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COLUMNISTS

OKADA RESTRICTION: SANWO-OLU’S ACTION IN THE BEST INTEREST OF LAGOS

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By Gboyega Akosile

‘’If you care about the security of Lagos State, support your Governor on the restriction of Okada and Keke.’’ This was the submission of the former Governor of Lagos State and current Minister of Works, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola at a recent interaction with newsmen in Lagos.

I have followed news reports, commentaries, opinion articles and street reactions for and against the restriction on the commercial operations of Okada and Keke by my principal, Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu in some parts of Lagos State. While some appear as balanced argument, especially along the economic line, which can’t stand as good reasons for policy reversal, several others were pure sentiment and emotional outbursts, mostly lacking in logical reasoning. A careful analysis of the subject matter has shown that there is a consensus among the protagonists and the antagonists that commercial motorcyclists and tricyclists have become a danger in Lagos; everybody knows and agrees to this red flag! In fact many of those against the Okada restriction, whether knowingly or unknowingly have called for total eradication of bicycles and tricycles in the city of Lagos.

A columnist, Bimbo Adelakun in the back page of the Punch newspaper on Thursday February 6th wrote:

‘’In principle, I am not against the ban on those vehicles themselves, but the timing and the execution of Sanwo-Olu’s decision. I believe that okadas and kekes have to go at some point. They are an urban nuisance, an ungainly sight, a blight, and an ugly blotch on Nigeria’s botched landscape. Those vehicles desecrate spaces and painfully highlight the un-citiness of our cities.”

Same with Bashorun Dele Momodu in his pendulum column at the back page of ThisDay newspaper submitted that:

”Apart from the population explosion and the stupendous traffic jams, Lagos is bedevilled by a major security conflagration. This arises from its metropolitan nature and its willingness to welcome and absorb all those who genuinely want to be a part of its miracle. The flip side of this welcoming attitude is that Lagos will also attract shady characters and nefarious elements. The recent influx of unidentifiable immigrants into Lagos is just a sample of this major headache and has further compounded the bad situation.”

There are several other writers who have taken a position either for or against this restriction. Many of them have offered what they, in their opinion think should be the best solution to the Okada menace. I see this as a good development for our fledgling democracy. However, one must remind these opinion writers that most of what they offered in their write ups were at one time or another, part of several suggestions placed before Government. One must also educate them that Government didn’t wake up to place restrictions on the commercial activities of bicycles and tricycles in parts of the city.

Deaths were being recorded on a daily basis as a result of the reckless nature of Okada riders. Security of lives was threatened, as Okada became the easiest form of mobility for criminals. Recklessness, disorderliness and total disregard to the traffic rules reigned supreme among the Okada and Keke riders.

Their behaviour has taken a toll on the social and environmental well-being of the people.

Government has a responsibility to protect the lives and property of its citizens. As Governor Sanwo-Olu said during the flag off of the commercial operations of Lagos Ferry services, his administration deemed it necessary to restrict the operation of commercial motorcycles and tricycles in some parts of the State, especially in six Local Governments, nine Local Council Development Areas (LCDA), 16 major highways and 41 bridges, where there have been records of security breaches, disobedience to traffic rules, accidents and untimely deaths caused by motorcycle and tricycle riders. The decision of the government is definitely in line with what he promised over 22 million Lagosians during his inauguration on May 29, 2019.

“We intend to make history by making for ourselves and our children a better future…Let us vow to ourselves, and to posterity that we shall not just dream of a Greater Lagos. Let us agree this day that we shall collectively rise up to build the Lagos of our dreams.

“My administration will ensure that we walk the talk as far as transparency, the rule of law and fiscal discipline are concerned. We will make sure that we create the right environment in which security and safety of lives and property are guaranteed…On this day, I vow as your Governor that I will serve the public cause with my utmost ability and commitment,” Governor Sanwo promised while delivering his inaugural address titled ‘Awakening a Greater Lagos’ on May 29, 2019 at Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos.

Therefore, as a man who is passionate about pursuing his dream of a Greater Lagos, it is expected of him to do the needful in protecting the citizens of the state who trooped out en masse during the March 9, 2019 governorship poll to elect him as the Chief Executive of the commercial capital of Nigeria.

There is also a need to remind these commentators that one of the rare qualities of a leader is his ability to make tough decisions especially in the best interest of the people. As a great leader, Governor Sanwo-Olu believes in the greatest good for the greatest number. On the strength of this, Mr. Governor has said his decision to restrict the movements of Okada and Keke in the publicized locations is irreversible because it was made in the best interest of the residents.

Governor Sanwo-Olu, while launching eight locally manufactured speedboats of the Lagos State Ferry Services, LAGFERRY held at Badore Ferry Terminal, Ajah, reiterated that the decision was for security and safety reasons.

His said: “We will sustain the restriction on Okada and tricycles, mainly because of security and safety reasons. The security and safety of citizens are paramount to any government. As a responsible government, we will not fold our arms and allow any security breach in the state.

“We will continue to ensure the safety of our people on all fronts. There have been reports of serious security breaches and safety concerns in areas where these operators ply. We had to respond to these concerns because lives and safety matter to this government.”

Reports from different quarters have shown clearly that more people, including opposition parties in the state are fully in support of the step taken by the Government. None has outrightly disagreed with the restriction policy but many of them have raised concerns about provision of alternative for commuters and riders who were affected by the order.

In answering the above question, less than 24 hours after the enforcement of the restriction, Governor Sanwo-Olu ordered the release of 65 buses to immediately begin operations. There are plans for additional 550 buses for the feeder roads. This is to ameliorate the challenge being faced by the residents. Also, the continuation of massive rehabilitation of roads across the state is part of efforts by the government to give the residents a great lease of life.

Corroborating the Governor’s position, the National Publicity Secretary of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Mr. Adejare Adeoye, in a press statement he signed and issued on Monday said: “Sanitising Lagos State and getting rid of these lawless miscreants that have been invading Lagos in droves for many years is a welcome development and good step in the right direction. Many of them hide under the pretense of riding Okada and Keke during the day, while they strategically distribute themselves in inner and exterior parts of Lagos State committing all manners of crimes and untold hardship on residents.

“Security of lives and properties in any part of Nigeria is a business of all citizens of Nigeria, so, undocumented invaders, should not be allowed in any part of the country, as there is serious need for vigilance due to the growing rate of terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, thuggery, mindless killings and other criminal activities.

“Many of these guys are invaders, who must be checked and be sent back to wherever they came from. At least, on two occasions, they have shown their true colors, when they went to attack Ejigbo Police Station in Oshodi-Isolo, around 11pm at night, which caused panic in the area. At another time, they went to attack a local government, because a task force official of the local council demanded for the normal levy, which they refused to pay, hence their bike got confiscated, instead of following lawful ways to get the issue resolved, they resulted to lawless act by setting the local government council on fire. This is brutal, crude, mindless, and must be stopped.

“We cannot afford to open our eyes, while these aliens take over the entire Lagos, because if not quickly arrested, we won’t all be able to sleep, as another type of insurgents might spring up, and will be troubling everyone of us in the State. When our lives is threatened by invaders, we must learn to eschew politics of bitterness and stand by the truth.”

Also speaking on the issue, a security expert and President of Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, Dr. Ona Ekhomu, said the restriction was necessary to bring sanity back to Lagos roads.

He disclosed this during an interview published on Saturday, February 1 edition of The Punch Newspaper.

Ekhomu said, “The ban on okada and keke on some routes in Lagos has some advantages. I think the government has done well in a civil manner by listing the roads where they are to stop plying. Any commercial motorcycle or tricycle rider that is affected should simply look for other routes to ply because it is good to have sanity on the road.

“Those that used to ply Ikorodu road around the Ketu and Mile 12 axis had hitherto constituted nuisance. A society without rules and regulations is a lawless society, so, I think that they should abide by it.”

A governorship candidate in the 2019 governorship election in Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi, without any iota of doubt is a passionate Lagosian who wants the best for Lagos State and this is the reason he contested to govern the State on three occasions. Despite the political differences between him and Governor Sanwo-Olu, Gbadamosi hailed Lagos State government for taking a bold step to restrict the operation of the commercial motorcycles.

“There is no doubt in my mind that something needed to be done about the clear and present danger that many Okada & Keke operators had come to constitute to the lives and limbs of Lagosians, as well as their safety and security, with the invasion of Ajeromi-Ifelodun LGA HQ still fresh in our minds, as well as several recently reported incidents of attempted lynchings by mobs of Okada riders over traffic incidents. To that extent, one must commend the government for making some kind of decision,” he stated in a Facebook post titled “Transport for Lagos PT 2” on Tuesday, February 4.

The icing on the cake is the support by the ruling political party, the All Progressives Congress. Commenting on the restriction, the State Publicity Secretary of the party, Hon. Seye Oladejo, said people remained the focal point of Governor Sanwo-Olu’s administration.

His words: “Let me recall that the law being implemented has been in place for over six years after painstaking efforts by the Lagos State house of assembly to incorporate in-puts from all stakeholders. The gradual implementation of the law is a reflection of the thoughtfulness of the government not to create a shock in the polity.

“While he noted the reasons for the partial ban, it was convenient not to acknowledge the measures put in place by government to stem the impact. May I use this medium to acknowledge and appreciate the voluntary compliance of some operators in line with the laws of the state. We also wish to encourage the riders to take advantage of opportunities offered by the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, the Lagos State Vocational Training Institutes, the ministry of women affairs and poverty alleviation, civic engagement etc. The people remain the focal point of the Sanwo-Olu administration while not losing sight of its onerous responsibility to ensure the safety of lives and property of the citizenry.”

Reading through the views of many people, it is clear to me that this action taken by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration is in the best interest of Lagos State and all the residents.

It should however be noted that this is not the first time that Lagos State government will be restricting the operation of commercial motorcycles in the State. Former Governor Babatunde Fashola’s administration in 2012 banned Okada in some parts of Lagos due to increase in crimes and high records of accident victims in government hospitals, a move that saw a drastic reduction in crime rate and Okada-related hospital enrolments.

 

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COLUMNISTS

Senator Peter Nwaoboshi’s Unlimited Lies 

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By Francis Udoka Ndimkoha

 

It was Mark Twain that was quoted to have said that “A lie can travel around the world and back again, while the truth is lacing up its boots.” This best describes the speed of light with which the lies peddled against the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, by no less a person than the Senate Committee Chairman on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, representing Delta North for a second time.

 

It is no longer news that the insistence of the Minister that the Forensic Audit instituted by President Muhammadu Buhari on NDDC must see the light of day has upset many interests in the Niger Delta, Chief amongst them being the various National Assembly Committees on  Niger Delta. Every spanner has virtually been thrown into the works, to ensure that the audit is crushed. The desperation on the part of those alleged to have held the region hostage has reached an unimaginable crescendo as they daily churn out spurious lies, half truths, twists and turns through various media channels.

 

Recently, the Senate Committee Chairman on NDDC, Peter Nwaoboshi, peddled a heinous falsehood against Sen. Akpabio about a certain N300m naira fencing contract for a Polytechnic in Akwa Ibom State. It is important to begin by saying that every other allegation, founded or unfounded, against the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Akpabio and the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC, at this time, is part of the attempt to distract them from the Forensic audit which they are supervising. This fact does not, in any way, deify these personalities. No! They are humans, with their weaknesses. But they are so bent on sanitizing the NDDC, at this time, that they need our support to see through the forensic audit.

Nwaoboshi lied without recourse to the oath he swore as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to uphold the Constitution, while brandishing documents that have no substance in his allegations. It is surprising that a man who has found himself through the corridors of power for several years now is not done with such mannerisms as to deceive the public over what is a Zonal Intervention Project meant for Akpabio as Senate Minority Leader which has nothing to do with the NDDC budget as the Presidency, every year, makes provisions for the two Houses of the National Assembly.

 

That said, Sen. Akpabio has in response to the allegation of N300m contract, denied ever being an NDDC contractor, and insists that Zonal intervention projects of the Senate minority leader is different from NDDC budgeted projects. In real terms, zonal intervention projects of NASS are NOT done with NDDC budget. Project intervention which has a threshold for each Senator and each House of Representative member is a Federally approved Program of the NASS, annually. The Senators identify cum suggest the projects, in writing, through the Sustainable Development Goals  (SDG). In most cases Senators do not know the companies that win the contracts after the bidding is done, by the domiciling agencies. It is therefore shameful that a high ranking Senator like Nwaoboshi would seek to bring the sacred chambers of the National Assembly to riddicule. In his bid to stop the Forensic Audit of the NDDC, he has succeeded in undermining the integrity of the Senate and by extension, the Legislature.

Such is his unparalleled desperation that he has succeeded in corrupting the Clerk of the Senate and inducing him into an  inglorious path in exchange for an extension of his Service year, a move that has generated knocks against the NASS.

 

In fact, for a Clerk of the Senate begging for extension with retirement at his door step to release such zonal intervention letters to Peter Nwaoboshi for a press conference, with a view to deceiving the public, says a lot about how far desperate people can go to sink a good cause. Sen Nwaoboshi lied, in this case, as those contracts referred thereto were Senate Zonal intervention jobs and none has been paid for nor performed, since 2017! It is important for Nwaoboshi to also come forward with proof of payment for the purported job and effectively link the contractors to Sen. Akpabio. The supposed fencing project began and ended on that piece of paper being bandied by Nwaoboshi, unless he has added it to the 1,000 contracts awarded to his front man, Nelson Agbamuche. Otherwise, the embattled Senator should bring proof of the contract award with the name of the company to which it was awarded. Nigerians are not gullible  to believe the lying Senator who has failed to show evidence of payment made to any company belonging to Akpabio or his crony. Again, is there any proof that the job has been executed?

 

It has become clear that many Senators were deceived to suggest projects to be executed in their constituencies, and even though they were appropriated but were never executed. Why is Nwaoboshi desperate to cover the lies even before the Auditors are through? If payments were made for such jobs as he claims, is it not proper to allow the Forensic Audit expose the real beneficiaries? Is he afraid that other lawmakers will discover his grand deception over the years where he has used his position as Senate Committee Chairman to amass voluminous, phantom contracts to himself through his proxy? Should only one Senator be running amok on National Television over a Presidential order for a Forensic Audit?

 

Akpabio is the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and requests for patience because in no distant time the Forensic Audit will expose those complicit in the failure of the NDDC and all who joined to impoverish the Niger Delta region. In any case what has N300m fence job got to do with N3 trillion naira fraud? Or is Senator Nwaoboshi trying to justify his 1000 NDDC contracts, as alleged by the Executive Director -Projects (EDP), NDDC, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, against him and his cohorts, Nelson Agbamuche and co? Mr. Agbamuche says the hundreds of jobs he controls do not belong to Peter Nwaoboshi who purportedly acted and continues to act on behalf of members of NASS, but what is left is for Mr. Agbamuche to prove how he won all the jobs and why he merits such quantum of jobs per year.

 

It is a view held in some quarters that the self-styled oracle of Delta state Politics and Senator Representing Delta North Senatorial District mistakes the Delta in Niger DELTA Development Commission (NDDC) to the effect that the commission is a property of Delta State where his brazen rascality is dreaded by those who deify him. Thus he believes he can turn NDDC into his own ATM with which he churns out emergency projects, even in time of no emergency. Nothing else explains how NDDC under his oversight supervision is committed to over 2 trillion naira concerns which has crippled the agency.

 

The NDDC, therefore has no regional project to its name. Only emergency repairs and aimless trainings, running into billions of naira as well as his annual contract for the supply of plastic chairs to schools. This contract which gulps over 3 billion naira annually is usually executed in his personal warehouse in Asaba and never reaches the selected schools, yet, NDDC pays in full for it. These and many more are part of sleaze already exposed by the forensic audit for which they can do anything to make sure it is never completed.

 

As a matter fact, Sen. Nwaoboshi who has pending cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) involving over 22 illegal bank accounts is also the same man who purchased The Guinea House, belonging to Delta State Government, a deal that has become subject of public outcry. This is not a man who should adorn a saintly garb and pretend to care about anything except that which enriches him.

 

Part of the inability of the  NDDC to meet their mandate to the people is the penchant of Sen. Nwaoboshi and his counterpart in the House of Reps to sit on the NDDC budget for months into the fiscal year, until they extract some huge financial commitments from the management of the NDDC or phantom projects are padded into the budget, even if it means, as in most cases, supplanting meaningful projects in the region. This calls to question the source of the powers of a committee  Chairman to adjust timeline for budget defense and presentation, as Sen. Nwaoboshi has been doing.

Just recently, the duo of Nwaoboshi and his House of Representatives counterpart without recourse to plenary, extended the deadline for the submission of the NDDC Budget for 2019, submitted it 5 weeks to its expiration, in order to ensure that it is not implemented for the selfish reason of forcing the IMC to pay for old contracts awarded by the previous Boards.

The Budget failure is simply because only two people sit in the comfort of their hotels to assign details of the Budget, thereby allocating huge sums to Training, Medical Retreat and other non physical and meaningful projects.

 

It might also suffice here to say that whatever financial misappropriation levelled against Akpabio or anyone else, in the context of the NDDC can best be exposed by the forensic audit. So why not let it thrive?

 

It is obvious that Nwaoboshi has so much to cover up as he is running against time. Could it be that he was elected as Senator for NDDC since he has in the past few weeks devoted so much time and resources to frustrate the Forensic Audit by throwing ceaseless mud at the supervising Minister and members of the Interim Management Committee?

Senator Nwaoboshi’s unlimited lies only confirm that he has been the unseen hand that has run the NDDC aground and has kept the Niger Delta region in chains under the Change Government.

Will the leadership of the National Assembly look the other way while a senator cause such grave injustice to a people, so rich yet so helpless? Time will surely reveal the truth.

 

Francis Udoka Ndimkoha is the National Publicity Secretary of Citizens Question For Truth Initiative.

Contact: citizensquest247@gmail.com

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COLUMNISTS

The Anti Buhari Forces in NASS

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Written by Rachel Kufreabasi Nse

In an ideal democracy which Nigeria is copiously adopting, separation of powers is one of the pillars on which Government is anchored.

Notwithstanding the above, they still  complement each other in the onerous task of nation-building and in guaranteeing the positive growth and development of the country.

 

When the 9th National Assembly came into being, and the leadership emerged with the backing of the ruling party, unlike the 8th Assembly that preceded it, the people expected that there will be a better working relationship between the executive, the legislature and of course, the judiciary.

 

Though they exist independently, they are meant to perform the role of checks and balances. In doing so, they avoid encroaching on each other’s responsibilities and constitutionally assigned roles.

As the representative of the people, the National Assembly should be seen to align to their constitutional responsibilities and shun all forms of political and party leaning, in the course of discharging their duties. The above can not be said of this 9th Assembly.

 

The 8th Assembly were rancorous with the executive leading to myriads of challenges and endless crisis arising from disagreements over the manner of emergence of the leadership of the NASS, budget padding and delay budget passage, jumbo pay, refusal to clear nominees of the executive timely, among other issues.

The leadership crisis lingered beyond expectation which led to defection from one political party to another.

 

The  ugly moments took another turn when in a commado style political thugs invaded the Red chambers creating pandemonium made away with the Mace, the symbol of authority of the Senate. The nation watched with dismay and disbelief the show of shame and gross misconduct by one of its own which led to the desecration of the hallowed chamber of the Senate.

 

With the emergence of the 9th Assembly from the leadership of the party, one would have expected more support and cooperation from the National Assembly to the executive. The legislators carry this heavy burden of effective representation with all the seriousness it deserves.

 

The President has expressed his readiness and commitment to the development of the Niger Delta region. Happenings of recent has shown the NASS in the light of a clog in the wheel of the process of development of the region.

 

Heeding the call for accountability and probity by the Governors of the region, the President set out to redirect the course of development by calling for a Forensic audit of the funds that accrued to the region through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Due process was followed and the FEC approved of the auditing firms. The President not wanting any interference set up the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC to oversee the forensic audit process. The IMC is  recognized under the act of the NDDC and they set to work.

 

The auditing firms are gathering momentum and gearing up to deliver within it’s approved time frame. They are carrying out with the cooperation  of the IMC put in place by the President for this purpose.

 

The NASS being fully aware of the Constitutional powers of the President to set up the IMC, bickered over the composition of the IMC. Not done questioning the legality of the IMC, they went a step further by dragging the IMC through a media trial by accusing the 7 month old IMC, for the late passage of the 2019 Budget and other financial misappropriation.

 

In the midst of all these, it is the Niger Delta people that suffer. There’s an urgent need to address the challenges of power failure, critical infrastructural decay, insecurity, crass poverty, corruption, environmental degradation in the Niger Delta region, amongst others.

 

The legislators are brazenly undermining the President who in exercising his executive powers set up the IMC to oversee the Commission while it undergoes the forensic audit from inception till date.

The NASS is exhibiting a callous disregard of the democratic principles which empowers the Executive to appoint into positions in office.

A dangerous trend is being set and it’s threatening the continuing practice of democratic structures in the country, if care is not taken.

The Constitution provides for the full adoption of the doctrine of separation of powers and not antagonistic show of strength as the NASS is seen to be of the executive.

 

NASS in a recent resolution have declared  constitution backed forensic auditors of no mean repute as illegal. This is an affront not only to the executive arm of government that hired the auditors following due process but the Judiciary since the NASS have illegally arrogated to themselves the judicial powers of declaring the firms illegal.

 

Rachel Kufreabasi Nse writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State

State Coordinator, Citizens Quest for Truth Initiative

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COLUMNISTS

Pendulum: “I’ve Seen Dictators Rise and Fall. Beware, America”

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www.securenigeria365.com

By DELE MOMODY

Email: Dele.momody@thisdaylive.com

Fellow citizens of the world, the above title is not original to me. It is the headline of a very profound and inspired article written on June 3, 2020, by one of the greatest novelists of the last century, Salman Rushdie, in the Washington Post.

I know many of today’s readers may not know who Salman Rushdie is, so let me a give brief description of this prodigiously gifted writer and how significant he’s been in the past three decades. I first encountered the novels of Salman Rushdie around 1989 as a reporter at the Weekend Concord. Rushdie had just released his controversial book, Satanic Verses, which many Muslims found gravely uncomplimentary and deeply offensive to their religion and faith.

The book was banned by the Islamic faithful leaders. Riots took place all over the world as the heretical book was burnt and shops stocking it were attacked.

On Valentine’s day, 14 February 1989, a death fatwa was proclaimed and issued on Rushdie’s head by the then spiritual leader of Iran, the much revered and feared Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Khomeini. For those who may not know the meaning of fatwa, let me quickly explain. It is a ruling under Islamic Sharia law which leads to a culprit who has committed heresy against Islam or the holy Prophet Muhammad, being declared a persona non grata who deserves to be killed wherever and whenever he is found. This sentence may be enforced by any Muslim faithful and such a Muslim immediately becomes a Martyr. This was certainly dangerous and perilous times for Rushdie. He knew the faith, calibre and fanaticism of those whose faith he had abused and promptly went into hiding under the protection of the British Government. The situation was so charged and inflamed that the British Government and Iran broke off diplomatic relations over the fatwa.

Rushdie himself was not to surface for many years, eventually doing so and appearing, at a U2 music concert in London in August 1993.

Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie was born in Mumbai, India, on June 19, 1947. By the time his second novel, Midnight’s Children, won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1981, he was already recognised and acknowledged as a distinguished writer. The book was subsequently rated “the best novel of all winners” of the Booker Prize on two occasions, the 25th and the 40th anniversary of the prize. But in September 1988, he bit more than he could chew when he wrote The Satanic Verses.

The book as I have said attracted widespread criticism and protests across Muslim countries and other nations including the UK where Rushdie was then living, when some people realised what they claim to be the irreverent depiction of the holy Prophet Mohammed. He received death threats and ultimately a bounty and the fatwa were placed on his head. Incidentally, ironically, and by a quirk of fate, Ayatollah Khomeini died on 3 June 1989 after having five heart attacks in ten days, barely only four months into the fatwa that he had proclaimed against Salman Rushdie. It is also significant that the Rushdie comment that I am reproducing here was written on the 41st anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini’s demise.

I first got hold of the highly controversial book in March 1989, through my boss at the Weekend Concord newspaper, Mr Mike Awoyinfa. It was sacrilegious to be seen with the book at the time, although the hullaballoo was not that prevalent or ferocious in Nigeria. We are both greedy about books.

Since the Satanic Verses debacle, I’ve been a keen follower of Rushdie and purchased most of his works. He moved from England to the United States in 2000 and has permanently lived there, acquiring American citizenship about four years ago.

I was excited to stumble on his essay yesterday as I was getting ready to write my weekly column. The article was lucid and logical and I decided to make it available to my African readers for the benefit of the strange acolytes of President Donald Trump in Africa who seemed to have been conned and scammed by the antics of a man who has never hidden his pathological hatred for people of colour. Some of the ugliest descriptions of colour were coined and “patented” by Trump. But for those who think Trump can do no wrong and that he is infallible, the unfortunate and unnecessary wasted blood and life of George Floyd seems to have united the world against the white supremacists of which Trump is the undisputed champion. Let me allow you to read and savour the words of Salman Rushdie…

“In my life, I have seen several dictators rise and fall. Today, I’m remembering those earlier incarnations of this unlovely breed.

In India in 1975, Indira Gandhi, found guilty of electoral malpractice, declared a state of emergency that granted her despotic powers. The “emergency,” as it became known, ended only when she called an election, believing she would win, and was annihilated at the polls. Her arrogance was her downfall. This cautionary tale formed a part of my novel “Midnight’s Children.”

In Pakistan in 1977, Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq staged a coup against Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and executed him in 1979. This dark story was the inspiration for my novel “Shame.” The circumstances of my life have given me some understanding of the dictatorial cast of mind.

Extreme narcissism, detachment from reality, a fondness for sycophants and a distrust of truth-tellers, an obsession with how one is publicly portrayed, a hatred of journalists and the temperament of an out-of-control bulldozer: These are some of the characteristics.

President Trump is, temperamentally, a tinpot despot of this type. But he finds himself in charge of a country that has historically thought of itself — by no means always correctly — as being on the side of liberty. So far, with the collusion of the Republican Party, he has ruled more or less unchecked. Now an election looms, and he is unpopular, and flails about looking for a winning strategy. And if that means trampling over American freedoms, then so be it.

I have lived in the United States for 20 years and been a citizen for the past four. One of the most important reasons for becoming a citizen was my admiration for the ideas of freedom embodied in the First Amendment to the U.S.

Constitution. Trump, whose regard for the Second Amendment is well known, needs reminding of the First, which, if I may help, states in part that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

And yet, the man whose incompetence allowed the pandemic to tighten its deadly grip around our necks, and whose inflammatory language full of racist dog whistles has played a significant role in unleashing white-supremacist bigotry upon us all, stands in the Rose Garden of the White House and announces without an iota of shame that he wants to protect peaceful protesters. At that very time, just down the street, his security forces, some of them on horseback, are attacking a peaceful protest with tear gas and rubber bullets. A moment later, he characterizes the demonstrators as terrorists and characterizes their protests as crimes against God.

He has the pictures to prove it: the fleeing young people, the clouds of tear gas, the line of horses advancing in the name of the Law. If there’s one thing Trump knows, it’s how to construct an image the cameras will like.

This man who, before he got his present job, was almost never seen inside a house of worship, then holds up a Bible outside a church to demonstrate his piety, and if the bishop of the diocese denounces him soon after, accusing him of misusing the church in the service of “a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus,” what of it? Once again, he has the pictures, and they speak louder.

We are so inured to the behavior of this man, so used to his lies, his inexhaustible self-regard, his stupidity, that maybe we are tempted to think of this as just another day in Trumpistan. But this time, something different is happening. The uprising that began with the killing of George Floyd is not fizzling but growing. The man in the White House is scared, and even, for a time, takes refuge in the basement and turns out the lights. What is such a person to do at such a time?

If he is allowed to use the actions of a tiny minority of criminals and white extremist infiltrators to invalidate the honorable protest of the vast majority against the murder of Floyd, the violence of the police toward the black community and the entrenched power of American racism, he will be on his way to despotism. He has threatened to use the Army against American citizens, a threat one might have expected from a leader of the former Soviet Union, but not of the United States.

In my most recent novel, “Quichotte,” I characterized the present moment as the “Age of Anything-Can-Happen.” Today I say, beware, America. Don’t believe that it can’t happen here.”

Thank you, Sir. Nothing more to add with respect to the reckless and dangerous bully that Trump is. For me, his day or reckoning is imminent, and he will get his comeuppance very soon at the conclusion of the November 3 election in America. Maybe then, the scales will fall from over the eyes of those black people, particularly Christians, who see Trump as some sort of Messiah who has come to provide them salvation from the heathens that other Americans represents to them. On the contrary, for me Trump is the archetypal Anti-Christ doing exactly as the Bible predicts and deceiving the shallow and the unwise.

However, it is important to draw lessons from the above piece by Rushdie for African leaders who think they can rule in perpetuity by using ethnicity and religion to divide their people. It may work for them for some time, even a long time in some countries, but that time will finally end and the people will suddenly realise how much they have been brainwashed, hypnotised and hoodwinked by these selfish and unpatriotic leaders. The day is therefore coming, and very soon too, when the people of Africa will wake up from their deep slumber and reject the primordial sentiments, packaged as parochial bigotry and prejudice founded on the insular and divisive tenets and platforms of sectarianism, ethnicity and religious intolerance. Unfortunately, these divisive policies have kept most of us in Africa in bondage almost forever.

Those who have ears to hear and eyes to see should watch out, listen, and see how the death of one man can ignite the fire of togetherness and unity across the world. There have been too many deaths before now. But this is obviously one death too many. The frenzy for equity and justice for George Floyd in particular, and people of colour in general, is reaching fever pitch all around the world. The fire will consume all in its wake who do not see the conflagration reaching out to tear the barriers, shackles, manacles, blinkers and blindfolds that have prevented Blacks from achieving real freedom, egalitarianism and emancipation for themselves. What is becoming clear is that Black people will not wait for these to be handed to them anymore, they will grab it themselves by fire, by force. George Floyd’s blood was not a sweet blood for vampires and, so, it has turned into poison coursing through their infernal veins and internally and eternally worrying and exterminating his killers and their ilk.

May George Floyd’s soul rest in peace…

#icantbreathe

 

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