Three Weeks Can Be A Long Time

July 20, 2006
7 mins read

The last time that I wrote on this page was on Thursday, July 20th, 2006; on same day, I travelled in the company of Kabiru Yusuf our Editor-in- Chief, to Ethiopia and the Sudan. Ethiopia had been a very useful stopover really, because we had set out to actually go to the Sudan to do a couple of stories, including one that had fascinated me over the past decade, but which I eventually did not get to do on this journey.


We have always been intrigued by the coverage of the crisis in the Darfur region of the Sudan, laigely because the region is unique in the sense that, unlike the conflict in the Southern Sudan, which had been reported as between the ‘Christian and animist South’ versus the ‘Islamist’ government of the North, in Darfur, the entire population is Muslim So the Western media frame of analysis _ then reduced the conflict to that between Arabs, armed by the government and the Black population. Genocide is then reported as being committed against the black people by the Arabs.


I have always found this frame of analysis racist, one-sided and simplistic. This much we pointed out when the president of Human Rights Watch addressed our Editorial Board sometime in 2005,1 think. I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Sadiq El- Mahdi, the former Prime Minister of the Sudan last year at Bamako, Mali, in an effort to get an insight which provides some balance to the views of Western commentators and the media. I think I can conveniently argue that more than any other Nigerian newspaper, we have retained a consistent interest in the Darfur story, with an interview that I conducted with the Sudanese Ambassador in 2004, and a meeting that we held with a delegation which visited from Darfur as wdl as a very detailed coverage of the Darfur peace talks which led to the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) in May, 2006 in Abuja.


It was very important for us to retain an interest in the Darfur crisis, because it seemed quite strange that Muslims will just be launching genocide attacks against themselves, from a simply racist platform, as the conflict has been so simplistically framed by the Western media Our resolve was therefore to go to Darfur and see for ourselves what exactly was on the ground. It became similarly poignant when we discovered that not a single Nigerian media outfit has sent a reporter to independently report on the crisis. This was simply unacceptable for a host of reasons. In the first place, Darfur has historically been on the route that generations of Nigerians took over centuries in their effort to perform the pilgrimage to the holy places of lslam. So in places like Nyala in South Darfur, there is a thriving Nigerian community.


With the commencement of the crisis, Nigerian troops were deployed in several sectors of operation in the Darfur region, and that feet should ordinarily have triggered the interest of the Nigerian media in order to find out the state of preparation of our troops, the level of their comfort, their operational difficulties, the human interest aspect of their deployment away from their homeland, the relationships they have forged with the local people they were deployed to protect, etc. But the media have not done this collectively, and it was even incredible to discover that our Minister of Defense has not found the time to visit his troops in Darfur, while his counterparts from some other countries have gone to visit their troops up to three times. So all of us have formed our ideas about the Darfur crisis from the frames ofimperialistjoumalism. That was what we set out to challenge, however modestly, with our visit to Darfur.


It was this background that made it difficult for me to write on this page over the last three weeks. In three weeks, so much has happened in Nigeria that I have been racing rather breathlessly through copies of newspapers that had piled up over the period. The most significant points of national discourse have been the tragic murder of engineer Funso Williams, the hare-brained kite flying for a socalled Interim National Government and the uncouth attack on the Vice President by the INEC chief, Maurice Iwu’s press secretary, who must have received the instruction to rudely attack the second highest ranking person in the land.


Let me express my horror like all other patriots at the brutal killing of Engineer Funso Williams, a man that I never met, but who so many commentators have described as a decent human being. But beyond the expression of our sorrow, I think that it is always important to situate assassinations, political murders and political violence in general, within the ambience of a political evolutionary process in a given society within a historical conj ecture. Nigeria is a neo-colonial society, which has been caught up in a violent transition from about the end of the Second Republic, away from more welferist trappings of capitalism. This transitional process took a more violent turn with the implementation of a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) policy by the Babangidajunta in the mid-1980s. Perhaps most people lost sight of the fact that the effort to implement a wholesale transition to capitalist processes devoid of any trappings of a social net for most ofthe people, and the concentration of wealth, power and influence in a few hands, represent the highest form of violence that can be let loose on society. Society gradually began to tear asunder, because social solidarity was beginning to give way to a Hobbesian state of each one for himself and whoever had the best connection suddenly found the route to success. The state t o was driving this process no longer cared for the majority of the people, and it was criminalised as part of a process of its privatisation by a succession of military dictators.


The consequence of this criminal privatisation of the state was the fact that individuals and groups began to prey on the state, either as gains or as criminals, through such 419 crimes, drugs and related fraudulent practices which became underpinned by a lot of violence, assassinations and armed robbery along with sundry forms of criminality. So the return to politics, which has always been prebendalist and crudely non-issue-driven, further exacerbated the violent propensities of the nation’s political process. The party barons know that politicking is all about control and access to state funds; it has never been about service to the Nigerian people. This is why each group had its own battalion of thug; and in the extreme, they also have retainers who carry out assassinations. This is the context within which we can make sense of the assassinations that have often been unresolved anyway. So there is no amount of metaphysical self-flagellation that can help to end the spate of assassinations in our country, for as long as politics remains an arena to indulge in primitive accumulation ofcapital in the race to find a niche of survival under neo-liberal capitalism.  It is also significant that in the wake of the defeat ofthe third term agenda a desperate effort has continued to be made to find adubious route to extend, willy-nilly, Obasanjo’s nightmare tenure in Nigeria’s presidency. I think that one of the earliest proponents of the Interim National Government (ING) was the retired GeneralAdebayo; given his closeness to Obasanjo as a chieftain ofthe Yoruba Council of Elders (YCEX it was veiy significant that such an elder would be pushing for an unconstitutional contraption, instead of insisting that plans for transparent, free and fair elections be properly founded by the lame duck government of the day.


Then not too long ago, the truly confused and reactionary former governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuerneka Ezeife, also joined those canvassing for this illegal contraption. The question to ask is; whose interest are these individuals serving when they ask for a subversion of the nation’s constitutional order? Why are the political forces that suffered such acnihing defeat ofthe third term agenda, so desperate? It is true that we scorched the snake, but we have not severed its head. It is therefore fighting desperately for life. In our setting, we had warned that the Obasanjo clique will never accept its defeat like gracious gentlemen. This clique will continue to plant booby traps in the nation’s political space for as long as it could. This is why all patriotic members of the political elite must continue to be vigilant, while pushing for a credible electoral process in 2007.


Unfortunately, the very uncouth and unbecoming attitude emanating from INEC continue to feed the fear that most people have about the credibility of the electoral body to umpire credible elections in 2007. For daring to express fears about the preparations for the elections, Maurice Iwu’s rather uncultured press secretary rudely attacked Nigeria’s vice president Coming from a lowly media hack, such an attack on the country’s vice president could only have been authorised by Maurice Iwu himself, and when taken together with other frankly disturbing actions and statements from INEC in the past, Nigerians seem to have a lot to fear from INEC’s handling of the 2007 elections. We have to remain vigilant.


The outlaw state of Israel and its Western backers

Over the past one month, the Zionist state of Israel has continued its aggressive war against the people.of Lebanon. The imperialist countries, especially the United States and Britain, clearly backed the aggression of the Zionist state, and the cynicism couldn’t be worse when the United States will supply Lebanese refugees with blankets, while supplying Israel the bombs to kill them.


Israel systematically destroys the infrastructure ofLebanon, targets innocent people and so far, over 900 people have been killed, thousands wounded and over one million have been displaced. Three weeks ago, I had written that the Western imperialist countries are PERMANENTLY biased in FAVOUR of Israel. Well, the draft UN Resolution has again been skewed in favour of the Zionist State of Israel.


We live in a world of injustice, where the United States backs all the crimes that Israel continues to commit against humanity in Palestine and Lebanon. Israel remains the only country in the world without defined boundaries, yet the people it oppresses and whose land it continues to occupy are accused of not recognising Israel. They want Resolution 1559 which favours Israel to be implemented, but they don’t mention the extant Resolutions about Israeli’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land or the Golan Heights of Syria and the Sheba farms of Lebanon.  For as long as the imperialist powers do and work for a just peace, for that long shall they be obliged to fight all kinds of war. And no matter what they do, the Zionist State of Israel will remain an unpopular country around the world.


It might have the most powerful army in the Middle East; it could be nucleararmed; MOSSAD, its secret service can efficiently assassinate people, but Israel will not genuinely be at peace, because it is built on a foundation of injustice and acts like an outlaw state all of the time. These facts cannot be bombed by Israel’s very powerful army. And even that powerful army is being de-mystified by a bunch of determined Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon. So much for unjust might in a world in need of justice and genuine reconciliation.

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