Incite Violence and Go To Jail: ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda Warns Nigerian Politicans

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

Fatou Bensouda (Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court)

Fatou Bensouda (Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court)

Gambian-born International Criminal Court Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has delivered a stern warning to Nigerian politicians ahead of the 2015 General Elections.

Nigeria will hold presidential elections on March 28, 2015. The major contenders are the incumbent, Dr Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party and General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress.  Already there is a palpable fear of post election violence in Africa’s most populous nation.

In a statement released from the ICC, Mrs  Bensouda reiterated her previous message following her visit to Nigeria on February 3-5, 2015, that “Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence in the context of the upcoming elections or otherwise – including by ordering, inciting, encouraging or contributing to the commission of crimes that fall within ICC’s jurisdiction – is liable to prosecution; either by Nigerian Courts or by the ICC.”

Below is the text of Press Statement

Following my statement of the 2nd of February 2015, and my Office’s subsequent visit to Nigeria from the 3rd to the 5th of February, I reiterate my previous message.

At a time when abhorrent levels of violence already plague parts of the country, I recall that the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or the “Court'”) has jurisdiction over Rome Statute crimes committed on the territory of Nigeria. Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence in the context of the upcoming elections or otherwise – including by ordering, inciting, encouraging or contributing to the commission of crimes that fall within ICC’s jurisdiction – is liable to prosecution; either by Nigerian Courts or by the ICC.

No one should doubt my Office’s resolve to prosecute individuals responsible for the commission of ICC crimes, whenever necessary.

Violence is not a solution. The conduct and outcome of elections in Nigeria, free from violence, will not only prevent further instability in the country, but will also send a clear message that electoral competition does not have to result in violence and crimes that shock the conscience of humanity.

 

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Why I am a ‘Fencist’ [#NigeriaDecides2015]

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

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Nigeria Twitter has been boiling for some months now. As the general elections in February draws nearer, campaigns are nearing a crescendo. Currently, there exists a vicious bifurcation between the supporters of the ruling party, PDP and the opposition party, APC. The lies, blackmails, accusations and counter accusations between both sides have assumed epic proportions. In view of the above, I have decided to sit firmly on the fence.

The shouting match on whose presidential candidate is better than the other is all one hears on Twitter these days. Unfortunately, this ‘my candidate better pass your candidate’ has spiraled into mudslinging that will certainly embarrass professionals Motor Park touts. Rarely are issues discussed. When they come up it is usually pursued via the argumentum ad hominem pathway. More often than not, one notices so many ‘logical fallacies’. Some folks have patented the franchise of making unsubstantiated opinions which they present as equivocal ‘facts’.

I do not begrudge those who have taken sides, firmly dug into their respective trenches as supporters of either President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) or General Muhammadu  Buhari (GMB). As a matter of fact, I respect them, for it is no mean feat to consistently stand behind a candidate on TwitterNG streets. It matters nothing if these e-supporters are hired for their services or do so purely out of ‘patriotic’ zeal.  It is their choice and I respect their freedom of association.

Nonetheless, I will not be persuaded into joining the fray, a simplistic reduction of the presidential candidates or their parties as the ‘messiah’. Nigeria is so large and complicated to be reduced to a one man or woman having the key to reset all our woes. As a matter of fact, no single person – living or dead – holds the exclusive prescription to our national malaise.

I also hope that the fanatic supporters of both candidates on TwitterNG will be civil enough to respect my decision to remain on the fence. It’s my choice and I don’t see why it is so difficult to accept ‘fencism’ as a legitimate position.

But some folks have already ascribed divine omnipotence to themselves: that ability to read minds and to question the free decision of others. For some, a ‘fenceist’ is a traitor that sits idle while Nigeria burns. The only ‘legitimate’ freedom, according to them, consists in taking a stand for or against. It must either be for or against GEJ or GMB. Odiegwu! It does not stop there; you MUST profess the credo of your support all day long on Twitter. However, I am yet to see how their vicious rants and tweet fights translate into patriotism. But that is a story for another day.

Fencism is not neutralism! I have my political bias but I will not be bullied into displaying it on Twitter. Fencism is objectivity, realizing that both candidates have their flaws and not turning a blind eye – as many do – on them. Fencism is having the courage to tweet for and against any of the candidates. Not being held under the fanatical slavery of ‘my candidate better pass your candidate’. Fencism also means that I will vote on that day but will not waste my precious time only tweeting about the elections.

In my ‘yard’ the fence is sturdy and impermeable. The space on the fence also has an infinite coefficient of expansion. You are free not to accept my fencism, no big deal but at least respect it.

[Guest Blog Post – Akinyode Soyoye] Governance in the Old Oyo Empire

By Akinyode Soyoye

At the apex of the administration of the government was the king who was known as Alaafin. He was usually referred to by his subjects as Kabiesi – Alaseikeji Orisa meaning one who no one dare questioned – authority next to the gods. Despite this divine tag, the Alaafins were not autocratic. This was because their position and activities as king was checked by some council of chiefs known as the Oyomessi.

The principle of checks and balances is not alien to African culture and tradition. Available historical evidences abound on societies in Nigeria that had maintained a sophisticated government with the adherent pecks of principle of checks and balances before the emergence of the colonial era. Ignorance and insolence (or both), that must be responsible for the much trumpeted ‘homegrown democracy’ by Nigerian politicians.  Most times these politicians give impression that Africans are modeled to be tyrants. History shows that we are no strangers to checks and balances; it is ingrained in our political-social system of governance.

Now the question; are these measures still alive in African societies? Do African societies still have some measures they respect and that makes them accountable, just and fair in administering their people and society? Is it a “taboo” if we go back to the root and revive some measures which are part of our culture and tradition that can bring development to our societies in Nigeria and Africa at large? Let us go back to the roots, by peering at the system of government of some societies in Yoruba-land.

HRM Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III,  Alaafin of Oyo

HRM Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, Alaafin of Oyo

Historically speaking, old Oyo Empire grew to be the dominant power and a wealthy kingdom among other kingdoms in the Yoruba-land in the 16th century. The principal factor that made Oyo supreme was its centralized system of government. One of its paramount features was the “principle of checks and balances”. This made old Oyo empire to be referred to in history as one of the centers of African civilization in the 15th and 16th century A.D.

At the apex of the administration of the government was the king who was known as Alaafin. He was usually referred to by his subjects as Kabiesi –Alaseikeji Orisa meaning one who no one dare questioned – authority next to the gods. This impression given to the king by his subjects made the position of the king divinely. Despite this divine tag, the Alaafins were not autocratic. This was because their position and activities as king was checked by some council of chiefs known as the Oyomessi.

The Oyomessi were saddled with the responsibility of enthroning a king after the demise of the incumbent and also, dethroning any king that was not responsible and violated the regulations attached to his position as king of empire. Also the Oyomessi had the authority to dethrone any king that reneges on the being of his sovereignty which included peaceful co-existence in his realm and defending the empire from within and without. Any breech in these sacred functions by the Alaafin signifies the beginning of the end of his reign.

The Oyomessi dethroned the kings by sending an empty calabash to the king, with some incantation that “the people reject you, the earth reject you.” On receipt of this gift, the king is expected to commit suicide. This was the case of Alaafin Odarawu and Alaafin Jayin in the 17th century when they violated the regulations attached to their positions as kings. They took their rejection mildly and committed suicide. The council of the Oyomessi was headed by Bashorun.

The Oyomessi on the other hand were not unchecked or arbitrary. They dethrone kings based on concrete reasons and were no slave to whims. They had too as their heads could be called for by a council of chiefs known as Ogboni. The Ogboni was a cult saddled with the responsibility of performing rituals to the gods and checking the activities of the Oyomessi. If the Oyomessis erred, they were sanctioned by the council of the Ogbonis. In this view, the Ogboni served as a watchdog to the Oyomessi. As a result of the strong measure of checks and balances that was present in the system of government of Old Oyo empire made the activities of the people in governing council to be just and fair which brought development of the kingdom and made it grew large to become an empire and a dominant power in the Yoruba land in 17th century A.D.

With the knowledge of the role the principle of checks and balances played in the development and growth of Old Oyo Empire, why can we not learn from history? Why can’t we go back to the root and revive some dead principles that brought growth and development to our societies in the past?  This principle served as a watchdog that checked the activities of the people in the governing council of these societies. People in the governing council been aware of this measure and the penalty they will face if they violate the regulations attached to their positions as members of governing council made them to be just, fair, and accountable to their subjects and also engaged in any activities that will bring satisfaction to the interest of their subjects.

Taking a cursory look at the situation of leadership and act of governance in Africa and Nigeria to be specific, could it be said that there are measures that check the activities of our leaders in Nigeria? The absence of institutional lids on governance in our democracy is certainly unAfrican. Never has power revolved around one person or a group of vested interest.  Who are the ‘Bashoruns’ in our government today? Who are the ‘Oyomessi’? Who plays the role of ‘Oluwo’ in the process of checks and balances in our government today?

If Nigeria will be a nation bound with freedom peace and unity as postulated by our past heroes, if we do not want the labour of our past heroes to be in vain, then we need to go back to the root, we need to revive our past and learn from history.

 

 

Reframing Nigeria’s Terror Narrative

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

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Boko Haram (BH) recently claimed responsibility for another terrorist violation of the Nigerian people. However, this time around, BH’s leader, Abubakar Shekau was incensed that they were not given due credit for the explosions in Lagos: “A bomb went off in Lagos. I ordered the bomber who went and detonated it, you said it was a fire incident, well if you hide it from people you can’t hide it from Allah.”

With such a display of insensitive arrogance, do we need any more proof that BH loves being in the media spotlight? The fact that the Lagos explosions were either hidden from public gaze or were better managed in the media, hit a raw nerve in Shekau’s media thirsty ego. Unlike the Niger Delta MEND which had an “apparently” efficient media presence via their constant media alerts of impeding bombings via emails, BH seems to feast on indirect publicity. There lies the irony, that Nigerian citizens, victims of BH’s attack, are the mouthpiece of the terrorists. Clearly, BH’s “haram” does not extend to publicity. On the contrary their tech-savvy uploading of YouTube videos and their dispersion through a certain foreign channel suggests a clear western media “halal” and indeed, a growing obsession with such publicity.

Soon after Shekau’s admittance of being behind the Abuja and Lagos bomb projectiles, I had an interesting conversation on Twitter. It started with this tweet:

I advocated a media blackout on BH terror and this naturally ignited a heated tweet-convo:

 

Obviously, the thrust of my suggestions of snuffing off BH’s relishing of deaths from the news was not generally accepted. It had generated similar sentiments some years earlier in a public relations seminar. We[1] had advocated, among others, the following:

100% Media blackout on all Boko Haram activities

As it stands, Boko Haram has won the psychological warfare by instilling fear amongst Nigerians. Boko Haram has used the media to issue threats, spread the details of their successful activities and promise more attacks. We therefore suggest a radical change in this information war: a total media blackout.  

Centralized Media Mouthpiece

We propose an integrated and synchronized communication strategy for BH. As such, all media briefings, press conferences, interviews, press releases, reactions, etc and on whatever platform MUST receive the implicit endorsement of the Head of Media Team on Boko Haram. The head of this team will also be the exclusive spokesman on Boko Haram issue in Nigeria. However, there will be an alternate head – who he can delegate this duty to – only when the head is not available or indisposed. (Nwogwugwu, Egbunike, Ajayi, Lawal, Salako and Olanipekun, 2013)

Many disagreed with this approach and I must admit that those who opposed the blanket media silence had strong points. Their fear, which was quite reasonable, was that the government would definitely go to sleep. These were not unfounded considering the apparent institutional decay and the cynicism with government’s ‘truths’. Also it was argued that it would be a grave injustice to the victims and their families if their plight were to go unnoticed. This additional wound of lack of public empathy would be too much for people already devastated, the argument continued. Faced with such valid objections, I had to change my original propositions to:

I do not claim to have all the answers. Besides I am not deluded to think that Nigeria’s war on terror will be won via media strategies alone. Nonetheless, literature on media and social movements has confirmed the importance of news framing. Frank Luntz’s[2] apt statement which captures the essence of framing: It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it (as cited in Scheufele and Tewksbury, 2007:7). It is significant to dwell on news framing because audiences depend on media not only for information but also to make decisions. As such the media – old and new – provide ‘windows’ for audiences to ‘understand’ an issue.

How then do we reframe the terror single story without falling into the trap of propaganda or gagging the victims of BH’s terror? Do we have the courage to side step our entrenched political convictions to face the common enemy, BH? Or is this an impossible task, laced with the inherent danger of gagging free speech? I admit that a total blackout is untenable based on the prevailing circumstances. However, a reframing of the narration on terror is long overdue.

 

 

[1] Nwogwugwu, D.; Egbunike, N. A.;Ajayi, T;Lawal, A; Salako, Y. and Olanipekun, T. (2013) Rebranding Nigeria, an MA PR Group Presentation, Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, unpublished

[2]  Scheufele, D. A and Tewksbury, D (2007) “Framing, Agenda Setting and Priming: The Evolution of Three Media Effects Models” Journal of Communication 57 (2007) 9-20

 

#BringBackOurGirls: STATEMENT from Concerned Nigerian Bloggers

 

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We, the under signed Nigerian bloggers, view with grave concern the continued detention of the innocent school girls who were abducted from Chibok on April 15, 2014.

We are of the strong view that no amount of social grievance either against the government and or the people of Nigeria can justify such an act of violence against school children. We therefore condemn the abduction in very strong terms.

Nonetheless, we are appalled that despite the increasing global attention on the missing girls, there seems to be a relative local press silence on it.

In addition, we have also noticed gaps in the narrative on this incident both on the social media platforms and in the international press. It is understandable that given the strong emotions that this abduction have evoked, accurate and fact based narratives are difficult to come by on this sad incident of violence.

We wish to point out that the abduction and continued detention of these innocent school girls violate the provisions of a number of international conventions, optional protocols of convention and international legal instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory to and whose provisions bind all Nigerians.

We particularly call attention to those international conventions that enjoin parties in conflict to take special action to protect women and children in times of war and conflict and note that the abduction is an affront to their provisions and to every decent conduct.

We call on those detaining these girls to kindly release them. We appeal to you in the name of God and in the names of all you hold dear.

We deplore the violence and loss of lives that have preceded this ugly event and urge you in name of God who is a God of peace, reconciliation and forgiveness to embrace the path of dialogue as the only sure way of resolving the grievances that underlie this conflict. May the God of peace and compassion touch your hearts and make you harken to this appeal from your fellow citizens.

We also call on the government of Nigeria to do everything in its power, even if it includes involving an international security agency, to bring the girls back from the hands of those who currently hold them, and restore a sense of security to the country as soon as possible. Elections are coming up next year. Citizens want to be able to feel safe wherever they are. Democracy thrives best when citizens feel empowered to pursue their daily chores without fear or threat to their lives and property.

 

If you wish to associate your name with this statement, please click here and add it to our list. We will update this post as we receive new names.

 

This statement is endorsed by the following:

Nwachukwu Egbunike: [@feathersprojectFeathers Project

Ikenna Okonkwo: [@failedriftFailed Rift 

Kola Tubosun: [@baroka] KTravula.com

Olumide Abimbola: [@loomnie] NigeriansTalk

Noel Ihebuzor: [@naitwtVoice Vision and Views

Mark Amaza [@amasonic] – markamaza.com

Sylva Nze Ifedigbo [@nzesylva] www.nzesylva.wordpress.com

Ayodele Olofintuade: [@aeolofintuade]  http://totallyhawaya-haywire.blogspot.com/

 

 

Innocent or Virulent Netizens?

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

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 How do we guarantee that this freedom of expression, of a free and open internet, is not abused? What happens when netizens do a species jump from being the protectors of freedom to become guardians of a de novo Gaul?  

The conversation among scholars and enthusiasts has morphed from if social media has changed the landscape to how this change will be perpetuated. As such the crushing of gatekeepers, the inherent freedom and participatory nature of social media platforms is no longer novel. Nigeria currently occupies an enviable position on the blogosphere of the continent, with Nigerians ranking the top three tweeters in Africa.

Numerous discussions on this rising profile of the once hidden voices – the citizens of the internet – seems to be limited on this new found power. This also includes but is not limited to the merits of technology granting unfettered access to the average person on the street and the impressive impact that being wired up has created. The ability to make governments accountable to the governed and giving an instant right of reply to netizens is celebrated across board.

Of course, this is no mean feat. Governments especially in Nigeria, have a history of glorifying the absurd. A case in point was the sudden disappearance and equally mysterious re-appearance of a Nigerian twitter user (Ciaxon) who shared sensitive security pictures via his twitter handle recently. The prudence or imprudence of tweeting and sharing pictures during such a delicate operation, is however a story for another day.

However, who keeps watch over these online watch keepers? How do we guarantee that this freedom of expression, of a free and open internet, is not abused? What happens when netizens do a species jump from being the protectors of freedom to become guardians of a de novo Gaul?

Still on the same Ciaxon case, it was simply impressive the amount of misinformation and outright lies that were competing for attention during that period. And to think that the same protest in Ibadan had as many variants and conflicting versions from some principal participants – thisthis and this.

A few weeks ago, Nigerian twitterati focused their entire attention and energy on the deputy minister of defence. And guess what was the ministers ‘unpardonable crime’, he tweeted drinking beer on Easter Sunday! He later deleted it and stated that his account was hacked. But the self-anointed and oversight-function tweet overlords were not pacified; they ranted non-stop about the beer drinking/tweeting.

It might be trite to recall that freedom is not absolute. The bastion of Western democracy is still calling for the head of Edward Snowden. As much as we celebrate the powers of social media and will do everything to ensure it remains free from government emasculation, nonetheless is it so difficult for netizens to exercise a corresponding responsibility? It takes little effort to be an amplifier of news – false or true – all one has to do is retweet and think later. What is more necessary and more tasking is to validate news on social media. But news validators need a tinge of healthy scepticism, independence and rationality. The follow-follow mania in Nigeria twitter sphere can be quite depressing.

Are netizens innocent or virulent per se? I’ll say no. However netizens bear the personal responsibility to either keep their innocence or inflict virulence on the social media platforms. The choice is ours.

 

This post was first published on AfricanHadithi (April 22, 2014)

Virtues 4.0 for Web 2.0?

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

 Before you tweet, take a cold chill, breath and chill again: there’s no award with being the first to tweet fallacy. 

b2b social media

With the 2015 General Elections in Nigeria nudging so close, the Nigerian tweet-sphere has become dangerously polarized. The dominance of two major political parties – the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressive Party – also means that the “narratives of Nigeria’s politico-twitterati” has been disruptive as never before. As though that were not enough, the propensity with which tweeps transform rumours and outright lies into exclusive ‘news’ is alarming. This might be a good time to suggest some spices for those who value their credibility and wish to preserve it.

The English word cardinal comes from the Latin word cardo, which means “hinge.” All other virtues hinge on these four: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Plato first discussed the cardinal virtues in the Republic, and they entered into Christian teaching by way of Plato’s disciple Aristotle.

Prudence has been classified as the first cardinal virtue, because it is concerned with the intellect. Aristotle defined prudence as recta ratio agibilium, “right reason applied to practice.” In other words, prudence is practical wisdom. When we mistake the evil for the good, we are not exercising prudence—in fact; we are showing our lack of it. It is only prudent that we seek the counsel of others, due to our propensity of falling easily into error. It will be imprudent to assume that we know it all – I too know syndrome – that seems to be the national lure of many twitterati! It is essential that in the current volatile clime, tweeps should realise that: It is imprudent to jump into every conversation or to make generalising assertions that are simply indefensible. A prudent person avoids the embarrassing situation of having to be brave. A prudent person is not the ‘clever tactician’ – who continues to escape personal commitment. Prudence is not ‘timidity’ – being afraid to make a decision or making it known when justice demands it.

Justice is the second cardinal virtue, because it is concerned with the will. Justice is simply giving each person his/her due. Justice is not revenge, but the conservation of rights. Consequently justice in its proper sense is positive. Injustice occurs when individuals or society deprive someone of that which he is owed.

There is a growing tendency to assume that since the talking space is free from gatekeepers, therefore one is also ‘free’ to malign or destroy the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ names of others. It is only just that one refrains from the herd mentality when issues break – as they are wont on twitter – to consider if there are other angles to a story. This is especially important, when we do not possess all the facts to a story. It matters nothing if the court of public opinion has already given a verdict, what if their judgement is false?

Fortitude is commonly called courage. However, this is different from the conceptualisation we have of courage today; particularly, the twitter type of courage. Real fortitude aids us in overcoming fear and to remain in the face of obstacles. However, since fortitude relates to the will, it is always rational. Therefore fortitude does not admit danger for the sake of gragra or shakara. Fortitude is neither foolishness nor rashness – “those who rush toward a fight do not know that fighting means death”. Please think before you tweet. If you want to exercise your courage, try the streets!

Temperance is the restraint of our desires or passions. Temperance moderates excess, and, as such, requires the balancing of legitimate goods against our inordinate desire for them. Our legitimate use of such goods may be different at different times; temperance is the “golden mean”.

The itchy fingers associated with being the first to know and that inordinate passion to claim bragging rights of being the first to tweet. Before you tweet, take a cold chill, breath and chill again: there’s no award with being the first to tweet fallacy. It’s true that your grandmother has always praised your intelligence, yet smartness is knowing when to “jump pass” – that’s temperance. Pride is exercising no restrain on the desires of our thought – made known in speech or via our writing.

 

This post was first published on AfricanHadithi (March 12, 2014)