Tale of Two Nigerians

By Ahmed Yahaya Joe

Nigeria: A Nation of 75% Idiots, 20% Tribespeople and only 5% Citizens?

Against the backdrop of the trial of Hushpuppi on multiple counts of internet fraud and other related charges on various aspects of criminality in the United States another Nigerian “Lieutenant Victor Agunbiade was awarded the Navy and Marine Corp Development Medal for his exemplary accountability. According to the US Navy, Agunbiade effectively managed its largest cash disbursing office handling $45 million which is approximately N17 billion.

The money accounted for approximately 70% of its overseas disbursing volume.
According to the award citation, Agunbiade earned the honor while serving as cash disbursing Officer at the navy’s Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, between October, 2019 to July this year.
“Additionally, he managed 100 per cent accountability of 23 million dollars (N8.7 billion) across six rigorous inspections and independent audits with zero discrepancies. By his unswerving determination, wise judgment and complete dedication to duty, Agunbiade reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States naval service” the citation read.
Agunbiade enlisted in the US Navy as a storekeeper in 2008 and was commissioned as a supply corps officer in 2013.

He has always displayed a high level of professionalism while discharging his duties. In 2018, Agunbiade was named the Navy’s 2018 Officer Recruiter of the Year, alongside 17 others and honored at the annual Recruiter of the Year ceremony in Washington D.C.”
The same Naija but different persons: what is the explanation?

“According to the ancient Greeks, the founders of modern civilization, there are three kinds of people in any society; The first kind of people in any society are the idiots, not necessarily mentally deficient, but rather one who is a totally private person; totally selfish and totally self-centered (sometimes donning expensive suits, uniform or agbada).

The idiot is always out for his personal gain and his personal interest. He does not have a public philosophy, he has no character, no knowledge and no skills to live by and to be able to contribute in a flourishing society or community. He is all out for his personal pleasures and his personal treasures. The Greeks said the idiot is just an upgraded barbarian – you see them every day in society. They are the ones who form tadpole queues and drive against traffic. They toss litter freely out of their cars and appropriate our commonwealth for their personal use; The Greeks refer to these are the IDIOTS.

The Greek also said there is a second kind of person in any society called the tribespeople. Tribespeople does not necessarily mean belonging to a certain tribe; which is not bad in itself, but when the Greeks used the word tribespeople, they meant a tribal and a tribalistic mentality. The Greeks said the tribespeople are those not able to think beyond their small tribes and their small social groups.
For the tribespeople, the primary, only and ultimate allegiance is to their tribe. Their tribe is their god and their religion is tribalism. Tribespeople are always afraid of things that are different or are a little alien to them. They are always suspicious and fearful, and they always deal with different people and difficult situations with intimidation, force and with violence. The Greeks also said the ideal person for tribespeople is the warrior, because tribespeople are a war making people.

But it was not so for the Greeks, for them, there was another kind of person, and that for them was the ideal person, and they called this ideal person the citizen. When we use the word citizen we are not talking about legal status or political status or the accident of birth; those are outcomes. We are talking about the idea and ideal of citizenship – which is a choice.
Who then is the citizen you might wonder? the citizen according to the Greeks is someone who has the skills and the knowledge to live a public life, and able to live a life of civility. The citizen recognizes that he or she is a member of a commonwealth and thus strives for the common good.
The citizen knows his right in a society but also knows his responsibility to society. The citizen can fight for his right but always with an awareness of, and with the respect for the rights and interest of others; of their neighbors, of the smallest minority and of their worst enemies.

It is citizens, the Greeks said that make up a civilized society, because citizens settle their differences with civility, they produce a civilized society, a society that truly lives up to the meaning of the name society. Society literally means friendship and friendliness.
This is the threefold distinction that the Greeks have given of people in a society. That is the choice that each and every individual, whoever he or she may be, has to make in a society.
Indeed, no sovereign can make any significant advancement when the number idiots and tribesmen far outnumber the number of citizens. When we conducted random surveys on the various cohorts of Delegates at the Ausso Leadership Academy, the perception is that; about 75% of Nigerians behave as idiots, 20% as tribespeople and only 5% as citizens. Do the results shock you enough to want to do something about it?
Nigeria is her people; If we want to see change, we have to start by being citizens of our country. According to Maria Robinson “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

The foregoing was nailed by Austin Okere, the Founder of CWG Plc, the largest ICT Company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange & Entrepreneur in Residence at CBS, New York. Austin also serves on the Advisory Board of the Global Business School Network, and on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Austin now runs the Ausso Leadership Academy focused on Business and Entrepreneurial Mentorship.

The Awesome Power of Forgiveness

By Ahmed Yahaya Joe

I have just finished watching a BBC documentary that featured the attached family (L-R) Rizqy Setiawan, Iwan Setiawan and Sarah Setiawan flanking Ahmad Hassan (2nd from L) Iwan is the father of Rizqy and Sarah.

Meanwhile, Ahmad Hassan is on death row. He was one of the conspirators of a bomb attack that killed Iwan’s wife, the mother of Rizqy and Sarah. The program put together by the maverick BBC reporter Rebecca Henschke was such a profound experience for me. It is a poignant reminder that the best way to fight against evil is through forgiveness. As Abraham Lincoln famously asked;

“Do I not destroy my enemies by making them my friends?”

“Setiawan was on his motorbike, speeding past the Australian embassy in Jakarta. His mind was on his wife, whose arms were around his chest and whose pregnant belly he could feel pressing against his back. Their second child was due within weeks and they were on their way to hospital for a check-up. Suddenly there was this incredibly loud sound and we were thrown into the air,” he remembers. Iwan didn’t know till much later that it was a suicide bomb, planted by a militant group a responsible for a series of attacks in Indonesia, including the Bali bombing in 2002 that killed 202 people from around the world. “I saw blood. Lots of blood. Metal went flying into one of my eyes, destroying it. His wife was thrown from the bike, landing metres away. Both were rushed to hospital and, in a state of shock, a badly injured Halila Seroja Daulay went into labour.

She was rushed into the operating room after getting contractions. But praise be to Allah, somehow she was still able to give birth naturally,” Iwan says. That night Rizqy was born. His name means “blessing”
According to Setiawan “I lost my best friend, my soul mate, the person who completed me. It’s so painful to talk about it,”. At first, he was filled with a desire for revenge. “I wanted the arrested conspirators to die, but I didn’t want them to die quickly,” he says. “I wanted them to be tortured first. I wanted their skin to be cut and salt put in the wounds so that they had some idea of the pain their bombing caused, both physically and mentally. My children and I have struggled so incredibly hard just to keep living.”

The car bomb attack that killed Mrs Setiawan went off at 10.30 am Jakarta time on September 9, 2004. It killed the suicide bomber that triggered it, 8 others, injured 150 and destroyed not just the Australian embassy but that of Greece and China shattering glass windows up to half a kilometer away. 6 persons were eventually arrested and sentenced to death. They are currently cooling off their heels in a maximum security prison on a jungle covered island that the surviving Setiawan family members met Ahmad Hassan including the mastermind of the bomb attack Darmawan Munto Rois. Setiawan senior had all previously met them before bringing his children along. Who by way of introduction started;
“I have invited my children to meet you, I want them to understand too why you did the bombing that killed their mother and caused me to lose one of my eyes. They have to know because they lost their mother when they were so young” Ahmad Hassan nods solemnly and replies;
“I never wanted to hurt your father, he just happened to be passing by, and my friend who was carrying the bomb blew it up at that time. I hope that you, the children of Iwan, can forgive me.” His voice starts to break.

“I am a flawed human. I have made many mistakes. My friends and I were given the wrong education and learning. I wish that we hadn’t acted before we had really gained knowledge and understood what we were doing,” he continued.
Sarah summons up courage and says; “I would always ask my dad when I was little, ‘Where is my mum?’ and he told me she was at Allah’s house. I asked where that was, and he said it was the mosque. So I ran away to the mosque. My grandmother was looking for me, and when she found me I told her that I was waiting for my mum. I was waiting for my mum to come home. But she has never come home.”

“Hassan closes his eyes and opens his hands in prayer. Over and over he mumbles a prayer seeking forgiveness from Allah. “Allah wanted me to have to meet you and be forced to try and explain,” he finally manages to say. “But I can’t explain to you my child, I am sorry. “I can’t hold back my tears. I take Sarah as my own child. Please, please forgive me. It’s in your hands.” Everyone in this tiny room is crying – except the mastermind and financier of the bomb attack who on his part stated; “I have a child, too. I haven’t seen my wife or child for years. I really miss them. I am even worse off than you. You’re still with your children. My child doesn’t even know me.” Darmawan continued “I didn’t do what they said I did. Why did I admit to it? Maybe when you are older you will understand” he said directly to the Setiawan children but added

“All humans have made mistakes. If I have wronged you in any way I apologise. I feel pain. I really do”

The entire meeting is part of a De-radicalisation program by the Indonesian government that brings captured terrorists and their victims face to face many of which have found healing and moved on with their lives without bitterness. Quite a number of the terrorists have also recanted because they are kept in isolation. Without their death sentences carried out and group solidarity they break down. Can the same template be applied in Nigeria? Will one day Shekau pose for a photograph holding hands with the Sharibu family? Are terrorists not actually pawns on a chessboard they neither understand nor have real control over? Truth is the real terrorist grandmasters never blow up themselves or get in any harms way.

They always pose as good guys because terrorism is the continuation of politics by other means. That not withstanding there is power in forgiveness.

The various aftermaths of the Nigerian Civil War during the Oil Boom 70s, the emergence of a Rainbow Nation after dismantling of Apartheid in South Africa and the current soaring of Rwanda after the Hutu genocide against Tutsis are all examples of that awesome power.

Why Maps are important

By Ahmed Yahaya Joe

The Chadian President; Idriss Derby’ on his official Twitter handle at 8.15pm on April, 5 2020 posted; “In Baga-Sola, I visited soldiers injured this afternoon during the operations launched against the Boko Haram enlightened. They are proud to have accomplished a sacred mission in the service of their dear homeland.”

Meanwhile, a follow up report with various photographs stated; “Chadian troops had on Saturday launched an offensive against the insurgents in the Goje-Chadian area of Sambisa forest, a stronghold of Boko Haram. The operation, led by Chadian President Idriss Déby, lasted for hours with the soldiers clearing the insurgents off the area.” Without the help of cartography we cannot properly contextualize the foregoing reports as all the mentioned areas are well highlighted in the attached map which is very important in 2 main respects.

First, it shows us that the Boko Haram insurgency cannot be defeated without active support and cooperation of our neighbors Chad and Cameroon. This simply means the main solution to the crisis is actually in Paris. Second, the shrinking water body of Lake Chad is a major factor that has negatively affected the agricultural fortunes of that region which in turn provides the steady flow of recruits to the insurgency.
Let us also not be be unmindful that Francophone Africa has always had a frosty relationship with Nigeria as far back as colonial times. The fundamental question is; does France perceive Nigeria as a threat to its interests in the Sahel? Without properly answering this question I doubt if a final solution to the Boko Haram crisis could be found as it implies the insurgency that has caused so much sorrow, tears and blood has always had foreign support despite starting within Nigeria. Because there is no way the massive stockpiles of military hardware attributed to Boko Haram would have arrived in the Sahel region without going through any Francophone territory. That notwithstanding within Nigeria itself there are various interest groups firing the embers of the conflict because how could such a fraction of Nigerian territory be so problematic for so long?

Interestingly, the insurgency was the political Achilles heel of Goodluck Jonathan yet it has refused to abate in the last 5 years. We Nigerians have our issues and agendas but what is truly going on in the North East? Truth is our wall had to crack before the French lizards started taking advantage of our lack of national focus and direction.

“Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first stage it is ridiculed, in the second stage it is opposed, in the third stage it is regarded as self-evident.” — Arthur Schopenhauer in Allgemeine Verkehrsgeographie (1913)