Header Ads

Saturday, 13 January 2018

AN UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH AT A CRITICAL TIME WHEN GOVERNMENT PURSUES VENGEANCE - By Bashorun J.K. Randle


On a flight from Dulles International Airport in Virginia, USA, to Heathrow, London, I found myself seated next to a former Ambassador of The United States of America to Nigeria who seemed to know far more about my country than anyone I have ever come across. I celebrated my 74th birthday on January 13th 2018 which puts me firmly in the same age bracket as President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR who celebrated his 74th birthday on 17 December, 2016. Never mind that he altered the figure when he declared:
“It has been a tumultuous year. I am thinking I am 75. I thought I was 74 but I was told I was 75. 


“I have never been so sick, not even during the 30-month civil war that I was stumbling under farm of yams or cassava.
But this sickness…I don’t know, but I came out better. All those who saw me before said I look much better when I came back.
But I have explained it to the public that as a General, I used to give orders. But now, I take orders. 

The doctors told me to feed my stomach and sleep for longer hours. That is why I am looking much better.”
That is not the subject of the main discussion – our collective knowledge gap. I really wish that I was able to record the avalanche of data, statistics and incisive insights with which the Ambassador (who is now a Professor at Yale University) bombarded me. His opening salvo was that Nigeria was broken INSIDE on 15th January 1966 when we suffered our first coup d’etat which was supposedly led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu who was based in Kaduna. Since then we have been banging our heads against the wall trying to panel-beat our nation and “patch patch” it from OUTSIDE.

Just one press of the button on the Ambassador’s smart phone delivered the following witness statement by Brigadier General Atom Kpera (Rtd): 

“MY ROLE IN NIGERIA’S FIRST COUP – BRIG GEN ATOM KPERA (RTD)”
“I was in Kaduna as a second lieutenant in 1966, having returned to Nigeria in August the previous year. I joined the engineering section of the military service where I was before the 1966 coup. I was commanding a troop, as it was called in the Engineers while in the infantry it is called a platoon. So I was there in Kaduna. I know the next question would be how did it happen? The long and short is that I took part in that coup because my Officer Commanding organised what was called ‘Exercise Damisa’ and on our own we called it orders. It was that exercise that we were going for, a training exercise in the night. My whole squadron was also part of the exercise. So we went out there in the night where we could do a night (attack) and then occupy strategic places.
 
That was the instruction and my troop was assigned to seize and protect the then National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) in Kaduna. After the night attack in the bush our commanders enumerated the various places called VPs (vital points).
In my own case, I was assigned to defend the Radio station. Within the first night, we did the night attack on Zaria Road, then came to the Radio station, surrounded it and put troops to guard it. The Officer Commanding then came and inspected and said, ‘Okay, stand down’ which means you can now go. That was good. Then the following night… we assembled at 7 pm, went through the same exercise and my O/C came and inspected, but this time he didn’t say,’ stand down.’ He just said, ‘Okay, you will get your stand down orders later.’ The following day I saw one officer named J. C. Ojukwu (an old boy of King’s College, Lagos) who came and said the exercise was completed and Major Hassan Katsina was with us and I asked him: ‘What are you talking about?’ That was when I started having an idea that it was a coup. Then our O/C came and said we should stay at our posts and should not allow anybody to come in or go out. That was the second night when I started having the idea that it was a coup. That is why I said I participated in it blindfolded. I wasn’t the only one; all our officers, probably only the Igbo officers knew that it was a coup. In that squadron, we were four that were non-Igbo, every other person was an officer of Igbo extraction. That was how it went.” 

What truly amazed me were the massive details the Ambassador had garnered as a consequence of his research endeavours into why coup d’états occurred in any part of the world (both 20th and 21st century) and how these could be linked with the epochal “9/11” on 11th September 2001 when Al-Qaeda terrorists launched an unprecedented attack on the bastion of American capitalism – the World Trade Centre, in Manhattan, New York City; as well as The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia and another failed attempt on Washington D.C.
Since then, terrorists have erupted all over the world under numerous nomenclatures and insignias – Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab); Boko Haram etc.
What remains baffling is the consistency of the steamy potion of hate, resentment, desperation, envy, revenge and total disregard for human lives, especially their own, (as suicide bombers). By the same token, their own parents as well as wives and children are readily sacrificed at the altar of fanaticism and insurgency. As for friends, mistresses, casual girlfriends and acquaintances, etc. they are just cannon fodder. Of least concern to them are the pain and suffering inflicted on total strangers.
Traditionally, wars were fought by soldiers and mercenaries against soldiers. Not anymore. The battle line has changed. The boundaries have collapsed and the arena of war as well as 
BUHARI

the tactics have become asymmetrical. The war is no longer over (and about) territory. Rather, it is about the supremacy of one religion over another and by a cruel irony, it is also about the dominance of one sect within the same religion over another. Most times, the conflicts are premeditated and self-contrived on the march towards martyrdom.
Even more startling is the secrecy of terrorists amongst themselves in sharp contrast to their feisty bravado and callousness whenever they choose to make a public statement – beheading, shooting, hanging, whipping, raping, kidnapping, enslaving etc. of their captives or random victims for even the smallest infractions e.g. smoking, drinking alcohol or shaving off hair/beard.
Rage is the currency of their trade while outrage and defiance are their demons. They maim, kill and draw blood at will. No qualms whatever. 

Their background provides no clues. In the case of Nigeria’s first coup, Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna who was one of the ringleaders graduated from the University of Ibadan which would have afforded (even guaranteed) him a comfortable existence either in the civil service or the military.
Regardless, he could lay legitimate claim to being the architect and planner-in-chief of the coup. As a university student, his room was right next to that of Emeka Anyaoku who was sandwiched between Ifeajuna and Jide Alo.
Anyaoku proceeded to the world of diplomacy and dazzled as the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth (from 1 July 1990 – 31 March 2000) along with a brief stint as Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1983. Alo was reputed to have drafted the announcement of the coup which Nzeogwu read to a bewildered nation. He later became Nigeria’s Ambassador to Brazil but eventually disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
What is self-evident is that once the seal that glues a nation together is broken to put it back is in the same category as a Herculean task/mission impossible. Thereafter, what you are left with is deep-seated animosity, mutual suspicion and finally revenge in the game of death preceded by ethnic cleansing and/or genocide – along with looting and plunder.
When Brigadier-General Atom Kpera was tackled on “Hard Talk”:
“Nigerian generals are said to be very rich, especially the retired ones. Did you also amass billions of money while in service?”
his response was as follows:
“The long and short answer is that I didn’t. I have my pay slip here. I received my last pay slip in the Army in September 1985 and the take home pay was N1, 500. At that time it was adequate to take care of my needs, and when I retired, there was still strict control of military personnel on matters of handling money, you could hardly embezzle money. If you did, they would send you to prison and retire you. So in our own time, up to 1985 

when I left, we had no money. When I was military governor of Anambra, my allowance was about N400 and I couldn’t touch the Government House money. In fact, you had a permanent secretary in Government House who handled everything concerning money; he accounted directly to the accountant-general of the state. If I had to go to Lagos, I had to tell the perm sec and he would prepare everything for me, including my hotel bills. He would then give the money to my ADC who spent it and made returns strictly to the permanent secretary. The same thing for Government House expenses.
So we had no such thing as government having money or diverting security funds. And as I earlier said, in our time, we didn’t have federation account where money would come in billions. So the question of amassing wealth didn’t arise at all. Remember that we introduced the War against Indiscipline (WAI). These billions of a thing started when we left. So my answer is no, I am only hearing that billions are being made by military persons.”
I had lost touch with the Ambassador for quite a while when he suddenly called from the U.S. to alert me that he was on his way to Nigeria as a special envoy of President Donald J. Trump.
Anyway, after he had completed his official duties in Abuja, he decided to come to Lagos rather than return straightaway to Washington D.C. It turned out that he was bothered about the security situation in Nigeria and the consequences for U.S. business interests (and the security implications for the U.S. itself – both domestic and international).
According to him, the U.S. is exceptionally concerned about the rapidly evolving dynamics of Nigeria’s demography – 65 per cent of the population are young people most of whom fall into the category of the unemployed/partially employed, without any social safety net. Economists have defined it as the demographic bulge.
According to the Ambassador, the U.S. under President Trump is ready to provide ample funds for Nigeria to ensure that these kids acquire relevant skills and funding to become entrepreneurs that would massively impact on job creation. Of course, this is a subject close to my heart and as regards which my firm has endeavoured to play a catalyst role with some degree of success.
However, what took me entirely by surprise was the Ambassador’s amazement that he attended the Official Flag Off of the Redevelopment of J.K. Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History on Tuesday 9th January 2018 but to his astonishment, members of the J.K. Randle family were conspicuous by their absence!!
According to him, he was at the meeting in June 2017 in the White House when an enraged President Trump declared (not realising that the microphone was still on): - according to Michael Shear, White House correspondent of New York Times:
“Trump railed against the number of Nigerian U.S. visa holders (40,000 entry permits were given to Nigerians) and that they would contravene their visa terms so as not to return to 

their “huts” in Nigeria having been captivated by the splendour, and grandeur and abundant blessings of America.”
The Ambassador took pains to defend Trump and that the J.K. Randle Trump Super Towers was very much on President Trump’s mind and that he was ready to go to war over the demolition of the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall, Onikan, Lagos which was in flagrant contempt of the sanctity of heritage buildings and the preservation of historic monuments.
President Trump has made no secret of his intention to build Super Trump Towers as his signature and footprint in every major African city in order to demonstrate the efficacy and potency of American capitalism and entrepreneurship with regard to wealth creation and the galvanisation of jobs for both the able and disabled – without discrimination on the basis of tribe, creed or gender as the counterforce for insurrection and terrorism. It all fits in well with Trump’s mantra for which he remains unrepentant: “AMERICA FIRST” with a subsidiary (sub-text) about persuading Africans, especially Nigerians to develop their own country and continent instead of wasting their enormous resources and institutionalising corruption as well as incompetence. What particularly enraged Donald Trump is why would government undertake a project which the J.K. Randle family has already volunteered to fund in memory of their ancestor?
Indeed, the President of the United States has ordered the suspension of all further aid to Nigeria until the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) gets to the bottom of the matter. This is going to be a test case for Nigeria’s Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC); Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); Serious Fraud Unit (SFU) and the Nigeria Police.
The United Kingdom and Her Majesty the Queen are also keen to know who were the original Trustees of the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Trust? And who are the rightful successors? It was to no avail that I endeavoured to provide the answers.
What is now playing out is that the international community is demanding to know how come in flagrant abuse of the law regarding acquisition of private property for public purpose, government can just seize the land, demolish the property and as an afterthought, offer to pay compensation? That is the law of the jungle where might is right. I tried in vain to correct the Ambassador that he was mixing up Nigeria with Zimboda!!
He was adamant that the United States of America would not relent until the FBI thoroughly investigates all allegations of fraud, bribery, conspiracy, intimidation and misallocation of resources as well as the brazen bamboozlement of the J.K. Randle family to disposes them and eventually pauperise them into the category of “Internally Displaced Persons” (IDPs).
In its interim report, the FBI has captured the payment of ₦250,000 (two hundred and fifty thousand naira) by the government into the bank account of the Trustees of Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall but who gave the government the account number and can one person only constitute himself (and only himself) as the “Trustees”? The issue of breach of trust (a criminal 

RANDLE

matter) is only a matter of time if due process (and transparency) have been short circuited. In other words, how was the ₦250,000 arrived at? It cannot be deemed as compensation as the government has not served any public notice regarding compulsory acquisition of the land for public purpose. All it has done is offer to buy the property for ₦250,000 – a purely commercial transaction. The Trustees cannot be compelled under duress to accept the offer.
Hence, it is the prerogative of the law enforcement agencies at the behest of the FBI to determine whether whoever holds himself out as “Trustees” engaged the services of a competent professional valuer before accepting payment along with the fundamental issue of whether a so-called “Sole Trustee” can convey a legitimate title to the government unless he can establish that a gun was held to his head or admit that it was done out of spite and malice. Treachery and betrayal have slipped their anchor and crept into the equation. The line between total strangers and true friends has become blurred.
What is beyond dispute is that the law prescribes that a Trust could be operated and managed as an entity incorporated either as a Limited Guaranty (by Trustees); or as a Trust which is anchored on landed property under the doctrine of perpetual succession.
In the case of the latter, once the land is alienated, the Trust is extinguished. Kaput!!
All the noble and laudable intentions of the original Trustees would have been subverted and extinguished at the altar of wickedness, vicious manipulation and low cunning.
I remain externally grateful to the Ambassador of the United States of America for reminding me of William Cuthbert Faulkner’s epigram (1951):
“The past is never dead. In fact it’s not even past. Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed.”
It was preceded by the Nobel Prize for Literature which he won in 1949.
That same 1949 was the year when my father, Chief J.K. Randle played a pivotal role in the emergence of Prince Musediku Adeniji Adele as the Oba (King) of Lagos against the run of play as the other contestant, Prince Adeyinka Oyekan was my dad’s classmate at King’s College and lived only a few doors away (at “Agbole Temiyemi”) from us. Incidentally, I was at Lagos Government School, Okesuna where most of the Adele children were – from the eldest child who became a doctor to Ladega (Sultan), the mathematician and two daughters (Jemila and Mulika). Now one of Adele’s grandchildren is alleged (by the Ambassador) to be the tormentor-in-chief of the J.K. Randle family.
I refuse to believe it or endorse it as cruel irony/twist of fate.
Just before the Ambassador got up to leave for the airport in his heavily tinted armoured car, his telephone was flashing. He was probably too embarrassed by the message only for the voice message to burst out.
It was a bombshell.

The BREAKING NEWS on CNN was:
Headline: TRUMP CALLS AFRICAN NATIONS, HAITI AND EL SALVADOR “SHITHOLE COUNTRIES”
“President Donald Trump expressed frustration behind closed doors with people coming to the US from "shithole countries," sources told CNN on Thursday.
One of the sources briefed on the Thursday Oval Office meeting with lawmakers confirmed Trump asked, "Why do we want all these people from 'shithole countries' coming here?"
Trump, in vulgar terms, rejects bipartisan immigration proposal at White House meeting.
A person familiar with the meeting said Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham brought a plan to Trump that involved cutting the visa lottery in half and, at the behest of the Congressional Black Caucus, the rest would go to underrepresented countries in Africa and Temporary Protective Status nations, including Haiti. The person said the language was salty on both sides.
One person briefed on the meeting said when Durbin got to Haiti, Trump began to ask why we want people from Haiti and more Africans in the US and added that the US should get more people from countries like Norway.
A person familiar with what was said at the meeting told CNN that Trump also said: "Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out."
Trump was taping a message in the State Dining Room on Thursday afternoon for Martin Luther King Jr. Day as the story was breaking, an official said. Another official said Trump expressed to aides within the hour that the media was blowing his comment out of proportion.
The Washington Post first reported on Trump's comments in the Oval Office meeting, which the Post said "shocked" lawmakers in attendance.
Reached for comment about the article, White House spokesperson Raj Shah did not deny the "shithole" remark, but instead said in a statement that Trump "is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation."
One of the sources told CNN that White House adviser Stephen Miller was at the meeting, and White House chief of staff John Kelly attended part but probably not all of the meeting.
The Trump administration late last year announced it would end the TPS designation for Haiti, a move that could affect tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants. Likewise, the Department of Homeland Security on Monday announced it would end protections more than 200,000 Salvadorans, and on Thursday the White House rejected a bipartisan immigration proposal, including a fix for people protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

A White House official told CNN the President's "shithole" remark is being received much differently inside of the White House than it is outside. The official said that although this might enrage Washington, staffers predict the comment would resonate with Trump's base, similarly to how Trump's attacks on NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem did.
Neal Katyal, a lead lawyer challenging Trump's attempts to impose a travel ban on mostly Muslim nations, has argued the travel ban reveals a discriminatory intent on the President's part, and responded to news of Trump's comment in light of the ongoing legal battle.
"As I put the finishing touches on the travel ban brief to the Supreme Court tonight, the President's words remind us again of how his un-American racist ideology impacts policy," Katyal said.
The White House denied similarly derogatory remarks in December, when The New York Times reported Trump said during a meeting in June that people coming from Haiti "all have AIDS," that recent Nigerian immigrants would never "go back to their huts" in Africa and that Afghanistan is a terrorist haven.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders denied at the time that Trump had made the comments and cited denials from several of the meeting's attendees.”
On NBC:
“President Donald Trump referred to Haiti and African nations as "shithole countries" during a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House, a Democratic aide briefed on Thursday's meeting told NBC News.
Trump's comments were first reported by The Washington Post, which said the nations referred to by Trump also included El Salvador.
The U.N. human rights office said the comments, if confirmed, were "shocking and shameful" and "racist," while Haiti's foreign minister summoned the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Robin Diallo for clarification.
Two sources briefed on the conversation say that during the portion of the conversation about Haiti — which came at the top of the exchange that led to the “shithole” comment — the president questioned why Haitians should be given specific consideration.
“Why do we need more Haitians, take them out,” he said, according to sources. Someone else in the room responded: “Because if you do, it will be obvious why.”
The comments came as senators huddled in the Oval Office with the president to discuss a path forward on an immigration deal. Trump questioned why the United States would want people from nations such as Haiti while he was being briefed on changes to the visa lottery system.
According to the aide, when the group came to discussing immigration from Africa, Trump asked why America would want immigrants from "all these shithole countries" and that the U.S. should have more people coming in from places like Norway.

Thursday's meeting came one day after Trump met with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the White House.
A source familiar with the meeting told NBC News the president was particularly frustrated during discussions about the visa lottery system — a program Trump has railed against repeatedly in recent months. Another White House source explained the language Trump used as his way of trying to emphasize his support for a merit-based immigration system.
The White House issued a statement that did not deny the remarks.
"Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people," White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told NBC News in a lengthy statement.
"He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway."
U.N. human rights office spokesman Robert Colville told reporters that the comments could "potentially damage and disrupt the lives of many people."
The "shocking and shameful" remark "legitimizes the targeting of people based on who they are," he said, adding: "I'm sorry, but there's no other word one can use but racist."
Haiti Ambassador to the U.S. Paul G. Altidor called Trump's comments “regrettable” and based on “clichés and stereotypes rather than actual fact.”
The ambassador underscored the indelicate timing of the comment, pointing out that Friday is the eighth anniversary of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which is estimated to have killed well over 200,000 people.
Altidor said that since the reports of Trump's remarks, he had been “bombarded by emails from the American public apologizing” and said he knew Trump's comments were “not the views of the American public.”
The African Union said it was "alarmed" by Trump's statement. "Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice," spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said, adding that it was “particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity."
In Lagos, Nigeria, IT worker Mayowa Okuwade said: “I think every African country should just learn from this and probably just stay in their country and work with their resources … I am very much sure things will get better."
Others quickly decided to own Trump's language or throw it back in his face. "Good morning from the greatest most beautiful 'shithole country' in the world!!!" South African Broadcasting Corporation anchor Leanne Manas tweeted. 

Republican Rep. Mia Love of Utah — the daughter of Haitian immigrants — released a statement calling Trump's comments "unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation's values" and demanding an apology from the president.
And Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said in a tweet that the reported remark "ignores the contributions thousands of Haitians have made to our #SoFla community and nation. Language like that shouldn't be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn't be heard in the White House".
It’s not the first time reports have surfaced of Trump speaking unfavourably about immigrants, and Haitians in particular. The New York Times reported in December that Trump said Haitian immigrants "all have AIDS," during a summer 2017 meeting about immigration.
According to the Times, Trump also targeted Nigerian immigrants during that meeting, complaining that once they came the United States they would never "go back to their huts." The White House vigorously denied the claims in the story at the time.”
The Ambassador tried as best as he could to explain that in 1789 Haiti had the highest per capita income in the world. Now it is the poorest nation in the world. As for Africa, according to the Envoy what we have are Rulers and Emperors instead of leaders.
They can appropriate public property/wealth and invade private land with impunity under the guise of immunity. His parting gift was the index of Nigeria’s economic performance (especially non-oil export earnings) over the last ten years benchmarked against several African countries who are thriving on tourism, agriculture, flowers, solid minerals etc. while Nigeria is exporting desperados and sex traffickers.
Regardless, we are entitled to draw comfort and inspiration from Psalms 46: 1-3:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
2. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3. Though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging”

Bashorun J.K. Randle is a former President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and former Chairman of KPMG Nigeria and Africa Region. He is currently the Chairman, J.K. Randle Professional Services. Email:
jkrandleintuk@gmail.com

No comments:

Post a Comment

Powered by Blogger.