All publications of Uwem, Imoh Emmanuel. Ph.D . Lagos , Nigeria
Major Orkar, Saro-Wiwa, Boro, Kalu, Sowore and Internal Colonialization: Is Balkanisation the Remedy?
History as they say is a record of important events, which has taken place in the past. Also, history avail introspection, enabling one to take cognizance of mistakes, learn from them, and propagate ideal concepts for a better society. Therefore, it is in the light of George Santayana's words "those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it," and for a better understanding of the "contraption" called Nigeria, that this writer decided to examine the ideology and intrigues of Major Orkar's 1990 botched revolution.
For avoidance of doubt, I am not an advocate of any kind of violent revolution or social reform, but like Radischev, Tolstoy, Gandhi, and King, vehemently believe in non-violence social reform that could ameliorate social injustice, inequality, and excessive exploitation of the downtrodden. I strongly believe in Proudhon's concepts of transforming society which should be moral in nature, and demand the highest ethics from individuals who seek social change. More so, I have this propensity for understanding my environment, hence my allegiance to the words of Victor Hugo who said " if you wish to understand what Revolution is, call it Progress; and if you wish to understand what Progress is, call it Tomorrow. So, society has to evolve with time, neither positively or negatively depending on the thought process of the actors and modus operandi of achieving social change.
Perhaps what spurred Major Orkar's violent strategy to create a new order, was the initial political theory of Louise Michel who believed that contemporary society has to be completely destroyed for an egalitarian era to emerge, although her preference for violent revolution later in life shifted to non-violence. On whether the aftermath of Orkar's revolution would not have brought a reign of terror and corrupt practices just like the 1789 French Revolution, is an academic discourse for another day, as "there is no act to find the mind's construction in the face" (William Shakespeare). Sincerely, I fear like Herzen, that “a new revolutionary government would only supplant a dictatorship with a different dictatorship.” However, this epistle is concerned with issues raised in Orkar's speech and whether steps have been taken by successive governments to address some of his grievances that bothers on lingering political, and socio-economic challenges.
Apparently, majority of Nigerians would concur without fear of equivocation that the issues that were laced in Major Orkar's speech such as autocracy, inequality, culture of impunity, internal colonization, nepotism, detest for accountability, marginalization, and falling standard of the educational system appears to have immensely deepened, since that "messianic" attempt to truncate a perceived cancerous dominance of a clique. Autocracy itself is a catalyst for uprisings, as pointed out by Radishchev who also noted that this system of governance is most contrary to human nature, and have the capacity to breach social contract with the governed, thereby cultivating an unjust and oppressed society.
The standard of education has been on a free fall since Orkar's redemption pursuit 30 years ago. A typical Nigerian graduate in contemporary times can hardly write an application letter. Employers have to train and retrain graduates before absorbing them in workplaces. Do I need to mention the continuous depletion of budgetary allocation to the educational sector over the years? It seems there is an orchestrated plan to ensure most Nigerians remain illiterates and in ignorance. Did Diderot not say that "comprehensive knowledge will give the power to change men's common way of thinking”? Is it not an aberration to forget the words of Frederick Douglass who posited that "knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave"? Maybe the intention of emasculating the educational sector is, as Voltaire opined, “to feed them with absurdities so they can become willing tools for injustices."
How can one explain a situation where ASUU strikes have become perennial and a recurring decimal? Lecturers lingering issues are never resolved maybe because successive governments have not been magnanimous enough to grant autonomy to Nigerian universities. The federal government appoints and reappoints a vice chancellor and members of the governing councils at will, sometimes with individuals who hardly create or add value to the system. Lecturers will go on strike for months, get to the negotiating table for collective bargaining and eventual collective agreement, get paid for not working for months, get back to the class rooms, and then go on strike again after a few months. This has been the case in the last 30 years, and who bears the self inflicted agony of this never ending dichotomy- the students.
Most graduates passing through public universities spend a minimum of 6-8 years due to incessant academic strikes. By the time they pass out, some organizations would have fixed employment age at 26 years, thereby disenfranchising a set of graduates in terms of employment opportunities. I view this as class segregation because the educational system is currently skewed in a way that makes it is excruciating for the off springs of a downtrodden to graduate before 26 years of age. What we have now is glass ceiling for a generation of less privileged graduates who eventually end up as security guards, Niger Delta militants, "okada" riders, and "okrika" sellers, while those graduates from affluent families are employed in high profile organisations. This assumption is in tandem with the thoughts of Helvetius who suggested that "although people seem to possess certain qualities in abundance than their neighbours, it is as a result of education, law and government.
The army of the unemployed, like Karl Marx noted, has been increasing over the years. Initially, it was illiterates who were leaving the country in droves due to unemployment, now it is literate individuals, bank managers and well to do citizens who are "escaping" from the country through initiatives like lottery visas and viable immigration policies of other countries who crave to have our best talents. A trip to WAEC headquarters in Lagos any day will reveal the current craze of Nigerians, paying millions of Naira to send transcripts to countries like USA, Canada and Australia. It is like virtually everyone in the "know" wants to leave the country like "Andrew" for greener pastures. A few months back, through humanitarian initiatives some stranded Nigerian citizens were "imported" from some Northern African countries and settled in Edo State. These citizens allegedly escaped and ran back because they supposedly preferred to be slaves in another country than free citizens in Nigeria. It seems there is a growing disillusionment with the current economic situation in the country, hence the enthusiasm to "escape from Alcatraz." Although, some apologists may not want to admit it, these are indices that Nigeria is fast becoming a failed State.
The health care sector has degenerated so badly that the mere mention of hospital evokes death sentence. The Nigerian elites barely patronize Nigerian hospitals, not even for Panadol. Hospitals are in shambles, while diagnosis centers have become platforms for "manufacturing" all kinds of ailments. Aside from lacking the requisite equipment, the human resources in the health sector are intermittently on strikes or leaving in droves to seek greener pastures abroad. Virtually all the pharmaceutical drugs in this sector are imported. In fact, some heartless individuals were smiling to the banks importing fake drugs until a certain Dora Akunyili decided to sanitize the system.
The oil and gas sector has not fared better. It is weird that Nigeria produces crude oil and imports petrol. This obnoxious trend only imports poverty due to jobs that are lost to other countries who refine our crude oil. It is indeed the height of absurdity, indicating no doubt that there is lack of synergy and competencies in the management of Nigeria's affairs. It is shameful that the national refineries have not been functioning at full capacity in the last 30 years. Years of turn-around maintenance have not yielded any meaningful result. When some smart guys in Niger Delta decided to produce petrol and diesel from crude oil at their backyards, instead of encouraging and regulating them, their "local" refineries are randomly destroyed, by those Fela described as "Zombie.” Yes, the "cabal" has decided our collective fate, it's either we spend billions of Naira buying dollars to import petrol or the country should remain in comatose. Massive looting have been uncovered in this sector as a result of fuel subsidy scams. Successive government policies on the downstream sector have been inconsistent. While some school of thought proposed outright sale of the national refineries, others suggested revamping the ailing refineries but the obnoxious truth is we are still importing petrol.
The economy post-Orkar revolution, is nothing to write home about as the current exchange rate hovers between 380-400 Naira to the dollar. The National Bureau of Statistics in a 2019 report estimated an alarming high employment rate of 23.1 per cent and underemployment of 16.6 per cent. Recent World Poverty Clock report shows Nigeria has the largest extreme poverty infested population. It really does not look good, especially for the downtrodden. Existing reports indicate that almajiris are being "deported" to their States of origin. It's tempting to think that an age long practice that has fostered for years is tumbling due to economic crisis.
Before Major Orkar's attempt to "right the wrong" of Lord Lugard's self-serving crafted geographical piece called Nigeria, Isaac Boro perceived marginalization and subjugation of the Niger Delta people, and revolted by taking up arms to dismember an imaginary repressive configuration. His message anchored on self- determination and secession, was triggered by prevailing political, social and economic crisis in 1966. Boro perceived an imbalance in revenue allocation, deliberate segregation and impoverishment of the minorities, believing like George Orwell that "some pigs are more equal than other animals." Conceivably, Boro was mindful of the words of Rousseau who argued that "it's absurd for a man to surrender to slavery, since he has a right to choose the laws under which he lives." As an admirer of the legendary revolutionary Che Guevara, Boro decided to tremble with indignation at injustice and demand the “impossible”- human civilization and progress in Niger Delta. Unfortunately, Boro mysteriously died fighting for the same Nigerian government he had initially opposed.
Another non-violence "radical" from the Niger Delta Ken Saro-Wiwa decided to use his pen to create awareness about environmental degradation that was ravaging Ogoni land. Like Alexander Radishchev, Saro-Wiwa observed there was inequality and a deliberate prolongation of serfdom, entrenched in a "remote controlled" conventional social system that execute a stem hierarchy and permitted abuses and exploitation. Saro-Wiwa told the truth about the pathetic eradication of the livelihood of a people, but later realized like Leo Tolstoy that "the cure wasn't simply telling people the truth, it was inducing them to act on the truth." The truth according to Tolstoy is that "the State is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens."
Saro-Wiwa met a brick wall because the oil companies ostensibly had conspirators in government who simply refused to act and halt incessant oil spillages. Perhaps, the coldblooded collaborators had hidden motives supposedly motivated by monetary incentives. This unholy alliance is in line with the thoughts of Tom Cain indicating that "the white man's cruelest trick was not to conquer or even enslave, but simply to soften, weaken and corrupt every culture or people he encounter until they lose the will to be themselves anymore." For his audacity and sagacity, Saro-Wiwa was sent to the afterlife in a very brutal manner by a goggle wearing sadist. Killing the messenger and ignoring the message has become the norm in Africa. Men like Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Sankara were savagely murdered by "colonialists" when they dared, like Lucky Dube sang, "to send the message back to the people in the ghetto." Yes, the man Saro-Wiwa died but what about his thoughts on social ills. What about the inhuman pollution and destruction of aquatic life in Ogoni land? Has Ogoni land been cleaned up as I write?
The people of Niger Delta have not been fortunate to have visionaries or revolutionaries like Nelson Mandela, Che Guevara, Thomas Sankara, Mahatma Gandhi, and Ho Chi Minh. These are men who were driven by ideology, and unwaveringly, like Lucky Dube observed, "dream of a Nation where every man will be equal in the eyes of the law." Perhaps Niger Deltans, as Victor Hugo submitted "do not lack the strength, they lack the will." It is like Niger Deltans have forgotten the inspiring words of Lord Byron who opined that "those who fail to reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not are slaves."
What we have or had in Niger Delta are mere "commercial agitators" who go on television, bare chested with bullet belts around waists, "raking" they will blow up crude oil pipelines. Then, they are invited to Abuja and served tea, before the razzmatazz of "posing" for pictures with any "Oga at the top". They "triumphantly" return to Niger Delta and are given contracts to guard the same pipelines, and "suddenly", like Fela said, become "jobless" billionaires and traditional rulers overnight. In the name of "peace", not justice, they forget about equal rights for a neglected and desecrated Niger Delta people. And as soon as they decide to "sabi something" and complain they don’t like being mere security guards, they are accused of corrupt practices, get the "Tom Polo treatment" and off they go with tails between legs into the creeks again. When will Niger Delta militant businessmen give way to ideologists whose passion, as Che Guevara implied, are needed for great work, and for social reform, passion and audacity are required in big doses.
Recently, from the South East appeared a young "talkative warlord" who due to his popularity and charisma can fill any stadium without spending a dime in the "zoo" country. The now exiled ubiquitous Nnamdi Kalu is currently "topping the charts" of separatists and secessionists because as a propagandist he has been able to make "his people" believe beyond any reasonable doubt that they are truly being marginalized in terms of political appointments and federal presence. Sincerely, I don't believe in his separatist ideology given his inability to highlight the structure of his kingdom should it eventually manifest. My submission is predicated on the perception of Friedrich Hegel who cautioned that "whenever liberty is mentioned, we must always be careful to observe whether it is really the assertion of private interests which is thereby designated." But give it to Kalu, except for his hate messages, virtually all he has been saying about marginalization and subjugation can hardly be faulted.
Maybe Kalu believe, like Kropotkin, that "seeking out conflict could be socially beneficial in attempts to destroy unjust authoritarian institutions such as the State, which stifles human creativity and impede human instinctual drive towards cooperation." Possibly, Kalu used the conflict strategy to demand for a referendum, knowing fully well that "his people" due to years of being supposedly considered as "second class" citizens will vote out rightly to gain freedom from "those" Reggae superstar Andy Shurman described as "frustrators." A presidential candidate Kingsley Moghalu was asked during the last presidential election debate what he would do about separatists’ agitations in the South East, he responded he will run an inclusive government. Accordingly, it is obvious that thoughts of being neglected in terms of appointments and other opportunities by a particular section of the country can lead to agitations. And that is the key element the young man is playing on.
Another young "revolutionary" Omoyele Sowore from the South West recently organized a failed "Revolution Now" campaign to highlight issues like nepotism, maladministration, incompetence, social inequality and injustices that have bedeviled the country since Orkar's 30 years old cry against domination and internal colonialism. With all this series of social upheavals intended to bring about social change, it indicates no doubt that something is wrong with the configuration called Nigeria. Is it the electoral system, which has allegedly been hijacked by godfathers? Someone sits somewhere and nominates someone for an elective post. Is this not the internal colonialism Orkar is talking about? Our "colonialists" are still very much interested in who rules us, which is why they are seen in our collating centers during elections. They make "statements" thereafter authenticating the veracity or otherwise of elections conducted in a "sovereign" country.
It is still problematic to conduct a free and fair elections after all these years even though some African countries have gotten it right. Some of our leaders are elected/appointed to do the biddings of "colonialists." This is the worst form of man inhumanity to man, having a ”brother" who is ruling and working for another man and willing to disclose any information about his “brother.” Is this assertion not in tandem with Rousseau's postulation in his book Social Contract where he wrote “Man is born free, everywhere he is in chains. Here's one who thinks he is a master of others, yet he is more enslaved than they are."
It is extremely difficult to hear of elections been conducted without electoral violence or money changing hands. Some elections results are ostensibly declared "inconclusive" whenever the power of the people wants to prevail. Seemingly, individuals are not elected to work for the people, but are appointed to work for godfathers. Collective wealth is personalized by a "governing advisory committee" who determines who gets what, how and when. The people rights to basic education and dignity are denied. A system of servitude is entrenched to ensure conformity and compliance. Payment of salaries of government workers which is statutory is now an "achievement" of great magnitude.
Sadly, it seems Major Orkar and other freethinkers justifications for social change is still very prevalent in contemporary times, hence real and perceived agitators are springing up as the day goes by. Could it be that Nigeria's inability to metamorphose like South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, have done in recent years, is as a result of the will of the people being denied or bad leadership? Is it because the system is too centralized and needs to be decentralized to make it more efficient and effective? It appears there are invisible hands manipulating events and trends in the country or how can the massive illiteracy be explained after over fifty years of "independence”? It appears someone is consistently sowing the seeds of discord to encourage the type of conflict that lead to the death of Ken Saro Wiwa. How can one explain the persistent arming of youths in Niger Delta and other parts of the country?
Security challenges have been on the rise with Boko Haram terrorizing the Northern part of the country. Herdsmen are on rampage, raping, killing and obliterating any iota of opposition in their quest to encroach more lands for grazing. Cows, it seems are more important than human lives. The mayhem and bloodletting got so bad that regional security outfits are springing up by the day since the Nigerian police and military can no longer contain the obnoxious situation and provide adequate internal security. Where are the legion of individuals joining terrorists, herdsmen and dissidents coming from? Are they not illiterate youths who are being brainwashed, denied basic education and exploited? These youths like Lucky Dube observed "have no education, and no future." Did Victor Hugo not say that "He who opens a school door, closes a prison"? Is the enduring words of Friedrich Hegel who said that "education is the art of making a man ethical" not effective enough? Why do they suffer so much? What about their parents? Their parents are subjugated by a system that limit their livelihood and ability to take care of the children. Are these not reasons to crave for balkanization?
Despite billions of Naira that have been allocated yearly for infrastructure, the country is still in dire need of basic infrastructure. The roads to Lagos sea ports are in such a horrible state. Importing and exporting goods take donkey days if not months. The roads to neighbouring countries like Benin Republic and Togo have been in a despicable state for years. Ironically, as soon as one cross the border to Benin Republic, you begin to see beautiful major roads leading to Cotonou. You begin to wonder, is Benin Republic not a poor country compared to Nigeria? How come the citizens of Benin Republic and Ghana enjoy constant electricity and good roads while most Nigerian highways are death traps and constant electricity supply is a mirage that is pursued but never attained? Did i need to mention that some multinational companies in Nigeria have since moved their factories to Ghana due to unfavourable government policies and epileptic power supply? It means someone somewhere is guilty of dereliction of duty. Even in the midst of this anomaly, some shady characters are smiling to the banks. Nigeria has the market in terms of its population. Therefore, electric generators and its health hazards are imported in massive proportion, despite the fact that the world is going green and evolving to sustainable eco-friendly systems.
Nigeria's drive for sustainable development in contemporary times have met stiff internal challenges. Corruption has eaten deep into the very fabric of the country. Looted monies are displayed on television and national newspapers. Inept individuals are appointed into sensitive positions while highly resourceful individuals are seconded to "teach" the "mugus" what to do in office. Mediocrity is striving while meritocracy has been thrown to the dungeons. Is balkanization the answer?
I don't think so. Power appears to be too concentrated at the center, hence there should be decentralization. I think the ethnic groups can live in harmony. I am of the view the fight is not between ethnic groups but between the poor and the rich. My assertion is based on the assumption that those who sit around a table and decide the fate of millions of Nigerians consist of members of all the ethnic groups. It is just that some individuals inclusive of your "townsman" have decided to "chop" and "clean" mouth, and play politics with religion and ethnicity.
Major Orkar's revolution and the disgruntled freethinkers agitations that came before and after him is an eye opener for the present generation of leaders. It shows that there are individuals who are not contented with the status quo. It also indicates that the leadership needs to tackle issues of nepotism, maladministration and hydrated corruption. These are indices of social upheavals. Some stubborn sycophants, fanatics and apologists will say let them shout that they are being cheated, they cannot do anything. The army will handle it and crush them. We must not forget that war and crime comes with devastating consequences. We are talking about lives that will be lost, insecurity, economic instability and displacement of a people. Is it not better to "chop" small and let the people have stable electricity, good roads and affordable hospitals?
Some school of thought believe that impoverishing the downtrodden is a strategy of winning elections. After all "if I give dem 5k and small bag of semo for election day, dem go vote for me." Well, like they use to say "every day for the thief, one day for the owner." Again, Aristotle opined that "poverty is the parent of revolution and crime." We don't pray for it but a day may come when a real "revolutionary" who may speak all the major languages will rise. His mother may be a Muslim and his father a Christian. His mother, father, wife and cousins may consist of all members of major ethnic groups. Religion and ethnicity as a tool may not work against him. His message may focus on inequality, serfdom and entrenched poverty.
This imaginary "redeemer" may refuse "Abuja tea" and "Uncle Sam's" handshake, and solely focus on an ideology that is at variance with the thoughts of the current generation of leaders. He may come in the mode of J.J. Rawlings or Thomas Sankara or Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi, determined to instigate and drive social change. We have seen it in Russia, China, Cuba, Ghana, South Africa, and Vietnam. We have seen the mechanization of "colonialists" and their instigated revolts, in natural resources endowed countries like Central African Republic (CAR) and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Yes, rich countries in every sense of the word but most of their misguided citizens live in excruciating poverty, due to the inability of various ethnic groups to maintain a united front. We have seen the most repressive regimes taken down by the people. We have seen the "Arab Springs" and its enormous negative consequences. We pray that reason will prevail in our dear country.
I think we have had incompetent leadership as well as bad fellowship. I believe there should be an evolution of minds that will be entrenched in integrity, ethics, morals and values. Maybe that is why Confucius advocated "loyalty to principle rather than to individual acumen, in which reform should be achieved by persuasion rather than violence." If we are accomplices in electoral fraud and violence, then we should not blame the politicians. Some of them are businessmen who must recoup their money after elections. Why sell your votes and allow "them" to go into office and take loans generations unborn will be incapacitated to pay. If we keep running from the country and its problems, who will redeem it.
There is an urgent need to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. Did Albert Einstein not say "an empty stomach is not a good political adviser?" Poor individuals may not watch affluent individuals live in opulence for too long. Majek Fashek even said "we have been sitting down for so long." We are optimistic our children will get quality education and the people will have the requisite infrastructure. We are anticipative that there will be decentralization of power. We are hopeful that the preposterous act of favouring at particular section over others in terms of appointments or opportunities will be a thing of the past very soon. My thoughts are synchronized with that of Reggae megastar Majek Fashek who vocalized "no more sorrows, no more weeping, no more dying, no more war." And finally we must not forget to enduring words of Franklin. D. Roosevelt who alluded that " the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."
Uwem, Imoh Emmanuel. Ph.D.
A disciple of Voltaire,
Writes from the House of Exile.