My book Soldiers of Fortune is now available as an e-book on mobile devices via Okadabooks. I will do a live Twitter interview on Nigeria with OkadaBooks this Friday, May 27, at 1.30am (8:30am USA Eastern Time).
You can download the book here and get a N2000 Naira Okadabooks credit.
You can follow the interview on Twitter via the hashtag #OkadaRideWithMax
Today is the 26th anniversary of the April 1990 coup attempt against General Babangida in Nigeria. Rather than rehash the events (which I have written about before) in this post, I have instead included links where you can read all about the coup in an account by one of its plotters, and another view of the coup by General Babangida’s former Chief Security Officer.
That coup was a watershed in Nigeria, and accelerated the turn of events that led to the insurgency in the Niger Delta, and indirectly to the controversy that followed the June 12, 1993 election annulment, and the “power shift” to the south in 1999.
If you want to read more about the Orkar coup and these tumultuous years, you can of course do so in my book “Soldiers of Fortune: A History of Nigeria (1983-1993)“.
Have a great weekend everyone.
On April 1, 2016 Nigeria’s State Security Service announced that it had arrested Khalid Al-Barnawi, who has been on its wanted list, and whom Nigeria held responsible for the bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja on August 26, 2011.
The media description of Al-Barnawi is fuzzy, with some media outlets describing him as “Boko Haram’s second in command” and others acknowledging him as the leader of Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis-Sudan (“the Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa); AKA “Ansaru. He was arrested at an army barracks in Lokoja, Kogi State.
Al-Barnawi’s real name is alleged to be Mohammed Usman, although he has many other aliases including Kafuri, Naziru, Alhaji Yahaya, Mallam Dauda and Alhaji Tanimu. The SSS claimed that Al-Barnawi acted as a recruiter who procured Nigerians for training by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in North African states and the Middle-East.
Ansaru’s group was also held responsible for several kidnapping incidents in Nigeria in recent years including the kidnapping of two European engineers in Kebbi State in May 2011 (and their subsequent murder in Sokoto State in March 2013 during a botched rescue attempt), the kidnap of a German engineer, Edgar Raupach in January 2012, and the kidnap and murder of seven expatriate staff of Setraco Construction Company at Jama’are, Bauchi State in February 2013, as well as an attack on Nigerian troops that were en route for a UN mission in Mali.
One of the most bizarre details about Al-Barnawi’s arrest is that he was allegedly arrested inside the Chari Magumeri Barracks, while visiting a family member (following a tip-off).
If this account is true, what on earth was one of the most wanted men in the world (let alone Nigeria) doing inside a military barracks? Also, who is the “family member” he was visiting? Was the person a military personnel? If the answer to that question is “yes”, then it raises some very disturbing implications.
Today is the 50th anniversary of Nigeria’s first military coup. Rather than rehash it I have included video clips and audio interviews below with the key participants that will tell you all you need to know about it.
BBC interview with coup participant Captain Ben Gbulie:
Interview with coup participant Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu:
Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi’s first press conference:
President Azikiwe speaks about the coup:
Prime Minister Balewa’s corpse found: https://www.facebook.com/157457414278806/videos/1853738186911/
20 years in Nigeria: 1960-1979:
Ironsi’s funeral: https://www.facebook.com/157457414278806/videos/1100564156634789/
Patriotic Nigerians all over the world, here are 9 things you probably did not know about your beloved country Nigeria. Although Nigeria is always the hot topic of the day, she has some interesting history and facts we should familiarize ourselves with.
Did you know that… … … … … …
1.Nigeria is home to seven percent (7%) of the total languages spoken on earth. Taraba state alone has more languages than 30 African countries.
2. The National Youth Service Corps was established by the decree No.24 of 22nd of May,1973, during the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon.
3. The Nigerian civil war/ Biafran war lasted for 2 years, 6 months, 1 week and 2days (6th of July, 1967 to 15th of January, 1970).
4. The Nigerian National flag designed by Micheal Taiwo Akinkumi in 1959, originally have a red quarter sun on the white part as a symbol of divine protection and guidance, but this was removed by the committee.
5. The Walls of Benin (800-1400AD), in present day Edo State, are the longest ancient earthworks in the world. They enclose 6500 square kilometers of community lands that connected about 500 communities and is over 16000 km long.
6. Ile-Ife, was paved as early as 1000AD, with decorations that originated from Ancient America suggesting there might have been contact between the Yorubas and the Ancient Americans half a millenium before Columbus ‘discovered’ America.
7. The Niger Delta is the second largest delta on the planet. It also has the highest concentration of monotypic fish families in the world, and is also home to sixty percent of Nigeria’s mangrove forests. Nigeria’s mangrove forests are the largest in Africa and third largest on earth.
8. Sungbo’s Eredo, a 160 km rampart equipped with guard houses and moats, is reputed to be the largest single pre-colonial monument in Africa. It is located in present-day Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State and when it was built a millennium ago it required more earth to be moved during construction than that used for building the Great Pyramid of Giza (one of the Seven Wonders of The Ancient World). The most astonishing thing is that Sungbo’s Eredo was the biggest city in the world (bigger than Rome and Cairo) during the Middle Ages when it was built!
9. Nigeria boasts of being the most habitable place for ‘Butterflies’. It is widely believed that areas surrounding Calabar, Cross River in the Southern part of Nigeria is home to the world’s largest diversity of butterflies.
Great video featuring Dr Fatima Akilu, a psychologist, and the Director of Behavioural Analysis and Strategic Communication in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). Dr Akilu used to work as a psychologist for the UK’s National Health Service until she was hired by Nigeria’s National Security Adviser to assist in Nigeria’s battle with Boko Haram. Her role is to complement the military battle with Boko Haram with ‘soft power’ approaches aimed at socio-psychological approaches to countering Boko Haram.
Dr Akilu spoke in Washington DC, USA, at the Center For Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). In this video she made some eye raising revelations such as:
- many Boko Haram members do not read, and have never read, the Koran. Their knowledge of orthodox Islam is poor.
- contrary to popular belief, most Boko Haram members do not join the group due to poverty. Rather the group offers youths a sense of belonging and Boko Haram takes advantage of youths’ desire for belonging, and transition into adulthood to recruit.
- Dr Akilu’s department focuses on a programme called Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). CVE has four elements: (1) de-radicalisation (de-radicalising Boko Haram members in prison or those exposed to their doctrine), (2) counter-radicalisation (preventing people from being radicalised to begin with, identifying at risk youths and and pre-empting them from being recruited by Boko Haram – at ‘centers of imagination’), (3) strategic communication (countering and challenging Boko Haram’s narrative, rendering alternate non-violent interpretations of the Koran), and (3) a framework for psychology.
- Dr Akilu’s looked at battles against terrorism and insurgency in other countries such as Algeria, Australia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, UK, USA, and spent a year researching other countries’ approaches to terrorism elsewhere.
- Not all Boko Haram members are uneducated. Some have degrees and PhDs.
- Many Boko Haram members have poor knowledge of the Koran and have never read it.
- Boko Haram tends to oppose western secular education, music, and arts – areas that encourage critical thinking in young people. The obvious subtext is that exposure to such subjects makes people more resistant to Boko Haram’s message.
Start watching from around 50 minutes.
The Death of MKO Abiola: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02w68yg
The Death of General Abacha: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02vyxqq
How quickly we forget. Almost exactly 17 years ago, the political situation was as follows:
- Nigeria was being ruled by a ruthless and reclusive military dictator called General Sani Abacha.
- General Olusegun Obasanjo was in prison, along with over 50 other army officers were in jail (some awaiting execution) on charges of coup plotting.
- Nigeria had become a pariah nation after being expelled from the Commonwealth for executing Ken Saro-Wiwa and other activists who were campaigning for a fairer share of Nigerian oil revenues and against the environmental damage caused to their lands by the drilling and spills of big oil companies.
- Lt-General Oladipo Diya, Major-Generals Abdulkareem Adisa and Tajudeen Olanrewaju, and several other officers were on death row awaiting execution for their role in another coup plot.
- The winner of the acclaimed June 12 1993 election Chief MKO Abiola had been in jail for 4 years, kept incommunicado from the outside world.
- General Abacha was on the verge of transforming himself from a military ruler to civilian President having strong armed all the 5 political parties (“five fingers of the same leprous hand”) into adopting him as their presidential candidate.
- Genuine democracy seemed far, far away.
Plus a lot of the “pro democracy” activists shamelessly abandoned Abiola to join Abacha (Olu Onagoruwa, Baba Gana Kingibe). Even ministers in Abacha’s regime were not safe. The Guardian Newspapers (owned by Abacha’s minister Ibru) was proscribed by a newspaper proscription Decree and shut down after it criticised the government. It was the paper’s continual criticism of Abacha’s regime that led to the near fatal assassination attempt on Ibru.
The Abacha -v- Abiola power struggle was holding the entire country hostage (Abacha’s desire to remain in power and Abiola’s unrealised mandate). Even if Abacha was removed, what would the country do about Abiola who won a credible election five years earlier?
Then the following cataclysmic events happened in the space of 30 days:
- On June 8 1998 Abacha dies of a heart attack and is hurriedly buried without an autopsy by the time the news filters through to most Nigerians. Nigerians publicly celebrate the death of a reviled leader with wild jubilation. General Abdulsalam Abubakar quickly replaces Abacha and announces that Abiola will be released but that he had to realise that his mandate had expired. A lot of chicanery was used to get Abiola to renounce but he refused. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is sent to talk to him and explain that his “term of office” had expired since 5 years had passed since the June 12 1993 election. All to no avail.
- Exactly one month after the death of Abacha, Abiola suddenly dies of a heart attack on July 7 1998.
- With Abacha, Abiola and the June 12 issue out of the way, General Abubakar announces a swift 10 month programme for a return to civilian democratic rule. Just 10 months after Nigeria seemed doomed to perpetual military rule under General Abacha, the military steps down and a new democratic government is elected under President Obasanjo.
- The speed with which Abacha’s infrastructure was dismantled just seemed too contrived. With Abacha alive and Abiola incarcerated, most people thought democracy was years away in Nigeria. Just 10 months after his death everything he did was undone: his killer squad was dismantled, coup convicts and pro democracy activists released, Nigeria back in the Commonwealth, democracy restored, and the army back in the barracks. Note that a lot of Abacha’s supporters survived in office and resurfaced in subsequent dispensations (Sarki Mukhtar – NSA, Jerry Gana etc).
Somehow exactly 30 days apart, both men die of heart attacks. Abacha is prevented from becoming a civilian ruler, from executing the condemned men like Diya, Adisa and Olanrewaju, and a recalcitrant Abiola (who refuses to renounce his mandate) also dies. Problem gone, debate over, fresh start. All rather convenient isn’t it?…. How easily we forget….