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Op-Ed

Opinion: Northern Nigeria’s sweet crude, by Lasisi Olagunju

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Northern Nigeria

The Nigeria of the future belongs to the past which the world is leaving behind. The Buhari administration through our opaque state oil company on Friday announced crude oil find in the North-East. Cynical Thomases in the South laughed at the announcement. To such unbelievers, the oil find and the fake presidential marriage of same day occupy the same comical seat in our national train. They see both incidents as masturbatory. And what good does masturbation do to the actor beyond its being a ‘solitary vice’? The one who does it thinks it is both therapeutic and self-satisfying. But that is where it ends. The crude discovery has got to be true beyond the announcement. It must put money in the pocket of the desperate North for its story to be truly victorious. It is not enough to yell eureka at the nation; the nation must feel what has been found in concrete terms.

My people say that in the homestead of the strong, you find all sorts of children. Southern Nigeria has various kinds of people. There are fools who take any bait as food. There are cynics like the doubting dudes who take the oil finder as a vector of sectional lies. They think it is a ponzi scheme carefully designed to pump derivation funds to the arid North. There are also some who want the Northern oil dream to come true so that the abuse in the marriage called Nigeria can stop. Or that the overbearing husband may now be financially independent enough to have pity on the miserable, overworked wife and let her go. Such persons won’t forget the 1914 marriage drama- the procession, the metaphors and the characterization. They remember that the North was described as a poor, well behaved young man who needed to marry the rich South to live. What is that thing my people call a husband who lives on the endowments of his wife?

History won’t forget the hazy harmattan morning of January 1, 1914 when the Colonial Secretary hit his huge gavel and bellowed: “The promising and well conducted youth is now on an allowance on his own and is about to effect an alliance with a southern lady of means. I have issued the special license and Sir Frederick Lugard will perform the ceremony. May the union be fruitful and the couple constant.” That was how the officiating minister, Sir Lewis Harcourt, conducted the wedding of Northern and Southern Nigeria in 1914. It was the first ‘marriage’ conducted in Nigeria. The priest prayed for the union to be “fruitful” and for the couple to be “constant.” How well has the prayer been answered? Chief Richard Akinjide, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, in a newspaper article about ten years ago said “the situation in Nigeria today is like a marriage and threatened divorce.” No marriage having the husband as a leech sponging off the wife can be peaceful. It is worse where the poor party insists on everything happening on his own terms.

Back to the Gongola Basin oil find. How much good money has been thrown at the North prospecting for oil? Like all our adventures and expenditures, there won’t be records. But there are media reports quoting popular Professor Jerry Gana, with some sorry figures. In 2013, while serving as chairman of the Northern Nigeria Economic Summit, Gana reportedly disclosed that N27 billion had been spent on oil and gas exploration in the North as of that time with additional $340 million budgeted for same purpose. Do not ask how many millions of Nigerian kids that amount would have educated. Do not ask any question. Oil is sweeter and more lucrative than education. In any case, who has education really helped?

Yet, there are people who would insist that this latest discovery is real and has made our investment worth its value. Have such people heard of fool’s gold before? They can read about a certain Jacques Cartier who led an expedition into then New France (today’s Canada) in 1536 and found huge amounts of what he thought were ‘diamonds and gold.’ Back in France, his ‘diamond and gold’ turned out to be what experts call ‘fool’s gold.’ It is a mineral that is golden without being gold. Even if this discovery is truly a discovery, what is the value of what we have? How much will it cost us to make it lucrative and profitable? And can the viability come before dusk descends on the world of petroleum?

The much-feared post-oil future appears here already. It is not funny that now is the time that the North is balancing its oil equation with the South. We do not ask the right questions – and we should. Why are European oil companies diversifying into non-fossil fuel energy businesses? Why is their investment in electric-car charging startups surging? What is Total doing with Saft, a battery company? Shell bought and rebranded First Utility as Shell Energy and “switched all of its British residential customers to 100% renewable electricity.” Why? Good old British Petroleum bought Lightsource, “the largest solar developer in Europe, and third largest in the world outside of China.” Why? There is also Equinor which is investing heavily in alternative energy by building and commissioning “the world’s first floating offshore wind farm in 2017 off the coast of Scotland.” Equinor says with pride that it “now powers more than one million European homes with renewable offshore wind from four offshore wind farms in the United Kingdom and Germany…building material offshore wind clusters in the UK, the US North East and in the Baltics.” It says it is “positioned for future floating wind options in several geographies, including UK, Norway and Asia.” Almost all of these oil firms operate in Nigeria. Why are they not investing heavily in new oil wells here or anywhere? They are all slowly turning off the taps, taking sometimes noisy, sometimes quiet long jumps to the future. Their list is long and lengthening. Their countries are investing heavily in education to further make their future better. We are spending money too – putting N58 billion in State House budget and voting N51 billion as proposed capital expenditure for education in the 2020 budget. The world is talking to us but we are not listening.

Northern Nigeria
Northern Nigeria’s sweet crude

Why did the NNPC announce its Gongola Basin discovery as if it was another Oloibiri? Nigeria, with a bang, struck crude oil for the first time on January 15,1956 in Oloibiri, a village in present Bayelsa state. I was not around then to compare the noise to the loud fart of last Friday. A voice I heard asked questions which I cannot answer: How far can this crude oil power the old, smoky vehicle of the North? Will this expensive crude oil educate the uncontrollable almajirai of the North? I do not have the answers, but I believe the magicians working on everything for the North must have factored those into their investments. There are others in the South who think it is foolish for the North to celebrate crude oil discovery in 2019. These ones wonder how late in thinking – and in luck- the North is with this stunt. They feel the world and its technology are already moving fast away from fossil fuel. They point at the evolving world of electric planes, electric vehicles and self-driven, autonomous cars. They insist that self-driven vehicles would “reduce personal ownership of cars” while “technology-driven models in mass transport such as Ola and Uber can lead to shared transport further reducing demand for oil.” They quote those from the Economic Times of India, which in a 2017 report warned that “the future of oil is almost here and it doesn’t look very pretty.” The report said experts had “predicted that by 2030, ninety five per cent of people won’t own private cars. The battery-driven small planes will become yet another disruption. Since they are going to be cheaper than the current planes on smaller routes, they might get hugely popular. That’s how global oil demand will go down and so will the prices. The global oil demand will peak at 100 million barrels per day by 2020, dropping to 70 million barrels per day by 2030. This would mean…the price of oil plummeting to $25 a barrel. India has declared it would allow manufacturing of only electric cars by 2030. Not a single petrol or diesel car would be sold in the country after 13 years.” It is not only India that is talking down on petrol cars. All serious countries have set timelines and deadlines for the closure.

The joyous among us over the Northern black gold would frown at any Nigerian thinking like those anti-petrol souls. They would feel that those who think this way suffer foolishness in great measures. Those not celebrating with us do not know what our government knows about the future. Whatever is happening on the global stage is not our challenge. We invest today’s money in the past – and we mean it. The world is not building today’s technology for Nigeria. The Nigeria of the future belongs to the past which the world is leaving behind. Here, with our North in the driver’s seat, petrol and its other siblings will be here to serve Nigeria till eternity. Ancient Egyptians used hydrocarbons to preserve their corpses; we will do same if the world won’t buy our excess oil at our price. Like the Babylonians, we will scoop crude oil for waterproofing our boats in the Lake Chad area and as mortar to build our thatched castles…

More importantly, it is time to rejoice with our North, a husband that has finally found its mojo in the bowels of Gongola Basin.

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Op-Ed

Op-ed: Is the Niger Delta Still Part Of Nigeria?

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Is the Niger Delta Still Part Of Nigeria

The dance of the absurd taking place in the media space in recent times couldn’t have been had President Buhari not ordered for a Forensic Audit of the Books of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.

The National Assembly under Senator Ahmed Lawan and Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila seems to be unconcerned about the imminent dangers of a resurgence of youth restiveness in the oil and gas rich area of the country as some Lawmakers with obvious insidious interest have continued to challenge the authority of the President on the all-inclusive probe of the Commission which has been wobbling, twenty years after its creation. The excessive freedom enjoyed by those who have been publicly accused by the supervising Committee of the NDDC has been overstretched as the leadership of the 9th Assembly has either chosen to look the other way or become complicit in the macabre dance.

Since the decision by the President to look into the way billions of Naira have been frittered away through the Commission, the discordant tunes from a few, powerful Lawmakers from the Niger Delta region has become worrisome that the reading public is now suspicious of their involvement in the pathological sleaze that has characterized the Commission while leaving the region underdeveloped and gasping for air, in a manner akin to the African-American, George Floyd who died while begging to breathe.

It is worrisome that in spite of the fact that the National Assembly is led by the ruling party, APC, yet, the synergy expected between the Executive and the Legislature is far from being in existence as it concerns the Niger Delta region, which has consistently sustained the economy since 1956, when oil was discovered in commercial quantities.

Is it not beyond surprising and an effrontrey for a group of Lawmakers to challenge the decision of the President in approving an intervention for the people of the region for the purpose of the pandemic? The impudence displayed by these Lawmakers who definitely have something sinister to frustrate the efforts of the Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the Commission and the supervising Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio is a pointer that all is not well, particularly, when the supposed leader of the recalcitrant Lawmakers is from the opposition party, PDP. Could it be that the Senate President has conceded his powers to his Deputy, who recently, walked into the Headquarters of the EFCC with a letter written by the Clerk of the Senate, albeit on his instruction and requested for the probe and arrest of Buhari’s Minister, even when other Senators were kept in the dark of such an offensive? With the denial of Omo-Agege of his involvement in the scandal, will the Senate President set up a Committee to investigate him alongside the Clerk or simply sack the latter? That is up to him to stand for the truth or let his exalted office be ridiculed by his Deputy and his quest for power!

The desperation to have Akpabio removed and the Pondei-led IMC sacked is purely an effort to ensure that Buhari leaves no legacies in the Niger Delta region. The cry over the mismanagement of funds at the NDDC has been on, over time and was enunciated by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, sometime in 2019 at Delta State. There was a follow up visit to the President by the Governors of the States under the NDDC which compelled the President to give Akpabio the mandate to appoint Forensic Auditors to look into the books, with an Interim Management Committee to oversee the running of the Commission while the audit lasts.

Sadly, those who seem to have been squandering the funds meant to build high grade Schools, Hospitals, Roads and Bridges amongst other infrastructures, are desperate to have Akpabio’s head on the slaughter slab, as millions of Naira have been deployed to different youth groups and a section of the media to further plant negative stories in other to discredit those saddled with this responsibility.

More worrisome is the involvement of high profile and principal officers at the National Assembly in this distracting dance, that one begins to wonder if truly they mean well for the region. What really do they intend to achieve in ensuring that Buhari does not add a stone to projects in the Niger Delta. Is there a fifth columnist working against the President but are pretending to be partners in progress with him?

The effort made by the NDDC to source for international grant of $126 million from the International Fund for  Agricultural Development, IFAD, has been aborted at the point of delivery by this same Lawmakers who wickedly slashed the budgetary provision for the counterpart funding from N1.3 billion to a paltry N100 million in the 2019 Budget of the NDDC! Funds from IFAD meant to massively engage in Agriculture in the region was wished away with the stroke of the pen. Not done with the plot to keep the region perpetually underdeveloped and totally dependent on crumbs from. Federal Allocation, these agents of darkness ensured that the budget of N10 billion for the construction of three Specialist Hospitals in the region was slashed to another paltry N100m! Yet, they prefer that billions of Naira are allocated for non-existent Training programs, Desilting of the Waterways and Medical Tourism overseas that yield nothing.

The 2020 Budget which has since been submitted in 2019 is yet to be attended to. Those who have gathered irrespective of party affiliations, to keep the region in agony at the risk of illegal activities of oil bunkering, environmental degradation and deprivation, and massive pollution of the air and water resulting in the cancerous black smooth and death of aquatic life are not done with their offensive as they question the rationale behind the payment of contractors owed by successive Boards of the Commission.

The recent probe of N40 billion by the two Houses of the National Assembly is only a disguise of their real intents. Why is this probe more important to the supposed watchdogs of the Commission rather than allow for a thorough Forensic Audit? What is the real purpose of the Adhoc Committees of the two Houses in writing the Bureau of Public Procurement to deny the Forensic Auditors access to the nine states to verify the records of the Commission? This is not only suspicious but scandalous by those who claim to be in support of the Presidential Order of the Forensic Audit!

One begins to wonder who is actually ruling the country when a few Lawmakers have effortlessly challenged the powers of the President to seek to know what has been of the monies poured into the NDDC for over 19 years.

For the second highest ranking Senator who flaunts the title of “Leader of the South South” to resort to a petition against a Minister to the EFCC, in order to frustrate the President and leader of his political party, leaves much to be desired! It is clear that the 9th Assembly is not interested in the development of the Niger Delta region.

No wonder the same Lawmakers who claim to have an oversight function on the Niger Delta have failed to query the Presidential Infrastructural Development Fund, PIDF, on the deliberate neglect of the East-West Road which is one of the five critical projects under the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, NSIA. While they are at war with the managers of NDDC, they have left the people of the region to suffer as they navigate from one state to the other through the East-West Road. In spite of a Presidential approval of N100bn in 2018 for the completion of sections 1 to 4 of the road and a release of N19.5bn by the Minister for Finance, three years ago, for the payment of legacy debts, the PIDF under Mr Uche Orji has failed to pay the Contractors, thereby delaying their return to the site and allowing the road to deteriorate. 

Without a recent intervention by the NDDC to repair the failed sections of the road, the people of the region would have completely been cut off from the West.

It is clear that there is an orchestrated plot to make sure that the APC controlled Federal Government fails in the Niger Delta region. And who are those responsible for this mess? Obviously, they are not far from us as the fate of the Niger Delta region now depends on them!

Obiaruko Ndukwe

President, Citizens Quest for Truth Initiative

The Newscap, part of NYMEWSNET addresses a range of topical subjects and openly invites your views.
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Op-ed: NDDC, When Strange Bedfellows Unite To Rape a Region

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NDDC: When Strange Bedfellows Unite To Rape a Region

If the news of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, on Wednesday 3rd June 2020, denying ever writing any letter for an extension of the tenure of the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sani Ataba Omolori and other Staff is anything to go by, then one wonders why till date the Clerk still retains his office when he is supposed to have been retired since February, 2020, according to the National Assembly Service Commission rules.

The seeming conspiratorial silence of the leadership and members of the 9th Assembly should worry any right thinking Nigerian, especially when it is an institution that inspires hope in our democracy.

According to a highly placed source in the National assembly, It has become worrisome the twist in the face-off between the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and some members of the National Assembly as the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege mandated the Clerk to write a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes and Commission, EFCC, against Akpabio, bothering on alleged malfeasance and money laundering. In what looks like a desperate launch of a vendetta against Akpabio, the petition refers to a  $4.9bn Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) contract award to Osmoserve for supply of relief materials for the Covid-19 pandemic across the nine Niger Delta States. This is most likely because the Minister chose to courageously take the right course of action by backing the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of NDDC to plug all loop holes from which scarce funds were surging  out of the Commission over the years.

There are strong indications also that the duo of Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege and Sen. Nwaoboshi, the Chairman, Senate Committee on NDDC, both from Delta State are in active connivance with the Clerk of the National Assembly to ensure they frustrate the work of the Forensic Auditors currently perusing meticulously through the accounts of the NDDC.

Nothing else explains coherently the reason the EFCC currently working with other renown financial institutions in auditing the books of NDDC will welcome an isolated case bothering on same concerns as the ongoing Forensic Audit.

It all reeks of vindictive intent on the part of the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, who, very obviously, is still disenchanted by the way the Bernard Okumagba-led Board ended in a still birth. Omo-Agege had nominated his former contemporary, Bernard Okumagba with whom he served as Commissioners under Ex Governor James Ibori’s Government in Delta State. Unknown to many, Peter Nwaoboshi and the duo of Omo-Agege and Okumagba all served at the same time in that Government, from where they got the appellation, “the Ibori Boys.”

The decision of President Buhari to jettison the already screened members of the Board has not gone down well with Omo-Agege and co, who believe that Akpabio opted for an IMC in a bid to upstage the nominees and their sponsors.

The President’s action is considered an advise from the Minister and that has pitched some members of the National Assembly against Akpabio and by extension, the Interim Management Committee saddled with the responsibility of running the affairs of the Commission during the period of the Forensic Audit.

It is sad to realize that the Clerk of the National Assembly,  Sani Ataba Omolori’s desperation to keep his job for another 5years, albeit illegally can make him resort to anything, including joining an unholy union with Principal Officers of the Senate and House of Representatives, simply to retain his job. It won’t be out of place, therefore, if I refer to these strange bedfellows as friends with benefit.

That the Deputy Senate President in a letter addressed to the Chairman of EFCC with a reference no. NASS/CS/99/R/21/19, the Clerk of the Senate stated that he was directed by the office of the Deputy Senate President to request the assistance of the EFCC “in an ongoing inquiry into the affairs of the core members of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC…” According to the letter titled, “SENATE REQUESTS THE INVESTIGATION AND MONITORING OF MINISTER OF NIGER DELTA AFFAIRS HON. GODSWILL AKPABIO AND POSSIBLE CRIMINAL AFFILIATE MR. SCOTT IKOTT TOMMEY”, the Senators are overriding the adhoc-committee already inaugurated to look into the alleged misappropriation of N40 billion by the Minister and the IMC. This also implies that the Senate President may have mandated his Deputy to petition the EFCC or it could be that his powers have been whittled down by his Deputy and his ally, Nwaoboshi.

 Shamefully, it has become a story of one day, one propaganda while another day comes with yet another blackmail, petitions, lies and deceit as the case maybe against the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs and the IMC of NDDC.

 Most shocking is how a notable figure like the  Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-agege can go all out to scuttle a Forensic Audit authorized by the President on the request of the Niger Delta Governors.

How is it that Senator Peter Nwaoboshi is throwing every available spanner into the works, like a drowning man holding unto a straw, ready to pull anyone along with him? How can Sen Peter Nwaoboshi be so knowledgeable about the NDDC, yet, this level of sleaze is being perpetuated under his watch? Is he saying he is unaware of the 50 billion naira payment to NGOs in a single day, on May 15, 2019, and another payment of billions of Naira to 360 NGOs in 2018, and another singular payment of 15 billion Naira to a company based in Akwa Ibom, without any commensurate work done?

It is becoming more difficult convincing Nigerians that government is for them, when news like the clandestine move by NASS leadership to extend the tenure of the Clerk of the National Assembly greeted the news media. For a personality like Sani Ataba Omolori who has served the nation meritoriously, the honour is in retiring from active service with pride, rather than be forcefully evicted going by allegations of illegal extension of his service, a position held by the National Assembly Service Commission.

Following the sudden sequence of allegations against the Minister and the IMC, you will not be living in doubt that they are all geared towards stalling the Forensic Audit, so as  continuing with business as usual in the NDDC; nothing more.

A keen observer of the face-off between the NDDC and NASS will tell you that should this impasse in the region be resolved in objectivity, the Niger Delta people will be the greatest beneficiary, and they will have a better NDDC than they ever before the crisis started.

To some gladiators, it is an ego battle, to some others it is a battle for the soul of the Commission to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the people of the Niger Delta region. Whether you lend your voice to the developing debate or not, one thing is sacrosanct; it is the expectation of all well-meaning Niger Deltans that President Buhari will stop at nothing until the final report of the Forensic Audit is presented and is implemented to the letter.

Eghosa Sunday-Salami

Edo State Secretary

Citizens Quest for Truth Initiative

The Newscap, part of NYMEWSNET addresses a range of topical subjects and openly invites your views.
However, independent views expressed in our media presence are those of the author. And are not necessarily those of NYNEWSNET or any of its employees and volunteers

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Op-Ed: “What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge”, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

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What was your first reaction when you saw the video of the white cop kneeling on George Floyd’s neck while Floyd croaked, “I can’t breathe”?

If you’re white, you probably muttered a horrified, “Oh, my God” while shaking your head at the cruel injustice. If you’re black, you probably leapt to your feet, cursed, maybe threw something (certainly wanted to throw something), while shouting, “Not @#$%! again!” Then you remember the two white vigilantes accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged through their neighborhood in February, and how if it wasn’t for that video emerging a few weeks ago, they would have gotten away with it. And how those Minneapolis cops claimed Floyd was resisting arrest but a store’s video showed he wasn’t. And how the cop on Floyd’s neck wasn’t an enraged redneck stereotype, but a sworn officer who looked calm and entitled and devoid of pity: the banality of evil incarnate.

Maybe you also are thinking about the Karen in Central Park who called 911 claiming the black man who asked her to put a leash on her dog was threatening her. Or the black Yale University grad student napping in the common room of her dorm who was reported by a white student. Because you realize it’s not just a supposed “black criminal” who is targeted, it’s the whole spectrum of black faces from Yonkers to Yale.

You start to wonder if it should be all black people who wear body cams, not the cops.

What do you see when you see angry black protesters amassing outside police stations with raised fists? If you’re white, you may be thinking, “They certainly aren’t social distancing.” Then you notice the black faces looting Target and you think, “Well, that just hurts their cause.” Then you see the police station on fire and you wag a finger saying, “That’s putting the cause backward.”

You’re not wrong — but you’re not right, either. The black community is used to the institutional racism inherent in education, the justice system and jobs. And even though we do all the conventional things to raise public and political awareness — write articulate and insightful pieces in the Atlantic, explain the continued devastation on CNN, support candidates who promise change — the needle hardly budges.

But COVID-19 has been slamming the consequences of all that home as we die at a significantly higher rate than whites, are the first to lose our jobs, and watch helplessly as Republicans try to keep us from voting. Just as the slimy underbelly of institutional racism is being exposed, it feels like hunting season is open on blacks. If there was any doubt, President Trump’s recent tweets confirm the national zeitgeist as he calls protesters “thugs” and looters fair game to be shot.

Yes, protests often are used as an excuse for some to take advantage, just as when fans celebrating a hometown sports team championship burn cars and destroy storefronts. I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.

So, maybe the black community’s main concern right now isn’t whether protesters are standing three or six feet apart or whether a few desperate souls steal some T-shirts or even set a police station on fire, but whether their sons, husbands, brothers and fathers will be murdered by cops or wannabe cops just for going on a walk, a jog, a drive. Or whether being black means sheltering at home for the rest of their lives because the racism virus infecting the country is more deadly than COVID-19.

What you should see when you see black protesters in the age of Trump and coronavirus is people pushed to the edge, not because they want bars and nail salons open, but because they want to live. To breathe.

Worst of all, is that we are expected to justify our outraged behavior every time the cauldron bubbles over. Almost 70 years ago, Langston Hughes asked in his poem “Harlem”: “What happens to a dream deferred? /… Maybe it sags / like a heavy load. / Or does it explode?”

Fifty years ago, Marvin Gaye sang in “Inner City Blues”: “Make me wanna holler / The way they do my life.” And today, despite the impassioned speeches of well-meaning leaders, white and black, they want to silence our voice, steal our breath.

So what you see when you see black protesters depends on whether you’re living in that burning building or watching it on TV with a bowl of corn chips in your lap waiting for “NCIS” to start.

What I want to see is not a rush to judgment, but a rush to justice.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the N.B.A.’s all-time leading scorer, is the author of 16 books, including, most recently, “Mycroft & Sherlock —The Empty Birdcage” www.kareemabduljabbar.com

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Op-ed: THE 1967 NIGERIA-BIAFRA WAR EXODUS, by Nnedinso Ogaziechi

Some Igbos betrayed their kinsmen for filthy lucre – the notorious saboteurs who always ended badly despite their acquisitions, some accused others of greed, but yet, those who sang for him and encouraged him were not necessarily from the East

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Nigerian-Biafra-war

“ Joe de abukide takikwojawa” he sang and danced in all his elegance. He was the tallest man I saw growing up; he was the first ‘journalist’ I met and ‘interviewed’. He was in love with current affairs; he was up to date with the news. He was a good storyteller. He was an entertainer, and more than two decades after his death; he is widely quoted around his community. He was well admired; he was the quintessential man of integrity that was as compassionate as he was firm. He was my father….

The Igbos-the exodus

The opening sentence here is in the local language of his host community, he sang it often and danced in that his elegant form, he belonged to different village dance groups like the Ogene group, a group whose music was almost elitist at the time, they only sang at notable and remarkable ceremonies and at funerals of important chiefs and kings.

So growing up, he always sang this particular song and danced at times he felt depressed. Of course, we had that father/daughter bond, so I asked him the meaning …then he tells me;

 “I’m still the same Joseph that I was before the war” He smiled and sat down. 

 “That song, Nne nwa m, was sang by the men and women I lived with in the North before the war. They sought me out after the war and and they all came here to visit and sang that song and danced. They were happy I survived and I’m still the old Joseph they knew” The song means, Joseph is still the Joseph that we knew before the war. What they did not know was that the song they sang was an elixir for a former wealthy man who the war stripped naked materially, but he was happy to have survived with his family and some dependants , but many did not…

Biafran Girls at the battlefront
Biafran Girls at the battlefront

He had businesses and houses in the North, at the beginning of the war, he was scared for his family, apprentices and the larger Igbo community. He was an ardent BBC fan and so followed the pre-war news about the coups and countercoups and the attendant pogrom in the North. He called the Igbo community to urge them to get ready to leave because he was following the news and knew they were not going to be safe. His hosts at the time gave him assurances that they would protect him but he wondered, what of my people, what of those who depended on me for survival? He made arrangements to take as many people as he could back home amidst protests from his amiable hosts.

“I have investments here, I have houses, I have many debtors so I will always come back after the war. I have lived here since adulthood, most of my investments are here and not in my ancestral home. I will surely return but let me secure as many lives as I can first,” He told them.

Nigerian-Biara-civil war
Nigerian-Biara-civil war

The prognosis of events he was hearing on radio was not heartwarming. He was particularly disturbed by the radio speeches of an Emeka Ojukwu, the son of his business partner at the time, Sir Louis Ojukwu. For my father, it was an emotional but a survivalist decision to head East before danger enveloped him and the people he cared about.

So in August 1967, he hired a big truck to take as many people as it could accommodate home. So when Joe, as he was addressed made the trip out, the other nay-sayers knew that really, danger loomed…he continued to make arrangements for those willing to get back home…many left on his prompting.

But even the home was soon invaded…one of his houses demolished and his vintage Stone House building turned into Nigeria Soldiers Senior Officers House…it was stripped bare of all furniture and ornaments acquired over the years.

So he told me the war was a cocktail of humanity and the individual idiosyncrasies, he saw love, kindness, compassion, wickedness, sadism, narcissism and all sorts…In war and peace, humanity thrives, he told stories of resilience, of perseverance, gratitude and friendship across Nigeria.

Some Igbos betrayed their kinsmen for filthy lucre – the notorious saboteurs who always ended badly despite their acquisitions, some accused others of greed, but yet, those who sang for him and encouraged him were not necessarily from the East. They were Northerners who took him in as family. The contradictions of a nation caught in the throes of political intrigues across ethnic and religious lines and the grass that suffer when many, not two elephants fight…

The story of Nigeria-Biafra war is as diverse, intriguing, heart wrenching and devastating as every war story…but the essence of history is to look back and learn from mistakes of the past…we must document our tiny pieces for humanity…

 In memory of all the dead, the maimed and the dispossessed, we must raise our voices. In Igbo language, there are names like Ozoemena – let evil not be repeated, Agha Egbune – let war not consume, Osondu – the race for life etc. All these are snippets of oral and enduring history we must document and preserve.

The war has been described as a rain that fell on all roofs, we would all contribute our stories for prosperity…

 The coming days will have other stories…🙏🏼

 Pic: Google.

 ©Nnedinso

 May 27th, 2020.

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