Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Dear Col. Dasuki,
Greetings to you. As a concerned Nigerian, I write this most open letter. I have been rather troubled lately by the accusations which have been leveled against you by the Federal Government. I have followed your case as closely as I can; and have watched events play out publicly, as most other Nigerians have. I saw the DSS camped outside your house, and I read news feeds of your house(s) been searched. The press revealed to us that weapons and large sums of money were found during the raid. I do not quite know what to make of that. I have seen you petition the Federal Government so you could travel for medical treatment – as you claimed. You see, I am a firm believer in the rule of law. I believe that people should be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law; whose judgment has been made, based on the analysis of credible evidence that thus points at complicity in the crime on the part of the accused, beyond all reasonable doubt…and I also believe that if a person has been found guilty, they should be punished in proportion to their crime. Am I making sense? Okay, let me proceed.
So you were appointed as the National Security Adviser in 2012, by former President Goodluck Jonathan. At that time- even till now- the nation was deeply troubled by events in the North- East, as Boko Haram carried out assault-after-assault on innocent civilians, killing so many, time and time again; and also abducting school children. As National Security Adviser, you briefed the President on events concerning internal security, and gave advice and recommendations for action as you deemed fit. As a retired military man, you certainly were within your field of expertise; and as a Northerner, you had personal knowledge of the terrain of the theatre of conflict that should certainly have made you a formidable NSA. Your advice for measures to tackle the insurgency was sought by the President, and Nigerians everywhere looked to you and to our former security chiefs for respite against Boko Haram. We expected you to act decisively. It was your duty! When some soldiers were taken into military custody because of their refusal to fight the terrorist group, you were one of those who spoke out, saying that mutiny in the military must not be tolerated. We were watching. You and the military chiefs seemed to agree that our soldiers had no cause to disobey their commander’s orders to engage the enemy in combat, when they had been adequately provided for. As an ordinary civilian not privy to the ways of the military, I watched from afar. I didn’t quite buy your argument that Nigerian soldiers were adequately provided for, though. I have heard military officers complain about their poor welfare, and the substandard equipment’s they are expected to fight with, so your argument did not ring true- at least not with me. Nevertheless, I understand that the military operates by very strict principles and codes of conduct. So Colonel Dasuki, why are there all these reports of corruption and diversion of funds leveled against you? What are all these mind-boggling figures that are bandied about everywhere? Did you really divert 2billion dollars meant for the war against Boko Haram into bogus accounts, by awarding phantom contracts, while innocent Nigerians and soldiers were dying out there? Were you a war profiteer?
You see, by definition, a war profiteer is any person or organization that profits from warfare or by selling weapons and other goods to parties at war (Source: Wikipedia). If these allegations leveled against you are true, then we can say that your actions certainly qualify as those of a “war profiteer”. I try not to form an opinion or conclude on a matter until I have seen enough evidence to reach a just conclusion. The “receipts” tendered by the Federal Government allege that you awarded contracts worth billions of dollars for the supply of military equipment’s to companies which have been found to be bogus. By so doing, it is alleged that the money was diverted into someone’s account: yours? Oga Dasuki, is this true? If it is, why? What would have been the rationale for doing something so terribly evil? You are a former military man yourself. How would you have felt as a young soldier if someone put you in harm’s way without adequate provision for your safety and service? If someone sent you into a war with obsolete weapons to face a guerilla group fighting with more advanced weapons- maybe AK 47’S, Kalashnikovs and Rocket Propelled Grenade Launchers- would you go? Sir, as the first son of the now deceased 18th Sultan of Sokoto, you come from royalty. You are privileged by birth, so money should not have been your motivation for national service. As a traditional ruler, your great father was a custodian of peace. What went wrong…if indeed it did? How could you sleep at night behind your high walls in the affluent Asokoro neighborhood of the nation’s capital, while millions of Nigerians cried every night over the poor state of national security? How did you feel each time a bomb went off in Borno…in Mubi…in Baga…or anywhere else within the country, and hundreds (and thousands) of people lost their lives? How did you feel when the nation’s best and bravest soldiers who went into battle nevertheless, were falling to their untimely deaths? Did you ever attend a soldier’s funeral? Did you ever stare into the weeping eyes of a widowed wife, children left fatherless or aged parents left without a son and provider? Did you? Did it ever occur to you that most of these could have been avoided if the required equipment’s were indeed procured, and our soldiers didn’t go into battle feeling so powerless? If indeed these allegations are true, did you ever stop to think for a minute that your incredibly callous actions were tantamount to complicity in murder…that by your actions, you were indeed aiding Boko Haram to kill many more Nigerians?
You claim that this is a witch-hunt. You seem to infer that President Buhari is on some sort of revenge mission…maybe because you were one of the 4 majors that took part in the “palace coup” of 1985, and arrested then Head-of-State, Muhammadu Buhari, ousting him from power. But intriguing as that sounds, I also don’t quite buy this argument this time around as well! But who knows? Politics can also become highly personal sometimes…I guess that is why you have to go to court to argue your case. Oga Dasuki, we want answers…actually, we demand them. If you are innocent as you claim, then you have nothing to fear. Instead of running all over the place, just calm down and let your lawyers argue your case in court- I mean, that’s what SAN’s are paid to do, and you have employed their services. Nigerians are not as foolish as some folks would like to assume…we are not a gullible bunch…we have enough sense to tell right from wrong…we can reach logical conclusions. Save all the suspense and drama for court. Now you claim that the contracts and payments were awarded and endorsed by your former boss, GEJ, and that you were only doing your job making payments upon approval by the former President. You claim there were no “fictitious” contracts and no monies diverted. But a few days after your remarks, GEJ emphatically denied awarding 2billion dollars for arms procurement! So you see, this is all quite confusing. In any case, just go to court. Go to court and let us reach our own logical conclusions. If truth is on your side then you will be vindicated, and your “royal” name would be cleared; but if by competent means, you are found guilty beyond reasonable doubt, then you must face the consequences of your actions. This is not a crime that is easily forgiven. Too many have died- unnecessarily. If indeed you are found guilty, you may have to ask yourself this question behind bars- “what does it profit a man to lose his sense of humanity, and choose to prolong a war simply because of monetary gain?" As they say, “you do the crime, you do the time!” Best of luck…you’ll surely be needing it!

Buchi Obichie.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


I was awake in the early hours of Saturday 14th November, worrying foolishly about something really silly- yeah in retrospect, I can say that- when I decided to take my mind away from the situation and peruse Facebook for a bit, to see what new “life-events” my friends were documenting. All of a sudden, something caught my attention: another terror attack in Paris. Over 100 dead. Imagine my shock! Wait, barely how many hours ago were we trying to come to terms with the attack in Beirut...barely how many months ago was it that France went through the Charlie Hebdo massacre? What the heck was happening? So I hastily switched on the TV and tuned to CNN. Anderson Cooper was live. The “breaking news” banner was up, reading 149 dead. Before I could even begin to process that piece of information, Cooper declared that the death toll had just risen to 153 (later, when a proper count had been made, that number would be stabilized at 129 dead with 350+ wounded) and these were still very early hours! I froze! Apparently, multiple coordinated terror attacks had taken place across the French capital.
At a concert, gunmen opened fire sporadically with assault rifles, just shooting indiscriminately into the crowd; another venue was outside a stadium during a World Cup qualifier match between France and Germany, where suicide bombers unleashed mayhem (President Francois Hollande was in attendance, but was safely evacuated); then at a Cambodian restaurant, gunmen opened fire; and on and on in different locations. I saw people running in the streets, pavements covered with human blood, policemen and firefighters in combat gear, paramedics tending to the wounded, numerous body bags being carried away…it was just too much! One of the eyewitnesses, who had been at the concert but managed to escape, spoke with Anderson Cooper. He had gotten a good view of one of the terrorists, and was able to describe him as a young man of about 18 or 19years of age…certainly not older than 20. My goodness, a bloody child, killing people ruthlessly as though they were Birds! How can one’s humanity become so corrupted and vile that satisfaction from living and the feeling of standing on the cusps of destiny now comes from adherence to an evil and warped ideology that basically teaches that the path to glory is by the slaughtering of “infidels”? How did we all become prey for radical Islamist movements? How did a religion become so corrupted…so polluted…so tainted with lies? And how did this adulterated version become so appealing to so many?
Ever since September 11th 2001, the world has become much more dangerous. Much more unsafe. Al-Qaeda created the blue-print for modern day terror attacks and mass murders (execution style) that would now be replicated by various other jihadist movements that would come after it. And come, they surely did. But none has been as deadly as ISIS. The rise of ISIS has delivered to the world, a group so intensely evil in its operations and so erratic in its mode of behavior, that they are difficult to predict. Their propaganda arm works in overdrive…bloodthirsty individuals putting out all manner of sordid materials that portray their psychotic, dastardly acts in some sort of “pseudo-messianic ” manner, intended to sway the minds of so many who watch these clips- especially the gullible young- and convert them to their deranged ways of thinking. And so far, it has worked! The trouble with the fight against ISIS is that it is basically a fight against an ideology; and ideologies don’t die easily- Adolf Hitler knows all about this! The young men who make the journey from different corners of Europe (and elsewhere) into the bloody jungles of Iraq and Syria are somehow made to believe that they are fighting a battle for “Allah”. And since “Allah” is “God”, who cannot be defeated, then theirs is a battle already won- as they see it! They see themselves as “holy warriors”, fighting for a just cause…one that they are even prepared to die for. These young people are so completely hypnotized and indoctrinated that they have no value for life, and no fear for death…and a man who has no fear for death is an extremely dangerous man! Most of these people are confused. These are people who largely had previously questioned their existence…ISIS gave them something higher to believe in…ISIS gave them a purpose…thus, their allegiance to the caliphate is firmly cemented. How did we allow this to happen?
As I took my gaze momentarily away from the TV screen and took my pen to write this article, I could still hear Anderson Cooper talking to various terror analysts to get their opinions on the still unfolding situation. Everyone agreed that ISIS was becoming increasingly sophisticated in their overseas attacks. Everyone agreed that sleeper-cells, through which jihadists returning back into Europe and elsewhere would plan and then randomly unleash mayhem on soft targets, were only going to increase. In the immediate aftermath, France had shut down its borders and French police were cordoning off entire streets and interrogating people house-to-house…the way I saw it, the country was effectively on “Code Red”. And as I struggled to listen while also writing, my brain also began to ponder, “What can the world do”? Ironically, these attacks are becoming more indiscriminate: ISIS supporters are killing not just non-Muslims like me, whom they regard as “worthless infidels”; but they are also killing the Muslim faithful as well! How can the international community effectively police the thousands of terror cells that are springing up all over the world? Is that even possible?
We can respond to these attacks by killing these cold-blooded murderers- as we very well should! We can respond to these attacks by tightening airport security and border controls, and looking out for the minute tell-tale signs of radicalism- as we very well should! We can respond by increasing surveillance of suspected terror cells and increasing intelligence gathering (and sharing) amongst nations- as we very well should! We can respond by sustaining the aerial bombardment of ISIS locations in Iraq and Syria, and by arming the moderate rebels and the Kurds (especially the Kurds) to wage war against ISIS- as we very well should! We can do all these and much more…anything and everything that decimates the fighting capabilities of ISIS (and indeed ALL OTHER terror groups)- as we damn bloody well should! But if we are going to strike at the heart of ISIS and destroy this putrid cancer from within, we must also start to effectively combat this unholy ideology. We must reveal it for the farce…the “fake version” of Islam that it really is. We must counter ISIS propaganda everywhere, with our own message- a message of religious tolerance, a message of respect for all humanity, a message of peace and peaceful co-existence. We must give our young people a reason to believe in a different path- a path away from violence. Every Imam who stands in a mosque must preach this message. Anyone who preaches violence must be exposed and punished. People must be called out when they teach distorted versions of Koranic verses. We must defeat ISIS at its own game. We must strike at its evil heart. We must not allow its ideology to thrive. We must turn this tide in our favor. We have no other choice.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


I had the privilege of growing up in a modern household. In the sense that even though I had Delta Ibo parents and 3 brothers; as an only girl, my parents did not view me as being lesser than my brothers. Yes, I was taught by my mum to cook and clean- as all girls are- but I also learned from my mum, to be just as engaging as the boys were, in affairs outside the “typical realm” of feminity. I think it was also easier, because I had a great example to learn from. I don’t think my mum would have ever described herself as a feminist- she was far too modest with words- but her actions could be said to reflect the spirit of feminism, in modern times. She was the quintessential “super woman”. She took care of the home-front with a passion that would rival that of the biblical Hebrew woman, and she was just as passionate (and shrewd) in business. Trained as a teacher- later getting involved in business- my mum was also a lifelong student. As a child, I saw my mum watch the news. I would hear her ask a million questions, even to us- her children. I saw her strive for perfection; but it was not in an aggressive manner, but in that simple, subtle, graceful approach that comes with being confident in one’s feminity, while also seeing one’s self as being just as capable as the opposite sex. Okay, enough about my mum now! So I said all that in order to trace the female path from childhood to adulthood, and to highlight those traits which are inherent in the typical African female, that inevitably set the tone for most of the female’s life. You see, I think I am the woman I am today, and think and act the way I do today, largely because (consciously and unconsciously) my mother “built” me to be this way! I was never told, “Buchi, you must become President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”- no. But I was shown that I was just as valid and just as important as the boys, and that I could become just as successful and powerful, if I set my mind to it. My mother did well!
The funny thing though is that when I look at my life today and my interest in politics, I’m still somewhat amused. Growing up, I “thought” I wanted to become a pharmacist. And for that reason, I became a science student in secondary school. But you see, even though I “thought” at the time that I wanted to do pharmacy, a large part of me always knew the path I would eventually take in life. And so for some strange reason, I took history classes…and I took literature classes…and I would stand at the window during government classes from time to time, listening with rapt attention. There was just something about policy-making and the act of governance that always appealed to me- and then I wrote, too. You see being a girl child in Africa, you are trained to serve. Serving one’s parents and siblings in childhood prepares the girl child to serve her future husband and children. The dynamics involved in the tutelage of this service in childhood, may be seen as “backward behavior…something reminiscent of cave-man days” by our counterparts in the western world. But I think that if balanced with a wholesome view of individuality as opposed to teaching the female child to simply be subservient because of gender, the tutelage of service can prepare the female for a life in politics and governance. And for me, that is what it did.
You see, the female child learns to not just serve, but to preside over her household. She is taught this in a much understated manner because “father is King”; but she quickly comes to see that the home basically ceases to function efficiently, without female supervision. The man may have brought home the money, but the woman makes the plans as to how it is spent. She oversees the implementation of the technicalities that run family life; then she gives feedback to her husband. A woman in her home is akin to a politician in the domain of public service; bestowed with resources to improve the lives of the citizenry, but also held accountable to them at the same time! The girl child is trained for public service!
So seeing as this is so, one then wonders, “Why are more women not involved in governance, when the very nature of their upbringing prepares them for this?” Good question. In the old days, one would answer by saying that unwritten rules and regulations which translated into normal ways of traditional life, were the reason why women did not take part in governance outside the household. In the old days, a woman found her worth in her husband; and he became her mouthpiece in public domains. She may speak to him within the confines of their home, but he spoke for her when in view of the watching public. She would lay with him at night, but would sit by his feet at daylight. Such were the days of our forebears. Today though, the woman is “liberated”- I chuckle as I say this. The African girl child is still brought up and guided by the “principles of African feminity”, but she is no longer restricted by the barriers of gender. Actually, she refuses to be! The African woman today is mostly learned. She may be a wife and mother, but she is also a career woman. She is politically conscious, just as much as she is “home” conscious; and even though she may keep up with BeyoncĂ©, she also keeps up with the actions of the politicians in the Capital! The reason why this “liberated” African woman does not take her place in the sphere of public governance is not because she is not capable enough…it is because even though times have changed, the status quo has not moved at equal pace. The systems of government in Africa (and some other parts of the world) are more receptive towards men…and when you reflect on the fact that these systems were designed by men, then you are not surprised! Nigerian women clamor for 35% representation in government; but when you think of it, if women make up 51% of the population, then the percentage representation being clamored for, is grossly disproportionate and unfair. But sadly, it is still not given! I find that the “rare” Nigerian female politician is usually propped up by the influence of her powerful husband. In rarer cases though, the unmarried (or married ) outstanding female technocrat may be appointed to public service solely by virtue of merit- as she should be- but this phenomenon whenever it happens, is not the norm, but rather an oddity! The African man even though he recognizes the capability of the woman, to a large extent, still does not see her as being capable enough to lead him in government! I know that there were great female leaders in historic Africa- Queen Amina of Zazzau, the great warrior queen; and Egypt’s Queen Nefertiti come to mind- but they were very few. I know that there are great female politicians in Nigeria and Africa today- hello there, Abike Dabiri and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia- but they are still so few. Nevertheless, despite their little numbers, women like me are proud of their achievements, guided by their examples, and hopeful to one day walk in their paths, and even surpass their achievements. We are hopeful that we would become the new norm.
I would say to the Nigerian woman striving for public service, “you are just as capable”. In fact by virtue of your gender, I would venture further and dare to say, that “you are more than capable…actually, you are more capable; so don’t stop striving”. I would not give too much advice, because I am even yet striving, and have not yet fully attained. But I would give you one of my favorite quotes, which was spoken by the great Abraham Lincoln- “I will study and get prepared; and perhaps, my chance will come”. Study and get prepared. Nigeria has not yet had a female President. I reckon that day is coming. I reckon your chance will come!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


The Syrian tale is one that strikes a very painful chord. A conflict which began in 2011 as part of the wider Arab Spring; has continued into 2015, leaving in its wake countless deaths, continued acts of violence, the rise of an immensely evil terrorist organization known as ISIS, multitudes displaced internally and externally, and hundreds of thousands desperate to leave the Mid-East altogether.
With the various players now involved in the conflict, it has morphed into a proxy war; one that closely mimics the cold war of post-world war 2, up until the fall of the Berlin wall. During that era, Europe became the epic-center of a battle for supremacy between the USA and USSR. And in the same way, the Middle East- Syria (and Yemen) in particular- has become the epic-center of a battle for supremacy between two Middle Eastern power houses i.e., the Sunni house of the kingdom of Saudi-Arabia vs. the Shiite house of the Iranian theocracy. With Iran backing the Alawite- Shiite Al-Assad clan (the regime), and Saudi Arabia backing the Sunni rebels, one of humanity’s greatest civilizations has found itself engulfed in a power tussle between two Elephants!
To be clear, the war in Syria certainly did not begin as an orchestration of Iran or Saudi Arabia. The credit for its origin goes to a certain food vendor in Tunisia whose peculiar action of setting himself on fire in protest against his government, led to the rise of revolutionary citizen movements that swept across the Middle East, extending also into Basher Al-Assad’s stronghold of Syria. But while Tunisia has somehow managed to move past the revolution into political stability, other nations have not been so lucky…especially Syria. Yet, despite their non-involvement in the origin of the conflict, Saudi Arabia and Iran have certainly extended their long-founded feud into Syria, and their actions have in no small measure affected the dynamics of the conflict. Syria has become the staging point of a conflict that certainly highlights the deeply rooted sectarian divide of the Muslim world i.e., Sunni vs. Shiite.
The battle for supremacy between Iran and Saudi Arabia goes back much further to 1979. The Iranian revolution of that year led to the exile of the Shah of Iran, and the rise of the Ayatollah’s. The exportation of Iran’s new found firebrand policies, posed a great threat to the Saudi Arabian monarchy. It threatened not just the reign of the royals in Riyadh, but also Saudi Arabia’s influence in the region…it was not going to be tolerated. And as a show of its leadership, Saudi Arabia spearheaded the creation of the Gulf Cooperation Council, leading the charge for greater Arab partnership, and strengthening its influence in the Muslim world. But even though Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth has made it a force to be reckoned with, Iranian influence has steadily been on the rise; and recent moves by the Iranian regime has led to heightened tensions between both sides. Iran’s strategic diplomatic push has certainly given it more recognition and influence in the international community. And though the Iranian economy had in previous years been crippled by biting sanctions, all signs point to a soon-coming change in its economic status, with the likely enforcement of the nuclear deal, and the accompanying lifting of sanctions – refer to previous posts. In addition, with the lukewarm attitude of the United States, Iran seems poised to further entrench itself in Middle Eastern (and indeed international) affairs, in protecting its vital interests.
The proxy war in Syria has led to a situation whereby instead of opposing parties coming together to fight a common enemy i.e., ISIS, they are continually bolstering their forces against themselves! Intelligence reports have overtime showed Iran’s QUD’s force General Qassim Suleimani, training and leading the forces of Syrian President Al-Assad together with Hezbollah forces from Lebanon- all supported by Russia; while Saudi Arabia for its part continues to provide support to the Sunni rebels who sometimes become radicalized. And in the midst of it all, ISIS thrives. The ones who suffer are the helpless Syrian citizens caught in the cross-fire of all these warring factions. They are the ones who suffer the most from excruciating pains in the aftermath of a mustard gas attack, and the ones with the least fortified defenses, most likely to be caught up in the blaze of continued aerial bombardment. They are the inevitable casualties of the war.
The United Nations for its part ought to be the impartial umpire working to restore peace and stability. But sadly, internal divisions within the P5 are a mirror image of the larger divide seen on the battlefields. Iran is allied with the regime of Basher Al-Assad, and both are allied with Russia (plus China); while Saudi Arabia is allied- supposedly- with the West, led by the USA. Now because of the internal working dynamics of the UN Security Council as outlined in its charter, veto power resides only with the members of the P5. And all it takes for a resolution to fail is one veto from a permanent member of the council. Now, enter the proxy warring factions, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Their respective alliances with veto-wielding members of the P5; and the internal divisions amongst these allies, have overtime translated into a despicable situation whereby various resolutions to caution the government of Basher Al-Assad and try to find ways to achieve common ground and move towards some sort of stability, have continually failed to pass! The achievement of peace within Syria is not completely dependent on Iran or Saudi Arabia; but their unique positions in the Middle East, certainly does make them key players in any future roadmap for peace.
To be truthful, at this point, I do not know if there is any "one-fits-all" solution to the conflict that rages on in Syria. The war has been allowed to drag on for so long that I feel like opportunities to act in decisive ways, have been lost. If there is any immediate goal, it would seem to be about finding ways to reduce the amount of innocent casualties, while curbing the growth and expansion of ISIS. Within Syria alone, there are too many interest groups; and each may have to settle with their own areas of control in the long run. To achieve some semblance of stability, a couple of ideas have been floated- bolstering the moderate rebels and the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, maintaining coalition bombardment of enemy positions, continuing the diplomatic discourse amongst key players, establishing humanitarian corridors for Syrian citizens, spearheading grass-root political participation which would transition and translate into regime change etc. But while all these are being considered and put into place, there is an important factor to be considered; which is that the Syrian crisis is a uniquely Mid-Eastern problem. Thus, any long-term solution must definitely involve the sheathing of arms and sitting together of Middle Eastern power brokers. In plain terms, Saudi Arabia and Iran- together with Turkey- must be willing to talk! Any sustainable political transition will have to involve both sides not only talking to themselves, but also talking to the groups they represent within Syria, and nudging them to find common ground. Iran must use its influence with the Shiite's, and Saudi Arabia must also use its influence with the Sunni's. And then the issue of Turkey and the Kurds, must also be addressed. ISIS was born in the Middle-East, and it must be dealt with in the Middle-East; with "whole-hearted" international support and co-operation.
Iran’s President had previously stated that Iran is willing to sit at any table to discuss peace in Syria; and both parties have recently been present at talks in Vienna, together with the USA, Turkey, Russia, and other nations. But if there is anything I have learnt in my short years of observing international politics, it is that nations only act in their national interests! Power is the currency of bargain in politics; and nations are never willing to relinquish power, until the greater power prevails! Already, the Iranians have begun to issue threats stating that they would walk away from any future talks concerning Syria because of what they see as Saudi-Arabia’s antagonistic actions in Syria and Yemen; which is quite ironic because they (Iran) could also be (rightly) accused of doing the exact same thing! So what is the future for Syria? There is no definite answer at this point; only hopeful wishes. The world knows what it should do…Saudi Arabia and Iran know what they should do…but knowing the right thing to do, does not always translate into doing it. Thus as long as the power-play continues, the end will remain in the very distant future; as ISIS recuperates and thrives. We all have hopeful wishes…but if wishes were Horses, beggars would ride!