) reasons; rather, they simply tell us that the executive need to be protected against the flood of litigations that will distract them from performing their duties. However, given the risk of corruption and the consequent overthrow of the government that the immunity provision engenders, I will rather prefer that we remove the immunity and, in its place, strengthen the law of defamation with special provisions that will raise the stake of unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing against the President, Vice President, Governors and their Deputies.
While deterring people with evil intention, the law will thus make it possible for citizens with evidence of wrongdoing against and the President or any governor to come forward and present them before the court of law. Once found guilty, the executive can be removed, imprisoned or executed as the law would require. The impeachment clause will then be redundant and removed. The ultimate power of removing the President, Governor or their Deputies will thus lie with the judiciary. Let us try it. Other than this, retaining immunity and impeachment clauses in a corrupt environment like ours is the surest invitation to coups and other non-constitutional means of changing the situation.
As for those who misused the immunity clause in the past seven years thinking that the day of reckoning will never come, their cry has come earlier than expected. The President too cannot hold back his tears. They will start flowing immediately Nigerians get shocked by the staggering statistics of corruption that took place in his office. The vulture is a patient bird. We are not in a hurry.

Discourse 227 The End of Saddam

Friday Discourse (227)

The End of Saddam

He was brought in, handcuffed, leaving behind him his enormous power, wealth, palaces, leisure and people. None could escort him, except his atrocities. None could benefit henceforth, or save him from the gallows. The end of a long journey in tyranny was finally at hand.
He said nothing, but wore the look of a dejected person, defeated more by his evil deeds than by the Americans who have been his friends and masters for over thirty years. His mind must have reflected on the dynamics of his relationships with the Americans since when they recruited him as their agent in Egypt way back in 1960 up to when they shoved him out of power two years ago. Suddenly, the world's most powerful dictator since Hitler was reduced to a fugitive. He went on the run. The whole world failed to accommodate him. He continued to flee from one place to another until a hole granted him space like a rodent. How could a leader abandon his people and prefer to live in a hole? The answer is simple: He was running for his life, the same life he denied the over two million people that he killed over the forty years of his romance with power.
To disguise his identity as a fugitive, he grew a bushy look, like the early man who did not enjoy shaving blades. But none can save whoever God wanted to humiliate: the people, the hole and the disguise all became useless. His old friends continued to pursue him. And they got him, ultimately. Bringing him out of the hole, the president-turned-rodent told his captors, "I am the President of Iraq."
I will hardly forget those pictures of Saddam attended to by American soldiers after his capture, pointing at his tooth, looking more like a monkey than a human being. Neither will I forget the press conference when the Americans announced his capture. "Ladies and gentlemen," their spokesman greeted the crowd of journalists waiting for the breaking news, "we got him."
We know very little of what happened to him thereafter, until he was charged to court. There, only two of his atrocities were mentioned, not even the biggest ones. We watched him behave unruly, reminiscent of the bandit he was at Al-Ouja. He did all he could to appeal to the sentiments of Muslims, by quoting the Qur'an, by shouting Allahu Akbar, and so on. Finally, the death sentence was passed on him, which was confirmed on appeal.
But just before the confirmation, he wished to die honourably and revered thereafter. He carried his manipulation further. He wrote a letter claiming that he intends to die as a martyr on behalf of his people. What a pity! That was the limit of defeat. Why did not he choose to confront the Americans? Saddam, whose name means "confronter", could not confront his enemies in a dignified manner. He fled, just as he had fled from death many times before, though he readily inflicted it on millions of people. His martyrdom would have been more spectacular were he killed by American bombs in his palace. For him to imagine martyrdom only after a death sentence was passed on him suggests a contemplation made too late, an afterthought too cheap to be taken seriously.
He knew his D-day would be Saturday. On Friday, the Americans handed him over to the Iraqis. The people who would taunt him at the gallows could not miss the opportunity of intimating him that he had less than 24 hours to shake hands with death, if only to subject him to a trauma.
Friday night must have been the most extraordinary for the tyrant. He must have reviewed his entire life, since he was born to an unknown father sometime in the 1930s, a date he was not sure of. He must have recalled the different categories of people he betrayed and executed: beginning from the murders of thousands of communists at the Palace of the End in 1963, to the scores of friends and relations he killed to acquire and maintain power, to the thousands of Iraqi Kurds and Shi'ites whose populations he wiped out through using tanks and poisons, to the Iranians whom he caused over 1.5million to perish in a protracted eight year war, to his cul-de-sac, the Kuwaitis whose land he invaded and property he looted.
That night he must have regretted being a CIA agent. He became their wild dogm they set after who communism and Islamic revivalism. People like Donald Rumsfeld were his frequent visitors and suppliers of arms; the Arab regimes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and Jordan supplied funds and soldiers in a confederation against the Islam. But as his countryman, al-Mutanabbi, once said, the lion turned to hunt its master. The Americans and Arab leaders had to confederate once more to destroy Saddam. The same Donald Rumsfeld headed the troops that invaded Iraq, deposed Saddam, captured him and handed him over to the people he once oppressed. He is now in their hands. What a mess! They will hang him the following morning.
And there he was. With the rope tied around his neck, just loose enough to allow him breathe. He could not flee anymore. I thought he will utter some words of courage, condemning America or al-Maliki, as he used to do in the courts. No. He gave up. But before the rope could do its job, Saddam muttered, "Allahu Akbar, there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God." Then, I remembered the Pharoah of Moses, who made a similar profession: "Now I believe that there is no god save the God in whom the Children of Israel believe. To Him I give up myself."
We often think we can fool God, thinking that a reverse gear at the point of hopelessness will acquit us of our atrocities. God said, "But God will not forgive those who do evil and, when death comes to them, say: 'Now I repent!" Hence, God rejected the above quoted repentance of Pharoah, saying, "Now (you believe)! But before this you disobeyed and were a wrongdoer."
I would not have written this article if it were not for the reaction of some people to the hanging of Saddam. I can understand the unease of other Arab leaders because, like Saddam, they are living specimens of tyranny. I can also understand the protest of the Sunni minority in Iraq, for Saddam was their last opportunity to lead the country. In democracy, unlike in totalitarianism, number counts. The Palestinians may also show support to Saddam simply to hurt America.
However, what I fail to understand is the sympathy that some Muslims developed for the tyrant. They said he was executed on the day of Eid. And so what? I have never come across any injunction prohibiting so. I disagree with Jabir al- Alwani of the OIC who faulted the execution because it fell within the ashhurul hurum, the four sacred months. Is Saddam's life better than the thirty-five Iraqis killed by Sunnis on the same day? In any case, Saddam never respected the sanctity of any month during his war with Iran or invasion of Kuwait. God was specific on what should not be done in the sacred months, and he did not include the execution of Saddam: "Do not wrong yourselves in them," He said.
Then came the mobile phone video depicting how Saddam was taunted at the gallows when he was called a tyrant, or when he was reminded of Muhammed Baqir Sadr, the famous cleric he murdered twenty-six years ago, and his living son, Muqtada. Saddam appealed to them to be men. His sympathisers now claimed that this was not in accordance with the spirit of Islam and Arab tradition, as al-Anbari, the Editor of London based al-Quds claimed on al-Jazeerah. But at that point God himself would have taunted Saddam, saying, as he said in the Qur'an, "Taste it, you are certainly the powerful and great."
In any case, which Arab tradition was al-Anbari referring to? One, Did not Yazid bin Mu'awiyya once bought Iraqis and got them to massacre over 300 members of the Holy Prophet's family, among them was the Prophet's, Husein, whose head was cut-off and kicked openly in the streets of Iraq, during a holy month?
Two, if they claim that Saddam was a leader and, so, deserved some measure of respect, why did not he and members of the Baath Party respect President Qasim, when they executed him in 1963. In Saddam, the Secret Life, Con Coughlin narrated that "to assure the doubting Iraqi public that the president was indeed dead, Qassem's bullet-ridden body was featured in a grotesque film that was shown repeatedly on Iraqi television." Then he went further to quote Samir al-Khalil in the Republic of Fear, who said, "Night after night… the body was propped up on a chair in the studio. A soldier sauntered around, handling its parts. The camera would cut to scenes of devastation at the Ministry of Defence where Qassem had made his last stand. Back to the studio, and close-ups of the entry and exit points of each bullet hole. The whole macabre sequence closes with a scene that must forever remain etched on the memory of all those who saw it: the soldier grabbed the lolling head by the hair, came up close, and spat full face into it."
Saddam and his Arab Sunni sympathisers have forgotten the above scene. He was pleading to those taunting him at the gallows to be men. I wonder if he and the Baathist party were men in 1963 when they mishandled the body of President Qassem. In every recent development, I observed how we allow sentiments to shroud facts. Everyone will agree that Saddam was a butcher but we are not ashamed that among us a tyrant of his magnitude will emerge and kill Muslims at will, without us uniting to check him. And when God decreed that he be humiliated in the hands of the same enemies that he once made friends, we turn our back on his treachery and point fingers at those enemies.
Here, I find it equally difficult to reason with those in the West who were calling for the mitigation of the death sentence to life imprisonment in line with their present jurisprudence that outlaws death sentence. Among them, ironically, is Britain and Italy, junior partners of Bush in the coalition to kill. What a hypocrisy!
Amnesty International also decried the death sentence because, as its spokesman said, life is a fundamental human right. To kill Saddam, impliedly, is to deny him that right. Their jurisprudence is for the criminal, not the victim; it is for the living, not the dead; it is for the strong, not the weak. If the millions that died in the hands of Saddam were to return to life, they would have also demanded the justice that will allow him taste the bitterness of death. But since they remain weak by virtue of their state, amnesty is not on their side. Amnesty International, sides with the strong, the living. Deny the murderer the freedom of movement, it says, but allow him the joys of life: health care, seeing his family, reading newspapers, eating and drinking. I will argue that freedom of movement is also a fundamental human right, like life. So, by their logic, they can as well set Saddam free.
In the same vein, I consider it very shameful our sympathy to al-Qa'ida and the insurgency in Iraq. These are people who daily kill innocent worshippers in mosques, children in schools, patients in hospitals, mothers at home, traders in markets and so no. What Islam is this? Why can't they take the Americans head on? Why do they resort to soft targets among their people? Are these men? Why do we support them? Only cowards resort to violence, the strong and noble abide by the law, more so when they are Muslim. And the law regarding the sanctity of life is very clear in Islam.
As I write this article, two other butchers – Banda and al-Tikriti – are billed for the gallows tomorrow, Thursday, 3 January. Let even TV cameras be there. Let us applaud their hanging. They shot, poisoned and tortured others to death. They should not share a bit of our respect.
As for Saddam, the fatherless child of Al-Ouja, who used to steal chickens from his neighbours, the illiterate who participated in banditry and robbery, then later a gangster in Baghdad, then the butcher Vice-President and President, the agent of the CIA against Communism and Islam, the end came in a typically disgraceful manner. Conscientious Muslims, certainly, did not miss him.
The beneficiaries of his regime may turn his graveyard into place of pilgrimage. They may paint him a martyr as he wished, and even call him a saint one day. But God does not work in accordance with our claims or wishes. He is just when He said, "It shall not be in accordance with your wishes, nor shall it be in accordance with the wishes of the People of the Book. He that does evil shall be rewarded with it, and there shall be none, besides God, to protect or help him".

3 January 2007

Discourse 228 Chemical Ali

Friday Discourse (228)

Chemical Ali

Dubbed al-Anfal, Saddam's campaign against the Kurdish population of Iraq which took place between 1987 and 1988 was one of the most inhuman campaigns ever undertaken by any Muslim leader. We are blessed with terrible totalitarians like Naser and his successors – Sadat and Mubarak in Egypt, with the late Shah – Mohammed Reza Pehlavi in Iran, with Qaddafi in Libya, and with Hafiz al-Asad in Syria. They were all grossly intolerant; they have tortured thousands of their citizens; they have killed many eminent Muslim scholars; they have served as agents and collaborators of either the CIA or the KGB to suppress particularly the resurgence of Islam over the past fifty years; they have denied their citizens the freedom that is necessary to their relevance in today's global village. Yet, among them Saddam stood like the Eiffel Tower. Throughout history, declared the Bureau for Public Affairs in Washington, Saddam was the first ruler to use chemical weapons against his people.
By the end of the Anfal Campaign credible sources have reported the destruction of over 2000 villages, 1,754 schools, 270 hospitals, 2,450 mosques and 27 churches. According to Wikepedia, the Campaign involved
a) mass summary executions and mass disappearance of many tens of thousands of non-combatants, including large numbers of women and children, and sometimes the entire population of villages;
b) the widespread use of chemical weapons, including mustard gas and the nerve agent GB, or Sarin, against the town of Halabja as well as dozens of Kurdish villages, killing many thousands of people, mainly women and children; and
c) the wholesale destruction of some 2,000 villages, which are described in government documents as having been "burned," "destroyed," "demolished" and "purified," as well as at least a dozen larger towns and administrative centers (nahyas and qadhas); Since 1975, some 4,000 Kurdish villages have been destroyed by the former Iraqi regime."
The crime of the Kurds in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria is none other than their desire for autonomy, a unified Kurdistan, if possible. But all the four countries have denied this and subjected them to brutal treatment of one form or another. Their case in Iraq and, to a lesser extent Turkey, is simply intolerance to opposition politics taken too far. Our leaders appear to suffer from the chronic ignorance or disapproval of the fact that people as a group could have aspirations, some of them nationalistic, and their right to challenge their composition in colonially configured nation states of today cannot be denied. That was the pretext used by Pakistan to break way from India.
Atrocities could be committed and the world many times is left with a vague picture of what actually happened. That is what the Holocaust is suffering from. Not in this case. So intoxicated with power were Saddam and his cousin, Ali Hasan al-Majid who is rightly dubbed "Chemical Ali", that they took no steps to hide their brutality from the future. They recorded and kept their speeches on the atrocities in their houses and offices. The world is awed by the contents of the discovered tapes; they sounded so flagrant and so insensitive. As a correspondent of al-Jazira put it, they were discussing mass murder of human beings just like treating flies. Here are excerpts published by the Human Rights Watch, with Ali Hasan al-Majid addressing a gathering of the Ba'ath Party in Northern Iraq:
"Jalal Talabani asked me to open a special channel of communication with him. That evening I went to Suleimaniyeh and hit them [the Kurds] with the special ammunition. That was my answer. We continued the deportations. I told the mustashars that they [the Kurds] might say that they like their villages and that they won't leave. I said I cannot let your village stay because I will attack it with chemical weapons. Then you and your family will die. You must leave right now. Because I cannot tell you the same day that I am going to attack with chemical weapons. I will kill them all with chemical weapons! Who is going to say anything? The international community? Fuck them! The international community and those who listen to them…"
Among the tapes discovered in the house of Chemical Ali was another tape which was also reported by Human Rights Watch. At a meeting held in August 1988, Ali was heard saying:
"We deported them from Mosul without any compensation. We razed their houses. We said come on, go, go! But those who are already fighters, we tell them from the beginning that they must go and settle in the complexes. After that we will tell them to go to the Autonomous Region… The Ba'ath Party director must write to me saying that the following people are living in that place. Immediately I will say blow him away, cut him open like a cucumber. I will bury them with bulldozers. Then they ask me for the names of all the prisoners in order to publish them. I said, "Weren't you satisfied by what you saw on television and read in the newspaper?" Where am I supposed to put all this enormous number of people? I started to distribute them among the governorates. I had to send bulldozers hither and thither…"
In Iraq's Crime of Genocide, Human Rights Watch gave us a full snapshot of the standard treatment which the Kurdish populations were subjected to prior to their mass murder, citing the camp at Topwaza as a sample. It said:
"Men and women were segregated on the spot as soon as the trucks had rolled to a halt in the base's large central courtyard or parade ground. The process was brutal ... A little later, the men were further divided by age, small children were kept with their mothers, and the elderly and infirm were shunted off to separate quarters. Men and teenage boys considered to be of an age to use a weapon were herded together. Roughly speaking, this meant males of between fifteen and fifty, but there was no rigorous check of identity documents, and strict chronological age seems to have been less of a criterion than size and appearance. A strapping twelve-year-old might fail to make the cut; an undersized sixteen-year-old might be told to remain with his female relatives. ... It was then time to process the younger males. They were split into smaller groups. ... Once duly registered, the prisoners were hustled into large rooms, or halls, each filled with the residents of a single area. ... Although the conditions at Topzawa were appalling for everyone, the most grossly overcrowded quarter seem to have been those where the male detainees were held. ... For the men, beatings were routine.
"Some groups of prisoners were lined up, shot from the front, and dragged into predug mass graves; others were made to lie down in pairs, sardine-style, next to mounds of fresh corpses, before being killed; still others were tied together, made to stand on the lip of the pit, and shot in the back so that they would fall forward into it -- a method that was presumably more efficient from the point of view of the killers. Bulldozers then pushed earth or sand loosely over the heaps of corpses. Some of the grave sites contained dozens of separate pits and obviously contained the bodies of thousands of victims."
In Halabja, the most famous town that suffered chemical weapons attack, an Iranian journalist, Kaveh Golestan, who was the first to arrive at the scene after the attack, had this to say:
"It was lifefrozen. Life had stopped, like watching a film and suddenly it hangs on one frame. It was a new kind of death to me. You went into a room, a kitchen and you saw the body of a woman holding a knife where she had been cutting a carrot.
"The aftermath was worse. Victims were still being brought in. Some villagers came to our chopper. They had 15 or 16 beautiful children, begging us to take them to hospital. So all the press sat there and we were each handed a child to carry. As we took off, fluid came out of my little girl's mouth and she died in my arms."
After reading this, I will leave my reader to ponder over some simple questions: Honestly, do the perpetrators of these people deserve to go Scot-free? When they are tried and found guilty, do they deserve our pity, simply because they are Muslims? If we sympathise with them at their execution, doesn't our sympathy portray how irrelevant we consider life in spite of whatever Islam says about its sanctity? Can we consider the perpetrators as martyrs despite the crime they committed, as some of us were calling Saddam? Is this the equitable reward that with which the Muslim World will pay the Kurds from whom Salahuddin (Saladin) Ayyubi once emerged to emancipate al-Quds from the Crusaders?
Everyday in Iraq, we learn about the mass murder of innocent people, particularly by our so-called Sunni brothers. Is this what they consider the sunna of the Prophet? Does being sunni justify anything we do? Can't we muster the courage to rise and assert, of course to the discontent of such criminals, that crimes like mass murder of ordinary citizens – including children, women and the sick – mosques, hospitals, schools, markets and houses are against the tenets of Islam? Why the sympathy for the criminals then, I continue to ask?
The above is not history. For many years now the Sudanese government has been committing genocidal atrocities in Darfur. The janjawid phenomenon is another big shame on contemporary Arab leaders. The same Sudanese government suppported the Lord Resistance Rebels who maimed innocent citizens in Uganda. What are we Muslims doing to stop the murder of these innocent Africans? Aren't we approving it by our silence? Or are we waiting to reward Omar al-Bashir also with martyrdom one day perchance he is tried and executed like Saddam Husein? I continue to find solace in a verse that defies our misplaced sympathy, claims and wishes. God's standard is the same, always: "It shall not be in accordance with your wishes, nor shall it be in accordance with the wishes of the People of the Book. He that does evil shall be rewarded with it, and there shall be none, besides God, to protect or help him".
We better listen, reason and act. Otherwise tyranny will remain our lot.

11 January 2007

Discourse 229 Bleeding Heart

Friday Discourse 229

Bleeding Heart

Gamal Abdul Nasser is often remembered as a great Arab leader who not only returned the control of the Suez Canal to Egypt but was also the key founder of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab League. His policies against Anglo-American interest in the Middle East cannot be denied. He was not a corrupt leader either. Even while he was the President of Egypt, his father used to work as a messenger. An Arab nationalist by orientation, his socialist policies remained ingrained in Egyptian society for over a decade after his death despite the subservience of his successors to Washington.
However, that is where the good about Nasser ends. Speak about human rights abuses and Nasser suddenly falls into the pit of infamy. He was a totalitarian of the first order. He tried to silence every dissenting voice and fought every opponent. The Soviets were his masters. It was on one of his visits to Moscow in early 1960s that he stood by the grave of Stalin and swore that he will never forgive anyone involved in an attempt to assassinate him. Nasser stood by his words. He did not forgive. Neither was he expected to do so. Oppose him, or be a member of a group he disliked, and you will be arrested, tortured very severely, and jailed indefinitely, if you are lucky to survive.
The people who suffered most from his highhandedness were members of the Muslim Brotherhood. This group, founded by Hasan al-Banna in 1927, is dedicated to reforming the Egyptian society using Islam as a rallying point. There was no doubt that Western (including communist) establishments were uncomfortable with its growth. Within fifteen years of its formation it had covered every nook and corner of Egypt and extended its branches to neighbouring Jordan, Syria and Palestine. Luckily for al-Banna, he was assassinated while returning from his morning prayer in 1948. Western establishments could not hide their delight.
I said al-Banna was lucky to be assassinated because he did not share the regime of torture and executions that became the hallmark of Nasser's human right record. Within two years of being on power, Nasser, using an assassination attempt, cracked down mercilessly on the Brothers, the same group that assisted him to overthrow the monarchy. From then until his death in 1970, Nasser subjected the Brothers to every conceivable measure of repressive treatment: arrests, interrogation, torture, disappearances, executions, exile, etc. So brutal was Nasser to the Brothers that they received the news of his death with utter disbelief.
Nasser maintained elaborate machinery for torture that employed various techniques. Routinely, cables were used to beat mercilessly; dogs were set to devour people, often to death; cigarettes were used to burn sensitive areas on human body; people were hanged from their feet; cold rooms were common place; plaster of Paris was used to block urinary tracks until the prisoner died; etc.
Eminent scholars received the severest and inhuman punishments. To date, there exist a section in the Ministry of Interior in Egypt that deals with research, procurement and maintenance of torture equipment.
To the craze of intolerance Egypt lost its finest intellectuals, people like Sayyid Qutb and Sheikh Audan, despite their age. Yet, they ended up better than Nasser. They were never replaced. The then septuagenarian Audan who served as Qadi for over forty years went to exile in Saudi Arabia where he was received at the Airport by King Faisal. He wrote a will in two verses saying, "God, save us from every difficulty by the guidance of The Chosen (Muhammad), the best of all. And give me in his City a place, provision and then a burial in (the graveyard of) Baqi'." Faisal granted his request: He gave him a chair for commentary on the Holy Qur'an in the Prophet's mosque in Medina, maintained him and then buried him in Baqi'.
Nasser did not spare his friend, Sayyid Qutb, the foremost ideologue of the Brotherhood, the poet, the famous author of In the Shade of the Qur'an and dozens of other books, one of the finest brain I ever come across among Muslim writers. Nasser arrested him in 1954, only to re-arrest him in 1955. He remained in prison for ten years until the President of Iraq, Arif, interceded on his behalf. Shortly after, Nasser rearrested him and hanged the sixty year old man after ten months in 1966. Sayyid died a true martyr, unlike the false ones that people want us to believe.
Women were not spared. The inhuman treatment of Zainab Ghazali was a typical example. She was among those arrested in 1965 and remained in Nasser's prison until she was released after his death by Sadat in 1971. Throughout her jail term, Nasser took particular interest in persecuting her in a manner which, as described in her book, Ayyamun Min Hayati (Return of the Pharoah), was the worst any sadist will inflict on his victim.
But there is a twist, always. Nasser was neither saved by his rhetoric nor by ruthlessness. He was crushingly defeated in 1967, a year after Qutb was hanged. Within six days, the tyrannical regimes of Egypt, Syria and Jordan that oppressed the Brothers were humiliated by the Israelis. Nasser offered resignation to the Egyptian people. They refused. Three years later, he collapsed and died. "And never think that God is unmindful of what tyrants do…"
Nasser's Minister of War, Shamsuddin Badran, along with Hamza al-Basyuni, oversaw his human rights abuses. Badran was as cunning as he was ruthless. One day, he oversaw the cruel treatment of Zainab al-Ghazali who was beaten to unconsciousness repeatedly. She begged to sit on the flow as her feet were bleeding and she could not stand. Badran replied: "No! No! Where is your God now? Call Him to save you from my hands! Yet call Nasser and you'll see what will happen! Answer me, where is your God? Answer me, you B…" In the end, Badran was himself accused of spying for the Soviets; he was arrested and tried by Sadat for his heinous crimes.
As it turned out, the violent repression of the Brothers prolonged their survival. Though outlawed, the group is the greatest opposition party in Egypt, running the most efficient social services in the country. Elsewhere in Palestine, Israel still has to confront its off-shoot, Hamas. And throughout the Middle East, similar groups that are off-shoots of the Brothers continue to be the nightmares of Washington, the only veritable challengers of American imperialism.
Early this week, the half-brother of Saddam, Barzani, and Bandah, were executed by hanging in Iraq. That is another twist. Tyrants do pay for their sins. Whether it was in the Palace of the End or in villages, these were people who had the liberty to kill, maim, and torture thousands of fellow Iraqis that were not in the good books of Saddam. I am not among those who sympathise with them. Count me out.
Whenever we express delight over the departure of tyrants like Nasser, Badran, Saddam, Barzan or Banda, their sympathizers among Muslims remind us of the Prophet's injunction to mention (only) the good deeds of our dead. But as the late Abdulhamid Kisk asked, "Was Nasser among our dead. And, in any case, had Nasser any good worth remembering?"
In the same vein, it is false consciousness to regard those who persecuted their people as martyrs simply because they are no longer in the good books of their Western masters. These were agents of imperialism, of the East or West. They tortured by proxy; so when their masters came after them, we must resist their attempt to exploit our sentiments for their advantage.
I am surprised that before they were hanged neither Saddam nor any of his close associates ever confessed his atrocities and sought for forgiveness from those they persecuted or the families of those he killed. Yet, without fulfilling this first pre-requisite for forgiveness, some Muslims are willing to regard them as martyrs. Haba!
Together with those who plant bombs to kill innocent citizens all over the world, the likes of Saddam are in the same wagon of murder as the Americans who dropped bombs on innocent citizens. As I edited this article, al-Jazeera reported the death of sixty-five university students blown up by bombs in Baghdad. This is madness, not Islam, regardless of what Osama, al-Zarqawi or al-Zawahiri would say.
Despite its rhetoric, the West, and US in particular, is yet to prove its commitment to freedom, democracy and liberty. The brutal regimes in the Middle East are sustained and funded by the West. A recent review of torture in Egypt listed all the five members of the Security Council as topping the list of countries that export torture equipment. America, of course, is the gold medallist here with seventy-eight companies. Between 1997 and 2002 alone, US concluded deals for the provision of torture equipment worth $97million to Middle Eastern governments, as shamelessly stated by US Trade Department!
Now, which freedom and democracy is Bush talking about in Iraq? And from where did Saddam source his VX, sarin, mustard gas and other chemical weapons? They were supplied by America, France, Switzerland, India and China. And since its application in 1987 until when the US was prepared to attack Iraq recently, the CIA continued to misguide the world into believing that it was the Iranians, not Saddam, that used chemical weapons attack on Halabja.
So whom do we support among the culprits? The likes of Saddam or America? It is my opinion that we must condemn both: the dictatorial regimes in the Middle East on the one hand and the West, especially America, on whose behalf the abuses were carried out, on the other. That is why if Barzan al-Tikriti will be hanged one million times for his crimes, I will remain least bothered. But for every innocent life killed in the jail of Nasser, or the Palace of the End, or the street of Baghdad, or the World Trade Centre, or Darfur, my heart will continue to bleed.
17 Jan 2007

Discourse 231 Ten Commandments of University Admission in NIgeria

Friday Discourse 231

The Ten Commandments of University Admissions

The gates of opportunity that enabled Nigerians from rural areas, like me, to attain university education are closing at an alarming rate. This is not a false alarm. It is real. The sad thing is that the Vice Chancellors may not be aware of this, for some of the universities have become so large, in both estate and management, that it is difficult for its administrators to ensure that every policy is diligently implemented. I am not offering excuses on behalf of the VCs, but I am simply saying that our bent towards selective treatment and corruption is responsible for what is turning out to be a very ugly situation.
I came to know about problems regarding university admissions recently after participating deeply in improving secondary education in Bauchi State for six years now. In the past five years, we have been producing students who are qualified for admission into any Nigerian university both by the standards of the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) and by my judgement as a lecturer for almost ten years (1983-92). However, only few of these students gained admission into universities. I did not know that things have changed so much since 1992.
What opened my eyes more was the suffering I underwent in gaining the admission of my daughter into one of the universities in 2003 despite my position as a former colleague to many lecturers there. When we finally, finally, got the admission, I asked myself this simple question: How many parents from rural Nigeria can undergo this gruesome experience to secure the admission of their wards?
The answer was obvious, and it led to the decision by the Bauchi State Government to officially pursue admissions in universities for its indigenes. I made the first round, successfully. I will get the printout of all our students from Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board's office in Abuja, and face a VC in our catchment area. "Mr. VC," I will say, looking straight into his eyes, "this is the total qualified candidates from Bauchi State who applied to your university. Now, if you intend to admit say 5,000 students this year, admitting every candidate on this list won't be out of order for we are entitled to at least so and so quota, being from your catchment area." I was glad that it worked, perfectly, in most cases.
Apart from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi, which has remained generous to Bauchi State, I must also admit the cooperation of the Vice Chancellors of University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) and Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto (UDUS) during my first round in 2005/06 academic session. Maiduguri admitted the whole list; the young VC encouraged us to continue with the effort. My meeting with the VC of ABU that year did not take ten minutes. Drawing my attention to a statistics he compiled on application figures of various northern states, he said, "Aliyu, we can absorb all candidates from Bauchi who have scored 160 in science, and 180 in arts. You have only 267 such applicants. Our problem is with those states with more than 2,500 qualified candidates. Is it ok?" I gladly responded, saying, "Yes sir, yes sir." UDUS received us in the same manner that year.
The year 2005/06 came and we relaxed, as a result, that year, a nephew of mine with 245 could not be admitted into history in a nearby university, for example. So I returned this year (2006/07 academic session) and the story remained very discouraging, once more. A university that admitted more than 4,400 students in its first list had only 50 students from Bauchi. Another, also within our catchment area, admitted at total of 2,400 students on its merit list, and only 28 were from Bauchi State, not even a student with 260 UME scores who applied for medicine was admitted. The third, though not from our catchment area, did not admit more than a total of 8 students on both its first and final lists. As a result we are now left with hundreds of candidates with scores of more than 200 and above who are not admitted. Clearly, the universities did not work with statistics in both this year.
All the VCs complained that we were late in our follow up. Agreed. But I thought the statistics will speak on our behalf. In any case, ab initio, the students deserve to fill their quota. And as they did not, it is clear that there are problems, as one of the VCs admitted. Meanwhile, we continue to ponder on what to do with these students on whose face the gates of the universities were slammed? What effect will it have on their juniors who are now preparing for the UME exams?
We will, as result, suffer from what is called product accumulation in chemical kinetics or economics. If what is produced is not exhausted but allowed to accumulate, the rate of reaction in the forward direction will become slow. Secondary school students, in this case, will be discouraged from working hard. Not only the students, even those of us who are exerting effort to improve education at the primary and secondary levels in educationally less developed states will be demoralised.
The above is the story of Bauchi State, but the same applies, I believe, to other educationally disadvantaged states. A lecturer friend from Gombe State, for example, failed to gain admission for his daughter who scored 245 this year; she was not admitted into the Medicine she applied for, nor was she offered another course. He called me, desperately, thinking that I can press some buttons. I said, "Sorry, I can do nothing. The VC told me that the admissions are closed."
In the remaining part of this essay, I intend to highlight eight ways of getting out of this quagmire.
One. Fight for your right. I think it is important for state governments in educationally less developed areas to copy the Bauchi example, pursuing admissions for their indigenes. They should be the voice of the helpless fathers before the Vice Chancellors, every year. Rights are not given, they are fought for. It takes little effort. Purchase a printout of all your state indigenes from JAMB, arranged according to the universities and courses they applied for. Then make a list of those whose scores you can defend before any VC. Then approach the universities, and follow up. Simple. I will here, based on experience, implore government officials responsible for this task to please know that they are handling the future of thousands of Nigerians. They must be diligent, fair, and committed. Admissions are seasonal. Once they abandon them for something else and it is late, they will have themselves to blame.
Two. Minister, conversion pays. And this is directed at the Ministers of Education, who has shown sufficient interest in improving education. There is too much demand for admissions into these universities. This year alone, over 1.5million Nigerians applied for admissions, while there is a space for 175,000 only. Whenever demand outgrows supply, man is known to recruit all his selfish survival instincts, and a loophole is thus created for corruption and injustice. There is the need, therefore, to stem up supply, using a combination of measures to increase the absorption capacity of our universities. We may never meet all the demand, but we can improve on the present substantially.
In this line, the federal government should facilitate the idea of converting many polytechnics into universities, though I believe we must retain some of the polytechnics to run specialised courses that universities may find cumbersome to undertake. The statistics are clear in proving that Nigerians, as students and employers, attach too much sentiment to university degrees.
Three. Minister, make all animals are equal. Universities of technology, such as ATBU, should have a conventional brief, not the restricted one they are now operating. In the whole Northeast zone, for example, only UNIMAID offers medicine, and it cannot allocate more than 10 spaces for Bauchi State students. It means that, except for the few others that are admitted into ABU, it will take Bauchi state 10 years to train 100 medical doctors, most of whom will run away ultimately, as their predecessors did, to greener pastures overseas. If both ATBU and FUTY would offer medicine and other 'non-technological courses', Bauchi State will have the capacity to train 100 medical doctors in just one year.
Four. Governors, Build more universities. States on their part must increase their participation in university education. They should award more fellowships for students to study abroad, in Ghana, India, Malaysia, Greece, etc. In this way, Bauchi State can train many IT experts, engineers and medical doctors within a short time in line with its demand. States MUST also establish their universities. I wonder why states like mine are stubbornly failing to do so despite numerous advices. Gone are the days when few students qualified for university admission from such states; we have many now, over 1,500 in Bauchi State alone whom we cannot place anywhere, except, of course, in the job of political thuggery and delinquency. There are institutions ready for conversion, the resources are there, but the will is lacking. Perhaps, a word from the Minister of Education will help these unwilling states to take up the challenge.
Five. Universities, be liberal, not literal. Within the present capacity of the universities, a revision of the existing regulations will go a long way in instituting justice. Admissions need to be properly allocated to states based on their quota. When every list is compiled and before it is submitted to JAMB for approval, I will be very happy if every VC will go through the list himself and find out how many students he admitted from each state. If that was done this year, some of them would not have been surprised by the awful statistics I faced them with.
Also, there is the need for universities to adopt a liberal interpretation of JAMB or NUC guidelines. Will they continue to draft their merit list simply by drawing a line on the JAMB list of every course, as they do now, or will they come up with a merit list of every state, such that the best from every state stands a good chance of being admitted? The present emphasis on overall national scores is simplistic, unjust, and, worse of all, exacerbates examination malpractice. At one of the far-Northern universities, the first seven admissions on their merit list of medicine were from Bayelsa. Bayelsa! Yes. Bayelsa. If the students were so good, why did not they apply to University of Calabar? Often, such students hardly make it in the faculties because the results are fake. But they have blocked the chance of a student from Borno or Bauchi with a genuine UME score of 260.
The universities will often claim to have quotas for their catchment states. My brother, forget it, once your son has applied for medicine or business administration and his name has not appeared on the merit list. The second and third lists are for those who have long legs to reach the Registrar or VC. I will be very glad if the three criteria – merit, catchment and educationally disadvantage quotas – are merged together. Let's agree on a quota for each state and let merit determine the suitability of each student within his state. Period. Ezekwesili, I carry my hands beg you again. Bikoo.
Six. Be kind-hearted, universities. There is the need for admission officers to develop be kind-hearted. If an applicant with 245 from Gombe could not make it on MBBS list, please let her be given an alternative course. Imagine the hardship she went through to get those high marks from an educationally disadvantaged state like Gombe. Do not send her away, please. Do not abandon her and make her shed tears throughout the year.
I must here recount the story of an orphan girl from Adamawa State who scored 199 in UME. This year she applied to a university this year to read International Relations and was offered admission. At the department she was told she needed a credit in mathematics, which, unfortunately, was not among the nine credits that she has. The department advised her to go for law. A former VC intervened at the faculty of law on her behalf for a change of course, not a fresh admission, mind you. The dean admitted that she is qualified but said he needed an order from above. The Samaritan former VC approached the Registrar, but oga Registrar flatly refused, claiming that it is too late. What is too late when students have not even been screened? If the girl were the kind that will approach oga with a seductive appearance, wallahi, the story would have been different. Oga would salivate immediately and, in the hope of satiating his libido, grant her request and that of all her brothers, sisters and friends. He would have even worked out her accommodation or maintained her in his guest house. We have seen it many times. Haba. The poor girl returned to Yola, dejected. People like oga Registrar, must not, after leaving office, come to Arewa House to lecture us on the deplorable state of education in the North because he is among the culprits. Abi?
Seven. JAMB, Do not overburden candidates. I think JAMB should abandon its syllabus and examine students only on the certificate syllabus of WAEC and NECO. Doing the contrary, as it does presently, is injustice because, by our national education policy, our secondary school students are required to master only the certificate curriculum. The total scores of JAMB is 400, yet, even last year that appeared to be a bonanza of a sort, the average of the best 1000 students, and despite all the 'ECOMOG', is around 240. It should not be so. If a student has mastered his Ababio in Chemistry, Anyakoha in Physics, Modern Biology, and has a reasonably good command of oral and written English, he should score something around 350 and 380. Faced with this intrigue, I decided to study past JAMB UME exam questions. Suddenly, I was stunned to find out that they included many topics of advanced level, topics like taxonomy in biology. I believe the over-expectation of JAMB has contributed in breeding malpractice at its examination centres.
Eight. Go for the best. There is the need to urgently ban all remedial programs. Though they fetch the universities funds, they compound admission problems because they block the chance of students who do not need to remedy anything. Thus, a weaker student is favoured because the university is earlier committed to his admission; and a strong one abandoned. Gone are the days that states like Bauchi and Taraba cannot fill their quota. Those requiring remedies should do that at home, in schools designed for that. Thereafter, they should join others in writing the UME and get admitted regularly.
Nine. Don’t abuse privilege. There is the need for some elite to reduce the way they abuse privileges. I presented to one of the VCs a list of over 400 students who were given multiple admissions. A renowned person from my state living in Kaduna secured admission for his son in three different departments, on the same list, blocking the chances of two other students from Bauchi State. This abuse of privilege is unwarranted. This can easily be avoided if the VCs will call for the final electronic copy of the admission list, sort them out by names, then identify and strike out the multiple admissions.
Ten. Tame your ambition. An advice to students and their parents. They must apply for courses and universities in which they stand the best chance of securing admissions. Over eighty percent of science students, for example, apply for medicine; none applies for less competitive course even if he knows he is below average. He should, like I were 27 years ago, content himself with reading single honours courses which are themselves excellent and productive, though less competitive. The most important thing for the chap is to be admitted into the university such that he will have the privilege of the university passing through him. Parents must shoulder this responsibility.
In the same vein, applicants must also try to restrict themselves to their catchment areas. As I was concluding this article, one of them knocked at my door to check whether he was admitted for Islamic Studies at UDUS in far away Sokoto. I checked the few names and told him no. Looking at his face, I added salt to injury, saying, "How many times have we told you not to apply to universities outside your catchment area? We can't raise our voice there on your behalf. I am sorry. I can't help you." He left disappointed. Had he applied to UNIMAID, his name would have been on the merit list.
By any measure, this article has been long, admittedly. About 3,000 words! But it had to be so because I did not want to offend my university colleagues in any way, unlike my encounter with Saddam. Diplomacy takes a lot of space and time. They have stayed on a cause from which I fled thirteen years ago; so I have no locus whatsoever to accuse them of any wrong. My intention, as it is whenever I pick my pen, was only to raise the voice of justice and common sense (which, sad to note, is no longer common). But if the different parties I called upon in this article will heed to the ten commandments of admission I cited above, the frustration that we suffer from in our effort to improve education at lower levels will be lightened. The VCs' headache will also be lighter. As for the students, I will say, "Aluta continua!"

Discourse 230 Sayyid Qutb and Terrorism

Friday Discourse 230

Sayyid Qutb and Terrorism

In the aftermath of 9/11, the West did not waste time in searching the roots of Al-Qaeda to find out the institutions that support it, the sources of its funds, and the philosophy that informed its actions. Writing in The Guardian of 11 November 2001, Robert Irwin, under the title "Is this Man Who Inspired Bin Laden?", said, "As the West struggles to get to grips with its newest enemy, pundits, scholars and journalists have combed every inch of Osama bin Laden's life story for clues to what turned an apparently quiet and unexceptional rich Saudi boy into the world's most feared terrorist. But the most useful insights into the shaping of Bin Laden may lie not in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan, or the rampant materialism of 1970s Saudi Arabia, but the biography of a long dead Egyptian fundamentalist scholar called Sayyid Qutb."
Listing the legacies of that scholar, Wikipedia ( wrote, "In terms of lives and property destroyed, Qutb's greatest impact has been through Islamic resurgent/terror groups in Egypt and elsewhere…" With this testimony, had Sayyid lived to 2001, he would have certainly been one of the detainees at Guantanamo. Well, Bush does not need to worry. He was tried and executed by Nasser, under the pressure of the Soviets, on 29 August 1966.
How Sayyid came into the equation of the war against terror is neatly captured by another writer, Paul Berman. From his book, Terror and Liberalism, he wrote an article in New York Times on 23 March 2003 under the caption "The Philosopher of Terror." Berman, whom, we must appreciate, has read Qutb beyond the superficial level of Western journalists, said, "The Egyptian factions (of al-Qaeda) emerged from an older current, a school of thought from within Egypt's fundamentalist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, in the 1950's and 60's. And at the heart of that heart of that single school of thought stood, until his execution in 1966, a philosopher named Sayyid Qutb – the intellectual hero of every one of the groups that eventually went into Al-Qaeda, their Karl Marx (to put it that way), their guide."
Berman's essay about the intellectual output of Sayyid Qutb was long and thorough. The author did show significant appreciation of what he studied as well as a substantial recognition for the depth of Qutb's intellect. Yet, I found his conclusion disturbing, for his post-mortem reconstruction of Qutb has placed the long time executed and foremost theoretician of Islam in modern times on the side of the terrorists who kill indiscriminately as we are witnessing in Iraq and other parts of the World including the West.
"These people," Berman wrote about al-Qaeda, "are in possession of a powerful philosophy, which is Sayyid Qutb's… a gigantic work of literature, which is his "In the Shade of the Qur'an… They feel they are benefiting the world, even if they are committing random massacres. They are certainly not worried about death. Qutb gave these people a reason to yearn for death. Wisdom, piety, death and immortality are, in his vision of the world, the same…"
Then Berman presented his wish for a counter philosophy: "It would be nice to think that, in the war against terror, our side, too, speaks of deep philosophical ideas – it would be nice to think that someone is arguing with the terrorists and with the readers of Sayyid Qutb. But here I have my worries… The terrorists speak insanely of deep things. The antiterrorists had better speak sanely of equally deep things. Presidents will not do this…"
"But who will speak of the sacred and the secular, of the physical and the spiritual world?" Berman started to ask in his conclusion. "Who will defend liberal ideas against the enemies of liberal ideas? Who will defend liberal principles in spite of liberal society's every failure?" The answer as well as the worries came readily in his last paragraph: "Philosophers and religious leaders will have to do this and on their own. Are they doing so? Armies are in motion but are the philosophers and religious leaders, the liberal thinkers, likewise in motion? There is something to worry about here, an aspect of the war that liberal society seems to have trouble understanding – one more worry, on top of all the others, and possibly the greatest worry of all."
Unfortunately, the worries of Paul Berman and of the people on his side will remain unattended. If any philosopher or religious leader will pick up the fight, it will hardly match the originality, clarity, sincerity and vehemence of Sayyid Qutb. There have been several criticisms of his writing within the Muslim World since his execution in 1966 but even if combined, they can hardly pose a threat to the popularity of his ideas.
It was during his twelve years of incarceration, between 1954 and 1966, that Sayyid produced the bulk of his work on Islam and its relevance in salvaging mankind from the brink that he encountered twice: his experience in the states and the brutality he was suffering from in the prisons of Nasser. The genuineness of those writings cannot be matched by any produced under the comfort of air-conditioners; more so when we recall that Sayyid preferred to pay the highest price for them when he declined to flee Egypt as many did, but remained and died at the gallows in 1966.
That is not to say that his ideas are faultless. I have read Qutb for over twenty-five years now. His idea of reviving Islam, for example, did not fit into the conventional means by which it was preserved and revived many times in different places over the last fourteen centuries. Basically, the Islamic paradigm for change provides for tajdid (reform) not for excommunicating the umma and beginning from the scratch as it happened in Mecca at the dawn of Islam. This is based on the fact that Muslims do exist today, in spite of their deviation from thorough Islamic practice. "At the eve of every century", the Holy Prophet was reported saying, "God will rise a person that will reform your religion." Simple.
Yet, despite its shortcoming on methodology, the message of Islam which Qutb projected was noble and clear, as he depicted it in the last paragraph of his final book, Characteristics and Values of the Islamic Vision. "Adherents of Tauhid (Monotheism) may not offer humanity discoveries in science or conquests in civilisation", he noted, "but they can offer it something greater… the liberation of man, nay, a new dawn. Their gift to mankind includes a complete manual for life that is based on human dignity and liberating its hand, mind, conscience and soul from any form of exploitation. This will enable man to use all his abilities to play his role as a vicegerent of God, the Exalted, the Great… He will then neither be a slave to technology, nor a slave to another man."
No credible scholar will deny that the writings of Sayyid were misused by many groups after his execution. Such groups often quote him and pay tribute to him. The litmus test here would be to ask if Sayyid would have condoned the indiscriminate killings of civilians that these groups carry out as part of his idea of a jihad. He would not, because it negates the very goals of his philosophy. Here, I tend to agree more with Charles Tripp, another authority on Sayyid Qutb. Writing in 1994 in a collection called Pioneers of Islamic Revival, Tripp concluded a long essay on Qutb by saying, "It might be more helpful to see Qutb himself as representative of a continuing trend in the Islamic world, which the protest groups are also a part. The members of these groups, like Qutb are evidently disturbed by the material and moral dislocation of their societies, by the unresponsive and authoritarian regimes to which they are subject and by the continuing denial of power to ordinary people to shape their lives as they would prefer…"
It will remain difficult for the West to match Qutb's philosophical writings as Berman would wish for the very fact that the West is supportive of the oppressive regimes that push people to terrorism. In the past half-century, western establishments and the oppressive regimes in the Muslim World have jointly and brutally suppressed any move towards the revival of Islamic consciousness because they see it as a threat to the exploitation they survive on.
So, unless there is a shift from the paradigm of exploitation that has become characteristic of Western civilisation since its dawn, dissenting philosophies like Qutb's will continue to attract followers and misrepresentations. The way out of this quagmire does not lie in the utopia of bringing the entire world under the umbrella of a divine creed – a concept that is itself alien to the Qur'an, nor in the continuing exploitation of other nations by the West. It lies in our genuine and joint effort to establish a world order that will respect the dignity of every person on this globe and ensure his right to peace, freedom and decent living. These must not remain the exclusive preserve of civilized countries, namely – in the political taxonomy of the West – America, Britain, Europe, Australia, Russia and Canada; they must include us, those who live in the 'non-civilised' part, the hell called developing countries.

31 January 2007

Discourse 233 Ribadu, the Anti-Corruption Prince

Friday Discourse (233)

Ribadu, the New Anti-Corruption Prince

People who are conversant with the intricacies of government, the complexity of politics and the dictates of law in Nigeria will not find it difficult to discern that the task of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is not an easy one. Since the inception of his commission, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, its Chairman, has distinguished himself as an officer who is not afraid to go after any criminal, regardless of his position in the society, no matter the attendant risk to his life or position, and notwithstanding any foreseeable political furore. For one's peace, Machiavelli once advised his prince, he should avoid tampering with the source of people's wealth and with their women. Ribadu's task is to tamper with the first while he has no business with the second. So his task is naturally a difficult one. It could well be considered as the toughest in the Nigerian Police Force. Yet, he pursues his duty with the commitment of a suicidal instinct. I have never met him, but I, together with millions of Nigerians, admire his courage, commitment and sincerity. We support him.
Government and politics are intertwined, so we will treat them together. In fact, some people will argue that in the context of Nigerian political arena, politics overrides government. We will give two examples of how the two impede our progress towards checking corruption. Two weeks ago the Federal Government came up with a list of politicians it believed are corrupt and are not fit to stand for elections if indicted by an administrative panel as provided by the constitution. The government said the list originated from EFCC. The Commission did not deny that. After all, many times Ribadu has sworn that his Commission will prevent such politicians from running in the next elections. So the Commission, aware of its constitutional limitations, ambushed these politicians after their parties have officially submitted their names as nominees to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). EFCC collected the list and started pencilling down names of people whose dossier are dirty enough for disqualification. Then, aware of the fact that it has no constitutional right to prevent anyone from standing for elections directly, the Commission submitted the names to the President, whom they expected – or advised – to finish the job by constituting an administrative panel of inquiry that will offer the accused politicians the chance to defend themselves.
The politicians affected, as expected, cried foul and accused the government of subverting the chances of its opponents. The opposition described the inclusion of ruling party members on the list as a smokescreen. The real intention, they alleged, was to checkmate political heavyweights like the Vice President. More damaging to the credibility of the list, however, is the fact that, to the disappointment of EFCC, the Presidency has tampered with the list by removing the names of PDP members who are in its good books and, possibly, adding some. Even if Ribadu did not leak this fact, we would have arrived at it from the inconsistency of the list with his previous statements. Ribadu had earlier told Nigerians that majority of their governors are corrupt. He has documents to prove corruption charges against at least thirty out of the thirty-six governors, he continues to claim. And we believed Ribadu for he is in a good position to know and he has never prosecuted any innocent person. He even mentioned names which, surprisingly, by the time his list passed through the political filter of Aso Rock, have mysteriously disappeared. Something is amiss.
Ribadu must be in a dilemma. This is just another case in which his boss, the President, has disappointed him. There have been many other occasions before, some involving the President himself. For example, when the President extorted state governments, federal ministries and parastatals, private companies and individuals for his personal library project, Ribadu approached him and the President had no credible alibi but to say that the library will be put to public use. Ribadu left unconvinced. A bigger scandal was underway. The President was caught fabricating a company called Transcorp to which he auctioned the national telephone company – NITEL, Nicon, and so on. Nigerians screamed at this glaring act of corruption. And all that the President's handlers could come up with is a concept called blind trust, something completely alien to our Company Law. These and many other acts of corruption of the President do constitute enough grounds for Ribadu to charge him and for the National Assembly to impeach him.
These are few examples of how incumbency impedes the progress of this country. If it were in countries where corruption is taken seriously, Obasanjo would have been behind bars by now, if not executed, like Saddam, for crimes against humanity in Odi and Zaki Biam. And Ribadu is not the only one in that shoe. Many people who have answered the call to serve in various capacities at various levels of government are faced with the dilemma of how to handle the influence of politics on government. Not only regarding high profile crimes, even on ordinary administrative matters political considerations often compel governments in this country to knowingly take disastrous decisions. Progress thus becomes very difficult.
Ribadu's position is not helped by the law, especially how it operates in Nigeria . A clear example is that of the immunity which it grants to Governors and their Deputies, and to the President and the Vice-President. These officials have exploited the immunity clause to loot public treasury. Ribadu cannot prosecute them, until they vacate their offices. In some cases, like Bayelsa, Plateau, and Adamawa States , he had to resort to their assemblies, but the assemblies were not forthcoming until their members were also shown their dossiers. Then only after being threatened with their prosecution did some of them yielded. Consider that their new governors will also enjoy the immunity accorded to their predecessors. It leaves us with the possibility that looting will continue and the fight between the EFCC and incumbents will assume a cyclic form.
Now, ordinary minds in the position of Ribadu, particularly those with a populist bent, will choose to quit. They will look at their credibility, as it obtains in advanced countries and abandon the office, accusing the President of corruption and not living by the dictates of the law. Nigeria is not Kenya . I consider this as playing to the gallery. The fight against corruption will be a long one especially in a democracy where the law is paramount. We will have occasions to smile though; and once we remain tenacious the future will be bright. Take the case of our present corrupt governors in EFCC books. Though we could not remove them in office to stop corruption immediately and Obasanjo is retaining them to enable him rig the coming elections, they will nevertheless be prosecuted. Their prosecution after office will never be late.
My strong conviction for the prosecution of those criminals who parade themselves today as governors arises from the fact that neither the next President nor EFCC can shy away from that responsibility. On the one hand, only a fool as President will allow such governors who have amassed so much wealth to walk freely on the streets and constitute a clog to his administration. This was the reason why Obasanjo entirely obliterated the groups and individuals that brought him to power. Their political weight became a burden for his administration, a sin, if you like, for which they must be sent to hell. Machiavelli rightly spelt this as the first responsibility of a prince. In the same way, as the present governors make the mistake of attempting to exercise their political muscle in the Senate and retaining their clout back in their states, the new President is left with no option but to give Ribadu a nod to go ahead with his job. That will be the greatest day for Ribadu. That day, we will rejoice as we never did before, possibly holding parties across the nation. The new governors too will join us because the pebbles in their shoes have been done away with.
Ribadu, on the other hand, cannot turndown the benefit of prosecuting them. He is offered the chance to laugh last. Sending them to jail will, apart from being a punishment they never contemplated, send a strong signal to their successors that for whatever wrong they commit, the long arm of the law will ultimately reach them. The new governors would circumspect, or even recapitulate, on behaving like their predecessors. Corruption will thus decline. More spectacular is the case of Obasanjo who, most likely, will be behind bars by the time the next President spends two years in power for the same reason as would the old governors.
So, I will appeal to Ribadu to continue on his noble path. Let him not be worried about the incumbency which breeds the impunity that tampers with his duties, or the immunity that hinders the prosecution of some corrupt officials, or even the distressing public condemnation from agents of such thieves. He is assured that the day they will be within his reach is close. On our part, the majority of the Nigerian public that are behind him, we do appreciate the limitations of his office under the present dispensation. And because we understand the risk involved in his work, we will continue to pray for his divine protection. The fall of Murtala, Buhari and Idiagbon, the pioneers of the fight against corruption in this country, has left us in sadness for decades now. Today, we celebrate the arrival of their offshoot. In my heart, and surely in the hearts of many Nigerians, Ribadu is our new anti-corruption prince. Allah suure!

21 Feb 2007

Discourse 234: The Population Threat

Friday Discourse 234

The Population Threat

The laudable response which Sultan and the Burden of Numbers received has encouraged me to go a step further and write on the threat that population poses to this country and the North in particular. It seems the previous article did touch on the reality which cannot be disputed in anyway. Twenty years ago, I would have been called names for preaching restraint in marital affairs. Without the current socio-economic challenges, some of which were mentioned in the previous article, few of us would have agreed that unrestrained polygamy can ruin our lives through perpetual poverty and its resultant social crisis. Amma yanzu mun ga haza. Lest we forget, polygamy – through succession disputes – was rightly indicted by Bertrand Russell as responsible for the collapse of most empires. I can see the Sultan smiling because he is not making that mistake.
More contentious than polygamy, however, could be the issue of population control. Surprisingly, to biologists, the link between polygamy and population is weak because only the female is considered as a unit of reproduction. So biologists concentrate on the number of issues per woman, not the man. Marriage to the biologist is just a social medium of intercourse – nothing more – and polygamy being just a variant of the medium. That is why I separated them, knowing fully that we are interested in controlling population due to sociological reasons, rather than biological ones.
Some people are against population control based on their perception that Nigeria has the capacity to contain hundreds of millions of people given its vast land and forest resources. They are biologically correct, I must admit. What they miss is that population is controlled for sociological, not biological, reasons. In civilisations, unlike under savage conditions, standard of living is crucial and it goes a long way to determine the quality of life of a nation and its survival on the globe. Good standard of living is arrived at through the provision of adequate and balanced food, education, healthcare, housing, security, etc. Once a society is poor, for whatever reason, it will be difficult for it to acquire civilisational values like knowledge, justice, peace, honesty, love, etc; rather, it will descend to the biological level where it will be guided by natural selection through survival of the fittest. Thus, the anti-thesis of civilisation – violence, dictatorship, deceit, lawlessness, hunger, disease, unrest, etc – becomes its order.
That is why I was not surprised when President Ahmedinejad revealed that the Iranian government is thinking of limiting the number of children per couple to only two because the country does not have the capacity to sustain a further increase of fifty million people. (Iran has a monogamous culture, I suppose) That position is arrived at, in my understanding, because of the Islamic character of the regime that is welfarist in nature, not in spite of it. This is the reverse of the thinking among Nigerian Muslims and Christians who believe that we are under a divine order to fill the planet with children. Well, any fair minded person will not question the religious credentials of the Iranian government and that announcement coming from Iran is a big relief to us and a deadly blow to those who misinterpret religious precepts to fight population control.
The Iranian government must have realised that no nation can progress today without limiting its population. If it is to ensure that the civilizational values we listed above are enjoyed by every citizen, then adults must accept to limit their biological right of procreation. Islam stands for peace, justice, honesty, sharing, progress, knowledge and so on. Today, these values cannot be acquired in the midst of poverty, for under poverty man is known to resort to his biological instincts to survive. It was not surprising, therefore, that the Holy Prophet urged us to work hard and fight poverty because, as one of his sayings indicated, poverty is a carrier of infidelity (kufr). Poverty, in other words, endangers religion through erosion of the values that religion stands for.
This leaves me to wonder really why some of us choose to ascribe unrestrained marriages and reproduction by misinterpreting the saying of the Prophet: "Marry and reproduce such that I will be proud of your number on the Day of Judgement." Yet, there is no record to prove that his companions married recklessly, or reproduced without restraint. In fact, in some traditions, the Prophet did approve of some forms of contraception where a couple did not desire an issue. That is why under the Shariah, a couple can agree to stop reproducing altogether. Our misinterpretation of the tradition is selfish.
We must understand that having children is not only lawful (halal) but enjoined, as indicated in the above hadith. But for every injunction, no matter how important and necessary, there is a limit beyond which it is disapproved of. Though eating is enjoined and even rewarded, for example, we are not allowed to eat so much to our detriment; we are asked to stop at a point and allow room for water and breath. Such limitations are set also on even rituals like prayer and fasting. The Prophet did not hesitate to show his disapproval of a group who took their pledge of piety to the extreme: one of them vowed to pray all night without sleep, the second resolved to fast every day throughout his life, and the third decided to remain single forever. He debunked their vows by asserting that he (as the Messenger of God) sleeps, eats and marries. God will make things difficult to whoever takes to the extreme, he warned.
Similarly, reproduction, though enjoined, must not be done to the point of detriment. A child has the divine right to good fostering and upbringing which he must claim from the parents who connived to bring him into this world. If these rights cannot be guaranteed, the father and the society will be held responsible for the bad conduct of the child. He is a product of their recklessness, especially in an age when science has made it possible for couples to severe the natural link between recreation from procreation; today, the two are joined only by choice.
Since the juvenile of human species requires extensive fostering, perhaps more than that of any other animal, it has become essential under any system to introduce some measure of prudence. At any time a couple is deciding to bring a child into the world, they must work out the calculus that will ensure not only the welfare of the child but also his training for skill acquisition and moral rectitude. This means a lot in terms of funds and attention as we mentioned last week. The desire for prudence is further demanded by the capacity of the society to provide the child with essential services. Today, it is impossible for Northern governments in particular to accord free healthcare or qualitative education to every child under their domain for the sheer reason that their populations do not reflect their resources. This is one of the major reasons behind the falling standards in our public schools. And where over 90% of the population relies on such schools, like in the North, this disaster translates into higher percentage of misfits in the society. It will be very easy to prove a strong correlation between population, falling standard of education and poverty.
Having thus canvassed arguments for planning families, I do not support the idea of legislation unless under extreme circumstances. People must be given the freedom to make informed choices based on their respective capacities. Here, highlighting the two sides of Darwin's argument is important. On the one hand, he held that "all ought to refrain from marriage who cannot avoid abject poverty for their children: for poverty is not only a great evil, but tends to its own increase by leading to recklessness in marriage." Yet, on the other hand, he held that "the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring." The issue of capacity was extensively discussed in the previous article.
Our failure to support family planning in the past had to do with the perception that it was planned by the West. Populations of advanced countries are decelerating at alarming rates due to reasons peculiar to the Technological Society, as the French sociologist, Jacques Ellul, would put it. Many publications against family planning in Muslim countries – like those of Maududi – were done with this in mind. But that does not deter us from checking our population for our own benefit today.
The main factor that will militate against the idea of a modest family is not religion, as I see it, but ignorance of the means by which birth can be controlled. I have come across many women who, living in hard conditions, are very willing to stop birth, once they will be permitted by their husbands and have access to such services. There is therefore the need to intensify effort to educate people on various means of male and female contraception. Male contraception is usually safer but harder to employ in a society characterised by male supremacy; the burden is oppressively shifted to the female, normally.
Our refusal to check our population will lead to the disastrous consequences we mentioned above. Standards of living and morality will plummet as poverty takes over the wheel of life. In this part of the country, these are already responsible for our increasing insecurity, shorter lifespan, dismal participation in Nigerian economy and loss of political grip. I, therefore, agree with a reader who noted that apart from ignorance, our worst enemy is our skyrocketing numbers. Our destination is still very far. Our jet is short of fuel. A crash is imminent.

1 March 2007

Discourse 218: 2007, like 2003

Friday Discourse (218)
Dr. Aliyu Tilde

2007, Like 2003?

This article was earlier published in May 2006. I have decided to publish it again because I find its content much relevant to the elections that are about to take place. 2007 may not be exactly like 2003 in some respects as mentioned in the article. But there are strong sings that if Nigerians do not rise to protect their votes the results would be like 2003. I am not against the success of any party, so long as it will respect the rights of Nigerians to vote in free and fair elections without any interference to subvert their verdict. Do not forget that this article was first published in May last year. Happy reading and good luck at elections.

The political landscape of 2003 was dominated by the PDP which nominated Obasanjo to contest for the second time. He was a sitting president, and as many have said before the election, never was a sitting president defeated in Africa . So the incumbency factor came into play and the PDP arguably ‘won’ the 2003 election. Essentially, the incumbency factor involves the use of extensive treasury resources to finance campaigns, the use of state personnel (civil servants in bodies like INEC, police, security agents, the military, traditional rulers, etc) and logistics (mostly vehicles) for campaign and to unleash the awesome degree of terror that is necessary for unpopular candidate to win. That is where people like Tafa Balogun, the former Inspector General of Police, made his uncelebrated billions.
The second was the preponderance of PDP governors. Their election was cleverly scheduled to hold on the same day with the President’s. Every PDP governors had a stake in the elections, hence his readiness to use every weapon at his disposal to ensure that his party is declared the winner of both seats. Most of the votes that Obasanjo got in Gombe, for example, were due to Goje, whom PDP supporters did not wish to miss. The importance of the governors lies in the procurement of human and material resources for the party at the grassroots level as well as perpetrating whatever dishonesty is required to win the election in their state.
The third attribute of 2003 elections was the unity of the PDP, with the President working along with the Vice President. Then, also, most of the founding fathers of the PDP together with its heavyweights were still in the party. Think of people like Solomon Lar, Audu Ogbeh, Lawal Kaita, Iyorchia Ayu, Rimi, etc.
The fourth characteristic was the appeal to primordial sentiments of regional politics and religion. During the first tenure of the President, he deliberately sat aside and enjoyed watching Muslims and Christians kill one another in the North; he also watched Yoruba terrorist group, OPC, carry out massacres of Northerners in Shagamu, Ibadan and Lagos. In order to win over the political support of the Southwest, he marginalized other ethnic groups in appointments, especially in the federal civil service. All these were useful in courting the sentiments of his ethnic group as well as those Christians who believed that he was fighting their crusade. In the end, he won majority of the votes in both constituencies, in the Southwest as well as in Christian dominated areas of the country. Buhari, the main opposition candidate, on the other hand, was sold by the Press and the ruling party as a Shariah candidate.
Then continuity, as the fifth factor that determined 2003 elections. Obasanjo and the governors were seeking for re-election then. So their commitment to the cause was greatest, as men do in pursuit of matters relating to their personal interest. This aside, their continuity also meant continuity of opportunities to the beneficiaries of their first tenures. Such beneficiaries readily supplied billions of naira in addition to those stolen from public coffers. Remember, for example, in a single donation, Dangote alone donated over N200million; so did TY Danjuma and many others. And since men oblige not only for the favor the expect but also for the fear of harm that might visit them, civil servants at all levels and spheres of government were easily coerced into joining campaign wagons of governors and the President.
The sixth was the difference between two major candidates in that election on the issue of corruption. Nigerians had a taste of both Obasanjo and Buhari before 2003. They could recall that apart from that of Murtala, there was not a single regime that genuinely fought against corruption as Buhari’s. The politicians who suffered most during Buhari’s tenure in fact made it a point to extract their pound of flesh in 2003 by refusing to support him. As for Obasanjo, people knew how thoroughly corrupt his regimes have been. And since the average Nigerian elite is cantankerously corrupt, he would naturally side with Obasanjo either by voting for him or refusing to aid Buhari.
Finally, we need to state the undeniable contribution of the ideology of PDP - the willingness to cheat mercilessly and be declared winner at all cost. Its members on election days became rogues, through and thorough. No step was too bold for them to take, just as no relationship was too strong to severe. Nothing, including life, was sacred. Conscience was abandoned for the little and temporary reward of few days.
Now, will these seven factors remain effective in according the ruling party the votes it needs to win in 2007, as they did in 2003? In the first place, do these factors still exist in both form and quantity? And if they do, to what extent will they be effective in determining the outcome of 2007?
In some ways 2007 will be similar to 2003. For example, Obasanjo is still in power, though he is handing over to another president. He has at his disposal the personnel – including public servants and thugs – which he used in 2003. For sure, from what happened during the third term debate where he infringed freedom of association of many eminent politicians, the present Inspector General of Police could go the same distance which Tafa Balogun went in granting the wishes of the PDP on election day. Also, the resources are there. The President will not find any difficulty dipping his hand into the coffers of government to procure what he needs to finance a campaign for his candidate.
The governors are also there, as dubious as ever. They will manipulate the nominations of the PDP and rig elections to favor their candidates using, of course, state funds and personnel. They will be keen to install successors who will prefer to bury their corrupt records at all cost. And I doubt if these politicians who rigged the 2003 election have developed a better conscience. They will repeat the same evil whenever the opportunity or need arises, unless they are checked by other factors.
However, what will change the entire equation between 2003 and 2007 is the lack of cohesion within the PDP. 2007 will come and the President, most likely, will be left with only a fraction of governors and politicians who fought his battle in 2003. The third term ambition of the President has caused an irreparable damage in the ruling party. And I am sure, listening to the tone of Atiku on BBC just some minutes ago, the gap will continue to widen in spite of the recent intention of the President to reconcile. Atiku is insisting on dissolution of PDP leadership as a condition for reconciliation. Also, he did not sound positive when he bluntly told the BBC: “Reconciliation will be difficult. Obasanjo does not want to leave and we vie for his seat.” Simple.
Thus the President has lost governors like Dariye, Kalu, Kure , Boni, who delivered their states to him in 2003. No more. He has also lost Ngige earlier in Anambra. The party will get very few votes in Kano where it was defeated in 2003. It will also fail in Taraba, Benue and possibly Gombe. Of course his candidate will not get votes in ANPP controlled states, including Borno and Yobe, whose governors supported third term. Already, there are indications that the party will turn into a ghost when most of its governors and Buhari abandon it for more formidable ones, like ACD.
And things will worsen for the PDP depending on whom it nominates to carry its presidential flag. If it settles for a northern candidate, then the Southwest may shrink back to its ethnic politics and support any Oduduwa candidate that AD or another party may nominate. If it nominates a southern candidate, especially from the South-south, then, like the deceased third term agenda, we will have cause to celebrate its demise earlier than expected.
If the President is banking on using religion, the odds will be that this time, unlike when he competed with Buhari, the kite will be difficult to fly. ACD for example is well received in Plateau and Benue States . Will the PDP then deny the Christian identities of people like Solomon Lar, Ayu or Audu Ogbe?
In 2003, the PDP had monopoly of resources, when compared with the opposition ANPP. But with many governors decamping from the PDP, the PDP will lose a vital source of its funds, and the opposition will benefit instead. Even the balance of terror may reach egalitarian levels.