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The Presidential Years: From Dr. Jonathan to Gen. Buhari, Volume 1

The Presidential Years: From Dr. Jonathan to Gen. Buhari, Volume 1

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The Presidential Years: From Dr. Jonathan to Gen. Buhari, Volume 1

910 pagine
11 ore
Jul 31, 2018


What well-meaning Nigerians hope is that the Buhari administration meets their expectations in the change they desired and voted for. The administration should continue to learn from the mistakes of its predecessor, build upon those mistakes and deliver from that knowledge. The Buhari administration should appreciate this fact. It is the truth spoken to authority.
When Jonathan was there, he inherited and had to deal with many problems, just as the new Buhari administration is expected to do. Those challenges were there before President Jonathan was elected into office. And he dealt with them as much as he was able to do during his one-term tenure. Some of them will definitely be inherited by the Buhari administration. He, too, will be expected to deal with them to the best of his ability. No one expects all of the country's problems to be solved under one government or under one term of office.
The metamorphoses of armed militant ethnic groups of the Niger Delta, armed resistance of the dreaded Boko Haram in the north-east, the MASSOB and IPOB in the east, OPC in the west, APC in the north--these militant groups were there. They didn't start with Jonathan's administration. They may not end with Buhari's government. Nation-building implies continuity. A new incoming government continues from where its predecessor stopped.
Jul 31, 2018

Informazioni sull'autore

Asinugo is a London-based journalist. He was Features Writer for the Daily Star Group of Newspapers and features editor for The Nigerian Statesman, Political Editor and editor of The Horn, Features and Business Editor of African Voice and Editor of Trumpet newspapers. He is currently a columnist with Modern Ghana and The Nigerian Voice newspapers and the Cameroon Web. He is also a guest writer for New York-based Sahara Reporters. He is married to the Rev. Christiana Asinugo, Vicar of St Matthews Church of England, Stratford, London, and they have two grown-up sons, Noble and Chima, two grown-up daughters, Adanna and Ezinne and three grandsons, Raymond, Joshua and William.

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The Presidential Years - Chief Sir Emeka Asinugo, KSC


About the Author

Emeka Asinugo is a London-based journalist. He was Features Writer for the Daily Star Group of Newspapers and Features Editor of The Nigerian Statesman; Political Editor & Editor of The Horn, Features and Business Editor of African Voice and Editor of Trumpet newspapers. He is currently a columnist with Modern Ghana and The Nigerian Voice newspapers and the Cameroon Web. He is also a guest writer for New York-based Sahara Reporters. He is married to the Rev. Christiana Asinugo, Vicar of St Matthews Church of England, Stratford, London, and they have two grown-up sons, Noble and Chima, and two grown-up daughters, Adanna and Ezinne and three grandsons, Raymond, Joshua and William.

About The Author

In memory of my father, Chief Sir Benson Asinugo, and my mother, Chief Lady Janet Asinugo.

This book is dedicated to the Nigerian Nation and to all its builders who selflessly fought against innumerable obstacles to place her on the path of true democracy and great nationhood.

Copyright Information ©

Chief Sir Emeka Asinugo, KSC (2018)

The right of Chief Sir Emeka Asinugo, KSC to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with section 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.

Every effort has been made to trace other copyright holders. The publisher apologises for any errors or omissions and would be grateful to be notified of any corrections that should be incorporated in future reprints or editions of the book.

Any person who commits any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

ISBN 9781786932174 (Paperback)

ISBN 9781786932181 (Hardback)

ISBN 9781786932198 (E-Book)

First Published (2018)

Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd™

25 Canada Square

Canary Wharf


E14 5LQ


I would like to acknowledge my gratefulness to my editors and publisher, Austin Macauley, who committed their time and experience to see that this little contribution of mine towards Nigeria’s democratic evolution saw the light of day.

I am delightfully indebted to my dear children, Noble Onyekachi, Daniel Chima, Adanna Oluchi and Ezinne Munachi, whose encouragement was a breath of fresh air to me as I compiled this memoir, and to my grandsons, Raymond Chimdi, Joshua Jidenna and William Kamsi, the joy of my old age.

To my wife, Rev. Christy Asinugo, who stood by me all the while and offered me spiritual guidance and inspirational devotion, I am grateful.

I am hugely indebted to the editors of Sahara Reporters, Cameroon Web, Modern Ghana, Nigerian Voice, Christian Voice and Daily Post newspapers who first published these writings.

Finally, I know it would not have been possible to produce this book without the grace of God. I thank God for being there for me all the time.

A New Beginning

Who Gets What in the Scheme of Things?

It was the beginning of a new era in the political history of Nigeria. In 2010, a wave of revolutionary protests in most Arab countries ushered in what became known as the Arab Spring. It was a period that defined what many observers believed was an emerging socio-political direction for many Arab nations because the protests happened in a most profound sense. News about the Arab Awakening dominated global media for the better part of 2011. It was on television and on the radio every hour of the day. It was in the social media. It was in national and international tabloids.

In Nigeria, the wind of regime change took a different turn. Nigeria is the most densely populated country in Africa, numbering about 180 million people. The south of the country is predominantly Christian, the north mainly Muslim. But despite the fact that the north is mainly populated by Muslims, the wave of protests that gripped the Nation of Islam by 2010 did not have much effect on the oil-rich country. While the revolutions that brought about regime change in most Arab countries lasted, Nigerians were busy trying to cope with their own internal crises. It was around this time that the Boko Haram insurgency was instituted, following the death of their founder, Mohammed Yusuf, in 2009, while in police detention. The Nigerian authorities who had grossly underestimated their strength and determination were taken by surprise when they observed that they had started killing people and destroying properties in the northeast of the country. So, while Nigerians had their own internal problems to sort out, the problems did not bear the same identity as that of the Arab World.

The troubles did not call for a demonstration. They did not call for regime change. If there was any demand by the people, it was to strengthen the government so that it could deal a sustained blow on the insurgency that was rearing its ugly head.

But elsewhere in the Arab World, Saturday 18 December 2010 was the day all the trouble started. The day before, on 17 December, a 26 year-old Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, had protested against his humiliation and the seizure of his wares by a municipal council official and her aides. The government officials accused the young man of operating without due licence. The governor refused to listen to his plea to return his cart and wares. The young man sat down in front of the State Office, poured fuel over his head and set himself ablaze. He died 18 days later on 5 January 2011.

Spontaneously, Bouazizi’s self-immolation ignited public anger and violence in Tunisia and subsequently became the wake-up call, not only for the Tunisian population but also for the wider Nation of Islam. 11 days later, on 14 January 2011, Tunisian President Ben Ali was forced to abdicate his office after 23 years in power.

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

From then on, the stage was set. From North Africa to the Middle East and beyond, protest after protest followed in quick succession across the entire Arab World. The success of the Tunisian protest stoked the fire of rebellion among discontented citizens of several Arab countries.

The wave of unrest sparked by the Tunisian street vendor hit Algeria, Jordan, Egypt and Yemen, and quickly spread to other countries, including non-Arab nations. Not only had Bouazizi awakened the deep-rooted anger of Tunisian society and the reality of the repressive attitude generally exhibited by state agencies in Arab countries, he had also hit at the severe economic inequality, chronically underlining relationships between Arab citizens and their government officials. In Tunisia, for instance, Ben Ali headed a one-party government. International observers knew the deep corruption and unbridled extravagance that attended the lifestyles of the dictator and his associates. They knew that his family had extensive control of the nation’s economy – from banking, telecommunications, import and export, agriculture and food distribution to petroleum, tourism and real estate. Ben Ali exploited his country’s one-party system of government in an unprecedented manner for his personal and family benefit.

All of Tunisia knew it. Tunisians also knew that dismantling the structures which concentrated political and economic power in the hands of Ben Ali and his cronies would be a herculean task. But as one writer observed that one-party system did not board his private jet with him and his entourage as they headed into exile. Those younger citizens who fought to oust Ben Ali would have made the difference.

Libya became enveloped in a civil war that resulted in the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his government. Civil uprisings in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen culminated in the resignation of the Yemeni prime minister. There were major protests in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco and Oman, while minor protests attended Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Western Sahara. The borders of Israel also witnessed some clashes.

It was widely believed that these protests and sometimes violent demonstrations happened as a result of popular resentment against the autocratic governments of these countries, which the masses of their people had had to endure for a long while. It was also widely believed that if the protests succeeded, they would possibly herald a Western-style democratisation of the Arab World.

Years have gone by, and observers are asking questions. To what extent has the toppling of all those dictators transformed the Arab World into representative democracies whose citizens have begun to enjoy the dividends of long overdue social and economic reforms? Since Ben Ali was hounded out of Tunisia, possibly to Dubai where he lived in exile, what have been the achievements of those who were anxiously agitating against his autocratic government and had finally driven him out of Tunisia? In comparison with Ben Ali’s government, what have they achieved for Tunisians since the exit of the dictator?

In Algeria, discontent had built up over a number of issues for years. United States Ambassador Robert Ford revealed in a leaked diplomatic cable that many Algerian communities had been unhappy with their long-standing political alienation; that social discontent persisted throughout the country, with food strikes occurring almost every week; that there were demonstrations every day somewhere in the country; and that the Algerian government was corrupt and fragile.

But despite these observations, Algeria remained one of the few countries which was mainly unaffected by the Arab Awakening. The early protests withered away when the regime made it clear that it was not about to cave in to protesters’ demands. The Algerian public had no desire for confrontation either. They were still nursing their wounds from years of a brutal civil war.

In Egypt, the protests ran for 18 days. Hamdi Qandil, an Egyptian journalist and critic of Mubarak’s regime, wrote:

This regime is clinically dead and we merely await its funeral. All paths for peaceful and gradual change are blocked. The only course left is civil disobedience.

Even at that, revolution did not explode on the streets of Egypt until 25 January 2011. As early as first light in the morning, hundreds of thousands, and some days millions of Egyptians took to the streets against Mubarak. Mubarak ordered the army to take up positions in the streets. The army did, but refused to take sides or to open fire on its own citizens. 18 days later, on 11 February 2011, Mubarak resigned. The military took over power when Hosni Mubarak was ousted. Yet, in all the following years, violent protests continued to stalk Egypt. Mubarak was released from prison on the order of a Court, but the end of protests in Egypt was not in sight. Egypt still boiled like a kettle of hot water. The future was hard to visualise. The world watched and continued to pray for an end to hostilities.

Hosni Mubarak

In Bahrain, hundreds of thousands of citizens took part in the march of loyalty to martyrs in honour of political dissidents who were killed by security forces on 22 February. A long-felt frustration among a Shiite majority ruled by a minority Sunni government was cited as a major reason for the demonstrations. The protests in Tunisia and Egypt were also cited as inspiring the demonstrators. King Hamad Al Khalifa was forced to declare a three-month state of emergency on 15 March. He asked the military to reassert its control as clashes spread across the country. On 1st June, the state of emergency was lifted. After the lifting of the emergency law, several large rallies were staged by the Shiite community, demanding the release of detained protesters, greater political representation and an end to sectarian discrimination.

In Yemen, citizens protested in many towns in both the north and south of the country, from the middle of January, against government’s proposals to modify the constitution. They also protested against unemployment and the consequent deteriorating economic conditions, as well as against official corruption. Their demands soon included a call for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been facing internal opposition since 2009.

Tawakkol Karman was Yemen’s most notable activist opposed to Saleh’s continued presidency. The 32 year-old mother of three organised protest after protest by the front gate of Sana’a University every week. She was the chairperson of Women Journalists without Chains, an organisation that defended human rights and, especially, the freedom to protest. And in that capacity, she tried often to get protesters out of jail.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain

Ali Abdullah Saleh

Jail was a place she was familiar with, having been there several times herself. Karman was fiercely protective of Yemen’s youths. She condemned Saleh’s leadership which, she said, had robbed her generation of not only a meaningful future, but also its honour and dignity. Addressing journalists, she said: We are suffering from a ruler who tries to control the country with constitutional amendments that will change Yemen into a monarchy. Yemen, like Tunisia and Egypt, needs an end to a dictatorship in the guise of a presidency.

Tawakkol Karman

Ali Abdullah Saleh had been in power since 1978. That was for more than 33 years – one year longer than Hosni Mubarak. The combination of dictatorship, corruption, poverty and unemployment created this revolution, Karman said. It’s like a volcano. Sadly, injustice and corruption are exploding, while opportunities for a good life are coming to an end.

By 2011, more than 5 million Yemenis were living in poverty, and nearly half were illiterate. Oil was scarce. Water reserves were declining. Considering the rate of water consumption at the time, it was often touted that Yemen would be the first country in the world to run out of water, sometime in 2025. Yet the government seemed unable or unwilling to address the fundamental problems of the people, lamented Karman. On 3 February, Karman called for a Day of Rage. But on the fifth straight day of protests, supporters of the Saleh-led government, armed with sticks and knives, attacked pro-democracy demonstrators who were calling for Saleh’s ouster.

Karman said she did not believe in matching force with force. On her office wall, she hung portraits of Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. We refuse violence, she asserted. We know that violence has already caused our country countless problems. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has its base in Yemen. So does Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born extremist preacher suspected of inspiring a host of would-be jihadists, including Nigerian-born underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Karman protested every Tuesday from 2007. She said that watching the dictators in Tunisia and Egypt fall gave her and the protest movement renewed energy. The goal is to change the regime by the slogan we learned from the Tunisian revolution, ‘The people want the regime to fall’. We are using the same methods and the same words from the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. They taught us how to become organised.

Tunisia and Egypt also taught the Yemenis the power of social media. Facebook and Twitter posts called thousands more to the streets. Flyers were rolled out from Sana’a University and distributed to garner and consolidate public conscience. Positive coverage from satellite channels like Al Jazeera and Al Hurra also encouraged Yemenis to protest, by exposing them to the support of the outside world.

Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi

Saleh promised he would not seek a new term as president in 2013. But the protesters wanted him to leave immediately. The presidents of Tunisia and Egypt had also promised they would not extend their tenures – but those promises did not stop the crowd, which flooded the streets of Tunis and Cairo, from protesting.

About the protests, Karman said: Yemen is not different from any other country. The future is unknown. What is known is that Yemen is part of a community of nations that is finally starting to shake off a plague of dictators. The spark started in Tunisia. What stabilised this revolution was Egypt. It gave light and hope and strength to people everywhere. Now there’s a race between Yemen and Algeria to see who will be next. And if we succeed here, and I believe we will, revolutionary movements in every Arab country will grow stronger.

The organisers of the Day of Rage protests had called for a million protesters. So, protests continued over the following months, especially in the three major cities. Saleh accepted a Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered plan allowing him to cede power in exchange for immunity. Then he reneged on the agreement.

An attempt was made to assassinate him on 3 June. It left him and several other high-ranking Yemeni officials injured by a blast in the presidential compound’s mosque. Saleh was evacuated to Saudi Arabia for treatment. He handed over power to Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi. Al-Hadi continued his predecessor’s policies and ordered the arrest of several Yemenis in connection with the attack on the presidential compound.

While in Saudi Arabia, Saleh hinted that he could return any time. He continued to make himself relevant within Yemen’s political landscape through television appearances from Riyadh. On 23 September, three months after the assassination attempt on him, Saleh abruptly returned to Yemen. No one had expected him that soon.

In Libya, the revolution started with a protest on 14 January over living conditions. Protesters clashed with police and attacked government offices.

By 18 February, the opposition was in control of most of Benghazi, the country’s second largest city. The government dispatched elite troops and mercenaries in an attempt to recapture Benghazi. But they were repelled. By 20 February, protesters spread to the capital, Tripoli. In a televised address, Col. Gadaffi’s younger son, Seif-Islam who, it was widely believed, would succeed his father warned the protesters that their country could drift into civil war if the opposition continued.

The rising death toll in Libya, numbering thousands, drew international condemnation and resulted in the resignation of several Libyan diplomats. They called on the Gadaffi regime to be dismantled. On 26 February, the opposition set up an interim government in Benghazi against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s rule. On 17 March, the United Nations adopted Security Council Resolution 1973, authorising a no-fly zone over Libya. All necessary measures were taken to protect civilians. Two days later, France, the United States of America and the United Kingdom intervened in Libya with a bombing campaign against pro-Gaddafi forces.

Muammar Gaddafi

Bashar al-Assad

A coalition of 27 states from Europe and the Middle East joined the intervention. In late August, anti-Gaddafi fighters captured Tripoli, scattered Gaddafi’s government and marked an end to his 42 years of autocracy. On 20 October, fighters under the National Transitional Council captured and killed Gaddafi.

In Syria, the protests started on 26 January, when a case of self-immolation was reported. Protesters called for political reforms, the reinstatement of civil rights and an end to the state of emergency which had been in place since 1963. A Day of Rage was set for 4–5 February, but it did not work. On 6 March, the Syrian security forces arrested about 15 children in Daraa, in southern Syria, for writing slogans against the regime. The children were brutally tortured.

Daraa became the first city to protest against the Baathist regime of President Assad which had been in control of Syria under emergency rule since 1963. Thousands of protesters gathered in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, al-Hasakah, Daraa, Deir ez-Zor and Hama on 15 March. At least 136 people were killed in one of the most violent and bloody days since the uprising started. The war in Syria continued despite international opinion, and many Arab nations, with the tacit support of Russia and China, opposed intervention by the United Nations in the so-called ‘internal affairs’ of a sovereign nation.

In Iraq, an effort was made by the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to prevent unrest when he announced that he would not run for a third term in 2014. Despite those assurances, hundreds of protesters gathered in several major urban cities, notably Baghdad and Karbala on 12 February. They demanded a more effective national security policy and the investigation of corruption cases against government officials. They also demanded increased government involvement in making public services fairer and more accessible. In response, the government promised to subsidise electricity costs. Iraq now has a new Prime Minister and it remains to be seen whether or not he will improve on the records his predecessor set.

Nouri al-Maliki

Protests began in Amman, capital of Jordan, on 14 January 2011. The unrest soon extended to Ma’an, Al Karak, Salt and Irbid among other cities. The protests, led by trade unionists and leftist parties, took place after Friday prayers. Protesters called on the government of Prime Minister Samir to step down. The Muslim Brotherhood and 14 trade unions threatened to stage a sit-down protest outside parliament the next day to denounce government economic policies. As a result, the government reversed a rise in fuel prices. Despite efforts to alleviate Jordan’s economic misery, about 5,000 people protested on 21 January in Amman.

Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

On 1st February, King Abdullah dismissed the government because of the street protests. He asked Marouf al-Bakhit, a former army general, to form a new cabinet. King Abdullah charged Bakhit to take quick, concrete and practical steps to launch a genuine political reform process. The reform, he ordered, should put Jordan on the path to strengthen democracy and provide Jordanians with the dignified life they deserve. This move did not end the protests, however. On 25 February, demonstrations escalated with a rally of between 6,000 and 10,000 Jordanians. A protest camp led by students calling for democratic reforms had been established on 24 March in Gamal Abdel Nasser Circle in downtown Amman. Police were forced to intervene. Those clashes and belated police interventions became the hallmark of the Jordanian protests. Under pressure from street demonstrators, Parliament called for the ouster of the Bakhit government. King Abdullah sacked Bakhit and his cabinet and on 17 October called on Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh to form and lead a new government.

In Kuwait, protests began in January and February 2011. They coincided with other protests in the region. By June, protests had grown in size from a handful of persons to hundreds. Thousands protested in September. Oil workers went on strike. Protests continued into October. It was the largest demonstration since the start of the unrest early in the year.

Prime Minister Nasser Al-Sabah said the protests were going too far and threatened a security crackdown. On 16 November, protesters occupied the National Assembly of Kuwait for several minutes. They then rallied in nearby Al-Erada Square. Emir Sabah Al-Sabah called the brief occupation an unprecedented step on the path to anarchy and lawlessness.

On 28 November, the largest political protest in Kuwaiti history was scheduled to pressure the Prime Minister to resign. His cabinet and he submitted their resignations to the Emir hours before the protest deadline. The Emir appointed Defence Minister Sheik Jaber Al-Sabah as the new prime minister. He replaced the long-serving Sheik Nasser Al Sabah, who had survived several votes of no confidence in the parliament.

Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah

Elections were held on the basis of the new constitution in November 2011, with electoral posts reserved for young and female candidates, and with the post of prime minister, previously an appointment of the king, decided through the ballot box.

In the Gulf country of Oman, 200 protesters who marched on 17 January demanded salary increases and a lower cost of living. The protest shocked observers who generally viewed Oman as a politically stable country. But on 18 February, renewed protests occurred with 350 protesters demanding an end to corruption and a more equitable distribution of oil revenue. Some protesters carried signs with slogans of support for the Sultan.

On 26 February, protesters in Sohar called for more jobs. The next day, tension escalated. Protesters burnt shops and cars. The police responded by using tear gas to disperse the crowd of protesters. The Omani protesters insisted that they were not challenging the rule of Sultan Qaboos who had been in power since 1970 but were merely calling for jobs and reform.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said

The Sultan continued with his reform campaign by dissolving the Ministry of National Economy. He set up a state audit committee, granted student and unemployment benefits, dismissed scores of ministers, and reshuffled his cabinet three times. In addition, nearly 50,000 jobs were created in the public sector, including 10,000 new jobs in the Royal Omani Police. The Omani Ministry of Manpower directed both private and public companies to formulate their own employment policy plans. The Royal Army of Oman initiated employment drives by publishing recruitment advertisements in the media. The government’s efforts largely placated protesters so that Oman did not experience significant demonstrations after May when violent protests in Salalah were subtly subdued.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia

Samir Geagea

In Saudi Arabia, hundreds of people protested against poor infrastructure in Jeddah following flooding. About this time, an online campaign began calling for major political and economic changes. On 5 February, 40 women demonstrated in support of the release of prisoners held without trial.

Several protests of a few hundred demonstrators each took place in late February, and also in early March in the northeast, mostly in Qatif, Hofuf, al-Awamiyah and in the capital, Riyadh. Following the crackdown during the Bahraini uprising, frequent demonstrations of a few hundred to a few thousand people occurred in and around Qatif from15 to 25 March demanding the release of prisoners and the withdrawal of the Peninsula Shield Force from Bahrain.

In Lebanon, hundreds of protesters rallied in Beirut on 27 February in a march referred to as The Laique pride. The protesters called for reforms in the country’s political system.

On 13 March, tens of thousands of supporters of the Alliance called for the disarmament of Hezbollah in Beirut. They rejected the supremacy of Hezbollah’s weapons over political life. They also showed support for the United Nations-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) after the fall of the Hariri government and the creation of the Mikati government.

In Mauritania, Yacoub Ould Dahoud, a protester burnt himself near the Presidential Palace on 17 January, in opposition to the policies of Mauritanian President, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. The following week, hundreds of people took to the streets of the capital Nouakchott. The mayor of the city of Aoujeft, Mohamed El Amar, resigned from the ruling party to politically support what he called the just cause of youngsters. In addition to the capital Noukchott, cities like Atar, Zouerate, and Aleg also organised sporadic protests. Despite minor economic concessions by the authorities, on 25 April protesters again took to the streets to call for the resignation of the Prime Minister, Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf.

In the United Arab Emirates, a group of intellectuals petitioned their ruler for comprehensive reforms in the Federal National Council (FNC). They also demanded universal suffrage. About 160 people signed the petition, many of whom were academics and former members of the FNC.

In May, the government started expanding its network of surveillance cameras as a preventive measure against revolts. In June, a popular blogger, Ahmed Mansoor and four other reform activists, including an economics professor, Nasser bin Gaith, were arrested and detained. They were later charged for insulting the ruling family, endangering national security and inciting people to protest. They pleaded ‘not guilty’. On 13 November, they began a hunger strike but on 27 November, they were sentenced. Ahmed Mansoor received three years in prison, while the others were sentenced to two-year jail terms, only to be pardoned the following day.

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz

Omar al-Bashir

In Sudan, protests took place on 30 January and 1st February. Hundreds called for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to step down. On 21 February, President Bashir announced that he would not seek to run in the next presidential election in 2015.

In the Palestinian Territories, the Palestinian Authority prevented demonstrations in support of protesters in Tunisia and Egypt. On 3 February, Palestinian police dispersed an anti-Mubarak demonstration in downtown Ramallah, detaining people, confiscating a cameraman’s footage and reportedly beating protesters. A smaller pro-Mubarak demonstration was permitted to take place in the same area and was guarded by police. On 15 October, an anti-Assad protest expressing solidarity with Palestinian refugees in Syria who were affected by the unrest there took place in the Gaza Strip and was attended by about 150 people. Hamas Police Force dispersed the demonstration, claiming that it was held without permission.

In Western Sahara, young Sahrawis held series of minor demonstrations to protest against lack of jobs, government looting of resources and human rights abuses. Sahrawi demonstrations outside El Aaiun began in October 2010 and slowed to a halt just one month after.

One important result of this period of regional unrest was that many of the national leaders announced their intention to step down at the end of their immediate tenures. President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan announced that he would not seek re-election in 2015. So did Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, whose term expired in 2014. Protests in Jordan also culminated in the sacking of two successive governments by King Abdullah. One leader, President Ali Saleh of Yemen, announced on 23 April that he would step down within 30 days in exchange for immunity. The Yemeni opposition accepted the proposal on 26 April. But Saleh later reneged on the deal.

Many analysts saw the protests as a unique Arab wake-up call. However, international observers also noted the impact of minority groups in the revolts which raged in many of these Arab countries. It was clear that the revolutions themselves made no specification for and did not embrace Arab nationalism, as in the Nation of Islam. Instead, the mood of the masses generally depicted their objections to human rights abuses, suppression of freedom, lack of transparency in the practice of democracy and insensitivity to cultural diversity in their societies.

The case of Mohamed Bouazizi could have been the last straw that broke the camel’s neck. But on reflection, we find that many other factors actually led to the protests. An improved human development index in the affected countries resulting from the rise in computer literacy and increased availability of higher education was one reason. Other factors such as perceived dictatorship, glaring anarchy, crass human rights violations, deep-rooted corruption in governments, culpable economic decline, avoidable youth unemployment and extreme poverty also played vital roles. Famine and its attendant increase in food prices equally played a significant role in the process. There were also a number of demographic structural factors, such as a large percentage of educated but dissatisfied youth lurking within the population.

All these factors may have added up, but the truth remained that the revolts which blanketed these Arab countries during those years were basically provoked by the fact that wealth was known to have been concentrated in the hands of few autocratic families which insisted on remaining in power for decades. There was practically no transparency on how money devolved. The result was unbridled corruption.

Over the years, many of the internet-savvy youths of these countries had begun to increasingly view autocrats and absolute monarchies as anachronisms. The tension between rising aspirations of youths and a lack of government patronage became a contributing factor in all of the protests. The youths, particularly, refused to accept the status quo.

In any case, the regional unrest was not limited to the Arab World. The early success of uprisings in North Africa inspired similar protests among disenchanted people in the Middle Eastern states of Iran and Turkey. People took to the streets to agitate for reforms. The protests, especially those in Iran, were considered by many observers as part of the same wave that began in Tunisia and later gripped the broader Middle East and North African regions.

In Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and in some European countries like Albania, Croatia and Spain; countries in sub-Saharan Africa like Burkina Faso, Djibouti and Uganda and countries in other parts of Asia, including the Maldives and the People’s Republic of China, demonstrators and opposition figures who claimed inspiration from the experience of Tunisia staged their own popular protests.

Palestine’s bid for statehood at the United Nations on 23 September 2011 was also widely seen as drawing inspiration from the Arab Awakening after years of failed peace negotiations with Israel. In the West Bank, schools and government offices were shut in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron to allow demonstrations backing the UN membership bid.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) submits application to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for Palestine to become a UN Member State.

The 15 October 2011 global protests and the Occupy Wall Street movement which started in the United States and spread to Asia and Europe drew direct inspiration from the Arab Awakening. The protesters said they were committed to the use of revolutionary Arab Awakening tactics to achieve their goals of curbing corporate power and control in Western governments.

Occupy Wall Street demonstration

In many countries, these protests attracted widespread support from the international community. Harsh government responses were generally met with condemnation. However, some critics accused Western governments, notably France, the United Kingdom and the United States, of hypocrisy in the way they reacted to the Arab Awakening. US President Obama’s administration was singled out for trying to muffle the revolutionary wave and stifle popular democratisation efforts in the Middle East.

The protests affected oil prices, contributing to the 2011 energy crisis. The International Monetary Fund had predicted sharp rises in oil prices to be higher than originally forecast due to unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, major regions of oil production.

The protests shared common techniques of civil resistance and to some extent sustained campaigns that involved industrial actions, demonstrations, marches and rallies. The protesters masterfully used the media to organise, communicate and raise awareness in the face of state attempts to repress or censor the internet. Anger and frustration may have united the Arabs in their struggle to better the lot of their citizens. But given the fact that they were irreconcilably divided by their borders and by the nature of their history and geography, many observers felt justified to think that all that furore and struggle could as well have been in vain.

The geopolitical nature of the protests drew global attention. But, although each revolutionary uprising had its distinctive national character, there appeared to be a shared understanding across the Nation of Islam. Rightly or wrongly, the young men and women who sparked off the Arab Awakening seemed to have felt to their disappointment that they were not going to be its main beneficiaries, if the reforms they so assiduously agitated for succeeded. They may have won the hearts of the Western public in their bid to enthrone democracy but did they, in fact, have the following of all their fellow Arabs? Were all Arabs united in this quest to overthrow their authoritarian governments and enthrone Western-style democracy?

At the end of the day, it became pretty obvious that this would be the hard fact that counts. From the look of things, there did not seem to be much hope that those who took over the mantle of leadership from the ousted governments were likely to do much better than the autocrats they removed from office. Despite its global appeal, every indication seemed to point to the fact that those who most resolutely ousted the so-called corrupt governments of the ruling families were in no position to do better than those they ousted. The taste of power is not usually relinquished without a struggle. It is a fact of life, a fact of our human struggles. It is a fact that prevails in both the developing and the developed nations of the world. New blood took over power. But what did they achieve in comparison? Would it then be true that the Arab Awakening could have been an exercise in futility? With practically no visible improvements in the democratisation process of these Arab countries yet, was it a question of who gets what in the scheme of things after all? Only time will tell.

The Arab World

Rediscovering Africa

Even as the Arab Awakening rocked parts of the world in the later parts of the first decade of the century, myriads of social, economic and political problems continued to plague the African continent. It was a worrying situation that challenged many African leaders. People asked questions: how did African countries come to the stage they were? What, in fact, actually happened to Africa? And how could African media re-define their roles in order to facilitate the continent’s self-actualisation in the face of threats posed by terrorism and global uncertainty?

Difficult as it is to appreciate, the hard fact is that unless leading figures in African media return to the basics and recognise the reasons why Africa has remained underdeveloped despite its magnificent history, it would be extremely difficult for political leaders to develop the continent, socially and economically, to take its rightful position in today’s comity of nations.

It will be important to recollect that Africa is the second largest and second most populous continent in the world. Covering about 20.4% of earth’s total land mass, with a population of about 1.1 billion people as in 2013; it accounts for about 15% of the world’s entire human population. Contemporary Africa comprises of 54 sovereign states, nine territories and two de facto independent states which have limited recognition or no recognition at all. These include Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

Others are Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Somaliland, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Among them, Algeria is the largest by land mass and Nigeria by population. But because 50% of Africans are 19 years of age or even less, Africa’s population has been widely touted as the youngest among all other continents. This fact in itself is one of the most important factors which should motivate leaders of the media in African countries to rediscover and redefine their roles in the African contemporary society, and thus enable the political class to move the continent forward in order to consolidate its future.

What this demands is that leaders in African media should consistently harp on the need and desirability for African politicians to mentor younger Africans for political offices. They should formulate deliberate policies which would encourage African men and women within the age brackets of 25 and 65 to take interest in the running of government offices in all of the African countries. If they can develop the political will to do this, they would have laid a very solid foundation for the future of the continent.

The prevalent situation where African political leaders get into power at a young age and insist on remaining in power for decades afterwards has not been, and will never be, in the interest of African stability or growth. It is no longer desirable for African societies to keep and fund a system of re-circling leaderships, and media leaders across the African continent must owe it as a duty to drum up this fact every day in their media until an impregnable awareness has been created and sustained in the polity of African nations. Nelson Mandela laid that foundation for Africa. Mandela lost nothing as an individual. But he gained a lot by just accepting to become a one-term President of South Africa. He gained the love and respect of the entire world.

Media leaders in Africa should take the bull by the horn and sack the days of sit-tight leaderships in African countries. It is their challenge.

Another area media leaders must address is the social organisation of African nations. And it comes down to going back to basics. Many centuries ago, Africa was the first known continent on earth to be populated by humans, according to anthropologists. Human species were considered to have originated from the continent because during the middle of the last century, anthropologists discovered evidence of human occupation of the continent, estimated to be 7 million years old. Central east Africa is widely believed to be the place from where humans originated. Africans, as far back as then, had a way they organised their society before Europeans came and introduced ‘democracy’ into their lives. In many parts of Africa, the society was administered along the lines of age-groups. Elders laid down the laws, the youths made sure the laws were implemented.

They farmed, and they reared cattle. According to credible research records, cattle had already become domesticated in North Africa by 6,000 BC. The domestication of cattle followed agricultural activities on the continent. Africans worked iron, metal and steel and carved wonderful images on wood. Objects were carved in copper which possibly came from Egypt, Nubia and Ethiopia. What happened to those crafts and artefacts, made in Africa by Africans? At what point did the political leaders of Africa declare them irrelevant to their national economies? Why have they refused to ask the youths in various African countries to create jobs for themselves that way by returning to the arts of our forefathers? Why are these arts not yielding foreign exchange for African nations today?

These are the issues media moguls across the African continent must address and urgently too. There will be a need to get back to basics if Africa must regain its lost glory as the seat of human wisdom. African civilisation was one of the world’s earliest and longest lasting which continued to flourish until about 343 BC. From primary schools through secondary schools, colleges and universities, the foundation has to be laid all over again for these arts to be re-discovered and used to attract more foreign exchange for African countries. And leaders of African media have a crucial role here to create awareness. Furthermore, leaders in African media should also involve themselves in finding solutions to the current communal clashes which have taken great tolls in human lives and the economy across the African continent. They must map out clear strategies that will proffer solutions to these rampant clashes, a blueprint which will guide politicians to find a lasting solution to these social problems.

The problems of communal clashes in African countries are very fundamental, and they call for an understanding of their origin by the leaders of media organisations in Africa. For instance, it is well known that Africa had as many as 10,000 different nation-states at some point in its history. These nation-states still feature in many of the modern African countries, characterised by their methods of social administration. Media leaders must find a way of connecting stakeholders and get them committed so that community members can spend more of their time making themselves relevant to the needs and aspirations of their people.

But above all, leaders in the African media must involve themselves directly in the desire and the struggle to reclaim the psyche of African people which was gravely damaged by years of slavery. The task is very challenging. In a very profound sense, the slave trade experience and its after-effects are the main reason African countries have remained dwarfed despite having one of the best global credentials. Even before the advent of Europeans, slavery had long been practised in Africa and it had taken its toll on the psyche of Africans. The coming of the white man only exacerbated the situation. It is, in fact, estimated that Arab slave traders sold about 18 million slaves from Africa through trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean routes between the 7th and 20th centuries and that between the 15th and 19th centuries, the Atlantic slave trade conveyed an estimated 7-12 million slaves to the New World.

The important thing we must realise, however, is that Africans are still trapped in the throes of the slave trade, but this time in a more subtle, more devastating way. African youths, in particular, are trapped in economic slavery. They mostly lack the money to live a normal life and contribute more meaningfully towards the desires and aspirations of their communities. Government needs to channel these youths’ focus on some of the crafts Africans once produced, as a way of getting them more meaningfully engaged in the absence of white collar jobs.

African nations are also enslaved politically. A situation where people in public offices are goaded by greed and self-aggrandisement rather than service to their community is not a healthy development for any society. It is part of the reason the concept of fiefdom rivalry is still very much a problem for African leaders. Experience shows that some communities need a strong man to wield them together. That was the grievous mistake those who sponsored the so-called Arab Awakening made. They did not realise that there are such communities. If they have a weak ruler, warlords would spring up from practically every nook and cranny of the country and as they struggle for leadership, they create problems that would undermine the common growth of their people.

The developed economies helped overthrow Arab leaders who were alleged to be autocratic. They included Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Ben Ali in Algeria, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, among others. These were nations that needed strong leaders to wield together. But the Western world never knew that much because of the democratic nature of their own societies.

Now, it is beginning to dawn on them that since those days of regime change across the Arab world, nothing shows that the new custodians are doing any better than those they ousted.

African media leaders must come together to chat a new course for the continent – a road map which will take into consideration the peculiar experiences and needs of African people. It is not just enough joining the bandwagon of democratic nations as dictated by the western world. Africa must rediscover itself from the ashes of its history and carve a way forward for it to take its rightful place among the comity of nations.

The Same Old Song

Architects of Nigeria’s first coup in 1966:

Majors Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Kaduna Nzeogwu

Nearer home, it was all so fresh in the memory. Nigerians have never doubted the fact that for more than three decades, from 1966 until the advent of democracy in 1999, their country was unfortunate to be governed by ruthless military dictators who mindlessly exploited their national treasury for their selfish advantage, and that of their cronies and family members, leaving the country to bleed to death economically, if it had to do so.

Except for those four years of civilian rule between 1979 and 1983, these military dictators took 33 repulsive years to lay the foundation of the wrong direction governance in the country has gone ever since. It was during their despotic rule that the ground was tilled and wetted which ushered into Nigeria the era of rogue politicians and rogue businessmen and foisted the political arena with the mediocre crop of politicians who have since been in control of affairs in the country. To think that it took the military 33 years to give the democratic evolution of their own country such a bloody nose! Gush!!

The founding fathers of the Nigerian nation must be turning restlessly in their graves, seeing what their beloved country has been turned into. They were the ones who fought the political battle. Nigeria attained self-rule in 1960. And six years on, in 1966, the military staged a coup d’état against the politicians which plunged the country into a civil war. That war cost Nigeria over 3 million citizens and trillions of pounds in damage to investments.

Many people have claimed that sequential events which ultimately culminated in the civil war were ethnically provoked. That may be so. But it is a story for a later day. What is important is that Nigeria fought a brutal civil war and came out of it with bruises, but somewhat clean.

Herbert Macaulay, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe

It is a testimony of the rugged foundation the military laid during their reign of benign terror that Nigeria’s ethno-religious violence reached a crescendo during that short civilian rule of 1979 to 1983. Just one year into the Presidency of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, in 1980 precisely, Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria, almost fell into the hands of Muslim fundamentalists, followers of the Islamic cleric, Maitatsine. That year, terrorists from the Maitatsine camp instigated riots in the colourful city of Kano which resulted in the death of close to 5,000 Nigerians. In the military crackdown that followed, Maitatsine was killed.

The death of Maitatsine fuelled retaliatory violence which quickly spread across to other northern cities. The aftermath of that riot was to live with Nigerians for the next 22 years and thereafter. In 2002, Mohammed Yusuf, another self-proclaimed Muslim cleric who was loyal to Maitatsine, founded the sect that came to be known as Boko Haram in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. Yusuf established a religious complex and a school which attracted poor Muslim families from across Nigeria and neighbouring countries.

He denounced the massive corruption he said had practically engulfed the police and government agencies. In such a way, he was able to warm himself into the hearts of many frustrated Muslim families. He attracted many followers, especially among the myriads of unemployed youths who roamed the villages and cities of northern Nigeria.

When Boko Haram, which later metamorphosed into a seemingly intractable insurgency showed up its ugly head 12 years back, it wasn’t so much of a surprise to pundits who had keenly followed the ethnic aspirations and yearnings of many Nigerians, especially those from the north. Poverty and illiteracy had been ravaging great swathes of the northern territory. The situation needed to be addressed. But even at that, no one thought the insurgency was going to be as hydra-headed as it finally turned out to become. Mohammed Yusuf’s religious as well as political goal was to create an Islamic state in the north of Nigeria, and if possible, convert the entire nation into an Islamic country.

Boko Haram flag

It was a tall dream. Yusuf knew he had to do something about his dream, and quickly too. So, he ensured that his religious school became recruiting ground for would-be jihadists. Gradually but steadily, Boko Haram became increasingly radicalised. This ubiquitous radicalisation led to a violent uprising in July 2009 in which their leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was captured. When Yusuf was apprehended and detained, he told the Nigerian law enforcement agencies that they could kill him, the messenger, but they would never be able to kill the message. He sounded prophetic then. But today, it is difficult to see him as the revered prophet of those who believed in him and once looked upon him as their Messiah because Boko Haram appears to have split into irreconcilable factions. Nigerian leaders need to appraise the situation of the insurgency more closely to fully understand what the government of Dr Jonathan was into. They need to come to grips with these different faces of Boko Haram. It is because Boko Haram camps are fragmented that anyone who claims to be speaking for them is not speaking for all of their members. Developments in Dr Jonathan’s government proved that. It was the reason his government was unable to negotiate with the insurgents.

Yusuf died in police detention. For a while after his death, Nigerians breathed sighs of relief. They thought they had seen the last of the violence which these relatively insignificant Muslim rebels continuously perpetrated in the northern parts of the country over the years. But that was not to be.

By 2010, there were serious religious disturbances between Muslims and Christians in the northern city of Jos, capital of Plateau State. It left several hundreds dead or injured. The insurgency had unexpectedly resurfaced. But this time, its modus operandi was marked by an increased operational frequency and use of more sophisticated weapons on institutions they figured as soft targets. By 2011, they had already bombed several police buildings and the United Nations headquarters in Abuja.

The aftermath of a Boko Haram bombing.

The government instituted a state of emergency in the three most affected states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe at the beginning of 2012. The following year, the National Assembly extended the state of emergency to cover the entire northeast of the country. Despite these and other government measures, Boko Haram remained in control of significant parts of the Nigerian territory in and around their home state of Borno from the middle of 2014. It could have been possible that part of their grand plan was to capture Maiduguri, the capital of the state from where the insurgency originated. The fact that they did not or could not capture Maiduguri seemed to say something definite and very important about their mission and sponsorship.

It could have also been possible that Boko Haram was not working in isolation. The group was known to be linked to other organisations with similar missions. The increasing sophistication of the group’s attacks led observers to speculate that it was affiliated to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, which was known to be active in Niger Republic. Even the Deputy Governor of Borno State (2003–2011), Alhaji Adamu Dibal confirmed in an interview with a local Nigerian newspaper that the two terrorist organisations only broke up their relationship when Al Qaida realised that Yusuf was an unreliable person. It was also a known fact at the time that Boko Haram was linked to the Arewa People’s Congress, APC, which is the militia wing of Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF.

Students pass a classroom at Success Private School, one of the first schools attacked by Boko Haram in 2009.

The ACF remained the core political body that represented the interests of the leaderships of northern Nigeria. Known to be well-funded, with military and intelligence expertise, the organisation had the capability of engaging in military action, including bombing. To that extent, in fact, the co-founder of the APC, Sagir Mohammed, was unequivocal when he publicly stated: We believe we have the capacity, the will-power, to go to any part of Nigeria to protect our Northern brothers in distress… if it becomes necessary, if we have to use violence, we will have to use it to save our people. If it means jihad, we will launch our jihad.

Naturally, those words did not come as a surprise to many Nigerians. For decades, Northern politicians and academics had continued to voice what they believed was their fundamental birthright to lord it over other ethnic groups in the country, even when they were the least educated and the least enterprising generally.

In a development at the time, it had been revealed that no fewer than 195,000 students had been displaced as a result of the activities of Boko Haram in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States. A breakdown of the situation showed that 7,135 students hailed from Adamawa State; 113,635 from Borno State and 73,894 from Yobe State.

The revelation was made by then Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Chairman of the Steering Committee on Safe School Initiative, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The Minister said that at the time, 267 schools had been affected by the activities of the insurgents. These were 73 in Adamawa State, 171 in Borno State and 56 in Yobe State. Okonjo-Iweala confirmed that 115 schools were completely destroyed, with 101 of them in Borno State, while 139 other schools were partially destroyed. The irony of all this was that everything those Muslims were using in the propagation of their campaign, from mobile phones to guns and from vehicles to bombs, were the result of Western education!

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Even when they voiced their repudiation of western education, we could still have asked if poverty alleviation measures were not what it would have taken to placate the insurgents. And if that is what it would have taken, then Northern leaders should have realised that education is the key to poverty alleviation. When young Nigerian Muslims are educated, they will be able to think for themselves. They will not easily fall prey to cheap and dangerous religious propaganda. They will be able to stand against anyone trampling on their fundamental human rights. They will be able to get the government to create jobs for school leavers in need of jobs. They will even be able to create jobs for themselves, if that is what is required to rehabilitate them.

The most important thing is for them to acquire the skills. Yes. Muslim education will teach Nigerian Muslims how to live the good life. It will teach them how to be good wives and authoritative husbands. But only science and technology will teach them how to make money in this time and age. That knowledge is what

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