Same PMB APC Administration – Two verdicts!

Social media often presents us in very succinct terms divergent views on the same phenomenon. Take the APC administration, for example. Since the 29th May, 2018, media has been swamped with claims and confutations of its successes and of its failures. This morning on Twitter, I came across two very diametrically opposed appraisals of its performance in the last three years – two views, two verdicts of its performance using broadly identical criteria and indicators! Certainly, the two views cannot be right at the same time. So, which is the correct view? Which is the more balanced appraisal?

I present both appraisals with apologies for any unintended violations of copyright to their authors!

Is it this ?

or this?

Choose your choice and state your reasons

 

 

 

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Chidi Odinkalu’s verdict on Buhari’s Anti-corruption War

Truth is often bitter but it is the perfect antidote to self-deception. Truth also helps protect the public from undue manipulation and mind control by governments and their licensed agents and spinners anxious to sell smoke, hype and inaccuracies to a population seduced by adulation and trapped by credulity. We need social critics and activists who are willing to speak evidence-based truths to rulers and the ruled. Chidi Odikanlu’s take on this government’s anti-corruption campaign is important because it is precisely such an exercise. It is an exercise in fact-checking and evidence-based evaluation where hard reality is used to confront government’s posturings and verbalizations on corruption. His verdict? “Buhari’s Anti-corruption war (is) Partisan (and) Lacks Credibility”.

I would even add that the “anti-corruption war” is the child of political posturing which was used, along with two other sound bytes – Security and Employment, to appeal to a populace that had felt politically excluded by PDP misgovernance.

The entire contribution by Prof Chidi Odinkalu is worth reading. Clicking the link line takes you to it. It needs a lot of courage to speak up and out as Professor Odinkalu has done.  Yet such voices of courage are needed since as more voices rise to speak truth to power and to chastise with love and civility those we have entrusted with ruling us for observed mismatches between their rhetoric and action, the more and firmer will grow the tree of accountability and responsible governance.

There was a country

(I share my review of Chinua Achebe’s book – There was a country TWAC – a review I wrote so many years back.)

Chinua Achebe’s new book “There was a country, a personal history of Biafra” (TWAC, for short in the rest of this essay) has stirred up and continues to stir up considerable furore in Nigeria. Reactions to the book cover a broad spectrum of emotions – from over-enthusiastic reception at one end to outright rejection and even condemnation of the author and his book at the other. We are a nation with unique proneness for extreme positions on some matters. My purpose in this essay is to attempt a review of this book as objectively as I can and in the process identify whatever utility the book possesses for Nigeria in its efforts to manage its challenged present and chart its future in the current haze of colossal national dysfunctions. Any effective charting of such a future must, in my view, depend on a proper understanding and acceptance of her troubled past.

Let me start by presenting the structure of the book.  TWAC is in four unequal parts with a postscript (on the example of Nelson Mandela as an icon of leadership in Africa) and an appendix – Brigadier Banjo’s Broadcast to Mid-West. Achebe claims he is writing the book for the sake of the future of Nigeria, for our children and our grandchildren. Let me then attempt a synopsis of this book.

Part 1 recounts Achebe’s early days, his education from primary school days, his secondary school experience at Umuahia, his days at Ibadan, the beginning of his literary career and his meeting with Christie Achebe, his wife. Part 1 also examines the January 1966 coup, the army, the counter-coup, the reprisals, the pogrom, the worsening tensions, attempts at peace, the failed Aburi accord, ethnic tensions, and resentment. It ends with a sub-section titled “the nightmare begins” where we learn of the creation of states by the Gowon led Federal Administration on the 27th May and the proclamation of Biafran Independence by Ojukwu on the 30th May, 1967. There is a lot of nostalgia for the good old days in some portions of part 1 and some of the sections here are teasingly brief and telegraphic, especially his meeting, courtship and marriage to Christie!

Part 2 deals with the Nigeria-Biafra war. It presents a fairly detailed account of the war, Achebe’s wartime activities and his role in the Biafran struggle. We also get to learn of his association with Chris Okigbo and the death of this great poet. Achebe’s narration of this death is so subdued. Part 2 also provides glimpses into life in Biafra, starvation, death, air raids, war casualties, Biafran ingenuity, the Ogbunigwe, the war efforts and theatres,  the role of external parties in the conflict,  the Uli airstrip, the airlift operations and a host of other details.

Part 3 narrates the economic starvation and blockade, the vicissitudes of the fighting and takes the reader through to the eventual collapse of Biafra.  It also addresses the very sensitive issues concerning the use of hunger and starvation during the war and some economic decisions taken by the federal authorities both during the war and at its end. This is the part that has caused most offense in some quarters in Nigeria and also provoked a torrent of ethnic driven and emotive responses.

Part 4 looks at Nigeria in the present and the writer’s hopes and aspirations for a renewed Nigeria shine through. The prose in each of these parts is interspersed with his poems, two of the most haunting being Refugee mother and child and the vultures!

I am Igbo, lived through the war and may therefore not be in a good position to be neutral about TWAC. But I think that Achebe has written a fine book, a book in which he makes every effort to be factual to the point of adopting what I call a flat clinically detached narrative voice in much of parts 1 and 2! One of the strengths of TWAC is the detailed historical referencing and openness to a diversity of sources! The creative writer in Achebe cedes place in major portions of parts 1 and 2 to the cold and detached historian. This is not Achebe that we know, the animated storyteller who knows how to make words come alive, dance and sing with the same virtuosity one would ascribe to Obika in his Ogbazulu obodo role. Not only does he subdue personal voice in large portions of TWAC, Achebe also succeeds fairly well in managing any biases. For instance, he does not spare either Ojukwu or Gowon in his judgments, laying the blame for the conflict on the pride and personal jousts between these two colonels. For someone who served Biafra in such elevated and personal levels to achieve this level of objectivity in a personal war memoir is commendable

In much of TWAC, what we therefore see is the subdued artist surrendering his impulses to the discipline of facts and available evidence. So great is this surrender to the demands of objective historiography that the personal comments one expects are not delivered. Rather the writer presents the views of others even when these challenge the Biafran position! This historical disciplining appears to have been lost on the writers of some reviews who have tried to fault TWAC on grounds of faulty historical methods. One reviewer even went as far as accusing Achebe of Awophobia whilst another accused him of senility! These are good glimpses of how serious minded some of our reviewers in Nigeria are! Incidentally, one also wonders whether some of these reviewers really read the book! I suspect some did not,  given the timing and content of their reviews.  But this suspicion does not in any way reduce my admiration for such gifted folks who can review a book without ever reading it! They are proof of the abundance of paranormal capacities in Nigeria!

Achebe’s voice returns from p.222 through to part 4 of TWAC. With the return of voice, the book then comes more alive. TWAC is inconvenient though useful as we grapple with nation building. It forces us to think of our past.  To move into the future on firmer footing, the present must go back and catch up with our troubled past and learn from it. We cannot deny the reality of the pogrom.  We cannot say that children did not die of hunger and starvation during the war. It is also unproductive to seek through convoluted sophistry to exonerate certain persons from the consequences of their actions or inactions. We need to confront our past, accept our mistakes and learn from them and move on.  This is the inconvenient message of TWAC, its beauty and its social utility. Truth is bitter but it heals!

Incidentally, some of the issues in TWAC had already been touched upon in part in Achebe’s earlier works notably – “The Education of a British Protected child”, “Home and Exile” and “The Trouble with Nigeria” books which overflow with wit, sarcasm, erudition, intellectual energy and boldness! Yet the reception to these books was not as hostile as the one accorded TWAC. A discerning reader noting the focus and thrusts of the hostile reactions will easily know why!

But beyond providing a history of a piece of our troubled past, TWAC, especially pp39-61, represents an important contribution to African aesthetics. It therefore extends Achebe’s thinking presented in his books “Home and Exile” and “The Education of a British protected child” on the role of literature and the artist in reclaiming the past, understanding the present and building the future. I find the notion of beneficent fiction in TWAC (p57) to represent a useful African position on the role of literature and writers in social engagement! For Achebe, the writer must be engaged as a moral obligation and must not “ally oneself with power against the powerless” or run the risk of producing “elegantly tired fiction” TWAC p.59

But TWAC is not only about criticisms, social or literary. Achebe addresses current issues including corruption and Boko Haram. He laments our cult of mediocrity which he believes is at the base of our present malaise. He argues for checks and balances to reduce the decadence, corruption and debauchery of the past several decades (p252) He argues for a strengthening of democratic institutions and for free and fair elections and looks forward to the emergence of a leader humbled by the trust people place on him/her and who is willing to use “the power given him for the good of the people?” p253. Achebe has been prophetic in the past. I hope GEJ and JEGA are listening to him. The successes of Edo and Ondo already encourage and challenge.

Noel Ihebuzor

@naitwt

 

On bathos and pathos, a reflection on the on-going boju-boju in Nigeria

By
Noel Ihebuzor
When an ever enlarging comedy has the effect of overwhelming you with sadness,
it is no longer a comedy, no matter how innately talented the actors are in the art of the comic.
When tragedy slips out of control and verges towards the ludicrous,
it loses its capacity to inspire pity.
Soon bathos and pathos will converge.
And before long, the audience finds itself unable to feel either pity or compassion.
Rather, it finds itself increasingly burdened by the weight of ineptitude on display,
and irked by the profound shallowness and triviality with which serious matters are being treated by clumsy clods.
Clumsy clods are at their most farcical when they take themselves seriously,…..
and when sick souls in pursuit of selfish agendas sequester a sick man,
putting him out of reach of his constituency and out of touch with reality,
preferring to put utterances in his mouth,
when a group of elected officials go off at public expense for empty photo shoots with the hale and hearty
and return home with excess baggage of shopping
full of hackneyed expressions,
unconscionable and empty
they also reveal the depth of their own sicknesses and their burgeoning moral bankruptcy,
their very hollownesses.
Cry, the beloved country. Cry for that country where the rich and privileged go abroad to visit the sick.
Cry, the beloved country, cry for that country because the trips of the privileged sick abroad
to seek medical care speak of the deep sickness of our health delivery system.
Cry since the sick medical system, victim of neglect by the privileged now takes its revenge
on those who supervised and benefitted from her neglect!
Pathos and bathos now reunite.

On the border of two years

By

Noel Ihebuzor

We will soon be bidding goodbye to 2016.
I am in my village in Naze. We tell ourselves in my village that this is the original Nazareth, the place where Christ was born. Nazareth! We lost the “reth” portion of the name when Ireti seceded and moved to the other side of Owerri town. “The loss is their’s”, we tell ourselves, “after all, the traces of the manger where the savior lay are still here by Umuoparaugo compound for all sinless ones to see”. Personally, I cannot remember when last I saw those traces but Naze is still Nazareth for us and will remain so.
You can now understand why we take the celebration of Xmas with a certain level of seriousness in my village — a child is born in my tiny village, and soon, the world will be at his feet and his fame will enlarge to fill the minds of most humans. So it has been celebrations “Ahoy” though rice and stew have been declining in quality and quantity lately. Last time things were this bad was in the 83/85 period.
But back to my story. All the towns around us have their own Christmas days, depending on their market days – Eke, Orie, Afo or Nkwo. On these market days, the spirits of the land come out of tiny ant holes in the ground to become huge masquerades that walk the streets of the town in question in huge beautiful dance steps. Far from us is that spirit of religious intolerance – animists, traditionalists and christians of shades and colors troop out to celebrate. Any AK 47s you see are toys that Rambo looking and aping security officials flash around as they make a mockery of the act of protecting politicians from the same persons who were supposed to have elected them. The whole thing is so childish that I find it best to see it as part of the celebrations, as a well conceived play within a play.
So, it is all celebrations, and in the process, we get up caught up by forgetfulness and the new year creeps in on us, as it is doing as I struggle to rush-write this mail where I wish to do two things – to wish you well and rejoice with you that you survived 2016 and to wish you Health, Wealth, Wisdom, Success, Love of God and neighbor, Peace, Prosperity and Progress in 2017.
2016 has not been an easy year for Nigerians – everything got “Mbuhari” – got thrown out of place and out of skew. Things fell apart, things have fallen apart and there are no indication that they will stop falling apart. Promises made to the electorate were not kept by government, the naira crashed, herdsmen became expert death squads, security forces appeared powerless to stop them, oil prices slumped, and being largely a one product economy the economy also slumped, recession, so ably described as a term in economics, hit us when our supposed experts were looking and padding found its place in our budgeting process. Instead of solutions, we toured other countries, we established dual and triple rates for naira exchange and chose the most inconvenient of moments to remind the world of what we thought of feminism in the now acclaimed and patented “za oda room” prescription. Scapegoatism, diversionary antics and finger pointing which may have been appropriate as electioneering tactics were stepped up by government to the discomfiture of its former supporters and the amusement of the scattered opposition. Surprise and arrest became a typical pattern till it turned out to very boring and repetitive to the public. Devoid of any forward looking economic policy and without a stimulus package that could halt the slide of the economy and the naira, recession dug deeper. Even the government anti-corruption flagship was badly managed and soon came to be perceived as a selective exercise and one targeted at persons with “wrong” political affiliations – those with the right political affiliations have nothing to fear. By thus being seen to be protecting its associates, the government was inadvertently giving a new breath of life to corruption and strangely enough was also crying loudest that corruption was fighting back. It found it convenient to ignore that selective targeting incentivizes corruption. Unemployment continues to rise and the promised social safety nets programmes have been slow in taking off. Government’s area of distinction appears to be in the blaming of its predecessor but the discerning public is beginning to see through this. Ditto for security. Ditto for energy, ditto for our roads where death stalks and steal souls every day and security agents sent out to protect the traveler look for every excuse to extort money from you. Protectors and providers have now turned exploiters and expropriators. Some state governments went one step further to creatively deepen kleptocracy by stealing the pensions of retired teachers. In 2016, Nigeria was not country for old men.
On the foreign scene, human ability to create, watch and report suffering and cruelty continues to outpace our capacity to build peace and be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. Religious and sectarian intolerance rose and intercultural dialogue/harmony appear to be expressions coined by passing martians on a short visit to planet earth. As I write, horrific and horrible images and footages from the wars in Iraq and Syria harass my mind, pictures of cruelty and devastating destructions are all around for us to see. Africans, Arabs, Asians and even Europeans “invaded” portions of Europe – initially, they came by sea, and then they swarmed overland. The “jungles of Calais”, in the end, are merely a visible projection of the inner jungle in the human heart. We have managed to outdo Kurtz, Joseph Conrad’s anti-hero in our propensity for savagery and imbecility. Short-termist economist thinking is being fanned and is desiccating human capacity for empathy. Populists and right wing politicians and demagogues in Europe and America have latched unto people’s fears of an imagined demographic make over to push xenophobia and exaggerated accusations as the best vote catching strategies. The American elections showed indeed that America remains the land of opportunities and that locker room talk does not dent any opportunity. I refuse to tear any green card or to eat my hat but the results shook me up completely. I am still struggling to work out how this magic was worked, how the polls could have been so wrong and how so many women – educated, middle class, non-educated etc could have voted the way they did. Over time, someone will come up with a study that could reveal the effect of those results on the feminist position and feminist consensus – for the moment, all appears allowed – bum pitching, groping and locker room talk for some persons!
Slowly 2016 limps out and 2017 walks in.
Looking forward to meeting you all on the other side of the new year, and soon, insha allah.

Random Tweets on a random day

by

Noel Ihebuzor

 

On my way back from Lagos this morning, I ran into a friend who 20 months ago used to swear by GMB. Today, he was swearing at the man! TIME!

Disillusionment – “when you find yourself now beginning to swear AT the person you used to swear BY a few month’s ago”

Mental liberation – when the scales fall off your eyes and you begin to see clearly again, free from the manipulation of “influencers”

The arrogance of the ignorant is baffling, the ignorance of the arrogant more so, and the arrogance of the ignorant arrogant most so!

The tragedy of Nigeria is that she has always had elected persons who put the pursuit of personal interests ahead of institution building.

Bad leadership is characterized by excessive short-termism in vision and thinking.

Bad leadership is characterized by ignorance, arrogance and an unwillingness to recognize and remedy its fundamental ignorance!

Blaming one’s predecessor for one’s vision & strategic leadership failures is the best admission of & the lamest excuse for incompetence.

Best way a non-performer can hold on to power? Use the instruments of state power to intimidate and scatter potential opponents!

Does he/she seeking elected office possess functional competences in Economics & Public Policy? Does he/she believe in lifelong learning? Question for 2019!

Hazy vision and hazy selection

by

Noel Ihebuzor

 

What you saw

 

You say you saw

patterns heave and dance

you say you saw them

Weave and leave

No one else says they saw

what you say you saw

just you, with your diamond

periwinkle eyes

at the three quarter corner of night

when straggler angels

flee the light of the returning day

Yours was a vision

Filled with emptiness

Where bleached blankness

Empties all other visions

 

New Jungles

 

The jungle always,

half dormant

wakes up and a new day

dawns, slowly

Sounds soon crowd out silence

prophets see dimly

but their rising voices

Soon outdo agberos

 

In this space,

a life is worth

three and one third sparrows

 

In this place,

men combine religion and region

creed with breed in the service

of a contest fuelled need

their sordid deeds

sustained by their greed

 

Locked in their frenzied contest

the wrestlers have locked out sense

decency lies in locks

 

the present overwhelms the past

drowns the future

and yesterday’s smiles stare

stir and startle  in today’s tired sheets

 

Uncertain saints

Self beatify, uncertain of outcomes

as uncertified foul odor

floods the present

 

The stench overwhelms the air

that was pregnant with a hope

nourished by dope

 

stunted elves dance and sway

waving a medley of signs and symbols

crescent, cross and stars

and I sensed I heard the moon howl

 

Predators now prance like Simba

the lion king

the story teller casts

his charmed beads around legs, heads

hips, feet and heels held by hope

but fettered by dope

Avoiding corrupting practices in anti-corruption campaigns

by

Noel Ihebuzor

Anti-corruption rhetoric and dramatics are now very popular in Nigeria. I totally support campaigns to rid this country of corruption but I also insist that such campaigns must carried with the right level of professionalism, detachment, neutrality, integrity and honesty. Anything short of these is plain dishonest. Anything short of these really amounts to the continued enthronement and celebration of corruption in efforts to combat it. where anti-corruption are not neutral, detached and honest, then they are likely to abuse their powers and influences, applying inconsistent rules and procedures in their treatment of persons and agencies. Double standards also represent critical threats to anti-corruption campaigns as they throw up different evaluations and reactions for the same behaviour. Such practices, where they occur, amount to corruption!

Here are a few reflections on this subject matter.

  • Double standards are outcomes of corrupt thinking. A nation of double standards will thus remain corrupt.
  • You cannot have one set of scales for persons in one party & another for persons in the other. Such a habit results from a corrupt mind set.
  • If you practice selective hysteria for allegations of corruption against persons in one party, then your mind is gradually being corrupted.
  • If you practice selective targeting in your campaigns against corruption, then your campaign is already steeped in corruption.
  • Anti-corruption practices must be fair. They must be conducted without any trace of favoritism or fear. Fail to do these and the campaign fails
  • To be credible, anti-corruptions must be consistent, even handed and transparent. They must be devoid of all forms of double standards.