Rochas Okorocha Is Killing Me

After calling out the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, twice in 10 months, I gave up. The governor has the whole of Imo as his duchy and he will do what he will do. So, what’s the point? If I’m now constrained to cry more than the bereaved people of Imo, it’s simply because their worsening misery is killing me. For two weeks, Okorocha held the state hostage to mark his 55th birthday anniversary. School children, whose parents are still being owed salaries of up to three months, were lined in the streets of Owerri to salute the governor. As for pensioners whose long arrears are being paid in dreadful bits, they watched Okorocha’s parade from the discomfort of their homes as their August/September cheques bounced again. Mothers, whose stalls in Ekeukwu market had been demolished by the state government in defiance of a court order and the parents of Somtochukwu, who lost...

Kanu, Biafra And Its Disciples

By Azubuike Ishiekwene When the founder of the Movement for the Actualisation of the sovereign state of biafra (MASSOB), Ralph Uwazuruike, told The Interview in August that the leader of the Indigenous People of biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, was being used to destroy biafra, I thought it was their private fight playing out at last. In the early days of MASSOB, when Uwazuruike was planning to start Radio biafra in the UK, he had reluctantly recruited Kanu to run the shop. One thing led to another and along the way, the ambitious young Kanu had his own ideas. He supplanted his boss and took charge. He has grown from pirate radio boy to something of a rock star and appears well underway to raising his own army, a fantasy that might, in the end, prove Uwazuruike right. Before Kanu went into hiding last week, he had started reviewing a “guard of honour” as part...
We love to blame most of our miseries on the older generation – the corruption, the greed, the rot and decay, and the rise in ethnic politics; everything that has held us back. It’s okay to beat that generation over the head with our woes, but I’ve been thinking of what my world, my professional world, would have been without these folks; that is, the good folks among them that we often lump with the bad. I’ve told the story before of how Olatunji Dare helped to give me my first writing job and how after meeting Ray Ekpu and shaking his hand at the lying-in-state of Dele Giwa in 1986, I refused to shake anyone else for the rest of that day to preserve the fragrance and memory of that contact. There’s yet another man from the older generation of writers that I owe more gratitude than I could repay: Egbon...
If a war foretold does not take the cripple by surprise, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, is in a situation worse than physical handicap. He’s a victim of his own naivety but his appointer could be in a bigger dilemma. The warning shot was fired one year ago when Kachikwu was removed as Group Managing Director (GMD) and kicked upstairs as junior minister. He was cosseted in a nice office, given plenty of room to travel and such other pleasures that deaden any sense of danger. Maybe he didn’t want to rock the boat. Or perhaps he thought that with time, everything was going to be all right. But how wrong his optimism – or innocence – has turned out to be! As GMD, Kachikwu had side lined Maikanti Baru, the highest-ranking insider and quintessential corporate vulture, that patient bird. If Baru’s appointment as Kachikwu’s successor didn’t...
By Azu Ishiekwene The cartoon was published in The Guardian on a Sunday sometime in 2016. It was a depiction of the tortoise approaching the gate of the Presidential Villa, carrying the sign, “Slow and steady.” On that Sunday, nearly one year after President Muhammadu Buhari was elected and months, I think, after he announced his ministers, the President had a copy of that publication on his side table as he spoke with a guest. Over small talk, he picked up the newspaper, flipped to the cartoon page and spread it before the guest. “Whom do you think that is,” he asked, half-smiling. His guest looked at the cartoon, and as he was raising his head locked eyes with the president. Both of them erupted in laughter. The tortoise in the cartoon was a caricature of a president who had taken six months to appoint his cabinet and would take even much longer to fill...

An Accident el-Rufai Can’t Help

Azu Ishiekwene Governor Nasir el-Rufai may have been an accidental public servant by his own account, but he may well be the sort of accident that the public service needs. In a battle that promises to be nasty, the governor said he would fire 21,780 or two thirds of the teachers in Kaduna State who failed a competency test based on a scheme of work for primary four pupils. Teachers in the state and the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) have promised the governor hell and actually started paving the way for that last week, with violent street protests and promises of more chaos to come. The unions said the state government was to blame for teachers who failed the exam that their primary five pupils ought to pass, citing poor tools and funding as reasons. What’s the fuss about, anyway? Exam, the teachers said, is not a true test of...

Time To Kick Turkey Out Of NATO

Alon Ben-meir The egregious violation of freedom of the press in Turkey has reached a mammoth proportion that places Turkey among the most oppressive nations for journalists. It is sadder than sad that the US and the EU, who champion free press as one of the main pillars of democracy, have largely left Turkey’s President Erdogan free to crush not only free press, but also freedom of speech and peaceful demonstrations. The irony here is that Turkey, as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), has violated every provision of NATO’s founding treaty regarding human rights. Indeed, each member state is required to fully adhere to “…safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.” To be sure, Erdogan has given himself license to mock these principles without any noteworthy rebuke from other NATO members. It...
Azu Ishiekwene Robert Mugabe overstayed his welcome by miles. But he wouldn’t come this far without the support of his former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the ruling ZANU-PF party and the military top brass. They were in it together. Ordinary Zimbabweans wanted Mugabe out at least over a decade ago. The clearest expression of that was in 2008 when they voted Morgan Tsvangarai of the Movement for Democratic Change in a general election later stolen by ZANU-PF after the first round of voting. Mugabe’s party didn’t only stop at stealing the vote. The government used massive violence against the opposition and ordinary citizens who were protesting. To teach him a lesson, the government arranged two near-fatal car accidents for Tsvangarai. That was a watershed moment. After 2008, the country descended rapidly into chaos. While Mugabe and his inner circle clung onto wartime memories of the guerrilla struggle against Ian Smith and other colonialists,...
Azu Ishiekwene Of the three presidents who ruled Nigeria between 1999 and 2015, President Goodluck Jonathan appears, so far, to have been the subject of more controversial books than his two predecessors. Five notable books about or significantly touching on former President Obasanjo’s tenure are his memoir, My Watch; Olusegun Obasanjo: The Presidential Legacy (Vols. I & II) 1999-2007, by Ladipo Akinkugbe et al; Obasanjo, Nigeria And The World, by John Illiffe; and Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s Accidental Public Servant. Segun Adeniyi’s Power, Politics and Death, is perhaps the most definitive book yet on late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s tenure. Within two and a half years of Jonathan’s exit from power, however, five books on his tenure have, so far, been published, three of the most notable of which are – Against the Run of Play, by Segun Adeniyi; Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years, by Reno Omokri; and now, On...
Abba Mahmood Occasionally one sits down quietly to reflect on issues in silence. Silence is required to understand the innermost meaning of any issue. Silence is the eye of the blind. Any time I am confronted with very difficult situation, I try to calm down and go over the whole thing in my mind alone and in silence. Last weekend, I took a long walk alone, and came back home feeling exhausted. I read the papers after taking rest and bath. Then I sat down quietly reflecting on personal, local, national and even global issues of the time. I was trying to comprehend what is increasingly becoming incomprehensible. I remembered the good old days. Those were the days I look forward to evenings when our old women would tell us stories, stories full of wisdom, stories that made us to know our language better and more fluently, stories that taught us...