Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Article: A Friend Or Enemy Within?

By Emeka Umeagbalasi

English Language is like Philosophy, who is an ageless female without menopause. The non-menopausal nature of the two is incontestable. While the oldest child of Philosophy is Science, which begat a twin: natural and social sciences with many more generations founded by them, starting from 18th and 19th centuries; Philosophy is still pregnant with the ante-natal/pre-natal result of “Logic”, “Metaphysics”, “Epistemology” and “Ethics” as her embryos. The Mother-English Language is even more ambitious. She has not only given birth to thousands of words and lost thousands as well over the years; but also adopted or “stolen” over fifty thousand “foreign sons and daughters” (words) in several decades.

This explains why she has different variants and meanings or definitions in different social climes especially in societies that use her as their mother or official tongue. Such social climes range from Ghana to South Africa; and USA to Trinidad & Tobago, etc. English Language still remains pregnant and stealer of foreign words till date. In social science research or write-ups, or investigation, just like the Statistical Package for Social Sciences’ computer software (SPSS), there is “right to operational or empirical definition and use of terms” (based on experiments or experiences rather than ideas, concepts or theories) that are universally embedded.

My attention has been drawn to a rejoinder over some of our organization’s recent public information or statements by Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma of the Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria (NOPRIN). One of the statements of ours is dated 23rd of October, 2013 and titled: “Separating Igbo Cause, Democracy & Good Governance in Nigeria (Egalitarian Partisanship) From Pecuniary Politicking (Libertarian Partisanship): Putting The Records Straight”. Mr. Nwanguma, before becoming the Program Officer of NOPRIN, was a paid staff of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) and worked in a number of its administrative departments. His performance and conduct rating while holding forth in the said office departments is not yet the focus of this write-up. He hails from Mbaise in Imo State, Southeast Nigeria and resides in Lagos.

In his rejoinder, dated October 28, 2013 and posted on his facebook wall as well as those of his friends and motivators, he engaged in fruitlessly damaging attacks on my person and our organization-Intersociety; labeling us “agents of the Government of Anambra State and APGA”, among other unprintable and unprovoked utterances and pen-attacks directed at us.  He concluded his rejoinder with a threat to reveal what he felt he did not want to say for now. Our “right to operational or empirical definition and use of terms” was fruitlessly challenged in his rejoinder.

We have in our recent public information or statements cried out that the same people and groups that ganged up against us in the immediate past are back again. We are being haunted and hunted because of our insistence that those aspiring to occupy elective public offices in Nigeria particularly in Anambra State must not ascend to such hallowed positions through the window, but through popular polls. Our enemies have gone all out to even use our “friends” against us. But our armpits are not hairy!

We are not unaware of simple dictionary definition of the following terms: 1.partisan: showing too much support for one person, group or leader or; a person who strongly supports a particular leader, group or idea. Egalitarian: based on or holding the belief that everyone is equal and should have the same rights and opportunities. Libertarian: a person who strongly believes that people should have the freedom to do and think as they like. Freedom: the right to do or say what you want without anyone stopping you. Liberty: freedom to live as he or she chooses without too many restrictions from government or authority. Human Right: one of the basic rights that everyone has right to be treated fairly and not in a cruel manner especially by their government.

Following from the forgoing, freedom is idealistic (no absolute freedom society) because in a society where everyone is allowed right to do or say what he or she wants without anybody stopping or moderating him or her, then anarchy becomes the order of the day. This is the failed notion of the “Russian Anarchists”.  Human rights and liberties are simply defined as “democratically moderated freedoms”. Section 44 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended in 2011 and other relevant subsections in the Chapter Four is our guide.  Libertarianism also connotes “individualism” as against egalitarianism, which connotes “collectivism”.

We simply see partisanship as “interest” and understand our critics like Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma to mean that “our clarifications on Obiano’s alleged double voter card registration clearly shows that we are an interested party”; an allegation we strongly denied because of its sweeping nature. We have since apologized publicly over the erroneous inclusion of the names of the national Secretariat of CLO and its acting ED, Comrade Ibuchukwu Ezike in the joint statement of 19th October, 2013, issued by the Southeast Group 8 Rights Coalition.

The US concept of human rights is seen by many seminal thinkers as “globally individualistic rights” or that has libertarian setting as opposed to Europe’s “collectivist rights approach” or that has egalitarian setting. This is why we rightly termed our roles and interest in the November 16 governorship poll and the constructive engagement with the present government of Anambra State since March 2006 as “egalitarian partisanship (interest)”, as opposed to “libertarian partisanship (selfish interest)”. In other words, our roles and interest are purely for public or collective good.

In our own understanding of “partisanship” or “interest”, every activity done by any human being or group has elements of interest. As a matter of fact, “interest” is the propeller of every human action without which there can be no human action. But the type of interest you have in the said action or conduct is the bone of contention. Since we see “partisanship” as “interest”, then there is “non-partisanship” in any human activity.

While it is not my intention here to respond to Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma’s rejoinder line by line, word by word, paragraph by paragraph and language by language, or reply him in the same manner he despicably did, I consider it necessary for the sake of our teeming followers including our in-kind resources contributors and our idolized friends and associates in the media, to give his trash its deserved treatment as well as putting the records straight. I want to restate firmly that our priceless contributions towards the restoration of the brutally and heartlessly stolen electoral mandate of the Anambra People in March 2006 are not regretted one bit and will be repeated countless times if such ungodly situations occur again.

On the same premise, our constructive and transformative engagement or partnership with the Government of Anambra State in matters of good governance remains unshakeable. My popular relationship with the popular governor of Anambra Governor, Mr. Gregory Peter Obi is never in contention. At no time in the historic relationship have I looked for what goes into my private pocket, but what would benefit the Anambra public. My rare meetings with the governor are purely on State governance issues and not for personal aggrandizement.

Aside Mr. Peter Obi being my popular friend with no pecuniary interest attached whatsoever, my name and track records in the State bring food to my table and hopefully do so for the rest of my life. I have never sought to become a “crooked comrade” and if I choose to become one and  go militant by say, setting up “comrade boys” in over 200 markets in the State, I will be getting at least N1million every day from returns.  But till date, my name is never found or associated with any petty or large government contracts or building of motor parks or market stores anywhere in the State.

It is understood that “money culture” has taken over the Nigerian society, with serious damage to our value system, which makes the likes of Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma to think that the culture of upright living does not exist anymore and that everybody lives crookedly. From 2003 till now, I have been labeled and called several names all in defense of sanctity of the ballot box and good governance and promotion of collectivism. Sadly and shocking too, once you raise your voice in Nigeria, it means you have been bribed or induced to say or do that which you said or did.

For the information of our empty critics such as Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma, the activities of our organization (Intersociety) are substantially supported through in-kind contributions and volunteerism. Cash donations also come from kind hearted members of the public including five market leaderships that support us with N50, 000 monthly. Just last month, Mr. Uche Umeozuruora; son of an Onitsha based multi millionaire, gave us a check of N100, 000.

Our friends in the media offer to publish our advocacy activities as their own in-kind supports to us in appreciation of our grassroots works. Just two days ago, a young female lawyer offered to join us as a volunteer. Intersociety’sactivities are hugely grassroots oriented. We are not “academic or theorist rights group”. Our thematic areas are “promotion of democracy, good governance, peace and security”, unlike NOPRIN, which is “pro and anti police conducts watchdog”. Anambra governorship poll is outside its limited mandate.

Further, we recently launched a public appeal for the payment of our office apartment rent which expires by the end of December, 2013. The two years rent is N400, 000. The N100, 000 we have raised is in our Fidelity bank account. The Umeagbalasi Services Limited has pledged the sum of N100, 000 in support of the appeal. It is also important to point out that what takes an average Nigerian rights group that receives foreign grants N4million to achieve, takes us at Intersociety 400,000 to achieve.

During the December 2011 public presentation of our twin publications, out of over N600, 000 realized through public appeal, N200, 000 came from our police friends, yet the two publications were on police misconducts in Nigeria. We are not “jack of all trades”. We cut out coat according to our size in terms of activities we carry out. It is clear that the public acceptance of our activities and our rising profile is very intimidating and these have some people unsettled.

That we “failed”, in the language of Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma, to secure foreign grants does not mean that a rights group cannot exist or survive without foreign grants in Nigeria. In all fairness to Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma, he lent a helping hand as an expert grant writer in our failed grant proposals he referred to in his rejoinder. Pieces of evidence over NOPRIN’s failed foreign grants proposals also abound. Those behind the activities and successes of intersociety including its board members are not jobless. They are genuinely gainfully and professionally employed. With or without foreign grants, we have made our imprint far more than those receiving lofty dollar currencies in Nigeria. Since the white man’s dollar is drying up, some NGOs in the country now move from “rights advocacy” to “rights briefs/extortion”.

I have insisted and still insist that NGO leaders must always live an upright life and ready to account for their deeds and misdeeds, which they owe the public they serve at all times. An NGO person must be ready to defend his or her actions in a courageous and stainless manner. Because Mr. Nwanguma threatened in his rejoinder to say if pushed to the wall something or things he thinks will be nastier about me and my organization, I will not preempt him. My lifestyle is always in black and white.

Before I became a guest of the United States Department in June 2013 on IVLP program on NGO Management, I was thoroughly investigated by its world class investigative agencies. Such an investigation was not for entrance into the US alone, but also for future interface. The current Chinese President, for instance, attended the IVLP 27 years ago. Dr. Joe Odumakin of Nigeria’s CD attended it five years ago.

As for Mr. Peter Obi attending my wedding reception six years ago, which Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma saw as a crime, the Nigerian Criminal Law has not forbidden it, so, for now, I am neither morally nor criminally liable. My popular wedding reception was also attended by the then Chairman of the Police Service Commission, the majority leader of the Anambra State House of Assembly, the State Commissioner of Police, the member representing the Aguata Federal Constituency, the DPO of Ekwuluobia Police Station and a host of other dignitaries from various social interest and political groups within and beyond my State.

As for Mr. Nwanguma’s further falsehood to the effect that Mr. Peter Obi attended the occasion of my chieftaincy title in my town (Ezinifite in Aguata LGA), till date, I do not have any title of such. I am only a member of the “Nze Na Ozor” title society, in which I was enlisted in 2005. Mr. Peter Obi became the Anambra governor in March 2006 and not 2005. I urge Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma to tell the world further all he knows about me as he threatened in his rejoinder. While we allow him to say his trash, ours is to put such a trash where it rightly belongs. I am ever ready to defend all the roles I played or actions I performed since I came into public rights activism in 2001 when I became the Anambra State Branch chair of the CLO.

Lastly, the only thing which I will hold my breath for now until Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma speaks again as he promised, is the issue of my relationship with the likes of Senator Joy Emodi, Hon. Dr. Christian Okeke, Mr. Emmanuel Nnamdi Ubah, Prof. Iheanacho Orajaka, etc, as well as my “kitchen line bungalow” in my ancestral abode and my bus-vehicle, which I use as my official vehicle. Perhaps this is where he will go next. I have also been begged and counseled by those I respect highly  to  refrain from attacking him personally because a friend who undertakes to do a hatchet job is forgivable so as to spare him or her from falling to the bullets of “perfect crime” if such odd job is undelivered.

We see our present ordeal as a fierce battle against election riggers and their agents. We shall triumph as usual and put them to shame again. Igbo God and gods are not sleeping!!!

(Umeagbalasi is an Igbo rights activist and board chairman of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law. He writes from 41, Miss Elems Street, Fegge, Onitsha, Anambra State, Southeast, Nigeria)

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