Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine


Chieftaincy at the crossroads

I have read the article by your cultural analyst on Ghana's age-old socio-political institution, chieftaincy, which is currently passing through a tumultuous phase, with deep interest.

While appreciating the fact that the recent litigation cases have their roots deep in the past and significantly, issues on land ownership have led to the brutal tribal clashes in the northern part of the country, your analyst should have examined the role of the nouveaux riches who have tried to use their power and money as means to gain access onto stools.

The significance of this cannot be underestimated because, invariably, such people met opposition from traditionalists who believe that access to stools must be only by succession and not money. One can even say that the escalation of chieftaincy disputes in the seventies involving such dubious succession cases did a lot to further erode the respect, authority and effectiveness of the ancient institution not forgetting the deliberate interference of governments in Chieftaincy matters.

One is therefore not very surprised that in the face of political upheavals the politicians always rush to chiefs for support which is always readily given.

Chieftaincy in Africa in general is certainly at the crossroads but whether it will survive the rigorous test of rapid socio-economic and political changes of the closing period of this century remains to be seen.

Yaw Hutchinson, London

Ghana's deLorean car?

"Are Ghana's transportation problems about to be solved with the importation of Danish-made electric cars?" That was the question posed in the article published in this magazine on July 30, 1984.

The facts given in the said article and the subsequent publication in which one Mr Otuo Mensah, the managing director of the company negotiating the import deal, was reported to have signed a contract with Hope Computer Corporation for the importation of 700 electric operated cars into Ghana with the blessing of the secretary for transport, seem to leave no doubts that the government is looking for cheaper alternative to petrol for Ghana's beleaguered transport industry.

However, one point does not fit into the jig-saw puzzle. Why did the importers go for a more expensive and untried Danish prototype when the Japanese, British and the French are far ahead in this particular industry - at cheaper cost per car?

Without imputing any doubts on the integrity of those involved in the export deal, I would like to remind them that Ghana's meagre resources ought to be utilized in the best possible way for the maximum benefit to the people, that's what the revolution is supposed to be doing. But a cursory glance at the essentials of the deal reveal that this basic principle has not been adhered to. It is therefore my considered opinion that it must be abrograted forthwith.

John Hammond, Milton Keynes

Name dropping in Africa time.

"Name Dropping In Africa" (What the papers say Talking Drums August 13, 1984) an editorial in The Times, London, made interesting reading not so much for its factual points but the undisguised sarcasm in a phenomenon that has swept across the continent since the dawn of independence in the sixties.

African governments must have varied reasons for changing the names of their countries most of which had been acquired during the colonial era but if it did nothing at all for their economic and political developments, it at least gave them hope - however erroneous it might have turned out to be - that the destiny of their countries were in their own hands.

But was it deliberate that Tanzania came out as Tanganyika in the editorial?

Thomas Arthur, London

Is 'Talking Drums' anti-Rawlings?

As a Ghanaian living abroad, I would like to be the first to hold up my thumbs for Talking Drums for talking so extensively on events in my country. But suddenly, my interest in the paper is growing rather stale.

Apart from the 'people...places... events' column where facts on Ghana are presented without much personal colouring, the rest of the feature articles (including comments) are distinctly anti-Rawlings or anti-PNDC. By the Grace of God, I am not particularly comfortable with socialist. Revolutions myself but I can still tell a biased article from a balanced one. Articles like 'A More Confident Rawlings' or 'Rawlings The Man Behind The Mask' are indeed more provocative than educative. I don't think it is very interesting casting him in a 'villain' role all the time. Or is it a case of giving a dog a bad name to hang it?

Now that the food situation in Ghana has greatly improved, won't it be in place to remind the numerous readers that hunger is no longer a desperate daily reality for Ghana's 14 million people? The 'publicity' on the back cover of the magazine especially the one on the food situation in Ghana is quite embarrassing. Do we have to be reminded of the painful 'truth' every week when the supposed 'truth' is out of date? Maybe a word from the bible serves to underscore my point better: "let us not be desirous of vain glory or provoking one another..."
(Gal. 5:26).

Editor, you will understand that I want the best for Talking Drums...I wish to be on the mailing list for a long time

Dan Dzide, Limbe, Cameroon.

Open letter to SMC

In a few weeks you would have been in office for eight months. During this period you have done a lot of things which you believe are in the best interest of Nigeria. This might be so. However, I must hasten to point out that you have not addressed yourselves to the task of correcting the fundamental defects in the socio-political edifice of our country.

I identified the most fundamental of these defects, in my first open letter to you, as Fulani imperialism. This defect manifests itself in the assumption that the governing of Nigeria is the exclusive reserve of Fulani aristocracy. And this assumption has been actively perpetuated by resort to subversion and corruption, through political patronage.

That was why I pleaded with you, in my first and second open letters, to create a disciplined atmosphere for a free expression of our hopes, fears and anxieties, enjoining you to "address yourselves, with vigour, to the task of dismantling the machinery of Fulani imperialism". I even entreated you to ...give a lead by demonstrating that the military is capable of ridding itself of ethnic politics". This letter will attempt to show that the sum total of your activities so far, amounts to a handsome balance in favour of dangerous divisiveness, cynicism, arrogance and contempt for the feelings of a vast sector of Nigeria.

There is a little point I wish to clear up at this juncture. Some of my friends have quite properly drawn my attention to a seeming contradiction in my position. They point out that I welcomed your intervention and at the same time criticise your actions. I welcomed your intervention for the simple reason that, in my experience, a civilian dictatorship is infinitely more difficult to get rid of than a military one.

Without your intervention Shagari's administration would have succeeded in establishing a civilian dictatorship (he had successfully perverted the police and brought it under his control, and he almost succeeded in subverting the military by promoting some of you shortly before his re-election). So you see, I sincerely believed that your fifth-coming was motivated by a high sense of duty to preserve democracy in the country.

I drew your attention, in my first open letter, to the danger of "...stumbling into an unnecessary blunder by drawing a distinction between Shagari, Ekwueme and others." It is now clear to me that you have stumbled into this blunder. Your take-over, according to you, was directed at the excesses of Shagari's administration - the corruption and general chaos created by the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).

But so far, Shagari, the executive head of that administration has not been brought to trial. While other politicians, mostly from the opposition parties, are languishing in jail, Shagari, the main object of your take-over, is kept in splendid 'house arrest'. You have put on kangaroo trial and convicted UPN and NPP former governors for alleged corruption.

Now, I will try to describe the pictures I see, pictures you have painted and are still painting. I see the picture of Fulani imperialism desperately tightening its hold on the power-mechanics of Nigeria. Shagari lacked the stealth and quiet ruthlessness necessary to consolidate and perpetuate the rule of the Fulani aristocracy. He was foolish enough to subscribe to the 'phoney' zoning policy of presidential candidates, a policy of the NPN which would have meant that, after Shagari, Nigeria would have been ruled for 16 years by Southern presidents! To allow this to happen would have amounted to a reversal of roles, as ordained by a conspiracy between British colonisers and Fulani aristocracy.

I had boasted to friends that if Shagari completed his second term as president I gave him a maximum of one year the NPN would be deliberately destroyed, making it easy for the Fulani imperialists to reform under the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), and field successfully another Fulani, or captive-Hausa president.

The 'Kaduna Mafia' - Shagari did his best to convince us it didn't exist, but Umaru Dikko told the world that the December coup took place because of a split in the 'Kaduna Mafia' - had approached Chief Awolowo before the last elections, offering him the presidency, provided it would be handed back to a 'Northerner' afterwards. This confirms for me the thesis that Shagari's laziness and weakness had threatened the grand design of carrying the 'Holy War' to the Atlantic Coast. This in my view is the picture of how the military intervened in a hurry.

I see the picture of the Nigerian Armed Forces being panicked into a coup by two factors. Firstly, there was a genuine desire among some patriotic, radical and junior officers, to halt the dangerous drift towards a police state under Shagari. This was coupled with a distaste for the violent and wanton rape of democratic process perpetrated by Shagari and the NPN during the last elections.

Nigeria is not a country you can run like an army regiment: it is a country in which the people have a considerable tradition of democratic process, in spite of indiscipline.

Secondly, it was clear to the 'Kaduna Mafia' that Shagari had lost control, and had misdirected the Fulani- expansionist caravan on its way to the Atlantic Coast. If the young radicals and junior officers had toppled Shagari's administration, it would probably have put paid to Fulani hegemony and sparked off a blood- bath within the military. Either of the two factors would have constituted a serious set-back for the 'Kaduna Mafia' and Fulani hegemony.

The only way out of this dilemma was a pre-emptive coup! And that was what happened on December 31, 1983. If the coup makers of that date were not panicked into it, and if they had actually planned it, how does one explain the mass-escape of the top leadership of the NPN? Why didn't the coup-makers take the most elementary precaution of making sure that people like Umaru Dikko and Chief Akinloye couldn't escape? The general secretary of the NPN, Uba Ahmed, actually landed at Lagos International Airport, on a flight from London, and was met by troops on arrival - there are many independent eye-witnesses. Where is he today? Nobody seems to know his whereabouts. Or, did he simply disappear? Nigerians will like to know.

This picture of a panic-inspired coup is brightly coloured with a panic attempt to disrupt democratic process, with a view to rebuilding a power-base for Fulani hegemony. If you think I am being paranoid about Fulani hege- mony, then I challenge you to name a date for a return to civilian rule. This challenge is based on the circumstances of your take-over- you claimed that the last elections were blatantly rigged and that they were riddled with mal- practices executed by a group of people determined to hang on to power, at all cost, including sacrificing the welfare of Nigerians and the Nigerian economy. Well, you have removed the man responsible for all this - Shagari. And the only way to demonstrate your good-faith is to arrange and supervise new elections and return to the barracks!

I see the picture of the 'Kaduna Mafia', working through the military, in a crude and concerted effort to destroy Southern leaders. If this were not the case, why did you stage a coup against Shagari, and ended up detaining and jailing politicians from opposition parties?

Your government seems hell-bent on provoking a confrontation with non Fulani-Hausa elements of our country. You ordered Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo to report to the police like common criminals - Chief Awolowo's house was sacked by troops under your command. You jailed former governor Mbakwe for allegedly obtaining foreign exchange improperly. You jailed former governor Onabanjo for allegedly en- riching the UPN with N2.8 million, again obtained improperly. You jailed Okilo for maintaining and operating two foreign bank accounts - not for stealing the money! You jailed Ambrose Ali, Augustine Omolaiye, Sam Iredia, Jim Nwobodo and Solomon Lars, all Southern politicians. But you failed to explain that foreign exchange has never been a problem in Fulani-Hausa North.

You haven't established that Chief Okilo is the only Nigerian with an overseas account. And you haven't done anything about the many avenues through which the NPN was financed. You threatened Catholic Bishops over the issue of Easter Monday. If you were familiar with the history of our country you would have discovered that religious and inter-denominational conflict have never arisen. The bloody conflicts we have had so far were among the Muslims. And for you to warn Catholic Bishops that religious fanaticism would not be tolerated amounts to a deliberate provocation.

Finally, I see the picture of your military government preparing the ground carefully for the release of Shagari, without regard for the probable bloody confrontation it will result in. You have claimed that there is no evidence of wrongdoing against Shagari - Ekwueme is the villain of the piece because he was supposed to have signed contracts. We are told that in any case, to bring Shagari to trial, Umaru Dikko is necessary.

Nigeria is not a country you can run like an army regiment: it is a country in which the people have a considerable tradition of democratic process, in spite of indiscipline.

When the situation gets out of hand - as it will soon do if you continue with your present policies - you will discover that the Nigerian armed forces and the Nigerian police haven't got the human resources to bring things under control again. You should try to appreciate the fundamental distinction between the circumstances of the first and fifth military interventions.

The civil war was used as justification for 13 years of military rule. Nigerians went along with it because they wanted to see the military clear-up the mess created by gross indiscipline within the Armed Forces. I think a recurrence of such large-scale indiscip- line within the Armed Forces - and I can see it happening soon - will have catastrophic consequences for our country. The battle-lines will be too messy for words.

Anerobi Ngwube, West Germany

EDITOR'S NOTE: Anerobi Ngwube is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of 'African Envoy', a bi-monthly three language journal, based in the Federal Republic of Germany.

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