JAMES IBORI: THE GANGSTA’ February 28, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, MORALITY, POLITICS.
Tags: coconut heads, criminal act, cruelty, James Ibori
Never in the history of Nigeria has so much probity been brought to the life of a past serving public officer. Having dodged his way for years, justice finally. Aught up with James Ohanefe Ibori, two times convicted con man, former governor of Delta state and a man who has defaulted delta to the tune of over N40b.
While knowing it is a shame for justice to have come from far away Britain, one is glad justice is finally served. Nigeria deserves more than these con artists, many of which still occupy our leadership positions today; at all levels, in all spheres.
Please read the Report culled from the Mail Online By STEPHEN WRIGHT AND JOHN STEPHENS
– James Ibori bought a portfolio of luxury London homes and a fleet of armoured Range Rovers
– Fraudster may have stolen $250million from Nigerian coffers as he rose through the ranks
– He spent £15,000 in two-day stay at London’s The lanesborough hotel
– He owned SEVEN properties in Britain
– Ibori, 49, siphoned off millions by inflating state contracts
His rise from DIY store worker to international playboy with a £250million fortune is the stuff of dreams. A few years after quitting his £5,000-a-year job as a cashier for Wickes, James Ibori had become one of Nigeria’s most influential and richest politicians. He wasted no time spending his new-found wealth on luxury homes, top-of-the-range cars, five-star travel and fees at exclusive boarding schools.
Playboy lifestyle: James Ibori, 49, admitted a fraud totalling more than £50million. The former Nigerian state governor had a fleet of cars and six luxury properties in Britain. But yesterday the 49-year-old stood shame-faced in the dock of London’s Southwark Court as he admitted stealing tens of millions of pounds from the oil-rich state he governed in Nigeria. Scotland Yard detectives believe his fraud could exceed £250million.
He was on trial in the UK because much of the stolen money was laundered through his London office. He moved from Nigeria to West London in the late 1980s and was found guilty of stealing goods from the Wickes store he worked at in Ruislip in 1990. A year later he was convicted of handling a stolen credit card. He moved back to Nigeria and worked for its president, Sani Abacha, as a policy consultant.
Rising quickly through the ranks of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, he was voted governor of Delta State in 1999, winning re-election four years later. In power, he systematically stole from the public purse, taking kickbacks and transferring state funds to his own bank accounts around the world.
Part of the luxury include an Exclusive home that Ibori bought in Hampstead, north London, with £2.2million in cash in 2001. He was helped by family members, including his wife Theresa, sister Christine Ibori-Ibie, his mistress Udoamaka Oniugbo, and Mayfair lawyer Bhadresh Gohil.
A massive police investigation into Ibori’s activities revealed he had bought six properties in London, including a six-bedroom house with indoor pool in Hampstead for £2.2million and a flat opposite the nearby Abbey Road recording studios. There was also a property in Dorset, a £3.2million mansion in South Africa and further real estate in Nigeria.
Extravagant: Ibori, 49, owned an apartment in this block on Abbey Road, London, opposite the famous music studios.
Fleet of cars: The former Nigerian state governor owned a number of cars including this Bentley Continental worth in the region of £150,000.
He owned a fleet of armoured Range Rovers costing £600,000 and a £120,000 Bentley. On one of his trips to London he bought a Mercedes Maybach for more than £300,000 at a dealer on Park Lane and immediately shipped it to South Africa.
He bought a private jet for £12million, spent £126,000 a month on his credit cards and ran up a £15,000 bill for a two-day stay at the Lanesborough hotel in London.
Prosecutor Sasha Wass told the court Ibori concealed his UK criminal record, which would have excluded him from office in Nigeria.
Extraordinary extravagance: James Ibori owned a fleet of armoured Range Rovers – including this one – bought with the proceeds of his £50million fraud
Large home: James Ibori’s home in Abuja, Nigeria. Today he was facing a jail sentence after admitting a £50million fraud. (see picture below).
‘He was never the legitimate governor and there was effectively a thief in government house,’ Miss Wass said. ‘As the pretender of that public office, he was able to plunder Delta State’s wealth and hand out patronage.’ The court heard Ibori abused his position to award contracts to his associates including his sister and his mistress.
Scotland Yard began its investigation into Ibori after officers found two computer hard drives in his London office that revealed his criminality.
(see pictures below) Fraudsters: Solicitor Bhadresh Gohil and James Ibori’s wife Theresa who have already been convicted of money laundering
(see picture below) Guilty: Ibori’s sister Christine Ibori-Idie and his mistress Udoamaka Okoronkwo who have both being found guilty of money laundering
He was arrested by the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in December 2007, but two years later a court in his home town, Asaba, dismissed the charges saying there was not enough evidence. When the case was reopened by Nigerian authorities in April 2010, Ibori fled to Dubai where he was detained at the request of the Metropolitan Police and extradited to the UK last April.
In a packed courtroom Ibori, dressed in a dark grey suit and black shirt, appeared in the dock to enter ten guilty pleas to fraud, money laundering and conspiracy on what was due to be the first day of a 12-week trial.
Luxury: Homes he owned in Lagos, Nigeria, and Kenton, north-west London.
Homes: An apartment owned by Ibori’s sister Christine Ibori-Ibie in Brent, north-west London (below) and a London property (below) owned by his mistress Udoamaka Onuigbo.
His wife, his mistress and his sister were all jailed for five years each for money laundering offences following earlier trials. Last March, Gohil, 46, and described as Ibori’s London-based lawyer, was jailed for seven years for his role in the scam.
Attempts will be made to confiscate as much of Ibori’s money and assets as possible so that they can be returned to Nigeria. The Met’s Detective Inspector Paul Whatmore said: ‘It is always rewarding for anyone working on a proceeds of corruption case to know that the stolen funds they identify will eventually be returned to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.’
Fraud: A flat owned by Udoamaka Onuigbo, Ibori’s mistress, in central London (below) and a property he bought in Shaftesbury, Dorset, for £311,000 in 2005 (below).
Ibori will be sentenced on April 16 and 17.
Find his proceeds of the loot below.
THE EVIL CONSTITUTIONAL TRICKS THEY PLAY ON THEIR PEOPLE February 27, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: Abacha, African leaders, George ayittey, kagame, wade
The source of many of Africa’s problems originates from the monopoly grip on POWER by either one individual or a political party or both. Ever noticed that they write Constitutions to suit their whims, stipulate two-term limits and then exempt themselves? Later, they abrogate or repeal the term limits altogether. President Isaiah Afwerki of Eritrea respects no term limits. He says he expects to live another 40 to 50 years. Then Eritrea may hold elections after that — in 30 or 40 years. As for President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, he says he will rule for a billion years, Allah willing. And don’t broach the topic of term limits to Paul Kagame of Rwanda.
The trailblazer in this constitutional contumely was Sam Njoma of Namibia. It all started in 1990 after independence. When Sam Nujoma became president, a new Constitution was promulgated which limited the president to two-terms in office. Then he said the term limit did not apply to him but only to subsequent presidents AFTER him! He served till 2005. All others after him must obey the two 5-year term limit. After that, this constitutional brigandage spread across Africa like wild fire.
In 1992, Fte./Lte. John Jerry Rawlings, who seized power in a military coup in 1981, finally relented and gave in after intense international and domestic pressure to implement democratic pluralism. A Constitution was promulgated which stipulated two terms for the president. Then Rawlings said all those 10 years he had ruled did not count because Ghana did not have a constitution then. Therefore, he was entitled to contest elections under the new Constitution. Nice. He “won” the elections in 1992 and 1996 and stepped down in 2000. Now, he is trying to comeback through the back door by having his wife run as an independent candidate in Ghana’s 2012 presidential elections – a move designed to wreck the very party, NDC, that he founded. Nice.
In Burkina Faso, a new constitution establishing the fourth republic was adopted on June 2, 1991. Among other provisions, it called for an Assembly of People’s Deputies with 107 seats (now 111). The president is chief of state, chairs a council of ministers, appoints a prime minister, who with the legislature’s consent, serves as head of government. In April 2000, the constitution was amended reducing the presidential term from seven to five years, enforceable as of 2005, and allowing the president to be reelected only once. Again, all those years he had served did not count. In April 2005, President Compaoré was re–elected for a third straight term. He won 80.3% of the vote. By 2010, the term limits had been demolished altogether.
After seizing power in 1986, President Yoweri Museveni declared that no African head of state should be in power for more than 10 years. Crunch time came for him in 1996: Will he follow his own advice? He had a new Constitution written which stipulated two-term limit for the president. Then Museveni – like Rawlings — argued that all those 10 years he had served prior did not count. So he was entitled to contest for the presidential elections in 1996. Naturally. He won in 1996 and 2001 and then had the constitutional term limits repealed altogether.
In 1995, General Sani Abacha, “The Butcher of Abuja” always in dark Ray-Ban goggles, convened a Constitutional Convention to chart a new political dispensation for Nigeria. The delegates were all “guests of the military regime.” In 1997, he finally allowed only 5 political parties to be registered. Immediately, they ALL chose him as their presidential candidate! Mercifully, he met a timely demise in 1998. Two theories circulated about the cause of death. One claimed he was “poisoned” either by his wife, Maryam, or the top military brass. Another claimed that he died of exhaustion from a Viagra-fueled sex orgy with Iraqi prostitutes. Take your pick.
In 2000, President Aboudalaye Wade was elected. He empanelled a constitutional reform commission to write a new Constitution, which stipulated a two-term limit for the president. Now, he argues that the new Constitution which came into force recently does not apply to him because it was promulgated after he assumed office. Thus, he is entitled to contest the presidency under the new Constitution. Nice.
Even then, they are still not satisfied when they use such arcane arguments and go through some wild gyrations and acrobatics to defend their protracted stay in office. They subsequently REPEAL those constitutional term limits. They have been repealed in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Niger, Tunisia (under Ben Ali), Uganda, etc. When Obasanjo tried to have them repealed in Nigeria in 2007, Nigerians slapped him down, saying “Nyet! Who born dog?”
The most devious and crafty in constitutional manipulation has been President Eduardo dos Santos of Angola. On Jan 21, 2010, a new Constitution was approved; the country had been running on an Interim constitution since 1975. “The new constitution abolishes direct election of the president, with the majority party in the assembly gaining the right to name a president, who will then choose his or her own vice-president. The president is limited to two five-year terms by the constitution but would not count the 30-year term already served by dos Santos and would start from the next parliamentary elections in 2012, allowing him to remain president until 2022” (http://bit.ly/51l5vf). Nice.
Ethiopia marches along the same Angolan route. The Prime Minister is not elected directly but chosen by majority in both chambers of parliament: House of Peoples’ Representatives and House of Regions. The President is subject to the two-term limit rule but he has no power. The real wielder of power is the Prime Minister. Nice.
So lucrative has the presidency become that they have transformed it into their family property. They stay, stay and stay for 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years until they grow senile. Then they groom their sons, wives, uncles, cats, dogs and even goats to succeed them. Haba! ENOUGH!
Change the constitutional term limit to STAY limit. One stay at the State House and neither you, your wife, children, cats, dogs or goats can run again for the presidency or vice permanently. A re-election for a consecutive second term counts as one stay! And make it retroactive. If you have stayed at the State House before a new Constitution was adopted, your previous years of rule count as one stay.
Impose a limit on party control of the State House as well. A political party shall not hold power for more than 20 years in order to prevent de facto one-party rule. After 20 years of holding power, a political party shall dissolve itself and will be ineligible to field candidates in presidential and parliamentary elections. CCM has held power in Tanzania since independence in 1961, MPLA of Angola, since 1975; FRELIMO in Mozambique since 1975; ZANU in Zimbabwe since 1980; CPDM in Cameroon since 1985; NRA in Uganda since 1986, etc. etc. The ANC of South Africa is approaching a 20-year monopoly of power. Elsewhere, the PRI ruled Mexico for 50 years and the Communist Party of China in excess of 60 years. Enough monopoly of power by a single party. After 20 years, such a party must be made to dissolve itself by the Constitution.
Radical? The so-called illiterate and backward Kikuyu people of Kenya saw the wisdom in inter-generational transfer of power. After a people’s revolution (itwika) which overthrew their despot in the 19th century, the Gikuyu people formed a revolutionary council (njama ya itwika) to draft a constitution. The constitution enacted laws and affirmed the rights of the Gikuyu people in government. According to Kenyatta (1938), these included the following:
1. Freedom for the people to acquire and develop land under a system of family ownership.
2. Socially and politically, all circumcised men and women should be equally full members of the tribe, and thereby the status of a king or nobleman should be abolished.
3. The government should be in the hands of council of elders (kiama) chosen from all members of the community, who have reached the age of eldership.
4. In order to keep up the spirit of the itwika (people’s revolution), and to prevent any tendency to return to the system of despotic government, the change of, and the election for, the government offices should be based on a rotation system of generations.
(Jomo Kenyatta, 1938. Facing Mount Kenya. London: Secker and Warburg).
We have a lot to learn from our ancestors as Americans do from their Founding Fathers.
Follow the author on twitter @ayittey
BUDGET 2012(6) – FAILING POLICE, FAILING STATE by Nasir Ahmad Elrufai February 24, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: budget, Elrufai, Nigeria, Police, security
1 comment so far
As an impressionable young boy growing up in Daudawa, in Katsina Province of the then Northern Region in the early 1960s, my first career choice was to be a native authority policeman or “Dan Doka”. Mallam Ibrahim Dan Doka, our village policeman, was the face of state – the most visible and authoritative symbol of the northern regional government. When dressed in his bright green shirt, brown khaki shorts and red cap, he looked every inch the public face of government. All I wanted was to be like him when I grew up, because that one person – working with the village head, kept law and order and ensured peace in our community. The policeman was then generally respected, revered even, for his integrity, fairness and courage.
There was virtually no crime in our village in those days. I did not get to see the “Dan Sanda” (Baton-carrying Police, in Hausa) or constable of the Nigeria Police (with their blue shirts, black trousers and black berets) until years later when we visited my father’s hometown of Zaria, the provincial capital. I do not know how many young people now ever consider a career in the Police. Let me therefore put my bias towards the police up-front. Warts and all, I admired the Nigeria Police. I think that they are the quintessential public servants who patrol the streets during the day and stay up at night so we can all sleep well. And some of the finest Nigerians I have met – like M D Yusuf, Gambo Jimeta, Ibrahim Commassie, and Nuhu Ribadu were Policemen. And I believe strongly that we will never have a functioning country and government unless our police works as well as the days I dreamt about wearing a police uniform.
What has happened to our Police Force? Why did it attract the brightest and committed people then, and why is it populated by a different set of people now? As every society needs policing, can our police enforce the law when everyone looks upon its officers and men with such disdain and contempt? We will explore these by looking at the history and evolution of the Nigeria Police Force, its current structure and situation, the challenges and its spending priorities in the 2012 Budget. We will ask whether the spending priorities make sense, and then ask the standard quantity surveying question – is Nigeria getting value for the money being spent on our Police? And how do other related agencies in the security sector compare in spending with the Police?
The Nigeria Police began life in 1861 as the Hausa Constabulary, established by Lord Lugard to pacify the conquered Hausa-Fulani Empire. This then became the Native Authority Police in the Northern Protectorate. The Southern Protectorate and the Colony of Lagos had their own local versions of the police force. A federal police force only emerged in 1930 with a national law enforcement mandate, side by side with the regional police organizations. The 1960 constitution recognized the existence of Local Government Police of the West, Sheriffs and Court Messengers in the East, and the N. A. Police in the Northern Region. The central government’s Nigeria Police Force was situated in the office of the Prime Minister under the Inspector-General of Police (IGP). This structure worked to a large extent, but allegations persisted throughout the country about the use of regional police to intimidate, arrest and torture political opponents until the military take-over in 1966.
The events of 1966 and aftermath persuaded the military government that the existence of regional police forces almost divided the country and might have led to those political crises. Thus immediately after the war, the Gowon administration dissolved all regional police forces and absorbed the officers and men into a single Nigeria Police Force. This situation was first entrenched in s.194(1) of the 1979 constitution, and maintained in s.214(1) of the 1999 constitution:
“There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and …. no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.”
The 1999 constitution went further in s.214(2)(c) to impliedly limit the power of the national assembly to create any other organization to perform police functions other than as branches of the Nigeria Police, so the Nigeria Police Force has a constitutional monopoly in the performance of all policing functions as defined in the Police Act, by whatever name called:
“The National Assembly may make provisions for branches of the Nigeria Police Force forming part of the armed forces of the federation or for the protection of harbours, waterways, railways and airfields.”
The Police Act Chapter P19 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria listed the six broad policing functions (1) crime prevention, (2) detection and apprehension of offenders, (3) preservation of law and order, (4) protection of life and property, (5) enforcement of all laws and regulations enacted by federal, state and local governments, and (6) performance of such military duties within or outside Nigeria, when sanctioned by law.
Many lawyers believe that the interpretation of the combined provisions of s.214 of the constitution and the Police Act, is that the laws creating institutions like the Security and Civil Defence Corps, Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Federal Road Safety Commission, the ICPC and EFCC are unconstitutional as they ought to be mere branches of the Nigeria Police Force, if they must exist. This will be an interesting question that only Supreme Court can rule upon when brought before it, some day.
The Nigeria Police Force is the largest single public sector organization in Nigeria. In 2008, it employed about 380,000 officers and other ranks, posted to work in every nook and cranny of our country. The UN recommends that every nation has a police officer for every 400,000 citizens. This is one of the few global standards that we have very nearly attained, but this assumes that the police officers possess adequate levels of education, training, kitting, technical competence and operational capacity to discharge their lawful functions. There is very little debate whether our police possesses these. They do not, so making the ratio has little meaning.
The Police Force is operationally organized under the command of the IGP at national level, and under a Commissioner of Police (CP) of that state at state level. At the Headquarters, the IGP has six deputies – DIGs reporting to him each heading a department: A – Administration, B – Operations, C – Works, D – Investigation/Intelligence, E – Training, and F – Research and Planning.
There are also 12 zonal commands headed by Assistant IGs, covering the entire country, and 37 CPs for each state and FCT reporting to the zonal AIGs. Assistant CPs head 123 area commands nationwide, while Deputy Superintendents of Police (DSPs) head the 1,115 police divisions, which in turn oversee the police districts, 5,515 police stations and 5,000 police posts. There are other specialized units and branches of the Police Force including marine police (now made redundant illegally by Tompolo’s maritime security deal), Air Wing, railway, forensic, Police Mobile Force (PMF), mounted troops, dogs and veterinary services, and the Motor Traffic Division.
The current situation of the Nigeria Police in our national life is too well-known to every citizen, but needs restating. I will reproduce the exact words of the new IGP M. D. Abubakar in his maiden address to senior police officers in the country recently, which I think articulates where the Police is today so courageously and frankly.
“(The) police force has fallen to its lowest level…Police duties have become commercialized and provided at the whims and caprices of the highest bidder…
Our police stations, state CID and operations offices have become business centers and collection points for rendering returns from all kinds of squads and teams set up for the benefit of superior officers.
Our special anti-robbery squads (SARS) have become killer teams engaging in deals for land speculators and debt collectors.
Toll stations in the name of checkpoints adorn our highways with Policemen shamefully collecting money from motorists in full glare of the public.
Police connive with suspects to turn against complainants and investigations are usually not conducted unless those involved pay money to the police.
Justice has been perverted, peoples’ rights denied, innocent souls committed to prison, torture and extra judicial killings perpetrated and so many people arbitrarily detained in our cells because they cannot afford the illegal bail monies we demand.
Illegalities thrive under your watchful eyes because you have compromised the very soul of our profession. Our respect is gone and the Nigerian public has lost even the slightest confidence in the ability of the police to do any good thing.”
These observations by the nation’s top cop are unprecedented in the honesty and conviction they were expressed. We are therefore all hopeful that IGP Abubakar will implement a medium term reform programme to address these operational ills. In this regard, he will have no shortage of help from committee reports and white papers to recommendations of civil society organizations like the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN). The various committee reports include that of former IGPs chaired by MD Yusuf (1994), Vision 2010 (1996), Tamuno on National Security (2001), Danmadami (2006), MD Yusuf (2008) and the most recent one under Parry Osayande (2012). As NOPRIN observed correctly, what is needed is not another committee but the will, resources and freedom to implement what has already been studied, recommended and accepted by government. We will go into some of these recommendations in some detail next week.
The total expenditure on the police sub-sector – the Ministry of Police Affairs, the Police Pension Office, the Police Force, the Police Service Commission and the federal contribution to the Police Reform Fund will cost the Nigerian treasury some N331 billion in 2012 – about the budget of the Ministry of Defence, but excluding military pensions, internal operations and armed forces death benefits for 76,000 personnel. While we spend an average of N1.6 million per soldier, N9.8 million per sailor and N7.1 million per airman and woman, we spend about N0.87 million per police personnel – about half of what we spend on our soldier. The running cost of each naval staff is equal to that of twelve policemen, and each airman is nine times as important as a policeman. This spending priority suggests that we are more worried about non-existent external threats than the domestic insecurity challenges we face every day – something which not many Nigerians will agree with
We will pause here to continue a more detailed analysis next week of the budget of the Police sub-sector, and the various recommendations to reform and remake this very vital national institution to perform its functions. On Boko Haram and many matters, the Police has failed the nation recently, true. But the Nigerian state has also failed the Police and the State itself is failing as a result. Is the condition of one the cause of the other? How did our once-effective and proud Nigeria Police came to be viewed in 2006, as the most corrupt institution in Nigeria? What can we all do to make the police our friend again? We will look more closely at these issues and a bit more next week, by God’s Grace.
Tags: fulani, igbo, societies, somali
“I am convinced that those societies [as the Indians] which live without government enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under European governments.”
Thomas Jefferson in 1787.
“The most distinctive contribution of Africa to human history has been precisely in the civilized art of living reasonably peacefully without a state (or government).”
Jean-Francois Bayart (1989; p.58).
When Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s Founding Fathers, made the statement in a letter to Edward Carrington in 1787 that people who live without government enjoy infinitely greater degree of freedom and happiness, he was probably referring to stateless societies. “Government” is a necessary evil; it is the leader who can be dispensed with, as in stateless societies.
A stateless society or “non-state” would seem almost a contradiction in terms to Westerners, who may see the institution of the state as necessary to avoid tyranny, although recognizing that a “bad” state can impose tyranny. They see the absence of the state as a recipe for chaos. On the other hand, “Africans who live in stateless societies tend to see the state as unavoidable tyranny; they seek and find order in other institutions” (Bohannan, 1964; p.195). These societies pushed the concept of liberty to its most radical extreme and would fiercely fight any hint of tyranny. The Igbo of Nigeria mince no words with “Ezebuilo,” which means “a king is an enemy.” This uncompromising stance explains why the Igbo fought a war (Biafran war of 1967) to secede from Nigeria, rather than submit to tyranny. It also underlies the current chaos in Somalia.
Autocracy was always a theoretical possibility in government, a fact which concerned many ethnic societies. To guard against this, many elected not to have chiefs or any centralized authority at all. For example, “the Tiv of Nigeria were a people who lived in fear of power and were compelled to place themselves under the possessors of power for protection against its abuse by others” (Carlston, 1968:211).
Other stateless societies went a step further by institutionalizing a social habit of impugning or deriding centralized political authority through its oral narratives. Yelpaala (1987) noted that, through mythic, metaphorical and mimetic structures, leadership roles such as kings and chiefs in some stateless societies were cast in negative paradigms, while the ideal leadership was accented. To reinforce this cultural aversion to leadership roles, Igbo society also imposed such onerous obligations and religious restrictions on titleholders that their power was effectively neutralized or kept in line with notions of ideal leadership. The Dagaaba oral narratives are similarly replete with mythic and metaphorical images of kingship. “Kings and chiefs are often portrayed as unimaginative, unintelligent, lacking common sense, and likely to use brute force” (Yelpaala, 1983; p.357). Yelpaala concluded:
It is therefore obvious from the way societies like the Tiv, the central Igbo, and the Dagaaba were organized that they were well aware of the political structure of the centralized systems, but tried to eliminate them as much as possible. For instance, they recognized the tremendous advantage of centralized power during war and used a limited form of it only then. Leaders were given the power to command and carry out operations, but during peacetime, they became, like Cincinnatus, common people and ceased to exercise that power (p.357).
There is evidence to support the thesis that ecological factors and livelihood also played a role in the choice of political systems; especially among pastoralists. The nature of their livelihood made centralized systems of government unfeasible. To govern themselves, they formulated viable social systems with their own values, skills and wealth and successfully maintained their societies.
In stateless societies, two principles from their descent system permitted them to govern their affairs with minimum of administrative burden and tedium:
The first might be referred to as the structural regulation of internal affairs. A quarrel between members of two sublineages is an exclusive matter of the immediate parent lineage, and a dispute between two members of the same minimal lineage is of concern to that unit only. This principle tends to limit the arena of concern to the smallest relevant unit. However, despite the efficiency with which this limits relations, it tends to work against large-scale leadership.
The second principle from the descent system which influences organization in segmentary (stateless) societies is related to the political functions of the groups and might be referred to as the rule of political practicality. Political units must be viable in ways that lineages need not; as a result, considerations of size and contiguity, which are irrelevant to descent as such, are important to a political organization. For example, a political unit must defend itself, which implies a minimum size, and it must have internal cohesion, which implies both a maximum size and a local arena of such size that interaction is possible. Political units, thus, are perceived as though they were units of the lineage system, even though the organization does not coincide with the lineage system (Vaughan, 1986; p.177).
Accordingly, the maintenance of justice as well as of cultural and territorial integrity were effected through the extended family organizations and the invocation of kinship behavior, not only in domestic but wider spheres. This was characteristic of the hunting and pastoral peoples such as the !Kung, the Pygmies and the Fulani. But precautions were taken. A system of checks and balances was instituted in which two or more power centers were balanced against each other and applied in all levels of the community so that no single center predominated. There was a wide dispersion of this system across Africa, adopted by such ethnic societies as the Tiv and Igbo of Nigeria, the Nuer of Sudan, the Somali, and the Bedouin Arabs throughout North Africa. Both types generally used kinship idiom and the norms of kinship behavior in their system of law and order. In general there were no officeholders; only representatives of groups. Such societies reached compromises in conflict resolution rather than making judgments and applying sanctions.
Thus, in many acephalous societies, there was a clear separation between power (defined as the ability to influence events in a desired manner and direction) and authority (meaning the acknowledged or recognized right to exercise power). One did not necessarily flow from the other.
In stateless societies, there are only two units of government:
1. Council of Elders,
2. The Village Assembly
There is no leader and the maintenance of justice as well as of cultural and territorial integrity are effected through the extended family organizations and the invocation of kinship behavior, not only in domestic but wider spheres. A system of checks and balances is instituted in which two or more power centers are balanced against each other and applied in all levels of the community so that no single center predominates. There is a wide dispersion of this system across Africa, adopted by such ethnic societies as the Tiv and Igbo of Nigeria, the Nuer of Sudan, the Somali, and the Bedouin Arabs throughout North Africa. Such societies reached compromises in conflict resolution rather than making judgments and applying sanctions.
Thus, in many acephalous societies, there was a clear separation between power (defined as the ability to influence events in a desired manner and direction) and authority (meaning the acknowledged or recognized right to exercise power). One did not necessarily flow from the other. The colonialists had the most difficulty in dealing with this distinction in stateless societies. They sought leaders with “power” in such societies. Finding none, the colonialists then “created” them. But they lacked authority since they were not part of the kinship group and were treated as external representatives of an alien government. Within the ethnic group they had little legitimacy or authority and what little they had was considered tyrannous by the people under them. In fact, the Somalis mocked the titles which the British and Italian colonialists created for the officials of the first central government: “The president of the Somali Republic, for instance, was called madaxweyne, which literally means ‘big head’” (van Notten, 2006; p.82).
The Somalis pushed the concept of freedom to its most radical limit. They take orders from no one but their country has been in chaos since 1991. They have not had any effective government since they ousted the late dictator, General Said Barre. To Westerners, the chaos in that country reflects the turbulence in their own traditional society and their inability to establish a democratic order. But nothing could be farther than the truth on both counts. Traditional Somali society is peaceful. It is governed by customary laws, known as xeer, that come very close to natural law. Such societies are described as near-kritarchies. Democracy is incompatible with kritarchy; hence, the Somali have rabid contempt for “government,” which they dismiss as “waxan” (the thing). The chaos seen in Somalia is due not so much to their inability to establish a democratic order but their rejection of any attempt to impose a “waxan” on them. They will fight any such “thing” imposed on them by the political elites, the international community or Islamic extremists.
Near-kritarchies such as Somali society have one fundamental weakness, however. They are defenseless against a powerful external aggressor. As a result, the Somali found themselves cut up in five ways under colonial rule. Some found themselves in Ethiopia (Ogaden), Djibouti, Kenya, Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland. The same can be said about the Hmong and the Kurds. For more on the Somali, see van Notten (2006) and Lewis (1962).
Williams (1987) concluded:
It was therefore in the societies without chiefs or kings where African democracy was born and where the concept that the people are sovereign was as natural as breathing. And this is why in traditional Africa, the rights of the individual never came before the rights of the community…These selfgoverning people did not have a Utopian society in any idealistic sense. Theirs was a practical society in every way. Their laws were natural laws, and order and justice prevailed because the society could not otherwise survive. Theirs was, in fact, a government of the people; theirs was, in fact, not a theory, but a government by the people; and it was, in fact, a government for the people. That this kind of government did `pass from the earth’ is another fact we now call `modern progress’ (p.170).
The colonialists had the most difficulty in dealing with stateless societies. They sought responsible office holders with “power” in such societies. Finding no such power figures, the colonialists then “created” them. But these “leaders” lacked authority since they were not part of the kinship group and were treated as external representatives of an alien government. Within the ethnic group they had little authority and what little they had was considered tyrannous by the people under them. In fact, the Somalis mocked the titles which the British and Italian colonialists created for the officials of the first central government: “The president of the Somali Republic, for instance, was called madaxweyne, which literally means ‘big head’” (van Notten, 2006; p.82).
In the following section, we examine the political organization of some selected stateless societies.
The Igbo Government
“Igbo enweghi eze” (The Igbo have no kings/chiefs)
The Igbo occupy what was formerly Eastern Region of Nigeria but is now broken into four separate states: Anambra, Cross River, Imo and Rivers. They belong to the NigerCongo dialect but subdivided into two subfamily groups: the BenueCongo subfamily and the Kwa subfamily (Olaniyan, 1985; p.21). The Igbo subscribe to a set of beliefs which conflicts with centralization of authority.
The Igbo were individualistic and egalitarian, every man considering himself as good as everyone else and demanding a voice in his local affairs. Since everyone had a right to rise in society Igbo culture emphasized competition, competition between families, between lineages and between clans (Webster and Boahen, 1970:166).
Consequently, they adopted a flexible democratic political system which, though based on the lineage structure, was characterized by autonomous federations of lineages or villages organized through lineage heads, age grades and title societies. The policymaking body was composed of representatives of lineages within the autonomous political groups.
The Igbo village was divided into wards. The wards were grouped around a large village market which operated every four or eight days depending upon its size and importance. Each ward was made up of sections and each section of a number of extended families whose compounds were close together. A meeting of the village was held in the main market or inside an elder’s compound.
The Igbo village government consisted of two basic institutions: the Amaala, made up of the heads of the extended families or lineages, and the “Village Assembly of Citizens.”
The lineage head in the east Niger Delta was elected and he sat in court with adult male members of the group. Among the EfikIbibio, the bond of lineage and the village did not lie strictly in kinship or blood as among the Igbo and the Annang, because the lineage and the village members were of diverse ancestry who had moved into the site from different settlements. Unity lay, however, in the political autonomy, obligations of mutual aid and the territorial isolation of the lineage or village (Olaniyan, 1985: 26).
Other persons were co-opted into the council. They were usually wealthy personages and some title holders, particularly the ozo title holders. The council was presided over by the senior okpara, the head of the family whose ancestor either founded the village settlement or first acquired the ozo title. “He was a `ceremonial’ head of the council and his authority did not extend outside his own family group. His status outside the council was of the same nature as that of any other member of the council” (Amoah, 1988; p.173).
The council was the controlling authority in the village. It performed all the functions which a chief and his council of elders performed in a chiefdom. But other groups, such as ritual functionaries and age-grades, helped with the maintenance of law and order. With regard to government of the village group as a whole, the controlling authority was the general body of the heads of families in each of the villages forming the group. This body was presided over by the senior okpara of the village in the village group which was the first to be founded in the locality.
At the village level, every adult Igbo male had the right to sit in on the council meetings. “In council meetings the matter to be decided is brought before the group and any member is free to voice his opinion” (Gibbs, 1965; p.24). But, as with the Fanti of Ghana, this right was seldom exercised unless a decision was to be taken which affected the individual in an important way.
In routine matters the elders ruled by decree and proclamation but where decisions likely to produce disputes were to be taken, the Amaala could order the town crier to announce a village assembly in the market place or in a ward square.
At the assembly, the elders laid the issues before the people. Every man had a right to speak, the people applauding popular proposals and shouting down unpopular ones. Decisions had to be unanimous…If the Amaala acted arbitrarily and refused to call the assembly, people could demand it by completely ignoring them and bringing town life to a halt (a village strike!). By ignoring and refusing to speak to an unpopular elder, social pressure often compelled the elder to bend to the popular will. The village assembly was considered the Igbo man’s birthright, the guarantee of his rights, his shield against oppression, the expression of his individualism, and the means whereby the young progressive impressed their views upon the old and the conservative (Boahen and Webster, 1970:170).
This view is supported by Harris (1987):
The village assembly characterized Igbo democracy. It was there that the elders presented issues to the people, everyone had a right to speak (freedom of expression), and decisions had to be unanimous. The village assembly therefore was a body in which the young and old, the rich and poor could be heard. Every citizen’s participation was possible and important. Decisionmaking could often be timeconsuming, but the slow procedure guaranteed greater individual participation (p.121).
After a close study of the various power bases (decisionmaking) in the Igbo political system, Olaniyan (1985) discovered five general features:
The traditional archetype whereby decisions are reached by consensus among the lineage representatives among whom age, wealth or privilege have no overriding influence.
A slight modification of the above is found among the Awka Igbo where members of title societies and lineage elders constitute the political decisionmaking group.
Among Cross River Igbo, in Abriba, Ohafia, and Arochukwu, secret societies dominate the political scene.
Among the Asaba, Aguleri and Abriba Igbo, age-grades and lineage heads form the decisionmaking body.
Among Ogbaru, Oguta, Aboh, Onitsha and Osomari Igbo, the political structure is hierarchical.
In all these categories the essence of government remained the same. “Even in the fifth category, checks and balances are so employed that autocratic tendencies do not exist” (Olaniyan, 1985; p.27).
The Fulani Of Northern Nigeria
The Fulani are pastoral people who live mainly in northern Nigeria and many parts of West Africa, along the fringes of the Sahara. They herd their cattle for hundreds of miles in search of water and grazing land. Thus, they come in constant contact with other ethnic groups in their migrations. Consequently, they adopted a political system that adapted to the vicissitudes of their occupation. Such must necessarily be fluid, to guarantee their own economic welfare by maintaining links not only with alien groups of similar order whom they encountered in their pastoral life but also by rendering allegiance to states in whose territory they pastured.
The basic political unit of the Wodaabe of West Bornu consisted of the males of a small agnatic descent group and their families. This group associated with other like groups in the wet season but separated from them as the dry season approached and they began their search for water. In the wetseason when they were together, they had a political leader, the ardo.
In ancient times, the maudo laawol pulaaku (Guardian of the Fulani Way) exercised jural control over the clan. There were a few general principles which prescribed the “Fulani Way” (laawol pulaaku). According to Gibbs (1965):
For a Wodaabe man, right conduct is still mainly the exercise of familial virtues. Fulfillment of duties toward elders, wives, and coevals ensures the smooth working of the family and the lineage groups as economic and cooperative units. Fecundity means herdsmen and milkmaids. Good husbandry ensures that the next generation is provided for. Proper arrangement of children’s marriage secures them in a social system in which they can count on the same satisfactions their fathers had…There are three other components of pulaaku. These are seemteende (modesty and reserve), munyal (patience and fortitude), and hakkiilo (care and forethought) (p.368).
The “Guardian of the Fulani Way” was the judge and had the power of banishing from the ethnic group any one who infringed the “Fulani Way.” The Fulani Way was related to the human organism in that shame was felt in the belly, the place of secrets, the heart was the place of patience and fortitude, and the head the place of care and forethought. “It was from the exercise of care and forethought that a man succeeded in the possession of wives, children, cattle, and the esteem and cooperation of kinsmen” (Carlston, 1968:151).
The ardo was charged with general responsibility for his group’s social, political and economic affairs. “His exercise of authority was mostly dependent on consultation with members of the group, weighing their views and experience, and reaching conclusions which were announced in terms of advice rather than command” (Carlston, 1968:150). He was the spokesman of his group in dealing with like groups within Wodaabe society, and with all those outside Wodaabe society.
Gibbs (1965) provided a similar view:
An ardo does not command, he advises, as is best seen in the conferences preceding pastoral moves. The ardo’s duty is to elicit all forms of evidence from the youngest herdsboy to the oldest herder, and to sum up the feeling of the group. Thereafter, any householder can go where he will without restraint and with no ill feeling (p.394).
Amoah, G.Y. (1988). Groundwork of Government For West Africa. Illorin (Nigeria): Gbenle Press, Ltd.
Ayittey, George B,N. (2006). Indigenous African Institutions. Ardsley-on-Hudson, NY:
Bayart, Jean-Francois (1989). L’Etat en Africa. Paris: Fayard.
Boahen, A.A. and J.B. Webster (1970). History of West Africa. New York: Praeger.
Bohannan, Paul (1964). Africa and Africans. New York: The Natural History Press.
Carlston, Kenneth S. (1968). Social Theory and African Tribal Organization. Urbana: University of
Gibbs, James L. Jr. ed. (1965). Peoples of Africa. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
Harris, Joseph E. (1987). AfricansaAnd Their History. New York: Penguin.
Olaniyan, Richard ed. (1985).Nigerian History and Culture. London: Longman Group Limited.
Smith, Robert S. (1969). Kingdoms of The Yoruba. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd.
Stride G.T. and Ifeka Caroline (1971). Peoples and Empires of West Africa. Lagos: Thomas Nelson.
Van Notten, Michael (2006). The Law of the Somalis. Trenton, NJ: The Red Sea Press, Inc.
Vaughan, James H. (1986). “Population and Social Organization,” in Martin and O’Meara (1986).
Williams, Chancellor (1987). The Destruction of Black Civilization. Chicago: Third World Press.
Yelpaala, Kojo (1983). “Circular Arguments and SelfFulfilling Definitions: `Statelessness’ and the
Dagaaba”, History in Africa, 10:349385.
THE KANURI EMPIRE by Prof G.N. Ayittey February 20, 2012Posted by seunfakze in EDUCATION.
Tags: kanuri, north Nigeria
In continuation of a study on Nigerian history, please read!!!
This Islamic empire came into existence in the ninth century, when the Kanuri succeeded in imposing their authority on the politically disunited and scattered communities of the Lake Chad basin. “The girgam Kanuri’s oral traditions credit this achievement to Say’f b. Dhi Yazan (or simply Saif) who established the Sefawa dynasty, the longestlived in Africa” (Olaniyan, 1985; p.57).[Note:1]
Like Ghana, another ancient Islamic empire, the Kanuri empire, the first at Kanem and the second at Borno, survived for almost one thousand years. The first empire at Kanem began to collapse from 1259 to 1472 due to struggles for power and internal dissension. The empire was revived by Mai Ali Ghaji (1472-1504) who reconstructed Kanuri power at Bornu rather than at the ancestral capital of N’jimi.
The political organization of the empire (both the old and new) operated at two levels, central and provincial. At the head of the empire was the Mai, a hereditary sovereign chosen from the descendants of Saif. He was the personification of the empire and the wellbeing of his subjects was identified with his state of health. Originally divine rulers, the Mais were sacrosant and preserved all the outward attributes of sacred monarchy long after their conversion to Islam. They ate in seclusion, appeared ceremonially before the public gaze on very rare occasions and gave audiences to strangers from behind a screen of curtaining. “In strict theory, their position as both political and religious leader of their people gave them absolute power in all spheres of government. In practice, they were constitutional rulers who had to heed the advice and ambitions of their councillors” (Stride and Ifeka, 1971; p.128). One notices again and again the wide gap between royal absolutism in theory and despotism in practice.
Olaniyan (1985) was more emphatic:
The Mai, like other sacred monarchs in other Nigerian states, was not an autocrat. He had to take cognizance of the existence of two bodies of title holders. The first was the council of state, made up of twelve men selected from the nobility and great men of servile origin. These twelve dignitaries, together with the Mai, formed the supreme ruling body. It was very unlikely for a Mai to take any decision without consulting them (p.61).
Besides a few councilors who held hereditary titles, the Mai appointed court and state officials and assigned responsibilities to them. All important activities of the state took place in his palace. But the official organ of government was the Council of Twelve, which advised the Mai on policy and saw to its implementation in his name.
This council was composed of the great officials of state who were selected both from the royal family and influential men of servile origin. Without their cooperation, the Mai was practically powerless; they, on the other hand, could govern the country with little reference to his wishes (Stride and Ifeka, 1971; p.128).
The second important political institution was a body comprising three women title holders: the Gumsu (Mai’s first wife), the Magara (Mai’s senior sister) and the Magira (the Queen Mother). These three women performed important activities in the palace and they trained the princes. They exercised great influence in the politics of the empire and they also exercised wide-ranging powers during an interregnum or when there was a weak Mai on the throne. By the threat to withdraw their services, this council of women could force a Mai to change his policies. The Magira had complete responsibility for the provision of royal food and the Magara for care of the royal children. “The extent of the Queen-Mother’s influence can be seen in the fact that Mai Biri was imprisoned on the Magira’s order and Magira Aisa controlled Kanuri political life before the accession of Idris Alooma” (Stride and Ifeka, 1971:129).[Note:2]
For administrative purposes, the empire was divided into four provinces and placed under four governors selected from the twelve councillors. The Galadima was in charge of the west; the Kaigama the south; the Yerima the north; and Mestrema the east. The governors defended their provinces from attack, prevented them from secession, mobilized their citizens for war and collected tributes for the Mai. They were also responsible for the preservation of law and order and for extending Kanuri influence beyond their frontiers. The governors, except for the Galadima, did not live in the provinces and had to appoint representatives known as the Chima to perform their functions. “The daytoday administration of the provincial villages and towns was left in the hands of their hereditary rulers, (known as Chima Gana), an arrangement which made it possible to govern indirectly and reduce instability” (Olaniyan, 1985; p.61).
The Kanuri empire and the Sefawa dynasty owed their success and longevity to a number of factors. For the empire, the first was the strong and effective leadership provided by such Mais as Saif, Dunama II, `Ali Ghaji and Idris Alooma. Second, membership of the Council of Twelve was not hereditary and the four great officers in charge of the major sub-divisions of the empire were appointed to govern areas where their families had no vested interests. What is more, with the exception of the Galadima, they and other important noblemen were required to live in the capital under the eye of royal authority. Only in times of emergency did they visit the areas they governed and assume personal control.
While this lessened the danger of their building up independent local power, it had the further value that as new areas were added to the empire, their natural rulers could be appointed Chima Gana to their own people. This reinforced their authority over their people, guaranteed a high degree of local autonomy and at the same time brought them under the supervision of one of the great Kanuri noblemen at Ngazargamu (Stride and Ifeka, 1971:129).
Third, “the Mais did not keep large standing armies” (Stride and Ifeka, 1971:130). The military therefore did not act as a drain on imperial budget. The bulk of the troops were local levies that could be called up and commanded by local officials. Yet, this imperial military machine was able to overcome smallscale uncoordinated resistance from the neighbors and repel invasions. Fourth, administration was decentralized though the Kanuri “absorbed the sociopolitical features of predynastic (i.e. preninth century) inhabitants” (Olaniyan, 1985; p.61). The inhabitants managed their own local affairs under their hereditary rulers. Fifth, Islam provided a unifying force.
“The Sefawa dynasty was one of the longest-lived in the history of the world, having ruled Kanuri states for about a thousand years” (Stride and Ifeka, 1971:125). A number of factors accounted for this. First, great precautions were taken to avoid dynastic struggles, preserve the balance of the constitution and minimize rivalries withing the ruling classes of the empire. As the Mai’s sons reached manhood, they were despatched to the provinces to prevent them from becoming centers of political rivalry and intrigue within the capital.
Second, the Sefawa deliberately intermarried with the women in the conquered areas in order to minimize feuds and rebellions. The number of offspring of such mixed marriages became members of the ruling dynasty (Olaniyan, 1985; p.57). Third, the Sefawa dynasty introduced Islam gradually and peacefully. For example, although `Ali Ghaji employed Islam to consolidate his bureaucracy, “he never used force to spead Islam” (Olaniyan, 1985; p.59).
The administration of the Kanuri empire was very similar to that of another Muslim empire, the Songhai which Stride and Ifeka (1971) described as “the greatest indigenous empire in the history of West Africa” (p.67). The progenitors of the Songhai empire were peoples living in small communities on both sides of the Niger river in the Dendi area. They included the Da (sedentary farmers), the Gow (hunters) and the Sorko (fishermen and canoe-men). They were invaded from the northeast and conquered by bands of dark-skinned Zaghawa nomads. Over time, they were forged into a powerful empire which reached the peak of its power in the 16th century under the Sunni dynasty.
One notable Songhai ruler was Sunni Ma Dogo, alias Muhammed Da’o, who reigned around 1420. He was followed by Sunni Ali (1464-1492), who within a period of 28 years transformed the little kingdom of Gao into the huge Songhai empire, stretching from the Niger in the east to Jenne in the west. After the Sunni dynasty came the Askia, the first of which was Askia Muhammad, which reigned between 1528 and 1591.
Askia Muhammad “did not implement Islamic models but merely improved upon or expanded the existing traditional system” (Boahen, 1971:39). He divided his empire into provinces, like the Kanuri empire, and each ruled by a governor called koi or fari. These provinces comprised of a metropolitan Gao and 4 major provinces: Dendi to the south of Gungia; Bal, north of the Niger bend and including Taghaza; Benga in the lacustrine area; and Kurmina in the important grain-producing area south of the Niger from Timbuktu.
The ruler of the eastern province was the dendi-fari while that of the western province was gurman-fari or kurmina-fari. Each was advised by a council of ministers. Thus the kurmina-fari was advised by a council consisting of the balama, the commander of the Songhai forces in the west, the binga-farma and the bana-farma, all of whom were royal princes.
At the center, Askia Muhammad established a council of ministers to assist him in all aspects of government. Most of these central posts, as well as the governors, were carefully selected from the Askia’s family and circle of friends to ensure maximum loyalty. There were enormous powers in the hands of these governors. But their offices were not hereditary. They served at the pleasure of the Askia who could both appoint and remove them at will.
One important feature of the reign of Sunni Ali needs to be noted:
All the rulers of the second dynasty, the Sunni dynasty, were attached to their traditional religion more than to Islam, and paid far more attention to their idols, priests and diviners than to the Koran and the mallams. Indeed, they became known as magician-kings, as Levtzion has pointed out: “even after they had lost temporal power, the Sohantyr, descendants of Sunni Ali, retained their prestige as powerful magicians.” Sunni Ali himself, though generous to the Muslims, did not hesitate to punish or persecute them if they stood in his way. Throughout his reign, the traditional Songhai religion remained the basis of his authority, and it was only because Islam was gaining ground in the western part of his kingdom that Sunni Ali had to keep up an outward Muslim appearance by saying prayers, fasting and so on.
Thus, during the period of the Sunni rulers, Islam never became the religion of the state (Boahen, 1971:34).
This flexibility and tolerance of traditional religious practices were also evident during the reign of the Askia dynasty. Each great official was allowed to have his own distinctive dress, his own personal allocation of drums for use on ceremonial occasions and some distinguishing privilege.
Such privileges included the right of the commander-in-chief (Dyina Koy) to sit on a carpet and sprinkle himself with flour instead of dust when prostrating before the Askia; the exemption of the governor of Gurma from removing his turban when kneeling before his ruler; and the distinction of the Governor of Benga who was allowed to enter the city of Gao with all this drums beating (Stride and Ifeka, 1971:79).
Stride and Ifeka (1971) continued with the observation that, although great stress was placed on the Islamic character of the towns with crowded mosques and Islamic judges, traditional African practices, such as the use of an “interpreter” as an intermediary between ruler and the people and African religious influences remained pervasive.
Thus, it appears that the Askias were either essentially Muslims who for political reasons paid lip-service to the traditional religious forms to retain the loyalty of non-Muslim subjects, or they gradually became re-absorbed into the ethnic religion while maintaining a Muslim gloss that propitiated indigenous and foreign Muslims alike. Whichever was the true state of affairs, it is clear that successful Askias drew political support and religious approval from all quarters. This was a remarkable feat of statesmanship (Stride and Ifeka, 1971:79). (Italics mine)
Unfortunately, that “feat of statemanship” has not been replicated in modern Nigeria, Mauritania, Sudan, Tanzania and other Moslem African countries. Recent events prompted one irate Nigerian, Mr. Aloysius Juryit of Calabar, to write: “Events in the Sudan and Mauritania, to mention only a few, have shown that the worst racists are Arabs, especially when it comes to dealing with blacks” (New African, March 1990; p.6).
Ayittey, George B,N. (2006). Indigenous African Institutions. Ardsley-on-Hudson, NY:
Boahen, A.A. (1986). Topics in West African History. New York: Longman.
Olaniyan, Richard ed. (1985).Nigerian History and Culture. London: Longman Group Limited.
Stride G.T. and Ifeka Caroline (1971). Peoples and Empires of West Africa. Lagos: Thomas Nelson.
THE OYO EMPIRE by Prof George Ayittey February 19, 2012Posted by seunfakze in EDUCATION.
Tags: history, Nigeria, yoruba
Studying history is important in understanding what brought us here. Do find time to read through. Enjoy!
As you read this keep these pertinent modern questions in mind: Whether or not military dictatorship existed in the empire, rule of law was absent, there were no accountability or checks and balances, and whether the rulers can be removed.
The political structure of the Yoruba Kingdom in the 18th century when it was in its heyday, resembled that of the Asante and Zande Kingdoms. Its development also bore a close resemblance to that of the Zulu kingdom as well, suggesting strong similarities in the constitution of African kingdoms.
According to Yoruba traditions, the original founder of the kingdom, Oduduwa, settled in IleIfe at some time in the 14th century. Before his arrival, about 13 semiautonomous settlements had organized themselves into a loose confederacy. Oduduwa settled among them and subsequently subjugated them, imposing his authority over them. The preexisting groups organized themselves into a resistance group known as the Igbo and harassed Oduduwa and the new settlement until accommodation was reached around the middle of the 14th century.
Indeed, population expansion and pressures on the land induced migrations out of IleIfe. The migration intensified when IleIfe was struck by a prolonged drought that caused great famine and malnutrition for a protracted length of time. As a result,
A decision was taken that the best way to solve the problem was for some people to emigrate. A meeting was summoned at a place which still bears the name of Ita Ijero (place of deliberation) where a decision was taken as to what direction each party should take, and how future contacts were to be made with IleIfe and among the migrants, who were led by princes who belonged to the Oduduwa group (Olaniyan, 1985; p.37).
The Zulu state, it may be recalled, also encountered similar famine and environmental crisis. While the Zulu solution was to raid or conquer neighboring states, the Yoruba solution was emigration. Although it is not known how many kingdoms the Oduduwa princes established after the dispersal, Olaniyan (1985) surmised that “not fewer than 16 kingdoms are known to have been formed after the Ife model in various parts of Yorubaland” (p.37). Among them were Ado, Ara, Egba, Egbado, Ijero, Ikole, Otun, Oye and Oyo. Each of the dispersing groups built their kingdoms by displacing the heads of preexisting communities and instituting a political system patterned after the IleIfe model with slight modifications.
The hub of the Yoruba empire was metropolitan Oyo, the home of the Yorubas who spoke the Oyo dialect and who were for practical purposes identifiable with the people of Old Oyo. This area was divided into 6 large provinces, three to the west of the River Ogun and three to the east. South of metropolitan Oyo, there were other Yoruba kingdoms such as Egba and Egbado, whose peoples spoke different Yoruba dialects.
The Asante kingdom, it may also be recalled, had a similar structure: metropolitan Asante, provincial Asante and the vassal states. Like the Asante, the sway of Oyo extended over non-Yoruba areas to the southwest: the Aja states of Dahomey and the Ewe of Togo. But, “imperial policy toward these non-Yoruba states was to allow them almost total local independence provided that they did not seek to escape from their tributary status” (Stride and Ifeka, 1971:296). This imperial policy of “indirect rule” was identical to the Asante’s.
Although autonomous, the kingdoms were bonded closely together and continued to share ideas. Since all were sons or grandsons of Oduduwa, the succeeding rulers of the kingdoms (as well as their subjects) considered themselves kinsmen (Ebi), periodic renewal of contacts with the ancestral spirit at IleIfe was maintained.
The sizes and complexities of these secondary kingdoms varied considerably, ranging from Oyo, covering over 10,000 square miles, to the miniature states of Ekiti, where, for example, the Ewi of Ado ruled over only some 17 small towns and villages. The larger kingdoms were subdivided into provinces. In addition, there were city-states, such as Badagry and Egbado towns. But all of these were “internally autonomous in a quasi-federalism” (Smith, 1969, p.110).
Among these states Ife enjoyed seniority and prestige. Its ruler, the Oni, commanded respect not so much as the ruler of one of the Yoruba group of kingdoms, since Ife is not remembered as having attained political or military importance, but as the king of a town which was regarded as the cradle of the race and whence the rulers and leading elements in the population of most of the other kingdoms traced their origins…Each of the Yoruba states was a sovereign entity, though related by tradition and sentiment to Ife and the other states of the Ife family (much like the ties between the 7 Hausa Bakwai of northern Nigeria) (Smith, 1969; p.108).
The Yoruba system of government was extremely complex and might appear confusing to outsiders. But the political systems of the various constituent kingdoms were in general similar. The basic political unit was the town (ilu), which was made up of lineages. A typical Yoruba kingdom was made up of many towns, villages, markets and farmsteads. One of these served as the capital town where the king (oba) lived. This leading oba was the wearer of a beaded crown, bestowed on his ancestor, according to legend, from Ife and his town was defined as ilu alade (crowned town) to distinguish it from other towns. Subordinate towns were classified as ilu ereko (literally, “towns on the fringe of the farmland”), which in turn ranged from ilu oloja (a market town with an oba not entitled to wear a beaded crown) to the ileto (village), abule (hamlet) and ago or aba (camp, settlement).
Each settlement was organized in a hierarchical form. The component lineages were headed by male adults called Baale (or Bale — father of the house), who oversaw the administration of the town. At the apex was the headchief or oba, who claimed descendancy from Oduduwa.
The oba was the natural head of his own people and selected according to purely local custom. However, his appointment had to be confirmed by the central government at Oyo. Thus,
Yoruba towns were ruled by their own obas chosen from the local ruling lineages and their policies had to be confirmed by local councils made up of heads of non-ruling families and local societies. Yet even with the full force of local opinion behind him, it would be a brave oba who dared offend the imperial government at Oyo (Stride and Ifeka, 1971; p.297).
As the head of government, the oba was politically supreme, and as the executive head, he exercised considerable powers: he could arrest, punish or reward any of his subjects. But Olaniyan (1985) further argued:
In practice, however, the oba was not an absolute ruler. His powers were checked in a number of ways and more importantly, he did not rule singlehandedly but in conjunction with a council of chiefs known generally as the Iwarefa. The chiefs on the council were usually grouped into two parallel lines representing commoners’ interests and princely interests (p.43).
Smith (1969) reached similar conclusions:
The sacred aspect of Yoruba kingship did not lead to the oba becoming an autocrat but rather the reverse. Not only was he bound by rules and precedents in his personal life but these also required him to submit all business to councils of chiefs and officers, and only after consultation and deliberation by these bodies could a policy be decided upon and proclaimed in the oba’s name.
Every oba had at least one council of chiefs who formed a powerful, usually hereditary, cabinet, and in most kingdoms there were lesser councils for the regulation of the different aspects of government. Thus the oba was at least as much fettered by constitutional procedure as a ruler in a modern democracy. Moreover, the chieftaincies were hereditary with the `descent group’ or extended families which made up the population of the town. Thus the chiefs were representatives of their family groups as well as being officials of the king and the kingdom (p.111). (Italics mine).
The supreme king over all was the Alafin (or Alaafin) at Oyo. His duties to sub-states were as considerable as those owed to him by the sub-rulers, so that “the essential basis of the empire was mutual self-interest” (Stride and Ifeka, 1971:298). Both tributary kings and provincial governors (of metropolitan Oyo) had the duty of collecting tribute due to Oyo and for contributing contingents of troops under local generalship to the imperial army in times of major war. All sub-rulers had to pay homage to the Alafin. The acknowledgment of the duty of allegiance was renewed yearly by compulsory attendance at important religious ceremonies. The most important of these was the Bere festival, which was celebrated to mark public acclamation of successful rule by an Alafin. After a Bere festival, there was supposed to be peace in Yorubaland for three years.
For his part, it was the responsibility of the Alafin to protect tributary states from external aggression, particularly from the north (Muslim). It was also the duty of the Alafin to settle internal quarrels between his sub-rulers and between individual sub-rulers and their peoples. He was thus the supreme judge of the empire; his court was the final court of appeal.
The Alafin was carefully selected and commanded enormous respect. No man could be considered for elevation to the imperial throne unless he was directly descended from Oranyan, the founder of Old Oyo. Yet the office did not automatically pass from father to son for there were several distinct lineages of royal descent (Stride and Ifeka; p.298).
The actual selection of a new Alafin was in the hands of the Oyo Mesi, a supreme council of state, whose seven members were collectively recognized as king-makers. They consulted the Ifa oracle as to which of the candidates was approved by the gods. The new Alafin was then proclaimed as the appointment of the gods. He was consecrated in his office by important religious and political ceremonies during which he was initiated into the mysteries of kingship and control of the sacred cults. Once these rituals had been completed, he was no longer regarded as an ordinary mortal: he was “Ekeji Orisa”, companion of the gods, a semi-divine beyond the reach of ordinary mortals. He was the head of his people in the inseparable sphere of administration, religion, and justice. (This consecration of the Alafin may be compared with that of the Asantehene who was lowered three times, lightly touching a blackened stool with his buttocks, or to that of the Japanese emperor in the daijo-sai ritual.)
The Alafin’s power, in theory, was unlimited by human agency. Cult priests and government officials were alike appointed by his command; and the usual practice was for the Alafin to appoint eunuchs loyal to himself.
In practice, the Alafin did not have such absolute power. He could ill afford to offend the members of the Oyo Mesi or the Ogboni (earth cult). Although he could not be deposed, the Alafin could be compelled to commit suicide. If both the Oyo Mesi and the Ogboni disapproved of his personal conduct or policies, or if the Oyo peoples suffered serious reverses, they would commission the Bashorun to present the Alafin with an empty calabash or a dish of parrot’s eggs. On handing over these meaningful symbols, the Bashorun pronounced a fearful formula: `The gods reject you, the people reject you, the earth rejects you.’ The Alafin was thus informed that his political position had been completely undermined and his removal decided. Custom demanded he take poison (Stride and Ifeka, 1971:299).
Smith (1969) maintained that:
The Alafin was not always the dominant figure or wielded autocratic power; he was in fact subject, like all Yoruba oba to elaborate restraints embedded in the custom (which can justificably be called the constitution) of the kingdom. He had to submit his decisions in the first place to his council of seven notabilities, the Oyo Mesi, whose principal officer was the chief known as the Basorun. In turn, the Oyo Mesi were checked by the council of Ogboni, a society which, in its worship of the earth, embodied both religious and political sanctions. An Alafin of strong and resolute character could initiate and carry through a policy, obtaining the support and perhaps sometimes overruling the opposition of his counsellors. But not all Alafin were of this calibre, and the constitutional restraints on them were always stringent. The Oyo Mesi were even entitled to pronounce a sentence of rejection on an Alafin, upon whose receipt (it was sometimes tactfully conveyed by a symbolic gift of parrots’ eggs), the king was bound to commit suicide. The first recorded rejection and suicide seems to be that of Alafin Ayibi. Another rule, apparently established during the reign of Ojigi, provided that the Aremo, the Alafin’s eldest son, should take poison on his father’s death, the intention being doubtless to protect the oba and his officers against the possible ambitions of a prince who was usually associated with his father in the Government (p.45).
The Bashorun, head of the Oyo Mesi, was a sort of prime minister. He was in charge of the religious divinations held annually to determine whether or not the Alafin retained the approval of the gods. This may be considered an “annual performance review” or spiritual “vote of confidence.” The Bashorun was in a position to influence important decisions of the Oyo Mesi and the Ogboni. In fact, for a period in the 18th century, the Bashorun wielded more authority than the Alafin. This was largely because the Alafin could be divorced from politics by strict adherence to religious taboos that secluded him from his subjects whereas the Bashorun was always in the center of power.
The Ogboni was a very powerful secret society composed of freemen noted for their age, wisdom and importance in religious and political affairs. The Ogboni was concerned with the worship of earth, and was thus responsible for judging any cases involving the spilling of blood. The leader had unqualified right of direct access to the Alafin on any matter. Even the most important decisions of the Oyo Mesi, especially the rejection of an Alafin, could not be carried without Ogboni approval.
As Stride and Ifeka (1971) put it:
Whereas the Oyo Mesi represented the great politicians of the real, the Ogboni was the voice of popular opinion backed by the authority of religion. Although the members of the Oyo Mesi were ex-officio members of the Ogboni, they were not its senior members even though their informed opinions must have commanded respect.
The Oyo Mesi and Ogboni thus provided important constitutional checks on the personal authority of the Alafin. He was bound to listen to their advice and to ignore their opinions was to invite rejection…
These constitutional safeguards eventually worked against the interests of strong central government. Except in times of exceptional danger, there was an unfortunate tendency to select a weak Alafin to succeed one of strong character and marked achievements lest a succession of autocratic rulers should transform the constitution into an absolute despotism (p.300).
It is a little baffling why the authors should describe this tendency as “unfortunate.” But what comes out clearly is yet another evidence of the fear of the African people of the ever-present threat of despotism and their fervid desire to curb the powers of their rulers through various constitutional and religious checks. It is also remarkable how the Alafin was enjoined to listen to the advice of his councilors or face rejection (removal) — an injunction characteristic of most indigenous systems of government. More astonishing is the absence of similar injunctions in modern systems of government in Africa.
The royal court formed one of the three pillars of government at Oyo, the two others being the Oyo Mesi and the Ogboni. In addition to the Ogboni, other cult organizations, usually of lesser importance, existed in all towns and kingdoms; at Oyo, the Egungun, a masked association led by the Alapini, a member of the Oyo Mesi, exercised an important influence on government by virtue of its function of recalling ancestors. Overlapping and parallel with all these bodies were associations of chiefs concerned with particular aspects of government and daily life, especially the conduct of war, trade, and of hunting. Among the Egba the leading chiefs were members of the Ogboni; the Parakoyi were the trade chiefs, while the hunters, who in war acted as scouts for the main army, were grouped together as the ode (or Eso). Under Lisabi a fourth order was created in the towns, the Olorogun, the leaders of the militia or war chiefs. They were individually appointed for their military skill and valor in war, and their rank was not hereditary. At the head of the Eso was the Are-Ona-Kakanfo, supreme commander of the imperial army. This official was customarily required to live in a frontier province of great strategic importance in imperial defense. “Thus he was well placed to guarantee imperial security against attack and was too far removed from the capital to interfere directly in central politics” (Stride and Ifeka, 1971:300). In fact to ensure this, he was debarred from entering the capital except with permission. This minimized, if not precluded, the possibility of military coup d’etats.
On all major campaigns, the Are-Ona-Kakanfo personally commanded in the field. He was obliged to win victories, as a defeat carried with it the punishment of commivitting suicide. He could escape the consequence of failure by fleeing to found a separate state a safe distance away from imperial retribution. “Thus did Oyo protect itself against hesitant generalship in the field and `retire’ those generals who clung to military command when their martial vigour was declining” (Stride and Ifeka, 1971:300).
The Oyo Empire of the Niger Delta (Nigeria) also developed an elaborate system of checks and balances to guard against despotism as may be recalled from the previous chapter. The political system centered around four powerful figures: the Alafin, the Bashorun, the Oluwo and the Kankafo. Theoretically, all power came from Alafin who was considered semidivine.
Next to the Alafin was the Bashorun, the leader of the Oyo Mesi or Council of Notables, made up of seven prominent lineage chiefs of the capital. Furthermore, the councilors held judicial power with the Alafin in the capital. But the Alafin had no control over the appointment of the councilors since, as chiefs, they were lineageappointed. Thus the Bashorun, who dominated the Oyo Mesi, had an ultimate check upon the Alafin.
The third power in the empire was the Ogboni headed by the Oluwo. The Ogboni chiefs, like the Oyo Mesi, were lineageappointed. They also had judicial functions, but their primary function was the preservation of the Ife oracle which could accept or reject the Bashorun’s decision to command the Alafin’s suicide. But the Alafin’s representative sat on the Ogboni council and his opinion carried considerable weight. Thus, he could use this position to check ambitious Bashoruns.
The Kakanfo was the field marshal with his seventy war chiefs, the Eso, who were expected to be loyal to the Alafin. The army was responsible to the Oyo Mesi who appointed and promoted its officers. But wouldn’t the Kakanfo overthrow the Oyo Mesi and seize power? That was not possible, according to Boahen and Webster (1970):
Civil authority feared the potential power of the Kakanfo and in order to isolate him from politics he was usually of humble (slave) origin and was forbidden to enter the capital city. The political system was thus a complex and delicate balance with checks and counterchecks against concentration of power in one man’s hands (p.90).
The system of government of the capital was repeated on a smaller scale in the provincial towns of the kingdom, and paralleled also in the subject kingdoms. There are many indications that these later were allowed by Oyo to retain a large measure of independence, although regular tribute had to be paid and the Alafin sometimes assumed the right to nominate a new ruler, and his confirmation of one was required. (Much like the Asante kingdom). Oyo authority was expressed in a form of indirect rule by the stationing all over the empire of resident political representatives known as ajele – asoju oba (the eyes of the king) – who in turn were supervised by the ilari, the royal messengers from Oyo (Smith, 1969; p.45).
For example, in the Ijebu kingdom there were three main councils, occasionally overlapping in membership. The highest, the Ilamuren, consisting of the great magnates and officials under the presidency of the Olisa, discharged legislative, executive, and judicial functions relating to the whole kingdom. Next came the Osugbo under the dispensing of justice, and then the Pampa, composed of the younger men and overseeing administration and warfare.
The government of a Yoruba kingdom and its capital thus presents a complex and somewhat confusing picture, mainly because of the fusion of political, judicial and religious concepts and the division of responsibilities. Even in so small a kingdom as Ikerre (in Ekiti), for example, the Government exhibited this Byzantine quality; there were two groups of leading chiefs, each divided into three grades, and four main councils: the Iyare Mefa, or inner council, meeting daily; the Ajo Iyare, meeting every 8 days to discuss town affairs; the Ajagun, or war council, and the Ajo Ilu, or general council of the town held four times yearly. Yet, in practice all seems to have worked smoothly enough in these delicately balanced governments, except when some external pressure or crisis intervened to overthrow the slow and deliberate processes of the constitution.
Naturally each kingdom developed different mechanism for dealing with its individual problems, so that it would be futile to postulate any “model” constitution for a Yoruba kingdom. On the other hand, with the notable exception of the new states of the 19th century, the main features of government – the town, the sacred oba at its center, the hierarchy of hereditary chiefs and priests with their jealously guarded responsibilities — remained constant.
This form of government was not confined to the capital, but was repeated throughout the kingdom, every town forming a microcosm of the central government. The place of the crowned oba was taken by a less ruler, generally entitled to wear only a simple crown or coronet (called akoro in Oyo) or a cap of office. Usually these rulers were chosen like the greater oba by kingmakers from royal houses and presented for approval to the oba of the kingdom, while in some cases the latter nominated the provincial rulers (Smith, 1969; p.117).
Today, obas are still removed from office for non-performance. Consider the case of Oba Samuel Aderiyi Adara of the Ode-Ekiti community of Ekiti State in Nigeria, who was dethroned for non-performance:
The traditional ruler, who is a born again Christian, was accused of not contributing enough to the progress of the community and of frustrating the celebration of the yearly festival.
The monarch was equally blamed for the deaths of some notable indigenes, including four professors, one of them a former don of the University of Ado-Ekiti.
The traditional ruler was invited to the community meeting where he was accused of failing in his duty of moving the town forward. But attempts by the monarch to extricate himself from the allegations failed when he was asked to mention his personal contribution to the growth of the town since he became the king. He was lambasted for not informing the state government of the pathetic socio-economic situation in his domain and asked to vacate the throne for a more progressive minded personality in the town.
While the meeting was still going on, some youths in the town invaded the venue, removed the dress of the traditional ruler, including his royal beads and crown, and chased him out of the town. Shortly after, traditional trees in strategic shrines were cut down, symbolizing the demise of the Oba.
The spokesman for the community said it was the collective decision of both the old and young to dethrone the monarch, saying his reign was “disastrous, woeful and sorrowful” (The Guardian, July 24, 2003; p.4).
To the outsider, this system of government may be “Byzantine” which was the typical reaction of many foreigners to the indigenous African systems. Though traditional African societies might have appeared “chaotic,” there was order. In African philosophical scheme, there was perfect harmony among the seemingly anarchic and unrelated events in a giant natural equation. The king’s role was to preserve the harmony.
Perhaps the closest modern-day analogy is a jazz quartet. Separately, each plays “horribly.” The guitarist seems to be “way off on a discordant tangent.” The trombonist is “blowing his head off.” The drummer seems to be “summoning the devil” and the cymbalist is “creating confusion.” But when all this “confusion” is synthesized or fused, out comes some beautiful music. To the untrained ear, jazz music is simply “total confusion.” The African king’s role may be likened to that of a synthesizer or conductor — to produce harmonic music out of the confusion.
Similarly, the components of indigenous African systems may seem “Byzantine,” but together with the others, they may produce “beautiful music.” Indeed, Smith (1969), perhaps inadvertently, reached this conclusion: “Despite its hierarchical character, Yoruba society was in practice surprisingly democratic” (p.118).
Additionally, there were striking similarities between the Yoruba and other governmental systems. For example, the powers of the Zulu king, like the Alafin, were similarly curtailed. He was powerless without the izikhulu, an inner council made up of the chiefs of preShakan chiefdoms. He could not take any decision without them. Both the Oyo and Zulu kingdoms instituted checks against royal absolutism. Both also assimilated preexisting ethnic groups. But there were slight differences however. While the Zulu kingdom was centralized, the Oyo empire was a confederation of smaller autonomous kingdoms, all of which traced their ancestry to Oduduwa.
The development of the Fante kingdom on the Gold Coast (now modern Ghana) also paralleled closely that of the Oyo. The original founders of the kingdom lived for centuries at Mankessim (cf. IleIfe for the Yoruba). But, “during the last three decades of the 17th century, as a result of population pressures, they moved out to carve out kingdoms for themselves in the areas left virtually empty by the decimation or assimilation of its original inhabitants, the Etsii” (Boahen and Webster, 1970; p.119). By the beginning of the 19th century, the Fante kingdom consisted of about 17 subkingdoms which organized themselves into a Fante Confederacy under the rule of Brafo (cf. the Yoruba Alafin), the king of Mankessim, and the High Priest of the national god, “Bora Bora Weigya” or in Fante as “Nnanom Mpow” (cf. Oduduwa of the Yoruba). Like the Yoruba, the Fante kingdom broke up into parts in the middle of the 18th century.
Ayittey, George B,N. (2006). Indigenous African Institutions. Ardsley-on-Hudson, NY:
Boahen, A.A. and J.B. Webster (1970). History of West Africa. New York: Praeger.
Olaniyan, Richard ed. (1985).Nigerian History and Culture. London: Longman Group Limited.
Smith, Robert S. (1969). Kingdoms of The Yoruba. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd.
Stride G.T. and Ifeka Caroline (1971). Peoples and Empires of West Africa. Lagos: Thomas Nelson.
BUDGET 2012 (5) – ON DEFENCE SPENDING by Nasir Ahmad Elrufai February 17, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: budget, defence, Jonathan, Nigeria, spending
For a nation that is not at war, Nigeria’s defence spending raises several critical concerns. The paradox of course is that the more government spends on defence, the more insecure Nigerians feel. Travelling within the country has become so perilous that it is now advisable to get a ‘security report’ of all towns and villages on our way before setting out. Today, all major defence related structures in Abuja, supposedly the safest place in the country are so barricaded that images of Baghdad and Kabul come to mind. If the state of our armed forces and defence apparatus are the way that they are in peace times, what would happen if (God forbid), Nigeria is faced with a major external threat? Or is it that the amorphous term, ‘defence’ is being used to pull wool over the eyes of Nigerians, while some few anointed people smile all the way to bank?
We continue our review of the 2012 Budget proposals today by looking at the details of N396.5bn (about US $2.56bn) proposed for spending by our armed forces – the Ministry of Defence Headquarters, the Army, Navy, and Air Force, their recurrent and capital costs, training, welfare and internal operations. Our objective is first to see how we compare with other nations in terms of defence spending, whether the spending priorities make sense, and then ask the standard quantity surveying question – is Nigeria getting value for the money being spent?
It is vital to ask these questions because each member of our armed forces which according to US Air University’s “Failed State 2030 – Nigeria as a case study” is estimated at about 76,000 in number will cost us about N4.3 million, slightly above the N3.2 million we spend per militant – and this excludes pensions, internal operations, death benefits and insurance. When these are added, each member of the armed forces cost the Nigerian citizen N4.86 million to maintain this year alone. But first, a bit of history and an overview of our defence policy and strategy would be useful in the evolving discourse.
The Nigerian armed forces began life as a colonial army under Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) that became indigenized just before independence in 1960. In 1967, the armed forces numbered just about 15,000. This grew to about 250,000 at the end of the war in 1970. Today, the total number is about 76,000. The Army which is basically our land-based fighting force is the oldest of the armed services and the largest with about 60,000 officers and men and women. The Navy which is mostly sea-based, is the smallest in size but highly specialized and technology-intensive. It has about 7,000 personnel. The Air Force, the youngest of the three services is also equipment-intensive and has about 9,000 officers and men (and women!).
The role of Nigeria’s armed forces is entrenched in s.217 of Constitution and detailed in s.18 (3) of the Armed Forces Act Chapter A20 of the Laws of the Federation 2004. Generically, the defence of our territorial integrity and defending our nation from external aggression constitute the principal functions of the armed forces. The suppression of insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order is also one of their related functions. Deriving from the Constitution and legislation, Nigeria ought to have a defence policy for the 21st century.
The first and only national defence policy was published by General Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 1979. The armed forces were tasked then with four primary functions (1) preserving Nigeria’s territorial integrity (2) contributing to national emergencies and security (3) promoting collective security in Africa while advancing our foreign policy, and (4) contributing to global security. This policy has never been revised or updated, and remains the guiding framework more than thirty years after its adoption. For armed forces that are rated as highly trained and educated, it is remarkable that they have not devoted their intellectual firepower to updating our obviously antiquated defence and security policies and strategies, but that is a matter for another day.
The Armed Forces, with the Army in the lead role have done the nation proud in their peace-keeping roles in Congo and Tanzania in the 1960s, the prosecution of the civil war between 1967 and 1970, and more recently in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Somalia. Indeed, the Nigerian military deserves the credit of stabilizing and democratizing Sierra Leone and Liberia in 1990s and thus ensuring the overall security of the West African sub region.
The paradox of these success stories is that the reverse has taken place in Nigeria. Many Nigerians see the involvement of the military in politics as stunting democratic development and as having militarized the polity – we have had about 10 coups and attempts between 1966 and 1996 – an average of one attempt every 3 years! And the other paradox of prolonged military rule is the deterioration in the quality of the operational equipment and training within the armed forces. These are issues crying for urgent and focused attention.
Military spending the world over averages about 2.5% of GDP, with the USA being the highest spender – about US $700bn which is about 5% of GDP. In Africa, the leading military spender is Algeria, ranked 29th in the world, with 3.8% of GDP, followed by Egypt (41st, 2.1%), Angola (42nd, 4.2%), and South Africa (43rd, 1.3%). Nigeria is ranked 57th in the world then earmarking US $1.724bn – about 0.9% of our GDP on defence. Even a smaller country like Morocco, ranked 48th with 3.4% of GDP out-spends us! In contrast, countries at near state-of-war like Lebanon (58th, 4.1%) and Sudan (56th, 4.1%) are in our neighbourhood in terms of defence outlays. Our current budget for defence has climbed slightly to just over 1% of GDP. With these statistics in mind, should we be spending more, or less? Does Nigeria exist among hostile neighbours or expecting an invasion to justify current or escalated levels of military spending? That is something that needs not only thoughtful reflection, but to be openly debated and some national consensus arrived at.
Let us now look more closely at the budget proposals for 2012. The Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces were allocated N326.354bn, consisting of N252.7bn as personnel cost, N39bn as overhead and N34.67bn for capital spending – i.e. for equipment, buildings and weaponry of all descriptions. The bureaucracy overseeing the whole defence establishment consisting of the Ministry populated mostly by politicians and civil servants, and the Defence Headquarters, where passed-over generals, admirals and air marshalls are warehoused, along with other officers and men will consume about N25.9bn of the budget, or about N342,000 to service each soldier, airman and rating in the Armed Forces. This is excessive and can be cut down, as little value addition is gained from this spending.
The Nigerian Army’s 60,000 officers and men are distributed across five divisions and an elite brigade listed here in accordance with the order of battle in case of conflict (1) Presidential Guards Brigade, Abuja (2) 82nd Division, Enugu (3) 2nd Infantry Division, Ibadan (4) 3rd Armoured Division, Jos (5) 1st Mechanized Division, Kaduna and (6) Lagos Garrison now renamed 81st Division. The major equipment of the Army include battle tanks, reconnaissance vehicles, personnel carriers, Howitzers, field guns and rocket launchers, as well as anti-tank guns and surface to air missiles. A large percentage of these are aged and out of service, and need urgent updating and replacement. The total budget of the Army is N122.4bn, nearly a third of the total defence budget but only N5.77bn is for acquisition of equipment and weaponry, while N116.7bn is for recurrent needs. The average direct cost per head of our soldiers and men is some N1.61 million compared with between N7-10 million for the Air force and Navy (see below) indicating an urgent need to right-size the Army to free up resources for operational equipment, tools and training.
The Defence Industries Corporation (DIC) in Kaduna was set up in 1960s to undertake local manufacture of equipment, arms and ammunition for the country. It did well until the mid-1980s when it became better known for furniture-making and salt manufacturing than military production. A similar facility in Brazil manufactures a broad range of military hardware for domestic needs and exports. This year, DIC is allocated N4.6bn out of which about N3.5bn will go into development of advanced armament applications. This is a positive development.
The Navy’s capital budget is nearly twice that of the much larger Army, because operating largely in the creeks and on the Atlantic Ocean can be pretty expensive. The Navy’s total budget is N69.2bn with about N59bn going towards personnel and overhead costs. The Navy’s ships are all aged and overdue for replacement. Even the recent acquisition which the First Lady commissioned with great fanfare, is a ‘tokunbo’ – hand-me down from the US Navy, with the high maintenance costs that come with the gift. And with Tompolo being granted the concession to be our coast guard, the administration might think that renewing the Navy’s fleet and equipping it is not a priority. That will be unfortunate. There is an urgent need to equip and revamp our Navy’s strategic and tactical capacity as more and more of the nation’s oil production moves to deep offshore locations. Even without any changes in direction, each naval personnel will cost the treasury about N9.89 million this year. Are we getting value for money, or is Tompolo cheaper? Think about it.
The Nigeria Air force has its tactical air command in Makurdi with Russian MiG-21 fighter jets, maritime squadrons in Benin with Dornier 128 and 228 aircraft, military transport group in Lagos with C-130, special forces group and combat squadron in Port Harcourt with Mirage 35P, weapons school and training squadron in Kainji with Alpha jets, flying training schools and command in Kaduna with Air Beetle and Dornier aircraft, and Mirage 34 for the flying school in Enugu. Most of these aircraft were acquired in the 1970s through to the 1990s and therefore overdue for updating and replacement.
The Air Force has been earmarked the total sum of N64.3bn comprising N49.2bn for staff costs, N9.1bn for overhead and nearly N6bn for acquisition of operating equipment and weaponry. Whether the amount, less than $40 million this year will begin this needed process of updating and replacement is open to debate. Each Air Force personnel will cost the Nigerian treasury about N7.15 million this year. Is this good value for money?
When one carefully peruses the capital budgets of the DHQ and Army, most of the capital spending is going towards buildings, some ammunition and vehicle spares. This year, we are not buying any equipment for the armored, artillery and other mechanization needs of the Army – at least not anywhere in the Budget. The Navy and Air Force are slightly better. The Navy is buying two (yes only two) offshore patrol vessels and six coastal patrol boats and some spares. The Air Force intends to acquire twelve Augusta 109 helicopters, some uniforms, the reactivation of C-130, G222, Alpha Jets and maintenance, and some buildings. No new fighter jets this year!
The rest of the defence budget is for training (N14.79bn), pension, insurance and resettlement (N56bn), barracks development and defence missions (N11.1bn) and the cost of deploying soldiers currently in 34 out of 36 states and the FCT (N17.1bn). So we will end where we began. Are we getting value for money for our defence expenditure? Or are we in such a state of insecurity that we need to spend more, even as 113 million of our citizens are living below the poverty line? It is our call collectively, not just President Jonathan’s to make.
AN IDENTITY DILEMMA February 16, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, EDUCATION, POLITICS.
Tags: corruption, hoax, nigerian, SNC, true identity
It is easy to live a confused life as a Nigerian. Yes it is a complex time to live as a Nigerian: at home, the true identity of what defines us is lost in the myriad of problems that overwhelm us. Compound that with our banners or what we are called in international circles: Scammers, 419ers, terrorists, corrupt nation, etc.
What’s in a Name? What does it mean to be called a Nigerian? Who are we? What defines Nigeria: Lord Lugard’s amalgamation or our collective resolve? Nigeria is a complex nation, undefined but living in an arranged marriage of concocted sort.
I asked my American friend yesterday “Who is an American?” She answered “it is supposed to mean Freedom and the ability to follow your dreams as far as they will take you”. That’s the experience and confidence they carry wherever they go and in whatever they do. A twitter commentator @Nnaziri defined a Canadian as defined by the “concept of Freedom, equality and social service” and adds that “it defines all they do”.
Every country that makes progress has to have an ideal that defines it; a charter and a belief that serves it and its people. Until our meaning is defined and collectively lived as an experience, our entity as a nation may be in question. Our two most pressing divisive issues presently as Nigerians (ethnicity & religion) has so much divided us at great expense. We are divided and accorded relevance today by tribe and religion as against fundamental values. Almost everything we do is affected by it. Permit me!
Today, Nigerian leadership – a serious affliction plaguing the nation at all tiers, levels, and systems of government – arises from a conflict of an identity of WHO WE ARE & WHAT WE WANT. Our nation chooses its leadership based on religion and ethnicity rather than by competence and strength of character. It determines leadership by rotations and turns -the last President was Christian so the next should be Muslim. Was President Jonathan chosen for competence? No! Will Buhari be considered for his mastery of issues? I think not!
The President, Mr Jonathan, even if he meant well would never choose a Southerner as a replacement for former IGP Ringim because the North (or probable West) would decry it even if a Southerner was most capable of handling the job. Today, beauty as against brilliant competence has given us a Petroleum Minister! Character, competence, honesty, hardwork, or track records considered insignificant. She’s a daughter of “the soil” where oil is drilled from. She has the deemed right to be Petroleum Minister.
I look, with disbelief, as some friends from the oil region claim it’s their “right”. So what’s my “right” as an Ekiti man: books? Is Nigeria for us all or partitioned according to sections? Our division is based on labels and nonsensical tags which have done us only harm than good since we embraced it. We share the national account based on labels – and not on fundamental and constitutionally structured tenets of decentralization.
Look at the Local government/State, an Igbo man who grew up and more familiar with the issues/problem in my hometown in Ekiti (and more competent) may ultimately be refused an opportunity to contest for any post because he is not “a son of the land”. All over, for leadership positions, ownership/tribe and ethnicity is superior to competency.
What about marriages, several of the over 400+ tribes in Nigeria cannot inter-marry. It is sacrilege! In many circles and mindset, a Hausa man is assumed wicked and considered violent, an Igbo man deemed materialistic, and a Yoruba man termed a demon or ritualistic. I have my best of friends outside the Yoruba tribe, so what is going on?
We silently, and without question, inherited a very corrosive, divisive and hegemonious base for disunity. I am probably most likely going to be addressed first because my name suggests I am Yoruba, and then a Christian before I am addressed a Nigerian. What is wrong with us? These labels and tags have sown distrust and breed hate amongst us, leading to ethnic cleansing, violence and permissible crime. The Ile-Ife crises, many of repeated southern Kaduna crises, are examples of our high intlerance for one another.
The Nigerian civil war came because of a tribe feeling (and perhaps justifiably so) maligned by another tribe in Nigeria. Many years later, the same issue we have swept under has raised its head again in a larger, more explosive, expensive and outrageous manner: MEND, OPC, Bakassi boys, etc. Look at our national issues and you will most likely trace them to underlying Ethnic and Religious roots: Boko haram, Niger delta crises, leadership (election and selections)
If Malam Elrufai, Gov. Fashola or Prof. Utomi becomes the president today; despite widely seen as having impeccable brilliance, determination, doggedness at solving thorny issues, unbelievable track records amongst other things; they will experience a big problem because we lack a defined Identity.
Nigeria is said to be under coerced marriage with the Chief Priest being Lord Lugard. True, we did not willingly form a nation, it was a British idea and enforced on us. In the confusing scenario that followed, we have been engulfed with more problems such as corruption and more hatred from one tribe towards another.
Ethnicity/Religion: it is in how we think (and our leaders), how we talk, resolve, act. If President Jonathan were to build/invest genuine road projects in the South-South (even though he won’t), there would be a torrential outcry. Why? Hatemongers and tribalistic demons would cry of the “Marginalization of the West and North” of course.
What is the solution? SNC is one of the solutions. A Sovereign National Conference is over-due for the Nigerian people, by the Nigerian people. The founding Fathers of America knew they may experience a problem if what a True American is was not clearly defined, spelled out and the charters inscribed in the annals of their history. We need to come together to retrace our history, open up old wounds, become healed, understand the genuine values that define us, and form a charter with policies that make it possible to live outside the tenets of our identity.
Another is effective leadership. A leadership that draws the line on hate, on our infectious disunity. We need to come together to retrace our history, open up old wounds, become healed, understand the genuine values that define us, and form a charter with policies that make it possible to live outside the tenets of our identity.
Nigerians never, by their own agreement and will, sat together to discuss what defines them. To talk about their nation? Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Efik, Urhobo, Niger-deltas and all others? Have they? Do you think we can live together without an attempt to understand our differences? Think again.
Nigeria is not yet a nation, we are not yet a people until we come together of our volition to define exactly WHO WE ARE & WHY WE MUST REMAIN Nigerians. What makes you a Nigerian: your religion, your tribe? What does Nigeria mean to you?
Your friend @seunfakze on twitter
WE LET AFRICA DOWN BADLY by Prof George N. Ayittey February 15, 2012Posted by seunfakze in Uncategorized.
An Open Letter to African Academics, Scholars and Intellectuals
Upon reviewing the current upheavals in North Africa and elsewhere on the continent, I felt it is necessary for us – African academics, scholars and intellectuals – to take stock and a fresh look at ourselves: What role have we played in advancing the cause of liberty and improving governance in post colonial Africa. Our record is not very good. Sometimes, self-criticism is necessary in order for us to make progress. You do not have to agree with what I am going to say – diversity of opinion is healthy. There have been outstanding individuals among us who risked death to champion the cause of freedom in Africa. However, as a group we have let Africa down badly by not providing intellectual leadership to the democratic struggle.
“He who doesn’t know where he came from doesn’t know where is going,” says an African proverb. We of the intellectual community are lost; we don’t know where we are going. The recent upheavals in Africa caught us completely off guard. We did not see it coming because we were pre-occupied elsewhere. It seems we are way behind the curve, late to the struggle for democracy in Africa and are now only playing “catch-up.”
As a result, we have become irrelevant to the struggle. The youth, who are driving the struggle for change, no longer listen or look up to us. We have failed them. Afflicted with “intellectual astigmatism,” we can see with eagle-eyed clarity the injustices perpetrated against Africans by the white colonialists and the West. But we are hopelessly blind to the equally heinous injustices committed by African leaders against their own people. Too many of us sold off our integrity, principles and conscience to serve the dictates of tyrannical and barbarous African regimes. Military brutes such as Idi Amin, Sani Abacha, Haile Mariam Mengistu and Samuel Doe etc. could always find intellectuals and professors to serve at their beck and call. Some of us even preferred military to civilian rule. According to Colonel. Yohanna A. Madaki (rtd), when General Gowon drew up plans to return Nigeria to civil rule in 1970, “academicians began to present well researched papers pointing to the fact that military rule was the better preferred option since the civilians had not learned any lessons sufficient enough to be entrusted with the governance of the country” (Post Express, 12 Nov 1998, 5). Imagine.
Worse, we spurned Africa’s own rich heritage – cultural, political and economic – went abroad and blindly copied all sorts of foreign ideologies and paraphernalia to transplant into Africa. We are still at it:
“African academics hailed the establishment of Confucius institutes in the continent at a seminar opened on August 12 in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, saying the institutions are serving as a bridge of culture and partnership between African and China. A total of 25 Confucius institutes have been opened in 18 African countries” (Xinhua, August 14, 2010).
Imagine. Note that we are not building “Ubuntu Institutes.” We have even become part of the problem. Ivory Coast descended into bloody civil war when Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat after the Nov 28, 2010 election. He was once a PROFESSOR of History but now being prosecuted by the ICC. Another is Abdoulaye Wade, president of Senegal, who was once a PROFESSOR of Law. He refused to accept the two-term constitutional limit and is trying to manipulate the rules to stand for a third term. http://ht.ly/8WOIu
Here is the African conundrum: We can’t achieve much progress – only marginal – with the current crop of leaders and we can’t change or remove them without destroying our countries. The continent suffers from a catastrophic failure of leadership. Since independence in 1960, we have had exactly 216 African heads of state. One would be hard pressed to name 20 good leaders of the lot. Try it and name just 20. I asked my Twitter followers to do this and here is the list they came up with, arranged in the order received:
Gen. Murtala Muhammed of Nigeria, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Nicephore Soglo of Benin, Alpha Oumar Konare of Mali, John Kufour of Ghana, Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, Patrice Lumumba of Congo DR, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Pedro de Verona Rodrigues of Cape Verde Islands, Festus Mogae of Botswana, Benjamin William Mkapa of Tanzania, Samora Machel of Mozambique, Ramgoolam of Mauritius, Ian Khama of Botswana, Leopold Senghor of Senegal.
The total is 17. Not a scientific poll but result is telling. Quibbling over whom to include or exclude is pointless. The LARGER point is that the overwhelming majority (over 90%) were not good leaders.
The cause of leadership failure is not cultural but systemic – the product of defective foreign systems and institutions we blindly copied to impose on our people in Africa. The one-party state system, the unitary state system and the socialist economic ideology all resulted in the concentration of UNCHECKED POWER in the hands of the president. Unchecked power has NOT exist anywhere in our traditional system. Rulers are surrounded by councils upon councils to prevent them from abusing their power. Without these councils, the ruler has no power. African kings have little or no political role. Theirs is spiritual or supernatural and confined to their palaces to perform those functions. Further, the power of the African chief is checked by the Queen-Mother, who can remove him, by the Council of Elders, without which the chief is powerless, and by the Village Assembly, which can demand his removal. The village assembly is commonplace in traditional Africa – called Asetena k\Kese among the Ashanti, Ama-ala among the Igbo, Guurti among the Somali, Ndaba among the Zulu, Pitso among the Xhosa, Dare among the Shona, Kgotla among the Tswana, and so on. In the stateless societies such as Igbo, Somali, Gikuyu, Kru, etc., there is no such thing as “unchecked power” because centralized authority does not exist.
In the larger polities, political configuration in traditional Africa was one of confederation, not unitary state system. All the ancient empires of Africa – Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Great Zimbabwe, etc. – were confederacies, characterized by great decentralization – not centralization – of power and devolution of authority. For example, the Oyo Empire in the 16th Century featured a complex system of checks and balances. This empire was in existence even before the U.S. came into being in 1776. Further, Kingdoms such as the Ashanti, Buganda, and Ga are confederacies.
It is also important to note that in traditional Africa, decision-making is by consensus, not majority vote. The absence of a box with ballot written on it does not mean the essence of democracy was unknown in traditional Africa. Democratic decisions can be taken in two ways: By majority vote (the Western way) and by consensus. Each modality has its advantages and demerits. Taking decisions by majority vote is fast, efficient and transparent but the downside is that it ignores minority positions and can result in “tyranny of the majority.” Decision-making by consensus has the advantage that, since it takes all minority positions into account, it is acceptable to all once reached. However, the demerit is that it can take an awfully long time to reach a consensus the larger the number of people involved. Nevertheless, the Nobel Peace Committee and the World Trade Organization (WTO) all take decisions by consensus, as in traditional Africa.
Thus, dictatorship – a ruler with unchecked power – does not and cannot exist in systems that reach decisions by consensus. Dictatorship and consensus are incompatible concepts. Equally important is the fact that military rule cannot be defended upon the basis of African tradition. The military is a colonial institution, introduced to suppress African aspirations for freedom. Fewer than 20 of the over 2,000 African ethnic societies had standing armies. In most African societies, people of certain age-grades served as the “people’s army,” and was disbanded after conflict so that it did not become a drain on the tribal economy. Sure, Africa has a warrior tradition but warriors did not rule. Legitimacy to rule is derived from possession of “royal blood,” “descent from the royal ancestors” or kinship and consent by the Elders – not the possession of a bazooka or warrior skills.
Today’s military doesn’t even understand its basic function in society. It has become a scourge and destabilizing force. Each year, Africa spends about $20 billion on the military and the importation of arms. For what? To kill, loot and destroy. Consider:
Uganda was destroyed by Field Marshal Idi Amin (1979); Liberia by General Samuel Doe (1990); Mali by General Moussa Traore (1991); Somalia by General Siad Barre (1991); Ethiopia by Colonel Mengistur (199; Central African Republic by General Andre Kolingba (1993); Burundi by General Pierre Buyoya (1993); Rwanda by General Juvenal Habryimana (1994); Zaire by General Mobutu Sese Seko (1996); Sierra Leone by General Joseph Momoh (1997); Niger by General Ibrahim Barre Mainassara (1999); Ivory Coast by General Robert Guie (2000); Togo by General Gnassingbe Eyadema (2005); Sudan by Lt-General Omar al-Bashir. Nigeria by a slew of kamikaze military generals. Libya by Col Khaddafi (2011).
Note frequency of “GENERALS.” All those countries would have been saved if their military dictators were willing to relinquish or share power. No military regime has brought lasting prosperity to ANY African nation and the worst civilian government is better than ANY military regime.
Said General Babangida, former president of Nigeria: “Every military regime is a fraud” (The African Observer, Jan 18-31, 1999; p.6). He should know; he stole $8 billion. Other military looters: Muammar Khaddafi of Libya, over $60 billion; Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, over $40 billion; Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now Congo DR), over $10 billion; Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, $7 billion; Sani Abacha of Nigeria, $5 billion. Serious thoughts must be given by Africa’s academics to disbanding the military and serving under military regimes. Costa Rica has no military.
Between 1970 and the early 2004, more than $450 billion in oil money flowed into Nigerian government coffers. But according to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC0, £220 billion ($412 billion) was “squandered” or looted by Nigeria’s military rulers. “We cannot be accurate down to the last figure but that is our projection,” Osita Nwajah, a commission spokesman (Telegraph, June 25, 2005). The stolen fortune tallies almost exactly with the £220 billion of western aid given to Africa between 1960 and 1997. That amounted to six times the American help given to post-war Europe under the Marshall Plan.
African academics tend to focus on Western-style multi-party majority vote elections as the source of political instability and violence in Africa in recent years. However, that does not explain the current upheavals in Africa, nor constitute the appropriate solution to them. First, multi-party elections are not the primary cause of political instability and violence. The real cause is the adamant refusal of African dictators to relinquish or share political power. The issue is not elections; we have been holding them since 1960. The problem is, since dictators are not willing to give up power, they never lose elections. They manipulate the electoral process and rig elections to retain power. With the exception of Zambia, they “won” all 9 African elections in 2010 and 2011.
In fact, the destruction of an African country, regardless of the professed ideology of its leader, always begins with some dispute over the electoral process. Blockage of the democratic process or the refusal to hold elections plunged Angola, Chad, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia, and Sudan into civil war. Hard-liner manipulation of the electoral process destroyed Rwanda (1993), Sierra Leone (1992) and Zaire (1990). Subversion of the electoral process in Liberia (1985) eventually set off a civil war in 1989. The same type of subversion instigated civil strife in Cameroon (1991), Congo (1992), Kenya (1992), Togo (1992) and Lesotho (1998). In Congo (Brazzaville), a dispute over the 1997 electoral framework flared into mayhem and civil war. The military’s annulment of electoral results by the military started Algeria’s civil war (1992) and plunged Nigeria into political turmoil (1993). This pattern has been repeated in the 21st Century with electoral violence and destruction in Niger (1996), Ethiopia (2005, 2010)
Ivory Coast (2010), Togo (2005), Zimbabwe (2000, 2008), etc. All this destruction stemmed not from elections per se but the refusal of dictators to accept defeat. Even constitutional term limits are futile because they manipulate and repeal them – in Cameroon, Chad, Namibia, Uganda, etc. Recall that the Mo Ibrahim Prize for African Leadership went unclaimed for two years – 2009 and 2010.
Elections are not the issue. Dictators will always “win” them anyway – regardless of whether or not they are free and fair. Street protestors are not calling for elections; they want their leaders to go. They don’t trust them to hold free and fair elections. Ben Ali of Tunisia “won” all six elections held during his tenure; so did Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
Second, the Western-style multi-party “winner-takes-all-and-eats-all” is not the gold standard for democracy. It is unsuitable for Africa and we should not be promoting it. It is divisive and easily degenerates in “tribal politics.” Many of the political parties in Africa are tribally-based. We should be promoting our own consensus-based democracy model as it is “unifying.”
There are two political constructs have led to the proliferation and entrenchment of dictatorships in post colonial Africa. The first is the unitary state system – as opposed to federal and confederal – that centralizes power and decision-making at the capital. The unitary state system is the European model and may be suitable for the Europeans, whose nations are made up of fairly homogenous racial stock, but unsuitable for multi-ethnic African states. We inherited the unitary state system from the colonialists but did not dismantle it after independence. Since power is centralized at the capital city, such a system always leads to competition among various groups to capture that power. The group that captures it uses it to advance the interests of its group and exclude all others – an apartheid-like system. Quite often the competition to capture political power degenerates into civil war. Note that all rebel leaders head straight to the capital city. Why? Because that’s where power is concentrated. Also note that in this competition, the group with the biggest bazooka – the military – often comes up on top.
The second construct is the Western-style multi-party democracy. Recall that in the 1960s, incoming national heroes who won independence for their respective countries were swept into office with huge parliamentary majorities. Then they used such majority to subvert the constitution, declare their countries to be one-party states and themselves “presidents-for-life.” The rest is history. One man one vote came to many African countries one time. Any political system that concentrates power in the hands of one individual will ultimately degenerate into dictatorship and tyranny, which have been our post colonial experience. The causes are the unitary state system and the Western-style democracy. Both constructs are alien to Africa. Traditional African polities were confederal, not unitary state systems and decision-making was by consensus, not majority vote.
We have helped create monstrous political systems in Africa that concentrates so much unchecked power in the hands of the president. And what does he do with all that power? There are just about three things African heads of state know how to do very well: Loot the treasury, squash all opposition and perpetuate themselves in office. Ask them to develop their countries and they will develop their pockets. Ask them to seek foreign investment and they will seek a foreign country to invest the loot. The richest persons in Africa are heads of state and government ministers. So lucrative has the presidency become that they have turned it into their family property. They stay and stay and then groom their wives, brothers, sons, cats, dogs and even goats to succeed them. Haba!
Perhaps, we need to establish an intellectual code. At the minimum, we, as African academics, scholars and intellectuals, should:
Be promoting “African solutions for African problems” – solutions rooted in our own culture and heritage, not by establishing Confucius, Buddha, Shinto or Martian Institutes. We are not Chinese, Americans, Russians or French. The solutions to Africa’s myriad problems lie in Africa itself – not inside the corridors of the World Bank, the inner sanctum of the Chinese presidium, nor in the steamy sex antics of cockroaches on Jupiter. The solutions lie in Africa’s own DNA – in her heritage of participatory democracy based on consensus-building, rule of customary law, checks and balances, free village markets, free enterprise and free trade. There were free village markets in Africa before the colonialists stepped foot on the continent and free trade routes criss-crossed the continent before their arrival.
- Be promoting religious tolerance. Neither Islam nor Christianity is indigenous to Africa. Both are foreign religions. We should not tolerate religious extremism of any kind. Africa has always practiced religious tolerance.
- Not defend any military regime, much less serve in one. Military rule is alien to Africa. Any African scholar or academic who does so should be sanctioned.
- Detribalize and denationalize ourselves. Just because a dictator comes from our tribe or nation doesn’t mean we should support him. A dictator is a dictator is a dictator. We should not tolerate any dictator whether in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Zimbabwe or anywhere on the continent. No such thing as a benevolent dictator. The only good dictator is a dead one.
- We should practice intellectual solidarity. If one intellectual is grabbed, all of us must go to his/her aid regardless of the African country where s/he is held.
- Eschew parochialism. Too many of us write only about our own countries. We should make it a point to adopt another African country and write about it because our problems are very similar.
Our leaders have failed us; our governments are dysfunctional and we, the intellectual community, have been missing in action. We are lost because we don’t know where we came from. Here is a short video that drives home my points: http://bit.ly/vZEcOb
Thank you for taking time to read this and please share if you wish to.
Former Professor of Economics at American University in Washington, DC, USA.
Follow the author on twitter @ayittey
Budget 2012 (4) – THE REWARDS OF INSURGENCY by Nasir Elrufai February 10, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: budget, Insurgency, jonathan Goodluck, Nigeria
1 comment so far
We continue our detailed review of the 2012 Budget proposals today looking closely at the amounts earmarked for three budget heads that are connected to the security and intelligence community, and ostensibly driven by the decisions in the NSA’s office. These are the allocations to the Amnesty Programme, the Presidential Air Fleet and for Maritime Security. Our objective is first to ask whether we have not become a society that rewards taking arms against the State, secondly to appreciate the huge amounts allocated and then ask the standard quantity surveying question – is Nigeria getting value for the money being spent?
These questions need asking particularly in light of some developments in the last week or so. The first was a text message sent to me from a staff of the Budget Office observing that for the eight years between 1999 and 2007, the cumulative amounts allocated to, and controlled by the NSA’s office were about N29bn, with a brand new NSA office was built out of that and more – less than what the office got allocated in just one year in 2012! Either this allocation is for something else other than security, or someone is taking an early, generous pension, the officer opined. More questions than answers!
The second is the decision of the Jonathan administration to hand over security, regulatory and revenue collection functions of the Federal Government in its territorial waters to a private company allegedly owned or control by the one-time militant known as Tompolo, in what is clearly a dodgy, crony-driven afterthought. This is even when N4bn has been proposed in the 2012 Budget for “Maritime Security”, and in spite of loud objections by sections of media and civil society. Thirdly, is what appears to be a half-hearted willingness of the administration to negotiate with the insurgents of Boko Haram days after the Chief of Army Staff has sworn that his military solution will wipe out the sect soon. What is the implication of this and what does the immediate future portend?
In 2012, the Jonathan administration proposed a budget of some N124.3 billion for the intelligence community. Separately, N4bn has been budgeted for maritime security and N11.2bn for the pensions of the SSS and NIA retirees as consolidated revenue fund charges, and N74.2bn for the Amnesty Programme, now tucked away under the SGF’s office. Thus effectively, we are looking at about N210bn for civil, non-uniformed security spending. We will look at the budgets of the Armed Forces, the Police, and Para-Military services in subsequent articles.
A closer look at the President’s Amnesty Programme (PAP). It was the initiative of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as a response to intensified levels of militancy in the Niger Delta, the disruption of crude oil production and exports, and heightened insecurity of lives and property in the region. According to Yar’Adua insiders, the then vice-president was tasked to come up with a plan, which took too long to articulate, and which Yar’Adua found impractical and unworkable. He therefore turned to some individuals, businessmen and ‘serious’ governors in the region to help develop a workable strategy. As soon as that was done, Yar’Adua moved with uncommon speed to roll out the programme and get stakeholders’ buy-in. He made several concessions which included releasing the militants then in detention or on trial in courts in Nigeria. Is that a workable template for engaging Boko Haram?
For Yar’Adua, the failures of successive administrations to address the fundamental developmental and environmental issues in the region is the problem, and he genuinely wanted to draw a fresh basis for engagement. Similar questions need to be raised and honest determinations made regarding the Boko Haram insurgency, identifying the root causes, the ‘dramatis personae’ and how we got to where we are, before developing a workable approach.
With regards the Niger Delta, the issues in my humble opinion are more complex than that identified by Yar’Adua, and that is why I felt then that the solution was flawed and unsustainable. The strategy of handing out wads of cash to people that (1) have not earned the money through meaningful work and (2) with a pre-existing sense of entitlement may ostensibly amount to rewarding insurgency – what economists call “moral hazard”. Whether the ex-militants are on foreign vacations, attending skill-building programmes (or even military training, as being rumoured), the challenge is to find them jobs that pay better than their previous lives – during militancy and after. That means jobs that pay at least N65,000 tax-free monthly stipend, which with other costs amounted to N3 million per annum – about what we spent per militant in 2011. Boko Haram of course may require a different approach.
Last year, the Programme was allocated N99bn, rapidly up from N2.9bn in 2009 and N28bn in 2010. In all, over N200bn would have been spent on the programme by the end of this year, perhaps another N100bn next year which is said to be the programme’s terminating date. Then what next? Where do we generate the tens of thousands of oil-related jobs for them? What about other youths from the region that have not been captured in the original programme, but suffer from the same hopelessness that pushed their elder siblings to militancy? What signal does this send to youths of other regions? These are key public policy issues that require very deep reflection.
The truth is that unless the quality of governance in the region improves and the resources allocated used by the State Governments, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs judiciously used for physical infrastructure and human capital development, nothing will ever change for the better. Last year, quite apart from the huge funds from federation account that went to the State Governments in the region, the NDDC received N56bn from the federal government and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs collected and spent about N39bn.
Like the rest of Nigeria, the binding constraints are quality of governance, accountability in the use of resources and attitude of the leadership and followership – and when these are resolved locally as Governor Rotimi Amaechi is said to be trying to do, the task environment improves for everyone., and insurgency and violence lose their attraction. Throwing money at any problem, which ends up getting diverted to a few people’s pockets is simply postponing the evil day, and compounding the moral hazard problem. In 2012, the NDDC gets N55bn and the Niger Delta Ministry another N57bn. These funds should be spent addressing fundamental problems, not on spurious contracts with a “share-the-money” attitude. I will return to the Niger Delta in a future article, by God’s Grace.
The Presidential Air Fleet (PAF)’s budget is under the office of the NSA. This year, PAF envisages spending N20.4 million for staff costs and N665 million for overhead without any breakdowns. The capital budget is some N2.9bn thus bringing the Fleet’s total allocation to some N3.5bn. The PAF has since its establishment gone through several mutations. It has had civilian pilots from the defunct Nigeria Airways side by side with military personnel (due to fear of in-flight coups like the 1985 aborted plot!), but is today largely manned by Nigeria Air Force personnel.
The PAF’s capital budget has been earmarked for motor vehicles (N113.5 million), office equipment (N11.2 million), purchase of sports and games equipment (N15 million), Installation of cameras and related equipment (N12 million), and construction of PAF staff quarters (N241.5 million). Other items of expenditure include construction of new hangar (N550 million), computerization of aircraft spare parts inventory (N14 million) and the balance of N1.9bn for purchase of Hawker 4000XP aircraft, which was first budgeted for in 2007 and delivered in 2010. What is interesting is that even after delivery in 2010, the sum of about N17bn (US $110 million) was budgeted for it in 2011, and now another $12 million! The N17bn is the amount I mistakenly assumed was in the 2012 budget. This is a very expensive plane indeed that we have been budgeting and paying for across five fiscal years. There is need to know how much this plane costs bearing in mind the market prices of similar or better, fully-loaded executive jets – information now freely available on the web.
Some have asked the question whether Nigeria’s president needs to maintain a fleet of aircraft. After all, they say, the Queen of England and the British Prime Minister flies everywhere in the world on British Airways, UK’s national carrier. Such views forget to mention that the USA has a fleet of aircraft dedicated for the president. Even the secretary of state travels on official assignment from that fleet. We should look at our environment and choose what will work for us, but without waste and impunity. Should our president be made to suffer the usual several hour delays when travelling even within Nigeria? I do not think so. Last time I checked, we had 5 aircraft in the fleet, some of them nearly 20 years old. Do we need five planes? Is the usage of the planes for shopping sprees by presidential friends and relations legal and justifiable? Should private visitors to the president have access to the fleet? What is the framework for accountability and use of these aircraft? These are the questions that need to be answered to make the system work better.
The last item is the N4bn earmarked for Maritime Security as a charge on the consolidated revenue fund (CRF) without any breakdown or details. Based on budgets prepared some years back, it is my natural assumption that this item is the continuation of investments in boats and related equipment for the use of the Joint Task Force and the Nigerian Navy for use in policing our territorial waters and the creeks of the Niger Delta. These are constitutional roles for our military that I do not think the president can privatize or outsource to any private company. And it is therefore surprising that no one reminded the president that regulatory, security and revenue collection matters are not in any of the Schedules to the Privatization & Commercialization Act 1999. Indeed, the use of private companies to collect revenue has been specifically outlawed in Nigeria last time I checked. But I forget that like Napoleon in Animal Farm, laws, rules and regulations do not apply to some people that are more equal than the rest of us. Welcome to our new Jonathanian Republic!
Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai