Sunday, April 21, 2013

From Dialogue to Amnesty: Where is Negotiation?

The media in Nigeria has been awashed with reports of request and counter-request for the GEJ-led government to dialogue with Boko Haram. In most of the reports, two important things stand out: the general confusion by both parties that dialogue is the same as negotiation, and the overt conclusion that once dialogue is initiated, amnesty for Boko Haram must follow. In conflict resolution and peace building, dialogue differs markedly from negotiation. While dialogue can lead to negotiation, negotiation does not necessarily lead to outcomes such as amnesty.
Dialogue, as conflict resolution experts would affirm, enables not only conflict mitigators, but also parties-in-conflict, the opportunity to know and understand the views and positions of parties to any conflict. It is after this, that issues of trade-off (negotiations) can follow. The on-going efforts to (i) read the rights of the only surviving Boston Bomber to him and (ii) to interrogate him is best understood in the light of trying to know and understand, as much as possible, the views and positions of the bombers. In this specific instance, negotiation will take the form of court process.
As far as the discourse on Boko Haram is concerned, I do not think we, as a nation, know as much as we ordinary should know. As such, negotiation and amnesty should not come in at this point. Terrorism, globally, is a conscious choice. It is a political strategy aimed at achieving an end. In the case of Boko Haram, what is or are these ends? Who are members of Boko Haram? What are its objectives? It is not enough to conclude that since it was founded by late Mohammad Yusuf and now headed by Shekau; then issues of ownership and responsibility are settled. A number of issues make ownership and responsibility important.
Between 2002 and 2007, a number of CDs, DVDs and pamphlets were readily available on the stores and at various locations where such were sold, wherein intense debates were carried on between Mohammad Yusuf and Jafar Adams on three main issues: the Islamization of Nigeria, discarding western education and values and the religious responsibility of Muslims not to serve in any government not directed by the Sharia. Both Yusuf and Adams were erstwhile members of Jama’atul Tajdidi Islam (JTI) and both met with violent endings. While the case of Yusuf is common knowledge, an assassin killed Adams, as he was preaching to his followers. In both cases, Nigeria Police has no answer to give.
In one of the CDs and DVDs, Adams make a star-statement: that his group met with Yusuf in Saudi Arabia in 2004, asking him to dump his views to the Quran, especially his views on Western education as forbidden to Muslims and working in a non-Sharia government. What happens to this important leads? Why is nothing heard of the discourse and the revelation that Boko Haram arose from an internal dialogue within fundamentalist Islam in Nigeria? Or, is this not important as clues to ownership of Boko Haram? Is this not a clear pointer that there are some people or groups in Northern Nigeria who may know more than is available to the public about Boko Haram? How much of such information are available to the security agencies in Nigeria? One thing is clear from all these, more is still shrouded in mystery and dialogue becomes attractive to unravel some of these issues.
If Boko Haram’s main issues are (i) the Islamization of Nigeria; (ii) western education/values and the religious responsibility of Muslims not to serve in any government not directed by the Sharia; then it stands logic on the head for anybody with any knowledge of Nigeria’s composition to ask government to negotiate with Boko Haram. Negotiations are about trade-offs. The crust of Boko Haram’s agitation bothers on Nigeria’s secularism and pluralism. It therefore makes little or no sense for government to negotiate with Boko Haram when the stated objectives of Boko Haram are not achievable by trading off the objective of the government to ensure that interfaith dialogue and plurality of Nigeria is preserved at whatever the cost.
In the first place, can it be said that Boko Haram is actually fighting against the government of Nigeria? A look at the group’s origin will serve as a good starting point to engage this question. What are the group’s objectives and how much of these can be achieved?
Yusuf, in his sermons, argued that to the extent that Western education brings anti-Islamic socialization, it is religiously forbidden for Muslims. For Yusuf, any education that impacts knowledge different from the Qur’an and Sunna, such knowledge be rejected. He posited further that where any knowledge neither supports nor contradicts the Qur’an and Hadith, Muslims are at liberty to either accept or reject such knowledge on their own merit or as circumstances may dictate.
Although the above appears simplistic, a closer look at Yusuf’s examples showed that they however have deeper dimensions. For instance advances in the sciences – medical, technological, communication, human security etc. that are not found in either the Qur’an or the Hadith are forbidden, even if such knowledge was non-existent during the times of Prophet Mohammed.
In one of his sermons, Yusuf argued that modern science taught that rain falls through condensation and saturation of vaporized water, a teaching which contradicts Qur’an chapter 23 verse 18, which says: ‘And We sent down water from the sky according to (due) measure, and We caused it to soak into the soil; and We certainly are able to drain it off (with ease)’. Yusuf, in his outright rejection of this scientific explanation, explained that Prophet Muhammed in the Hadith noted that whenever it rained, he would go outside and touch the rain because it was fresh i.e., created anew by God. Without as much as citing the specific portion of either the Quran or Hadith to support his teaching, Yusuf also condemned the view that the earth was spherical. Similar to his view on rainfall, Yusuf also condemned the time scales that measure the age of the earth and the various deposits within it. As against scientific claim of four million years, Yusuf called attention to Quran chapter 41 verse 9, which states that God created the earth in just two days. In addition to the above, Yusuf noted that Allah, in chapter 50 verse 38 affirmed that God created the universe in six days as against ‘one billion, six hundred million, three minutes and one second years, as claimed in the Big Bang Theory.
On human creation, Yusuf faulted Charles Darwin’s evolution theory by asserting that Quran chapter 23 verse12 holds that human beings were made of clay and not evolved from lower forms of life and are still evolving. In yet another teaching, Yusuf countered chemists’ claim that energy is not created and cannot be destroyed. He called attention to the Quran in chapter 55 verses 26 and 27 that only God is eternal and uncreated. He went further to assert that ‘Everything/everyone on earth perishes. Only the face of your Lord of glory and honor endures’.
Many more are Yusuf’s teachings. For Yusuf, Muslims should reject all aspect of Western education that contradict the Quran and Hadith and accept only those that support or do not contradict the Qur’an and Hadith. Equal in other to the above, Yusuf, like other Salafis, also rejected co-educational system, as it brings about the mixing of males and females in the same learning environment, he claimed.
These ultra-Salafi doctrines, with its heavy reliance on Ibn Taymiyya - a fourteenth-century Islamic scholar regarded by Salafis and Wahhabis as one of their most prominent authorities - endeared Yusuf to many, especially the impoverished and uneducated Muslims, across Northern Nigeria. Could thesew be the core of people agitating for amnesty for members of Boko Haram? How and what do government negotiate amidst all these?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Nigeria, this morning

In the news this Monday morning are two important items: OBJ and GEJ met at Aso Villa Chapel and CAN Ibadan urged politicians to deliver on promises. As part of our nation-building efforts as a people, these news items are important and views and comments are welcome.

In the first place, why will and should anybody feel concerned about OBJ and GEJ? Are they not from the same party? However, a deeper analysis of recent developments in Nigeria suggests that we take a closer look at these two issues. OBJ berated GEJ recently over the spate of violence and insecurity in Nigeria. OBJ faulted GEJ's handling of Boko Haram and criticized the carrot and stick approach the government has adopted over the past years. GEJ's team loudly replied over the weekend that perhaps OBJ has lost touch with reality and, permit me to add, that his sojourn these few years in his Ota farm, has dulled his reasoning. Prior to now, OBJ reminiscenced on his days in power and how he ordered a few places, including Odi and Jesse towns, to be levelled by soldiers. He touted this as the right approach to the Boko Haram's terrorist group.

As an expert in the field, i know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem and that leaders owe their subjects, including Boko Haram, responsibility for protection. As such, OBJ's view to solving the Boko Haram's problem is not necessarily right and may not even yield any result. He may have deployed maximum force in Odi and Jesse, but Boko Haram is not limited to a particular social space. If we take OBJ's approach, then we will deploy soldiers to all Northern states in Nigeria and kill innocent people! That will be madness!

That said, OBJ cannot be totally dismissed. No body facies GEJ's approach to the problem so far! We seem to know what he would say next. He has given us, Boko Haram inclusive, reasons to believe that he and his handlers are clueless on the matter. At every turn, Boko Haram was winning until US/UK intervention. How long were we to cope with leaders who, at every opportunity, turn to the West for solutions?

This leads me to the second news item - CAN Ibadan asked political leaders to deliver on promise. It is heart warming to hear that CAN, after the debacle of Catholic Church pulling out, to inject itself into the national space and asking its members in government to deliver the goods for which we voted for them. CAN should do more. In the Baptist Mission, we yearly call on members to swear that we are not cultists. CAN should take a leave from that. It should mandate its members to take the political class to task by asking them to publickly declare their rape of the country; to stand up to their constituents and account for their stewardship. Islam shoul do like wise. It is only in this way that Nigerians can localize accountability.

How do we solve the Boko Haram problem? Carrot? Stick? or Carrot and Stick? Your views are of great importance. Thank you.

Baba Suwe, Oil subsidy, Nigeria

The arrest and detention without trial of Mr. Omidina, popularly known as Baba Suwe by Nigeria's NDLEA early in October 2011 is to say the least mind-boggling. Baba Suwe was suspected to have ingested substance believed to be HARD DRUG and was consequently detained at the Muritala Muhammed Airport, Lagos pending when he would excrete the supposed hard drug. Baba Suwe has insisted that he did not ingest hard drug and has gone to court to seek, first, his freedom, then justice against his fundamental rights. In the midst of this, NDLEA went to court to obtain permission to detain him for another 15 days.
Local and International Media, most especially BBC and CNN carried the news of Baba Suwe's arrest as breaking news, which puts the matter on the international spotlights. Up till the time of writing this piece, it is not clear if Baba Suwe has excreted any substance, which casts so much doubt on NDLEA's claim and puts the country up for recrimination.
How are we sure that NDLEA's scanning machine, which i have had the unpleasant pleasure of been on, really functioning? If functioning and it actually and correctly discovered Baba Suwe's stomach to be harboring substance believed to be drug; then why has he not excreted it, even after medical intervention to get him to do so? A number of people have also raised the absurd point of a possible Drug Baron 'remote-controlling' of Baba Suwe's stomach from somewhere and preventing him from excreting the stuff. No matter how stupid this may sound, we live in a country where Yar' Adua, a serving president, enlisted the services of witch-doctors to cure kidney diseases. Remember also that late Abacha did similar thing before he passed on. In the same garb, OBJ suggested the use of 'juju' in fighting apartheid!
Alternative argeument could be that peradventure a Baron had paid someone to help Baba Suwe out and that the NDLEA is no chasing shadows. Almost all these issues are possible, especially in a society as corruption ridden as Nigeria.
Whatever may have happened, I think Baba Suwe's arrest and detention is a big call on Nigeria's judicial system. How long will Baba Suwe stay behind bars on suspicion of drug trafficking? What does the law say? The common thing people from my side of the law knows is that suspects can only be detained for 24 hours. From the look of things, this may have been a lawman view of the laws, as the court granted NDLEA 15 more days to keep Baba Suwe. What if, after 15 days, Baba Suwe still would not excrete drug? How would have the NDLEA cope with the scandal? What would become of NDLEA?
A number of questions could be asked on this matter, especially why NDLEA is still holding on to Baba Suwe. Did NDLEA receive any tip that Baba Suwe was traveling with drug? As it appears that his arrest was premeditated.
Thief na Thief.

Not too long ago, a Police Pension thief who has been standing trial for sometimes now was ruled guilty and his punishment was a 750, 000 naira fine for stealing 27 billion naira. Earlier on, the same judiciary jailed a young man who stole a blackberry phone of about 25,000 naira for three years.

From these two cases, i believe it is safe to say that Nigeria judicial system, like the political system, is a joke - awada kerikeri.

A number of Nigerians have expressed displeasure at the judgment. I however had a different view. In the first instance, i think we need to know what the law books say. What minimum and maximum punishment is prescribed? If the law books prescribed such a 'no-punishment' for the big thief and such a 'sledge-hammer' punishment for the small thief, i think we need not to revamp the books, but burn them.

If the law books were clear on a longer and stiffer terms, we need to know what prevented the judge from acting in line with the books. We need to know if the judge has also exhausted his quota of punishments on the judgment day. Afterall, when Bishop Akinola was raining curses on those that were saddled with the responsibilities of building Nigeria and the President could not say 'Amen', his media man, Dr. Reuben Abati was quick to say that he had exhausted his quota of Amen for the day. Could it be there is a protocol in the law books that imposes such a limitation on the judge too?

We need also to know if the plea bargaining with the EFCC was to the effect that such a punishment was mutually agreed before it became public. 

If nothing of these nature are in the law books, are we save to think that the judge may have been corrupted or compromised to give such a ridiculous judgment? If the EFCC agreed to the plea bargaining and buckled when Nigerians reacted, then how true is the organization in its fight against corruption?

What lessons are here? Is this the way top fight corruption? 
Your views are welcome.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mr. Oyedepo Dragged to Court for Slapping Congregant!

              Let me start by saying that I will not dignify Oyedepo by calling him a pastor, as he is not one. Jesus Christ told us who a pastor is: he leaves 99 sheep to look for one missing lamb!

Jesus Christ chased away moneychangers and bussinessmen from the temple, whipping and flogging them as they fled. With bosterious wind blowing away their flowing gowns, he upturned their trays and tables and fling their wares! That is Jesus, the true Pastor!

Mr. David Oyedepo, the General Overseer and Founder of Winners' Chapel, Covenant University and Landmark University among many other institutions in Nigeria, is undoubtedly a cult-hero to many Nigerian pentecostal (perhaps pente-rascal) Christians. Mr. Oyedepo owns the largest Church Auditorium in the world. Besides these, he has no other claim to fame!

In Nigeria, this credential is more than that of Professor Toyin Falola, an Ibadan-born, OAU Ile-Ife-trained History professor who has written and edited more than 200 African History books. It is more than that of Prof Wole Soyinka, the nobel laurate! It is more than those of Achebe and Ayi Kwei Ama, the literature greats!!

However, prior to now, Mr. Oyedepo stopped students of his university from graduating for being HIV positive and for not being virgins. Only pressure from the civil society pressured NUC to stop him!
Among many other attrocities, many who work in his university have claimed that he, like Jesus, also washed heads and feet of lecturers and staff of the university (and taking the water away). Those who allow him to wash their feet and head are paid a 'worship fee' while those who will not are not paid.

As these videos show, Mr. Oyedepo has been slapping and tramping on people's rights for very long and he often boasts of this special service.​watch?feature=player_embedd%E2%80%8Bed&v=jvKRjETbIRg

Today, Robert Igbinedion, a Lagos based lawyer, has taken Oyedepo's ass to court for infringing on the rights of a female congregant. The lawyer is praying the court to cause Oyedepo to pay the girl N2bn as 'general and exemplary damages' and also to publish an open apology to the girl in many Nigerian newspapers and other foreign media.

It baffles logic that in Oedepo's church and schools, money changers like Ibori, Lucky Igbinedion, Bode George, Erastus Akingbola, Cecilia Ibru, etc. recieve warm embraces, open adulation, special prayers with annointing, etc. He, of course, set up his numerous schools for their children!

The difference between the hapless girl that Oyedepo slapped and the likes of Ibori and Cecilia Ibru is simple: they pay fat tithes, bring assorted goods, and build large auditoriums for the pastor and church.
What can a poor girl give Oyedepo, a multi-billionnaire!

I trust the Nigerian Judiciary; Oyedepo will return with no verdict of guilt in the same way an Asaba Court returned Ibori as a saint only for a UK Court to jail him for 13years after a self-confession.

Oyedepo may claim to be a man of God and his worshippers may see him as one; certainly he side-stepped our laws, the Nigerian laws, by slapping that girl. The fact that the girl walked into his church and also came to the front on her own volition has never mauled her rights. Oyedepo is a shame to Christianity and it beats my imagination that CAN and PFN can fold their hands, keep their mouths shut and remain 'characteristically' silent on the matter.

By the way, what right has a pastor to declare a congregant candidate of/for hell or heaven? On whose authority? Did we not read of one of the condemned robbers who got saved as Jesus was dying on the cross?​watch?feature=player_embedd​ed&v=jvKRjETbIRg

Monday, April 9, 2012

On Kaduna Bombing

Dear All,
At this point in our nation's ascent, certainly we need peace more than anything else. If the current explosion in kaduna is also by Boko Haram, it is no longer North against South or Muslims against Christians, but a deep seating problem that we all must face. For crying out loud, bombs are different from guns. Guns and bullets aim at specific targets, unless accidental discharges; bombs, when us...ed by untrained people, aims at all and sundry. Certain bombs and explosives can be selective in their choice of targets and impacts, but certainly IEDs are not. They are crudely made, hence, they are lethal in their impact.

When the dust settles, i hope government would not sit back on its arses again and start a spirited defence of the Nigerian state? This is not a matter of one group arming and preparing to defend itself, as those that were killed so far were not from any particular group or religious affliation. They are Nigerians. They are one of us. They are some people's family members and therefore, we have to transcend ethnic or religious chauvinism if we have to solve this problem.

I have been arguing this before now, but no one listens until Boko Haram took over the reins of power from Yar'Adua and now Jonathan. Recently, a Colonel from the War College mailed to say that he stumbled on my writings from 2005 on this problem and would want us to chat. Medicine after death, i would say!

There are ways to know these terrorists among us. There are ways to predict their next targets and why. There are ways to fish out their sponsors and their networks of suport, training and operations. Researches that could help abound, but nothing in Nigeria is research-driven, so i can understand why we are caught pants-down by these men and women who believed they can kill and main and go scot-free.

It is now too late for, say, Yoruba, Ibo, Hausa, etc to prevent the raging inferno called terrorism, even in their cities. It is too late to stop them, however, it is not late to control their activities.

Terrorism, to start with, is a weapon of the weak. It is a bargaining technique by the weak with the strong. As such, those requests placed before the Nigerian state are not the real intentions and agitations of the terrorists. They are smokescreen aimed at legitimating their parochial demands and gain supports from otherwise innocent bystanders.

It must also be added that those guys bombing everywhere are mainly foot soldiers, the real terrorists dine and wine with us. They are writing in the newsparers and advising government. They provide the cover that has prevented government from achieving any meaningful success in the fight against terrorists so far.

Take a cue from this: althrough George Bush years and his fight against terrorism, did he as much as achieve an inch of what Obama achieved so far? No! The reason is simple, overt operations will normaly scare the big guns into hidden whereas intelligence and covert operations catches them unawares.

Everyday, government tells the terrorists we are coming after you along Sagamu road. Even if they are fools, would they not run towards Kaduna? So far, the arrest made was borne out of intelligence not out of brute and senseless force. El Rufai recently made a point, which many criticized. He argued that deployment of soldiers would not help. Pat Utomi, among many others, argued against him. He also made a valid argument that when and where lives and property of innocent people are threatened, government reserves the right to order police or army actions to restore order.

How often do we hear and say that some things are expedient but not necessary and some things are necessary but not expedient. As a logical solution, force will achieve nothing. Neither will dialogue.

Since we broker peace witn Niger Delta militants and even offered them pardon, has there been peace in the region?

The fist step in combating Boko Haram and similar problems across Nigeria lies in empowerment. People are poor and are therefore easy prey to many things, especially religion.

In Northern Nigeria as well as in the south, people have become too gullible that anybody can deceive them and get them to do anything in the name of religion. Are people not worshipping Adeboye, Kumuyi, Olukoya, etc in the south as almajiris daily troop to madrasas in the north? What is the rationale for trooping to RCCG camp everyday if not for the much sought after material gains? Poor people troop after God, religion and pastors and imams because they are poor.

Poverty, as used here, needs a broader conceptualization. Many rich people you find in camp and other religious assemblies are there for one thing or the other. Many are seeking solutions to problems that science has solved in other parts of the world. If they are not poor in thought, why cannot they seek cure in foreign land rather than GO's favour and mediated and, oftentimes, sexed miracles?

The poor hopes that by serving God wholeheartedly, their state would change. The pastors and imams knew that their situations can only change if they pay more attention to why they are poor, but if they are they are told this truth, will they believe? In addition, how will Olukoya, Adeboye, and others pay to park their aircrafts if these gullible idiots are wise?

It is this simple truth that Boko Haram and others are profiting from. For Boko Haram to kill christians, they know where to find them. To kill muslims, they know where to find them. To make their impact felt, they target markets on market days. They target Nigerians on independence days because we glory in shows and glamour. Independence days afford us opportunity to steal, so we gather people together to celebrate so that we can smile to the banks. In otner parts of the world, terrorists, until Bush smoked them into openly attacking people, attack icons and national monuments. Nigeria's terrorists would not attack any monument because we do not value them. They will attack churches and mosques and markets because we glory in them. It is all about value chain.

To end this sad commentary, let me say that these conditions are important for terrorism to fester: discontent stock, real or imagined differences, real or imagined inadequate resources, supportive diasporas, ethnic and religious polarization.

In real term, only the gullible would accept that we have ethnic and religious polarization in Nigeria. What we have is ethnic and religious pluralism.

Pluralism is about choices amidst many options. Ethnic and religious fractionalization is not the same as ethnic and religious polarization. When a thing is polarized, it is divided into two distinct categories. Yes, islam and christianity are two religions, but are they the only two religions in Nigeria? Same goes for etnnic groups.

Polarization leads to violence and conflict (same for terrorism) when two diametrically opposed groups can only achieve their objectives by liquidating each others objectives. What are the objectives of the religions, and are these attainable by liquidating each others objectives? Same goes for ethnicity.

For polarization to graduate into conflicts and wars, one group or religion must be large enough to swallow the other. Once this occurs, the smaller group or the swallowed group, would necessarilly use terrorists tendencies to express its voice.

If the above is true and logical, can we then find out if Islam and Northern Nigeria are the smallest ethnic group and religion in Nigeria and why are Boko Haram members solely from the north and are entirely muslims?

Can we also argue that their attacks on fellow muslims, irrespective of whether they are from the North and are equally muslims who may share in their religious fervour, not acts of religiously and ethnically polarized state? After all, they ought to be in the same group.

Those who are advising government in Nigeria needs to be educated and the same goes for Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikwe Jonathan!

I commiserate witn those who lost loved ones and invaluable property to this latest act of brigandage in Kaduna. May the dead finds peace, and may the nation never witness this again.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Do Africans Know It's Christmas?

Do Africans Know It's Christmas?

This is an important and commendable response, although long in coming. Westerners, no thanks to Africa's leadership deficits, has assummed this obtuse stand of being experts, even in African culture. Conflicts and wars across Africa and their attendant humanitarian crises have created a picture of a continent litered with hungry, stupid, and poor people. This is sad and unfortunate. The West may never know the truth about Africa. A little while ago, CIA predicted that Nigeria will pull apart in 15 years! As clairvoyant as CIA, IMF, World Bank, UN, etc claimed to be, the on-going economic melt-down coursing through America and Europe escaped their crystal balls. So did 9/11. Yet, they are the West, we are Africa! The logic is simple: colour them bad to justify why millions of aid must flow from Washington, Berlin, Paris, and Switzerland to private pockets in the name of aiding Africa! Was UN not on the run as Rwanda pulled apart in the 90's? In Sierra Leone and Liberia, was UN any better than Nigeria's ECOMOG? Is racism not as strong as ever before? Ask Anton Ferdinand and Patrice Evra! Yet, African leaders still look up to clueless West, who cannot cure its own malady, but must profess to be lord and saviour over Africa where AIDS/HIV, infant mortality and morbidity, etc rage daily. Look at the statistics: figures of what ails most African states almost halved their population, yet people are still walking and living in those nations and not in the graves! Economic crises is bitting the West because its people hardly do anything by themselves. They live on aid and subventions, credit cards and loans! That way, they alone can know of Chrismas. Why must Africa know Chrismas; is it not litered with sick, stupid and malnourished children? A Georgian asked me only recently how I came to know about Gorbachev. Africans must be stupid, hungry, and sick to be African! The West needs to know that we know it is Chrismas, and we also know that Christ was not born in December!