Tag Archives: Steve Azaiki



Last April, 2014, I wrote in the Guardian newspaper an article titled: Nigeria at War: The case for State of Emergency. I wrote that article because of what was happening in my country and the nonchalant attitude of my country men and women who goes about their business as if our men, women and children are not dying daily. I have three beautiful daughters, who are still finding it difficult to recover from the shock and agony of the abduction and taken into slavery of the Chibok girls.

Then quite recently too, I saw on the front page of Daily Trust newspaper photograph of rescued Nigerian men and women with their children all clustered in low spirit inside a truck that was conveying them back to Nigeria from God knows where. Jesus wept! My heart bleeds for my people. It was Charles Francis Adams (1807 – 86), son of John Quincy Adams, who said:”it would be superfluous of me to point out to your Lordship that this is war”. Seriously, Nigeria has been at war with itself since 2010 when Boko Haram started operating like Mongol hordes.

At first, the Muslim North was silent because the operators were Muslim; “Non Enim facile de his quos Plurimum diligimus turpitudinem suspicamur” meaning:”For we do not easily expect evil of those we love most”. Yet the South was busy with their Niger Delta and OPC and kidnapping and armed-robberies so nobody took notice. Even now, Nigerians who are far from the genocidal scene behave as if North-East or North-West is in Asia.

Boko haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram” or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with western society. The group’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’a wati wal – Jihad, which means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophets Teachings and Jihad”. Boko Haram loosely translated from the North-East Hausa language, means “western education is forbidden”. These people should have lived in ancient Greece. In ancient Greece, according to John Lloyd et el, in 1,227 quite interesting facts; the word “idiot” meant anyone who wasn’t a politician.

In April 2014, Boko Haram abducted more than 200 school girls from Chibok village in Borno state into slavery. In August of 2014, Mr. Shekau declared a caliphate in areas under Boko Haram’s control with the town of Gwoza as its seat of power. “We are in an Islamic caliphate” said Mr. Shekau, flanked by masked fighters and carrying a machine gun. “We have nothing to do with Nigeria. We don’t believe in this name.” Later, Mr. Shekau formally pledged allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS) which gave the body an international dimension.

On May 29, Boko Haram struck, seven people were reportedly killed by twin explosions at a village wedding in Borno on the same day. On May 30, a day after President Buhari’s inauguration, a suicide bomber struck at a mosque in Maiduguri during the afternoon prayer session killing 16 people. On the same day on the Dala Lawanti, west of the city, Boko Haram insurgents killed 13 people. At 1pm, on June 2nd my birthday at the busy meat market in Maiduguri 30 people died. What an agonizing birthday for me. My Country men and women and children are dying daily and I am powerless. But I can write their story. Chinua Achebe was right; “Writers don’t give prescriptions. They give headaches”.

I can tell Nigerians what we all know is happening to our brothers and sisters, the pain and agony, sorrow and the shame and confusion our people in Borno and Adamawa and Yobe are carrying as a burden today. We all know and we all are aware of the death and rape and slavery that are recklessly going on in Maiduguri, Baga, and Wagir in Gubja Local government of Yobe state. Since President Buhari came to power more than 300 Nigerians have died in the hands of Boko Haram and yet, it appears, Nigerians do not give a damn.

It is amazing, unbelievable, the human and material resources America, Britain or for that matter any other civilized country will put to looking for one missing child or the shooting of one of its citizens. Here we are, hundreds of our people are dying and everyone pretends its happening in the distance. It is happening right in front of us.

General Robert E. Lee in a letter to his wife on December, 1862 wrote “what a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our heart with hatred instead of love for our neighbours, and to devastate the fair of this beautiful world”. My wife loves watching crime channels, so to make her happy, I have had to join her in watching crime channels.

I have been having sleepless night because of the photo of those little children I saw on the front page of Daily Trust, I promised myself I will do something about this insanity, stupid war and foolishness. I called a friend Tola Ogunubi and Usman Shuaibu to accompany me to the Durumi camp of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), those whom Boko Haram has turned into refugees in their own country. When we got there, what I saw, the frustration, the shame, the humiliation, the pain, the death, the sick, the pregnant, etc. I knew Nigeria is not yet a Nation. Nigeria is an incorporated entity. Nigeria group of companies. No Nation will abandon its own people in that manner.

I spoke to a boy, Ahmed Saidu, whom a good Samaritan, has provided barbing kits for and is now a barber. –Ahmed said he saw his father Ibrahim Saidu slaughtered but he pretended to be dead when his younger brother’s head was hacked off. Hajia Hauwa is eight months pregnant, I dare not ask her who is the father especially after what Hajia Halima told me. She was repeatedly raped. Her daughters were raped severally. She was there. Her husband was there too. Then they killed all of them. She does not know how she survived. The camp coordinator told me he is a living miracle to have been able to get out of that madness.

Then I attempted to talk to the kids: where is your mother? Babu! Where is your father? Babu! Ask the pregnant women, you are all pregnant have you seen a doctor? Babu! Have you eaten? Babu! My fellow Nigerians, Durumi camp that has about 1200 IDP is not in Adamawa, it is not in Yobe, it is not Borno. It is in Durumi very close to the beautiful training school of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, in Abuja. This is the shame of our people fellow Nigerians. Yes, Government can and should do something but what have we as citizens done? Are we truly all Nigerians? Are we a Nation?

A good Samaritan, has arranged some Youth Corpers to teach the children some basic subjects in a make shift school. I held the chalk in my hands and I wrote A and the children shouted A, I wrote B and the children shouted B, then tears began to flow. At that moment, I was thinking of myself, how I lost my father at age 10, my mother an illiterate in western sense who has vowed that I must get education. I got it. I am now thinking, could some of these kids be Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Bamanga Tukur, Muhammadu Buhari or Goodluck Jonathan that never had shoes. Of course, none of them had shoes, most of them had nothing.

I spoke to Zainab Halim Garuba who told me that she is a widow, and one of her husband’s wishes before he died was that she must help victims of this senseless war. She devoted her time and resources to help the camp. She said first we moved them to an uncompleted building, later, someone provided the land and the person says he needs the land back. Where do these people go?

I deliberately refused to look at her. She has seen enough pain; I do not need to add mine. I asked what about toilets? What about mattress? What about medicals? What about food? What about cloths? That is not really the problem now. “When we first came to help the people the men were hostile, smoking and drinking, they were lost. They thought Nigeria had forgotten them. They lived in anger and pain and frustration. But we started encouraging them, talking to them and praying with them. They are just beginning to come back to life. Do not forget some of them lost an entire family and everything” she said.

It is people like Miss Kiki who organized those Youth Corpers to teach those kids ABC and the widow, Zaniab that gave me some hope for Nigeria. They make me go back many years on my minds’ eyes to my village of Yenebebeli when everybody was his brother’s keeper.

President Buhari himself an Ex-Army General and one who fought the first civil war and was a major player in bringing that bad dream to an end, will paraphrase Dwight D Eisenhower, “ I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its fatality, its stupidity”.

I Place my hope on Buhari to bring this civil war to an end. The appointment of Brig – General Iliya Abbah as new commander of Multinational Force on Boko Haram, the cooperation of our Neighbors, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin Republic will be decisive in bringing this war to an end. This is the time that friends of Nigeria especially the USA must exit Nigeria from the Leahy law and help us equip our military. The world powers should know that aside that this is a civil war, it is also terrorism and terrorism does not have boundaries. It’s like the dreaded Ebola Virus.

To my fellow Nigerians, please let us help our brothers and sisters that are refugees in our country. We can help. Dangote may decide to send rice and sugar, Adenuga may decide to do something, then we, one by one, will contribute our corns. What’s important is bringing back that old forgotten spirit that helped me to finish primary school and secondary school, and university even though I had a mother who never went to school and had nothing.

Now there is danger in the other choice of not doing anything. That is dangerous. The young people I saw there, if we do not show them love, just wait in ten years, in five years, they’ll come back to terrorise us. They will kill us, they will rob us and when we ask them why, they will answer, when we needed you, did you help? James A. Garfield on 25 of June, 1864 said: “A Nation is not worthy to be saved if in the hour of its fate, it will not gather up all its jewels of manhood and life and go down into the conflict, however bloody and doubtful, resolved on measureless ruin or complete success”.

President Buhari as a matter of urgency must direct the appropriate agencies; National Directorate of Employment (NDE) to provide skills acquisition and implement the graduate employment program; National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to provide teachers and doctors and pharmacists for the various camps in the country.  It is the time our young men and women could be put to service; Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education and NEMA etc should also come out to assist. It is most worthy if international organizations such as the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders can give support. We also need in those camps social service workers and sociologists and psychologists to help those traumatized people recover. May God help us!

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


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

Aminu Wali : Redefining Nigeria’s Foreign Policy

THE work of an ambassador is not for the averagely intelligent. It is for eggheads. Three months to the appointment of Aminu Wali as Nigeria’s 28th Foreign Affairs Minister, I was in company of some politicians. Not being a politician, I was supposed to be quiet, seen not heard. The discussion was who will come from Kano to the Federal Executive council, Gali Na Abba, Wali or the former Governor of Kano. It was also said that Wali could become, if accepted, as Minister of Defence. I was surprised when “Oga” said Steve you are close to this Northerner, what do you think?

I first met Aminu Wali in 1992 at his house in Victoria Island. It was the good old days of NPN. I still remember my first impression of him: small, audacious, calm, dark, probing, humble, complex and knowing. He could discuss anything; engineering, construction, military, civil service and of course, his calling, politics. He spoke of Chief Melford Okilo, Ranami Abba, Ferdinard Alabraba. (He even sent me to meet with Ferdinard Alabraba of the Commission then known as 3%).

When Bashir Tofa was nominated, and leading to that nomination, Wali determinedly wanted me to be involved in politics. I did try, becoming a strong member of the Youth Wing. But my relationship with Aminu Wali blossomed when I decided to take a break from the academia to join the civil service after the failed third Republic.

  I went to Wali at home in Victoria Island and told him I wanted a job. Without asking any question, he gave me a note to Alhaji Hashim who was the Director General of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity. What stands him out and endearing to me is the words he wrote of me. “Alhaji, this is a young man that our country needs, and tomorrow, me and you will be proud we helped.” I got a job and became a Federal Director under the Ministry of Labour.

  When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected President in 1999, he invited me to meet with him on June 22, 1999. I went with DIG Fidelis Oyakhilome. At that meeting, we discussed Nigeria, nothing personal was discussed. But months later, Obasanjo wanted to appoint the first Nigerian Ambassador to Ukraine and I believe Wali played a role in that decision. Ambassador Nana was appointed in my place because at the time Ambassador Wali was looking for me, I was on an official delegation to China, Japan, Malaysia, Ukraine and could not answer that important call for duty.

  Aminu Wali received me warmly and with a lot of fuse in New York when he was the Nigerian Permanent Representative at the United Nations. And on another occasion, when my wife, Mimi, visited New York, he hosted her to a formal dinner. I and my wife have not forgotten his hospitality.

  Ben Stein was right when he said “Nothing happens by itself …it all will come your way, once you understand that you have to make it come your way by your own exertions. Wali has paid his dues. He has served our country well. He has served humanity. I remember back in 1992, he said: “Steve, I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to the service of our people, our country.”

  Aminu Wali is a true believer in democracy; he is bold, serious, but humble. Like John Caldwell Calhoun (1782-1850), an American politician said, “the very essence of a free government consist in considering offices as public trusts, bestowed for the good of the country, and not for the benefit of an individual or party.”

  For him, the country comes first. Prior to the 2011 elections, I visited him in China. Again, we discussed Nigeria. He told me how he is setting up a committee in Guanzou to help sort out the many messes Nigerians are going through – drugs, killings, fraud and the attitude of the host government. Today, there is relative peace, respect for Nigerians and less killings in Guanzou. Aminu pulls all his diplomatic strings around the world.

  The other discussion was my appointment in Jonathan’s government. He suggested some positions and expressed surprised that I am not in the cabinet. But what I will remember most from that visit is his Nigerianness. He once said: “We must never downplay the office of the President; he must be respected. Steve, you know that I am a Northerner, but for you, you must stand with your brother on this. Your people must. Let Nigeria work. Our country is a special place; we have always been sustained, through good times and bad, by the noble vision of our founding fathers – a vision not only of what Nigeria is today, but what we as a people can make it be tomorrow. Your task is to be sure our foreign policy and by extension, Jonathan, do not fail the Nigerian people.

   “Nigeria is today struggling with a definitive Foreign Policy: what is our policy on African Integration? What is our policy on non-alignment? What is our policy on the super powers? Only recently, I had an opportunity to discuss Nigeria’s position and action towards what is happening in Ukraine. Nigeria must think carefully before getting involved in issues affecting the big powers. My consolation is that with your Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Martin, Nigeria will fast track itself into the committee of respected Nations at the United Nations. Again, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “Let us be sure that those who come after will say of us that in our time we did everything that could be done. We finished the race, we kept peace, we kept the faith.”

  Born on August 3, 1941 in Kano, Ambassador Wali attended the Provincial Secondary School and the School of Arabic Studies in Kano between 1955 and 1961 after which he proceeded to the Federal Training Centre, Lagos. On completing his studies in 1962, he was offered admission to the North Western Polytechnic, London, England (now University of London) where he obtained the ACCS in Business Administration in 1967. When he returned to Nigeria, he was employed as company secretary to Sayen Nigeria Company Limited, Kano. He was there till 1969, when he was appointed General Manager of the Nigerian Match and Chemical Industries, Kano. He was in 1972 appointed Managing Director of Intersales West Africa Limited, Kano.

  A man does not get to the level of boardroom player like that without being identified by the high and the mighty. And one cannot climb the ladder of big business like that without a track record of high morality and integrity. It was in his capacity as MD of that company that the Federal Government nominated Wali to attend the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos, Plateau State in February 1986. He bagged the award, Member of the National Institute (mni). 

   Having conquered the private sector world, Wali delved into politics. In 1998, he was one of the founding members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a member of the party’s Board of Trustees and Deputy National Chairman. He was later appointed as Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on National Assembly Matters, and much later Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

   At the UN, Wali served, among other positions, as Chairman of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial). And he was part of the major resolutions of the UN. For example, there was the “potential of sport to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), International Year of Sport and Physical Education (2005) and other resolutions on global peace and economic cooperation. 

   After his tour of duty at the UN, Wali was appointed Nigeria’s Ambassador to China. When he assumed office in China, one of the first steps that he took was to ensure a close relationship with the Chinese authorities, to create a forum that would open dialogue and relate to each other to make things a lot easier for Nigerians who might run foul of the law. In fact, he organised a seminar in concert with the Chinese authorities for Nigerians resident there to understand what is expected of them by Chinese laws.

  Wali’s achievement in China also included promotion of economic and other bilateral cooperation between that country and Nigeria. It was during his tenure that President Jonathan visited China with 12 ministers and four governors in April 2013. In fact, there were technical agreements on a wide range of cooperation including power projects in Nigeria, abolishing of visa between Nigeria and China for holders of diplomatic and official passports, collaboration on checking theft of cultural assets and artefacts, agriculture and communication. Others were Chinese EXIM Bank for construction of Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Abuja, Abuja light rail and Abuja-Kaduna railway.

   If Ambassador Wali was a trouble shooter in China, he is even doing more now as Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister. He was among the new ministers who were sworn in to replace those that were relieved of their appointments in September last year by President Goodluck Jonathan. His appointment came at a time when Boko Haram has turned the North East and other parts of Nigeria to a burning cauldron. In these hard times, Wali is consolidating on the efforts to bring international collaboration to fighting Boko Haram. Right now, there is cooperation among Cameroon, Chad, Benin, Niger and Nigeria to fight insurgency. When he spoke at a recent African Union Summit, Wali said. “The most important thing that happened between Paris and the follow-up meeting in London to date is the commitment of the neighbouring countries with Nigeria to cooperate and fight terrorism and insurgency.” 

Moreover, the Federal Government recently sought the support of the European Union in the fight. He made this request when the EU Group of Ambassadors, led by the EU Ambassador to Nigeria, Erian Mishel, called on him in Abuja. 

Prof. Steve Azaiki, CON, is National Coordinator, National Think-Tank



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


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!


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!