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 never met 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, must become 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, take a second shuttle back to Nigeria.
Western Nigeria, aftermath the fiasco of the 1963 national census and the 1964 Federal Elections, was literally a bedlam. The allegation was that the North hid behind the purdah system of ba shiga, gidan aure ne (no entrance, it’s a house of married women) to stuff figures in the headcount under the conspiratorial goggles of Balewa. Commentators 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.
The same emboldened silence was what Balewa advertised 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. Sworn in for another term, the Akintola government met serious resistance by the populace. It 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. Worse still, as Balewa departed Nigeria for Accra to attend the OAU meeting in October 1965, he was quoted to have alleged that the violence in the region was contrived. This led to an editorial saying that “Whether Abubakar (Balewa) intervenes or not, the Nigerian Tribune is 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 first military coup took place, ending the lives of Balewa, Akintola and others.
This writer went into this long-winding retelling of a long Nigerian story so as to situate Buhari’s Balewa-like ominous personal silence on the slide in the security affairs of Nigeria, especially from the flanks of the Western part of the country. 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 whose seed 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, as well as projection that any Nigerian leader with a heady resistance to peace in the West is peering at the grave of Balewa.
If you collate the anger of the people today against the Buhari government’s attempt to stop the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) called Operation Amotekun and their periodic unity behind it, you would arrive at a juncture of a throwback to Nigeria’s Western Region’s palpable animosity against the government of Balewa and the brimming angst against it.
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. If Buhari’s DSS would give him truthful report of situation in the West today, he would find out that, for the first time in a very long while, South West Nigeria is throwing away the indices of politics and religion to damn the Federal Government on its sloppy 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 and 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 to the principle of natural justice. The 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 South West’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, audaciously asked South-West to drop the idea of Amotekun if it wants the presidency in 2023. 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 and main officers of his government, the RUGA plot and other shenanigans by government that were largely targeted at getting the people’s tormentors a soft landing in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, are all parts of a larger plot to Fulanise the rest of Nigeria. Amotekun and the resistance of its coming to life are a palpable indication that the satanic plot was real after all.
The coincidence of the 40th anniversary of the end of the Nigerian Civil War with this governmental bigotry must have made the world realise 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 in the war. Except he is fascinated with untruth, Gowon should know that it is very glaring that going through the 30-month war only to have a Nigerian leadership consumed by this government’s kind of thinking, which is fired by a narrow-minded protection of the President’s ethnicity while other ethnicities are left naked to be attacked by violent murderers, makes the death of our heroes past a vainglorious exercise.
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 South-West people. South-West Nigeria has always been the graveyards of the Balewas and their recalcitrant offspring in federal office.
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 in many productions since the 1970s. Alhaji Gbadamosi was 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 in 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 he could 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 Creators.
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. 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.
The question to ask is, were all the votes in the 388 polling units voided by INEC and resuscitated by the Supreme Court, solely cast for Uzodinma? How can Uzodinma, who came fourth in the March, 1999 election, now be made to be the first, rather than the two candidates before him, even if Ihedioha would not 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.