Speaking Truth to Power:  Nigeria , more sweat, tears and blood? -Olu Ojedokun, Ph.D.-


In recent times I have retreated into a reflective shell, reflective of oneself and also of the broader context of Nigeria as a nation and entity and the enigma of the present administration.  It is an inescapable fact that the administration of President Yar Adua was installed upon a narrative of disputed elections and now appears to stumbling towards its first year in office.

I do not write this article with any pleasure or from a delight in baiting and bashing my President.  However, I do so out of great reluctance and out of a heavy heart of disillusionment.  This is more grating because I was one of the few who thought that President Yar'Adua would be for Nigeria the ‘scientist' who became the forger of new vocabularies and new narratives that would redescribe and thus reconstitute the people of Nigeria to the world. 

The initial months tended to indicate that he would use the mantra of the ‘Rule of Law' to forge a new vocabulary and new narrative of progress and advancement.  However, twelve months on have turned that indication into pie in the sky optimism and one fails to discern any template for action or progress.  Darkness of the electricity variety still prevails and the ship of state is heading no where.  We are simply fed and presented with vacillations, appeasements and mesmerisation of the complexities that power imposes on a frail administration.

An attempt would be made in this article to allow a few facts to speak for themselves to provide a more objective picture for fellow observers.

There was the Kalu saga reported on the pages of the Guardian Newspapers of 6th September 2007 that: Justice minister takes over Kalu's trial from EFCC'.  These began the series of embarrassments where issues such as these the government sought to resolve on the pages of the Guardian, Punch or Champion Newspapers or in the presence of the Judiciary.  The initial misstep seemed to indicate that the government had not incorporated into its analysis of power the question of control over its agenda and the ways in which potential issues are kept out of the public political/decision making process so that public exposure of the power is avoided.[1]   Unfortunately it gave a green light to different interests, foreign and local of the lack of proper grasp the government had and the government since then has become a sort of laughing stock manipulated by different interests who perceived differences within the government decision making machinery.  

Then there was the Alams issue which was reported on September 12, 2007 in the Sun Newspaper where it was stated that:


"The Federal Government has said that the former Bayelsa State governor, Dieprieye Alamieyeiseigha was unavailable for trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal because he was yet to recover fully from his health condition." 

A fact rebutted by the trial judge who was reported as responding below:

"…., the presiding Judge, Justice Momoh expressed surprise that a man they saw on television being given a tumultuous reception by his kinsmen was still unavailable for trial.  After Mr. Salihu Aliyu, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), who led the prosecution team to the tribunal informed the court that the ex-governor was yet to fully recover from his ailment, the tribunal members asked him if there was a romance between the prosecution and Alamieyeiseigha as they had seen him in the news media in pomp and in high spirit."

In the same report, the embarrassing trend continued with the Ibori palaver.  The summary of the facts are detailed below:

The AG initially denied the Federal Government played any role only to be revealed that he was writing for the defence only to admit to the contrary when he was presented with conclusive proof.  The Sun Newspaper of October 2, 2007 captured this under the headline

London court discharges order against Ibori'


"Former Governor of Delta State , Chief James Ibori, was on Monday, in London , given a clean bill of health over allegations of corruption as a court in the British capital ordered his seized assets released immediately."

This appeared innocuous enough, until we discovered, the hand behind this discharge was the learned Attorney-General.   The Punch Newspapers of 4th of October 2007 confirmed that:

"The AGF's letter, which was obtained by our correspondents on Wednesday reads, "Further to your letter Ref. IFT/JAT/316533 dated 4th August, 2007 on the above subject matter, I hereby react as follows:

"That Chief James Onanefe Ibori was investigated in connection with his acts and activities whilst in office as Governor of Delta State between 29th May, 1999 and 29th May, 2007.

That there is no record that your client, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, has been charged to any court of law in Nigeria in respect of any offence relating to money laundering or any other offences in connection with his acts and activities whilst in office as Governor of Delta State between 29th May, 1999 and 29th May, 2007.

That your client, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, has not been tried and/or convicted by any court of law in Nigeria for any offence relating to money laundering or any other offences in connection with his acts and activities whilst in office as Governor of Delta State between 29th May, 1999 and 29th May, 2007.


"That there was no request for a freezing order emanating from my office against your client pursuant to the exercise of my power under Article 3 of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty."

It was initially plausible to attribute these faux paux to ‘learning the ropes' or errors of judgment by one zealous official in government, however, similar stories have not justified this.

We were then served with the spectacle of the Transcorp/NITEL reversals and anti reversals, the NICON controversy all in the name of the ‘Rule of Law'

While all this was unraveling the IG with the tacit wink and nod of the President decided to show some ‘teeth' and moved in on Ribadu.  The papers dated 25th of December, Christmas Day of 2007 captures the drama and theatrics of this government:

"IG orders Ribadu to proceed on 1-yr course.  The battle to sack the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, may have been shifted to his immediate constituency where fresh plot to ease him out of office is allegedly coming from the top hierarchy of the Nigeria Police Force."

It continued that:

"While politicians who are not comfortable with his activities are said to have been pressurising President Umaru Yar'Adua to sack the anti-corruption chief, the leadership of the police force, which is reportedly uncomfortable with his profile, is said to be spear-heading the new angle of "the war against Ribadu" project."

With the attempt to appoint a new Chair of the EFCC now underway we are now in no doubt that the IG's actions were used as a charade to ease out Ribadu.  For a government's whose only hold on any achievements lies in the ‘Rule of Law', this is curious.  I am still puzzled about the legality or otherwise of his government's actions.

We know that Mallam Ribadu was appointed at the Executive Chairman of the EFCC under the EFCC Establishment Act 2004 by the President.  The relevant part of the Act states in Section 2:

"(3) The Chairman and members of the Commission other than ex-officio members shall be appointed by the President and appointment shall be subject to the confirmation of the Senate.   

Section 3 goes on to state the term of office:

3: (1) The Chairman and members of the Commission other than ex-officio members shall hold office for a period of four years and may be re-appointed for a further term of four years and no more." 

The term of office of the Chairman is defined by statute and It is the President of Nigeria not the Inspector General of Police who is in a position to relieve him of his functions.  The basis and conditions of how such a relief may be effected is covered under the provision of the 2004 Act.  However, it seems the government applied the Police Act in a way to rid itself of Ribadu.

And there was the British Airways' story which found the Foreign Minister napping.

It would seem that whilst we are preoccupied with the alleged excesses and depravities of President Obasanjo's administration, his cronies, relatives and associates, we have taken our eyes off the ball from the key question.  That is where is President Yar' Adua leading?  Is he a leader taking a walk with no followers?  His most profound policy statement to date appears to be he would not probe President Obasanjo. A statement which at least betrays his thoughts about his predecessor for at least he accepts the premise of the question that President Obasanjo's government was corrupt. 

For all of those who attempt to speak truth to power, for the teeming masses who are in the arena of sufferings, to the silent majority who wonder what the panacea is, I have nothing, no hope to offer for Nigeria but the suggestion of more sweat, tears and blood.  I end rather disappointingly by drawing from an unknown poet, stating we should do the following:

"Take time to dream

It is what the future is made of.


Take time to pray

It is the greatest power on earth."




The writer, is a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria

[1] Ojedokun, Olu (2006): Speaking Truth To Power: South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Work of Albie Sachs; p.138