Sunday, January 19, 2020 7:16 am
By Festus Adedayo
Apparently a young officer of the Nigerian Army at the time Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was the Nigerian Prime Minister from 1957 – 1966, it goes without saying that President Muhammadu Buhari must know of Balewa, even if he didn’t know him. Conversely however, if his official birthday of April 17, 1967 is indeed real, Abubakar Malami probably encountered Balewa as a historical piece. For both however, the life of Balewa and his disposition to Western Nigeria, especially during the crisis that seized the region from 1962 to 1966, should be a reference point if both men do not want the fate that befell Nigeria as a result of Balewa’s self-imposed deafness to the turmoil that began like a minor crisis in the West, to take another shuttle back to Nigeria.
Western Nigeria, aftermath the fiasco of the 1963 national census and the 1964 Federal Elections, was literally a bedlam. The census provoked a narrative of divisionism as results claimed that the whole of Southern Nigeria was less than the North. Commentators were riled by what was perceived as fictitious figures “concocted from harem curtains.” The allegation was that the North hid behind the purdah system of ba siga, gidan aore ne (no entrance, it’s a house of married women) to stuff figures in the headcount under the conspiratorial goggles of Balewa. In the same vein came allegation that foreigners were being imported into Northern Nigeria. Commentators after commentators pilloried the idea of women in purdah not being physically counted by the census inspectors, relying on verbal figures handed them by family heads. They warned that if a doctored figure was imposed on the people, Nigeria was a few meters from Golgotha. As Buhari does today, 56 years after, Balewa’s silence to this tinder that was primed to burn Nigeria was palpably bothersome.
Balewa advertised this silence when the Federal Elections of 1964 became an orgy of killings in the Western Region. Acrimonious and vengeful campaigns, preparatory to the elections, especially in the West, became the order of the day. Deputy Premier, Victor Babaremilekun Adetokunboh Fani-Kayode, Richard Akinjide and Bayo Olowofoyeku formed the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), comprising Akintola’s United Peoples Party (UPP), the rump of fragmented National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) leaders and the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), to form the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA). The rump of the Action Group (AG) that was left also went into an alliance with the NCNC, Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) and United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC), to form an alliance it called the United Progressive Ground Alliance (UPGA). At the end of the day, the election was so farcical that it brimmed with violence. UPGA then announced a boycott. In the 1965 regional election, there was a repeat of this gangsterism with both Akintola’s NNA and UPGA’s Dauda Soroye Adegbenro laying claim to having won the election. Sworn in for another term, the Akintola government met serious resistance by the populace, including decisions of the people not to pay tax, which forced government to review cocoa price from £110 per ton to £60. This eventually led to the Weti e upheaval.
While on a tour of Benin in June, 1964, still feigning ignorance of the crisis, Balewa was quoted to have said that he could not judge the intensity of lawlessness in the West on account of newspaper report of the brigandage. Balewa, who projected the image of an “unworried” and “unconcerned” Prime Minister with his “ominous silence,” was pummeled by the Western Region media. He still advertised a façade of insulation from the worsening fate of the West and someone who didn’t read newspapers. Worse still, as Balewa departed Nigeria for Accra to attend an OAU meeting in October, 1965, he was quoted to have alleged that the violence in the region was contrived. While at the Ikeja Airport, he was asked by journalists what he was going to do about the fire raging in Western Nigeria. Successfully tucking his bother inside his flowing babanriga, Tafawa Balewa reportedly looked round and cynically declared; “Ikeja is part of the West and I cannot see any fire burning.” That same fire consumed him on January 15, 1966. It was a case of a disease that would kill one which is always pampered and treated with kid gloves. The pillory of Balewa that resulted from this peremptory treatment of the western crisis was accentuated by his perceived shield of his party man and “fast drowning political friend” – a la the Nigerian press – Premier S. L. Akintola and Balewa’s refusal to invoke the Emergency powers as he did in 1962. This led to an editorial comment by the Nigerian Tribune saying that: “Whether Abubakar (Balewa) intervenes or not, (we are) convinced that this is a war the people are bound to win.” This was the situation on the morning of January 15, 1966 when the fire that Balewa ignored successfully gave birth to the first military coup in Nigeria which effectively ended the lives of Balewa, Akintola and others.
This writer went into this long-winding retelling of a long Nigerian history so as to situate Buhari’s Balewa-like ominous personal silence on the fire burning from the flanks of the Western part of Nigeria which is manifesting as a slide in its security affairs. Call it tribal arrogance or needless over-hype, history tells us that the Western Region is always where the Nigerian crisis snowballs from. Apart from the consequential crash of Nigerian first democratic practice of the First Republic, the seed of which was sown in the West, military rule also crumbled in Nigeria on account of the West’s united civil resistance against autocracy, with the martyrdom of its son, MKO Abiola, in 1998. With these, a charge of unnecessary revisionism cannot be sustained against my claim that there is another ominous fire that is burning in the country from the Western flank, as well as my projection that any Nigerian leader with a heady or natural laid-back disposition that manifests as resistance to peace in the West can be said to be peering at the grave of Balewa.
If you collate the anger of the people of Western Nigeria today against the Buhari government’s attempt to stop the Western Nigeria SecurityNetwork (WNSN) called Operation Amotekun and their pleasantly strange unity of purpose on Amotekun, you would arrive at a juncture that makes the current situation a throwback to Nigeria’s Western region’s palpable animosity and brimming angst against the government of Balewa. These are the offshoot of a press release issued by the office of Abubakar Malami, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, offering legalistic arguments against the security outfit. In the release, Malami also made a Balewa-like statement, to wit that Southwest could not inform him of Amotekun from the pages of newspapers. Such arrogance!
If Buhari’s DSS would give him truthful report of current situation in the west today, he would find out that, for the first time in a very long while, Southwest Nigeria is throwing away her constant variables of politics and religion to damn the Federal Government on its apparently self-centered stand on Amotekun. It is worsened by Buhari’s baffling taciturnity to the crisis. While Balewa at least showed his patent disregard for the escalating violence, Buhari’s embarrassing absence of a personal opinion on the matter, leading to the projection of his government’s voice by surrogates like Malami make the belief that Nigerians are being ruled by unelected triumvirates to gain notoriety.
Malami’s press release has been subjected to a forensic post-mortem by very knowledgeable Nigerians which makes a repeat of the damning verdict on him irrelevant here. The greatest way to put a lie to Malami’s legalistic argument is to scan it for abidance by the principle of natural justice. This resultant query will emanate from the scan: Is man made for law or laws are made for man? When South-westerners were being killed, kidnapped and ransomed like pawned necklace by rampaging Fulani herdsmen from the North or wherever, with a Federal Government that was either too inept to counter them or too complicit in the plot to lift a finger, should the letter of the law or its spirit rescue the people from the bind that the Malamis conscripted them?
The frenetic pace with which Northern Nigeria demanded the surrender of Southwest’s desire to secure herself, against the backdrop of the Federal Government’s inability or incapability to ensure peace in Nigeria as a whole, is not only suspicious but smacks of an ulterior motive. Only a few days ago, Miyetti Allah, the umbrella body of a group said to be one of the most deadly terrorist groups in the world and whose reckless public utterances are festering by the day, audaciously asked Southwest to drop the idea of Amotekun if it wants the presidency in 2023. It was also reported to have asked that governors behind Amotekun should be arrested. What arrant nonsense and magisterial belief in entitlement to power!
All these seem to confirm earlier tissues of rumour that the banditry of the Fulani felons, the attempt by the Buhari government to get settlements for them in all parts of Nigeria, the defence of herdsmen’s bloodletting by no less a person than Buhari himself with all manner of ill-logics at his disposal, as well as by top officers of his government, the RUGA plot and other shenanigans by government that were largely targeted at getting the people’s tormentors-in-chief soft landing in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, are all parts of a larger plot to Fulanize the rest of Nigeria. If you lay the premises like this:Fulani herdsmen are tormenting Southwest Nigeria; Buhari and his government are defending Fulani herdsmen; Southwest Nigeria plans security outfit to combat Fulani herdsmen and other criminals; Buhari government wants to stop Southwest Nigeria, that conclusion will naturally flow from the premises. Amotekun and the resistance of its coming to life are a palpable indication that the satanic plot to inflict Fulani herdsmen on Southern Nigeria was real after all.
The coincidence of the 40th anniversary of the end of the Nigerian Civil War with this current governmental bigotry must have made the world realize that the about one million Nigerians killed in the war may have been martyred needlessly. This is because the Nigerian Hausa-Fulani leaders have not purged themselves of the rank, narrow-minded and selfish leadership that rankled Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and which was the major impetus for the civil war. Yakubu Gowon was recently quoted to have said that he didn’t regret his actions in the war, which included the killings of multiple of thousands Igbo and thousands of soldiers on both sides. Except he is fascinated with untruth, Gowon should know that it is very glaring from the experiences of other ethnic groups in Nigeria under this government that going through the 30-month war only to have a Nigerian leadership consumed by this government’s kind of thinking makes the death of our heroes past a vainglorious exercise. It is obvious that resistance to Amotekun is fired by a narrow-minded protection of the President’s ethnicity while other ethnicities are left naked and at the mercy of violent murderers.
Just like Balewa, Buhari has turned a deaf ear to solicitations not to set Nigeria alight by this ominous silence on Amotekun. He is egged on to a destructive stiff-neckedness by his ostensible obsession with the defence of his Fulani kin. I cite a prophetic Nigerian Tribune editorial of November 18, 1965 where the newspaper had written, inter alia: “Whether Abubakar (Balewa) intervenes or not, (we are) convinced that this is a war the people are bound to win…with all (his) cunning of a fox and all the trickery of a monkey…”
Buhari should learn from Balewa’s fall and not take the silly silence of self-styled Yoruba leaders who Yakubu Danjuma called Fifth columnists, as approximating a bendable will of the Southwest people. Southwest Nigeria has always been the graveyards of the Balewas and their recalcitrant offspring in federal office.
Why did Tanko spit on the grave of Jeremy Bentham?
The problem with Nigeria’s judicial system is that there is always this attempt at belittling the impact of jurisprudence, the philosophy of law, on the legal system. This is why there is so much law in the Nigerian judicial system but little justice in the land. While jurisprudence hankers after law as it ought to be, with proponents like John Austin of the school of analytical jurisprudence, the bulk of the Nigerian legal system is devoted to law as it is. The truth, however, is that there is no way the judicial system and pronouncements will be in tandem with natural justice and there will be chaos of the kind that emanated last week in the Supreme Court’s pronouncement on the Imo State gubernatorial election.
Legal juggernauts have spoken for and against the judgment. One major reason why the judiciary is feared and disdained is its tendency to pronounce on a matter from both ends of the stick with sufficient legal establishment of why it did so. However, if the principle of natural justice undergirds such pronouncement, the judiciary won’t suffer widespread societal disdain as it does at the moment.
In the Imo matter, it becomes difficult for anyone with a jurisprudential mind to agree with the judgment of the apex court removing Emeka Ihedioha of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as governor and replacing him with Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Yes, I am aware that upon their activation by the Supreme Court, the votes in 388 polling units earlier voided by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had to be passed on to a candidate and since there was no AA and APGA parties in contention and Uzodinma was the most available recipient legally, he had to be awarded the votes but jurisprudence would frown at this daylight robbery. This is because, in the face of jurisprudence, in the presence of natural justice, you cannot put something on nothing.
According to the March 9, 2019 election results released by INEC, Ihedioha polled a total of 273,404 votes; Uche Nwosu (AA) 190,364 votes, Ifeanyi Ararume (APGA) 114,676, while Uzodinma (APC) got 96,458 votes. Were all the votes in 388 polling units voided by INEC and resuscitated by the Supreme Court, solely cast for Uzodinma? How can Uzodinma, who came fourth in the election, now be made to be the first, rather than the two candidates before him, even if Ihedioha would cannot get the votes? There is no way jurisprudence would abet this desecration of natural justice.
Jeremy Bentham is known the world over as the Father of Jurisprudence. Technicalities, which could be termed the law as it is, must have won Uzodinma ‘victory’ under the Supreme Court of Justice Ibrahim Tanko, the Chief Justice of Nigeria. With a judicial system that is mindful of law as the pronouncement of the sovereign, a re-run of the election should have been the judgment.
Which also takes me to Father Ejike Mbaka, the spiritual consultant who was apparently used to spiritually legitimize the spit on Jeremy Bentham. What people don’t know is that the Mbakas only flourish in a failed state where people thirst for spiritual rendition of a purely physical matter. Mbaka is a sore on the Nigerian foot which points to a diseased inner member.
Exit of Gbadamosi and Arigbabuwo
Two persons of value to this writer passed on last week. One was Alhaji Waheed Gbadamosi, ex-Director-General, Oyo State Bureau of Physical and Urban Development Control and the other, Toyosi Arigbabuwo, Yoruba thespian who this writer had watched his plays since the 1970s. Alhaji Gbadamosiwas a thorough-bred town planner and a courageous professional whose insistence on rules made him an enemy of so many people. He was also a principled man whose fastidious insistence on process made him an abhorrent spectacle to those with impatience for process. He died a few days to his 70th birthday.
Arigbabuwo, who this writer never met, was an act who taught him the little Yoruba he knows today. As a kid those days, we would run to neighbours’ houses to watch Arigbabuwo, Oyin Adejobi’s Kotu Asipa, Baba Wande, I-sho Pepper, Baba Sala, Yemi Elebuibon, etc on NTA. The one I remember vividly was Arigbabuwo acting as a captured babalawo in the land of his slavery. Asked to cut down weeds with cutlass as a captive, he wept profusely, asking which of the weeds could he honestly cut, when he knew that each of them was herb used for curative purposes? He sang: ewe gbogbo kiki ogun, eyi la fi n wo lakuregbe, ewo ni n ge?
May their souls find an anchor in the bosom of their Creator.