Friday, July 17, 2009

MEND, the Lagos Speaker and a nation adrift

"ATLAS Cove."

"Now, that gets me angry. I'd ordinarily expect the Niger Delta militants to show some consideration for the Federal Government, after the release of Henry Okah and Asari Dokubo. But the same day Henry Okah was released, MEND chose to attack the Atlas Cove Jetty."

"It was a welcome reception for Henry Okah. I thought Okah himself said so in an interview with the BBC. And MEND is talking about Hurricane Moses. MEND, while negotiating with the Nigerian state, wants to visit the country with one plague after another. The choice of Lagos is strategic. It is a clear demonstration of the seriousness of the crisis. Bringing the Niger Delta insurgency to Lagos, the country's commercial nerve centre, exposes the vulnerability of the Federal Government. The country is unsafe."

"It took the Atlas Cove incident for President Yar'Adua to change his Minister of Defence. He wants to place emphasis on professionalism."

"So, what if there was no MEND attack.? Knee-jerk responses can never help us in this country. I have always said this. What we need is a rethinking of attitudes and practices. Specifically, government must see the Atlas Cove incident as a signal that it must secure all its strategic infrastructure in every part of the country."

"The Navy was caught napping. If Atlas Cove was so strategic as an off-loading and distribution point for petroleum products, why was it left in the care of four naval ratings, who were probably not well-equipped? This calls for an investigation."

"This is Nigeria. NNS Aradu, one of the country's warships was only a short distance away from the point of attack. The Navy could not respond. And the MEND militants were not in a hurry. They took their time. They destroyed the facility and set four naval ratings ablaze"

"Even the fire could not be put out by the Federal Fire Service. They had to call on Julius Berger to help."

"In a more serious country, a strategic facility like Atlas Cove will be properly secured."

"Nobody was expecting the militants in Lagos."

"Well, we should wait then until they attack the Murtala Mohammed Airport, or they carry out their threat to cause havoc in Abuja."

"Maybe not. MEND has declared a 60-day ceasefire."

"A ceasefire can be called off. They are already threatening to call it off; less than 72 hours later. They are insisting that the Federal Government's Joint Task Force should be withdrawn from the Niger Delta."

"I think government has granted the militants who attacked Atlas Cove Jetty amnesty."

"What I know is that Governor Fashola of Lagos State has issued a warning that the attack on Lagos state must never repeat itself."

"Or else..."

"Well, or else..."

"The Oodua People's Congress for example has warned MEND not to go anywhere near the South-West again, or it'd be forced to retaliate. That is how it starts. War."

"I don't see the amnesty working. I think it is about time government gave the Niger Deltans what they want. It is time we re-negotiated Nigeria."

"My fear is that when the amnesty period ends, there could be a serious show-down in the Niger Delta."


"War on criminal elements in the region."

"I am scared."

"Don't bother yourself. You don't have a hostage value."

"Who says?'

"Go and sit down. They are not looking for people like you. In fact, if anybody kidnaps you, I'd simply advise that they should keep you."

"I understand members of the House of Representatives are bent on commencing impeachment proceedings against the President for failing to implement certain aspects of the 2009 budget."

"Are they still on that matter? That is not what Nigeria needs at the moment. The lawmakers want constituency allowances. It is not as if they are acting in the public interest."

"But if President Yar'Adua signed the Appropriation Bill, then he should implement it. He can not subject the national budget to his own discretion."

"Come to think of it: what part of the Budget 2009 has been implemented at all? Can't see any evidence of implementation. And now by December, MDAs will be asked to return unspent part of the budget to the treasury."

"Some money was released recently to pay the monetization benefits of Federal civil servants - N40 billion, to get striking workers back to work."

"Yeah. The entire country is on strike. Crazy."

"NIPOST is on strike'

"Medical workers are on strike"


"Even PHCN is on strike"

"PHCN has been on strike for as long as I can remember. Can't remember when last we had electricity supply in our neighbourhood. How about yours?"

"December, last year."

"You see. The Nigerian government itself is on strike."

"Well, the politicians are busy preparing for the 2011 elections. I understand there is now a big fight over the voters' register."

"You mean, the rigging has started? Always with the voters' register. You'd recall that in the 2007 election in Osun state, names like Bill Clinton, Michael Jackson, and Osama were on the Voters' register."

"Osama Bin Laden. Where is that fellow, these days?"

"In your village...The Americans will soon come there to smoke him out. But I have one piece of good news for you, though"

"Oh ho."

"I saw a photograph of the INEC Chairman, having a handshake with the Pope. Front page of Daily Champion"

"Iwu and the Pope? Come on, that is not possible. Are you sure the photo is genuine, because these days in the Nigerian press, you never know"

"Yes. Nigeria's Maurice Iwu and the Pope in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The Pope was meeting with select world leaders."

"I'd have loved to know what the Pope said to Professor Iwu."

"Must have been something like Maurice; your sins are forgiven by our Father who art in Heaven. Go and sin no more!"

"Is the Professor a Christian?"

"I should think so."

"So, when are you going back to the campus? Looks like all of you who left the university system should begin to go back. Now, you can retire at 70, a Professor's take-home pay is now N5.4 million per annum, about 40 per cent increase."

"ASUU does not want it"

"They want more?"

"Why not?"

"By the way, they say you people are the brains behind Nigeria's problems".


"Well, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji says media practitioners in Nigeria are the brain behind Nigeria's problems."

"Lord Lugard as far back as 1913 referred to the Lagos press as scurrilous. Spiro Agnew talked about journalists being "nattering nabobs of negativism". Former President Obasanjo abused journalists. Abacha also did. So did Buhari and Idiagbon. Speaker Ikuforiji is in good company."

"Are you saying you did not read what he actually said about Nigerian journalists? It is worse than you imagine, and I see the media is not speaking up in its own defence."


"The Daily Independent published the story. Other newspapers ignored it. The media is not even willing to report its own story."

"I am usually careful about stories that are reported by only one source."

"This one is straightforward. It carries a by-line and since the story appeared in the Daily Independent on Tuesday, nobody has denied it."

"So, what exactly did the man say?"

"I think it is better you read the story yourself. It is like this. Members of the Lagos State House of Assembly were discussing President Obama's speech in Ghana, when the Speaker suddenly got angry and said he observed that President Obama did not mention the Nigerian media "as one of the models" in the African continent."

"Meaning what?"

"The Speaker then turned on the reporters who were in the House of Assembly. Listen. He said: "The Nigerian media is not always doing the right thing; they write what they want to write. They choose to spare the executive arm and concentrate on legislature. They are not doing their job the way it ought to be done. Their own corruption is worse than any other person."

"Really? Did any newspaper publish the Speaker's photograph, showing him taking an oath or something, naked?"

"Wait now... Read this part of the report: He told the young reporters - "And it is not the fault of you that are young in the profession but your bosses that are in the office. Your own Ghana-must-go is the worst; you and your bosses in the office must change for good."

"Has the Speaker started drinking? Was this at a beer parlour, after several bowls of isi-ewu, or on the floor of the House."

"The House. And of course, the Speaker enjoys parliamentary privilege. And you wait for this, the journalists that were present "simply burst into laughter and this made the Speaker angrier."

"The journalists laughed? They didn't stage a walk-out? No, let me get something straight. Were those reporters part of a rehearsal for a toothpaste advert and they needed to show their teeth?"

"You always like to trivialize things."

"I am trying to understand the story".

"What are you trying to understand? The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly says journalists are thieves, bribe-takers, worse than armed robbers and he hopes that by the time you people finish destroying this country, you'd all relocate to Ghana!"

"Tactless, if you ask me. Did the Speaker also say that journalists joined MEND to attack the Atlas Cove Jetty, or that journalists are the ones trying to impeach the President, or that journalists also took money from the banks and refused to pay back?

"Candidly, I don't know".