Tag Archives: Nigeria

Obasanjo: A Great Diplomat

So far, my expectations have been misplaced. In the last few weeks,
I have deliberately engaged in a great deal of content analysis of major Nigerian newspapers. Each time I pick the papers these days. I seek out the reactions of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s unrepentant critics to the recent debt relief granted Nigeria by the Paris Club of creditors.

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The debt write-off was a huge economic and diplomatic breakthrough for the country and I had expected even the most ardent critic of the Obasanjo’s administration to at least, for once, heap praises on the president for the great feat. But rather than speak out to congratulate the administration for the accomplishment with the same fervour with which they had disparaged the President’s “excessive foreign trips” in the past, some of the critics have opted to keep mute while others have dismissed the gesture as mere political gimmick.

But the mere fact that critics of the President’s diplomatic shuttles have been silenced by the development is itself an indication that every Nigerian appreciates the enormous significance of the $18 billion debt noose that was taken off the country’s neck. Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the $1 billion (132.8 billion) the country channels into debt servicing annually can now be diverted to critical social infrastructure such as roads, water supply, education and health. If the government sticks to its promises, there will be tremendous transformation of the Nigerian economy. Expectedly, more resources will be available to government to fund agriculture, social infrastructure and the foreign exchange market.

The trickle-down effect on the economy will be phenomenal. The expected improvement in infrastructure will surely boost foreign investments, create employment and strengthen the naira. Every Nigerian, sooner or later will be better off and the country itself will be on the path to real development. However, one important fact is that the debt write-off is a great diplomatic mileage which journey began over six years ago. Immediately the Nigerian people gave him their mandate in 1999, the President began the great race to position Nigeria as the number one black nation on earth. Insisting that the country had no reason not to be the leader of Africa, Obasanjo hopped on the plane travelling all over the world with a view to convincing the world that there was a new dawn in Nigeria and that the country should therefore be stripped of its pariah status.

Obasanjo shuttled frequently and extensively to all parts of the world up to the point that Nigerians became deeply irritated that their President was ruling them from the air. Then, there was a deluge of criticism with some Nigerians describing Obasanjo as “a flying President” who is more at home abroad than in Nigeria. Some Nigerians even got to the ridiculous extent of derisively compiling Obasanjo’s numerous trips into a book. But despite the unceasing scathing criticisms, the President kept his focus, intensifying the drive to position his country as the real giant of Africa and a prominent player in world politics.

The result of the President’s effort to make his country a strong voice in world affairs is now there for all to see. No matter what anybody thinks, President Obasanjo has taken Nigeria to another level. The country now has a tremendously good image and is gradually inching its way towards becoming the greatest black nation in the world. Today, because of the admirable leap in its stature occasioned by President Obasanjo’s deft diplomatic shuttles, Nigeria is highly favoured to clinch a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. Recently when African leaders converged on Sirte, Libya, it was clear that Nigeria’s international profile has been gradually dwarfing that of all other African countries hitherto believed to be ahead of it in terms of political stability and economic advancement.

In the context with South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal and Libya who are also in contention for the UN seat, Nigeria’s prospect appears brighter. And that was because President Obasanjo made it appear so. He has met with several African leaders and has been shouting himself hoarse that Nigeria’s democratic credentials have shone brightly.

The President, in his characteristic witty way of doing things, said in Tokyo in April 2005, that the world is made up of the white, yellow, brown and the black people and that Nigeria constitutes 20 percent of the blacks in Africa and should therefore be the automatic choice for the United Nations Security Council seat. Obasanjo has no doubt championed the cause of Africa and fight for Africa’s place in the sun. Nigeria has had 45 years of diplomatic and peacekeeping experience and has the highest troop’s deployment in UN operations at the moment.

Again, since he came to power six years ago, Obasanjo has intervened successfully in political crises in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Sao Tome and Principe, Rwanda and Sudan. In some instances, the President had summoned warring factions to Abuja for the resolution of the crises in their various countries. In the case of Sao Tome and Principe, Obasanjo ensured that the democratic head of the country, which was toppled by the army, was reinstated. Nigeria even risked the goodwill of some Western countries when it gave political asylum to former Liberian President, Mr. Charles Taylor, for the sake of peace and stability in the West African sub-region.

In recent times, the innovative New Partnership for Africa Development, NEPAD, championed by President Obasanjo and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, has blazed the trail for the mobilisation of western capital for Africa’s development. The country is able to do this because of its relatively comfortable foreign reserves, which is currently the highest in Africa. Besides, the Nigerian leader has ensured that the country continues to share the expertise of her people with countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands by sending technical aids to them under the Technical Aid Corps at great cost to the country.

The fact is that President Obasanjo has carved a new niche for Nigeria. The country is now admired and respected by the rest of Africa and indeed the world. Most countries in Africa now look forward to Nigeria for the resolution of their internal conflicts. Even countries in Europe and America are beginning to realise that Nigeria can no longer be ignored in the comity of nations.

To summarise all these is to say that the dividends of the President’s democratic shuttles are now tumbling in. Foreign investments are pouring in and will continue to pour in. The country’s rating in the international community has improved tremendously. Now that more than half of the country’s debt has been written off, Nigeria may as well be on the path of economic recovery. If the country eventually gets the permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, then that would be a deserved icing on the cake. And it may just be around the corner.

Dr. Azaiki is Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government. This piece was published in The Guardian, July 20, 2005.

Alamieyeseigha Goes Home 9th April 2016

GOOD BYE MY BROTHER

To save your world you asked this man to die: would this man, could he see you now, ask why?
Wystan Hugh Auden (1907- 73)

Today 10/10/15 our Iroko fell. A fearless man. The Adukali 1 of Epie and Atissa people. Mark Twain had Alamieyeseigha in mind when he said “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

Alamieyeseigha was a man of many parts. From 2005 Alamieyeseigha’s health has been a subject of discussion for us his friends and family. But Alamieyeseigha being a strong man had fought his Health issues gallantly. Yesterday his health suddenly became difficult to manage and today he was rushed to the hospital and he died.

I have lost a brother and a loving friend. Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha was many things to many people. What ever we think we know of him, what ever we want to say of him, let us remember that he is dead and dead person do not speak. Lynn Caine was speaking to us when she said “Since every death diminishes us a little , we grieve – not so much for the death as for ourselves. Alamieyeseigha and his family has suffered enough. Let the dead be.

To me Alamieyeseigha was the senior brother I never had. He was good to me and my family. He showed me love and respect. I will always remember the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero , ” The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”

I am crying writing about him in the past tense, it confirms to me that truly Alamieyeseigha is gone. Alamieyeseigha died carrying the burden of his deprived and depressed people. Martin Luther king, Jr. Said “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live”.

We know and you know that Alamieyeseigha died for something greater than himself. Like Isaac Boro and like Ken Saro – Wiwa our people will always remember them. Albert Pike told us that “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.

What ever any one will say about him let that person not deny him this; Alamieyeseigha loved his people, Alamieyeseigha was passionate about the Izon Nation, the Niger Delta, and Alamieyeseigha was a Nigerian patriot.

John Wise ( 1717) was right; “Death Observes no Ceremony.” To para phrase Quintus Ennius, “Let no one weep for him, or celebrate his funeral with mourning; for he still live, as he pass to and fro through the mouths of men.

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TRIBUTE TO CHIEF DIEPREYE SOLOMON Peter ALAMIEYESEIGHA (“DSP”)

TRIBUTE TO CHIEF DIEPREYE SOLOMON Peter ALAMIEYESEIGHA (“DSP”) (16 November 1952 – 10 October 2015)
By Prof. Steve Azaiki
Many times we wait until a friend has died to tell the world what a wonderful person they were, and I’m just as guilty as the next person about that. Today, I would like to pay tribute to a very dear friend, brother and Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
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Let me describe my friend. We call him Governor General of the Ijaw nation because he was one of the most focused and intelligent political leaders of our time.
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 He always listened to his people however trivial the problem was. Alams, as we called him for short, always wanted to be strong for everyone and hated being vulnerable. As the rest of us whined about life, he was always optimistic and believed in tomorrow even in ill and deteriorating health conditions. Governor General was so full of life, so much that some of us forgot about his terminal illness.
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I am deeply saddened by the passing of my dear friend Alams. When I heard the news, I immediately began reflecting on all the outrageously funny and wonderful times we spent together while in government, at home, during our travels within Nigeria and beyond.
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He was a truly remarkable man who possessed the gift of laughter when necessary and strictness when required. He loved his people and did everything possible to promote their identity
Governor General was my boss, beloved by many who knew him.  He was an exceptional leader because he tries to hire the best and allow them work with little supervision. Our team then, when he was Governor was an assemblage of some of the best our new state then could produce. He made us work so hard as though we were running against time to catch up with other states in terms of development projects.
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 Alams had a simple philosophy about what makes success in government business. “hire good people and have them do their jobs” he would say.
He was never overbearing, in humility he correct his lieutenants in simplicity he deciplines. Governor General gave people opportunity and then got out of the way allowing them to perform their best.  His greatest gift was that he made our job fun. His leadership never changed even outside government.
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The mind is sharp; it recollects. As I write, I can almost hear his voice with every word I pen. I figure, I can almost say these words the same exact way he does. Oh, the things I remember now. I remember the happy times, the tough times, and serious times. I remember his humility in character and firmness in belief. My last meeting with him, the laughs, the hugs, the instructions, the pessimism’s and the last phone call. I wish I knew that was our last.
My spirit is high because I know Alams lives on. The flesh may have returned to the dust, but his dreams of his people, his hopes of better days, and his cry for justice will live on.
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Yes, I remember so many things about Alams. But what I remember, most of all that he was my friend, colleague and my boss.  I am deeply saddened by his loss. I pray that God accept him unto His bosom and give his family the fortitude to bear the loss.
Rest in Peace, my friend.

Alamieyeseigha – His Day Is Done

By Steve Azaiki

Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha was undergoing treatment in Dubai, when he and I spoke on the 3rd and 4th October, this year. We discussed political developments in Nigeria and the forthcoming governorship election in Bayelsa State. He assured me as usual that he was on the side of truth and that the Ijaw nation must stand united. Then, he called me on Monday, 5th October, but I missed his call. I returned his call in the evening, he informed me that he was back to Nigeria.  We discussed the rumour making the rounds that he was to face extradition to London. He was his normal self, except that he was interested in seeing me and would be in Yenagoa the next day.

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That night (Monday) I called Governor Seriake Dickson, to discuss Alamieyeseigha and the extradition rumour.  The Governor and I agreed that the rumour was locally generated, designed and calculated to embarrass Alamieyesigha. That same night, because it was too late, I decided against calling Alamieyesigha, but instead sent him a text message thus: “I discussed with the Governor, we do not see any reason for this rumour, we do not believe it. When you come I will go with you to see the Governor. Sir, can you come with the first flight, I am going with my friend to Agbor, to attend his mother’s funeral.”

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Chief Alamieyeseigha called me around 1.30 p.m. the following day, at that time I was already at Warri on my way to Agbor. Since I received the news of his death, I have often contemplated the fact that, if only I had seen him, he probably would not have died.

On Friday, 9th October, I had a very bad dream. In it, I saw a man holding a torch, he was giving a group of people direction, saying, “We are almost there, I am very tired, you guys should move ahead, that is the place. I will not go with you, because I have done everything to make this long journey possible. I have done it for you. Now, I will stay here and not allow the evil trees grow.” By 5p.m. on Saturday, 10th October, I received news that Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha was gone. He did not arrive at the Promised Land with us. He stood there as the gatekeeper so that evil doers would not cross over.

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I had known Alamieyeseigha since 1998. Over those years, I can only testify to his goodness. I cannot speak of his sins, that is for God. But my testimony is that Alamieyeseigha was a good man. He loved life, native soup, vegetable soup, eba, unripe plantain, fine and spacious house, but not a vanity for clothes, he loved cars, he loved to dance and he admired beauty. Alamieyeseigha carried his burden of leadership with a smile. Never complaining, always cheerful, always optimistic and always positive.

Alamieyeseigha was forceful, open and accommodating. He was never rigid; he would say, “if you convince me I will bow to superior argument. “ Alamieyeseigha was a man of peace, never confrontational, never argumentative but persuasive, though firm in his belief. He hated oppression, he hated injustice and he passionately hated hypocrisy.

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Alamieyeseigha’s strength, which most people mistook for weakness, was his large heart. Alamieyeseigha forgave unconditionally. He forgave all the members of the committee that recommended his impeachment in 2005. He told me, “I have forgiven the Chief Judge, Justice Emmanuel Igoniwari; I have forgiven the Speaker and fifteen members of the Assembly that impeached me.” He said, Steve, “I have forgiven our sons and daughters that plotted my arrest and impeachment. I have even forgiven the British Police, I have forgiven former President Olusegun Obasanjo. I have forgiven all those who plotted my downfall, including those who carried coffin on the street.”

I testify that, in truth and indeed, Alamieyeseigha forgave them all. He attended their mother’s funerals,   father’s   funerals, birthday parties, daughters and sons weddings; he celebrated with them and mourned with them. To paraphrase Ralph Mc Gill (1898-1969), “One of the shameful chapters of this country was how many of the comfortable— especially those who profited from the misery of Alamieyeseigha – abused him. But he got even in a way that was almost cruel. He forgave them.”

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Alamieyeseigha was a patriot to the core. When, in 2003 and 2004, kidnapping was finding its way into the Nigerian vocabulary;  when the reason for kidnapping was not for the  demand of millions of Naira, but out of frustration of the people deprived of their God-given  wealth and right to manage their resources, denied of participation in the  politics of their country. The youths were demanding for attention, calling on the Federal Government to take notice of their suffering in a land of plenty, a land that is benefiting from the crude oil in their underbelly, yet they have nothing to show for it. At that time I had the rare courage to dare go with Alamieyeseigha to Sangana Sea to rescue thirteen foreign nationals held hostage on an oil platform. We risked our lives. I thought I would die. In that boat at that point when I was sure we would not return back home, Alamieyeseigha told me: “My brother, remember we fought for Nigeria, the Ijaw Nation is the thread holding Nigeria together, we must do our best for our country.” When those young Ijaw boys saw Alamieyeseigha, all of them prostrated and greeted him: “Governor General nuooo, Governor General carry go.’’ That was the respect, that was the esteem, the man commanded. Alamaieyeseigha was a great man, a great Ijaw man, above all he was a Nigerian patriot. At that time, President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote him a letter thanking him for risking his life, “Our Nation owes you a debt of gratitude.”

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Alamieyeseigha was truly detribalized. He was the Ganuwan Katsina; his friends were the true sons of the North: Abdulsalami, Hassan, Bayero, General Ibrahim, Abubakar, Sale, Aliyu. He was honoured in Yoruba land. The Oba of Lagos was his friend, the late Ooni of Ife was his friend, Tinubu, Bukola, Olubolade, Olurin, Akande, AVM Adeleye who was the Military Governor of old Rivers State appointed Alamaiseyegha his Military Assistant (M.A). The Ibos loved him. Uche Chukuwumerije who appointed him Special Assistant when he was Minister of Information; Okolo, Ojukwu, Osifo, Pius and many others were his friends from the South-east. In the South-South, Alamieyeseigha was the Niger Delta Resource Control Champion, irrepressible and unstoppable.

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In all his actions Alamieyeseigha was always in support of one indivisible Nigeria. He had made it clear that fighting for resource control was a National responsibility, he used the Niger Delta only as a reference place, that the country must be fair to all.

Alamieyeseigha –-His day is done. While we cry and mourn, what will we remember him for?  I will remember Alamieyeseigha as a man who loved unconditionally. I will remember how Alamieyeseigha approved N24million for Mrs. Ojoru, a Level 10 civil servant, to fight cancer in London, I will remember how he approved N9million to a first class Chief to travel overseas for treatment, I will  remember how he asked me to go see an Ibo man in the hospital, in Lagos, how the man was flown overseas on the instruction of Alamieyeseigha, I know of a Brigade Commander, that the Army could not help, Alamieyeseigha and sent him overseas for treatment, I know of one Sanusi  who Alamieyeseigha sent to India for surgery, what of a Director in the SSS that was attacked by armed robbers at Abakaliki in Ebonyi State, I reported the critical condition of the man  to Governor Alamieyeseigha and he immediately sent his Commissioner for Health Dr. Baralete to fly the officer to Germany.

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On 18th October, young men and women dressed in black marched through the streets of Yenagoa to condole with the family of Alamieyeseigha at Opolo. I know most of them; these are young Bayelsans Alamieyeseigha had sent overseas, specifically to study in Russia, Belo Russia and Ukraine. Bayelsa state, I remember vividly as pioneer Commissioner for Agriculture, had only one veterinary doctor, Dr. Seiyefa, who was my Permanent Secretary, the Yenagoa General  Hospital probably had only two indigenous  doctors. Today,  thanks to Alamieyeseigha, Bayelsa has upward of hundred medical doctors, numerous master’s degree holders and PhD’s. I remember that even while he was in detention he directed that Bayelsans who had applied for the special scholarship programme be given their monies. At a special ceremony at the Women Affairs Auditorium, I handed over cheques worth millions of Naira to beneficiaries: N5million for Master’s degree and N10million for  PhD students going overseas. Today, most of them are back and contributing to the development of our country.

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Alamieyeseigha established the Niger Delta University at Amassoma to check youth restiveness in the Niger Delta. To support the University faculty, Alamieyeseigha established a special scholarship programme to send University lecturers overseas to study for Master’s and PhD. Today, some of the beneficiaries are Professors at the University. I know this, because I was there and I am still at NDU as a member of the University Governing Council.

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I remember Miss Yokorigha who received US$100,000, to study in Brazil. I know of Dr. Owei, current Commissioner of Health, who Alamieyeseigha sponsored to Germany to study plastic surgery; I know of Engr. Agina of the Ministry of Works Alamieyeseigha sent to Germany to study Bridge Engineering. These people I have written about are alive and I do expect them to speak up and honour this lover of education.

I once asked Alamieyeseigha how he would like to be remembered. “Alamieyeseigha,” he paused. “Izon man, from the Niger Delta. I am a full Nigerian, I am very proud of this privilege God has given me. Nigeria has been unfair to me yes, but many Nigerians have been good to me, I love Nigeria.” Then he burst into laughter. Alamieyeseigha’s legacy, to me, was his faith in his country, his humility, his courage. Alamieyeseigha was a fearless man. A man who spoke the truth, a man who stood for justice and equity. A man who stood up for the minority. A man who gave his all to and for his people, the Izon Nation.

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Now, let me say this. My opinion may not be popular; but this is what I know of the man. Alamieyeseigha was a good man. Writing about him in past tense brings tears to my already over-worked eyes. Alamieyeseigha was truthful to us. He apologized for the pain he caused us. He cried for the humiliation his family, his friends, and the Izon Nation suffered on account of his sins. He asked for forgiveness, just as he forgave us all. Lois McMaster Bujold said: “The dead cannot cry for justice, it is a duty of the living to do so for them.”

To the Izon nation, to the people of Bayelsa, now that Alamieyeseigha is no more, the one the wife calls Caterpillar, the one I call General, the one Izon people knew was their leader, the one we knew as our Governor General of the Izon Nation, the one Nigeria knew was a patriot. We must now bury our differences, political, social, cultural, whatsoever and come together as a people, work for the development of our people and state. John Donne (c. 1571-1631) wrote: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th American President, said famously: “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what he did here. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honoured dead we take increased devotion to that cause  for which    he gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.’’

In conclusion, let the world know that Alamieyeseigha as Governor of Bayelsa State did so much. However, he could have done much more if he had been allowed to finish the race. He commenced the construction of the 500-bed hospital (Dickson is improving on it), he built the Banquet Hall, he built the Opolo Commissioner Quarters, he built the Azikoro Housing Estate, he built the Treasury House, he built the super guest lodges behind the banquet hall, he built the Sani Abacha Road. He proved to Nigeria that the Niger Delta terrain should no longer be an excuse, by constructing the Yenagoa – Amassoma Road, the first time anybody or government had dared to construct a road to the heartland of the Delta. He dualized and built the first major highway in Bayelsa – the Yenagoa–Mbiama  Road, he built the College of Arts and Science, he built the Secretariat, etc.

Now, therefore, I will end this testimony with the words of Benjamin Franklin, American scientist and Philosopher, “The body of Chief D.S.P Alamieyeseigha PhD, JP, First Civilian Governor of Bayelsa State, Governor General of the Izon Nation, Politician, (like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and  gilding) lies here, food for worms, but the work shall not be lost, for it will (as he believed) appear once more in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the author.” Chinua Achebe in his book, “A Man Of The People,” (1966) Chapter Thirteen wrote: ‘‘In such a regime (the government of Chief Nanga in Nigeria), I say, you died a good death if your life had inspired someone to come forward and shoot your murderer in the chest without asking to be paid.” No one will kill to revenge Alamieyeseigha’s death, but I tell you today that history will be very kind to him. I know this, because his biography will stand the test of time for generations yet unborn.

  • This piece was sent in from Johannesburg, South Africa, by Prof. Steve Azaiki (OON), former Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government.

http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/2015/11/diepreye-alamieyeseigha-his-day-is-done/

Azaiki’s Thoughts on Nigeria by Solomon Elusoji

Thoughts on Nigeria is an extremely ambitious project that attempts not just to find a panacea to Nigeria’s heart-wrenching difficulties, but also to provide a robust conversation around engaging global issues, writes Solomon Elusoji

Discussing Nigeria is a difficult task to embark on; Africa’s most populous nation carries with her humongous issues, diverse in their nature, which have both extensive local and global implications on the form of history. But that’s exactly what Professor Steve Azaiki attempted in his latest book
‘Thoughts on Nigeria: Speeches, Letters and Essays’. He plunged deep into the mathematics of the country’s politics, and the wide-ranging social and economic issues assailing the nation in the 21st century.

Azaiki is a man that should be listened to. A recipient of Nigeria’s national honour (OON), he is the president of the International Society of Comparative Education, Science and Technology Nigeria (ISCEST) and serves on the governing boards/councils of organisation, including the Federal University of Technology, Akure. He is a visiting professor and fellow to a number of institutions, including Institute of Petroleum Studies, University of Port Harcourt. Also, he is currently the coordinator, National Think Thank Nigeria.

To be sure, the book’s blurb describes it as “an intellectual companion, a collective story of Nigeria’s challenges, progress and people. The book has chronicled various happenings in Nigeria in the last few years, especially on politics and governance, corruption and Nigeria’s missed opportunities. The book also tells the story of influential figures in the history of Nigeria, culture, education, politics and governance.

“A collection of essays, articles and speeches, it documents the acts of terrorism by Boko Haram, youth, education and also covers inspirational stories of some notable individuals in our society and dominant issues in the Nigerian discourse.”
The book is divided into five major parts. The first part is focused on Governance and Politics, where Azaiki touches on several pertinent issues pertinent to the survival of the nation’s architecture. He makes a general acknowledgement of the difficult problems facing Nigeria, but also oozes confidence, that with the right set of leaders, there is hope.

In this first part, he presented speeches that focused extensively on National Think Thank Nigeria, an organisation which Azaiki believes will “strengthen economic and political reforms which are the compass of a new world order, as well as the rapid integration of the country into global economies.

Through this, we hope the country would achieve genuine liberalisation and deregulation, free flow of capital and up-to-date information technology as vehicles to take us to the Promised Land.”

The second part of the book is about the Niger Delta. In ‘Confronting Poverty and Social Insecurity in the Niger Delta’, a paper he co-presented at Harvard School of Business Studies, Azaiki writes that “there is a wide mismatch and gulf between the promise and the practice of the social programmes initiated. Outlays are not outcomes. Year after year, budgets, which make up allocations for the poor and programmes initiated with good intentions of assisting the poor, often lead to perverse outcomes.

The failure of social expenditure to reach the poor and people of the Niger Delta is the collective failure of the neo-liberal market model, the polity, and the society.”

Azaiki’s prose is clear, sharp and crisp. His penchant for presenting ideas intelligibly and providing adequate background with well researched facts and figures makes Thoughts on Nigeria a fascinating reading. The section on the Niger Delta, perhaps, underlines this point more.

The third part focused on tributes to several prominent and national leaders like Abdusalami Abubakar, Shehu Shagari, and others. He describes former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo as “a great diplomat’ and Goodluck Jonathan as “a man of transparent honesty and humility; a perfect gentleman, a tender loving husband, father and an unshakable believer in the unity of Nigeria.”

The fourth section deals with international and contemporary issues such as an analysis of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. A Christian by religion, Azaiki, while acknowledging the fascinating literary effort of Brown, believes the book’s core claims are based on specious sources of history. He concludes: “It is amazing how many people took that book literally and think it is true. How many more Da Vinci’s would Christianity contend with before the end of time? Christians awake. The truth, as contained in the Bible: Jesus Christ was never married to Mary Magdalene, never had a daughter named Serah.”

In this section, Azaiki displays profound scholarship curiosity and a painstaking approach towards unravelling the truth. Although he holds a PhD in Agriculture and is currently a Professor of Plant Protection in Agronomy at the Institute of Potato Research, Ukrainian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, his interests are extensive and reek of intellectual curiosity.

In a 2006 piece published in The Guardian, ‘The Challenge of China’, Azaiki writes: “China’s increasingly aggressive competition with the West for Africa’s economic space represents both an opportunity and a challenge to Africa in general and to Nigeria in particular. The opportunity is inherent in Africa being able to choose between options presented either by the traditional West or by China, and in being able to negotiate the best deals in the circumstance.”

He surmises that “we must not take China for granted, nor assume that its current and growing global status is a happenstance . . . we must examine the critical success factors in China’s  leap  to  global prominence and then seek to domesticate those relevant factors, lest we continue to lag behind.”

One of the most moving pieces in the book is the piece ‘Let Mandela Go’ published on the Scoop in 2013. “Africa could not have wished for a prouder son,” Azaiki writes. “To the extent that history will always be a relevant subject in the future, the history of the world will not be complete without a discourse of Nelson Mandela. He was the rallying point for the emancipation of South Africa from the settler-colonialists, who sought to enslave the indigenous people in the land of their birth.”

The final part of the book is a quick compendium of some of the interviews the author has given over the years, where he discusses a plethora of topics, ranging from how he felt after being awarded a national honour, and what he thinks about solving the problems of the Niger Delta. In short, Azaiki’s thoughts on these issues are precious and are worth the paper it is printed on. It is a book every Nigerian should read.

Writing the preface to the book, the first executive president of Nigeria, Shehu Shagari points out that the purpose of Azaiki’s ‘Thoughts on Nigeria’ “is to document history and a particular period in our history. Those who did not read these publications in the newspapers or hear Prof. Azaiki speak will now have the great opportunity of seeing all these in one book. This is the beauty.”

He adds: “This book is Nigeria incorporated. Let us read it. Let us enjoy it. Let us use it to grow this country to greatness and prosperity. I am happy that a new thought process and mindset is springing up in my lifetime – men and women who are ready to make and accept change, Nigerians who are ready and able to speak for the majority who cannot do so themselves.”

Shagari is right. The 546 page text is sprinkled with quotations from notable figures in history, a technique which Azaiki uses successfully in providing context and coaxing his readers into a position where his convictions can be perfectly conveyed without sounding arrogant or high-minded. History will remember him for having left a treasure behind for coming generations.

Solomon Elusoji

http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/azaiki-s-thoughts-on-nigeria/214609/

Azaiki rethinks development strategies for a better Nigeria

The babble of voices on the socio-political space sometimes makes it difficult to sift through properly and winnow out the best and practicable views that best suit Nigeria’s intractable problems.

This is further compounded by policymakers who fit World Bank and International Monetary Fund-induced solutions to every situation and circumstance in far removed and alien soil like Nigeria. Prof. Steve Azaiki’s Thoughts on Nigeria: Speeches, Letters and Essays (Associated Book-makers Nigeria Ltd, 2014) falls into the category of seminal distillations that are often ignored by Nigeria’s policymakers at the peril of development.

It’s why, in spite of abundance of intellectual input to socio-political conundrums, the problems still persist, perhaps, that way, too, those who profit from the problems continue to feed fat on the misery of the majority.

The saying ‘do not judge a book by its cover’ is also true for Azaiki’s book. The author’s photograph on the cover, on a book that is not an autobiography, wrongly sets it out as one of those ego-massaging, self-glorifying tomes by Nigeria’s politicians likely to gather dust in private libraries soon after the fanfare of a launch. But Azaiki is no ordinary politician; he’s an academic that brings a whole measure of intellectual savvy to the governance table. Having served as Secretary to the State Government under Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha in Bayelsa State, Azaiki is eminently in a position to make qualified pronouncements regarding Nigeria’s leadership problems and offer modest suggestions on the way forward. But also, questions of his stewardship will also be asked: Is he speaking from hindsight of what might have been done? What did he and the government he served do to resolve some of these problems he is now exposing? Having also served during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure as deputy governor, couldn’t he have put in a word or two to help stem the drift that assailed the country’s recently political history, especially the reverses that he contends National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) represent for the people of the Niger Delta and other low income, excluded areas?

These are some of the observable issues that arise from Azaiki’s postulations in his seminally researched essays and speeches that have the endorsement of former President Shehu Shagari, who wrote the forward to the book. These essays and speeches are clearly beyond the drill of some of the workaday run of politicians striding the land. Indeed, Azaiki is probably not writing for now, when democracy equals how much a politician can grab for his pocket while the majority wallows in abject poverty. This is why the emergence of an a properly educated crop of Nigerians that understand what development means and how it can be deployed to best serve the interests of segments of the Nigerians in their diverse sociological backgrounds is an imperative for the author. This postulation is at the heart of Azaiki’s Thoughts on Nigeria.

The book is divided into four parts although the themes or topics necessarily dovetail into one another, with a concern for the peculiar problems of minority Niger Delta inexorably confounded by oil politics. The first part is ‘On Governance and Politics’, with a telling first chapter on oil and gas and the leadership opportunity available for Nigeria. Sadly, Nigeria has repeatedly failed to cash in on such opportunities at the global level because the country fails to address inequities at home, what with the criminal neglect of oil-bearing communities both by the federal Government and the oil companies. The same neglect, Azaiki argues, attends Nigeria’s inability to diversify the economy with revenues from oil wealth, with the result that unemployment remains unacceptably high. The oil companies have their head offices in Lagos, a situation that necessarily denies Niger Delta youth employment opportunities in the oil exploited on their land.

According to the author, “We, as a major oil exporting nation, must use our oil to diversify exports and invest the bonanza in better roads and seaports, invest in education, manpower training, technology transfer and health services… We as a nation must address inequities in Nigerian politics. Oloibiri in Bayelsa State, where oil was first discovered in 1956-1958 must be indelibly etched within Nigeria’s consciousness, and not left barren as an after-thought of yesteryears”.

This essay was written during the Olusegun Obasanjo era. But clearly neither Obasanjo nor Jonathan heeded this sound advice. Even the road to Obasanjo’s Ota or the East-West Road to Jonathan’s Bayelsa was made during their tenures. The seaports of Warri, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Onne remain ghost ports under Jonathan. There’s, therefore, disconnect in scholarly postulations or advice and the realities of development in the land, a situation that has hobbled and stunted the country’s growth.

Azaiki’s is a man of patriotic fervour; for him, being in government is not the only way to serve his fatherland. Having left office, he set up the National Think Tank of like-minded Nigerians to help formulate policies for governments both at state and federal levels. In setting up the National Think Tank, Azaiki argues, “Given our political and economic antecedents and status in the comity of developing nations, we believe that the time has come for Nigeria to take its rightful position in world affairs. As one of the fastest growing, developing nations, Nigeria is expected to show leadership in the delivery of public service. We have, therefore, found it highly important that, in order to achieve good public governance, several factors come to play. Bearing these in mind, this Think Tank will provide a basis for analyzing the areas of success or failures of public governance in Nigeria and proffer credible solutions to the country’s myriad of socio-economic and political problems…”

The professor of Agriculture also writes on other issues of development and governance, especially as happened in recent collective memory. Such issues as Boko Haram, rash of impeachments, the sort that saw his former boss, Alamieyeseigha out of office in what he describes as strange circumstances akin to political witch-hunting, corruption, Bayelsa State under Sen. Seriake Dickson and a host of others.

‘On Niger Delta’ makes up part two of Azaiki’s Thoughts on Nigeria in which he devotes a lot of intellectual energy on issues plaguing the region that effectively feeds Nigeria, but which still has nothing to show for this economic bleeding that leaves a region and its people in bewildering abject poverty. Here, Azaiki argues that government’s developmental efforts through such policy as NEEDS have done far worse to deepen poverty rather than alleviate it. Apart from the physical poverty charactersised by the inability of the people to live well, as a result of polluted waterways and farmlands that starve them of their livelihood, Azaiki also points out a more deadly kind of poverty – educational poverty, which he says will keep the region’s coming generation perpetually poor and in disadvantage with their peers from other parts of the country.

The author argues that the rash of privatization and commercialization of government’s utilities, including the all-important social service like education, has devalued education currently offered in public schools. As a result, government now fails to budget adequately for education, which is contracted out to the highest bidder. This shortfall in educational budgeting will mean that the poor, a condition in perpetuity among the marginalized majority of Niger Delta citizens, cannot afford quality education for their children, as the oil resources of the region go to finance educational projects in other parts of Nigerian. This leaves them in the throes of poorly equipped schools and trained teachers, as local and state governments increasingly find it hard to cater for the huge educational needs of the region. This approach, which the author calls macroeconomic management of development that does not take into account the peculiar needs of special areas that are already at a disadvantage for which the Niger Delta falls compounds the problems of the region. This is moreso when the region is denied full benefit of its oil wealth, a policy that excludes majority of the Niger Delta poor.

As Azaiki states, “Under this framework, government has a purely regulatory role as education at all levels is now a commodity. As a result, NEEDS has deeply impacted the right to free, equal, and high quality education thereby excluding some citizens from participating in growing the economy and denying them from being integrated in a meaningful way in the long-run… the narrow mechanism of NEEDS as inadequate for the scale of a problem which requires broad-based measures…”

With part three as ‘Tributes’ and part four is ‘On International/Contemporary Issues’ that are dear to the author’s heart, Azaiki’s book effectively plumbs the depths of some of the problems plaguing the country. This is a book for now and the future that will help direct the course of good governance that has been lacking in Nigeria’s democracy since 1999. With President Muhammadu Buhari’s ‘Change’ mantra and his promise to feed school children every day, the first step would be to rethink NEEDS and its anti-poor stance in commoditizing education in line with Azaiki’s conception. Clearly, Azaiki’s former boss, Jonathan missed the road on NEEDS with regard to the Niger Delta.

Indeed, governors in the region will do well to read this book and redirect their thinking caps for better performance. Azaiki’s intellect shines through in this commendable work of dispassionate political rendering.

Anote Ajeluorou on June 17, 2015

Guardian newspaper 2015

CORRUPTION, POVERTY AND SOCIAL INSECURITY IN NIGERIA

Paper presented by Prof. Steve Azaiki, Coordinator National Think Tank, Nigeria

(15 – 17 October, 2014) at a conference; titled: Nigeria Beyond 2014’ organised by Nigerian Research Network, Johannesburg, South  Africa.

The issue of corruption in Nigeria is just but a case study of what is happening in Africa. In other words, Nigeria is Africa’s mirror of corruption. By this, I mean Corruption in all forms especially among leaders and governments in Africa. Continue reading CORRUPTION, POVERTY AND SOCIAL INSECURITY IN NIGERIA

Nigeria And The Immigration Of Death

GUARDIAN April 5, 2014

How can Nigeria, a country so blessed, live in abject-poverty of the soul and of the body? We cannot solve the paradox of want in the midst of plenty by doing away with plenty.

The confusion, the killings, the hatred, the war in the land is caused by poverty. When I heard of the tragedy of the immigration recruitment exercise, three things came to my mind: The employment young Nigerians, who have gone to the university with neither education nor skill; the Nigeria government that does not participate in the preparation of our education and poverty of understanding the depth and danger of unemployment with its attendant security problem; and the youths who have completely refused to invest in themselves ,refocus their attention and energy and examine their values and mindset. Continue reading Nigeria And The Immigration Of Death

Nigeria At War: The Case For State Of Emergency

Nigeria At War: The Case For State Of Emergency

STEVE AZAIKI — LEADERSHIP, April 23, 2014

Today I and my fellow country men and women must decide if we will choose peace or war. It is time for us to show patriotism and love for our brothers and sisters in the North. Calvin Coolidge in a speech, in October 6, 1925 said “No nation ever had an army large enough to guarantee it against attack in time of peace or insure it victory in time of war”. Dwight D. Eisenhower was right when he said “Men acquainted with the battlefield will not be found among the numbers that glibly talk of another war.” Those who fought the civil war and those of us who were children, and those of us who lost our fathers, brothers, uncles and loved ones will agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson (“War”, Miscellanies, 1884) when he said “War, to sane men at the present day, begins to look like an epidemic insanity, breaking out here and there like the cholera or influenza, infecting men’s brains instead of their bowels”. Continue reading Nigeria At War: The Case For State Of Emergency

Political Conference of Hope!

GUARDIAN APRIL 1, 2014

Now that Nigerians are talking let us give hope a chance. “When hope is taken away from a people, moral degeneration follows swiftly after,” Henry Wadsworth Long-Fellow (Tales of wayside inn, 1886) said.

Let us remember Edgar Waston Howe when he said, “there is nothing so well known as that we should not expect something for nothing — but we all do and call it Hope.” Continue reading Political Conference of Hope!