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Op Ed

In Death, Sankara Marches From Victory to Victory

By Owei Lakemfa

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In Death, Sankara Marches From Victory to Victory

The first time I saw Blaise Compaoré was at the African Union, AU, Heads of State Summit that held in Addis Ababa in 2013. At that time, at 62, he had been Burkina Faso President for 26 years, but was little respected. He slunk around like a defeated man. He had not only betrayed his predecessor Captain Thomas Sankara who had implicit trust in him, he had also tried to abort the African dream. He seemed isolated and already condemned by history.

He was one of those infernal characters in history who hid a Brutus dagger in his cloak to stab the trusting Julius Caeser. Compaoré was like a walking corpse, and people seemed to avoid him. Who will not avoid a Judas who was willing to pump over a dozen bullets into his master for a few shekels of silver? History had already condemned him; he merely awaited the weighty sentence which was sure not just to sink him and his family, but also his fellow collaborators. Surely, Compaoré is a cold and infernal man with no compunction.

Some years earlier, I had visited Burkina Faso as part of a delegation of African Labour leaders. We did not contact any government official or institution, rather we went to the press centre to learn more about the circumstances leading to the murder of investigative journalist, Norbert Zongo. He was a thorn in the flesh of the Compaoré regime and was investigating the December 1997 suspicious disappearance and possible murder of Mr. David Ouedrago, driver of Compaoré’s brother, Francois, who was accused of stealing from his boss.

After being warned to get off the case and receiving death threats when he refused, the charred remains of Zongo, his brother, Yembi Ernest Zongo, fellow journalist, Blaise Liboudo and his driver, Abdouleye Ablasse Nikiema, were found on December 13, 1998 in his burnt out jeep. They had been shot before being burnt. After intense public pressure and protests, five members of Compaoré’s Presidential Guard were tried and later convicted for these murders.

Back in 1983, there were two other officers, Jean-Baptiste Lingani and Henri Zongo who along with Sankara and Compaoré led the new government. The three-some conspired on October 15, 1987 to assassinate the 37-year-old Sankara, but two years later, Compaoré executed his fellow traitors for alleged coup plotting. But history was not too long in catching up with Compaoré whose hands were dripping with the blood of innocent Burkinabe.

 

He had become the Judas Iscariot of our time and after 27 years as President, the Burkinabe rose up as one body and army, to chase him out of power and the country. He fled, just a step ahead of a peoples’ righteous anger.

Compaoré had all the power he could ever have wanted and the wealth he could accumulate, but like a man who swallowed a pestle, he could neither sit nor stand. He was like a man who head-butted a bee colony without wearing any protective clothing, not out of insanity, but because his colonial masters, intent on once again aborting the African dream, directed him to do so without thinking through the implications.

 

Last week Tuesday, April 13, 2021, thirty four years after he assassinated Sankara, the Military Tribunal in Ouagadougou indicted Compaoré for the assassination of Sankara, the attack on state security, complicity in murder and concealment of corpses. He may be tried in absentia having fled to Cote d’Ivoire in 2014 and tried to avoid trial by naturalising as an Ivorien. Although an arrest warrant has been issued, it is unlikely the conniving Ouattara government will extradite him. But Compaoré has no hiding place, he is an internally troubled mind who will have no respite, at least on earth.

 

Sankara emerged from some of the unlikeliest circumstances in history; from one of the poorest countries on earth, and a neo-colonial army trained to be anti-people and pro-imperialist. He was like a flower sprouting in a field of thorns. He was Prime Minister in the regime of Colonel Saye Zerbo but resigned over principles. The latter quickly put Sankara under house arrest from which he emerged to be President.

 

The Sankara government which was in power for four years, vaccinated 2.5 million children against meningitis, yellow fever and measles within weeks and increased the literacy rate from 13 percent in 1983 to 73 per-cent in 1987. It built scores of schools and hospitals, including pharmacies in 5,384 villages. Within two years, the infant mortality rate dropped from 208 per 1,000 births to 145. Sankara argued that: “He who feeds you, controls you.” To make the country food self-sufficient, he took arable land from the elite and gave them to subsistence farmers, thereby significantly improving food production and making the country mainly self-sufficient.

 

Also, his government planted over 10 million trees to combat desertification, and suspended rural poll taxes. He distanced the country from the International Monetary Fund, IMF and World Bank, preferring to mainly utilise local funds. This he did in building an urgent 62-kilometre rail between 1985 and 1987 to link Cote d’Ivoire. Sankara also outlawed female circumcision, forced marriages and polygamy and appointed women into top political positions reinforcing his belief that there can be no real social revolution without the liberation of women. His government established Popular Revolutionary Tribunals which tried the corrupt. As President, he earned the equivalent of $450, drove an old Renault car and obeyed traffic rules, including stopping at traffic lights.

His government changed the country’s name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, meaning: “The land of the upright man”. He was a talented guitarist and musician who composed his country’s national anthem. Compaoré and the French intelligence who eliminated Sankara merely killed his physical being, but like the legendary John Brown, his soul marches on from victory to victory. Like Kwame Nkrumah, local lackeys and their pay masters overthrew him, but his ideas cannot not be overthrown; they live on, guiding all who want to rebuild a brutalised continent and give its people hope and confidence. Letting them realise that like other peoples, the Black people, who are as endowed as other races and whose lives matter, can reshape their world and the world in which we live.

Sankara was like young Patrice Lumumba, cut down by the bullets of criminals in uniform he had tried to transform their lives. Today, he has transformed into an ancestor watching over the African people. On the other hand, Compaoré like Mobutu Seseseko who murdered Lumumba, would slip into oblivion; remembered only when used as an example of what betrayal means. The young Captain Thomas Sankara in death, has joined the pantheon of the gods of liberation, marching from victory unto victory.

 

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Economy

Repeal 2019 Minimum Wage Bill, Start Again – Dele Sobowale

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Repeal 2019 Minimum Wage Bill, Start Again – Dele Sobowale

“Those who deal in ideas, if they are wise, will welcome attack. Only a peaceful passage should dismay them; for it proves that the ideas do not affect anyone very much.”

– Professor J K Galbraith, 1908-2006, Nobel Prize Winner.

The attacks will come. They are welcome. Most of it will be from Labour leaders, never-say-die “Socialists”, media fellow travellers and others emotionally wedded to the idea that Nigeria is still a rich country – where “money is not our problem, but how to spend it”. The fallacious notion of great wealth, because we are an oil-producing nation, was planted early after we joined the oil cartel. Few people are aware that the oil bonanza was over years ago. Henceforth, exporting crude oil will not save us. It will certainly not make it possible to maintain our over-bloated public service sector anymore. The new global economic reality calls for far less reliance on oil than most of us realise

 

TODAY IS THE BEGINNING OF A NEW ECONOMIC ORDER

“Ekiti State suspends minimum wage; slashes political office holders’ salaries.”

News Report, June 5, 2021.

“Umahi sacks over 1000 board members, aides.” News Report, May 30, 2021.

Two Governors have taken tentative steps to adjust to the new normal. Governor Fayemi of Ekiti slashed the take home pay of Special Assistants; he has also reduced the number of those appointed. Nobody needs to tell the poor fellows affected, whether sacked or retained at reduced pay, to adjust their life styles to the new reality. For many, it will constitute the biggest shock of their lives.

Governor Umahi of Ebonyi State went even further. Not one to dwell on half measures, he sent his entire board members and several aides packing.  It is not surprising that Ekiti and Ebonyi were among the first states to take drastic action. They rank 33 and 32 in the league of Nigerian States. Only three other states are poorer than those two. Rest assured several states will soon follow.

Nothing sobers a person up as quickly as a sack letter. Governor El-Rufai acted first, unwisely if you ask me, and is already fighting his own battle. For the hundreds of thousands likely to go under nationwide the trauma is the same.

The entire world you have built around yourself crumbles in one minute. Self-esteem evaporates; the future looks totally bleak. Evil thoughts creep in – suicide is always a strong possibility. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. The media publishes the news on the same or the next day. There is no hiding place. You can’t go to church, mosque or club without several people asking “What happened?” Only those who had experienced it can understand how the people involved really feel. Thank God, I never did.

READ ALSO: Labour Demands For N30,000 Minimum Wage For Workers In Kwara

DON’T BELIEVE THE GOVERNOR; EXPECT RETRENCHMENT.

“States bank on PPP projects as cash crunch bites harder.” News Report, May.

Virtually all the states, and the Federal Government, are now looking longingly in the direction of the private sector to bail them out of, frequently, self-imposed financial hardships. Private-Public-Partnership, PPP, which most of them avoided like COVID-19 before is now being explored as a way out of impending disasters everywhere. To be quite candid, it is already too late for those with only two years left in office.

Despite the obvious inevitability of down-sizing, some Governors are still deceiving their people that there will be no retrenchment. Anybody who believes that rubbish has not heard that “You cannot adopt politics as a profession and remain honest.”(L. M. Howe, 1871-1936). They won’t tell the workers they are going – until the sack letter arrives. Preparing for it is the beginning of wisdom.

WHY THE MINIMUM WAGE BILL IS DEAD

“You can’t bully reality.”

One of the reasons why Nigerian governments have failed us, and might continue to fail us, is the lack of understanding of the basic principles of economics by the leaders and the led. We operate a country in which the blind lead the blind. That is why the most popular campaign promises are massive job-creation and free services – starting with education. The listeners clap; the party members go round and ram those vague promises down our throats. We vote and wait in vain for the promises to be delivered.  The Minimum Wage Bill is a classic example of how the Nigerian people conspire with the politicians to deceive themselves and develop high expectations – which invariably are not, and cannot be, met. And, that is irrespective of which political party or which candidate wins the election. As usual, readers should follow me down memory lane. As far back as December 2015, Nigerians – governments and governed alike – were warned that we would end up here today. Read on.

READ ALSO: The High Cost Of Federal Procurement

MINIMUM WAGE AND THE INEVITABLE BANKRUPTCY OF STATE GOVERNMENTS.

“Who ever reads history with application will perceive that the same events are often repeated and that we need only change the names of the actors. Frederick the Great, 1712-1786, (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 92.)

Another economic war is about to start in Nigeria. The war will be about Minimum Wage, MW. The states want to renegotiate it, meaning reduce it. Labor also wants to renegotiate it, meaning increase it. Renegotiation seems to be the only point of agreement; it is also the battle ground. On the face of it, one would assume that this is only “a matter of cash”. But, it is more than that. The very existence of states and local governments is threatened by this conflict.

The first sounds of the 2016 war involving the governments and Labor have already been heard from most of the state governors – minus three dissenters, namely Governors Wike, Fayose and Oshiomhole. Wike, as everybody knows, faces another election and cannot be seen to be anti-labor. Self-interest is the motive here. Fayose, we know, loves to fish in troubled waters; while Oshiomhole is caught in the trap of his past as a Labour leader. The former Labour leader cannot be seen to be forsaking the people who brought him into prominence. At any rate he has only seven months to go; he can leave his successor with the problem when he goes. That is the worst form of political cynicism. Irrespective of how the three governors arrived at their current positions, they can be regarded as traitors to the cause of the other governments. They may eventually regret their dissent from the majority.

Let me declare, up front, that I strongly believe that the two sides are engaged in a war that would end up in mutual destruction — they will also destroy the states, economically, as we know them now. Most states are already tottering on the brink of bankruptcy with the current MW pegged at N18,000 per month.”

Need I say more?

 

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Op Ed

Duplicity and the Buhari Interview

THE PUBLIC SPHERE with Chido Nwakanma

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Duplicity and the Buhari Interview

President Muhamadu Buhari continued the unveiling of the PMB gauntlet on Thursday, 10 June 2021, by granting an interview to Arise Television. It was strategic in timing and import.

The PMB Gauntlet is a series of actions and statements over the last six months making clear the decision of Mr President and the Presidency to implement the prioritisation of cattle and cattle routes, the importance of the Fulani and the North and his disdain of Southern Nigeria with the South-East at the apex.

The interview revealed deep things that otherwise literate Nigerians miss and continue to misread the man. After years of staying away from interactions with the media, PMB agreed to do one. Why?

  1. He could crow about the Lagos-Ibadan railway project as proof of his vaunted infrastructure programme.
  2. He needed to unleash his venom on those he considered enemies.
  3. It was a few days to 12 June; perfect for messaging the South-West and the South-East and mollycoddling the South-South.

The excitable have dismissed aspects of the interview wherein PMB seemed to go into the forest instead of facing the road in response to questions. To them it is proof of the sickness and intellectual vacuity of the president. Note that he did the same thing during his appearance at the United Nations in the recent past. He ignored a question and focused on reading a prepared text. The uninformed sniggered while intellectuals lamented our ill-luck in having such a “dumb” president.

Experts are coming out of the woodworks. They insist that some of his miscues represent a reputational risk for management by his communication team. Others claim that a man who has lost his onions is leading Nigeria.

Prof Farooq Kperogi wrote: “I’ve just had a chance to watch soul-depressing, dementia-plagued clips of Buhari’s incoherent, genocidal, and ethnocentric babble that passes for an interview, and all I’m inclined to say at this point is that people who believe in Nigeria can only hope against hope that the country survives the suspended animation Buhari instigates and presides over. Trying to make sense of Buhari is now completely pointless.”

The professor of mass communication gets it on “genocidal and ethnocentric”. On the contrary, Kperogi, we need now more than ever before to make sense of Buhari. A determined ethnocentric is leading Nigeria with a clear and evil plan.

Buhari’s answers at the Arise Interview showed articulation where he wanted and strange befuddlement as desired. He deliberately threw those bones of seeming amnesiac moments to the lettered, mainly Southerners. The goal is to keep them guffawing while he executes his plans. People forget that PMB is a military man schooled in the deception and feints of the military.

Following three failed attempts to return to the headship of Nigeria, PMB learnt to apply Taqqiyah and his military lessons. He played along with those who promised to deliver the crown to him. Unlike in 2011, for instance, he went to all parts of Nigeria in 2015. He agreed to appear in the attires of all Nigerian ethnic groups.

Some friends of mine worked for his campaign. They compiled those lofty campaign promises in a booklet. PMB showcased the brochure at a rally at the Teslim Balogun Stadium. Once he got into power, he disowned the publication in a statement Garba Shehu signed. We have in PMB a wily imperious emperor giving the impression of a simple-minded village bumpkin.

Over the years, PMB cultivated the persona of a simple, almost rustic and poor man. As a brilliant Doris Obi Enwezor has noted, “It allowed the educated to underestimate him and the poor to identify with him.” It yielded a passionate following. He then made a fool of the lettered and showed how shallow they are. He dumped all those who claimed political sophistication before his election, knowing they were irrelevant. PMB has created another category: persons to blame for his misdeeds and those who defend his every action.

He used everyone who willingly lent him their reputations. Many are still smarting from the deception.

PMB responded candidly to questions that he wanted to answer. He passed responsibility for managing insecurity arising from the carnage of herders and bandits to the governors though those ones have no control of any armed forces and PMB had denied other Nigerians of arms. He reaffirmed his hate and fatwa on the Igbo. We are all members of IPOB to him, and our land is a mere dot with no exits. “We are going to treat them in the language they will understand. I have told the military and police to be ruthless with them”.  Whether or not you spoke for or against IPOB, you are a secessionist and terrorist in the Buhari book of Nigeria. Moreover, he affirmed the allegiance of the South-South not only to him but to blocking South-Easterners.

He blamed restive youth for the declining FDI under his leadership rather than the absence of policy and enabling environment.

PMB confirmed his roots in the Niger Republic and stated, devil-may-care, that the investment in the rail line to Maradi is to link him with his cousins. It negates the constitution, but what is that in the Buhari world? Here he threw another bone at intellectuals. He wants us to interrogate the Partition of Africa between 1881 and 1914. Smart distraction.

Then he claimed disingenuously that his appointments relied on the merit criterion as well as seniority. Another example of the Buhari gauntlet thrown at Nigerians: what can you do about it anyway, knowing that it is untrue?

Welcome, Ozymandias. All roads hereafter lead to wherever Buhari desires. Or so he assumes. It is man’s eternal conceit, the Nebuchadnezzar Syndrome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Op Ed

Who Wants To Rename Nigeria?

By Safiyanu Danladi Mairiga

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Who Wants To Rename Nigeria?

Many things in Nigeria start like a joke, so, it won’t surprise if the proposal for renaming our 60-year-old country also started that way. The proposed change of name has caused mixed reactions among Nigerians, especially on Twitter and Facebook–some in support and majority, kicking against it.

Federal lawmakers from both chambers have been going around the country in the past two weeks collating opinions from citizens on the planned constitutional amendment. Groups and individuals nationwide have submitted memoranda to the various committees on their areas of interest or in other words, how they want the to-be amended constitution to be. Some submissions centered on the creation of additional states and local governments; some on economic restructuring; some on youth engagements in governance and indeed many other areas of interest.

READ ALSO: FG Is Addressing Job Creation For Youths — Lai Mohammed

But it came to me as indeed many Nigerians as a surprise when the House of Representatives announced that it received a proposal from a tax consultant in Lagos, Adeleye Jokotoye, seeking for the renaming of the country to the United African Republic. To Jokotoye, the name Nigeria was a colonial creation by the British and therefore, does not reflect our culture.

The point is that Nigeria–not only the name–but the country itself, is a colonial creation. The country was born in January 1914 when the then British colonial governor, Fredrick Lugard, brought the northern and southern protectorates together to form a single colony for easy exploitation. So, many things including institutions that exist today in this country are colonial creations. His reasoning, therefore, holds no water.

What’s wrong with the current name? And will renaming the country bring a lasting solution to the challenges the country is battling with today?

Will the proposal change our debt profile; will it change the corruption in the public service and the attitudes of citizens?

The major focus for all of us–the government and the governed alike–should be on how to sustain our fragile unity and restore trust and tolerance among diverse ethnic groups in the country. The unity of this country only starts and stops on the lips of its citizens but doesn’t reflect in their actions and how they relate. You understand this more when you traverse the country.

READ ALSO: Biafra Customary Govt: Dokubo A Joker Seeking Attention – FG

There are tensions all over the land with each region facing its peculiar security and other economic challenges. Insecurity and agitations by secessionist groups are at an increase. Southeast has now become a hot zone with incidents of killings and destructions being reported on a daily basis all in the name of agitating for an independent state that was unsuccessfully fought some 50 years ago, this time around, with Nnamdi Kanu spearheading and commanding the frontline agitators from London. Agitation for the creation of the Oduduwa republic has sprung up in the southwest with Sunday Ogboho in the lead. ISWAP has now expanded its criminal activities from the territories of the northeast to the northwest and has been launching attacks and kidnapping innocent citizens including students in schools. This story is not different in the north-central.

So, I’m of the opinion that what we need now is not a change of identity. We need the government at the center to be serious in how it deals with issues and how it confronts most of these known problems. These problems that are fast accumulating are posing serious threats to our democracy that haven’t lasted for even a quarter a century and also to our corporate existence as a nation. All hands must now be on deck to get this country back on track, else we will all gather to regret our actions and what the dysfunction of our system has caused us all.

If this joke of Adeleye becomes true, it means we will need aside from the new name, also a new anthem; a new coat of arms; perhaps a new flag; and so many new things.

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