Sunday, December 20, 2009

Roads To Hell


Travelling by road in Nigeria is still a nightmare as the roads are in terrible condition despite the huge expenditure on their reconstruction and maintenance.

The condition of our roads, both the major arteries of this country and the roads in most of our major cities beggars imagination. And here I must ask the question do our government, ministers and leaders who travel often and see the condition in other countries ever feel embarrassed by the condition of roads in our resource-rich country? Do they notice the large potholes that litter the roads and even bridges?”

Those words, coming from Emeka Anyaoku, former secretary general of the Commonwealth, vividly captures the dismal failure of the Nigerian state to maintain its roads. The diplomat, who gave the damning verdict on the state of the nation’s roads at a recent public lecture in Abuja, said the consequence of such has been the soaring rate of accidents which have turned them into “a huge slaughter slab where human lives are worth little or nothing.”

Indeed, Anyaoku has bluntly spoken the mind of almost every road user in Nigerians. He has lent his weighty voice of courage and candour to the cries of most Nigerians who have had harrowing experiences while travelling on some of the roads that are in critical conditions across the country. Recent investigations by Newswatch revealed that, although the federal government has spent more than one trillion Naira on contracts for the rehabilitation of these roads in the past ten years, about 30 of the major federal roads are in deplorable conditions.

Some of the federal roads that have collapsed include the Lagos-Ore-Benin expressway, the Ibadan-New Ife-Ilesha-Akure expressway and the Lagos-Ibadan expressway in the South-West zone. In the South-East zone, the roads that have so many failed portions are the Onitsha-Enugu expressway, the Enugu-Abakaliki highway, the Enugu-Port Harcourt road, the Onitsha-Owerri highway and the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road. The roads in the South-South zone that have collapsed are the East-West road, the Calabar-Itu-Ogoja-Katsina Ala road, the Aba-Ikot Ekpene road, Aba-Ekparakwa-Etinan road and the Ini-Ekpe-Ikot Nkon-Arochukwu road.

There are also some roads in dilapidated conditions in the northern part of the country. They include the Okene-Lokoja-Abuja road, Okene-Ajaokuta-Anyigba road, Kaduna-Jos road and the Kano-Azare-Damaturu road.

One federal road that has remained a nightmare for motorists is the Lagos-Ore-Benin expressway. In spite of several reports in the media about the bad state of the road, which is the major link road between the western and eastern parts of Nigeria, its situation has not improved. At the inception of the administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Diezani Allison-Madueke, immediate past minister of transportation, had visited the road. She was there on August 6, 2007 and wept because of its dilapidated state. “I am actually very, very unhappy today at what I have seen. I am very displeased that this road was allowed to degenerate to this level. I want to apologise to Nigerians for the deplorable state that I found this road in. This is inhuman and unacceptable,” Allison-Madueke said.

However, more than two years after the former minister of transportation’s lamentation over the sorry state of the road which raised the hope of many Nigerians of a quick solution to the problem, the condition of the road has continued to deteriorate. When Newswatch visited the road last week, the failed portions of the road still had craters wide enough to swallow vehicles. Commuters who were travelling to the South-East and South-South zones of the country for Christmas had harrowing experiences, as they had to spend several hours at the failed portion of the road between Ore and Ofosu in Ondo State. This was as a result of the serious traffic gridlock on the road as the vehicles tried to wade through the failed portions of the road. Some of the vehicles had to divert through the bush path in Ofosu in a bid to beat the gridlock.

Sampson Raymond, one of the drivers, caught up in the traffic jam, told Newswatch that he left Lagos at about 8 a.m. on that day enroute Okada in Edo State. Unfortunately, he ran into the traffic gridlock at Ore by 11:30 a.m. By 3:30 p.m. when Newswatch met him, he was still trying to manoeuvre his way out of the jam which he attributed to bad spots along the expressway.

Emeka Nwokeke, a driver of a luxurious bus conveying passengers to Aba, told Newswatch that he spent more than five hours in the gridlock. “I left Lagos at 7:30 a.m. for Aba and you can see where we are. There is no way I can get to Aba today. You can see that the traffic is not flowing at all. We have been stuck in this traffic for the past five hours,” he said. Eberechukwu Anyanwu, one of the passengers on the bus, could not control his temper as he rained abuses on those in power for allowing the road deteriorate to the point that it has become almost impassable thereby making those travelling home for Christmas to pass through hell. “You can see how bad it is and yet we have people who claim to be our leaders. This road could be best described as Nigerians' expressway to hell,” he told Newswatch.

Worried by the hazards the deplorable condition of the Ore axis of the Lagos-Ore-Benin expressway and other highways across the country have constituted for transporters, the Association of Luxury Bus Owners of Nigeria, ALBON, met in Lagos recently to deliberate on the issue. In a communiqué issued after the emergency meeting, the governing council of the association threatened to withdraw their vehicles from the roads unless the federal government instituted a programmed maintenance on all the major highways in the country.

In the communiqué jointly signed by Prince Ejike Okoli and Frank Nneji, national president and secretary respectively of the association, they drew government’s attention to the need for an “urgent intervention programme on the Shagamu-Ore-Benin road to ensure that normal flow of traffic is restored.” The luxurious bus owners were concerned that though this road is one of the busiest arterial roads in the country, government has not accorded the maintenance of the road the priority attention it deserves. They frowned at the situation whereby motorists sometimes spend as much as 12 hours on that stretch alone due to its dilapidated condition.

The association stated that the abysmal state of roads across the country has resulted in the depletion of its fleet due to constant damages leading to high cost of maintenance. “In the year 2000, we had a capacity of 6,000 buses but these have been depleted to less than 1,500 buses with over 80 operators being forced out of business because of harsh operating condition.” The governing council of ALBON passionately appealed to the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through the minister of works to come to its aid and the aid of other Nigerian road users who daily suffer untold hardship on major Nigerian roads.

ALBON also urged the federal government to separate funding for road maintenance from the budget for road development, rehabilitation and reconstruction because “the two are clearly distinct.” The group noted that it is common for thieves to rob the drivers and their passengers at the failed portions of the roads where the vehicles virtually come to a halt.

Okoli told Newswatch last week that ALBON was compelled to take such an action because the deplorable condition of the roads has taken its toll on their vehicles as it now costs them so much money to maintain them. He explained that most luxurious buses now strip their vehicles of the overhangs of the front and rear fenders, because they usually hit the surface of the bad roads and break whenever the tyres sink into the ground or run through large potholes. “The impact of the bad road not only lead to heavy maintenance costs, but ultimately reduces the lifespan of the buses,” he said. He explained that because of the failed portion of the Lagos-Ore-Benin expressway, some luxurious buses travelling from Lagos to Owerri, Enugu, Port Harcourt and Uyo spend two days on the road before reaching their destinations.

According to him, the association often bought truck loads of chippings and brick objects with which its members tried to repair the failed portions of the road. He lamented that the wear-and-tear the bad roads have constituted for their vehicles is so much that some transporters had contemplated leaving the business since it was no longer lucrative. “We spend so much money repairing knocked engines as a result of the bad roads. The engines are at the back and when the rear keeps hitting the ground, the oil drains away and could spoil the engine if the driver could not notice it in time. It costs as much as N1.3 million to repair an engine of a luxurious bus,” Okoli told Newswatch.

Corroborating Okoli’s position, Nneji, who is also the managing director of ABC Transport, described 2009 as the worst year for transporters. “It is only in 2009 that you have vehicles leaving Lagos and never got to the East until after 36 hours,” he said. He attributed the problem to lack of proper management of the roads by the government. He explained that some of the roads have not been rehabilitated and reconstructed as they ought to. He believes that the federal government should treat the issue of roads as an emergency because if the nation’s economy must grow, the transportation infrastructure have to grow too.

Apparently taking a cue from the leadership of ALBON, Patrick Obahiagbon, the lawmaker representing Oredo federal constituency in the House of Representatives, early this month threatened to lead a mass protest over the poor state of the Benin-Ore road. He, however, gave the federal government a “reasonable period in 2010” to fix the road or face mass protest. “I have resolved as the representative of the good people of Oredo federal constituency in Edo State who have suffered a great deal on the collapsed Benin-Ore-Lagos road to tackle the gauntlet posed by the exigencies of the times to compel the federal government to act expeditiously in fixing the road once and for all,” Obahiagbon said.

In response to public outcry over the deplorable condition of the road, Hassan Muhammed Lawal, minister of works, housing, and urban development, recently visited the road. He was accompanied by Olusegun Mimiko, governor of Ondo State, who suggested outright reconstruction of the road.

Coincidentally, on the day of their visit, they were caught in the traffic gridlock that had become a common scene on the road. Lawal, who was overwhelmed by the traffic jam and the complaints of commuters, acknowledged the fact that the road has expired and required reconstruction. “We are all witnesses to the congestion this afternoon. There are several stages of fixing a road. It could be repaired; it could be rehabilitation and it could be outright reconstruction. The road was repaired, now they are doing rehabilitation and like he (governor) suggested, there is need for outright reconstruction of the road and I couldn’t agree with him more. However, I want to reiterate the need for patience,” he said.

In the wake of the mounting public complaints over the deplorable state of the road, the federal government, last month, awarded contracts to the tune of N12.2 billon for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of two sections of the road. The multinational civil engineering companies commissioned to execute the contracts are Reynolds Construction Company Limited, RCC, handling the Ajebandele-Ofosu road axis, and Borini Prono and Company Limited repairing the Shagamu-Ajebandele-Ore-Benin section of the expressway. While RCC’s contract is worth N9.7 billion, that of Borini Prono is put at the cost of N2.5 billion. When Newswatch visited the road last week, the two construction companies had already commenced work on their respective sections of the road. While RCC was given 30 months to complete its contract, Borini Prono is expected to complete its job within 18 months. Officials of the two companies at the site refused to oblige Newswatch with details of their plan to beat the target.

Like the Lagos-Ore-Benin expressway, the Ibadan-New Ife-Ilesa-Akure road is also in a deplorable condition. The first noticeable bad portion of the road is by Oludare block industry, about five kilometres from Ibadan metropolis. However, the bad portion has been graded by RATCON Construction Company handling the rehabilitation of the road under the supervision of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency, FERMA. Another failed portion of the road is in Asejire, also in Oyo State. This failed portion begging for rehabilitation is 53 kilometres from Ibadan. Equally in a deplorable state is the portion of the road at Ikoyi junction in Osun State. At Ikire town still in Osun State, there is another failed portion of the road.

The road is dualised but one side of the road has been closed for maintenance and motorists are forced to use one way. Samuel Adesina, a driver who plies the Ibadan-Akure route, told Newswatch that motorists have been encountering problems on the failed portion of the road for six months now.

At Gbongan, there is another failed portion of the expressway. For instance, between Gbongan and Akinlalu, a distance of 10 kilometres, Newswatch counted five failed portions of the road. Tayo Azeez, an Akure-based driver who plies the road, told Newswatch that traffic congestions is a daily affair on the road. Azeez added that accidents are regular occurrences on the road because of its poor state. Unfortunately, there is no ongoing rehabilitation work on the road.

On Saturday, December 1, there was a fatal accident at Onimu village in Gbongan. According to an eye witness, the accident occurred when a driver of one of the buses who was on high speed attempted to dodge a bad portion of the road and rammed into the on-coming vehicle. The collision of the two vehicles ignited fire and they were burnt with all the passengers on board. Adesina, who witnessed the accident, told Newswatch that it was a gory sight as they watched human beings roasted to death like goats.

Although the Ife-Ilesha road is relatively motorable, at least up to Oloko where the dual carriage way terminates, the same cannot be said of Ilesha-Akure road which is a single narrow road. From Arakeje, where Joseph Ayo Babalola University is located, to Ilaramokin, there are several failed portions on the road. Indeed, Newswatch gathered that traffic congestion is a common phenomenon on the road which makes users spend longer hours to get to their destinations.

In the South-East, many federal roads are still in deplorable conditions. Although the contract for the dualisation of the Onitsha-Owerri highway was awarded in 2002, some portions of the road are still in a state of disrepair. Not even the splitting of the contract between the Consolidated Construction Company, CCC, and Julius Berger PLC has facilitated the construction of the road. The contract for the dualisation of the entire stretch of the 90.3-kilometre road was initially awarded by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo to CCC at the cost of N24.5 billion with a three-year completion period.

However, due to the slow pace of work, the former president had in 2005 approved extra N20 billion for the project and directed Julius Berger to handle the Owerri end of road up to the boundary between Imo and Anambra states. CCC was then asked to concentrate on the Onitsha end of the road while the contract sum was increased to N36 billion.

Adeseye Ogunlewe, the then minister of works, had promised that with the involvement of the two construction companies in the project, the dualisation of the Onitsha-Owerri road would be completed within 18 months. But three years after the federal government’s promise, work on the Onitsha-Owerri road is still progressing at a snail speed.

Julius Berger has done substantial work on its own part of the contract. When Newswatch visited the operational base of the German constructions giant at Njaba bridge, the dreaded bridge which had caused several accidents in the past was wearing a new look. The bridge had been completed and opened for use by motorists. Chijioke Nnanna, a commercial driver who plies the road regularly, told Newswatch that transporters were glad that Julius Berger built a solid and standard bridge across the Njaba River. “I am very happy with the fantastic job done by Julius Berger on the Njaba bridge. Before now, the bridge was a death trap because of the winding nature of the road, but today, we have an ultramodern bridge and we thank the federal government for awarding the contract to a reputable construction firm,” Nnanna told Newswatch.

The construction giant has taken the work beyond Awo-Omamma and is now grading the portion of the road at Mgbidi, the boundary between Imo and Anambra states. A supervisor with Julius Berger who spoke to Newswatch on condition of anonymity said the company was determined to complete the contract early next year.

Like Julius Berger, CCC has also made some progress on its own part of the road. Despite the delay in the construction of the Onitsha end of the road, the CCC, which is from Greece, did a standard job on the areas it has so far covered. The CCC has constructed the road from Onitsha to Ihembosi in Ekwusigo local government area of Anambra State and provided good drainage system on both sides of the road. The company has also graded the road from Okija junction to Ihiala. It has tried to cover some of the gullies on the road. However, the portion of the road graded is constituting problems for motorist because it is very dusty.

Newswatch learnt that before the dry season set in, the portion of the road that was graded was so slippery that many vehicles avoided it. Some of the vehicles coming from Onitsha had to divert to the Okija community through the junction from where they come out at Ihiala junction. Consequently, this has led to the dilapidation of the local road in Okija built during the Chinwoke Mbadiniju administration. Vehicles coming from Owerri had to divert to the old road leading to Nnewi and come out at Ihembosi. Sylvanus Ike Nweme, former chairman of Ihiala local government area who hails from Okija, told Newswatch that although CCC could be said to be slow in handling the contract, the people of the South-East are happy with the quality of job they are doing. “I must confess that we are very pleased with the quality of job CCC is doing. The work is progressing irrespective of the nature of Okija area. The topography of our area is one factor that is slowing down the job. It is not a table land. That is why the job was delayed from Ihembosi to Ihiala,” Nweme said.

The Onitsha-Enugu expressway is another road in the South-East that is in a poor state. However, the people of the area heaved a sigh of relief when the federal government recently awarded contract for the reconstruction of the road to CCC and Nigercat. While CCC is handling the Onitsha end of the road up to Awka, Nigercat was awarded the contract for the construction of the road from Ugwuoba part of the expressway leading to Enugu. Ugwuoba is a border town between Enugu and Anambra states.

For Boniface Egboka, a professor of environmental hydrogeology and vice chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, there is nothing to celebrate yet until evidence of work is seen. He recalled that the bad condition of the Onitsha-Enugu road recently led to the death of many people at Umunya.

The accident at Umunya was nothing short of a tragedy because it involved no less than nine vehicles and reportedly led to the death of more than 50 persons. The accident was said to have been caused by the bad portion of the highway at Umunya which is no different from the situation in many other parts of the dual carriageway in both the Enugu and Onitsha axes.

The Onitsha-Enugu road is replete with potholes, bad patches and gullies from Upper Iweka to MCC junction. This extended to New Spare Parts Market, Umunya, Awka, Ugwuorji and 9th Mile Corner. Indeed, the Onitsha-Enugu road is anything but an expressway. According to Mike Udah, chief press secretary to Governor Peter Obi, governor of Anambra State, “nightmare” is a word that best describes a journey on the road.

Paul Okoye, a commercial bus driver, agrees. He told Newswatch in Awka, last week, that the Enugu-Awka expressway is bad and full of potholes. Another accident happened last week in Umunya due to the bad road.

Cyril Ike, a commercial bus driver who plies the road, said the potholes on the road destroy tyres and shock absorbers, cause accidents and make travelling very unpleasant. Eugene Chime, a staff of the Onitsha South Mass Transit who plies the Enugu-Onitsha route, told Newswatch that the road is so bad and often causes “accidents because when you try to avoid the bad spots, you might mistakenly run into the bush.” His view was buttressed by Ejim John, a commercial bus driver, who recently escaped death by the whiskers because of the bad road. He complained that there is a place at the 9th Mile Corner that has a lot of potholes and armed robbers take advantage of it to rob passengers. Although John is happy that the contract has been awarded, he wants the companies working on it to increase the pace of work to alleviate the suffering of commuters on the road. He said he wants the highway to return to its former state of the early 80s when it was first constructed. He traced its deterioration to long neglect. “It became worse about four years ago and we kept hearing promises about repairing it but nothing happened.”

When Newswatch visited the road last week, CCC officials were seen working on the expressway from the Onitsha axis leading to Awka. But no work has commenced on the Onitsha portion yet as evidence of work could only be seen at the nearby Nkpor and the expressway linking the former toll gate. The company closed down a portion of the expressway near the toll gate which it is currently working on. That, however, is already a source of concern to some residents of the state who are afraid that closing down a part of the road might pose a problem for road users.

Like the CCC, Nigercat also closed a part of the expressway it is currently working on and this has resulted in traffic congestion.

Enugu-Abakaliki expressway is yet another road in terrible shape. The road needs rehabilitation. Beginning from Emene, Enugu, many parts of the one-lane highway leading into Abakaliki, the capital of Ebonyi State, are in bad shape. Emeka Nwokike, a commercial bus driver, told Newswatch that the Enugu-Abakaliki expressway is in a sorry state despite some “patchings” done in some parts of the road two months ago. He appealed to the federal government to show seriousness on the road project.

But the condition of the Abakaliki-Enugu expressway is not as bad as some others in the state. For instance, Ladan Umaru, a commercial driver, said that the Ogoja-Abakiliki road is horrible. “The road has been bad for a long time. Now that there is no rain, we spend three to four hours from Abakaliki to Ogoja. During the rainy season, it is five to six hours,” he told Newswatch. Ben Perni said that recently, when he travelled to Calabar from Abuja, they spent longer time on the journey due to delays experienced on the Ogoja axis of the road. “Under normal circumstances, the journey from Ogoja to Calabar is supposed to take five hours, but we ended up spending seven hours.”

Adenike Yesiru, a transporter, gave his own verdict on the Abakaliki–Ikom route. “The road is bad. Before now, we used to spend one hour, forty minutes, but now, its three hours plus and that is for a sound vehicle. There are so many bad spots on the road,” he said.

Paul Okorie, Ebonyi State commissioner for works and transport, told Newswatch that most of the federal roads, especially in the South-East, have become death traps. One of such roads is the Abakaliki-Ogoja-Manfe-Cameroon border road which Okorie described as probably “the worst road in the country.” Others include the Enugu-Port Harcourt road, Enugu-Afikpo road, Okposi-Amasiri-Ota-Nguzu road and the Abakaliki-Offerekpe road. Okorie, however, said that recently, the federal government awarded contract for the reconstruction of the Abakaliki-Ogoja-Manfe-Cameroon border road to the China Civil Engineering Construction Company, CCECC, just as the Abakaliki-Afikpo road was awarded to Bulletine Nigeria Limited.

The Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway is not without its challenges. Many parts of the expressway linking Mgbowo to Isuochi in Abia State to Amaorji and Okigwe in Imo State have failed. But one of the worst roads where the commuters experience a lot of hardship is the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road. On December 15, when Newswatch visited the road, some caterpillars were seen working on the Obot Akera part of the road with “caution” sign belonging to FERMA displayed. Even then, it was no fun driving through the one-lane expressway due to the bumpy and dusty nature of the road.

Godwin Ben, a driver with Akwa Ibom Transport Company, told Newswatch that during the rainy season, drivers often diverted to some villages to avoid the deep gullies on the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road.

However, on scale of degradation, the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road is no match to the Uyo-Calabar highway. There are many failed portions of the expressway around Odukpani local government area and Okoyong, begging for attention. In view of the bad road network in these areas, Nsiebong Etim, a commercial driver, wants the government to make road repairs a top priority. He told Newswatch at the Etim Edem Park, Calabar, that “the roads are very bad, whether it is Aba road, the Ikot-Ekpene road or Umuahia road, they are all bad and deserve to be rehabilitated.”

The East-West road which cuts across the South-South states including Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom is equally in deplorable state. Contract for the dualisation of the 337-kilometre road was initially awarded to Julius Berger in 2005 at a cost of N220 billion. However, in 2008, Julius Berger pulled out after two expatriates working with it were abducted and later killed by militants. At that time, only six percent of the job had been done. The federal government then directed Julius Berger to refund N6.1 billion being balance of the job not executed. The contract was then reawarded to three other construction companies namely Setraco, Reynolds Construction Company and Gitto Construction Generalli. The section of the road from Warri in Delta State to Kaima in Bayelsa which is 87 kilometres was awarded to Setraco at the cost of N64 billion and is expected to be completed in August 2010. The 101 kilometres of the road from Kaima to Ahoada and Port Harcourt was also awarded to Setraco at the cost of N74.7 billion. The third section comprising 99 kilometres stretching from Eleme Junction in Rivers State to Eket in Akwa Ibom was awarded to RCC at N35.6 billion and is expected to be completed in April 2010. The fourth section, which covered 50 kilomtres, stretched from Eket to Oron in Akwa Ibom and awarded to Gitto at N26 billion with April 2010 as completed date. When Uffot Ekaette, minister for Niger Delta affairs, inspected the projects recently, he expressed satisfaction with the work being done by Setraco and RCC but frowned at the slow pace of work by Gitto.

However, when Newswatch visited the East-West road last week, the progress of work by Setraco from Warri to Port Harcourt was not quite encouraging. But Chidi Lloyd, majority leader, Rivers State House of Assembly, whose constituency falls on the East-West road, told Newswatch that the slow pace of the work was to enable the contractor do a good job. He explained that since the contract was initially awarded to Julius Berger, Setraco would have to go back to the drawing board, study what is on ground and then proceed with the job. He urged the people to be patient. “We know that our patience may have been overstretched but we also have to thank the administration of President Yar’Adua for awarding the contract,” he said.

In the northern part of the country, the federal road linking Okene to Ajaokuta, the location of the nation’s ill-fated steel industry, is in a terrible state. Hilary Abuh, a lorry driver, told Newswatch that his vehicle fell into a gully while trying to avoid the failed portion of the road.

Murtala Momoh, a father of five, said he narrowly escaped being burnt to death recently when a tanker conveying fuel fell on the failed portion of the road and caught fire. Three houses around the area were gutted by fire but no life was lost.

Another federal road in bad shape is the Lokoja-Abuja road which has recorded a lot of accidents in recent times. Yomo Ashanghan, sector commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission, in Kogi State said the road records an average of one accident daily. He attributed this to overspeeding and bad nature of the road. “If the roads were good, accidents would have been reduced,” he said.

Yaguda Ali, secretary general, National Union of Road Transport Workers, Kogi State chapter, urged the government to dualise the road from Abaji to Kabba junction. However, the contract for the dualisation of the road from Yongga to Abaji is now being handled by RCC. The rehabilitation of the road from Abaji to Kotongarfi is being handled by Bulletine while the road from Kabba Junction to Kotongarfi was awarded to Dantata and Sowoe. However, these companies have only graded the roads.

The Kaduna-Minna road is equally bad. The failed portions of the road are the Suleja junction, Minna Park and Shiroro junction. It has so many potholes which often cause accidents. The situation is the same in some portions of the Kaduna-Jese road, especially Saminaka.

The deplorable condition of the federal roads across the country has led to a lot of avoidable accidents. The recent statistics released by the FRSC on the spate of accidents on Nigerian roads is mind-boggling. According to the FRSC, the number of reported cases of road accidents on the country’s highways between January and October is 8,553. About 4,120 persons lost their lives while 20,875 others were seriously injured in the accidents that involved 11,031 vehicles across the country.

Egboka, vice chancellor of UNIZIK, believes that these accidents would have been avoided if the roads were in good shape. He is very sad that despite the huge amount of money voted annually for the Nigerian roads, they are still horrible. “I had to travel to Ilorin from Awka by road, it was horrible. I suffered. My waist suffered. Travelling to Lagos now by road is like going through hell. I love travelling because I love seeing the environment. But my experience has been terrible. Accidents all over the place because of bad roads, potholes, dangerous bends... It is most saddening and regrettable,” Egboka told Newswatch.

Reported by Emmanuel Uffot, Dike Onwuamaeze, Anthony Akaeze,Godfrey Azubike and Pita Ochai

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Nigeria needs a revolution now -- Umeagbasi

Emeka Umeagbasi is the Chairman, Board of Trustees, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (INTER-SOCIETY). He spoke with TONY OKAFOR and a few other journalists on the state of the nation.

Nigerian Compass


What is your take on Nigeria’s budget since 1999?

It was Edwin H. Sutherland, a famous American criminologist, who in his 1940 book, “White Collar Criminality,” defined criminality as illegal acts committed by middle or upper-class persons in conjunction with their ordinary occupational pursuits.” He listed such illegal acts as fraud, embezzlement, price-fixing, antitrust violations, income tax evasion, and misuse of public funds, contract inflation/abandonment and abuse of public and legal powers. The foregoing, in addition to fiscal irresponsibility or recklessness, have marred our budget regimes since 1999. The stark truth is that what science is to philosophy, logic to philosophy/mathematics, reasoning and argumentation to science of logic is what white-collar criminality is to corruption in Nigeria and corruption to our electoral and budgeting system. Since 1999, budgets worth trillions of naira had been made, yet meaningful and verifiable, tangible and intangible benefits have eluded the over 140 million Nigerians, whom the budgets are traditionally meant for. Our unemployed graduates might have exceeded 25 million. In 2000, according to the Federal Office of Statistics, there were 20 million unemployed Nigerians. Out of this figure, five million and six hundred thousand were graduates of our tertiary institutions. Despite the multi-billion dollar or multi- trillion naira budgets, Nigeria, with a population of over 140 million, is still grappling with 103 public and private universities, in addition to dozens of polytechnics and colleges of education, while the USA, with a population of about 300 million is having over 5,700 universities and Japan with a population of about 127 million, has over 1,200 universities. Out of over one million candidates that sat for the universities entrance examinations yearly in recent times, only about 300,000 were offered admission yearly by the universities and about 50 per cent of this figure graduate on annual basis with poverty/unemployment passports issued to them. Our health sector is also nothing to write home about. Tens of millions of Nigerians are still drinking acidic water from unprotected sources. Our agriculture is steadily drifting towards pre-subsistence level. The Malaysians and Indonesians, who came to us in the 1960s and 1970s, so as to be taught the secrets of palm tree cultivation, weeding and harvesting, have not only mastered them, but also they have mechanised the palm industry, which now earns them billions of dollars annually and feeds millions of their skilled and unskilled nationals. As at 2002, the government of Indonesia was earning about $5 billion from her mechanised palm produce.

Do you have the statistics to buttress your points?

From the 2008 to 2010 budget regimes, Nigeria had budgeted a total of over N10.9 trillion. In 2008, it was N3.3 trillion (main and supplementary budgets). In 2009, it was N3.55 trillion and another sum of N4.0079 trillion, excluding the expected supplementary appropriation, has been budgeted for the 2010 fiscal year. Over N1 trillion had also been channeled into the foreign and domestic debts servicing, while over N500 billion was supposedly channeled into transportation, with road transport taking the lion share. Till date, the true positions of Nigeria’s foreign and domestic debts have remained sketchy. Also, the microscopic view of the three budget regimes showed that the recurrent expenditures, which are funds meant for about 17,500 Nigeria’s political office holders and some 500,000-man federal civil service had continued to take a lead over the capital expenditures, funds for the infrastructural developments and other welfares of over 140 million Nigerians, including the beneficiaries of the recurrent expenditures. For instance, in the proposed budget of N4.0079 trillion for 2010, over N2.2 trillion is set aside for recurrent expenditures, while about N1.2 trillion is for capital expenditures.

For want of time, we shall only enquire into the state of federal roads in Nigeria with respect to over N500 billion budgeted for transportation in the last three budget regimes. Reliable statistics showed that there are 195,000 kilometres of Trunk A (federal), B (states) and C (local governments/ communities) road network in Nigeria. The Federal Government’s share of this road network is 65,000 kilometres. In Anambra State, for instance, there are about 14 federal roads. Statistically, among the three tiers of road network in Nigeria, federal roads are the most failed and deplorable. States’ roads or Trunk B roads are the most asphalted and most motorable. Presently, Anambra State has the best Trunk B road network in the entire South-East, thanks to the illegal regime of Dr. Chris Ngige, which unevenly started it, and that of Mr. Peter Obi, which silently, but evenly, revolutionalised same. On the other hand, Trunk C road network across the federation is far better than Trunk A (Federal) roads. Though Trunk C roads are least asphalted, but they are very motorable and passable because they receive constant attention from communities’ and local council authorities. Furthermore, it is a known fact that a good number of federal roads in Nigeria have either been rehabilitated or reconstructed or are being rehabilitated or reconstructed by the various state governments. In Anambra State, for instance, Ngige rehabilitated the Onitsha-Niger Bridge-Upper-Iweka portion of the all-important Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriage Way. The failed portions of the said road, until recently, had also been rehabilitated by the Obi administration. Presently, the Government of Anambra State, under Obi is reconstructing Onitsha-Nnewi Old Road and Onitsha-Enugu Old Road, which are all federal roads. Ngige and Obi jointly reconstructed the all-important Igbo-Ukwu-Ezinifite-Uga-Umuchu- Umunze federal road, with a spur to the Enugu- Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Way. Also, the all-important Atani-Ogwuikpere-Ndoni federal road is being reconstructed by the Obi administration, though the quality of work being delivered on the road by the Inter-Bua Construction Company is very horrible. These federal roads as mentioned are few of such roads being reconstructed by the present government of Anambra State. Apart from the foregoing, most of the busiest and uttermost important federal roads in Nigeria are acutely deplorable. Some of them are: Benin-Ore Road, Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriage Way, Enugu-Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Way, Ninth Mile-Nsukka-Benue Road, Owerri-Port Harcourt Road, Agbor-Ekpoma-Auchi-Lokoja-Abuja Road, to mention but a few. The horrible state of federal roads in Nigeria is worst in the South-East, followed by the South-West, then the South-South and then the North-Central.

Our questions now are: where did the over N500 billion budgeted for transportation since 2008 go? And where did all the trillions budgeted at least since 2008 go?

If we are to hazard an answer, then choice properties magically springing up in some alleged corrupt foreign capitals such as Dubai may be the answer. Such choice properties are also springing up in some of the Nigeria’s rich capital cities, in addition to privately-owned refineries in foreign lands. Nigerian traders who transact businesses in Dubai, the United Arab Emirate, have been giving first hand accounts of sudden flooding of the kingdom with high cost boutiques and other shopping malls possibly by Nigerian white-collar criminals. We are not surprised at the ongoing baptism of criminality through budgeting. What do you expect in a country where a senator reportedly receives N15 million monthly or N180 million yearly in the form of constituency project? What do you expect where a Rep reportedly receives N156 million yearly for constituency project? What do you expect where the House of Reps allegedly squandered a whopping N52 billion on foreign trips in the past two years and “attracted” $1 billion or N150 billion foreign investments from the Republic of Turkey? Till date, the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not have a 100 per cent-owned functional commercial airline industry. This is unlike Air Italia for Italy, Air I for Israel, KLM for Holland, British Airways for Great Britain, PAN American Airline for USA, etc. The corruption termites had eaten up the Nigerian Airways more than 10 years ago. The N52 billion allegedly wasted on foreign trips, which the House Speaker had admitted and later denied, can comfortably build five to 10 sound conventional universities in Nigeria, going by experts’ opinion. Can we ever expect anything good from our leaders, more so when our foreign reserves had depreciated steadily from over $60 billion in 2007 to about $42 billion in 2009 and our excess crude oil sales reserves dried up? Whereas China’s foreign reserves had increased from about $700 billion in 2006 to $2.3 trillion in 2009, despite the global economic recession. Our currency, the Naira, has further been devalued from N142 per dollar in January 2009 to N150 per dollar in November 2009, a difference of N8 in a period of just 10 months.

By the way, how much is Nigeria’s investments abroad? Do we have any?

China is now the highest foreign investor in the USA Bond Market. The condition of this country is acutely pitiable. White-collar criminals with beastly idiosyncrasies are on rampage. They have run riot in the sacred altar of our commonwealth. Whenever a N5 billion road contract is awarded in their zone, they will ambush the contractor with utter alacrity, muzzle N4.5 billion out of his or her hands and leave him or her with paltry N500 million. With this, the contractor now settles by the roadside where he or she burns bitumen in a drum with charcoal and settles for work with shovels, diggers, measuring tapes and head pans, in company with his or her “Ogbo-mmanu” labourers. This explains why most of the federal roads rehabilitation projects such as the Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriage Way, Onitsha-Oba-Nnewi-Okigwe federal road have been reportedly hijacked by “10 percenters” and white-collar criminals.

What is the way out of this?

If a revolution truly means “an abrupt political change not within the contemplation of the existing constitution, but with fundamental political changes and a new legal order,” then its imminence in Nigeria’s polity is a matter of time. Angelic democrats, wherever they are in Nigeria, must buckle up to effect a peaceful or quiet revolution before the patience of the angered elapses. Lagos, Edo and Anambra States must sustain their quiet revolutions. We also see a similar revolution coming the way of Imo State very soon. Nigeria must be saved from the hands of the buccaneers, the mentally deformed and the white-collar criminals, otherwise we will be doomed irreparably. It is deeply sad that the three tiers of government in Nigeria (federal, states and local government areas) have nothing to show for a whopping N32 trillion received and shared since 1999, out of which the Niger Delta region got a whopping N8 trillion, most of which were ferried away to foreign safety vaults by their leaders with utter impunity.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Intellectual Rumble Over Igbo Origin

By Mazi Ebuzeme, Sun News Online

One Dr. Charles Ujah granted an interview on 19th August 2009 to the sun newspaper making claims on Ibo Jewish origin and that the Yoruba was founded by the Ibo with Oduduwa as Oduduwa (meaning last born in Ibo) e.t.c. His claims are based on the bible and probably linguistic and cultural similarities.

In a rejoinder of September 18th , 2009 published by the sun newspaper, one Dr. P.J Eze challenged and dismissed Dr. Ujah’s Claims as false and unintellectual.

He even called it ‘Red Herring’, but I call it Ujah’s postulation for the purpose of this exercise. However I attribute their intellectual face off to the philosophy of a late highlife maestro Rex Jim Lawson.

Hear his lyrics ‘Am Green turtle, me clever turtle, for clever turtle, me no get equal. For wisdom me sabi pass all animal, for clever, me clever pass everyone; for cunning turtle, that same green turtle, for green turtle me no hate anyone’. So this is Dr. Ujah’s red bearing and Dr. Eze’s green turtle. I thank both of them for their thought and efforts in teaching us new things. It is noteworthy to appreciate Dr. Eze’s intellectual set up over what he called a fiction from Dr. Ujah’s postulation on the Igbo race.

The Claim that Oduduwa means Odudunwa is not realistic especially to the Yorubas. It is euphemistic to think so just like the myth surrounding several other origins of nations. The false start in Dr. Eze’s rejoinder is his prognosis without complete diagnosis.

History: In his book” The Origin of Ibos”, Dr. Ujah mentioned historical traces which he equally obtained from different other writers and religious book. The book “sight on the scripture – a watch Tower research publication has some section on the origin of nations and I recommend that to Dr. Eze. There are several other postulants and references of the historical traces of Ibo’s having Jewish or Canaanite antecedents. One of such books is the Sephardic revolution by Yitzak David Israel, a Sephardic Jew.

Archaeology: I suggest that Dr. Eze should take a trip to Aguleri and some other Ibo enclaves and see the artefacts and other interesting discoveries pointing towards the direction of Dr. Ujah’s postulation. On September 25th, 2009, another postulant, Eng. Ayodabo Esuola , another Nigerian researcher claimed that the earliest Jews were Africans in his book “Tourism and Hidden Treasures of Nigeria”. Hope Dr. Eze would read this also before condemnation. In addition, how would Dr. Eze treat the issue of myth e.g. that the Ibo progenitor fell from the sky, the way Oduduwa is believed to have evolved? Corrected or condemned, one cannot erase the myth in people’s psyche which had come from several generations. Some archaeological findings are mentioned in Dr. Ujah’s book.

Ethnography: some of us are yet to see or read about some physical parameters mentioned at the time of creation, where colour, ethnicity, morphology, phylogeny. Some people today believe the theory of the egg before the chicken or that God first made the female who gave birth to the male. It may not be regional or place but all in the mind. Ethnographic descriptions of mankind are regional or geographical, racial and migrational. See references in “Insight on the scriptures, origins of Nations.

Comparative linguistics: This is the area of intellectual interest to this Igbo relevance to Ujah’s postulation and Eze’s correction and condemnation. Dr. Ujah may have made some sweeping statements along the line of claim but those I attribute to some emotional exuberance in his conviction. May I ask, can anyone intentionally go wrong intellectually of the knew what is right? Dr. Ujah may not be wrong after all if he has positive references for his research work. Don’t be surprised that a lot of Nigerians including linguists get excited to discover the similarities of Yoruba and Igbo languages with the Jewish antecedents.

Just recently a book on how Yoruba and Igbo became different languages was launched. The author Bolaji Aremo was formerly of Obafemi Awolowo University. There are other writers who even go beyond Yoruba and Igbo by adding Hausa language similarities despite its extraneous phylum or family. Similarities in lexicostatistics both in basic and non basic vocabularies are available. Relevant statements come alive in unique forms e.g. “ Me nini ka ce” – Hausa and “ma nini ka iche” – Igbo meaning what do you think or what is your opinion. “ci gaba”- Hausa and “si gaba” – Igbo meaning advance, proceed or progress.

Basically we expect the experts like Dr. Eze to assist us in this area too. We want to know the way we are or have been in the area of languages. When non formal linguists come up with some thought provoking research findings, they are easily prejudiced. The formal linguists fail to realize according to Aubrey T De Vera that “prejudice which sees only what it pleases cannot see what is plain”.
Let us consider some of those words used by Dr. Ujah in his interview and the corrections cited by Dr. Eze discredited the word jenisisi in Igbo for Genesis used by Ujah as Hebrew, the Hebrew for the semantics go to the beginning.

The first book of the Septuagint (Pentateuch) is bereshith, according to Eze. Genesis is Greek but one may question whether the word Genesis in Greek or something similar was borrowed as a language universal from Hebrew or the other way round with similar semantics. Eze as an anthropological linguist will have to help us further with the root source.

However jenisisi in Igbo may have been a co-operation by its phonotactic similarity rather than semantics. Nevertheless, there were Grecian Jews even among scripture writers who spoke both Hebrew and Greek hence the possibility of vocabulary transformation from one tongue to another. Ibo land is not where God first made man and since there was no spontaneous generation there, everybody came from somewhere. Remember that the word Ibo as a name, race and language arguably existed in ancient time.

If as true, is it not possible that such an express equally existed? As a name “Ibo” existed because in 219 AD, there were some Babylonian Jews who went to Palestine to study in the academies under a Jewish Rabbi called Juda Ha Nasi. One of such Jews was by name Abba Ben Ibo. Ibo was Abba’s last or family name. For further story one this, see the research Watch Tower magazine of May 15 1998 under the caption “what is the Talmud.” So the name Ibo as a word or person and Igbo as a vernacular is very ancient. Remember also that Ajayi Crowther who coined the Ibo alphabets said in 1864 that Ibos are Igbos.

The Hebrew word “Bereshith” is Eze’s correction agreed, but I recall that Dr. Ujah used the expression “Mbido ni ishi.” In one of his details but then Eze has not read the book to see this. However the word Bereshith has no cognate with the Igbo language but can be pronounced as “Mbido ni ishi” when one stammers.

When speaking with difficulty, repeating sounds and syllables and making frequent pauses it can phonotactically broker. A curious syllogism can be language existed before 219AD as testified by the antecedents of Abba Ben Ibo mentioned earlier. Dr. Eze chronicled the Septuagint to be between 250 to 100BC. So these events were close in time. Do not forget that the new testament of the Bible was written long time after Jesus’ had left the earth. The word Ibo existed even before the compilation of the book.

Another cited by Eze as dissimilar is the Hebrew for eye as “ain” and the Igbo anya/enya. He was emphatic on the palatal nasal [NY] in Ujah’s explanation of Hebrew with anya in Igbo. Many see no wrong in that if the semantics are similar. After all the palatal nasal [NY] is a way of speech developed overtime. In the U.S New York natives- not immigrants pronounce the city as “Nyew Yorq” retaining the nasal palatial in question.

Another contention is the Igbo word isi and the Hebrew for head which is rosh, Arabic Ras. Ujah refers to the Bible for his similarity of the word. As a third party, the Hebrew “Rosh” is just a compounding or blending of two distinct root words in KWA languages of Yoruba and Ibo, or rather a Hebrew word factor that yields the phonemes of the words for head in Yoruba and Ibo. Applying clipping as a language universal “Ro/Sh” to give “Ori” – Yoruba for head “Ishi”, Igbo for head. Integrating them into Ro + Sh – RoSh, (Ori + Ishi -> Orishi sounds like Rosh). Another Hebrew word in this category is Ru’ach – Spirit which is upon clipping yields several vocabularies in Yoruba and Ibo languages. Further details see Bolaji Aremo – Yoruba and Igbo – 2009.

The next word is Hebrew “bara”, to create, which Eze has introduced to our advantage. Yes to create is “ike” in Igbo. In euphemistic etymology, the word blood has been used as creation both in the bible and the Koran. In several languages, blood is akin to life, even the word is used as to create, to mate to copulate especially in animals when paired. Take the Hebrew word bara, add a prefix vowel “o” and you obtain “obara” – blood in Igbo. Apply the clipping mode ba/ra and you get Yoruba word “ba” to mate and Igbo “ra” to mate or copulate.

The “ba” in Yoruba is “gba” in Igbo where “b” comes as “gb” as in the word Ibo and Igbo, Also “gba” is Igbo to copulate among animals. Another Hebrew word for blood is dam – Arabic dam also. When the word is clipped as Da/m or D/m because the letter “a” is an infix vowel , the root letter “m” is same in Igbo as “mme” – blood. It is called etymo-scrabbling. In the book “fundamentals of Islam” by P.J. Stewart, a college fellow at oxford, he posits that vowel elimination or addition leads to variation of words and meanings. Changes in the pattern of vowels are used together with prefixes, infixes and suffixes to indicate variations of meaning thus the Arabic root for example SLM gives “Salam - peace, (Hebrew Shalom, Igbo Challum- yield, Solum- respect or submit), Sallam – he grants peace, Islam-submission Muslim one who submits.

I wish to suggest to Eze as a scientist that 100% is sometimes unattainable even in nature. There is always a fraction and even precision machines are constantly calibrated to maintain a balance. So it is with panthenic totem in Igbo land. It differs as the Igbo dialects differentiate. Dr. Ujah’s efforts are not in vain as Eze may think. There are several other authors that have equally expressed Ujah’s postulation.

He cannot be crucified for his attempts to do what some linguists have refused to do. Just recently Professor Catherine Acholonu came up with evidence about the Jews. Hear her as published in daily sun of October 6 2008 - Jews inherited Ibo traditions. “When you find words with the same meaning, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11 times between Igbo language and another language, it means there are some relationship. In comparative linguistics, most scholars do not explore the benefits of language
universals in their search for roots to similarities in lexicostatistics. Languages do not have to agree in syntax, grammar, phonotactics e.t.c. before they can be seen as similar, otherwise why are they separate languages.

The phonemes and semantics are strong attributes of word similarities. According to Dr. Bolaji Aremo, “orthography may differ due to modus loquendum (mode of speech)”. In Dr. Eze’s environment, he must have heard a child say “tea and biye” in request for tea and bread. The child’s mother understands “biye” to mean bread. Even in one’s family there can be differentiation in words.
Dr. Ujah’s claims are still subject to further investigation and Dr. Eze should please help rather than condemn. Quod erat demonstrandum (QED).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Exclusive: Nneka Talks Music, Message, and Spirituality

Flavor Wire Exclusive

At Coachella a few years back, the ever-feisty M.I.A. asked a packed house of sweat-soaked admirers, “Where my leaders at?!” Good question. Surprisingly few artists today have stepped up with the decisive political or spiritual message that M.I.A. was asking for.

Recently, 27-year-old Nigerian tour de force Nneka — who already has a loyal following in Africa and Europe — made her US debut at Joe’s Pub in NYC, which she followed with a few shows with the Roots. And while it’s still too early to compare her to political/musical messengers like countryman Fela Kuti or Bob Marley, she’s becoming a formidable figure in global music. She calmly rocked the room with her soul-filled voice, championing a strong message of love, unity and political justice from her forthcoming album Concrete Jungle.

As soon as the lights came up, I wanted an interview — even though I’ve only done three in the nine years since I co-founded Flavorpill. A few days later, I sat down with Nneka, a captivating figure who shared some lessons on music, life, spirituality, meditation, and love.

Lesson 1: Don’t be a hypocrite.

Nneka: I have struggled; I mean in the first place, standing on the stage and singing about change or singing about false prophets or bad politicians, pointing a finger. There was a time where I would just point the finger and I would forget to look at myself. And, for me, to be able to make a change in the world, you have to be part of that change. You have to be honest with yourself, because if you’re not honest with yourself, and if you’re not in touch with your spirit, then you’re not able to make any change at all. I believe in the spirit world, and that everybody’s connected. There’s not just this one. And not just what we hear. There’s something beyond that. And that is what makes change possible. So that is what I’m talking about. If that is numb, or speechless, that world, then nothing works automatically. I [have] caught myself lying many times, saying things and not practicing, speaking about jealousy, and at the same time, I am hitting on somebody else.

And the sickness is the healing. That is what I’ve learned. If you are aware of your sickness, your mistakes in other words, your illness, then you know what you need, what medication you need to heal. And that is actually, that is what we need in this world. We know what is worrying us, that’s what we say in Nigeria. We know what shackles us and that is exactly what we need to heal, to grow, to progress.

Lesson 2: Take what you’ve learned back home.

FP: In this chaotic time in the world, is change really happening?

Nneka: Yes, especially through the fact that a lot has happened in the last two years in the world. Even in Nigeria, in Africa, people are becoming more conscious of, “Hey, you know, it’s high time that we stand on our feet.” We have everything that it takes to make this continent a better place. And I see that there are many people right around my age, especially people who are into poetry, or literature or music, and of course people who have also traveled out of Africa before and spent some time overseas. And when they come back home, mostly those people, I notice, bring change back home, to make a change back home. And I think it’s positive, I think, in the world as well as musically, people are becoming more conscious of the fact that, listen, if I’m standing on this stage, you can’t just feed the masses with ignorance and stupidity. So, there are a couple of artists that I have met lately, even Nigerian artists, who are now more conscious about what they say and feed the masses with. You know, normally Nigerians are very into entertainment, and — not only Nigerians alone, but Americans, as well. They like to sing about the party, forget your life, forget your soul — which is good, I’m not saying not to enjoy your life — but it’s also important that you don’t lie to yourself, that we don’t lie to ourselves. I think that change is taking place.

Lesson 3: Always be present.

Nneka: Sometimes when I’m on stage, I know that people are having fun, but then the real thing is not being transmitted. And then I’m a bit angry with myself, and at the same time angry with my band, because when I see that they are not in touch with themselves, with their spirit, and we’re not with each other on stage, then I know that there’s going to be blockage in the transmission, spiritually. Although people are jumping and screaming “Oh awesome!” But then I’m like, “Hey, no way.” So it’s important that I do everything with my heart — that I stand on stage, that I do my music from the depth of my heart, for me to be able to transmit that message of love.

Lesson 4: Don’t be afraid to pause and regroup.

Nneka: Sometimes it’s very bizarre, what happens on stage. I just stop. I just stop, and sometimes my band does not understand me, because they are professional people, if you notice they are all in their forties and upwards — except for the keyboarder who is like, my age. And sometimes he himself does not understand me too. I just go like, “Stop, stop now. We need to connect, we need to.” So I take a break, I go into myself, briefly, in five minutes, and I explain to the audience what is happening. And then I make them aware of what I think they should receive. And sometimes it works and sometimes it does not work. Like when I’m on tour, two months on the road and at times I get very tired, performing. And sometimes you just, you just do it. I don’t like that feeling, where I just have to do what I have to do. It hurts me to do music like that, you know? It’s like a job. And in that rare moment where music becomes a job, that is like pressure on your head, then I don’t want to do it. I need to take my distance to find, or to rejuvenate, you know, to go back to where we started. Regardless of whether you’re a musician or someone cleaning the streets, or drives a bus or a teacher, president, etc you have to passionate, you have to believe in what you do, it has to be something that’s important to you, otherwise it’s just a job. And you poison people by not being happy with yourself, not being happy with the job you’re doing. It might look good from the outside, but inside is scattered and poisonous. It’s like baking bitter bread. It’s from the Bible. Do not bake bitter bread. You have to do it with love. If you’re not feeling it, you drop it and you go and look for something you can be passionate about.

Lesson 5: It’s good to question your beliefs sometimes.

Nneka: I used to be a very strong Christian, talking about religion and institutions. I used to be a born again Christian, and I used to be very, very strict. Until eventually, when I went to Germany for the first time — I realized I suffered in my religion before that, kind of. I would deprive myself of living — certain things, you know. Getting to know myself, reading in between the lines of the Bible. I would just read the Bible the way it is and that’s what I would take and just finish. I would never ask myself any questions. Until I had the freedom to understand that I can question the Bible, read in-between and use the wisdom that I have, or that I have acquired to find something new, to find something that is easy for me to live with. I mean, believing in God is not that easy, but it should not be a burden. So I’m getting to know about religions like Islam; I really love Buddhism and Hinduism. I’ve had a lot to do with African traditional religion as well, which I think is the most reasonable one to me at present. But at the end of the day, all religious directions, whether Hinduism or Buddhism, Islam, or whatever, at the end of the day they’re like different rivers that flow into one big ocean. Sometimes we go in another direction, I don’t know. It’s all about love. At the end of the day, what counts is love. And we all know how to love, no matter where we’re coming from, no matter what we have been through. Since we have a conscience, since we have an ego, since we can see I and you, since we have the skin that separates us from one another and that brings us in touch with one another, and we know what is good for us, we know what is good for the world, and we know how to love. So I think the most important thing is love. Love yourself because if you don’t love yourself you can’t love anybody.

Lesson 6: Don’t doubt yourself because of the time it takes to change.

Nneka: It’s difficult to [snap] to change the world like this in the blink of an eye. It’s impossible. You could basically also ask me why politics doesn’t make the world a better place. Like, why can’t we just live without war? And all I can say is to speak for myself. You always have to do everything you do in love and honesty. All the answers to the questions you are going to ask me today is love. It will sound so stupid. It will sound so unreasonable. But if you really go deeper, then every answer to every freaking question that anybody would ask you is love. It’s easy, so easy. Even I’m realizing it now, again. And fear, that is the biggest enemy of human beings. The most important thing is that you remove your doubt and that you trust. So, like yesterday I was drinking this Yogi Tea before I went to bed. And I felt like my day was, I wasn’t really filled, despite the fact that I had performed that day, I was not really content with myself, I’m like what have I done today? Why am I here? And I doubt a lot. I doubt myself a lot, I doubt God at times a lot. I’m not aware of it but I became aware of it yesterday again, before I went to bed. And I don’t believe in the small messages in Yogi Tea — but I had this tea bag, and no, I don’t normally drink tea before I go to bed — but it’s written on the satchel: “You will never find happiness if you continue to doubt.” And it’s true. It’s true, man. I’ve been living in misery because I always doubt myself. And because I doubt my potential, I doubt the fact that I can change something, I doubt the fact that when I stand on stage I know – hey you’re standing on the stage now. And you can give, you can change by doing it with love. Do not doubt yourself, as long as you do it in honesty and in truth, then it will be of an advantage to the people, it will make a positive impact on them.

FP: So, what happens when we become these fearless warriors?

Nneka: We have to build an army. I need you, you need me, we need each other. We cannot fight without ammunition. I mean, what soldier goes to war without a gun? And that is when that change can take place. I mean change in a positive way.

Lesson 7: Listen to others first.

Nneka: My music is the most sacred aspect of my life. Where I’m at now is learning to listen to people. That’s the most important thing to me, now. Not to listen to myself, always. And not to think while other people are talking to me. Thinking of the next — you know what I mean. So calm down, listen, and do not think of what to contribute to the conversation. Listen first. That’s where I’m at now.

Lesson 8: Stay connected.

Nneka: Just let go. They say, in Nigeria, a hand is only useful with its five fingers. If one comes off, then it’s a problem for the rest. I mean it will work, but it won’t be as fast as we should be. So we have to be connected.

PH Water-Front Saga : We don’t want homelessness – Senator Sekibo

A Vanguard Interview

The plan to demolish water-fronts in Port Harcourt is not new. It first gained currency under the tenure of deposed governor Celestine Omehia. The government gave security reasons as one of the major factors behind the plan. The issue seemingly overheated the state. While this was on, the Supreme Court sacked the government and installed Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as governor.

One of the first steps he took when he came on board was to suspend the planned demolition, an action that was greeted with wild jubilation in all the water fronts in the state capital. Two years down the line the government is back with the threat to demolish the waterfronts otherwise referred to as slum settlements in the state capital. Security and the need to develop the area in tune with contemporary habitation standards have been thrown up as some of the driving forces behind the proposed action.

However, the Okrika Ijaw that claim ownership of most of these water fronts remains suspicious of government’s motives. In this interview with Jimitota Onoyume of Sweet Crude, Chief James Tari Sekibo, a second republic Senator and Chairman, Okrika Divisional Council of Chiefs and Wakirikebese Council of Chiefs, an umbrella body of all Okrika people, he speaks extensively on the position of the Okrika people.

Occasionally during the interview he reads from what he claims are historical documents to support the position of his people.


What is your stake in the proposed demolition of water fronts in Port Harcourt?

It is fairly a long story. Our stake started before 1913 when an agreement was signed with owners of areas that the colonial government wanted to acquire. This whole thing started with the discovery of coal in Enugu. And they wanted an outlet to export the coal from the country to overseas. They decided to establish a port and railway terminals. So the colonial masters came and spotted the present Port Harcourt municipality as the most suitable site for the said port to be established. And slightly up a little to be railway terminals, to start from Enugu down to Port Harcourt. So by 1913 an agreement was signed between the Okrika and the Ikwerre people.

Ikwerre this time refers only to the Diobu, Ikwerre, Orogbum, Orogbale, Oroije now called ogbunabali area. Compensation was paid to the communities. Precisely on 18 May 1913, that was when the agreement was signed by the deed between the Okrika people.

On 18 May, 1913 by deed between the chiefs and head men of Okrika Ijaw and Diobu communities for and on behalf of themselves and their people on the one hand and Sir Alexander George Boyle, the Deputy Governor of the colony and protectorate of Southern Nigeria for and on behalf of his majesty, the King of England, the area presently known as Port Harcourt was acquired by the colonial authorities. This deed is registered as 16/211/7 (old series), Calabar, former kept at the lands registry, Lagos, later lands registry, Enugu but now in the lands registry, Port Harcourt.

The Okrika Ijaw towns and villages affected by this deed are namely, Biekiri, Abokirir, Belemaka, Akainkoroma, Azuabie, Abuloma, Toinpirima (present right wing of Marine base, Okrika water fronts and cementry waterfronts), Fiyenemika, Iyoyo Ama (present Rex Lawson waterfronts and Egbema waterfront) Atubokiki, Igbisikalama Ama (present Baptist waterfront, Enugu waterfront, Tourist beach and Ibadan waterfront), Idango Ama (present left wing of Marine base, Koko polo sharing boundary with Amadi ama), Fimie, Amiejobodiema, Gbelabo Ama, (present Elechi beach, Abonnema wharf and Njemanze), Okuru town, Amadi town, Amango Ama (present NPA wharf, Witt and bush waterfront and Bundu waterfront) Okujagu, Kuroseidiema Ama (present Bille waterfront, Bonny water front, Nembe waterfront and Abuja estate waterfront) Eresofiari, Misiba, Duointa and Banisuka.

On the other hand, the Ikwerre communities affected by the deed are Diobu, Omoeme, Omoamasi, Omobiakani and Oginiba

Thereafter, the Ikwerres sought to set aside the deed of 1913 by filling a suit against the Attorney General. That suit was dismissed. Dissatisfied with the judgment of the lower court, the Ikwerres filed an appeal to the West Africa court of Appeal. On 9th June, 1952 the West Africa Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. This case is reported as Chief Joseph Wobo and nine others vs. the attorney general in 14 WACA 132

Again, Diobu dissatisfied with the judgment of West Africa court of Appeal, the Ikwerres appealed to the judicial committee of the Privy County in England. The appeal number is Privy Council Appeal NO. 18 of 1953. The Privy Council on the 30th day of October, 1956 dismissed the appeal.

In all the judgments the sanctity of the 1913 agreement was repeatedly affirmed and confirmed. However, on the 2nd of May, 1928 a supplemental agreement to the 1913 principal Port Harcourt agreement was signed between the Diobu Ikwerre, (specifically Abali and Ogbum Diobu) and the then Deputy Governor of the colony and protectorate of Southern Nigeria, as contained in the written instrument number A 17 vol 1 of 2nd May, 1928 which varied the terms of the 1913 principal agreement from sale to payment of annual rent of five hundred pounds in perpetuity.

The Okrika Ijaw people who gave 53% of the Port Harcourt land in the 1913 agreement felt cheated. When they got to know about the variation as contained in the 1928 agreement and went to seek redress in court in suit no PHC/45m/76. The court ruled that since at least one other party to that agreement has been benefited by a revision of compensation payable, the plaintiffs ought in equity to be treated in the same manner. Accordingly, the Okrika Ijaw and the Okrika Ijaw Port Harcourt aborigines were paid arrears of N105,000 at the annual rate of N1,500 from 1913.

For the avoidance of doubt, certain sections and interest groups in Rivers state have still repeatedly denied the historical dual ownership of Port Harcourt.

It must be noted that the Ikwerres that took part in the alienation of Port Harcourt with their Okrika counterparts still posses, control and alienate their lands that were the subject of the deed. They have continuously done so without any challenge from government even though their forebears had alienated their land on 18th May 1913.

For the immediate development of Port Harcourt, some of the area occupied by the Okrika Ijaw people in their various villages were required. This led to the inhabitants being displaced without any concrete attempts at a resettlement programme for the displaced inhabitants.

Origin of waterfront communities:

The Okrika Ijaw inhabitants, otherwise called the Port Harcourt aborigines of the various villages affected by the deed of 18 May, 1913 were not effectively resettled. The Okrika Ijaw inhabitants of these villages were predominantly seafarers and depend on the seas, rivers and creeks for their livelihood.

With dogged determination to confront and overcome their state of homelessness by sheer industry, dedication and hard work, these displaced Okrika Ijaw inhabitants began to reclaim the various waterfronts adjacent to their original villages by cutting Chikoko mud from the mangrove swamps and depositing same on the adjacent waterfronts to drive back the water and create new land to build new homes. This is the genesis of the Okrika Ijaw waterfront communities

Naturally the original names of the villages of these early Okrika Ijaw inhabitants as contained in the 1913 Port Harcourt agreement became the names of these new adjacent waterfronts settlements, for example Okrika waterfront is Toinpirima. Various non indigenes found it more convenient to call these waterfronts by the names of towns to which people depart or streets next to these waterfronts, such as Bonny waterside, Bille waterside, Nembe waterside etc etc., instead of the original name like Toinpirima.

Between 1913 and the present day, successive generations of Wakirike people have lived in these waterfront communities, investing time, labour capital and billions of naira to develop properties therein. These properties have passed from generation to generation.

In these waterfront communities there are organized structures and leaderships, for example, there are Ama Chairmen, Polo Chairmen, Chiefs, community development committees, youth bodies, women bodies etc.

I want to make it clear that Okrika people are not against development in Port Harcourt in particular and Rivers state in general. We are in total support of providing modern facilities and amenities for the citizenry. We are opposed to any large scale , social , economic and habitation dislocation of our people and communities by way of demolition of the waterfront communities in the name of development or urban renewal without any alternative fore their relocation.

We suggested to the governor that he should in conjunction with the leadership of the various communities and the Chiefs of Wakirike, redesign and restructure the various waterfronts communities with minimal disruption of lives, dislocation of people and demolition of properties.

The issue of resettling the displaced Okrika Ijaw Port Harcourt aborigines since 1913 must be addressed by sand filling the various mangrove swamps in and around Port Harcourt develop same and relocate the inhabitants of these waterfronts communities to these developed sand filled lands.

Retain and recognize the original names of the various Okrika Ijaw towns and villages as contained in the Port Harcourt agreement of 18 May, 1913, just like the Ikwerre towns involved in the said agreement. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander

We want to see the plan. This is because there are already structures that were demolished by this government like the University of Port Harcourt Teaching hospital, (UPTH) in town which was a former General Hospital, where as a young doctor I did my housemanship, and they promised to build a befitting high rise hospital with partnership with a Canadian firm, nothing there yet. The Cultural centre was demolished too and it is lying fallow. With all these we want to be sure of government good intentions. We don’t want homelessness to be created for us.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Igbo should stop marginalisation cry –Ohakwe

By Henry Umahi and Willy Eya, Sun News Online

Despite the dwindling fortunes of the nation, Mazi Tony Ohakwe, publisher of Maritime Voice, a specialized maritime newspaper, is one of those who believe that Nigeria has a bright future. He is confident that under President Umaru Yar’Adua, Nigeria would soon be reckoned with among the comity of nations.

Speaking with Saturday Sun, Ohakwe, who is also the President-General of Imo State Towns Development Association, gave President Umar Yar’Adua a pass mark in his assessment of the administration.

His remarks : “I think the president has performed fairly well but the problem is that Nigerians are always in a haste for results. But they should remember that the former Katsina governor met so many problems on ground. I would say without fear of contradiction that Yar’Adua is on the right track and he is gradually doing everything possible to put his acts together. Some Nigerians may like to judge him based on the nation’s epileptic power situation but the problem did not start now. His predecessor, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was in power for eight years and he could not fix the nation’s energy sector.

With all the noise on the Independent Power Projects, the Obasanjo administration failed to do anything positive in the power sector. By now, we ought to have been generating sufficient power.
If Ghana is celebrating 10 years of uninterrupted power supply, by now Nigeria should be celebrating at least two years of our own uninterrupted power supply. But we have to be patient with Yar’Adua who has promised that by December this year, Nigeria will be generating about 6000 megawatts of electricity.

I can tell you that once we are able to fix the power sector, other things will fall in place. It will be the beginning of our economic boom. It does not need re-emphasizing that all sectors of the economy depend on the power sector. Ohakwe also lauds Yar’Adua for allowing opposition to thrive and giving other arms of government the latitude to perform their functions.

‘On assessment of Yar’Adua politically, we have noticed within the parties that there is now a healthy opposition. The opposition now operates without any fear of harassment, intimidation and such other vices that are against the growth of democracy. The National Assembly members now carry out their jobs without any interference. They operate independently of the executive arm unlike in the immediate past administration under Obasanjo. So far, I think Yar’Adua is on the right track”.

But how can Ohakwe reconcile his optimism with the perception by many Nigerians that the administration is too slow to trigger off a change in Nigeria?
“Let us look at it sector by sector. Let us start from Yar’Adua’s effort to reform the nation’s problematic electoral process. The Justice Uwais panel on electoral reform panel set up by Yar’Adua has completed its assignment and the report is already with the National Assembly .

It is the National Assembly that should now fine-tune the reform and not the executive. On the power sector, I said before that Yar’Adua inherited the problem from Obasanjo but he is already making effort to improve the sector.
In the education sector, it is the same story under Obasanjo who was always fighting with the Nigeria Labour Congress . At several times, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was always on strike. But I want to say that if strike by ASUU can bring a permanent solution to our education sector, let it be. My only appeal is that the union should remember that Yar’Adua also inherited the situation.

I am not an apologist of the present administration but I am only trying to look at the situation objectively. I have never worked for the government and I have always being on my own. I thank God that a seasoned comrade, Adams Oshiomhole, the governor of Edo State intervened in the ASUU and federal government deadlock. You can imagine that at the height of it, some students of the University of Abuja attempted to kidnap the Education Minister, Dr Sam Egwu. There were several other crime committed during the strike that were being ascribed to students. We all know that an idle man is a devil’s workshop.

Maintaining that there seems to be some hope in the area of political power balancing, Ohakwe volunteered: “ You can see today that the political parties have level playing ground. If not, how can somebody in Ondo State who is not of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) win the governorship seat even in the tribunal? In Edo State, it was the same thing. I want to say that the political problems we are having today are caused by the elite. They are the major problem of the nation and not the down trodden.

All we need to do in Nigeria is to put the right amenities on ground. Today, we talk of bad roads but under Obasanjo, one minister allegedly spent about N300 billion on roads but where are the roads now? Would you now blame the state of roads in Nigeria on Yar’Adua’s administration?”
As a stakeholder in the South East geo-political zone, what is Ohakwe’s view of the future of Ndigbo in Nigeria?

“I would say that the future of the Igbo nation is very bright. I hate to hear people from my zone talk about marginalization. Before the civil war, Ndigbo were in control in Nigeria in all sectors. The Igbo had a say in politics, economy, business, education and any thing you can think about. It may interest you to know that before the war, the Igbo were even leading in the Nigeria Stock Market. The late Odumegwu Ojukwu was the first president of the Nigeria Stock Exchange.

So, the Igbo were doing so well but since the end of the civil war, our people developed inferiority complex. So they started feeling that they were defeated and that they were no more wanted in Nigeria. I know there were so many policies initiated by the federal government that were drawing us backwards but of recent, I want to say that our future is very bright if only we can put our house in order.

The major problem of Ndigbo now is not being together and speaking with one voice. If the Igbo nation can come together today and say look, I do not care if you are from Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi Abia or Imo, let us see ourselves as one”, he said.

He added that Ndigbo should re-strategize to hit top spot again. “To be a formidable force at the national level, we must begin to see ourselves as one. If we adopt that strategy, nobody can deny us our rights but because other tribes have known us as people who can’t speak with one voice, when it comes to political issues, they have a way of dividing us.

They know that when they dangle a carrot, we will rush at it and in the process get divided. So, the only thing that is lacking among Ndigbo is that we lack the culture of oneness and sense of unity unlike other ethnic regions. You can see that when it concerns an issue of national importance, the South West, South South and North would speak with one voice unlike the South East. Look at the case between Cross River and Akwa Ibom. They handled it with maturity. If it were to be in Igbo land, it would have led to ethnic clashes or even war. An ordinary party congress in Anambra State, look at the level of crisis it has generated.

“If you look at the people that usually criticize their governors, it is mostly the Igbos. We are good at washing our dirty linens in public. Most of our governors are performing better than their counterparts in other parts of the country but it is our own that everybody would hear about. People from the North for instance would go home and secretly advise their governors but Igbos would go to the pages of the newspapers”.

He scores the Imo ste governor, Ikedi Ohakim high in performance.
“I would say that Ohakim has done well given indices and parameters of assessment. One area he has done well is in the area of road construction and rehabilitation. I am from a community called Amucha in Njaba local government and we have had for long a very bad road network. It was Shehu Shagari sometime in 1981 that promised he was going to rehabilitate our road but he never did. It was in Amucha that we had the worst erosion case which attracted the president in 1980 or thereabout.

Subsequent administrations came and never did anything to our road. Even when we had a governor, Achike Udenwa from Orlu Senatorial zone, a good governor that did very well but the road was not rehabilitated under him. But Ohakim under six months did a lot for the people of Imo State. From statistics, he is reported to have done more roads than any governor in the past. Also, an area he has done well is in creating awareness in industrial development.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

YSU Students Headed to [Imo State University] Nigeria


A group of Youngstown State Univeristy students are headed in January to Nigeria, some to learn, some to help. But that's an expensive trip, so the criminal justice and nursing students are trying to raise some money with an art auction.

"The plane ticket is what costs the most money," said Pamela Schuster, YSU nursing professor. "So it's $1,200 for a plane ticket, and after that, it will be minimal expenses but probably another thousand or so or a little more."

Schuster said she hopes to raise money at the auction to lower costs for students wanting to make the trip. She also said the nursing students will set up and run a medical clinic.

"We bring local health care providers," Schuster said. "We bring doctors, nurses, pharmacists and bring health care to poor and underprivileged people."

But a 'once and done' trip isn't what the university is hoping for. While there, professors hope to establish a relationship with a Nigerian university. The relationship with the Imo State University will be YSU's first partnership in Africa.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nd'Igbo -- What's In A Date?

By Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

For the Igbo, prior to 29 May 1966, three important holidays were high up on their annual calendar: the Igbo National Day, the iri ji, or the New Yam Festival, and 1 October. The latter was the day of celebration for the restoration of independence for peoples in Nigeria after 60 years of the British conquest and occupation. Or, so were the thoughts predicated on this date’s designation…


The Igbo were arguably the one constituent nation in what was Nigeria, again prior to 29 May 1966, who understood, fully, the immense liberatory possibilities ushered in by 1 October and the interlocking challenges of the vast reconstructionary work required for state and societal transformation in the aftermath of foreign occupation. They had the most robust economy in the country in their east regional homeland, supplied the country with its leading writers, artists and scholars, supplied the country’s top universities with its vice-chancellors and leading professors and scientists, supplied the country with its first indigenous university (the prestigious university at Nsukka), supplied the country with its leading and most spirited pan-Africanists, supplied the country with its top diplomats, supplied the country’s leading high schools with its head teachers and administrators, supplied the country with its top bureaucrats, supplied the country with its leading businesspeople, supplied the country with an educated, top-rated professional officers-corps for its military and police forces, supplied the country with its leading sportspersons, essentially and effectively worked the country’s rail, postal, telegraphic, power, shipping and aviation services to quality standards not seen since in Nigeria … And they were surely aware of the vicissitudes engendered by this historic age precisely because the Igbo nation played the vanguardist role in the freeing of Nigeria from Britain, beginning from the mid-1930s. The commentator, Sabella Ogbobode Abidde, couldn’t have been more emphatic in summarising the thrust of the Igbo mission during the period:

The Igbo nation ha[s] attributes most other Nigerian nationalities can only dream of and are what most other nations [are] not. The Igbo made Nigeria better. Any wonder then that the Igbo can do without Nigeria; but Nigeria and her myriad nationalities cannot do without the Igbo? Take the Igbo out of the Nigeria equation … and Nigeria will be gasping for air.


The Igbo’s break with Nigeria occurred catastrophically on 29 May 1966. On this day, leaders of the Hausa-Fulani north region (feudal overlords, muslim clergy, military, police, businesspeople, academia, civic servants, other public officials and patrons), who were long opposed to the liberation of Nigeria (there were no comparable clusters of political, cultural, ideational, religious, national or racial groupings anywhere else in the Southern World, during the epoch, which had a similar, unenviable disposition of hostility to emancipation from the European occupation of their lands as the Hausa-Fulani leadership), launched waves of premeditated genocidal attacks on Igbo migrant populations resident in the north. These attacks were later expanded to Igboland itself, boosted particularly by the robust participation in the slaughter by the Yoruba, Urhobo, and Edo nations of west Nigeria as well as others elsewhere in the country.

The Yoruba support for the genocide, for instance, was a squelching cadence of opportunism. The Yoruba had been outmatched by the Igbo spectacularly in the 1930s-1960s’ Igbo-Yoruba classic, competitive “preparatory drive” to develop the high-level humanpower and ancillary resources required to run the post-conquest state after the British departure. They therefore viewed the outbreak of the mid-1966’s Igbo mass killings as welcome season to “avenge” their “loss” during the great rivalry of those three decades, clutching unto any bomb or missile available to lob, remorselessly, into an Igbo home, Igbo school, Igbo shrine, Igbo church, Igbo hospital, Igbo office, Igbo market, Igbo farmland, Igbo factory/industrial enterprise, Igbo children’s playground, Igbo town hall, Igbo refugee centre … Benjamin Adekunle, one of the most fiendish of the genocidist commanders of the time had no qualms, whatsoever, in boasting about the goal of this horrendous mission when he told a 1968 press conference, attended by journalists including those from the international media:

… We shoot at everything that moves, and when our forces march into the centre of I[g]bo territory, we shoot at everything, even at things that do not move.

Between 29 May 1966 and 12 January 1970, Adekunle and his extended trail of genocidist hordes, starting from the sabon gari-killing fields’ launch pads that were Igbo homes and churches and offices and businesses in north Nigeria to the “centre of I[g]bo territory”, 400 miles to the south, did murder 3.1 million Igbo people – a haunting tally which indeed includes those slaughtered during the Adekunleist “everything that moves”-targeting, duly promised in the infamous press briefing. As for the outcome of the “things that do not move”-assault category, the genocidists were hardly off target. Their gratuitous destruction of the famed Igbo economic infrastructure, one of the most advanced in Africa of the era, is indescribably barbaric. This was followed, subsequently (post-January 1970), by the genocidists’ implementation of the most dehumanising raft of socioeconomic package of deprivation in occupied Igboland, not seen anywhere else in Africa. The brigandage includes the following: seizure of the multimillion Igbo capital asset in Igwe Ocha/Port Harcourt and elsewhere; comprehensive sequestration of Igbo liquid asset in Nigeria (as of January 1970), bar the £20.00 (twenty pounds) doled out to the male surviving head of an Igbo family; exponential expropriation of the rich Igbo oil resources from the Abia, Delta, Imo and Rivers administrative regions; blanket policy of non-development of Igboland; aggressive degradation of socioeconomic life of Igboland (As if another empirical reminder is yet required to underscore this obviously grave situation at stake, I observe, as I write these lines, the following breaking news item flashing on my monitor from the Lagos Vanguard [Monday 16 November 2009]: “Journalists in … Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, [Enuuwgu] and Imo [central Igboland administrative regions] have threatened to embark on hunger strike to protest the bad conditions of federal roads [there]. They regretted that the failed roads [have] claimed many lives and property worth billions of naira.”); ignoring ever-expanding soil erosion/landslides and other pressing ecological emergencies particularly in northwest Igboland; continuing reinforcement of the overall state of siege of Igboland …

These latter measures, which inaugurated phase-III of the Igbo genocide, constitute one of the five acts of genocide explicitly defined in article 2 of the December 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: “deliberately inflicting upon the group conditions of life designed to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. We mustn’t fail to add, finally, that these measures were drafted and implemented largely by Yoruba economists and lawyers led by Obafemi Awolowo which included, ironically, Sam Aluko who, along with all members of his family, enjoyed the generosity of a political asylum in Igboland when his life was in serious danger during the vicious intra-Yoruba political violence of the early 1960s.

The Harold Wilson-led British government of the day underwrote this devastating stretch of genocide militarily, politically and diplomatically – from its early conceptualisation, liaising continuously with the Gowon-Mohammed-Danjuma genocidist cells of the Nigeria military at varying stages between January and May 1966, to the savage, spiralling aerial, naval and ground onslaughts on encircled Igbo population centres (the “shooting everything”-raging inferno) especially between March 1968 and January 1970. London’s strategic goal in supporting the genocide was to “punish” the Igbo for “daring” to spearhead the termination of the British occupation of Nigeria. This foundational genocide of (European) post-conquest Africa and the worst in 20th century Africa would probably not have occurred without British active involvement. It is inconceivable that a contemporary British government would continue to delay any much longer in offering its unreserved apology to the Igbo for Britain’s role in the execution of this genocide and pay reparations to the survivors.

29th day of May

29 May 1966 is undoubtedly the most tragic day in the annals of Igbo history. It was a day that the Igbo were subjected to an overwhelming violence and unremitting brutality by supposedly fellow countrymen and women. The atrocity was clinically organised, supervised and implemented by the very state that the Igbo had played such a crucial role to liberate from foreign conquest and occupation. This state, now violently taken over by murderous anti-African sociopolitical forces, had pointedly violated its most sacred tenet of responsibility to its Igbo citizens – provision of security. Instead of providing security to these citizens, the Nigerian state murdered 3.1 million of them. The anthem for the genocide, broadcast uninterruptedly in Hausa on Kaduna radio and television throughout its duration, was unambiguously clear on the principal objective of this crime against humanity:

Mu je mu kashe nyamiri

Mu kashe maza su da yan maza su

Mu chi mata su da yan mata su
Mu kwashe kaya su

(translation: Let’s go kill the damned Igbo/Kill off their men and boys/Rape their wives and daughters/Cart off their property).

Yet, this 29th day of May 1966 is also the Igbo Day of Affirmation. The Igbo people resolved on this day, the day that marked the beginning of the genocide, to survive the catastrophe. This was the day the Igbo ceased to be Nigerians forever – right there on the grounds of those death camps in the sabon gari residential districts and offices and rail stations and coach stations and airports and churches and schools and markets and hospitals across north Nigeria. They created the state of Biafra in its place and tasked it to provide security to the Igbo and prevent Nigeria, a genocide state, from accomplishing its dreadful mission. The heuristic symbolism defined hitherto by 1 October shattered in the wake of this historic Igbo declaration. For the Igbo, the renouncement of Nigerian citizenship was the permanent Igbo indictment of a state that had risen thunderously to murder its people. The Igbo could not have survived the genocide if they still remained Nigerian. They rightly chose the former course of their fate and not the latter which they cast adrift. Consequently, Nigeria collapsed as a state with any serious prospects for the future. Despite the 4 murderous years of siege, the Igbo demonstrated a far greater creative drive towards constructing an advanced civilisation in Biafra than what Nigeria has all but wished it could achieve in the past 40 years. Nigeria gburu ochu; Nigeria mere alu. Surely, Nigeria couldn’t recover from committing this heinous crime – this crime against humanity.

29 May is therefore a beacon of the resilient spirit of human overcoming of the most desperate, unimaginably brutish forces. It is the new Igbo National Holiday. It is a day of meditation and remembrance in every Igbo household anywhere in the world for the 3.1 million murdered, gratitude and thanksgiving for those who survived, and the collective Igbo rededication to achieve the urgent goal of restoration of Igbo sovereignty.

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of Biafra Revisited (African Renaissance, 2006)