Sunday, January 17, 2010

Nigeria Is Becoming Irrelevant – Ambassador Lyman

Nigeria Is Becoming Irrelevant – Ambassador Lyman Written by By Princeton N. Lyman I have a long connection to Nigeria. Not only was I Ambassador there, I have travelled to and from Nigeria for a number of years and have a deep and abiding vital emotional attachment to the Nigerian people, their magnificence, their courage, artistic brilliance, their irony, sense of humour in the face of challenges etc. And I hope that we keep that in mind when I say some things that I think are counter to what we normally say about Nigeria. And I say that with all due respect to Eric Silla, who is doing a magnificent work at State Department and to our good friend from the legislature, because I have a feeling that we both, Nigerians and Americans, may be doing Nigeria and Nigerians no favour by stressing Nigeria's strategic importance. I know all the arguments: it is a major oil producer, it is the most populous country in Africa, it has made major contributions to Africa in peacekeeping, and of course, negatively, if Nigeria were to fall apart the ripple effects would be tremendous. But I wonder if all this emphasis on Nigeria's importance creates a tendency to inflate Nigeria's opinion of its own invulnerability. Among much of the elite today, I have the feeling that there is a belief that Nigeria is too big to fail, too important to be ignored, and that Nigerians can go on ignoring some of the most fundamental challenges they have - many of which we have talked about: disgraceful lack of infrastructure, the growing problems of unemployment, the failure to deal with the underlying problems in the Niger-Delta, the failure to consolidate democracy - and somehow will remain important to everybody because of all those reasons that are strategically important. I am not sure that that is helpful. Let me sort of deconstruct those elements of Nigeria's importance, and ask whether they are as relevant as they have been. We often hear that one in five Africans is a Nigerian. What does it mean? Do we ever say one in five Asians is a Chinese? Chinese power comes not just for the fact that it has a lot of people but it has harnessed the entrepreneurial talent and economic capacity and all the other talents of China to make her a major economic force and political force. Yes, Nigeria is a major oil producer, but Brazil is now launching a 10-year programme that is going to make it one of the major oil producers in the world. And every other country in Africa is now beginning to produce oil. Angola is rivalling Nigeria in oil production, and the United States has just discovered a huge gas reserve which is going to replace some of our dependence on imported energy. And what about its influence, its contributions to the continent? As our representative from the parliament talked about, there is a great history of those contributions. But that is history. Is Nigeria really playing a major role today in the crisis in Niger on its border, or in Guinea, or in Darfur, or after many, many promises making any contributions to Somalia? The answer is no. Nigeria is today NOT making a major impact, on its region, or on the African Union or on the big problems of Africa that it was making before. Now, of course, on the negative side, the collapse of Nigeria would be enormous, but is that a point to make Nigeria strategically important? Years ago, I worked for an Assistant Secretary of State who had the longest tenure in that job in the 1980s and I remember in one meeting a minister from a country not very friendly to the United States came in and was berating the Assistant Secretary on all the evils of the United States and all its dire plots in Africa and was going on and on, and finally the Assistant Secretary cut him off and said: "You know, the biggest danger for your relationship with the United States is not our opposition, but that we will find you irrelevant." The point is that Nigeria can become much less relevant to the United States. We have already seen evidence of it. When President Obama went to Ghana and not to Nigeria, he was sending a message, that Ghana symbolised more of the significant trends, issues and importance that one wants to put on Africa than Nigeria. So the handwriting may already be on the wall, and that is a sad commentary. Because what it means is that Nigeria's most important strategic importance in the end could be that it has failed. And that is a sad, sad conclusion. It does not have to happen, but I think that we ought to stop talking about what a great country it is, and how terribly important it is to us and talk about what it would take for Nigeria to be that important and great. And that takes an enormous amount of commitment. And you don't need saints; you don't need leaders like Nelson Mandela in every state, because you are not going to get them. I served in South Korea in the middle of the 1960s and it was time when South Korea was poor and considered hopeless, but it was becoming to turn around, later, to become to every person's amazement then the eleventh largest economy in the world. And I remember the economist in my mission saying, it did not bother him that the leading elites in the government of South Korea were taking 15 - 20 percent off the top of every project, as long as every project was a good one, and that was the difference. The leadership at the time was determined to solve the fundamental economic issues of South Korea economy and turn its economy around. It has not happened in Nigeria today. You don't need saints. It needs leaders who say "You know we could be becoming irrelevant, and we (have) got to do something about it." •Lyman, former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa, presented this paper at the Achebe Colloquium held December 11, 2009, at Brown University, USA.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Coup! Coup! Linger In Nigeria

A military coup in 1966 brought Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, an ethnic Ibo from the Eastern Region, to power. However, he was killed a few months later, and was followed by Lt-Col Yakubu Gowon from the Christian North. Relations became extremely poor between the federal government and the Ibos of the Eastern Region. In 1967, the Eastern Region proclaimed its independence as the Republic of Biafra. Violence between the federal government troops and the forces of Biafra broke out. It is estimated that up to a million people died in the war, mainly through starvation, before the federal forces forced a Biafran surrender in 1970. Coup after coup Increasing opposition to continuous delays from Yakubu Gowon's over the holding of free elections led to his overthrow in a bloodless coup in 1975. He was replaced by Brigadier Murtala Ramat Muhammed who was assassinated a year later and followed by Lt-Gen Olusegun Obasanjo. In 1979, Nigerians voted for a new bicameral national assembly - the Senate and the House of Representatives. Alhaji Shehu Shagari, of the National Party of Nigeria, was elected President, and a civilian government took office. He was re-elected in 1983. However, by the end of 1983, the civilian government was overthrown by a military coup led by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari. His regime was itself deposed in 1985 by a military coup led by Major-General Ibrahim Babangida. After the military handed over power to the civilian in 1999, the nation constitution has experience many flops in the nation’s administration of Democracy to its citizen, Ayodele Samuel write on cause of military Intervention in the past years. Coup in politics means a sudden and decisive action in politics, especially one affecting a change of government illegally or by force, coup d'etat, as given in this definition, is characterized by suddenness, decisiveness, illegality and force which the nation had witness about six times before the 1999 democracy. Another elaboration: a coup d'etat is a sudden change of government by force, brought about by those who already hold some governmental or military power. Nigeria had witness this political demon between 1975 and 1998 with a lot of blood shed to its credit. Even through political instability could also be descried as coup, if a government violates the constitution or its own basic law, and goes on to enforce this violation by the employment of any coercive apparatus of state, then that government has stage a coup d'etat, no doubt, the following acts in the political history of Nigeria can be considered as coup d'etat: the dissolution of the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) by General Ibrahim Babangida in January 1990, and the constitution of a new one; the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election; the military expedition sent by President Olusegun Obasanjo to Odi in November 1999 without the approval of the Senate: absence of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua from the country without officially handing over to the vice president Goodluck Jonathan could also be describe as a democratic coup d’etat. While Peace and Development Projects, PEDP, Director, Francis Abayomi said there is a need to protect the constitution by initiating the process to transfer presidential powers to the Vice President Goodluck Jonathan in acting capacity, until the health of the president improves. The president in ability to perform his perform his presidential functions had worsen the political suaitation of the nation, Abayomi said the nation is now missing in action in the comity of civilized nations. Political analyst have noted that the vacuum created in the day-to-day running of government due to the president’s failure to transmit powers to Vice President as constitutionally stipulated, could lead to an unconstitutional seizure of power at this time of nascent democracy as this will only aggravate the situation and plunge the nation into chaos. PEDP Director said “Nigerians particularly are disturbed by the activities of a clique in and out of government that is determined to hold this nation by the jugular and has continue to feed Nigerians half-truths on the true state of the president. These actions have been compounded by the National Assembly, which, rather than invoke relevant sections of the Constitution that will get the nation back on the path of genuine democracy, has handled the entire issue in an inept manner that has not only tarnished the image of the country, but also made it a laughing stock in the committee of civilised nations” Abayomi added. Abayomi uniting his voices with other teeming Nigerians said that national interest must override all personal and sectional interests in restating the public objection to any suggestion of unconstitutional take-over of power by the armed forces. Also Yinka Odumakin publicity sectary of the Afenifere Renewal Group said “only an idiot would not know that has happened in the last 54 days is assure recipe for military intervention, this is why Nigerians can’t decode why the elected members of the national assembly can’t be rational and do the right thing even if only for enlightened self interest. For political stability, patriotic forces are taking pro-active measures like protest to break this gridlock; Odumakin noted that military intervention to the nation democracy would drag the country back. While the national assembly has being slow in ensuring the constitution is not breach, Abayomi said :“For Principal Officers of the National Assembly to say they cannot force the president to observe the constitution which they swore to protect is gross dereliction of duty. Even elementary students of constitutional democracy know what a parliament is supposed to do when the president breaches the constitution. He insisted with its disturbing silenced about the continued breach of the constitution and serial acts of illegalities being perpetrated by both elected and unelected public officer holders, the National Assembly Principal Officers have betrayed the trust reposed on them and as such should quit. “We restate our position that national interest should override personal ambitions. We strongly believe that as representatives of the Nigerian people, the National Assembly should stand and defend the constitution and the rule of law”, Abayomi added. Nigerians, Abayomi stated, “are no longer interested in the reckless comments of some senior government officials who prefer to hold our nation hostage. Instead, the National Assembly should work towards smooth transfer of power to the Vice President. A medical panel should also be raised to brief the National Assembly and the nation on the state of the president’s health.” In his own view the convener of the united Action for Democracy Taiwo Otitolaye said military rule is out dated, diabolical and an aberration for all time, he noted that civil societies in the country will fight military hegemonits, “the restructuring of Nigeria along fiscal federalism and devolution of powers would resolve the Nigeria crisis”. While political players are currently consulting to stem the negative intervention, PRONACO spokesman Sir wale Okunniyi said eminent political leaders will meet very soon to organize proper intervention as lamentation and sheer noisemaking cannot resolve the present crisis which may lead to military intervention if Nigerians fold their arms.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Yar'Adua Again

"Enough is Enough" Rally! Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly, constitutional lawyer, Femi Falana and other prominent Nigerians today led hundreds of Nigerians to protest in Abuja over the long absence of President Umaru Yar’Adua from the seat of power. The president has been away from the country since 23 November 2009 and has been receiving treatment in King Faisal Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi-Arabia. Soyinka, Bakare, lawyers and other activists are protesting the power vacuum created by Yar’Adua’s absence from Aso Rock for the past 50 days. As early as 8.30 a.m protesters had started gathering at Unity Fountain, opposite Transcorp Hilton Hotel in readiness for the kick-off of the protest which will end at the National Assembly complex. While there was also the massive presence of policemen at NICON area in Abuja, where the protest took off at about 10am In the crowd of protesters were Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin and her husband, Mr. Yinka Odumakin; Mrs. Ayo Obe; Salihu Lukman and Pastor Esther, a popular preacher in Abuja. There will also be protests in Port Harcourt, South Africa,London, New York It is being organised under the aegis of Save Nigeria Group comprising Soyinka and over 100 prominent Nigerians who felt that there was the need to rescue the nation urgently from its present quagmire. Soyinka and his group had met in Lagos recently to X-ray the consequence of the president’s absence for a very long time from the country and decided to protest against it. Meanwhile, posters in support of Yar’Adua flooded the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) this morning. The posters were believed to have been pasted overnight by supporters of the sick president. Unconfirmed reports said that the Federal Government was trying to organise a counter rally in Abuja to drum support for the president. Many Nigerians have called for the take over of the helm of affairs by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan pending the return of the ailing president. Against: Power Vacuum in Nigeria: Where is President Yar'Adua? Vacillation over Electoral Reforms Terror-Tag on Nigerians Corruption in the Country Date: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 Venue: From Unity Fountain, Near Transcorp Hotel, Central Business District, Abuja; terminating at the National Assembly Complex. SPEAKERS: Prof. Wole Soyinka, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, Dr. Tunde Bakare, Hon. Farouk Aliyu Adamu , Mr. Solomon Asemota (SAN), Mallam Uba Sani, Mr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Hajiya Najatu Mohammed, Prof. Pat Utomi, Pastor Sarah Omakwu, Mr. Femi Falana, Hon. Olawale Oshun, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, Mrs. Ayo Obe, Mallam Naseer Kura, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, Hon. Uche Onyeogocha etc. CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE 10 POVERTIES Poverty of Ideas - a dictatorship Constitution brought about by a Treasonable power clique which tells lies about our rights is unfit for us. We want a people's Constitution. Poverty of Performance - inability to conduct a free and fair election only allows the wrong people to lead us. We suffer when we are disabled from changing leadership fairly. Poverty of Resource - water, light, road no dey! The health of our people is imperiled by lack of care of government. Poverty of Hope - education has collapsed at primary, secondary and university levels. Consequently, there can be no national progress. Not one decent public primary school exists in Nigeria not to talk of secondary schools or universities. Poverty of Honor - our people don't even know where in the world a supposedly elected President is or how he is. Haba! Poverty of the Mind - we are governed by an oppressive, corrupt and pitiless clique who consume 95% of national resources and are disdainful of us. Poverty of Regard - we are embarrassed and diminished in the world community by the abnormal passion of one of us who wanted to murder 300 innocent citizens of 17 nations, internet scammers, money launderers, 419ers, bank fraudsters who desecrate the value of our ancestors and our nation. Poverty of Spirit - we kill each other at home in the name of God because of abnormal religious confusion and passion, which should have no place in the house of God. Poverty of Commerce - majority of our citizens have no food to eat, starvation is rife and common, consuming the commoners who own Nigeria. Meanwhile unemployment of youths dominates the land. Poverty of Environment - the cities are dirty, disorderly, crowded, unplanned and crime prone! Insecurity has become the order of the day while leaders condone state power for total self-protection. "Nigeria can only know justice, peace and progress when her citizens will work for it. Join the campaign against the 10 Poverties. "Join the campaign take-off on January 12, 2010 in Abuja.