*“Purging Racism, The Enemy Within”, An Analysis.
By Philip Probity & Ahmed Mohh M.
March 21 is the UN International Day for Elimination of Racism reminding us of our collective responsibility for promoting and protecting these ideals. Many of us Africans have chosen to study and work in India. Delhi is always a magnet being a capital city: it is known that the best education can be obtained here. We came to India not just for education, but also enlightenment! We remain particularly disturbed by racist taunts and harassment we experience. Certainly in the wake of recent attacks we feel disrespected and unsafe. So much of Africa was colonised mainly by the British who divided and exploit us as was India. We have so much in common: such experiences of racism deeply offend anger, upset and sadden us. Why is this happening and are there any solutions to these problems? We spoke with Dr Kusum Gopal in whose diverse expertise includes redressing race and ethnic tensions in the Indian subcontinent, south-east Asia, northern Europe, East and West Africa and the MENA region.
Question: Why is there so much racism directed specifically against Africans in India?
These attacks on Africans happen in groups and no one does anything! Please explain. Racism remains an extremely alarming phenomena – and many non Europeans have been at its receiving end since colonialism came into being over five centuries ago defining attitudes of acceptance, of rejection, with the fabrications of superior versus the inferior races. We must recall Eric Williams, the former Prime Minister of Jamaica who noted that racism was born out of slavery and not the other way around!
Before understanding the basis of racism as we reflect on the pernicious colonial legacy which continues to operate with impunity, we in India as indeed those Indians abroad need also to acknowledge, to reflect and to address publicly and privately, the ‘colonisation of our conscience’ as an anthropologist has perceptively described it; the mental paralysis and ignorance we remain submerged in is affecting detrimentally our value judgements, ethics, indeed, our aesthetics, sixty-seven years after we gained Independence. We are yet to acknowledge or recognise that it is such an entrenched malaise punishing specifically not just Africans but also Indians. Of course I am not stating that racism against Africans can be put on the same platform as racism against Indians, but it can be understood better within such a context. It is evident just watching the billboards advertising various products, or attending fashion shows, the IPL --- events that are happening in the public arena at the national level, in all instances, white-skinned European models are preferred to Indian models in India! Ironically, Indians are regarded, even envied as extremely beautiful people and those who have won Miss World/Miss Universe titles are mainly dark-skinned women. Yet many Indian film actors continue to be painted white on the big and small screens looking rather unattractive, lifeless, indeed, pasty faced: all images are being doctored deliberately. There is a serious need to advocate the “Black is beautiful” slogans which grew from the tormenting experience of African Americans to educate people here, indeed, to state unequivocally that or “all shades of black/brown are to die for”.
You may have read reports on the sexual violence against women, girls and boys, most recently racism against the teenager who was brutally murdered, Nido Tanian. You may have also seen the obnoxious fair and lovely advertisements on T.V by various cosmetic companies which are endorsed by misguided celebrities who are causing such harm poisoning minds advocating that those with lighter skin are beautiful, they are role models to aspire to making viewers feel inadequate, lacking and inferior! Some girls and women bleach their faces indeed as also men in a bid to lighten their natural skin tones with chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, ammonia and so forth. It is absurd for us living as we do now in independent India, to allow, indeed, even to accept that being light skinned is to be beautiful while 99% of the population are deemed inferior or ugly. Needless to say, these advertisements are nauseating in the extreme and should be banned. Our government and institutions need to step in immediately to expunge the rot within! We must address collectively as a people our instinctive self-loathing and how it has consequences on questions of ethics, on aesthetics which disinherits and disenfranchises us.
Attacking in groups –lynching --is criminal, and also an act of cowardice, a menacing experience indeed! It is not that nothing is happening. Legal action is happening albeit at a rather slow pace which is because there is, distressingly, such a deep divide as far as accountability goes between the formal law and informal laws with concealed power structures that operate all over the countries of the Subcontinent, indeed beyond as you must know only too well.
Bear in mind also that racism has taken many forms – in China, sharp differentiation exists of Han versus Hakka; the Uyghurs feel severely marginalised, indeed, many non Chinese origin people are being denied citizenship in Hong Kong; some forced to emigrate. Similarly, WASP dominance in north America and western Europe in governance and finance; it was not so long ago when those of Jewish origin were demonised and persecuted on the basis of their faith in their lands, it is still happening today Palestine, Central African Republic, Sudan being just a few examples. Indeed, while all expressions of racism are deeply disturbing and simply unacceptable, resolutions are possible.
Question: What are the official definitions of racism?
The tenets of UN Charters such as the famous Universal Declaration of Human Rights against racism are very clear. The first article affirms that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." The term "racial discrimination" as defined by Article 10 is: “any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.” Since then, there have been the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in 2001, the international community's efforts to prevent, combat and eradicate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the UN Charter of 2010. India is one of the signatories of the Declaration. It is against the Indian Constitution to discriminate against any human being on grounds of religion, colour, creed, language, race or sex. And, these are deemed criminal offences punishable by law. It is indeed, quite deplorable... we urgently need to address also concomitant crimes against lower-castes as indeed the alarming frequency of recurring widespread sexual violence against women, girls as also, less reported rapes and related forms of aggression against boys and men. Indeed, let us remind ourselves: “that United Nations has condemned colonialism and all practices of segregation and discrimination associated therewith,” in particular, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples proclaimed in particular the necessity of bringing colonialism to a speedy and unconditional end. Further, the Declaration of Human Rights and UNESCO Declarations which clearly state, that any doctrine of racial differentiation or superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and that there is no justification for racial discrimination either in theory or in practice. All propaganda and organizations based on ideas or theories of the superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin with a view to justifying or promoting racial discrimination in any form shall be severely condemned. Further, that all incitement to or acts of violence, whether by individuals or organizations against any race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic origin shall be considered an offence against society and punishable under law.
Question: Also, what about caste from which people could not escape? Is that also not racist?
Yes, caste is discriminatory as it exists today- but that is also changing. It is important to recognise that we need to re-examine all the philological scholarship of colonial administrators beginning with William Jones – mainly, to re-evaluate once again this vast corpus of literature that came to be codified by the Black Letter Law. While excellent critiques exist, and such erudition has been published, academics have been remiss, indeed deeply careless in not making available such findings to the public as also, indeed the government and its institutions. As I have stated elsewhere, Caste is known to have been derived from Manusmriti or Manu Dharma Sastra, a segment of the richly diverse Indian philosophical systems. The Manusmriti is not a legal code, but a darshana or interpretation of philosophic systems: all ancient philosophical systems in India are known as darsanas, meaning, calling insights or points of view. None of the darsanas -- almost 3000 verses codify cosmogony; four ashramas, government, domestic affairs, caste and morality are binding. In the etymology of Indian words, Manusmriti has come to be erroneously interpreted during the colonial period as the unchangeable Laws of Manu. Eminent Sanskrit scholars do not accept the translation of smriti as ‘laws’. Smritis are remembered knowledge of the sages, derived from shrutis or divine revelations and thus are not binding. The philosophical and lexical richness of the darsanas needs to be interpreted within the cultural context of Sanskrit.Under colonial rule, for the first time, through random physical measurements, classification and separation of the subject populations using anthropometry, skin colour, racial classifications, and, creation of ethnic identities occurred. H H Risley, an influential administrator for example whom we discussed earlier, ludicrously determined that, “the social position of the caste varies inversely as the nasal index”, that, caste status was fixed, unchangeable; nearly all native practices and customs were reinterpreted distorting indigenous understandings and legislated customary ways of being out of existence. The colonial system supplemented its own formal institutions by manipulating these indigenous social networks in producing and reproducing social and political identities-- for ordinary people such official social identities ultimately determined their fate, and they were forced by circumstance into relying upon those identities.
It is now clear from authoritative research that although one was born into a caste, his or her caste status was not fixed; one could change and did change caste and intermarriage was rife. With the movements of people, occupations and social relationships were always in a state of flux. For example, under the Turko-Afghans, the Mughals, groups of people who came to be known as the Kayasths became the backbone of the administration married into the Pathans, Turks and other groups of people or, the Banjaras who are now reduced to poverty, were once very influential and wealthy traders - salt carriers of the Mughals. Prior to the British all those who came to Indian subcontinent had intermarried, integrated and, accepted the people as they were accepted by them. This is why colonialism was markedly different from previous empires and governance- it emphasised differences and created separatism on basis of race and religion. For nearly two hundred years, the formal codification of differences among peoples their religions, racial/ caste discrimination, separatist movements of language purification led to the Partitions.
Question: Could you describe further the “pernicious colonial legacy”?
In Nigeria, Central Africa as in many parts of Africa, this has of course led to some severe tensions. We know that race constructions or tribe constructions did not originate from the existence of 'races' or tribes. It was created through European colonialism which institutionalised processes of social division into arbitrary categories fixing racial profiles independent of people’s somatic, cultural, religious belief systems. Applying the Stammbäume(charting family trees) model (not as used by Darwin) to grade levels, how superior to inferior races were governed by selection, regardless of historical evidence, reciprocal influences between scientific thought and species discusses how orders and levels came to represent an ascending staircase of social-cultural evolution, all non Europeans natives occupying the lowest rungs graded by skin colour. Certainly this ludicrous evolutionary scheme has been discarded since ---the entire race grading of people is indeed, unscientific and fallacious. We have to reject outright colonial anthropometry ---the cephalic index, the bigonial diameter, the bizygomatic diameter as indeed, all the rest. At any rate, there has always been so much interbreeding between human populations that it would be meaningless to talk of fixed boundaries between races in most parts of the world. Also, the distribution of hereditary physical traits does not follow clear boundaries. In other words, there is often greater variation within a "racial" group than there is systematic variation between two groups. Institutionalising such thinking has led to the hardening of inward-looking attitudes which formed the basis of classifications leading to continuous wrangling, and prejudice.
With reference to the regions under discussion: let us first pluck at, and engage with the pre-colonial oral and literary traditions of the great African continent and those of the Subcontinent, the “ways of seeing”, that evolved naturally over millennia. We are aware that in Africa from the exemplary scholarship and observations by Mudimbe, Bourdieu and Fabian among others on the enduring weight of colonial libraries and its tenacious grip. In most parts of Africa, as I have said elsewhere, there was no indigenous concept of race, colour, tribe or people other than identification based on dialects, language and attire as people intermarried more frequently than acknowledged contributing to the natural history of the human race, one of its distinguishing features. As a geneticist has noted, the scientific rejection of taxonomy... far from splitting up into subspecies which would be definitely adapted to the particular environment in which they had settled, and would differ from each other all the more for being genetically isolated (a frequent occurrence in animal species), the human race is composed of populations whose inheritances are being continually modified by gene exchanges.” Social interactions between individuals and within communities of people did not recognise tribe, but rather, strangers identified each other as belonging to clans’ mbeyu and not, their tribe, kabila-- the case in east Africa for example. Similarly, the was the case of the Indian subcontinent whose ancient cultures are renowned for their immanent traditions. Integral to open–frontier traditions has been acceptance to forge voluntarily kinship relations between different groups and individuals through formal adoption of one by the other mainly by the offer of sanctuary, intermarriage, offer of material goods, of land made explicit through sophisticated ceremonial rituals of mutual exchange and reciprocity.
Ethnicity is wrongly interpreted using colonial and Euro-American terms of reference needs to be qualified within the context of the history and syncretism of this region, In the Indian subcontinent, H.H Risley in 1910 an influential Utilitarian, colonial administrator developed an official typology of racial types formulating grades in caste defined by the proportion of ‘Aryan’ blood and the nasal index, along a gradient from the highest castes to the lowest- the classic evolutionary model from which ‘modern’ classification, basis of race developed. He absurdly determined, "the social position of a caste varies inversely as its nasal index measuring the definition of a community as either a tribe or a Hindu caste or a Muslim,” when we know that Hindus Muslims, Sikhs Buddhists and others in the Subcontinent are peoples who cannot be separated thus: such flawed thinking must be debunked. Indeed, in biological terms, our physical and mental development as human beings are a result of our heredities, our environments, a consequence of millennia of inter-breeding, inheritances being continually modified by gene exchanges as different peoples intermarried with migrant human populations, repeated episodes of territorial expansion and shrinkage, and frequent cross-breeding, a testimony to the millennial cultures that stretched from Tibet – to Kanyakumari and from Afghanistan to Burma. Even today those who think they are of Aryan descent or Dravidian, indeed any other category need to re-educate themselves. The terms to describe races 'Aryan', 'Dravidian' and so forth have been proven to be gravely erroneous. As the eminent historian Romila Thapar had observed that we do not know what the Aryans looked like and certainly these Aryan speaking peoples had intermarried with other peoples in their migrations for several hundred centuries. Similarly the term ‘Dravidian’ conjured by a British linguist Henry Caldwell is inaccurate in its usage. There are no Aryans or Dravidian people, and racial divides in scales are unscientific, arbitrary fixtures. Intermarriage and integration has been way of life for millennia. The proof is in the pudding: that phonology, syntax, vocabulary, cuisines, music, dance, indeed, all forms of human expression have integrated in the Indian subcontinent for millennia as various peoples settled embracing these timeless syncretic traditions until the advent of European colonialism.
Disturbing as it is official administrative knowledge of human diversity remains influenced by these descriptions written some over four centuries ago under the aegis of European colonial regimes around the world. Images of origin and purity helped most practically to justify efforts to describe and propagate divisiveness, territorially distinct races; politics of society was determined by the politics of knowledge expressed through race. Obsession with ‘purity’ was embedded in European colonial cultures. In Spain for example, in this important book, Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina, by Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan poet and journalist describes the intricate hierarchy measured by sangre azul or blue blood. Paintings by the Old Masters sometimes reveal how a nobleman demonstrated his pedigree by holding up his sword arm to display the filigree of blue-blooded veins beneath his pale skin as a testimony that his birth had not been contaminated by the dark-skinned enemy. Sangre azul became a euphemism for being a white man—the limpieza de sangre doctrine was also very common in the colonization of the Americas. It led to the invention of a rather intricate taxonomic list to describe one's precise race and, by consequence, one's place in society. It included, among others terms, Mestizo (50% Spaniard and 50% Native American), Castizo (75% European and 25% Native American), Spaniard (87.5% European and 12.5% Native American), Mulatto (50% European and 50% African),Albarazado (43.75% Native American, 29.6875% European, and 26.5625% African), and so forth. This is just one example; there exist other classifications peculiar to each colonial power. Thus, extraneously, instituted values equated with the ought, to, the norm or the moral came to be separated from how colonised peoples defined their own identities. I remain of the firm opinion that the term race must be done away with immediately: it has been proved to be unscientific, and is most certainly extraneous to the cultures of the Subcontinent (as indeed, east and west Africa): there has been everywhere so much interbreeding among human populations that fortuitously, there is no such thing as a pure race anywhere in the world.
Question: What can we do to spread academic knowledge?
You know that scientific racism was popularised by prejudices and rather poor methods but they came to prevail. For example, a doctoral student at Cambridge has recently highlighted one such work-- Samuel G Morton’s Crania Americana which divided humankind into five categories based on anthropometry was influential in Europe and north America, possible that H.H. Risley the colonial administrator also used these methods, What is immeasurably worrying are not these works, note how celebrities are causing great harm –take for example, Dancia, the extremely popular Nigerian/Cameroonian singer who is marketing a cream called ‘whitenicious’ which she has patented – she stated in an interview that “white means pure” – she always appears several shades lighter with bleached hair. Thus many of her female fans have already started using it – This is also the case in Thailand and the Philippines where such creams containing extremely harmful chemicals are being used. Essentially the message being – one must be ashamed of one’s colour if it is not white: let us not push these unpalatable truths under the carpet. It is thus critical at this juncture for us to address racism at home before we can combat racism outside – and here all forms of discrimination must be brought to the fore and discussed,
Question: How can we change these ‘entrenched ‘attitudes? Is that possible?
Just criminalising racism will not eradicate it; indeed, it could even have the opposite effect. We know from experience that it is no use ignoring the values ascribed to race in the hope that people will stop thinking in racial terms and therefore the problems will solve itself gradually. In the US and UK, many European countries have actively set up committees and institutions to educate people. The Thirteenth Amendment in US Constitution abolished slavery in 1865 and yet it has taken almost 150 years for them to elect a black American President. One should not aim just for political correctness but education of the mind and the spirit, humanistic understandings deepening from within.
However, knowledge of the truth does not always help change knee-jerk reactions or emotional thoughts that draw their real strength from the subconscious or from happenings beside the real issue. But it could however, prevent validations of criminal acts or behaviour prompted by feelings which men and women cannot easily express openly. To regulate conflicts of this kind governmental and institutional intervention is essential. The longer it is postponed, the more harm it is likely to cause and we must act with immediacy.
We have to begin with dissemination of knowledge with dialogues. Dialogues must be registered as conversations between equals and, from that, interactions between parties concerned must be based on mutual hospitality, empathy and, some humility- after all only understanding can ensure any form of progress. There are so many practical strategies and measures that would be able to be put into effect once these processes are initiated and this can happen in concurrence with education without walls, discussions in the parliament, legislative assemblies, panchayats, communities, shops, markets, clubs, and places of religious worship, schools, universities and beyond. Thirdly, there is the worrying ignorance of our histories and cultures in schools: we need to acknowledge the dire need for reforming the education system, in particular through the detailed examination and revision of the school textbooks. Critically, to learn about and emphasise the syncretic cultures that enveloped the Subcontinent for millennia which encouraged rich cultures of tolerance allowing diverse peoples to intermarry, integrate and philosophies of being to co-exist! In doing so, there is a need to deconstruct the logic of prejudices that are detrimental to mutual understanding - and this can be done through scientific, philosophical and literary anthologies and writings, ethnographic studies- that take into account oral traditions. Another method is the media-- through education, and by films, negative images of others, religious intolerance, incitement of hatred, violence and contempt for one other could be removed. Teachers must be trained as they are the educators and they must not only transmit knowledge but also comment critically on the transmitted knowledge and its content. Cultural diversity is integral to these regions and has always been. It is important to recognise that personal identities are intimately linked with political processes and that social identities are not given once and for all, but are negotiated over. Thus, we urgently need to legislate and discuss areas where we can co-operate and improve our lives and those of others.
Question: You emphasise culture and can you explain its role as the critical point of entry?
To conclude, we must work with the understanding that human beings are always in culture and it would be a good idea to study and respect specific cultural mores wherever one resides. Equally important is to engage with experts in their culture as they can play a key role in increasing mutual understanding and eliminating prejudices in their own culture and, in those which they study. Each culture needs to build up an understanding on the basis of its own specific characteristics -positive life experiences in inter-cultural contexts within the region as a start working towards mutual interdependence and conviviality. Perhaps, the best method would be that all foreigners, regardless of origin, be allowed to attend free classes on cultural education and some language arranged for by the embassies in each country to learn what locals are sensitive to, for example, to know beforehand before going to Japan that that Japanese abhor those who blow their noses in public, or in Thailand the monarch is equated to the divine and, hence above all criticism, or that in the Indian Subcontinent, in most parts, women must not be stared at, approached or talked to by strangers/ men without prior introduction as it can be construed as predatory sexual behaviour. There are extremely powerful humanist shared oral traditions and belief systems that can be relied upon in Africa as in India: we urgently need for these traditions to be resuscitated over and above all that has happened and, brought to the forefront of dialogues which need to begin through voluntary efforts. It is only by acknowledging mutual interdependence and similarities can foundations be laid. And, we need to draw on the inherent strengths of our cultures and traditions in these regions. We can consequently forge avenues for co-operation, by learning languages; set up industries, health and education programmes together addressing pressing needs for guaranteeing security of livelihood that will ensure dignity of personhood for every citizen in these regions, indeed beyond.
Thank you very much Dr Kusum Gopal.
*What Is The Matter With Sowore And Saharareporters Sef?
By Temisan Jackson
After an endless series of unprofessional reporting and no sign of willingness to change for the better, some of us have profiled Saharareporters as chief among those online media that were set up to enrich the pockets of their founders through blackmail-and-settlement reportage and Machiavellian journalism.
Indeed our submission has been proven true times and over, the most recent being the story of a seating governor in Nigeria who decided to appropriate a state co-owned oil and gas venture to himself and would stop at nothing to eliminate those standing in his way. A New York-based news medium reportedly got a whiff of the story and went public with it, only for the story to be yanked off the site some days later after the governor concerned had played ball.
We monitor some of these developments and we know the media that are really above board and those that are merely pretending to be. And, inasmuch as Saharareporters has been categorised as a medium not worth the ideals it posts on its homepage, some of us cannot still help being alarmed whenever we get to know about the editorial faux pas that Saharareporters shamelessly owns on behalf of its so-called paymasters. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Mr. Omoyele Sowore, Publisher Saharareporters
The latest of such dark reportage is Sowore’s caption of the last senate hearing on the missing NNPC money. With a screaming headline, Saharareporters screams: “Sanusi Insists $20b Is Missing, Okonjo-Iweala Unable To Prove How $10.8b Was Spent”
Now, Saharareporters’ hatred for Okonjo-Iweala is well documented, and no one should begrudge Sowore his freedom of grudge. But to be using a medium that is meant for public good to settle personal scores by blatantly misinforming the citizens and inciting them against this woman is totally unethical and unacceptable.
Below are the headlines of some other news media on the same story:
The contrast between Sowore’s headline and those of credible news sites is too obvious, and an attestation to blackmail, mischief and a damaging slant against Okonjo-Iweala.
Now reading the story, Saharareporters claimed that it culled the meat of its report from the blog that Premium Times published. But for a medium that was not at the hearing, its reportage was unashamedly biased and slanted to suit the agenda of its sponsors. Here are some excerpts:
“Day Two of the investigative hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance into the alleged missing $20 billion oil money has concluded in Abuja, with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, insisting the money is missing according to a live blogging of the hearing by Premium Times of Nigeria.”
“Testifying earlier, Okonjo-Iweala aligned herself with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the NNPC, despite declaring her Ministry lacked the capacity to validate the claims contained in NNPC documents from the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) showing how the initial outstanding $10.8 billion was spent...”
“SaharaReporters gathered that representatives of the Ministry of Finance and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had agreed to present a united from today at the Senate claiming that the ministry was "satisfied" with the NNPC explanations regarding the missing funds. However, they could not carry out the plan as CBN officials refused to sign the agreement…”
“President Jonathan, the Finance minister, Okonjo-Iweala and the Petroleum Resources minister, Alison-Madueke , who rushed back from London yesterday, have reportedly resolved to prolong the investigations by bringing in forensic expert pending the time the CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi could be completely sidelined.”
Again, for a medium that was not at the hearing, where did Sowore and its Saharareporters got their misleading information from? Who is their source? Why turn the whole proceeding around and make it look as if the hearing was all about Okonjo-Iweala and not an altercation between the NNPC and CBN? Why portrayed Okonjo-Iweala as the corrupt one who could not account for the missing $10 billion? Whose script is Saharareporters reading from? Who are the people paying Sowore to trumpet everything evil about Okonjo-Iweala? Why attempting to mislead the reading public by painting the finance minister black right from the headline to the last sentence of its obviously fabricated report?
In my opinion, I think the finance minister has a very good ground to drag Saharareporters to court based on some of the unsubstantiated excerpts in and general slant of this report. I will be surprised if madam minister does not explore this option, as it will at least expose Sowore for the sham that he is, if it does not hush him.
Shame on you, Omoyele Sowore.
Loads of shame on Saharareporters.
I’m now on your case, so watch out for more exposition.
Attn: This article is sent to Saharareporters as well. And it will be interesting to see if Sowore, who has a hobby for publishing negatives about other people, will have the gut to publish the reflection of someone else about his own person.
Temisan Jackson, a communication consultant and current affair analyst, writes from Warri, Delta State.
*Released List of The National Conference Delegates: Our Unbiased Position
(Onitsha Nigeria, 7th day of March 2014)-The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety has perused the released list of 492 delegates to the National Conference and insisted that the four CSO slots for the Southeast geopolitical zone were hijacked by Abuja and Lagos based CSO activists. That out of the four names: Olisa Agbakoba (Lagos based), Ibuchukwu Ezike (Lagos based), Festus Okoye (Kaduna based) and Ezenwa Nwangwu (Abuja based), drawn from the zone, none is residing and operating in the zone, is a clear case in point. This is a gross injustice to groups and individuals working tirelessly and in risk environment on human rights and pro-democracy advancement in the zone. No activists understand the social, economic, cultural and political challenges in the Southeast zone than those resident and working in the zone. The zone is also the most dangerous environment to work on in matters of advancement of human rights and democracy, which is one of the major reasons why our brothers and sisters in diasporan activism ran away and abandoned it to decay and degrade.
That our brothers and sisters in diaspora found their names in the delegates’ list cannot stop us from saying what is obviously indisputable. From the facts on the ground, most of the 24 names included in the delegates’ list by Federal Government, especially four picked on behalf of Southeast CSO, are a product of “Abuja connection”. This is because the names were randomly picked in an Abuja meeting without consulting groups and their leaders in zones where the names originate by birth or ancestry and forwarded to the Federal Government, using “Abuja connection” to secure its entry and acceptance. The import of our grievances is not disallowing us to participate in the Conference, but to let the whole world know how the sedentary CSOs in the Southeast geopolitical zone were short-changed. The mass boycott by mainstream sedentary CSOs of the Southeast zone of “medicine-after-death” meetings being called in Enugu by some architects of the “Abuja connection” list is a clear case in point. Our message is loud and clear! If our brothers and sisters, who tagged themselves “senior comrades” cannot incorporate “think home” philosophy in their line of rights and pro-democracy activism, then the idea of running like a failed trailer back to their zone of birth or ancestry after being rejected and humiliated by their host and beneficiary zone(s), to hijack the slots meant for those residing and operating in the zone, must no longer be muted, hatched and accepted. .
Other than the foregoing, we wish to observe that the Conference Delegates’ list did not fairly capture all the grassroots entities, which affairs are the major reasons why the Conference is being organized. A National Conference is not an exclusive property of the vocal groups or intellectual clubs. The jobless people in Nigeria are in tens of millions. Unemployed graduates alone are over 30 million and they cannot be said to be represented by “the National Youth Council of Nigeria”, which is purely a pressure group or a group of “privileged youth club”. These millions of the unemployed people are not unknown. They are visibly everywhere and in some States, they have associations, especially the skilled ones. .
Also, artisans and traders constitute over 70% percent of self-employed citizens in Nigeria. On daily basis, they fall victim in the course of their legitimate businesses to overzealous and tainted officers of Custom & Excise, Nigeria Police Force, government extortionist entities and criminal gangs. They also fall victim to hash government policies including epileptic power supplies and issuance of obnoxious utility bills. Crime victims have no place in Nigeria. The unemployed graduates and youths do not have access to monthly allowances as done in other climes. A National Conference predicated on elitism such as the one under reference, will continue to enrich 17,500 politically privileged Nigerians through continued allocation of over 70% of national wealth to service them annually, while the remaining 170 million Nigerians including tens of millions of unemployed citizens will continue to wallow in individual and collective poverty. These people deserve a representation at a National Conference. As a matter of fact, a National Conference involves discussing the affairs of “the good”, “the bad” and “the ugly” and if it is possible to involve armed robbers and commercial sex workers’ representatives, so be it! After all, such a Conference carries with it an immunity fathered by “the Doctrine of Necessity”, which itself fathered a National Conference. .
Lastly, we urge all the delegates to the National Conference to fully discuss major problems afflicting Nigeria and Nigerians without fear or favour. The Federal Government’s pronouncement to the effect that “the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable at the Conference” is a monumental contradiction because if the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable, then why the National Conference? Such a pronouncement, tagged “no-go area”, should be seen as “a mere policy statement that has no binding and criminal sanction effects”. It is a truism that the unity of Nigeria is shaky and the ground import of the Conference “is to discuss whether to live together or live apart as a country”. .
Using the introduction of “Criminal Code” (semblance of cannon law) for Southern Nigeria and “Penal Code” (semblance of Islamic law) for Northern Nigeria as an example, Nigerian Federalism or Con-federalism concept must be structured in the like manner at the Conference by taking into account the country’s divergent domesticated socio-cultural contents. If it is a federalism concept predicated on six geopolitical zones and statism that will be adopted, for instance then the present number of States must be altered to ensure equal number for all the zones. The number of LGAs should also be restructured in a like manner or the 776 LGAs removed from the Constitution and returned to States’ control. The best way to define and adopt federalism, suitable for a social clime, is to congregate all its social entities through genuine representation and reconstruct one with local contents. To such a clime, that is the best federalism. .
If it is confederation, then all the six geopolitical zones must be restructured along ethno-religious lines and a provision made for secession at freewill. In such boundary restructuring, for instance, Igbo-Delta and Igbo-Rivers should be carved out to join Southeast. Igala part of Anambra should be carved out to join their parents in Kogi. Kwara State should join Oyo State and others in Southwest. Taraba, Adamawa and Southern Kaduna should be merged with old Middle Belt or North-central zone (Nigeria). Such a confederation concept defined and adopted under the circumstances foregoing, remains the best for the adopting social clime. Even if the Conference adopts federalism, there will still be need for thorough boundary adjustments along ethno-religious lines. The Presidency of the country should be rotated among the six geopolitical Nigeria on agreed single term. .
We also wish to congratulate our dear friends, Dr. Josephine Obiajulu Odumakin and Femi Falana, SAN, for making the Conference Delegates’ list. Their inclusion gladdens our heart because it is meritorious and a merit award resemblance.
Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma, Head, Publicity Desk
*Southeast CSO Delegation To The National Confab: Putting The Records Straight
CSO Delegation To National Confab & The Issue Of Southeast Representation: Putting The Records Straight
(Onitsha Nigeria, 3rd day of March, 2014)-The events of past weeks as they concern which CSO leaders will represent the Southeast geopolitical zone at the proposed National Conference have continued to generate varying interests and confusions, warranting submissions of different list of delegates to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). For records, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are globally understood to be social groups that are not classified as “governmental and business enterprises”. In USA, they are called “non-profits/not-for-profits”, which include churches, community based organizations, youth organizations and career associations. But in Nigeria, CSOs are generally seen, especially by policy makers/ government operators as “groups advocating for and promoting democracy, good governance and human rights”.
This explains why the 24 slots allocated to Nigerian CSOs for the proposed confab on the basis of four slots per geopolitical zone, are generally seen as “slots for pro-democracy, good governance and human rights community”. It is very important to point out that the Federal Government of Nigeria has the final say on which CSO leader should be on the final list to be made public soonest. The differing interests and confusions over the CSO list of delegates started about two months ago, when some CSO leaders domiciled in Lagos and Abuja, met in Abuja and produced a list containing 24 CSO leaders and caused it to be forwarded to the office of the SGF as “list of CSO leaders” meant for the confab (see Daily Trust of 28/02/2014). As expected, no CSO leadership operating and domiciling in the Southeast geopolitical zone was put in the know.
According to Mr. Ezenwa Nwagwu and Jaye Gaskia, who convened the Abuja meeting, those nominated are “Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Chima Amadi, Chido Onumah, Isaac Osuoka, Ezenwa Nwagwu, Samson Itodo, Ayelebola Babatunde, Faith Nwadishi, Nnimmo Bassey, Ayo Obe, Jaye Gaskia, Olarenwaju Suraj, Uju Agomuo, Steve Aluko, Olisa Agbakoba, Nasser Kura, Y.Z. Yau, Dudu Paloma, Ngozi Obiorah, Abiola Akiode, Tor Yorapu, Ms. Ene Ede, Ms. Idayat Hassan and Jibo Ibrahim. The list of delegates produced by the above group is tagged: “preferred list”. Funny enough, none of the names contained therein, supposedly meant for the Southeast zone, is known to reside and operate in the zone. Out of 365 days in a year, none of them spends 30 days in all in the zone. Some, if not many of them do not know how many LGA or autonomous communities that exist in their States of birth, not to talk of speaking Igbo language fluently; yet they want to represent their zone of birth or ancestry at the National Confab.
Sensing possible hijack of the CSO slots, particularly the four slots meant for the Southeast geopolitical zone, a coalition of rights and pro-democracy groups working and domiciling in the Zone met in Enugu on 7th of February, 2014 and deliberated on the issue and resolved to elect four delegates from the zone to the confab with a strong message that those that will fill the four CSO slots for the zone must be operating and residing in the Southeast zone. Four rights and pro-democracy activists with track records of activities in the zone, who also reside in the zone, were elected. They are: Zulu Offolue for Abia State. He holds two master’s degrees in philosophy (edu.) and economics and chairs CLO, Enugu State Branch. He is also the current Secretary General of the United Action for Democracy in Nigeria.
Emeka Umeagbalasi for Anambra State. He holds bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Security Studies and served variously as chairman and vice chairman of CLO, Anambra State and Southeast zone. He is an alumnus of the US State Department’s International Visitors’ Leadership Program (class of June 2013). He founded and chairs International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety(see www.intersociety-ng.org for more details of his rights based activities). Eze Eluchie for Imo State. He holds master’s degree in law and has worked in various rights areas both in Nigeria and in overseas for years. He chairs PADDI Foundation. Jerry Chukwuokoro for Enugu State. He holds doctor of philosophy in philosophy and teaches at Ebonyi State University. He is the Sectary of the Campaign for Democracy in the Southeast zone and a prominent member of CLO, Enugu State Branch.
Yet, on 15th day of February, 2014, another meeting was convened in Enugu by some Lagos and Abuja based CSO activists, under the auspices of “Eastern Human Rights & Pro-Democracy Activists” (CEHRAPA). Those the Abuja/Lagos based activists picked as confab delegates are the following: 1. Olisa Agbakoba (Lagos based) for Anambra State. 2. Eze Onyekpere (Lagos/Abuja based) for Imo State. 3. Uju Agumuo (Lagos/Abuja based) for Abia State. And 4. Ibuchukwu Ezike (Lagos based) for Enugu State. The list and names selected by the conveners of the said meeting were tagged “our first eleven”.
While we hold nothing against their persons and achievements some of them recorded especially during the military era, we see these two events in Abuja and Enugu as not only undemocratic, but they also fall short of equity and fairness. Some of them are big enough to be included in their professional bodies, State and Federal Governments’ slots; thereby allowing rooms for younger activists, especially those who reside and operate in the Southeast geopolitical zone to participate. The position recently taken by the duo of Professor Ben Nwabueze and Dr. Alex Ekwueme not to participate in the proposed National Confab in order to give rooms for younger Igbo-Nigerians to participate, is a clear case in point and roundly commendable. He or she that goes to equity must go with clean hands! CSO leaders in Nigeria lack moral latitude to condemn Federal Government for not democratizing selection process for the proposed National Conference because their own selection process is worse than that of Federal Government.
It is also important to point out that voices of CSOs’ leaders in Nigeria have remained irreconcilably incoherent since the return to civil rule in 1999. During the military era, their voices were largely one, but nowadays, such voices are patently divided along “agenda”, “progressive”, “retrogressive” and “tribal/sectional” lines. It is a truism that a good number of CSO leaders in Nigeria come from Southeast geopolitical zone by birth. But it is also a truism that the zone is the least beneficiary of their activities and the major beneficiary of their activities is the Southwest geopolitical zone. The dominant CSO agenda in Nigeria today, which is tagged “progressive agenda”, is oiled by socio-political policies of the Southwest zone. Yet, when it comes to important issues like national confab that requires nomination or delegation, the policy makers/government operators hosting these diasporan activists and benefiting from their activities, swiftly turn their back against them and reward their natives. It is in response to these that these “brother/sister” activists rush back to their zone of birth with a view to hijacking the slots meant for the zone.
Sometimes, these returnee activists resort to intimidation of their “sedentary” counterparts by reminding them they started activism from the era of Adam and Eve. At other times, they will resort to name calling and campaign of calumny, which include calling them “quarks”, “clowns”, “charlatans”, “illiterates”, “semi-illiterates”, “government apologists”, etc. But if a field survey is carried out, the so called “second class” activists will be found to have performed unparalleled. Funny enough, many of these so called “second class” activists have more educational qualifications and field experiences than the so called “first class” activists. The danger of allowing, some say “pastoralist” activists to represent the Southeast zone in an important national confab such as the one being proposed is far reaching. Apart from not being in tune with social realities in the zone, they can easily be reached by their host zone or zone of their residency. It is also on record that the returnee CSO leaders under reference are more close to their residential governments than those in the Southeast zone. In States like Lagos, there is “CSO Liaison”.
Above all, a national confab is not an elitist activity. It is like writing a constitution, which must be done in simplest language because it serves every Tom, Dick and Harry. The Kenyan Constitutional Conference of 2010 is a case in point because it offered room of participation for both professors, carpenters, “qunu” makers and other members of the downtrodden. Elitism has no place in human rights and pro-democracy movement. In the world over, the champions of rights and pro-democracy movements are well known members of the downtrodden. Educational and field capacity building skills earned through scholarships offered by foundations and other funding institutions, are not meant to be bragged about by their beneficiary activists, but to reposition rights and pro-democracy leaders to do more to alleviate the sufferings of the downtrodden including making them know their rights and social obligations. Human rights and pro-democracy movements must no longer be seen or treated as “People’s Club of Nigeria” or “Professorial Deanship of a University”.
We, therefore, call on Federal Government and core stakeholders in various States of the Federation including political office holders to be mindful of those picked to represent their zones and collective interests to avoid corrupting and compromising the future well beings of their regions or zones.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma, Head, Publicity Desk
*Tags: Nigerians, Intersociety, Council, Police, Service, Commission. Sack, Ringim, Africa, Masterweb
*Governor T. A. Orji Sure-P Team & MTN Photo News
From Abia State
Photo Above: Gov. Theodore Orji of Abia state in a warm handshake with Chief Emeka Wogu, Minister for Labour and Productivity, when led a delegation of Sure-P team to Abia state on a sensitization tour in Umuahia.
Photo Above: L-R Chief Emeka Wogu, Minister for Labour and Productivity, Gov. Theodore Orji of Abia state, his deputy Sir Emeka Ananaba and Rt. Hon. Udeh Okochukwu, Speaker, Abia state house of Assembly in a group photograph during a courtesy visit by the minister and Sure-P team to the governor in Umuahia.
Photo Above: Dr. Okechukwu Ogah, Commissioner for health, Mr. Danis Okoro, Director MTN Foundation, Gov. Theodore Orji of Abia state and Rt. Hon. Udeh Okochukwu, Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly at the official launching and flag-off of the Abia State-MTN Y'ello Doctor mobile intervention scheme in Umuahia.
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*Two Is Fighting: Nigeria’s Hausa and Igbo
Dr. Peregrino Brimah
‘Two is fighting’ is a common Nigerian expression that fits the hard to deny and ignore fact that a significant proportion of Nigeria’s Hausa’s and Igbo’s on the online community are fighting. A history of strife has undoubtedly existed among members of these two large ethnic groups in the country. What also is apparent is that not really much has been and is being done to resolve this apparently intractable crisis that potentially strains Nigeria’s hope for progress. Perhaps those of us who are not direct partakers are not bothered, feel there is nothing we can do or are benefactors of the tension.
Nigeria has a buoyant youth population. 45% of Nigerians are below 14 years. 35% of the population of the nation are between the ages of 15 and 35. Combined, this represents about 80% of Nigerians who can be considered youth, below 35 years. What this also means is that most Nigerians today are 80s and up babies. Born way after much of the tensions between these two groups first started, and only inheritors of the relayed ‘traditions’ that created and sustain these tensions.
For those unfamiliar with the problem being discussed; once a look is taken at commentaries on Nigerian blogs or websites, immediately the observer recognizes significant segregation, affinities and revulsions, leading up to stark insults and threats. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Nigeria six geopolitical zones
You read Hausa handles call Igbo’s ‘baby factory products,’ ‘wife-killers,’ ‘armed robbers,’ ‘traitors,’ and the like and on the other side, you read Igbo-sounding handles labeling Hausa-like names, ‘Fulani cattle rearers,’ ‘Boko Haram,’ ‘terrorists, ‘ ‘Almajiri’s,’ ‘illiterates,’ and ‘the usurpers and problem of Nigeria.’
You cannot avoid the hostilities online. They are loud and appear to increase in pitch daily. Ethnic tensions have been at a highest in years under the current Nigerian political dispensation. Undeniably, addressing issues of corruption is obstructed due to this accidental or purposeful prevalence of ethnic suspicion and frank tribalism. In a recent case of grand corruption, the former minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah case, it was clear that Igbo’s especially defended her of her exposed crimes. In the case of whistleblower, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi of the Central Bank, who was accused of his own mismanagement at the Central bank, it also appears that a significant amount of the support he got was particularly among the Hausa’s. Can a nation move forward with this type of distraction?
Though the differences between these two cases is obvious. One, the Aviation minister, was caught by the media, stealing with hand in pot and was embraced by the government for as long as they could; while the other blew a whistle of billions of dollars being stolen by the government and was immediately fired and had his passport seized, the public reaction to both cases was clearly tinted with ethnic markers. Some people who refuse as yet to strongly clamor for the recovery of Nigeria’s missing billions as exposed by the former CBN governor, were quick to ask for his head and to react to the allegations against this ‘Hausa/Fulani’ man, while others who were loud in accusation against Stella caught stealing, have been less vocal in supporting clear investigation of Sanusi so long as this does not distract from and obscure the full audit and recovery of Nigeria’s missing billions of dollars he exposed. Similar postures are noticed in the Jonathan Government honoring of Abacha an unquestionable thief.
Opinions are allowed and healthy. Personally for instance, I support positive reconciliation for Nigeria’s thieves. Blow a whistle, expose a bigger thief and we can decide to pardon you completely or grant you exile-pardon. But I must not impose my opinion on others and use my opinion to obscure justice. Nigerians must strive to come together with positive analysis, honest condemnation and a quest for true justice, else, we the poor 112 million will continue to suffer at the mercy of a handful of wicked, united cabal.
History of Tensions
It is noted that the alleged tensions between these two groups especially developed long before most of those active online were born and many do not know or care to know the history of the tensions. Many agree that the Igbo have been significantly sidelined in Nigeria’s governance history. This is noted to have followed the Biafra 1967 threat of secession; a type of punishment and distrust. What is also true is that the Hausa’s are the poorest of Nigerian’s despite being accused of having held on to power the longest. But the truth of the matter is far from much of what has triggered and sustained the tensions most prominent between these two groups.
The amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 undoubtedly laid an environment for possible crisis, but amalgamations of this nature do not always lead to crisis. There are similar amalgamations of identically heterogeneous peoples across Africa, as close as neighboring Ghana and Cameroon which also have northern Hausa speaking populations, which do not bear the Nigerian typical conflict hallmarks. Many historians agree that the British purposefully sowed seeds of tension between the two groups.
The history is long and deep. There is much that happened, political appointments, army predominance’s and other historical stuff. There are also significant events that triggered episodes of beef especially among the political and military elite class. There is the 1966 Kaduna Nzeogwu coup and assassination of northern top elite, which was the first post-colonial episode of serious aggravation and has been viewed by some as a major trigger that provoked Hausa-Igbo sentiments. There are the rampant episodes of pogroms particularly targeted at the Igbo community in the north in which thousands were killed by rampaging northern youth.
But the truth of the matter is, as much as much of the past holds episodes of pain, distrust and betrayal, many of us youth have no choice but to move ahead and put the bitter parts of our past that we possibly have skewed details of behind us. Today in the media we see so much lies and misrepresentations of events of the day, talk less during those days of paper and verbal media. How many lies have we been told? How long will Nigeria’s youth continue to hold grouse for things they probably have adulterated stories of?
Take for instance the bane of this article. Hausa- Igbo. That in itself holds so much lies it is ridiculous. Who are the Hausa and who are the Igbo?
Growing up, many of us literally believed Nigeria had only three ethnic groups. Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. These were the days of WaZoBia. For some, it was reading history of the Biafra war when the Ijaw walked out on the Igbo that made them realize the South was not all Igbo, but had Ijaw in it. For some, it was only when the current President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was elected President and many Igbo still claimed they had not yet really held the top seat that they recognized Ijaw as different from Igbo.
Let’s take a look at the Hausa too. Many do not know that the difference between the Hausa and Fulani is just like the difference between the Igbo and Ijaw. Saying, Hausa/Fulani is like saying, Igbo/Ijaw.
A good deal of young Nigerians do not know that the Hausa as an ethnic group, who are about 20.6% of Nigeria have never been President of Nigeria. Balewa was Bageri, Murtala was Berom, Abdulsalami and his adopted brother, Badamosi Babangida were Gwari, Abacha, Kanuri, and Buhari, Shagari and Yar’Adua are Fulani (Fulani are 9%, Igbo’s are 18% while the Yoruba’s, 21%, are the largest ethnic block).
A Way Forward
There was a time when Nigerians thought we had only a little over 200 ethnic groups and languages. Today we know we have over 500! Can the nation survive on ethnic rotated rule? Is this important at this stage in our history? Does rotation of power make any sense? Does indigene vs. non indigene dichotomy have any place in Nigeria today… when several people have inhabited regions far away from home as long as they can remember and have lost all attachment and significance at home; why can these sons of the new soil not become governors of their adopted states, like Obama, the son of a Kenyan father is President of America? Frankly, the fighting makes us look stupid.
It is a fact that continuous hostilities and what appears to be targeted killings of groups in Nigeria continues to feed and fuel ethnic frustrations. When Boko Haram attacks a Church in the north, some Igbo’s publish the event as Igbo targeting. This is exactly the position Boko Haram craves. The truth is however far from this. The problem is the failure of our government to treat all such mob and terrorist crimes as serious offenses and to protect life. Boko Haram for instance kills just as many Muslims and northerners as anyone else. These are mad killers. All civilian killers are mad, and mad no matter how rampant, does not have religious, ethnic or other social identity. It is a thing of the devil and it is the responsibility of the State to arrest it. Should we play into the terrorists hands? When certain Nigerian elite call on the youth to riot and kill others, it is the duty of Nigeria’s government to seize such ‘elders,’ arrest them and accost and capture any rampaging ethnic warrior youth. If this were done properly, the intractable suspicion and beef will have subsided long ago in Nigeria. The truth as has been pointed out is that we the youth are being exploited and used by the politicians who sustain this environment of fake hostility. There is as much or even more ethnic tension and frank hate in the United States for instance, but the government does not exploit this as ours do, but ensures that all those who get extreme are promptly locked up and not allowed to gather violent fans and disciples.
Our verbal and physical violence to each other is not accidental, but is the plan and program of the ‘elite,’ in all regions who harvest the dividends of this tension to garner political clout and pay to keep us in conflict and consequently distracted while they loot us silly.
It is time we drop the dagger. A new government may give those of us who want, a true Sovereign National Conference (SNC) where the progressive youth can sit together and discuss our coexistence, regional governance and resource utilization. The status quo hurts us all while the elite remain in power, become world acknowledged billionaires, as our people in the North remain some of the poorest in the world and people in the East remain marginalized, with no bridge.
Do we stay stuck at ‘who is to blame?’ or do we ask, ‘how do we resolve this?’ Tribalism is not only a crime, it is a sin. Will we, the poor, defeat it now or will we continue to allow it defeat us?
Dr. Peregrino Brimah ( Email: email@example.com ).
*Nigerians In Spain Condemn Spanish Police Shooting of African Immigrants On The High Sea
By Uchendu Precious Onuoha
It was a day that has generated global uproar when on Thursday the 6th of February 2014, the Spanish local border police opened fire on some 200 sub-Sahara African immigrants who were calling for rescue as they were attempting to cross the high sea from Morocco into the Spanish border town of Ceuta. So far, reports show that not less than 14 bodies have been recovered from the water and each of them with bullet wounds.
Describing the action as grave ‘inhumanity’, the Northern Observatory for Human Rights condemned the shooting as an action that ‘‘violates the international conventions on human rights". ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: SOME OF THE RECOVERED DEAD BODIES OF THE AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS SHOT BY SPANISH POLICE AT THE SEA WHILE SWIMMING TO CROSS TO THE BORDER BETWEEN MOROCCO AND SPAIN.
On the part of the Nigerian Community in Madrid and Spain, the action has been condemned in the clearest of terms. In a press release after an emergency meeting of the Leaders of the Nigerian Communities in Madrid at the instance of the Nigerian Nationals Association, the President of the Association Comrade Lamptay Oriakhi described the action as a ‘premeditated act of wickedness’. He added his voice to the Socialist Party’s call for the resignation of all those directly and indirectly responsible for such inhuman act. He informed that while effort is being made by the Association to determine the number of Nigerians involved, the Association has begun a process of calling the African immigrant community together for a nationwide wide protest. Meanwhile, the secretary of the Association Honorable Precious Onuoha affirmed that a letter has officially been written to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the Nigerian Community’s disapproval and call for international justice.
While expressing dismay at the actions of the Spanish police, a cross section of the leaders of the Nigerian communities under the aegis of the Nigerian Communities Leadership Interactive Forum Madrid expressed concern over the high state of corruption in Nigeria as a major factor denying Nigerians employment thereby forcing many into such deadly risk.
The President Comrade Lamptay Oriakhi and the Secretary Honourable Prescious Onuoha used the medium to call on all Nigerian and African communities, high commissions and governments to respond to this act of inhumanity and support its condemnation.
*Tags: Nigerians, Intersociety, Council, Police, Service, Commission. Sack, Ringim, Africa, Masterweb
*The Processes Of Election Petitions’ Tribunals In Nigeria & Public Expectations From The Anambra State Governorship Election Petitions’ Tribunal
(Onitsha Nigeria, 17th of February 2014) -The laws that created rooms for periodic elections into 1, 695 elective public offices in Nigeria, which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is empowered to conduct, also allow rooms for Elections’ Petition Tribunals (equivalent of high courts) to handle judicial petitions arising from the conduct of such polls, with a view to determining the authenticity or otherwise of such polls. Such petitions are filed by aggrieved parties. Where no judicial petition is filed at an Election Petition Tribunal within a stipulated time frame, the referenced poll is deemed validly conducted. Matters that are brought before polls’ tribunals are matters that have to do with the conduct of the polls proper. Matters deemed “pre-election matters” such as nomination of candidates, are filed and handled by ordinary high courts, which stretch to the Apex (supreme) Court.
In the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended in 2011 and the Electoral Act of the Federation of 2010, governorship poll tribunal cases start at the tribunal (high court) and terminate at the Supreme Court (three steps). The presidential poll tribunal cases start at the Presidential Poll Tribunal (appeal court) and terminate at the Supreme Court (two steps) and the National and State Assemblies’ poll cases start at the tribunal (high court) and terminate at appeal court (two steps). Of all the poll petitions’ cases, the governorship poll cases have the longest duration of ten (10) months; that is to say six (6) months at the tribunal, two (2) months at the appeal court and two (2) months at the Supreme Court. The presidential poll cases have a total duration of eight (8) months: six (6) months at the presidential poll tribunal (appeal court) and two (2) months at the Supreme Court. The National and State Assemblies’ poll cases last for a total of eight (8) months: six (6) months at the tribunal (high court) and two (2) months at the appeal court.
Constitutional Provisions: By Section 239 (1) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, as amended in 2011, the original judicial responsibility of handling and disposing within six (6) months from the date of filing of the petitions (within 21 days after the announcement of final result) arising from the conduct of the presidential poll is rested on the Court of Appeal (first court) and by Section 233 (2) (i), the matter terminates at the Supreme Court. By Section 285(1) (a) (b), the original judicial jurisdiction is conferred on the National and State Assemblies’ Election Petition Tribunal (high court) to hear and determine petitions arising from the conduct of National and State Assemblies’ polls and by Section 246 (1) (b) and (3), the appellate jurisdiction and its finality with respect to the polls under reference is rested on the Court of Appeal. By Section 285 (2), the original jurisdiction in matters of petitions arising from the conduct of governorship polls is rested on the Governorship Election Petitions’ Tribunal. By Section 246 (1) (c), the appellate jurisdiction as per governorship poll petitions is conferred on the Court of Appeal and by Section 233(2) (iv), the apex or final jurisdiction over governorship poll petitions is conferred on the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
By Section 285 (4), the quorum of an election tribunal is properly constituted with the chairman and any other member. By Section 239 (2), the Appeal Court panel is properly constituted at least with three Justices to hear and determine original petitions arising from the conduct of presidential poll. By Section 234 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court panel is properly constituted with not less than five Justices of the Court to hear and determine presidential and governorship appeals brought before it. By Section 285 (5), an Election petition must be filed within twenty-one (21) days after the date of the declaration of the final result of the Election. By Section 285 (6), an Election Tribunal must deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date of the filing of the petition. By Section 285 (7), an appeal from the decision of an Election Tribunal or Court of Appeal in an election matter must be heard and disposed of within 60 days from the date of the delivery of judgment of the Tribunal or Court of Appeal. By Section 285 (8), the court in all final appeals from election matters may adopt the practice of first giving its decision and reserving the reasons to a later date.
Following from the foregoing, the Anambra State Governorship Election Petitions’ Tribunal was created to hear and determine petitions arising from the conduct of November 16, 2013 governorship poll and its supplementary held on November 30, 2013. The Tribunal panelists are Hon. Justice Ishaq Bello of the FCT High Court, who chairs the Tribunal and two others. The poll the Tribunal is investigating judicially produced Mr. Willie Maduabuchi Obiano of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as the winner with 180, 178 valid votes, followed by Mr. Tony Nwoye of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) with 97, 700 votes. Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige of the All Progressives Congress (APC) came third with 95, 963 votes and Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah of the Labour Party (LP) came fourth with 37, 495 votes. The four most popular candidates above mentioned polled a total of 411, 331 valid votes.
Out of the State’s total of 4,608 polling units, the poll was successfully conducted in 4, 333 polling units on November 16, 2013. On November 17, 2013, a rescheduled poll was conducted in 65 polling units in Obosi Ward 7 in Idemmili North LGA and on November 30, 2013, a supplementary poll was conducted in 210 polling units scattered in 16 Local Government Areas of Aguata, Awka North, Awka South, Anambra East, Anambra West, Ayamelum, Anaocha, Ekwusigo, Idemmili North, Idemmili South, Ihiala, Nnewi South, Onitsha South, Orumba North and Oyi. Final results were declared on 1st December, 2013 with Mr. Willie Maduabuchi Obiano returned as the winner. By INEC statistics, released on 1st December, 2013, out of a total of 1, 776, 167 registered voters in the State, 465, 891 registered voters were accredited, out of which, 442, 242 voted. And out of the 442, 242 that voted, 425, 254 votes were valid and 16, 988 votes were declared invalid.
The proceedings at the Election Petitions’ Tribunal under reference have four petitions to do justice to. They are: 1. Dr. Chike Obidigbo versus Obiano and two others. 2. Dr. Chris Ngige versus INEC, Obiano, APGA and ACD (Advanced Congress of Democrats). The petition against the ACD is said to have been withdrawn. Two other petitions are: 3. PDP versus INEC & 25 others, and 4. Tony Nwoye versus INEC & 25 others. While the Chairman of the Tribunal, Hon. Justice Ishaq Bello is reputed with election petitions’ cases in various States of the Federation including Imo and Cross River States, there are at least ten members of the inner Bar or Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) involved in the proceedings, defending the declared winner and the INEC as well as the aggrieved parties.
By Section 285 (5) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, as amended in 2011, filing of petitions before the Tribunal under reference started and ended between 2nd and 22nd/23rd December, 2013 (within 21 days after the date of declaration of final result). By Section 285 (6), the judgment of the Tribunal will be delivered between now and June 2014 (within 180 days from the date of the filing of the petition). If the Tribunal verdict is delivered at a date in April, or in May or in June, then Section 285 (7) makes it mandatory for its appeal at the Court of Appeal to be heard and disposed of at most in June (for April), or in July (for May), or in August (for June). This is in accordance with the provision under reference, which stipulates: “within 60 days from the date of delivery of the judgment of the Tribunal”. The final verdict on the matter will be delivered by the Supreme Court using the same premise; that is to say at most in August (for June), or in September (for July), or in October (for August). This is also in accordance with same Section 285(7), which stipulates: “within 60 days from the date of delivery of the judgment of the Appeal Court”.
Public Expectations: Proceedings at the Anambra State Governorship Election Petitions’ Tribunal are so far so good and public expectations are very high. The mission of the Tribunal is not only “not for technical justice”, but most importantly, to judicially establish whether the total valid votes cast and announced with the winner under reference are products of legally defined electoral malpractices or products of voters’ register and polling units’ driven cast votes: living votes. Once the Tribunal establishes that the conduct of the poll was in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act of the Federation of 2010, then, the rest is history. This is because the chief business of law courts in the world over is to investigate and establish the facts of a matter and apply them to existing laws relating to issue or matter under judicial enquiry. Courts have no time for frivolities and immaterial facts. This is why we believe that the Tribunal under reference has started well. Its recent pronouncement that “its mission is not for technical justice” is a case in point and commendable.
While giving all the parties level playing grounds to succeed or fail in their cases, is a welcome development, it is very important for the Tribunal not to lose focus of its mission or to be bamboozled by lawyers’ firepower during their arguments and counter-arguments. The doctrine of “orbiter dictum and ratio decidendi” must be their fundamental guide so as to “separate chaffs from seeds” during the proceedings. Since the duration of the Tribunal is now “within 180 days”, unnecessary and abrupt adjournments should be avoided. Adjournments, if any, should be unavoidable and excusable and time lost made up during resumed hearings. The people of Anambra State and the entire world are watching with uttermost consciousness to see how the Tribunal conducts itself and judicial business till the end of its sittings. As sticklers of living votes, we see the judicial enquiry embarked upon by the Tribunal into the Anambra Governorship Poll of 2013 as a process to judicially sanctify the sacred electoral exercise by the Anambra People. We remain the exponent of the fact that “it is better to have 10,000 living votes than to have 1million dead votes”.
*Tags: Nigerians, Intersociety, Council, Police, Service, Commission. Sack, Ringim, Africa, Masterweb
*Grave Lopsidedness In Promotions & Postings In The NPF: Defending The Indefensible
(Public Statement, Onitsha Nigeria, 11th of February, 2014) -The attention of the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety has been drawn to a statement credited to the Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Police Force (FPRO), Barrister Emeka Frank Mba, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) over our recent three-volume letter to the President & Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The three-volume letter was also jointly addressed to the Senate President, the Speaker of House of Reps, and the Executive Chairman of the Federal Character Commission and copied to the Inspector General of Police, the Chairman of the Police Service Commission and the Chairman of the Southeast Governors’ Forum & Governor of Anambra State.
In the letter under reference, dated 4th, 5th and 6th of February 2014 and referenced: Intersociety/SE/NG/02/014/FGN/ABJ/FRN, we exposed with incontrovertible pieces of evidence the constitutionally incoherent policy of promotions and postings in the Nigeria Police Force that has made the NPF a sectional and ethno-religiously dominated Police Force. Possibly worried and alarmed by wide media reports of the public-interest letter under reference and shocking revelations contained therein, the FPRO spoke to Folake Sokoya of the Abuja based Sunday Newswatch Newspaper, which was published on 9th of February, 2014 (pages 1 & 2) as follows: “It is quite unfortunate that the IGP is being accused of ethnicity, because he has nothing to do with the promotion and the discipline of officers. The duty falls on the Police Service Commission; it is the Commission that has the authority to promote and discipline NPF officers. They are just wrongly accusing him because they don’t know how the Constitution of the Police works”. He added that “the Police Service Commission is headed by a retired IG, and has the likes of a retired Supreme Court judge, media representative, civil society representative, and so many more interests from all over the country”.
CSP Emeka Frank Mba further said “promotions come with the availability of space, and happen in line with existing seniority, and that the Commission cannot promote more than the establishment can hold and even in the case of special promotions done by the IGP – which occurs only one in a long time – the officer promoted must have done something really outstanding. There can never be more than one IGP and eight DIGs at a time, and if some officers from a particular ethnic group in the country decided to retire or opt out of the service to do businesses like importing containers, thereby giving room for other ethnic group to get promoted when it’s promotion time, then the IGP is not to be blamed at all. If a particular tribe joined the service years after (members of) another ethnic group were recruited, you don’t expect the ones that joined late to be promoted before the ones that were the first to be recruited,”
Our Response: In as much as the NPF statement through its FPRO is an express vindication and authentication of our detailed investigation leading to the letter under reference, the statement amounts to insubordination and disobedience to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which includes the Nigeria Police Force. By convention, the NPF ought to allow Mr. President and Commander-in-Chief to fully investigate the issues complained therein and ought not to have commented publicly on the subject matter as a mark of respect, obedience and total loyalty to its C-in-C. Conventional blunders such as the foregoing can earn the IGP a sack under the C-in-C’s right to hire and fire. Such blunders have become a routine in the NPF in recent times to the extent that when representations over officers’ misconducts are made to the NPF high quarters for investigations and appropriate actions, officers or quarters complained against take it upon themselves to investigate themselves. Sometimes, letters sent to IGP directly or through AIGs or ones copied to such AIGs for their information, are assigned for investigation by such AIGs outside the knowledge and authorization of the office of the IGP.
Further, the NPF statement through its FPRO, CSP, Emeka Frank Mba, did not deny the lopsidedness in the NPF’s top promotions and postings, but said in part “the IGP is not to be blamed or held responsible, but the Police Service Commission”. The statement on the other hand contradicted itself by admitting that “IGP does special promotions once in a long time”. The NPF’s statement to the effect that “if some officers from a particular ethnic group in the country decided to retire or opt out of the service to do businesses like importing containers, thereby giving room for other ethnic group to get promoted when it’s promotion time, then the IGP is not to be blamed at all. If a particular tribe joined the service years after (members of) another ethnic group were recruited, you don’t expect the ones that joined late to be promoted before the ones that were the first to be recruited,” is totally derogatory, insulting, barbaric, ethically zealotry and impeachable.
Talking about the “Constitution of the NPF works”, CSP Emeka Frank Mba as a lawyer and possibly a member of the Nigerian Bar Association appears to be one of the tragedies afflicting the NBA in recent times. While we are at loss as per what he means by “the Constitution of the NPF works”, whether in terms of its Establishment Act or its composition, it is disastrous of him and his NPF not to be aware of the supremacy and jealousness of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended in 2011 over any other law or “constitution” or “composition” in matters of incoherence and inconsistency with her provisions. In the Chapter 1 of her General Provisions under Part 1, Section 1 (3) clearly and unambiguously states “if any other law (or composition) is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void”.
On the issue of “seniority” and “outstanding performance” as existing criteria for promotions and postings in the NPF, the incontrovertible pieces of evidence available to us gravely contradict the NPF claims. Our in-depth findings, also, did not show any records of police officers of Igbo extraction “opting out” or “retiring from the Force” so as to “engage in businesses like importing containers”, contrary to CSP Emeka Frank Mba’s statement on behalf of the NPF. Instead, our empiricist evidence showed that while Igbo police officers are recruited with their counterparts from other federating units under federal character principle, they are subjected to “promotion dormancy” and “tea-making” postings or duty assignments. Many stay in one rank for five years and far above and only get promoted into senior command positions like ACP, DC or CP at twilight of their exit.
Those of them in their minutest numbers, who get promoted as and when due, are usually referred to as “Emir or Kabiyesi Boys”. Some go to the extent of adding “Abdullahi” or “Adekunle” as their middle names jettisoning their “sedentary” mark and replacing it with “pastoralist” mark so as to earn quick promotions. One of such Igbo pastoralist police officers appears to be CSP Emeka Frank Mba, who is from Udenu in Enugu State, Southeast Nigeria. He was born on 9th of October 1972, got enlisted into the NPF on 18th June, 1992, promoted to CSP on 22nd December, 2012 and will retire on 18th June, 2027. He became the FPRO on 20th August, 2013. We clearly understand where he is coming from and those who prepared the script he is dishing out including derogatory remarks against his Igbo tribe. He is a seeming victim of “modern slavery” in the NPF, whereby for his likes to survive in the NPF including earning quick promotions, they must levy war against their people including throwing their weight behind every counter-productive policy pursued in the Force against officers of their own tribe; a sort of “Ifeajunas” of our time.
The truth is that “the seniority” and “outstanding performance” criteria being bandied about or claimed by the NPF are patently fallacious. Promotions and postings in the NPF are strictly based on ethno-religious sentiments and primordial style of policing. Mediocrity and policing imbecility are constantly promoted in place of sound academic and professional excellence. On “seniority issue”, for instance, DIG Suleiman Dauda Fakai(Kebbi State, Northwest) is junior to CP Hilary Opara (Imo State, Southeast). While DIG Fakai was born on 1st November, 1959, he was enlisted on 1st January 1984 and got promoted to DIG on 22nd February, 2012 and will retire on 1st January, 2019. CP Hilary Opara, on his part, was born on 31st July 1955 and enlisted into the NPF on 17th July 1980. He was promoted CP on 18th December 2006 and will retire on 17th July 2015. He has remained in CP’s rank for over seven years. Deputy Commissioner of Police Chris Okey Ezike (Anambra State, Southeast) got enlisted into the NPF same day (31/12/84) with DIG Peter Yisa Gana (Niger State, North-central). While DC Ezike was promoted DC on 1st August 2012, DIG Peter Gana got promoted as a DIG on 20th February 2012. While DC Ezike will retire on 31st April 2019, DIG Peter Yisa Gana will statutorily pull out of the Force on 15th November 2019.
AIG Solomon E. Arase( Edo State, South-south) joined the NPF same day (01/12/81) with CPs Ikechukwu Aduba(Anambra State, Southeast) and Sylvester Umeh (Enugu State, Southeast). While AIG Solomon Arase got promoted as an AIG on 22/02/2012, the duos of CPs Aduba and Umeh have remained CP since 20/12/2010. CP Felix Uyanna ( Anambra State, Southeast) is senior to DIG Atiku Kafur (Katsina State, Northwest). While CP Uyanna joined the NPF on 18th July 1980, DIG Kafur joined same on 8th December 1982 and got promoted as a DIG on 22nd February 2012. CP Uyanna has remained CP since 16th October 2007, a period of over six years. Instances are too many to mention. All the Igbo CPs and DCs under reference hold university degrees as against the IGP who holds a post secondary school diploma and DIG Jonathan Johnson with Teachers’ Grade 11 Certificate. The likes of Ajani Fatai Owoseni (Oyo State, Southwest), Francis Orchia (Benue State, North-central), Gbemisola Akinpelu (Lagos State, Southwest), Peter Edet (Akwa Ibom State, South-south) and Ibrahim Mohammed (Benue State, North-central) are serving Deputy Commissioners of Police in the NPF with West African School Certificate (WASC).
Lastly, our position remains that IGP Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar has a serious case to answer to Mr. President & Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the leaderships of the National Assembly and the Executive Chairman of the Federal Character Commission over grave lopsidedness in promotions and postings made in the NPF since January 2012 under his headship of the NPF. By the Police Service Commission’s constant and vivid reference to the IGP’s “recommendation” as the premise of its promotions, which is strange and unconstitutional, the IGP is fundamentally responsible and answerable for all the promotions and postings carried out in the Force. The PSC is also an accomplice having allowed its statutory functions to be hijacked and twisted by the headship of the Force. We see the NPF statement under reference as “defending the indefensible”.
*Bianca Ojukwu, Proctector of Nigerians Abroad – Read More in This Thrilling Interview With Bianca.
By Uchendu Precious Onuoha
The name Bianca Ojukwu may ring a bell to many Nigerians at home, but more among some Nigerians in Austria, and other parts of Europe, especially in the kingdom of Spain where she holds the ace as the Nigerian Ambassador and has become a household name among the Nigerian community in Spain because of the spectacular jobs she has done and achievements recorded during the period she has piloted affairs. As a result of what she has done and is doing to improve the lot of Nigerians in Spain, with the application of citizen diplomacy as her priority, she is wanted all over. Other Nigerians in diaspora in various parts of Europe and the world seem to be jealous of Spain and are craving for her to become their Ambassador. While those in Spain wish her tenure should not end. Others are saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us”. Many wish to relocate to Spain if not for the economic down turn. Bianca has proved that the good men and women do lives with and after them. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Bianca Ojukwu
Obtaining an appointment for an interview with this dynamic Precious woman is not an easy task because of her busy engagements within and outside Spain as Ambassador, party leader, Nigeria’s permanent representative to the United Nations on Tourism (UNWTO), mother and widow. But once you succeed, you encounter a very beautiful, humane, amiable – mien personality and though behind this veil of beauty is a firm and steel structure. She exhibits a relaxed, calm and composed nature and makes you feel welcome and relaxed in her spacious diplomatic office. She is sharp and supplies answers to questions at ease and as if with ready-made answers. Interviewing her, is like interviewing what I call, a trilogy of the daughter, the father and the husband. Which simply means a composition of three unique personalities involved in one, Bianca, Onoh and Ojukwu. To any Nigerian journalist living at home or abroad, Bianca Ojukwu is a big fish to catch any time, any day. Below are the various issues covered, which center on her life as an Ambassador during her interview on January 9, 2014, with the special correspondent in Spain, Uchendu Precious Onuoha.
What was your immediate reaction the day President Goodluck Jonathan appointed you the Ambassador designate for Spain?
I must say that at the time the announcement was made, it really was a nomination, and it remained to be seen to which country I will be going. Of course I must say that I was pleased to have been given an opportunity to serve my country in that capacity especially at that time when I had experienced a tragedy in my personal life. This nomination offered a ray of hope and a degree of optimism that the future was not bleak. So I must say that I was grateful to the president and Nigerians for giving me the opportunity to serve my country.
As a non-career diplomat, what were the initial challenges you faced, and how did you surmount them?
Luckily for me, since I come from a family where diplomatic experience was something already in existence; it was not that much of a challenge because one way or another I have been exposed to that culture and had garnered a little diplomatic experience vicariously. My uncle was Nigeria’s deputy head of mission and was heading the high commission in Scotland in the eighties. My sister is also a Foreign Service officer of many years standing. And of course with the experience I garnered as a senior special assistant to the president in diaspora matters, it was not a difficult adjustment to make.
In addition to that, I inherited a mission that has seasoned officers with tremendous experience and they were very willing to offer their cooperation, and since I came to this mission, we have all been working together very well. And we refer to the mission as our family. One of the positive things about the Nigerian embassy here in Spain, is that the officers have no problems assuming roles that are not strictly their functions. They cooperate very well with each other and assist one another to ensure the smooth running of the affairs of the mission. So in this respect, I must say it has simply been a collaborative effort.
What was the state of affairs when you took over as ambassador in Spain? And what can you say are your achievements one year after?
When I came to Spain and assumed my duties one thing that was immediately glaring was the fact that the chancery building was not in a state befitting of the status of Nigeria on the international scene. The ambassador’s residence was also in a very poor state and had not been well maintained, and neither were most of the properties belonging to the embassy. As a matter of fact, when I first arrived in Madrid I had to stay in a hotel for many months before we were able to get the Ambassador’s residence in a fit and proper state.
I was also faced with many disturbing reports about the situation of Nigerians resident in Spain. And I was soon to learn that many of them felt that they were not properly taken into consideration in some of the decisions taken by the mission and that the mission ought to do more to safeguard their rights as citizens and to promote their dignity and integrity. We realized that the work done by the mission needed essentially to center around the mandate that we, as ambassadors were given prior to assuming our duties. The President had made it crystal clear that citizen diplomacy should be at the very apex of our priorities and this is something that is continuously reiterated. As a matter of fact, during the recent induction ceremony of new ambassadors, the minister of foreign affairs Prof Viola Onwuliri made it quite clear that as ambassadors, the protection and welfare of citizens in host countries should be of paramount priority.
The maltreatment of Nigerians abroad, she reiterated, should not be condoned in any shape or fashion by any Ambassador or head of mission and that we must try to ensure that Nigerians are treated with respect and dignity. And so, faced with many cases where the rights of our citizens were being infringed upon, cases involving many Nigerians in detention who felt that the embassy should be doing more to address their plight, it became imperative to intensify our efforts.
Also there were many reported incidents involving Nigerians who were subjected to a stop and search process. Many of our citizens were also affected by the economic recession in Spain and their fortunes took a down turn. A great number were out of work and had lost their jobs, many had become destitute and homeless and the only sanctuary they felt they had was the mission. Also consequent upon this recession was that many Nigerian couples were no longer able to cater for the welfare and maintenance of their children and this meant that for the benefit of these children, they were taken away from their parents and taken into protective custody, or given away to other Spanish families for adoption or families who could take better care of them.
Many Nigerian couples have lost sometimes from one child to six or even eight children. We recently secured the release of four children of the same parents from protective custody of Spanish authorities and successfully relocated them back to Nigeria. We endeavor to look at each situation on a case by case basis to determine how best to resolve it. We often made contact with their families back home to make them aware of what was happening to their relatives in Spain and get them to work with us to provide at least an environment back home where these children would be better accommodated and taken care of once we relocate them back to Nigeria. Of course, the priority for us is always how to retrieve these children from the authorities here and at the same time to ensure that they are not going into a worse situation when they are re-united with their parents and families and that there is an adequate support system in place for them back home in Nigeria.
Sadly in Spain, we have also witnessed situations of untimely deaths and murders of our nationals. The most recent painful incident was the murder of a certain Miss Ada Ortuya by a Spanish martial arts expert. The mission stepped into the matter and made it clear that this murder of our citizen would not be tolerated, that it is our responsibility to ensure that this heinous crime is not swept under the carpet and continued to intensify our demand that justice be done in this matter and the suspect brought to book to face the full wrath of the law.
In addition, we are also dealing with the human trafficking issue which is rampant here in Spain. We are looking into prostitution, exploitation of young children and young girls. And as a matter of fact, there was a recent case where we successfully rescued a young Nigerian girl who was lured to Spain by a Spaniard who visited Nigeria and got her pregnant. She was underage. The Spaniard provided false information regarding her age to process her documents for her to come here to Spain with her child. When she got here, he proceeded to abuse her physically. Faced with constant violence and abuse, the situation got so serious that the police had to be called in. The case went to court. Surprisingly the man was found not guilty. This poor girl was naturally afraid for her life ran to a shelter that was provided by an NGO to harbor victims of violence.
We were contacted by this NGO and the embassy swung into action to secure travel documents for the girl and her child since she had expressed a desire to return back to Nigeria. We got in touch with her family back home and we were able to get her and her child safely back to her family. We have also dealt with various other incidents of this nature and are working very closely with the unions and the federation of Nigerian communities as well as various Nigerian associations to ensure that cases affecting our nationals are quickly brought to our attention. And whenever our intervention is needed, we try to act in a very timely and effective manner.
Moreover, we are calling upon our nationals to join any of these associations because the association executives interact very harmoniously with the mission. They are the ones who quickly bring to our attention the plight of our citizens and incidents which we need to investigate. We are also asking them to be proactive in terms of obtaining repatriation insurance because, whereas we think that it is not important, we come from a society where it is customary to transport our remains home should we pass on in another country. This is a very expensive process, and Repatriation insurance takes care of this if the need arises.
This is very important for our families back home. So thankfully Nigerian organizations, have been doing a very good job of sensitizing their members to obtain repatriation insurance which is not very expensive and to liaise more closely with them so that by extension we are able to quickly come in and assist in situations where the fundamental human rights of Nigerians in any part of Spain is threatened.
Nigerians in Spain are looked down upon as illiterates despite their high level of education and this has accounted for their inability get decent jobs in the country, what are you doing to correct this wrong perception?
This is not a perception that is solely limited to Spain. It is of course a form of racism which Africans in general, Nigerians as well as other nationalities encounter in their host countries. First and foremost they are regarded as being different and as economic migrants. What generally happens is that subconsciously, their hosts sometimes tend to treat them like second rate citizens without giving them an opportunity to prove themselves. This perception becomes heightened in countries undergoing an economic crisis or depression.
Of course you must agree with me that this is not a perception that is general. A more recent trend is that the younger generation tend to be more accommodating and less ignorant about Africans and are no longer really subject to some of those prejudices and misconceptions that their parents have about Africans. The major challenge for Nigerians in Spain is the language barrier and attendant difficulty in integration Which means that for the average Nigerian in Spain proficiency in Spanish is vital with regards to employment opportunities.
We are all aware that Nigerians are always in a hurry to quickly find their footing whenever they arrive at a new country. The general trend is that many of them don’t even make the initial efforts to learn the language so that they can be able to communicate in the language of the host It is important also to know how the people of the country that you have chosen to live in react as well as their attitudes and cultural orientation as this will also influence more rapid integration.
I don’t think Spaniards are as racist as they have been portrayed. As a matter of fact, I think that they have been quite accommodating of immigrants until quite recently as a consequence of their economic crisis. I believe that with time as the economy gets better, Nigerians will find a better environment in which to thrive. We are advising Nigerians intending to settle in Spain to be well educated with skills, so that they don’t just turn up without having something to offer. If you have no qualifications and no skills, you will find that that dream of Eldorado is one that quickly disintegrates before your eyes.
What about the possibility of evaluating the documents and certificates obtained from Nigeria with the Spanish government so that qualified Nigerians can use them to work?
We have had inquiries from Spanish authorities regarding issues of authentication of documents obtained in Nigeria We can authenticate certain documents but there are some that will take a prolonged period of time to authenticate. And unfortunately there are time limits within which most certifications have been made to Spanish authorities. Regarding document validation status for Nigerians here, what we are trying to do is to liaise the agencies and relevant authorities in Nigeria for a more rapid authentication of these documents. Sometimes we make that communication directly with the institutions in Nigeria
We are trying to avoid a situation where the embassy is constrained to deal with every inquiry that is placed at its doorstep including the trivial ones .However, any assistance in this regard that will enhance the prospects of our citizens in terms of employment will be rendered whenever needed.
There is alarming rate of deportation of Nigerians in Spain and the Spanish police brutality of Nigerians during deportation, what could be done to minimize that?
This increasing rate of deportation is not limited to Spain, the U.K. deports more Nigerians. The same with Italy. What we have done here in Spain is to ensure a continued interface and engagement with the ministry of interior and the National police to ensure that all deportations carried out here comply with International standards and requirements governing deportation. . We insist that before any Nigerian is deported, it must be brought to the attention of the embassy. We also insist that the deportation must be consequent upon a court order. We have been engaging positively with the police and the relevant authorities in this respect and they are cooperating with us. Also we have an agreement with the authorities that young children should not be separated from their mothers at deportation meaning that a mother cannot be deported without her infant child.
Where, as a result of a court order our national is facing deportation, we usually make a request that he must be given reasonable time within which he can arrange for assets and properties he must have acquired during his sojourn abroad to be properly administered in his absence. We are constantly working to reduce the number of deportations and we must acknowledge that deportations actually have decreased in terms of frequency and numbers in the past one year certainly. We are given the opportunity to go to the detention centers to speak to the detainees to confirm if they are Nigerians and we also encourage Nigerians in detention in these detention centers to communicate their needs to the embassy in writing from time to time. As a general rule, we do not approve all the names presented to the embassy in a deportation list. It is our prerogative to reject certain names that may be contained in the list for want of evidence or additional information that supports the deportation measure.
You occupy two positions as an ambassador and a party leader, how do you cope with these two demanding tasks?
I am an ambassador for Nigeria, for all Nigerians here in Spain irrespective of political party affiliation, ethnicity or religion. So in that respect it has not been tasking.
Before your appointment, did you nurse the ambition for a political appointment?
Why did you not ride on the influence and popularity of your late husband to vie for elective political office?
My primary duty and commitment was to my family and to my marriage. And so being married to a personality such as Ikemba, was something that came with so many roles and functions, many of them quite demanding. He had a very busy schedule. He was involved in so many issues. For what he represented to his people it was a 24 hour function. He was always interacting with communities, solving communal and land disputes, brainstorming with executives of progressive unions, community leaders and traditional rulers, and was also involved with local government, state and national issues. It was a very hectic and busy life and my role was essentially a supporting one which did not afford any time for me to think or to nurse any political ambition although I come from a political family.
I was also running my own businesses and actively involved in so many projects in addition to being a mother tasked with the upbringing of young children that I was left with very little time to dwell on the prospects of a political role. In the aftermath of my husband’s death, I acquired a lot of responsibilities and had, like most other widows, to assume the roles of mother and father in addition to filling in the gaps in many other spheres occasioned by his demise with regards to political organizations, religious groups town unions, community development associations, Igbo cultural groups, and most importantly the Biafra war veterans. He was the grand patron of the organization and interacted quite closely with them in terms of promoting issues relating to their welfare and rehabilitation.
With the records and achievements Nigerian women like you have made in government when given the opportunity, what do you think Nigeria would be like having a female president like you in the future?
I think that Nigerian women have made giant strides in virtually all areas of development. In government they have shown themselves to be capable, reliable, and effective in discharging their responsibilities. But we must not fail to give credit to the activism of the first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, who has been at the fore front ensuring an equitable share for women and in all sectors of development and has launched a successful campaign to promote full participation of women at all levels of decision making in government. And it is really a testament to her tenacity in this respect that there is now a greater degree of gender balance in nomination of women for political appointments. It is to the credit of her campaign to demand on behalf of Nigerian women, greater access to, and full participation in power structures and decision making at the national level that such key ministries as finance, petroleum, telecommunications, aviation, environment, and until recently education and defense are headed by women. The current minister of foreign affairs is also a woman. I believe that it is really a major triumph for Nigerian women. And we should realize that it was not an easy battle.
Women, when given the opportunity will not fail. In their respective communities, they have shown really that they are capable of handling the responsibilities that are assigned to them. And I think that in future, we need to continue to work as we have been doing. I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that Nigerian men have not done well. I think that in every society it is a symbiotic relationship. There is no doubt that women need the support of our men folk. No matter how advanced any society claims to be and regardless of the attainment of equal rights for women, we cannot discountenance the fact that in our own culture, women are first and foremost wives and then mothers. These are badges we wear with pride. While more and more women are now assuming highly tasking roles within the work place; they will still continue to need the support of their husbands if they expect to succeed in the precarious balancing act of maintain their homes and excelling at the work place. So, Yes, Nigerian women have done well and we will yet do more.
By the time you are done as an ambassador, what would you like to be remembered for?
Well, before I can answer that question, it might be necessary to enunciate briefly what the functions of an ambassador are. As principle representatives of the President in our host countries, we should be able to consolidate the existing relationships between Nigeria and our host country. We should also able to foster new alliances with a view to promoting stronger links with the private sector. Closely linked to this is the imperative need to attract foreign direct investment as well as skills and technologies to facilitate the creation of jobs and wealth for our citizens at home, and when possible, in the diaspora. It is also our responsibility to effectively address negative perceptions about our country, and of paramount importance, as I stated earlier is Citizen Diplomacy which essentially entails the promotion of the welfare and security of our citizens in our host countries. These are the objectives that were enumerated by the minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Viola Onwuliri during the induction of new ambassadors recently, and have always constituted the ambassadorial desiderata.
At the end of my tenure I would like to be remembered for doing all within my power to come to the aid and assistance of our distressed citizens and defending their rights and interests whenever infringed upon. I would also like to be credited with having promoted stronger ties and stronger bilateral relations between Nigeria and the kingdom of Spain as well as my efforts towards enhancing the image of Nigerians here in Spain; Infrastructure wise, by the massive renovation works that we have carried out on the chancery building as well as the residence of the ambassador which has made it easier to conduct diplomatic engagements and functions within befitting structures that enhance the image and prestige of our country and which is a source of pride to our citizens here in Spain.
As a former beauty queen, you still look ageless what are your beauty routines?
Work hard, eat well, and sleep early.
What fashion item do you like most and how much can you spend on it?
Don’t ask me those questions, laughs….
Are you a perfume person and what type do you use?
What I can tell you is that my favorite perfume is an old fragrance which has been discontinued. It is no longer manufactured. It is called ZADIG by an Italian designer Emilio Pucci. As a matter of fact, the bottle which I am currently using and is one which I bought in 1982 at the duty free shop at Frankfurt Airport. Since I cannot replace it, I use it only on special occasions.
Still in use till now?
like I said I only use it on special occasions… on birthdays, laughs… I intend to stretch it out for as long as I can.
It’s like it will last for eternity?
I hope so, if I live for eternity! But all good things must come to an end!
How does your typical day begin?
When I wake up, I do my meditations, Have my breakfast, respond to my mails, and prepare for the office. Most times I have engagements outside my office. An ambassador has multiple functions in a country such as Spain, with diplomatic engagements and a lot of social events that revolve round non-governmental organizations, Madrid is a conference city and routinely plays host to many international trade fairs and exhibitions in addition to the events that are traditionally hosted by the Royal Family. It is renowned as a richly cultural city and its museums and galleries are home to many priceless famous works of art. There are many foundations that promote art exhibitions and countless charities.
What is your message to the Nigerian community in the kingdom of Spain?
I would like to request that they remain law abiding, that they remain good visitors to their hosts that they try as much as possible not to infringe on their laws and regulations but continually strive towards a more harmonious relationship with their hosts. They should also avail themselves of the opportunity to learn the Spanish language so that they can be integrated into the society because this will enlarge the opportunities open to them. They must remember that the good image of our country remains our collective responsibility and therefore they should strive at all times to preserve that image and defend the integrity of Nigeria.
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