Sunday, June 14, 2015

Nigeria: Before Nigeria, There Was Ghana


The typical Marxian line is that incontinent intra ruling-elite squabble always carries with it the risk of playing into the hands of its class enemies; and could be generalised as a manifestation of the ubiquitous internal contradictions of capitalism and self-destructive tendency towards the commitment of class suicide. The altercation between Theophilus Danjuma and former President Goodluck Jonathan lends itself to the interpretation of this analytical school of thought and, fleetingly, averted my mind to the possibility of a replay of Jerry Rawlings style purge of the Nigerian ruling class. To a lesser degree, a similar behaviour was on display at the rancorous commencement of the eighth National Assembly.

Danjuma said: "What we are hearing is that the treasury of the country is empty at the federal level. A debt of $60 billion would be left behind for the incoming government... I'm calling on the new administration to investigate what happened to our monies as soon as Buhari takes over power on May 29. With that, some of the stolen funds would be recovered... It is disheartening to know that the incoming government of Buhari will have to contend with a debt of over $60 billion and there is nothing to show for this huge debt. Well, we would know what happened to these monies, because I believe that the Buhari administration has to, and should, in national interest, investigate the administration so that we would know what happened."
Jonathan responded: "Some people are even calling for the probe of this government; I agree. In Nigeria there are a number of things that we will probe, very many things; even debts owed by states and this nation from 1960 up to this time. They say it is Jonathan's administration that is owing all the debts... I believe that anybody calling for probe must ensure that these probes are extended beyond the Jonathan administration; otherwise, to me, it will be witch-hunting. If you are very sincere then, it's not just Jonathan's administration that should be probed.

"A number of things have gone wrong and we have done our best to fix them. The attorney-general is aware of massive judgment debts; if we aggregate all of them, it is almost going to $1 billion. How did we come to this kind of huge judgment debts?...These issues should be probed. How do you allocate our oil wells, oil fields, marginal wells and all that? Do we follow our laws? All these should be probed. And I believe all these and many more areas should be looked at." Implicit in this response is the assumption of mutually assured destruction; we should all go down together.

To a considerable extent, Ghana and Nigeria share a colonial and post-colonial history of parallel socio political evolution and development. In general terms and in the instant, the most positively significant hallmark of this heritage is the parallel seamless transition from one president to another and from the ruling party to the opposition party through the instrumentality of fairly credible elections.
In specific terms, there was the consequential difference in the respect that it was the incumbent president of Nigeria that was defeated and conceded defeat and not the potential successor as was the case with Ghana... 'Per his constitutional mandate, Rawlings' term of office ended in 2001; he retired in 2001, Rawlings was succeeded by John Agyekum Kufuor, his main rival and opponent in 1996. Kufuor succeeded in defeating Rawlings's vice-president John Atta Mills in 2000. In 2004, Mills conceded to Kufuor and Kufuor ran for another four years'.

Both Ghana and Nigeria were colonised by the British and are the most prominent members of British colonies in West Africa if not the whole of Africa. There has been a great deal of sibling rivalry and competitive modernisation race between the two. In Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was found the role model exemplification of the intellectually endowed charismatic proponent of the Pan Africanist ideology. The Winneba ideological institute in Ghana was the breeding ground and hotbed of Pan Africanist socialist indoctrination of the standard-bearers of (Africa continent wide) radical and militant nationalist movements. The journey of Azikiwe to the headship of the Nigerian nationalist movement passed through a critical phase in Ghana with the establishment of the West-Africa Pilot in Accra. It was this kind of initiative that earned him the appellation of Zik of Africa.
Were Anthony Enahoro (then a member of the Nigerian national parliament) successful in the motion he moved in 1953 seeking the independence of Nigeria in 1957, both countries would have secured independence from British colonial rule the same year. As it were, inability to convince the Northern region of the desirability of independence in 1957 meant Nigeria had to wait three additional years to follow suit in 1960.

Nkrumah emerged the first post-colonial Prime Minister of Ghana but his profile and influence transcended Ghana to embrace the role of patriarch to many radical socialist inclined political power contenders across Africa. It was within this context that another stalwart of Nigerian nationalist movement, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and the Action Group (AG), found sanctuary in Ghana during the difficult years of the early days of post-colonial rule in Nigeria. Following the adoption of democratic socialism and the ideological radicalisation of the AG, party stalwarts of the likes of Sam Ikoku and Anthony Enahoro took residence in Accra.

The trend eventually culminated in the allegation that the sister country was playing the mother hen to the specialised training of AG party cadres in guerrilla warfare aimed at military coup style overthrow of the Tafawa Balewa headed Federal Government of Nigeria. On account of this allegation, Awolowo and a number of his lieutenants were subsequently tried and convicted of treason in the famous treasonable felony trial of 1962\63.

Both countries were significantly twined in the military coups that terminated civil democratic rule on January 15th 1966 and February 24th 1966 in Nigeria and Ghana respectively. The coup and countercoup of 1966 in Nigeria set in motion a chain of events that climaxed in the onset of the Nigerian civil war. And the story of the civil war can hardly be told without mention of the landmark abortive arbitration role of Ghana known as the Aburi accord summit. The failed mediation effort was the immediate backdrop to the declaration of hostilities and commencement of the war on the 6th of July 1967.

The negative political bond of 1966 was reversed and positively reissued in 1979 when the two countries reverted to civil democratic rule within a month of one another, Ghana in September and Nigeria in October. The good portent proved short-lived as they both relapsed into military dictatorship within four years of the restoration of civil democratic rule; Ghana succumbed in 1981 followed by Nigeria in 1983.

There was however a qualitative divergence in the ambition and operationalization of the two ousters. The divergence boils down to the unique phenomenon of President Jerry Rawlings in the politics of Ghana. Earlier in June 1979, he and other junior military officers had effected a bloody revolutionary coup in which all three former military ruler/generals along with several other top military political figures were executed.

'In retrospect the most irreversible outcome of this phase was the systematic eradication of the SMC leadership.... [Their] executions signalled not only the termination of the already fallacious myth of the nonviolence of Ghanaian politics, but, more to the point, the deadly serious determination of the new government to wipe the political slate clean. Immediately following the overthrow of the General Fred Akufo government, Rawlings and his men embarked on what was termed "house-cleaning... They immediately executed General Akufo, General Ignatius Acheampong, and General Akwasi Afrifa all former heads of state, and Air Vice Marshall Yaw Boakye. When Rawlings and his men sensed that all the executed generals were of Akan descent, and facing possible mutiny in the military, Rawlings asked that for sake of peace, other generals of non-Akan extraction have to be "sacrificed". Hence, General Utuka, Amedume, Feli and Kotei were also executed'.

There will always be a smack of ambiguity in the appreciation of the inauguration of the Rawlings era in Ghana. Where was the compulsion? And what was the utility of the unsparing and scapegoating blood-soaked overthrow of the preceding military regime? Why rope in a man like Afrifa whose military regime ended 10 years earlier in 1969? Given the relatively transformational impact that Rawlings brought to Ghana, the temptation is to argue, a posteriori, that this end justified the means.

For good or bad, this is one precedent in which Nigeria has refused to play catch up but it is not for want of trying. The prospect of Ghana style revolutionary putsch and decapitation of former military rulers is dimmed by the ethno-regional fragmentation of Nigeria's body politic-from which the military institution is not insulated and which, as a matter of fact, it has occasionally tended to spearhead.

Maybe Nigeria might have anticipated Rawlings in the January 15, 1966 coup-given the undisputed idealism of Chukwuma Nzeogwu and the fact that it was the law of unintended consequences; unanticipated evolution and mismanagement of events after the coup that resulted in the suspicion and discernment of ulterior motives of ethno regional conspiracy. Was the station and subsequent role of General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi in the evolution of the coup (as the head of the Nigeria military) by design or happenstance? Was Emmanuel Ifeajuna working on an agenda different from the aspirations of Nzeogwu?

The other coup incident that bore any measure of semblance to the Rawlings style precedent was the Major Gideon Orkar coup attempt of 1990. Other officers involved in the attempt included Colonels Tony Nyiam and Daddy Mukoro-who was the ring leader. If the insurrection had succeeded, the fate of all officers above the rank of Colonel would have hung in the balance; and it was almost certain that the then Military President, Ibrahim Babangida, and top military functionaries of his regime would not have survived execution. Given the plurality and diversity of Nigeria, the coup was also congenitally defective to the extent of its sub national lop-sidedness-as manifested, for instance, in the near complete absence of any officer of WAZOBIA origin in participation.

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