The Foreigners Are To Be Blamed

by Banjo Odutola

“The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Professor Jerry Gana ascribed Nigeria’s loss of the hosting rights of the Miss World Beauty Pageant to conspiracy by the international press led by the British press.”

“What and where is his evidence? This is perhaps another of Jerry Gana’s proverbial tintinnabulation of a fool that sounds loudest; anyway the man is a politician. What do you expect?”

“What type of evidence do you want from him?”

“But, it is said that Jerry Gana is a different type of politician; he is not the type of Ebenezer Babatope or Balarabe Musa, so I expect him to operate better than other politicians who do not have the discipline and learning that distinguishes him”

“How many types of politician can you find in Nigeria?, Does it matter if they have Doctorate Degrees or not?”

“Two types of politicians and it does not matter how much education they have. In fact the educated ones are the worst.”

“Name them, if you dare?”

“The two types are (a) Liars (b) Liars and Thieves. The commonality that defines them is their personal interest and not the nation’s.”

“So, in what category is Jerry Gana?”

“Not until he provides a convincing and intelligent evidence for his outlandish statement, he is a liar.”

“If you do not believe him, you may say so; why call him names.”

“Why not? When someone provides a claim for which exists a convincing and superior that contradicts such a position, it is clear that the person is a liar. That is the Law”

“Well, consider the report of the Governor of Kaduna State; his position by inference contradicts Jerry Gana and herein lies my position for this essay.”

The predilection of Jerry Gana to blame foreigners for the recent contretemps in Nigeria is so widespread that at times, it seems almost catholic in the Nigerian space. While we often do this as individuals, blaming others for our personal problems; for example, a child whose reality is beneath his dreams and hopes would turn against his parents or society. In Nigeria, when anything goes wrong, it is astounding and perhaps embarrassing is apt, to blame foreigners for our intolerance of each other. We abdicate responsibility and heap blame on others. It is the North. It is the South. It is Ibo, Hausa or Yoruba. It is Oil. It is the Army. It is Abacha. It is IBB and so on and so forth.

Take another example: it never stops to amaze when the argument for Sovereign National Conference is hinged on the misdeeds of the British and particularly Lord Lugard. The proponents of this conference should direct their misspent efforts in educating the country; now that we are in this union, uncomfortable it may be, we need to learn the skills of negotiating with one another rather than having at the same time a parallel establishment to States and National Assemblies that are representative of the people.

The accusation in the statement attributed to Gana often provides refuge for the illiterates amongst us; the type of people that perpetrated the catastrophic destructions in Kaduna are as guilty as Gana who unknowingly is inciting Nigerians against Foreigners. Are these Foreigners denizens of the same countries, which President Obasanjo has junketed all over the world to woo for ‘foreign investments’? Did the Minister disengage his head from his mouth when he made his pronouncement? The empirical evidence is damning for Gana and this is the position, as reported so far: “That there was a fatal insensitivity on the part of the state police command which according to a military source, not only failed to act but “refused to cooperate with both the military and the State Security Services (SSS).”Until, in desperation, the governor(sic) phoned President Olusegun Obasanjo who was then on a state(sic) visit to Lagos and requested for permission to “transfer the role of maintaining peace and security in the state from the police to the army.” (Source: Weekly Trust Newspaper). Does Jerry Gana still want to blame Foreigners? I hope not.

Let me for a moment grant the Minister a breather and concentrate on the reported interview granted by the Kaduna State Governor Alhadji Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi who is also the Chief Security Officer of the State. I commend his efforts and frankness in his interview but I regret the Governor may now have bigger problems in his hands than he realises. If the content of the interview is accurate, it is now clear that it does not take much to ascend to high offices in our country. When the interview is microscopically analysed, it is unfortunate that a KiaKia Bus Driver today can become a Governor tomorrow in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Why not, did I hear you say? Why not indeed! It is simple. The skills required in the office of a State Governor are beyond a KiaKia Bus Driver. It is understandable that the driver has the constitutional rights to ascend any office if he so wishes; but is that an adequate prerequisite or a cogent reason for being elected to an office that is patently beyond the skills of a driver?

Consider the words of the Governor: “We place high premium on these weekly meetings given the nature of our environment and our preoccupation at these meetings has always been to assess the security situation in the state and take measures where necessary. Accordingly the council met on that fateful Wednesday when we learnt about the burning of the ThisDay regional office, we immediately went into our scheduled Security Council meeting and the council identified the ThisDay incident as a danger (sic) signal. We then resolved and passed clear and specific instructions to security outfits in the state, which we expected would be carried out. But tragically the council’s directive for some reasons …….were not carried out. Consequently the violence raged, leaving the Security Council members perplexed. (Weekly Trust Newspaper).

Can you find the clues? Governor Makarfi has provided required evidence for interested parties to bring legal actions in Tort against the State. He has confirmed the security lapse in his authority as State Governor and by extension through his actions the State may be found liable. In a civilised country, the State may be declared Bankrupt. As a Governor, his words ought to have been measured. However, the Governor’s liability is reduced by further action of inviting the Army to take over from the police. Nonetheless, there are questions that remain unanswered? If Makarfi identified the part played by the same police in the sectarian violence of May 2000, did he make representations to the Inspector General to reorganise the Police Command in the State? He may well have done and that is precipitous of the new transfers to the terrain. Hence, in the weeks that the transfers arrived, how many times have the Governor drilled the newly composed Police Command? Did he reorganise and re-orientate his security apparatus? If he did, has he and the Security Council of the State practised riot control exercises to find out the weaknesses in their plans? At least, drilling practices would have shown the breakdown that occurred in the recent occurrence. Did he approach the President after May 2000 to request training and equipment for the Police Command?

In over two years, what intelligence or security reports are availed the Governor as to the attitude of the Police Command? Does Makarfi want us to believe that he did not anticipate the Police would ignore the orders of his Security Council? Is the Police adequately equipped or trained to quell riots? Is the Governor not aware of the need for Police training and equipments to combat riots? If the Police were ill equipped or ill trained, it would have been suicidal for the instruction of the State Security Council to be implemented; I support them in their defiance. Why should the Police have gone out in the face of fire when it was clear that the rioters would have killed them? In the last two years, are there no trends to indicate the subverting attitude of the Police in the State? There are just too many questions to indicate that this forty four year old governor may not be up to the job.

Now, let me return to the Minister. Does he need any more evidence or could he tender superior evidence to Makarfi’s position? Gana owes the nation an apology and perhaps, he should provide those ‘his brown envelopes’ to the foreigners he was quick to lambast and all may then be forgiven.

In all of the recent face-off between a section of the Muslim faith and people of other faiths, there are two views that I hold in all of this matter. Firstly; if a government official’s faith cannot be held privately in a secular nation like ours, we are legitimising the type of riotous outburst in Kaduna. Accordingly, I want to provide an unsolicited advice for President Obasanjo and his cohorts. In the name of the God that you serve, let your actions glorify Him and stop your Crusade of informing the world of your newly found faith; a good leader is judged by his actions and not an unrelenting profession of faith in a religion. Abraham Lincoln, the greatest American President that ever lived governed with the fear of God and he was not known to peddle his faith for his omissions in office, whereas, the Sunday School teacher and Bible bashing president, Jimmy Carter left office disgraced by Iranians and it is now his work for peace since he left office that has brought him the grace he deserved when he was the president of that great country. The Hallelujahs in this current Nigerian dispensation only serve to stir trouble.

I could hardly believe the story that Miss World participants were accorded a privilege to worship at Aso Rock Chapel. Whoever advised the president to consent to the use of the Chapel has damaged him. The worship of Beauty Queens in our seat of power is gross abuse of privilege and it is wrong. Can you imagine, some of the participants of the Beauty contest or even Mrs Morley, the President of Miss World Inc, may not have set foot into the presidential palaces of their home countries; yet they arrive in Nigeria, they are feted at Aso Rock! Haba!

Secondly, there is a need to review the relationships between the Police Command and State Governors. I am uncertain if our country possesses the wherewithal for State Police and I am incompetent in this area I would leave it to the experts. However, when I see a problem, I know it.

In closing, the penchant to blame foreigners for our woes is unwarranted; “we blame and criticise others because we don’t like suffering. But if we don’t like suffering, we should not harm others and create disharmony; this is what interferes with our happiness. What we want and what we are doing are opposite.”( Lama Zopa Rinpoche in his August 1995 letter to one of the Foundation for Preservation of the Mahayana Traditions Centres in his care); these Buddhist words are true. I hope we can look forward to realising happiness in our nation, when Professor Jerry Gana, the Minister of Information and National Orientation and his likes are swept clean from our politics.

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