Tag Archives: nigeria

Celebrating #Nigeria’s Female Military Officers


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I often post abut the exploits of Nigeria’s military. Most of those posts are about military men. So today, I decided to give credit to some of the gallant women of the Nigerian military who have not received as much coverage.

Probably the most celebrated female officer in Nigerian military history is Major-General Aderonke “Ronke” Kale who in 1994, became the first woman to become a major-general (two star general ) in the history of the Nigerian military. She was promoted to major-general along with other officers that later came to prominence such as Ishaya and Musa Bamaiyi.

Kale was a psychiatrist by training who joined the army, became head of the army medical corps, and survived and rose up the ranks in the cut-throat era of 1990s military shenanigans during which the military consumed itself with politics and Machiavellian coup plots.

You can read more about Major-General Kale here and here.

Major-General Abimbola Amusu

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Recently Kale’s feat was equaled when Major-General Abimbola Amusu became only the second female major-general in the army (after Kale). Amusu is currently the commander of the Nigerian army medical corps, and is currently the only female major-general serving in the entire Nigerian army. In a nice emotive touch, the retired Kale attended the ceremony at which Amusu was appointed the medical corps commander.

 

Blessing Liman: Nigeria’s first female fighter pilot:

 

Captain Chinyere Kalu: Nigeria’s first female professional pilot:

 

Rear-Admiral Itunu Hotonu

Another record breaking female officer is Rear-Admiral Itunu Hotonu who in 2012, became the first female rear-admiral in the history of the navy.

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Incidentally Kale, Amusu, and Hotonu are Yoruba.

 

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#Nigerian Army Chief Speaks About #BokoHaram and Corruption


 

Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusuf Buratai  had a BBC Hardtalk interview this week with the BBC’s Stephen Sackur. Sackur gave Buratai a very serious Jerexy Paxman style grilling on varied issues such as alleged human rights issues by the Nigerian army, corruption, the Nigerian army’s ongoing fight against Boko Haram, and allegations that Buratai owns properties in Dubai.

It was quite an uncomfortable interview and it got sticky and awkward for Buaratai and several points.

What is Behind the Recent #Biafra Agitation in #Nigeria? (Part 2)


The topic that dominates Nigerian public discourse at the moment is the resuscitated demands for the secession of the eastern region as a new country called Biafra. This comes 50 years after the last (failed and very costly) attempt at Biafran secession.

Channels TV’s Kadaria Ahmed and Al-Jazeera recently hosted television shows about the new Biafra phenomenon. I was a very informative series. Please see below for the Al-Jazeera TV Show:

What is Behind the Recent #Biafra Agitation in #Nigeria? (Part 1)


The topic that dominates Nigerian public discourse at the moment is the resuscitated demands for the secession of the eastern region as a new country called Biafra. This comes 50 years after the last (failed and very costly) attempt at Biafran secession.

Channels TV’s Kadaria Ahmed and Al-Jazeera recently hosted television shows about the new Biafra phenomenon. I was a very informative series. Please see below for the Channels TV Show:

Part 2:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=602&v=8t7eSMQm0Sw

Part 3:

BIAFRA: A Metaphor For Restructuring? Pt 3

Part 4:

BIAFRA: A Metaphor For Restructuring? Pt 4

Part 5:

BIAFRA: A Metaphor For Restructuring? Pt 5

Part 6:

BIAFRA: A Metaphor For Restructuring? Pt 6

Part 7:

BIAFRA: A Metaphor For Restructuring? Pt 7

Part 8:

BIAFRA: A Metaphor For Restructuring? Pt 8

Part 9:

 

BIAFRA: A Metaphor For Restructuring? Pt 9

Part 10:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dMCFBRntDk

Part 11:

BIAFRA: A Metaphor For Restructuring? Pt 11

 

 

Zoning and Rotation: Is It Time to End #Nigeria’s ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’?


The Gentleman’s Agreement That Could Break Apart Nigeria

Max Siollun

My article in Foreign Policy magazine last week about the implications of President Buhari’s ill health on Nigeria’s political stability and zoning arrangement. 
ABUJA, Nigeria — For the second time in seven years, the political stability of Africa’s most populous nation hinges on the health of one man. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is once again in Britain for medical treatment because of an undisclosed illness. He was there for almost two months earlier this year, and in June 2016 he spent nearly two weeks abroad being treated for an ear infection. In the past month, he missed three straight cabinet meetings due to sickness, and perhaps more tellingly for a devout Muslim, he missed Friday mosque prayers in Abuja, where he usually attends without fail.

Buhari’s unwillingness to disclose the nature or extent of his illness fuels rumors that he is terminally ill or, periodically, that he has already died. Last month, Garba Shehu, a spokesman for the president, was forced to issue a series of tweets denying that anything unpleasant happened to the president. He added that reports of Buhari’s ill health are “plain lies spread by vested interests to create panic.” Buhari’s wife recently tweeted that his health is “not as bad as it’s being perceived.”

Regardless of the severity of his illness, Buhari’s extended absence risks igniting an ugly power struggle that would threaten not just the political fortunes of his ruling party but also a long observed gentleman’s agreement that has been critical to maintaining the stability of the country.

The unwritten power-sharing agreement obliges the country’s major parties to alternate the presidency between northern and southern officeholders every eight years. It was consolidated during Nigeria’s first two democratic transfers of power — in 1999 and 2007 — and it alleviated the southern secessionist pressures that had festered under decades of military rule by dictators from the north. For a time, this mechanism for alternating power helped keep the peace in a country with hundreds of different ethnic groups and more than 500 different languages. But it was never intended to be permanent, and as Buhari’s illness demonstrates, it has increasingly become a source of tension rather than consensus.

If Buhari, a northerner, doesn’t finish his term of office, and power passes to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a Christian from the south, it will be the second time in seven years that the north’s “turn” in the presidency has been cut short. In late 2009, then-President Umaru Yar’Adua, who like Buhari was a Muslim from the north, traveled abroad for treatment for an undisclosed illness. When Yar’Adua died in office the following year, his southern Christian vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, succeeded him, setting the stage for an acrimonious split within the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over whether Jonathan should merely finish out Yar’Adua’s term or run to retain the office in the 2011 election.

In the end, Jonathan ran and won in 2011. But not before 800 people were killed in riots in the north after the PDP allowed Jonathan to contest the election. The anti-Jonathan faction later resigned in protest and defected to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) party. Buhari led the APC to victory over the PDP in 2015.

An eerily similar scenario is now playing out in Buhari’s APC party. If Buhari dies, resigns, or is declared medically incapacitated by the cabinet, it would likely ignite a similar struggle within the APC over whether Vice President Osinbajo should permanently succeed him as president. A group of prominent northerners has already stated that Osinbajo should serve merely as an interim president and that he cannot replace Buhari on the ticket in the 2019 presidential election. Should Osinbajo succeed Buhari, win the 2019 election, and serve a full term, a Christian southerner will have been president for 18 of the 24 years since Nigeria transitioned to democracy in 1999.

There is a chance that APC leaders will convince — or force — Osinbajo to stand down in favor of another Muslim candidate from the north. But sidelining Osinbajo would pose other sectarian risks. He was chosen as Buhari’s running mate in part to counter southern accusations that the APC is a Muslim party. And although he is seen as a technocrat, Osinbajo is a powerful political force in his own right — too powerful, perhaps, to be sidelined in 2019 without alienating millions of voters. He is a pastor in the country’s largest evangelical church, which has some 6 million members, and his wife is the granddaughter of Obafemi Awolowo, one of Nigeria’s early independence politicians who is beloved in southwest Nigeria.

Yet if the north’s “turn” in power is interrupted again, it will further alienate the region — already home to the bloody Boko Haram insurgency, which has thrived in part because of government neglect — and make north-south cooperation on security, development, and a host of other critical issues more difficult. It could easily lead to another round of deadly riots, as it did in 2011. But there is a way out.

Nigeria should abandon the convention of north-south presidential power rotation now that it has outlived its purpose. At the same time, it should deepen power sharing in state and local governments, which have steadily gained influence relative to the national government since 1999. Many of the country’s 36 states and 774 local governments already practice some form of power rotation among politicians from different ethnic, religious, and geographic groups. The key will be to frame the abolition of power rotation at the presidential level as an opportunity to strengthen these norms at the state and local levels — not a chance to terminate them everywhere at once.

The reality is that most Nigerians experience government at the local level anyway. Regardless of whether Buhari or Osinbajo is in the presidential palace, state and local officials have the most purchase on the lives of ordinary citizens. Letting go of a dangerous convention at the national level while devolving more power to inclusive governance structures at the local level offers a way out of the current impasse.

 

The Man Who Bargained With #BokoHaram for the #Chibok Girls


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A very interesting review of the process and negotiations that led to the release of over 100 Chibok schoolgirls over the past year.

A Nigerian lawyer named Zannah Mustapha acted as an intermediary between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government. Mustapha is trusted by Boko Haram. He has negotiated two prisoner releases with Boko Haram (the 21 girls that were released in October 2016 and the 82 that were released in early May 2017).

Apparently only 20 girls were supposed to be released in October 2016, but Boko Haram added a 21st as a “gift” to Mustapha in honour of their high regard for him. During both the 2016 and 2017 prisoner exchanges, Boko Haram made an elaborate show of reading out the names of all those released, and ostentatiously asked each one prior to their release “Throughout the time you were with us, did anyone rape you or touch you?” All of the girls denied being raped. One girl who was carrying a baby said that she had married and was pregnant at the time she was kidnapped, and that the father of her baby was her husband.

If this is true, then Boko Haram treated the girls with uncharacteristic restraint as other women abducted by Boko Haram have described being gang raped and forced into “marriages” with Boko Haram members.

One of the 82 girls released this week had an amputated limb (apparently sustained during a Nigerian air force strike against Boko Haram). When the released girls met Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja after their release, this wounded girl was sitting in a wheelchair. You can see the image of that meeting here.

Another interesting angle is that some of the Chibok girls actually refused to be released as part of the prisoner exchange that saw 82 girls released in exchange for 5 Boko Haram commanders that were in Nigerian military custody.

Mustapha said that “Some girls refused to return… I have never talked to one of the girls about their reasons. As a mediator, it is not part of my mandate to force them [to return home]“.

 

 

41st Anniversary of Murtala Muhammed’s Assasination


Today is the 41st anniversary of the assassination of Nigeria’s former military head of state General Murtala Muhammed. He was assassinated on February 13, 1976, on his way to work during an abortive coup. Full details of Murtala’s life and the events that led to his death are in my book Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture.

Murtala’s car was ambushed by a group of soldiers in Lagos and he was shot to death. Above is a photo of the bullet riddled car in which he was killed. Note the bullet holes in the windscreen.

US State Department Report on Murtala Muhammed: https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/us-state-department-report-on-murtala-muhammed/

Murtala Muhammed’s speech on Nigerian democracy: https://www.facebook.com/157457414278806/videos/1851800698475/

The assassination of Murtala Muhammed:
https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2009/02/13/the-assasination-of-murtala-muhammed/

https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/february-13-1976-the-death-of-murtala-muhammed/

Brigadier Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Speaks to the press about Coup Plot: https://www.facebook.com/157457414278806/videos/1849886570623/

Lt-Colonel Dimka speaks to the press: https://www.facebook.com/157457414278806/videos/1851800698475/

Lt-General Obasanjo announces execution of coup convicts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjEA83pgstg&list=PLTCNM3JtW0UlisCGV98STnBtiGoS7YTaZ&index=3

Max Siollun (@maxsiollun) | Twitter

Did #Nigeria and #Biafra Provide a Template for Peacemaking?



Imagine if the Israeli Prime Minister hired a former PLO fighter as his personal pilot. Or if the president of the United States allowed a Russian to be his personal chauffeur at the height of the Cold War. Sounds surreal? Yet that is precisely what happened in Nigeria several decades ago when then head of state General Gowon hired an Igbo air force officer who formerly fought for Biafra as one of his presidential pilots.

Nigerians are an opinionated and self-critical bunch. Dinner and beer parlour conversations among Nigerians almost inevitably turn to the country’s underwhelming accomplishments and disastrous mismanagement. Self-flagellation is a national obsession. Despite our penchant for voicing our opinion when it comes to national failures, we suddenly become reticent when it comes to recognizing our national accomplishments. This is puzzling as one of our most impressive accomplishments is a reconciliation that is unprecedented in modern history.

THE BROTHERS’ WAR

Sunday January 15, 2017 marks the 47th anniversary of the end of the Nigerian civil war. On that day in Dodan Barracks, a brutal 920-day civil war ended as former colleagues and combatants who had engaged each other in bitter warfare for over two and a half years embraced each other with unprecedented speech and warmth. They ended a war wracked by famine, starving children, one million corpses, and violence and suffering of such an intensely grotesque magnitude that the words “pogrom” and “Kwashiorkor” were introduced into the standard Nigerian vocabulary.

NO NUREMBERG TRIALS, NO MEDALS

When the war ended, the Igbos grimly expected that their defeat would be followed by their wholesale massacre. However the leader of the victorious army refused to proclaim victory as there is no “victor” in a conflict between brothers. He declared a general amnesty for all those who fought against him, invited members of the defeated side to join his administration, refused to conduct trials of, or execute the defeated, and refused to award medals to his own soldiers who had fought the war for years. He even allowed some members of the enemy’s army to join his own army. For their part, Igbos quietly accepted their new fate in a united Nigeria, went back to their farms and businesses, and rebuilt their destroyed homes without any thoughts of sabotage or guerilla warfare to continue their struggle. All this happened without a United Nations resolution or peacekeeping force, international peace plans and conferences, or the protracted years long negotiations that it normally takes to resolve modern conflicts. Nigerians decided for themselves that they had seen enough bloodshed and that they wanted a war free future for their children.

The war also ironically dissolved some of the negative stereotypes the combatants held about each other, and enhanced their mutual respect for each other. Igbos won admiration from the federal side for the tenacity, iron will, and incredible improvisation with which they fought the war. The federal side won the Igbos’ respect for their magnanimity in victory. Although pockets of bitterness remain (particularly over the emotional issue of properties abandoned by Igbos who fled for their safety, but which were illegally appropriated by other communities), it is undoubted that Nigeria’s remarkable reconciliation is rivaled in the modern era only by black South Africans’ forgiveness of their former oppressors.

AN ACHIEVEMENT MATCHED BY FEW OTHERS

Almost 50 years after United Nations resolutions called for them to cease hostilities, the Israelis and Arabs are still at each other’s throats. Over 22 years after the Rwandan civil war, the government is still carrying out war crimes trials. However, a remarkably sober pragmatism rose from the blood, fire and ashes of the Nigerian civil war. It taught the combatants an unforgettable lesson in the evils of ethnic rivalry. The bitter memory of the war means that Nigeria stumbles through and survives the sorts of crises that cause war and disintegration in other countries: such as June 12, Sharia, military coups, ethnic violence, and resource control.

When an election was annulled in Algeria in 1991, it plunged Algeria into a decade long civil war in which up to 200,000 people died and terrorism linked to the event was exported to France. When an election was annulled in Nigeria two years later, the winner of the election said he abhorred violence and urged the public to protest peacefully. A multi-ethnic federation in Yugoslavia was destroyed amidst ethnic cleansing and a brutal civil war in which NATO had to intervene with air strikes in order to convince the combatants to stop killing each other. A multi-ethnic federation in Nigeria is managed through a complex system of constitutional checks and balances, and a legally binding concept known as “federal character” which means that every single one of the 36 states in the federation has a minister in the government. The four most powerful people in the country are all from different ethnic groups, and there is an unwritten rule meaning that the President and Vice-President can never be from the same part of the country.

The former combatants now live, work, and intermarry with each other as if the war never happened. Yet the civil war literature rarely discusses this most remarkable and impressive aspect of the war: the humanity with which Nigerians and Biafrans forgave each other, laid down their arms and got on with their lives. Why was this remarkable reconciliation possible?

GENERAL GOWON: THE HEALER OF NIGERIAN WOUNDS

This reconciliation was possible due largely to one pivotal figure: the then Nigerian head of state Yakubu “Jack” Gowon. It was he who insisted that Igbos should be treated as prodigal sons, rather than defeated foes. He did so against the urgings of his own colleagues who wanted brutal punishment to be meted out to Igbos. Even as the war raged, Gowon repeatedly declared that “We do not take the Ibos as our enemies; they are our brothers.”

When he became head of state after the two bloody military coups of 1966, he initially seemed totally unsuitable for the job of ruling one of the most unruly populations on Earth. He did not have the oratorical gifts of Ojukwu, the erudition of Awolowo, the stature of the Sardauna, or the imposing physicality of Aguiyi-Ironsi. Yet he remained the only officer acceptable to the majority of the population and army. Why?

“JACK THE BOY SCOUT”

Gowon was a humble, soft-spoken infantry soldier who trained at the world’s most elite military academy, yet had an oxymoronic distaste for unnecessary bloodshed. It was Gowon who insisted that Igbos should be treated as prodigal sons, rather than defeated foes. It was as if his background and origin were deliberately woven from Nigeria’s intricate ethnic matrix to ensure balance between the north and south. Gowon was that rarest of Nigerians: acceptable to the north and south. Gowon was from the north, yet practised the religion of the south. He was a Nigerian PR man’s dream. His surname was even used as an acronym calling for Nigerian unity: “Go On With One Nigeria”. The bachelor son of a Methodist minister, he did not drink, smoke or curse. He seemed so impossibly innocent and naïve that some foreign correspondents nicknamed him “Jack the Boy Scout”. The name was not fanciful. On one occasion he apologised to reporters for using the word “hell”.

Former Biafran officer Ben Gbulie admitted that Gowon’s forgiveness would probably not have been reciprocated had Biafra won the war. Gbulie said “Probably if we had won the war, we would have shot him.” Scant attention has been paid to why Gowon chose this remarkable path of reconciliation. Many factors were at play. As a minister’s son, he was a genuine Christian, and his humane approach to Igbos may also have been borne of the fact that at the time the crisis erupted, Gowon had an Igbo girlfriend named Edith Ike, whom he expected to marry (he eventually married a nurse named Victoria Zakari).

However, Gowon was also pragmatic enough to realise that clemency was crucial to Igbo acceptance of reintegration. Had he sought to punish Igbos, there would have been an Igbo led armed insurrection in Nigeria till today. Gowon’s mistake was that at the war’s end, he did not realise that his job was done. Had he stepped down at the end of the war, he would have maintained his prestige as Nigeria’s Lincoln.

To understand the magnitude of what Nigeria achieved by fighting such a brutal war, then making such a remarkably rapid peace, I will turn to the words of a neutral foreign observer of the conflict. John de St Jorre’s The Brothers War is one of the most balanced accounts of the war. Commenting on the reconciliation that followed the war, St Jorre observed that:

“when history takes a longer view of Nigeria’s war it will be shown that while the black man has little to teach us about making war he has a real contribution to offer in making peace.”

*The official members of the Biafran and federal delegations who attended the formal war ending ceremony at Dodan Barracks on January 15, 1970 were:

Biafran Delegation –

  • Major-General Phillip Effiong – Officer Administering the Republic of Biafra
  • Sir Louis Mbanefo – Chief Justice of Biafra
  • Matthew Mbu – Biafran Foreign Minister
  • Brigadier Patrick Amadi – Biafran Army
  • Colonel Patrick Anwunah – Chief of Logistics and Principal Staff Officer to Ojukwu
  • Colonel David Ogunewe – Military Adviser to Ojukwu
  • Patrick Okeke – Inspector-General of Biafran Police

Federal Military Government Delegation:

  • Major-General Yakubu Gowon – Nigerian Head of State
  • Obafemi Awolowo – Deputy Chairman, Supreme Military Council
  • Brigadier Emmanuel Ekpo – Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters
  • Brigadier Hassan Katsina – Chief of Staff, Nigerian Army
  • Brigadier Emmanuel Ikwue – Chief of Air Staff
  • Rear-Admiral Joseph Wey – Chief of Naval Staff
  • Dr Taslim Elias – Attorney-General
  • H.E.A. Ejueyitchie – Secretary to the Federal Military Government
  • Anthony Enahoro – Commissioner for Information
  • The Military Governors of the 12 states: , Ukpabi Asika, Audu Bako, David Bamigboye, Alfred Diete-Spiff, Jacob Esuene, Usman Faruk, Joseph Gomwalk, Mobolaji Johnson, Abba Kyari, Samuel Ogbemudia, Oluwole Rotimi, Musa Usman.

https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/

 

 

#Nigeria’s First Coup: In Pictures, Images, and Text


Today is the 51st 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.

Various Articles, Interviews, and Resources on the First Coup: https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/nigerias-january-15-1966-coup-50-years-later/

Video Series on the Nigerian civil war: https://www.facebook.com/Oil-Politics-and-Violence-Nigerias-Military-Coup-Culture-1966-1976-157457414278806/videos/

Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun (one of the victims of the first coup):

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Brigadier Ademulegun and his wife:

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My BBC article on the first coup: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-35312370?ocid=socialflow_facebook#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Article on/photo of Major Wale Ademoyega by someone who knew him well: https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/the-nzeogwu-and-ademoyega-i-knew/

The Life of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (Nigerian Prime Minister who was killed during the coup):

https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/nigerias-forgotten-heroes-alhaji-sir-abubakar-tafawa-balewa/

https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/abubakar-tafawa-balewa-a-right-honourable-gentleman-nigeria/

https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/how-did-tafawa-balewa-die/

Interview with Major Nzeogwu: https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2008/02/20/interview-with-major-nzeogwu/

The Latest #HowToFixNigeria – With @Funmilola


The latest how to fix Nigeria event by the Royal African Society was hosted by Funmi Iyanda (acting as MC). The topic was corruption, and the panel included Maggie Murphy (Transparency International’s Senior Global Advocacy Manager), Professor Abiodun Alao of King’s College, Kayode Ogunmasi (UK-based Nigerian activist and anti corruption campaigner), Ayo Sogunro (Writer, Teacher, Columnist, Lawyer).