There Will Be Blood!

No Comments » August 4th, 2009 posted by // Categories: General Articles

There will be blood!


Chido Onumah


Yes we can! I can’t think of a more appropriate battle cry for progressive Nigerians in the quest to reclaim the fatherland. If ever there was a time for those who truly believe in Nigeria to do something about this wobbly giant, that time is now. Three events in the last few weeks provide the basis for this conclusion. Yes we can was the rallying cry last November when Barack Obama made history as the first African-American president of the US. It reverberated recently when Obama visited Ghana in his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa.  


There is very little to add to the issue of which country (Kenya, his fatherland; Nigeria, the proverbial giant of Africa; or Ghana, the epicenter of pan-Africanism) deserved the honour of Obama’s first visit to Black Africa. For those who question Ghana’s credentials, Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, in his beautifully crafted article on Obama’s visit to Ghana titled “Obama’s Choice” showed why Nigeria and Kenya were no contenders. Obama’s choice of Ghana would stand out as one of the best decisions of his presidency; but even more important, it was, seriously speaking, in the interest of Kenya and Nigeria.

I can only surmise what would have happened in Kenya; in the case of Nigeria, our ruling elite would have upped the ante in political revelry. If President Yar’Adua described his meeting with former US president, George W. Bush, as the happiest moment of his life, a moment with Obama would have been nothing less than a divine encounter. July 10, 2009 would have been declared a national day of global recognition of Nigeria’s democracy. Those in charge of our stock exchange would have found an ingenious way to place a one million dollars tag for a handshake with Obama.


Thank God Obama denied these desecrators of democracy their 15 minutes of fame which surely would have sentenced Nigeria to a life-time of shame. Pundits have given Obama’s speech before the Ghanaian Parliament in Accra thorough scrutiny. I shall contribute the following points: the speech was bold and incisive; it could only have been given by a US president with an African heritage. Having said that, it is clear that the speech glossed over a few points, particularly the role of the new imperialists in the unequal relations and continued subjugation of the Global South, of which Africa is a prominent part.

But, did we really think Mr. Obama would come to Africa and affirm the culpability of the US and its allies in the “international community” in our misfortune? Obama did what he had to do: strike a balance between the real role of the US and its responsibility towards Africa. “America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation — the essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny”, Mr. Obama noted. How true, even if impracticable! The duty of radical and progressive forces across the continent, therefore, is to understand this new imperialism and take it headlong.


It is difficult, however, to disagree with the US president when he noted that “each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions. But history offers a clear verdict: governments that respect the will of their own people are more prosperous, more stable and more successful than governments that do not. For me, that was the highpoint of Obama’s speech, particularly as it relates to Nigeria’s political class.

While much of Africa prepared for Obama, the head of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, was meeting with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). The highpoint of her consultation, as reported in the press, was a published list of corrupt Nigerians and the amount they allegedly stole from us. Clearly timed to coincide with Obama’s visit, the list was significant only because of the names that were conspicuously absent. If anything, it showed how facetious the war on corruption has become. If that list was intended to inform us, to give an insight into the level of corruption in Nigeria, it was unconvincing; if it was meant to shock and awe us, it failed woefully. It was a clumsy job which only the current leadership of the EFCC is capable of pulling through.


A day after President Obama admonished Africa’s strongmen while emphasizing the link between development and good governance, I was horrified to watch, courtesy of the Bisi Olatilo Show on AIT International, UK, our minister of education, the honourbale, Dr. Sam Egwu, waltzing away at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, as he celebrated his 55th birthday/25th wedding anniversary. I watched that show of shame in the company of four Ghanaian friends, in the midst of our discussion on the impact of Obama’s visit to Ghana. There was no shortage of big men and women at the event (from the Senate President, David Mark, to the former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke to Senator Iyabo Obasanjo, to our “rebrander-in-chief”, Dora Akunyuli) to lend credence to how unserious we are as a nation.

It is not certain how much Egwu’s “Vanity Fair” cost, (there are reports it cost more than 120 million naira), but as one of my Ghanaian friends had remarked, it was not impossible that the education ministry took care of the bill. Another friend wanted to know if university lecturers were still on strike in Nigeria. As I sank deeper into my seat in dismay, I wondered when our rulers would not only stop embarrassing us internationally, but actually spare a thought for the common man/woman, for our students, lecturers, educational system and all the sundry problems confronting Nigerians.


As I prepared for this article, I searched for Sam Egwu on Google. One of the first things that came up was a 2008 article in one of our national dailies titled “Nigeria: Sam Egwu As Education Minister – Tackling Challenges. The author had remarked: Nothing excites him (Sam Egwu) as much as talking about education. He usually argues that the difference between a developed country and an underdeveloped one is actually education. Japan, South Korea, Singapore have no mineral resources, but with sound education system, they have been able to create economic paradise, literally squeezing water out of stone”. The irony was all too palpable.

If these events: Obama’s choice of Ghana, Farida Waziri’s half-hearted response to the pillage of our country, and the assault on our educational system under Egwu’s watch, are not enough to jolt us to action, then I don’t know what will. Now is the time to save Nigeria before it is too late. For those who think they enjoy relative comfort and therefore are impervious to the clamour for change, Pat Utomi’s words are instructive: “If they do not get up and do something now, they will have no comfort zone very soon”. For too long we have paid lip service to the need to redeem Nigeria. Our democratic space keeps shrinking each passing day, our citizens wallow in poverty and want as our nation sinks deeper into a morass; yet we carry on as if things were normal, as if we are incapable of doing anything. 


But we can salvage Nigeria. Yes, we can! All we need to do is to be willing to die a little for Nigeria. Did I hear someone say, “there will be blood”?

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