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Op Ed

Lessons From Chad By Dakuku Peterside

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Nigeria can also learn from Deby that; instability in Chad may mean instability is nearer home than we thought; flawed elections are an invitation to anarchy

On Monday 19th April 2021, the world woke up to the news that the long-serving President of the Republic of Chad, Idriss Deby , had died. His death marked the end of an inglorious chapter in the history of political leadership in Africa and left loads of lessons for Africa and her leaders.

According to reports, he was killed by rebels following injuries he sustained during clashes with rebels in the northern part of the country . The late Chadian leader, aged 68, was said to be a poor herder’s son who scraped a living from the harsh deserts of northern Chad and rose through the ranks of the Chadian military to become one of Africa’s most despotic leaders of his time . He was a tall, imposing one-time military commander with a haughty mien, versed in cunny diplomacy, which helped him outwit his opponents or buy them over. He used fear to rule the arid country and cracked down on the opposition and perceived enemies whenever there was some threat.

Global superpowers, in their everyday politics of self- interest, saw the Chadian strongman as a political ally. Chad played host to military exercises conducted by the United States, which helped the Chadian army become one of the best trained and equipped in the semi-arid belt.

READ ALSO: Idriss Déby: Buhari Saddened Over The Death Of Late President

Deby came to power in Chad in 1990 after leading a rebellion that invaded the country from Libya and overthrew the government of Hissène Habré, another dictator,under whom he previously served as head of the army. Mr Deby was able to stay in power for three decades to a large extent because he could endear himself to the Western powers. He had close ties with France, Chad’s former colonial power, which considered him one of its most loyal allies, often turning a blind eye to his despotic antics, harassing opposition leaders, and suppressing dissent. In some instances, France did not hide its support for Mr Déby’s government as it deployed troops to Chad in 2008 and 2019 to help him repel rebels who tried to unseat him.

The United States saw in Mr Déby a vital ally in the fight against terrorism. The late Chadian leader endeared himself more to the Americans after taking frontline command of a military force that pursued Boko Haram and its splinter groups, including the Islamic State West Africa Province, an unconsolidated affiliate of the Islamic State. Like the West, in their hypocrisy, lent their support to yet another African sit-tight despot, they turned a blind eye on the repression of political opponents, accusations of human rights abuses and corruption. They watched as Mr Deby manipulated the political process in June 2005 in a referendum that eliminated a two-term constitutional limit, which enabled Déby to run again in 2006. In the subsequent election for President’s office, the Chadian leader won spurious 65% of the vote after opposition parties had boycotted the election.

In 2018, Chad’s parliament was arm-twisted by the President to review the Constitution to allow him to stay in office until 2033. Mr Deby on April 11 , was declared winner of what was generally considered a flawed election that would have enabled him to enter a fourth decade as Chadian President just before his death.

There are several lessons to learn in the Idriss Deby story. The most important , African countries need to realise that the Western powers are primarily interested in things that benefit their lands and their people. They scream about the importance of human rights and democracy when convenient for them but become willful accomplices to despotism, tyranny, and human rights abuses when the perpetrators are of strategic interest and profits their countries.

READ ALSO: Idriss Déby: 10 Facts You Should Know About The Late President 

In 2017, the U.S. Justice Department accused Mr Déby of having accepted a $2 million bribe from a Chinese company in exchange for oil rights in Chad. However, Mr Déby supported a Western-backed military operation against Islamist militants in neighbouring Mali in 2013. A year later helped to end a violent turmoil in the Central African Republic. Because of these seemingly good actions, Mr Deby’s failings and those of his government were overlooked mainly by Western countries. They embraced Mr Déby as an indispensable ally in a dangerous part of the world.

Analysts say he understood what was required to hold Chad together and knew what France, the former colonial power, and the West wanted – and he gave it to them. Emmanuel Macron was in Chad on Friday to provide Mr Deby with a royal funeral. This is despite the role of the departed leader in decimating democracy in Chad and perpetuating corruption and nepotism.

Mr Deby’s three-decades-long rule impoverished many Chadians. He was unable to turn the country’s vast resources into wealth that benefitted his countrymen. Chad became an oil-producing nation in 2003 with a $4bn (£2.6bn) pipeline linking its oilfields to terminals on the Atlantic coast. Currently, the country’s vast deserts cover untapped reserves of uranium and oil that is presently pumped at a rate of 130,000 barrels a day, generating much of Chad’s revenue.

However, Chad frequently featured prominently in the list of the world’s poorest and most corrupt countries as Deby squandered billions of dollars’ worth of oil wealth – and did not oversee any significant development in a country where poverty is rife. The adult literacy rate is at an abysmal 31.8 per cent. Life expectancy is shockingly at 54 years. Opposition leaders in Chad accused Mr Déby of squandering the oil wealth by pouring it into the military, which he has used to perpetuate himself in power, manipulate the political process and repress his critics.

Deby had severe health problems over the years. He is a regular visitor to hospitals in Paris to treat a persistent liver ailment. This was unconscionable for the leader of a country where the World Health Organization estimates that there are less than four doctors per 100,000 people.
Under Deby, Chad has never been a peaceful country. Just as he invaded the country from Libya as a rebel, militants intent on toppling his government have been a persistent feature of his three decades of dictatorship. There have been some assassination attempts, including an alleged plan to shoot down his aircraft.

In 2006, rebels were right outside his presidential palace lobbing grenades over the wall before French troops intervened to save Deby’s regime. In 2008-2009, President Deby had to supervise the digging of a massive trench and cut down all the giant trees lining the avenues around the Chadian capital city of N’Djamena to prevent advancing rebels from penetrating the city again. These incidents indicate a country that is a hotbed of instability. Sustainable development hardly takes place in this kind of circumstances.
Deby virtually turned Chad into a family enterprise. He had multiple wives and children, and his sons, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, brothers, brothers-in-law invaded all the strategic positions of the country in a system of nepotism associated with despotism.
This clannishness probably led to this current situation whereby his son Mahamat Idriss Déby, a 37-year-old four- star military general, has been appointed head of a military government . This action violates the Constitution, which specifies that the President of the national assembly, or failing that, the first vice president, should take over when a president die.

Most analysts doubt whether the new Chadian ruler can wield the kind of power and influence his father wielded, which enabled him to hold the country together. There are reports of a power struggle between Mahamat and one of his half-brothers, Zakaria, which would likely open the door to hostilities in a battle for succession.

The feud had been brewing for a while. In January 2020, when the late President was ill, he allegedly left the first lady Hinda Deby in charge of the government to prevent a confrontation between Mahamat and Zakaria. One does not need a soothsayer to predict that there is a likelihood that Chad will degenerate into crises soon.

For Nigeria, Deby’s death may have some implications, especially in the fight against Boko Haram. Chad had intervened severally to assist Nigeria’s military in tackling Boko Haram insurgents, especially when they took over swathes of territory in north-eastern Nigeria in 2015 and with insecurity spreading around other countries bordering Lake Chad. Déby is ever willing to send his battle-hardened troops into Nigeria when the country needs them.

READ ALSO: Buhari Receives Chadian Envoy, Says Nigeria’ll Always Stand By Chad

Nigeria can also learn from Deby that; instability in Chad may mean instability is nearer home than we thought; flawed elections are an invitation to anarchy; clamping down on alternative voices is an invitation to lawlessness and instability ; international friends’ help is limited; development is key to stability and not deprivation and accumulation of wealth for self ; and nepotism and its twin mediocrity can not help lift a country or secure a leader .

Lessons for African leaders abound in this Deby’s debacle: First, his long reign entrenched the opposition and merged the political opposition and rebellion from the north Into one . The president became a source of avoidable instability. Second, it is evident that leaders who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable; Third , his use by the west as an ally against terrorism in the sahel was a test for a defective foreign policy thesis. Simply, that thesis is that one strong man can keep a country stable and defend a region if supported militarily. What happens when the strong man is felled by his own foibles? Ask Saddam Hussein or Muammar Ghadaffi . The contrary position is the view canvassed by former President Obama that what Africa needs to progress are strong institutions , not strong men .

The eventual outcome in Chad will test this wager to the limits. Fourth, Idris Deby’s nauseating nepotism and power absolutism ought to instruct other African leaders that that leadership model has expired. Mobutu, Nguema, Abacha and others have proven that autocracy and rank corruption can only deepen Africa’s regression. Fifth, personal character of a leader matters and it is what determines the choices a leader make and it is also his greatest strength amidst insecurity and instability; Sixth , courage is an essential virtue of leadership and Deby had it , but it is not enough alone to achieve greatness as a leader.

Deby’s death marks the end of yet another African despot. He has left behind a country facing the threat of invasion by rebels, a population with most people in poverty and another sad legacy of absolute power, clannishness and “sit- tightism”. He presided over the affairs of Chad for more than 30 years. Still, he has been unable to institute sustainable democracy, leaving behind an unconstitutional government and a fierce battle for succession, which may tear the country to pieces. I doubt if history would be kind to him.

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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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