Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I wasn’t alive during the Biafran War- obviously- but my parents were, and my mum used to tell us stories of how people ate Leaves and Lizards to survive! As I was getting my Master’s Degree at the University of Lagos, my course coordinator, Dr. David Aworawo would say, “The Biafran War dragged on due to the recalcitrance of Ojukwu, and the ambivalence of Gowon!” From all accounts, the war wasn’t palatable- mostly for the Biafran side!
The man called Nnamdi Kanu, was the Director of the now shut-down so-called “Radio Biafra”- a radio station set up in the UK, which broadcast anti-government propaganda from the UK, into pockets of certain Eastern Nigerian States. To be truthful, I didn’t really know so much about Kanu, until his arrest sometime last year. To me, Nnamdi Kanu was just a hypocritical caricature, seeking for self-grandiosity, by inciting violence while hidden in the comfort of London! I called him hypocritical because he disowned Nigeria, yet still, travelled with a green Nigerian passport. He referred to Nigeria as a zoo, and hurled all manner of insults at the President…all in the name of Biafra! Yet I didn’t think much of him…until he was arrested by the DSS on a visit to Nigeria last year. 
I love having conversations with my big sister. She has such a quirky, intelligent mind. I visited her recently, and we had a really interesting conversation on the issue. She basically said, “Nnamdi Kanu was a nobody, until the Federal Government made him a Legend!” According to her, if Kanu’s movements were simply monitored, or if he was taken in for questioning and then released, events wouldn’t have turned out the way they have. But he was taken by the SSS, and has been continually detained by the DSS, even when a Federal High Court ordered his release. His supporters- MASSOBites and IPOBites- took to the streets in Anambra, Abia, Imo, Rivers and Delta, calling for his release. In certain instances, they clashed with security operatives…a few died…Kanu is still being held by the Government. 
I have no sympathy for Nnamdi Kanu. I understand the agitations of the Igbo’s, but as I have alluded to, Kanu is a self-serving individual who in no way serves the collective interest of the “Igbo Nation”. But as events usually turn out in history, his continued detention by the FG has sort of transformed him into something of a “fabled figure”…maybe not along the lines of “Turi Guiliano” in Mario Puzo’s acclaimed bestseller, “The Sicilian”; even though his supporters would want to portray him in that light…however skewed that view may be! As the protesters chanted their demands for the release of Kanu, a MASSOB spokesperson said, “No agitation is complete without arrest, detention and persecution. It shapes the minds of activists, drawing sympathy from international and external observers; it also shows that Nnamdi Kanu and Radio Biafra have become a factor of reckoning in Nigeria”. And so, by his continued detention, Kanu has become- at least to his followers- a “demi-god”! What was simply an underground station in the UK, broadcasting gibberish to certain pockets of the country by a hypocritical and cowardly individual, has now become a popular movement within the confines of Nigeria!
After the High Court ordered Kanu’s release, the FG immediately slammed fresh charges against him- including illegal possession of items, and maintaining an unlawful society- and held him further in detention. Femi Falana, a renowned human rights activist and lawyer, asked the FG to stop violating court orders, and immediately release Kanu (and Dasuki). He warned that holding on to the 2 men in spite of the orders of the court, amounted to a violation of the law that Buhari pledged to uphold! Bear in mind that Falana is a supporter of the President!
 Chief Guy Ikokwu, chieftain of the defunct NADECO, believes that Kanu’s actions are not “treasonable”; and that he is only utilizing the tools of the digital media sphere. He noted that the radio station is registered in the UK, and that in the past, Prof. Wole Soyinka, a very prominent Nigerian, had operated Radio Kudirat, which was endorsed by NADECO. He then stated that if Kanu is guilty of treason on account of Radio Biafra, then millions of Nigerians are guilty of treason in the social media space! Now, I wouldn’t go so far as giving equal justification to Radio Biafra, as I would to Radio Kudirat, which was set up to actualize the electoral mandate of the late MKO Abiola; and to call for democracy in Nigeria, while speaking out against the Abacha tyranny. In my opinion, Kanu wanted to achieve the status and legacy of Ojukwu, without the pain and suffering endured by a man like Abiola! Kanu’s detention was not something that was meticulously planned or foreseen by him; but was rather an event which simply happened, and on which he has now capitalized, to “immortalize” himself. I say this because when Nnamdi Kanu flew into Lagos and lodged in a hotel, he didn’t do so under the name “Nnamdi Kanu”; but with a different name- “Nwanekaenyi Ezebuiro”. In fact, the name, Nnamdi Kanu, was nowhere on the guest list, and it took a room-to-room search of the entire hotel by the SSS, before he was finally discovered in Room 303!
I believe that most people clamoring for “Biafra” do not really know what they are even fighting for. Kanu’s supporters are blindly following a man with no true “Igbo heart”. If not, he would not have hid away in London! Kanu is not half the man Ojukwu was. Even though Ojukwu eventually had to flee to Ghana, he did not start a fight from the confines and safety of “obodo oyibo” i.e., “the white man’s land”, without regard for the safety of the lives of those who would be incited to employ violent means, due to his inflammatory remarks! But nevertheless, though Kanu is really a man of “very little standing”, the FG, by continually detaining him, propels him further into the limelight!
The Government now tows a very fine line. Releasing Nnamdi Kanu would make a mockery of why he was arrested in the first place, and might also come across as acceptance of a “mistake” and justification for Kanu’s actions, by his supporters. On the other hand, his continued detention comes across as further violation of the law, while also fuelling the drive of his supporters, who now see him as a strong opposition figure- the man who took on the Federal Government (even though Kanu did not necessarily orchestrate the chain of events that have happened since his arrest).
Nnamdi Kanu is certainly NO LEGEND. But whatever the Government does next, they must make sure he does not die in their custody. We do not want to even imagine what would unfold in the country, if that happens! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

GUEST WRITER SERIES: (Nigeria: The Joke is on Us...and We Are All to Blame!)

Mbachu Obinna.

I have been asking myself, how we got here; to this present state of moral decadence? How did our values get so eroded and our sensibilities numbed? How did our morals get so low that we began to celebrate that which we should utterly and angrily denounce, while our should-be heroes suffered blatant disregard or flagrant contempt at our hands?

We are a nation accustomed to falling and rolling over while laughing at ourselves; that we did not notice when the rest of the world joined in laughing at us. We became the party clown at the children’s party. And now we’re the washed-up comic whose joke is worn out from repetition that the world stopped laughing; but tragically, still, we continue to laugh.

Perhaps we can’t help ourselves because we are the proverbial laughing Jackal who couldn’t stop laughing while the porcupine slowly walked up the hill and ate the delicious meat.

Let me attempt an exploration into our collective national psyche with an event from the past:


In August of 2013, a story broke about a little teenage boy, Daniel Ihekina, who stowed away in the wheel well of a plane traveling from Benin to Lagos. What was our reaction? We laughed! We laughed so hard about the kid who mistakenly thought he would land in America. We then went on to talk about the state of the economy and how it made a little kid desperate enough to attempt such act. Some even used words like ‘brave’ and ‘daring’ to describe him.

A prominent national daily joined in this travesty and published a front page photo of him flanked by Adams Oshiomhole, the then and present Governor of Edo State; as well as Peter Obi, the then Governor of Anambra state. They were all smiling in approval. The kid had become a celebrity. These Governors then spoke of plans to establish a scholarship trust for his education.

Interestingly in all this, there was no talk of punishment.

Now if you do not know, the wheel well houses the landing gear and wheel among other things. The doors to this well closes after take-off and reopens in preparation for landing. If you are sitting on these doors and they open you could fall out of the plane to your death. And bodies of people have been found, who stowed away in this manner. Also at airplane cruising altitude, air pressure, temperature and oxygen levels are greatly reduced, and there is artificial air regulation in a wheel well. Any living being unfortunate enough to be here in these conditions will be exposed to the risk of hypothermia and other dangerous health conditions. There is also is the risk of compromising the airplane’s landing gear and appurtenances.

I think we can all agree that this kid put himself and others in grave danger by his action and was extremely lucky to have survived. This kid breached airport security and violated FAAN regulations but despite this knowledge, the authorities gave him a pat on the back and rewarded him with gubernatorial handshakes and a scholarship! Perhaps he was even in consideration for an OON or MFR.

Do we not reprimand our children when they fall short? Do we hand out candies to them when they fight in class or steal meat from the pot? Was this some heroic act worthy of praise? And if our answer to the last question is no, then why was there no dissenting voice? Tomorrow when this happens again we would blame airport security; we would say that they are incompetent. We would blame the Airline operator for not doing a thorough check. We would blame the Government; we will call them unserious and inept for not putting enough regulations in place and we might be right. But we will forget to blame ourselves for the contribution we made by not speaking up, for seeing wrong and ignoring it because that laugh was more important.

To be continued...

Thursday, March 17, 2016


My late Uncle was a state Judge, in old Bendel State. My extended family (on my father’s side), is full of “learned men and women of the wig”. My darling big sister is a lawyer…my brother is a lawyer…if I had to count on my fingers, the amount of lawyers in my family, I would exhaust both hands-no jokes! But even though I come from a family flooded with “black-robed men and women”, I must confess that I have no faith in the law! Okay, let me rephrase- I have very little faith in Nigeria’s judiciary!
The case of Ricky Tarfa, SAN, is just one case which re-affirms my deep-seated distrust of the Nigerian legal system. When lay men and women commit obvious crimes, one may be tempted to say, “Oh, maybe they didn’t know better…maybe”. But when a Senior Advocate of Nigeria is caught red-handed breaking the law, then it is only right that we all begin to throw stones! So here’s the story. The esteemed SAN was not too long ago, accused of hiding two foreigners in his car, in order to protect them from the long arms of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). These 2 alleged criminals were accused of fraud and tax evasion. When he was arrested, he threw out the “my fundamental human rights are being abused” card! We all watched the spectacle play out. We watched as Tarfa was then “escorted” to court, by a very large number of his fellow esteemed men and women of the wig. It was as though they were all there to “intimidate the presiding judge and prosecuting counsel”! Then the EFCC threw out the joker- alas, Barr. Tarfa had been caught- with “receipts” provided- bribing a certain Justice Mohammed Yunusa. In fact, his law firm had on various occasions, gone through the back door, to ensure that their cases were routed to the said judge, in order to ensure easy wins. And so, in the face of such incriminating evidence and obvious disgrace, one by one, just like the apostles who abandoned our Lord Jesus in his moment of trial, the “escorting lawyers” deserted their now-shamed colleague! The case is still being played out…
Upon assumption of office, President Muhammadu Buhari outlined the key focus areas of his administration: the economy, security (the fight against Boko Haram), and the fight against corruption. Let us focus on the fight against corruption. So far, the EFCC has arraigned numerous prominent individuals, accused of corruption. The key phrase has been “embezzlement of public funds”. From Dasuki, to Dokpesi, to Metuh, to Moro, to Badeh…the list keeps getting longer. We have watched men being led in handcuffs into court, being taken to Kuje Prison (by the way, is Kuje Prison the only prison in Abuja?), being released on bail, being arraigned for further hearing(s)…and on and on, the circus keeps going. Still yet, not one final verdict. And if past antecedents are anything to go by, these cases would probably die into the cold dark night.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo, our very likeable Vice President- he is said to be more “humane” than his boss- was at a judiciary conference sometime last year. The Vice President is a lawyer himself…like Tarfa; he is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. As he stood before his learned colleagues, he bemoaned the state of the judicial system; admitting that there have been instances of high profile corruption in the judiciary, especially when they involve ex or current political office holders. The nation’s Chief Justice himself who was also at that conference, lambasted certain unscrupulous elements within the noble profession who through their “unlawful conducts”- how ironic- had caused a large section of Nigerians to cast aspersions at the judicial system! In fact, to paraphrase the VP’s statement, “the fight against corruption is mostly being hampered by dubious, scheming, money-loving, corrupt judges who prolong cases or render faulty judgments, in favor of obviously guilty individuals who line their pockets”! So then I ask, how can this same judicial system which is so obviously corrupt, so obviously tainted, so obviously filled with crooked individuals, be entrusted with effectively administering righteous judgments? How can I trust that if I stand before a judge, and the Counsel for my opponent is Ricky Tarfa; that I would be given a fair hearing? How will I trust that the case would not already have been decided the night before, over drinks, and with the exchange of brown envelopes?
Aside from politicians, many other “normal citizens” such as myself, have no faith in the law. I have never been in a court-room; but I have been reliably informed, that most times, proceedings are somewhat akin to a playground. A magistrate sits before you and renders judgment on a case in 2016, based on a judgment rendered by a now-deceased judge on another case in 1854! The rationale is that the cases are somewhat similar…even though when it boils down to specifics, they usually aren’t! So the opposing counsel says, “my lord, refer to the case brought by the Mouse, against the Cat, presided over by the Lion, in the High Court of the jungle, in the year of our lord, 1854 AD; and you would see that the charges raised by the individuals on the other side, are not enough to convict my client…the “doubt” is just not “reasonable” enough”. Then the judge would adjust his/her spectacles and pretend for a brief moment to be deep in thought…and then before you can even say “but my lord”, he finds the case in favor of the accused, and might even order you –the righteous plaintiff- to pay damages! Okay, I admit, I watch too many movies in my head, so my mind is a bit crazy; but I can bet you that it does happen this way!
I believe- and I should apologize beforehand, to those who are not so- that our Nigerian Bar Association, is mostly filled with quacks! I apologize because like I said, a sizeable portion of my extended family members are lawyers. Also, some of my dearest friends are lawyers; and I would like to think of these people as brilliant, outstanding, integrity-laden individuals. But they constitute a very “minute minority”. And so, because they are so few, it is very easy to “lump them in” with the larger sordid population! There are quacks sitting in magistrate courts, state courts, federal courts, and probably even within the Supreme Court! And unfortunately, these quacks have been entrusted with “safeguarding and judiciously interpreting” the law! Oh, how I weep!
Ricky Tarfa, SAN, like the dodgy fellow that I think he is, is now throwing out every card in his “Rule Book of Dodgyness”… the same rule book that has obviously been read by a million other Nigerian lawyers! Fellow Nigerians, how can we then expect an effective fight against corruption, when our law courts are filled with men like this? *deep sigh* I have exhausted my words; but I would say this finally- until our judicial system experiences a great reformation which would weed out the thistles and thorns from the fine grain, the guilty will continue to roam free! Until our judicial system is truly “born-again”, the righteous, who seek the judgments of our law courts, would continue shaking their heads in disbelief and wishing that they hadn’t! Until men (and women) like Ricky Tarfa are called out and punished when they commit a crime, “lady justice” would continue to weep beneath her blind fold! I pray for our country…may we get it right…may justice prevail!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


At this point I do not believe there is anyone in Nigeria who hasn’t heard the name: Ese Oruru. Okay, for the sake of those (within and without Nigeria) who haven’t, let me give a brief summary. Ese Oruru is the (now) 14year old girl who was abducted from her home town in Bayelsa (in Nigeria’s south-south) on August 12th 2015, when she was 13, by a certain man named Yunusa. She was taken by this Yunusa, to Kano State (in Northern Nigeria); and there, she was converted to Islam and allegedly wed to this Yunusa…all without the consent and knowledge of her parents! Upon discovery of Ese’s absence, her mother immediately journeyed to Kano State the following day (August 13th) to retrieve her daughter. She lodged a complaint with the Kano State police command. Along the line, it was disclosed that Ese had been taken to the palace of the Emir of Kano; so she proceeded there. But when she got there, she was allegedly ridiculed and insulted by the youths at the Emir’s palace; and she was told that her daughter was now in the custody of the Emirate Council. After all attempts to retrieve her child proved futile, she proceeded back to Bayelsa, heartbroken. Ese’s father then undertook his own journey to Kano, where he was chided by the Kano Police, for lying. According to them, Ese was in fact 18years old. Mr. Oruru then had to convince them that his daughter was only 13, and thus, still a minor. Again, after all attempts to secure Ese’s release proved futile, Mr. Oruru return back to Bayelsa, empty handed! From August 12th 2015, up till March 2016, Ese Oruru was held in Kano! Not until large numbers of Nigerians began to cry out on social media, did the authorities begin to move their muscles a bit. The former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, reached out to the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Lamido Sanusi Lamido, who then informed her that he had already ordered the release of the young girl. Senator Ben Bruce then called out the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, on twitter, asking him to secure Ese’s release. The opposition party (PDP) also cried out. People began yelling. Then the IGP, Solomon Arase, made a very troubling statement, which was that the release of Ese Oruru depended on the intervention of the Emir of Kano!
In 2003, Nigeria passed the “Childs Right Act”. It is supposedly a law to protect the rights of children. But so far, it has been ineffective. Studies have shown that as at 2015, 17% of girl children under the age of 15, were already married. The percentage rises when you get to the North-East, where 48% of girl children under the age of 15 are married! The enactment of the Child Rights Act is largely dependent on enforcement by individual states and so far, only 24 states have enforced the law! Most Northern states have not…and herein lies the problem.
In 2010, a Northern Senator, Ahmed Yerima, married a 13year old Egyptian girl. When people began yelling, his response was that his religion permitted such! Now, for the IGP to say that the release of Ese Oruru was dependent on the involvement of the Emir of Kano, one then begins to wonder: “is Kano State a country within a country?”…and “does religion and/or ethnicity now supersede the law(s) of Nigeria?”
While social media was agog with disbelief and anger over the issue, a certain individual who is obviously of Northern Nigerian heritage; gave an incredulous take on the matter. His grouse with the so-called Yunusa was not that the man had contravened the laws of the land by committing an obvious crime which is for all intents and purposes, punishable under law! Rather, he was peeved because according to him, the girl (Ese) was so ugly, that he wondered why Yunusa did not instead choose any other pretty (probably under-aged) girl from the North, to wed! So I ask again, “Is Kano State a country within a country?”…and “does religion and/or ethnicity now supersede the law(s) of Nigeria?”
Why would youths at the palace of the Emir haul insults at a suffering mother just because she went to seek out her child there? Why did they think Yunusa’ actions were acceptable? Why did the Emirate Council scold the police when they asked them to kindly hand Ese back to her father, when he revealed that she was only 13, and not 18? In fact, why did they accept Ese from Yunusa, in the first place? Why were they still holding her even though the Emir had ordered her release? And then, why did her release even have to be dependent on the Emir? Is the Emir now the law? Or is he greater than the law? Is Kano State now a country, not answerable to Nigeria? What about the “criminal” Yunusa? Does his Muslim religion and/or Northern heritage now place him above the law(s) of Nigeria; or not subject to them? Why was he not thrown into jail “immediately” Ese’s mother sounded the alarm over her child’s abduction? Will his case now serve as a deterrent against such actions in future? Will this case now lead to the enactment of the Child Rights Act in all 36 states of the federation?
These are all questions that must be carefully answered, if we are to provide a better future for the Nigerian child. They must also be answered correctly, if we are to prove the supremacy of the laws of our country Nigeria, over any religion and/or ethnicity within its borders. Yes, we all have our religious beliefs, and they are important in our lives, but when they contravene basic laws, then there are bound to be problems! Even aside from laws, I find it personally insane, that anyone would think that a 13year old child if of marriageable age! At 13, a girl child is not even fully aware of who she is as an individual…at 13, her sexual organs are still yet immature…heck, at 13, some females have not even begun to see their monthly periods! So in my opinion, underage marriage is nothing short of barbaric and inhumane!
Nigeria is a nation of laws. The nation is superior to any state within its borders. Religion cannot be an excuse for blatant disregard and disobedience of the law. A crime is a crime…whether it is committed by an Ibo man, or an Hausa man; or whether it is committed by a Christian or a Muslim! Yunusa has obviously committed a crime. No matter what he says, Ese is a minor, who cannot give her consent to anything! He has to be punished! And now, to save the saddest part for last, even though Ese has now been returned to her parents, she is pregnant! Yet another unfortunate child, is about to birth her own child! Her life is changed- hopefully, not ruined- forever! My final statement is this- let children be children…not spouses! We must all do our parts to protect the rights of the child, today!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


For a while now, there has been a tug-of-war raging between Apple and the US Government. In the wake of the San Bernadino attack, more people have questioned why the government was not able to intercept the communications of the terrorists; and thus prevent the attack. After the terrorists were killed, a phone belonging to one of them, was confiscated by security operatives. But so far, the FBI has been unable to access the data on the device because of a user-generated password which they have been unable to crack. Because the data on the device is encrypted, it is programmed to automatically delete itself upon 10 failed password attempts. A court has ordered Apple to enable access; but so far, it has refused. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, states that obeying the judge’s orders would compromise user security/privacy and enable large scale hacking; as Apple would be required to create a new Operating System that would essentially give security operatives a back door access to bypass the user-generated password. Those who stand with the FBI- such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates- chide Apple for “misleading” the public and whipping up consumer skepticism (about the government's intentions). According to Gates, the government has the authority to ask for certain communications records from tech companies; as they would, from phone companies also. But even as the families of the 14 victims cry out against Apple, Google’s new CEO, Sundar Pichai, has come out in support of Apple; stating that “we build secure products to keep your information safe, and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders. But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices and data. Could be a troubling precedent…” The various arguments made by the US Government and by Apple, have again raised the all-important question of: Security vs. Privacy- which is more important?
In 2013, whistleblower and former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, exposed details of NSA communications surveillance over millions of Americans. He has since fled for Russia. Since Snowden’s revelations, it has been revealed that terrorists have now moved on to encrypted apps, to protect their communication. Now, these encrypted apps- such as Telegram- ensure that vital information from terrorists cannot be accessed by the NSA (and other inter-governmental spy agencies) even when they are intercepted. And this essentially means that more terrorist attacks can be planned and executed without fear of government sabotage, due to data-protection by the use of encryption! Scary thought indeed! It should be noted that these apps are not just used by terrorists, but also by journalists, activists, and other individuals.
Since 9-11, the human race has felt completely exposed and vulnerable to terrorist attacks. And in the face of ever-increasing insecurity, we have been forced to squarely address the issue of what we would rather have- security or privacy! Now, for most law-abiding citizens, we contend that we have nothing to hide. That we would much rather accept some intrusion of our privacy by the government, as long as it guarantees our security and safety. But then, how much is too much? The government does have a tendency to over-step its boundaries. After 9-11, the NSA violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), with White House authorization via an enforcement of “Presidential War Powers”, to engage in large-scale wiretapping of phone calls, without authorization from the courts. President Bush’s excuse was essentially that “tough times call for tough measures”. Now, while we accept that the vulnerability of the USA in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 did indeed demand the enactment of greater security measures, we also cannot ignore the fact that there was a disregard for judicial procedure!
Security and Privacy are both equal components of the “liberty spectrum”. We are entitled to both. But in a post 9-11 world, it seems like we cannot have both equally. And so in the light of this, we are more readily willing to give up some of our privacy. But the urge to “not end up dead”, certainly does not mean that we would rather have a “police society”! I would state here that even in the face of heightened insecurity, government surveillance must be sanctioned by the judiciary, and carried out within the ambits of the rule of law; and only after the government has pled its case and justified why such surveillance is necessary in the first place! This is how free societies function! But the issue is this- we just do not trust the government! We question its motives, and do not trust its judgments! And that is why increased government surveillance conjures up images of an “Orwellian society” and seems so scary…that is why we feel as though “Big Brother” is constantly looking over our shoulders!
Only the living can make demands for the condiments and niceties of liberty. But the urge to stay alive does not essentially give approval for the disregard of the rule of law…the rule of law which ought to apply equally in times of war, as they do at peace-time. I think I speak for a majority of the global populace when I say “we would much rather stay alive". We are willing to sacrifice a part of our privacy. But it would be disastrous if we do so without demanding caution on the part of our government(s). It would be disastrous if in our bid to stay alive, we give the government complete freedom to trample over law, and act with impunity; under the guise of “safeguarding our security”! If “we the people”, wherever we are- barring some autocratic states- essentially possess the power to elect and recall our own representatives, then we also have the power to render them accountable for their actions. We have the power to demand transparency…even in troubling times!
 And with that said, “Dear Apple tech’s, you are some of the most intelligent individuals in the world. Can you all find a way to assist the investigation; while also ensuring that you keep the NSA (and other spy agencies) within boundaries, and keep criminals away from these personal records?” “Please try. That’s all we ask. Thank you.”