Sunday, May 16, 2021 8:00 am
Aburi ghosts, Asaba secessionists, Waffles in high places,
By Festus Adedayo
When you listen to Nigeria’s Senate President, Ahmed Lawan’s skewed submission on Southern governors’ meeting in Asaba, Delta State last week, you will realize that people in high places too are not immune from marketplace waffles. Miniature logic can proceed from the minds of huge, prarchute-like babanriga wearers after all. More importantly, from the tragic Lawan ill-logics, the much talked about January, 1967 Aburi Accord will present to you as the quintessential Julius Caesar’s ghost promising to meet its nemesis at Philippi. Finally, you will find out that Nigeria is trapped inside this pit being because it lacks critically thinking leaders.
After the assassination of Caesar, Shakespeare depicts him appearing like an apparition to his friend, Brutus and telling him “thou shall see me at Philippi.” Literati say, killed before the maturation of his dreams, Caesar’s ghost was predicting further evils. Buffeted on all fronts by a Federal Government that has become pallbearer of her citizens and a Nigeria under Buhari that has transmuted into a funeral parlour, the fifteen Nigerian governors had gathered to halt the Nigerian burial party. For two days – January 4 – 5, 1967 – fifteen high-ranking Nigerians had similarly gathered in Aburi to deliberate on a Nigeria that was about to kiss the canvass. Why they chose this town in the Akuapim South Municipal District of the Eastern Region, South of Ghana that was famous for its Botanical Gardens and the Idwira Festival is yet unknown.
The 15 Aburi conferees were: Chairman of the Ghana National Liberation Council, Lt.-General Joseph Arthur Ankrah, who was the then Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and chairman of the occasion; Lt. Colonel Gowon; Ojukwu himself; Major Mobolaji Johnson; Lt.-Col. Hassan Katsina; Lt.-Col. David Ejoor; Commodore Joseph Edet Akinwale Wey; Colonel Robert Adebayo; Alhaji Kam Salem and Mr. T. Omo-Bare. They were supported by bureaucrats like N. Akpan, Secretary to the Military Governor of the Eastern Region; Alhaji Ali Akilu, Secretary to the Northern Military Governor; D. Lawani, Under Secretary, Military Governor’s Office, Mid-West; P. Odumosu, Secretary to the Western Military Governor and S. Akenzua, Permanent Under-Secretary, who later became the Oba of Benin.
By then, it had become obvious that the legs of the dead body the British haphazardly buried in a 1914 makeshift grave had begun to jut out embarrassingly. The Hausa-Fulani oligarchy had come full throttle in its arrogant belief that Nigeria was its to subjugate. Its military wing, which rode on the crest of a July, 1966 revenge coup, was effectively coordinating this conquest mindset with clinical precision.
Before then, Northern Premier, Ahmadu Bello, concluding that progenies of Uthman Dan Fodio could not effectively compete with the south in western education-propelled leadership, had arrived at the need to strengthen Northern hold on the military. Secession from Nigeria in July, 1966 through Operation Araba then became the immediate response of the north.
Togo had given Murtala Muhammed, Theophilus Danjuma and the putschists of July, 1966 the blueprint and the path to tread. This it did with its first coup d’etat in any French and British African colony since the wave of independence hit Africa in the 1950s and 1960s. Thus came the killing and ouster of Sylvanus Olympio as a model fitting for example.
Aguiyi-Ironsi, beneficiary of an earlier revolutionary coup of January 15, 1966 led by Kaduna Nzeogwu, had bungled the opportunity to strengthen Nigeria on the path of her diversity and plurality. He sunk Nigeria further into an amorphous unitary rule. Olympio, Prime Minister of this tiny French neighbor of Nigeria’s, had shortly after midnight on January 13, 1963, been woken from sleep by soldiers who broke into his presidential home. By dawn, Olympio’s gruesomely mutilated body was discovered by Leon Poullada, America’s U.S. Ambassador, who saw it lying about three doors from the embassy building.
By June, 1966, Ojukwu and the East had confirmed the hostile and imbalanced administration of Nigeria under scions of the oligarchy in khaki. He saw how Eastern Nigerian resources constituted a huge chunk of the federal purse and its skewed deployment to the North. Igbo living in the North were subjected to a vile massacre typical of the bloodletting by 16th century Ethiopian Zimba cannibals. Joa dos Santos, a Portuguese priest living in Southeast Africa, had told the horrific story of how a warlike Zambesi tribe he called the Muzimba kaffirs, “had not only (eaten) the men they kill in war, but sell the surplus in market.”
The massacre of Igbo, labelled the 1966 anti-Igbo pogrom, was in that Muzimba kaffirs mould. It was a series of butchering committed against Ndigbo living in Northern Nigeria from May of that year which got to its peak on September 29. A total of between 8,000 and 30,000 people of Igbo descent were estimated to have been butchered like Sallah rams. This prompted about a million of their kindred fleeing back to the east. It was apparently a reprisal against the killing of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and Northern Premier, Ahmadu Bello a few months before. Pictures of the remains of Bello suddenly sprung up on the streets of the North, with Nzeogwu heaving his military jackboots on his head. This was after Bello’s flight to the bosom of his harem, a move that couldn’t rescue him from the bullets of a man who went by the Kaduna middle name.
With Ojukwu sharpening the machete of war in a bid to fight to redeem his people from the hands of the feudal North, the July, 1967 Aburi meeting was thus a last opportunity to reverse the slide into war. As has been written copiously by scholars, the Aburi Accord was a template for national redemption which, if faithfully implemented, would have saved Nigeria in 1967 and probably avoid the calamity of today. Since the governance structure was skewed in favour of the North, the agreements reached were basically to return Nigeria to true federalism, with devolution of powers being its overarching motive.
Among others, the Accord agreed that the Army be reorganized to restore discipline and confidence in the military and that military governors should have power over military formations in their regions. Also, commissioners of police were to be responsible for maintenance of peace in their domains and Area Commands under Area Commanders corresponding to existing regions should be created. After Gowon had agreed to all these in Ghana, it was reported that Akenzua had gone back to tell him that the Accord meant confederation and by implementing it, Jack was on the verge of signing off Nigeria. Scholars have also said that Akenzua was just a puppet and the real forces pulling his strings were from the UK High Commission and other western powers who stood to lose their patrimony were Nigeria to break up.
All those however became history with Nigeria plunging into a fratricidal 30-month war estimated to have cost three million people. The obstinate failure of Gowon to implement the agreement is held to be one of the major reasons why Nigeria has known no peace thereafter and why, 54 years after, the system could throw up a Buhari as president, a man whose obstinacy and arrogance of power is decidedly worse than Yakubu Gowon’s.
Asaba, it will appear, is a miniature Aburi aimed at preventing Nigeria from going into war. Virtually all actors in the macabre drama called Nigeria are today agreed that vultures and hyenas of war are howling, thirsty for blood and cadavers of the living. Even the Buhari beatification choral group has come to accept that Nigeria is at the precipice. We may not agree on the way forward but that Nigeria is about to go the way of falsely-soldered-together strange bedfellows, is not in doubt.
Swap the dates from July, 1967 to May, 2021 and you will see that the firmament retains same red colour. Calls for secession are ten a dime on Nigerian streets. The Nigerian Army has been so thoroughly emasculated that a ragtag insurgent army is killing its troops like chickens. In the first quarter of 2021, 400 people were reported to have been killed by Boko Haram. Ask parents of abducted Greenfield University, Kaduna whose wards kidnappers are as asking for multiple of millions of Naira whether Nigeria is at war or in peace time. Your guess would be as good as mine. Erstwhile peace of eastern Nigeria has been violently busted by “Unknown Gunmen” who are apparently stronger than an effeminate Nigerian state in the hands of Buhari. The cheapest commodities in Nigeria today appear to be death and blood. Hunger is wracking the bellies of the people so rudely as the economy groans in throes. Everywhere you go, it is weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The Asaba conferees, like those gathered in Aburi, could see further descent into bloodshed. They asked for restructuring, tenets of which look like the Aburi demands. Cynics knew however that with a government of the deaf that administers Nigeria now, the Asaba conference will never produce any meaningful fruits. Never however could the governors have expected Lawan to so narrowly view the horror that is today’s Nigeria.
While fielding questions from State House correspondents last Thursday, like Gowon who put on the lens of myopia and thus saw only secession in the Aburi Accord, for Lawan too, restructuring approximated a dismemberment of Nigeria.
“I believe that as leaders, those of us who were elected must not be at the forefront of calling for this kind of thing because even if you are a governor, you are supposed to be working hard in your state to ensure that this restructuring you are calling for at the federal level you have done it in your state as well,” he waffled.
Since taking over power in the revenge coup of 1966, the North has so cleverly tampered with the structure of Nigeria, through demographics and allied institutional maneuvering, so badly that no other region can take any consequential decision about restructuring Nigeria, except with its imprimatur. This was apparently what emboldened the Fulani, serially fingered in the dastardly murders across the country, to audaciously talk down on the rest of Nigeria. On Friday last week, the murderously militant wing of the Fulani, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, through its National Secretary, Alhassan Saleh, threatened that Fulani would be the first to leave Nigeria, while insulting the rest of us. And nothing will happen, because Buhari, his fellow Fulani, is in power.
“Herders are insignificant when it comes to problem of this country, are they the ones looting the treasury? What damages (sic) are they causing to this country? Compare to the criminal activities of ‘Yahoo’ boys, kidnappers, political looters, bandits in power, vagabonds in power like Governor (Samuel) Ortom, do you think if there is no oil money, all these things will be happening? Today we are ready, let them divide the country; let them not wait till tomorrow. We are better prepared than any ethnic nationality. So we are ready, let them divide the country, let us die, we that don’t have the oil,” he had thundered.
Lawan’s waffle was to be followed by a similarly colourless doggerel, this time from the jokester in Lugard House, Lokoja, Yahaya Bello. Speaking last week on a Channels Television’s programme, Politics Today, Bello said that by seeking a restructuring of Nigeria to douse the tension in the land and calling on Buhari to address the people, his governor counterparts from the South were heating up the polity.
Ostensibly, by asking Buhari to at least come out to address Nigerians by himself and not via proxy, the governors reasoned that he would be assuring all that he could still speak coherently, widespread belief of his cognitive hamstring notwithstanding.
“When we are talking of security, unity and national cohesion of Nigeria, as leaders and politicians, we should be careful about the words we use…When it is titled or when it appears as if you are fighting President Muhammadu Buhari, our father and our President, we are all getting it wrong because we got to where we are today as a result of maladministration of successive administrations,” the groveller-for-presidential-office governor said. This is a Bello under whom Kogi is a replica of Haiti’s Papa, Baby Doc tyrannical enclave and where the bridge that collapsed in his state recently euphemistically symptomizes governance that had fallen.
They said a people is deserving of its rulers. How did we deserve the trio of Buhari, Lawan and Bello, acting in cahoots with many other short-sighted rulers, whose reasoning is diametrically different from the rest of Nigerians’? Does Nigeria deserve frozen reasoning, like ones glazed in the Antarctica, which oozes out of her leaders? Why is it that the rest of Nigeria sees ominous signs of collapse, a Nigeria twirling on the precipice, while what the leaders see is north, Federal Hausa-Fulani Government, positions at the top and how they can rule till the morning of Armageddon?
Forty years after Bob: Was he greater than Peter Tosh?
Last Tuesday, the world marked the 40th anniversary in the grave of foremost Jamaican music legend, Robert Nesta Marley, popularly known as Bob Marley. He had died of melanoma cancer on May 11, 1981 at the University of Miami Hospital And Clinics, UHealth Tower, Miami, Florida, United States. Born to a British World War soldier, Novan and mother, Cedella Booker, on February 6, 1945 at his maternal grandfather’s farm in Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica, his death at the age of 36, placed side by side his global fame while alive and even much more in death, has buoyed that cliché that life is not how long but how well.
Tomes of works have been done on his magnificent stardom and impact on the transformation of the raw Jamaican Ska chant into a global musical brand that it would be a rehash doing that here. A major intellectual engagement however has been the argument: who is the greatest between him and his friend, brother and later sworn enemy, Peter MclnTosh, popularly known as Peter Tosh?
In terms of global acceptance, exposure and spread, there is no doubt that Marley is and was the toast of the world. While Tosh was still peaking in his native Jamaica, Marley had received a head start, principally from the early exposure given him by Christ Blackwell, the British owner of the international record label, Island Records. Blackwell’s choice of Marley among the trio of Bob, Peter and a recently deceased colleague of theirs, Neville O’Rilley, popularly known as Bunny Livingstone, has been put to racism and marketing strategy. While the trio, in 1962, decided to form a band which they named The Wailers, Peter was said to have taught the duo how to play the guitar. In their a little more than a decade of being together, The Wailers became a huge commercial success. The New York Times referred to them as “the most popular and admired of all reggae groups” and the band sold more than 250 million albums worldwide.
They however all went their ways in 1974, partly due to Blackwell’s preference for a mulatto Bob who would appeal to the western market, ahead of the two other weed-smoking, outlaw-looking musical urchins. Peter and Bunny had been shocked when, at their maiden UK tour organized by Blackwell, they had been confronted by the advertisement of their band as Bob Marley and The Wailers, as against their erstwhile The Wailers. Peter was to later lament that he “taught him how to play guitar and now they say he’s king of reggae.”
Peter was everything that Bob was and even more. For years, many people did not identify the raw talent and artistic bravura combined in the works of the 6.4 feet dreadlocked singer. This was due to his perceived arrogance and diffidence. For instance, immediately Bob died, Tosh had shocked the world in an interview where he claimed that Bob had peaked while he was decorating the stage. The truth is, Tosh was too assertive, too hot to handle and never hid his disdain for what he called Babylonian lifestyle of hedonism. Tosh believed in marrying words with action. Towards the latter part of his life, he cut a queer image of a revolutionary ready to carry arms. With his imposing height as he adorned a black beret, with a guitar that had the shape of an M16 assault rifle, Tosh didn’t mince words in projecting the narrative that he was a musical militant. He told those who underrated him that he was “like you are steppin’ razor” and asked, “don’t you watch my size” as “I am dangerous!” In comparison to others, Tosh said “I’m the Toughest,” an apparent reference to the trained karate belt holder that he was. He was once asked by an interviewer why he never smiled and he said that since he sang revolutionary song which was not love song, nor a tea party, he saw no reason to smile.
While they were both very spiritual, Peter was more. He was a strict Rastafarian, obeying its injunctions of not mixing with menstruating women, observing its strict dietary prescriptions and believed in doing good to his fellow man.. Apart from pursuing a path of goodness to his fellow man, his lyrics are laced with biblical quotations. Of the three original Wailers, though he didn’t have much education, he was the most cerebral. He could chant endlessly, quoting biblical verses with baffling mastery. The Mystic Man was perhaps the avenue Tosh used to showcase his spirituality the most. He had proclaimed his mysticism in that he doesn’t “drink no champagne…I don’t sniff them cocaine (as it) choke(s) brain… I don’t take morphine (dangerous)…I don’t take no heroin… I man don’t eat up your fried chicken…I man don’t eat up them frankfurters…I man don’t eat down the hamburger…I man don’t drink pink, blue, yellow, green soda” and the reason, he said, was because he was “a man of the past, living in the present and walking in the future.”
In terms of the depth of their songs, Tosh was deeper. He was what could be regarded as a linguistic gymnast and a poet. In his songs, you would encounter raw poetry, with alliterations and virtually all the figures of speech. The word “oppressor” Tosh called “downpressor,” imputing that those who committed such a heinous crime of oppression against blacks should not be dignified with any lifting up. The manager, to him, was the ‘damager’, the judge, a ‘grudge’, the system was ‘shit-stem’ and the Prime Minister, the ‘Crime Minister’ who ‘shits’ (sits) in the ‘House of Represent-a-t’iefs’.” Christopher Columbus was Christopher ‘Combulus’ and Alexander the Great was, “Alexander So Called The Great.” In one of his vinyl he entitled Here comes the judge, just like in Downpressor man, Tosh demonstrated how, on the last day, in the presence of “The Most High Jah,” oppressors of blacks on earth would face the wrath of providence, running to the rocks “but the rocks will be melting.” A great word user that he was, Tosh had told a 40-000-strong audience that he was not a man of peace as “peace” was “the diploma you get in the cemetery” because on the tombstone, it is written, “Rest in Peace!”
While both ex-friends sang Get up, stand up, a song which the trio of erstwhile Wailers sang individually, they made mockery of Christian and Islamic religion, in both religions’ transference of succor for man to an unseen creator. The song asked man to seek redemption here on earth and proclaim that man was tired of the ism and schism of dying and going to heaven in Jesus name because “the mighty God is a living man,” a reference to Haile Selassie whom Rastafarians worship as God. Tosh’s own version of the song, which though wasn’t as high-tempoed and popular as Bob’s, is however unique for the introduction of a slow tempo into it. Same theme was also in Coming in Hot where Tosh demonstrated the fieriness of his song. Like the gun guitar image of a tough militant that he created, the lyrics of this song compared the ferociousness of the Tosh brand to a gunshot or explosives.
While Tosh was assassinated on September 11, 1987 after he had just returned to Jamaica from a US business trip and was relaxing by watching a TV satellite show at home with his common law live-in-lover, Marlene Brown, Marley had succumbed to cancer. Gunmen, led by Dennis “Leppo” Lobban, one of Tosh’s ‘boys’ whom he sustained as part of the communal Rastafarian injunction of brotherly co-existence. They had stormed his house at Barbican Road residence, St Andrew, Jamaica at about 7.30pm on this day. Within a twinkle of an eye, the gunmen had put a full stop to his 42-years of existence. At first, talks were rife that Marley’s wife, Rita who controlled his estate, had a hand in Tosh’s murder as the original Wailing Wailers friends of Marley made a legal claim to his multi-million dollar Tuff Gong studio on Hope Street in Kingston. This was exacerbated by interviews granted by the lone survivor of the triumvirate, Bunny who accused Rita of being a Jezebel and that Peter was actually sleeping with her while married to Bob.
While Bob Marley’s adaptation of Emperor Haille Selassie’s speech at the OAU in 1978 into a song he entitled War, attempted to rouse blacks from their mental slavery and dependency on the west, Tosh’s own Arise black man conjured the Socratic credo of “Man, know thyself.” It was one of the strongest messages from any musician wherein Tosh spelt the need for the black race to unite and fight for equal rights. Deploying violent imageries, Tosh also predicted that the end of mental slavery was near and attacked those who didn’t see this, stating that “heaven becomes your grave.”
At personal comparative level, this writer has severally claimed that Tosh was a greater talent than Marley. Though many of their endowments verged in each other, the former was far more endowed than the latter. No one can however dispel the fact that the duo contributed immensely to what is today reggae music, as well as their yeoman roles in the deployment of music as a liberation struggle weapon.
-Dr. Festus Adedayo, lawyer, journalist, biographer and public affairs analyst, writes from Ibadan.