Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - March 7, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta
Colin Legum Tuelday, March 7, 1973 THS LEIHBRIDOE HERAID 5 Nigeria's Augean stable of corruption "rpEU, GOWON the resolu- tion is surely coming to said my driver as lie- dropped me at Dodan liar- racks, Lagos, for an interview with General Yakuha tiowon, Uic 36-year-old head of Africa's most populous state which emerged only two years af'o from its bloody ciyii war over the secession of Biafra. His attitude, although not shared by General Gcmoti, re- flects a widespread feeling throughout the country but this time the foreboding of im- pending trouble has very little to do with the tribal conflicts that led Uie Ibos to nKtke their disastrous hid for secession. The Ibos are now characleris- tically hard at work rebuilding their own East Central slate, and energetically reintegrating themselves into the structure. Tlx2 sense of crisis has three major causes: First, the wide- spread and growing corruption at all levels of Nigerian so- ciety: a corruption which feeds on the country's growing wealth as it moves into the top league of world oil producers. Secondly, the absence of an effective central government in a turbulent and highly sophis- ticated political society gra- phically described by one Ni- gerian as a country in a state of "dynamic cbacs.11 The re- sult is that effective power is concentrated in very few hands among a group of advisers sur- rounding Gowon. But, at Ihc same tune, a potentially explo- sive situation is building up in the dozen new states into which Uie country was divided after Its second military coup in 1967, where local political forces are energetically en- gaged in building local bases of power. Thirdly, widespread public resentment against Uie soldiers. Tliis is directly against many of the country's senior officers because of their arrogant dis- play of new wealth which exceeds anything their ordi- nary army pay would enable them to afford; and against the behavior of (he soliders in their relations with the public. Nor is this resentment confined only to the ordinary populace; there is dissent also within the 20 army espe- cially among the inicldlc-rank officers about the bad repu- tation the army is getting. The most immediate signs ot danger for General Gowon are the dangerous schisms building up within the army itself. One group among the younger of- ficers is impatient because the General is not purifying cither the army or the country of cor- rupt practices. A much larger group is dis- affected because it feels that Gowon is pursuing a policy of building up the power of the minority tribes (to which he belongs') at Uie expense of the larger national groups, espe- cially the Kansas and the Yo- rubas. Among a section of, Ilausas there is concern Gowon's decision to persuade his reluc- tant chief of staff, Major-Gcn- eral Hassan Katsina, to go to London for a year at the Col- lege of Defence Studies. He is the senior llatisa in the army. Among the Yorubas the source of grievance is over what they regard as the unfair treatment of Colonel Benjamin Adekunle the "black Scor- pion" who was the most suc- cessful divisional commander (luring the civil war. During a recent round of promotions he was not promoted with others. Adeknnle, too, is now in Lon- don, where he has spent much of the last sis months on "sick leave." General Gowon remains the most popular figure within the army hierarchy, and although his power is not unchallenged, it still remains strong enough for him to pursue the difficult task of modernizing and reor- ganizing his huge army the largest in black Africa bc- qitealhcd to him by Uic civil war. All the state governments arc headed by senior army of- ficers; their direct involvement in the vigorous polities of the competing forces within the new states has inevitably made some of them controversial figures. Some, like the Mid- West's Colonel Samuel Oghe- mudia, have set a fine exam- ple of vigor, integrity and dis- cipline. Others figure in nasty rumors about corruption. A number of senior officers live in a style unknown to the British Raj in India in its hey- day, f was taken to see Uie "compounds" of some of these officers, where there were two, three and even four motorcars, a corps of attendant soldiers, and a bevy of servants. At a vSunday morning church service I had pointed out to me the wives of officers "with gold bracelets up to their elbows." "What" I was asked, "are the ordinary people supposed to make of General Gowon believes that many of (he criticisms of his officers are inaccurate or ill- motivated. Nevertheless, he has already taken military court procedures against a numlxT of officers and others are awaiting trial. But there is no publicity given to these cases, so the public remains in the dark. Ttic situation in the police force is, if anything, even worse. Recently the three most senior officers in Ibadan were con- victed, with a leading politician, of having been the leaders of a band which systematically planned and executed armed bank robberies. They were sen- tenced to life imprisonment. A number of top senior offi- cers spend much of their lime helping to run the businesses of their wives a familiar cover used by police and army officers. One of the country's most senior policeman spends the greater part of his day out of the office on his wife's busi- ness affairs. Such behavior in the senior ranks of Ihe police forte has its inevitable effect on the disci- pline of Uie lower ranks, who are generally believed to be widely engaged in lesser forms of illicit money-making. Corruption is by no means confined lo the new military caste' it is widespread and en- demic Uiroughout Uie country. It is essenUally a gct-rich-qnick society; this value system is widely accepted, and thus sets the pattern for everybody who wishes to succeed. What not so widely accepted is the flag- rant misuse of power (o accu- mulate "too much wealth." It is this emphasis on "too much" corruption Uiat is breeding deep resentment, especially at a time of vast and growing un- employment and of soaring liv- ing cosls. I was supplied with evidence about corruption on the part of several commisioners the politicians who serve as minis- ters in the military regime. In one case, the national airline of a friendly African slate was forced to pay lo a Lagos firm of lawyers it got landing and pick-up righls in Nigeria. Two European airlines were given similar rights after the Nigerian Airways Board had strongly opposed this decision on the ground that their own national airline would be put in jeopardy. The chairman of the board was recently removed from his post, but no reasons for this action were disclosed. CERAMIC TILE For fast easy Tnstallalion 1 sq. ft, at a time choose these genuine mozaic liles, pre-mountecf on backing. SMT ienei................... CERAMIC TILE ADHESIVES. Quart..................... CERAMIC TILE GROUTING. 5-lb. bag.................. NBERGLAS INSULATION. R7 by 60 iq. ft. ralk VAPOR BARRIER. 500 iq, it. No. 1 Poly........ DO-IT-YOURSELF PANELLTO Add rich natural beauly to feature walls or rooms at Do-lt-Yourself sav- ingi. 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Phone 328-4461 DON PICKETT, MANAGER Open Monday to Saturday, a.m. to p.m. Documentary evidence about some of these nialpracliccs among a minority of the com- missioners has been given to Gowon. So far no action has been taken. But Ihc General who was himself recently given strong warnings about corrup- tion and promised to take dras- tic action is now engaged in dry fling o new decree that would simplify court proce- dures and make more certain convictions against prominent men. However, the feeling is that Gowon is being too lenient in his approach to corruption in high places; although not a sin- gle person I spoke to thought that Uie General was anything but HnitnpcEchably honest and high-minded. In his case, cer- lainly, power haj> not corrupted. The corrosive effects of cor- ruption are not hard to find: it is a matter of public, and in- creasingly urgent, debate. The secretary of the Lagos slate government has spoken of "a very social evil which has eaten deep into our social fab- ric." He added: "Reports were often received of how investors and foreign businessmen com- ing into this country have had to bribe their way through fore they could do business; the crux of the matter is that this bad practice permeates right from the top i o the ord in ary people." The NEW NIGERfAN col- umnist. Bob Blunt, recounted bis at the country's main port of Apapa. "Bribery starts at the gate to get a pass, and continues through the Cus- toms Clearing House, Long Room and ttie Ports Autltor- ity." It took him three days lo get clearance for his car and in bribes. But this is peanuts compared with the retainers held by a former prominent lawyer-politi- cian; they are reputed to be a year. The distinguished Nigerian interna lion al public servan E Chief Simeon Adebo, who re- cently reported on a new sal- ary scale for civil servants, said he h ad heard allegations of corruption and inefficiency jn the public service. "There were claims of engineers taking bribes before approving houses- of officers demanding money before issuing licences, and of doctors using govern- ment drugs and time for their private In a stinging indictment of the country's affairs, the chair- man of (lie Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Otimi- J. A. de Tuyo, declared that "Nigeria is a vast edifice in need of urgent cleaning At present all we are doing is lo talk and criticize what is evi- dent, but there are no positive steps being taken, or an aggres- sive approach and attack. Like Pilate, those who ought to con- lend with tlic situation take water to wash their hands in public. Nobody disputes the Hercu- lean task that faces Gowon should he bring himself to clean out the Augean stable of pre- sent-day Nigeria. What is ques- tioned though, is whether these reforms can be carried out by the present mUitary set-up. Gowon has decided that mili- tary rule should continue until 1074 and that there should be no normal political acitivity be- fore then. There are not many who challenge the wisdom of this decision: what is question- ed is Uie efficacy of Ihe pre- sent military rule. In fact, the country is run from Genera! Gowon Ts offices in Dodan Barracks through his Supreme Military Council. Ef- fectively it is run by a small group of mostly high-minded civil servants. This leaves little scope for the civilian commis- sioners mostly young poli- ticians representing each of the states. The morale of the commis- sioners is dismally low. They arc not always consulted even over matters of policy ly- ing within Ihcir departmental respoRsihililies; ami (here is Kltlc effective coordination among the commissior-ers. The result is a sense of a huge pow- er vacuum at the centre of this vast and exploding country. A leading Nigerian journa- list. Adamu Ctroma, says the present situation is "the result. of gross national indiscipline, f personally consider that this is (be biggest drawback to our chances of emerging as A grcfll, powerful anrl rich na- tion." My driver put it more sim- ply: "We Nigerians be great- for Meanwhile, everyfxxly i s waifing for somelhing big to happen in the country. Only ono man can steer it away from a situation that could become far more serious than even tite Bia- fra war; General Gowon. The only question is whether he will acrl decisively and in time. rWritten for Tho HcraM and Tbe London) The collection of blood The Despatch, The Canadian Kcd Cross Society 'I ESS than a century ago the science of blood transfusion had hardly emerged from its dark ages. Today heart and other transplants, non-existent a few years ago, are common. Automation and on have simplified many tasks for technologist and administrator alike leaving them freer to expand Uieir individual roles. Component Uierapy of blood fractions in treating specific ail- ments and many new surgical tech- niques have created more uses for blood than ever before. In a relatively short time the science of blood transfusion has taken some remarkably long strides. The collection of blood is a big job that gets bigger each year. More blood is al- ways needed. While continuing to provide all blood and blood products for every hos- pital in Canada, Uie Canadian Red Cross Society's Blood Transfusion Sen-ice is in- volved in progress- in meeting growing demands and finding new, more effective and efficient uses for blood. Its slaff of doctors, nurses, technologists and other personnel work to improve methods of test- ing, storage, processing, distribution of blood and recruitment of blood donors. Its volunteers organize and operate blood do- nor clinics in every province. Each year its veliicles travel more than a million miles transporting and collecting blood. The work of the Blood Transfusion Ser- vice is a vital one. Countless persons Slave been restored lo life and health because blood was there when they really needed it. But such R work would not be possible, ami no progress could be made without the generosity of people who take the Ume lo give (heir blood. They come from every walk of races, all creeds. They give in half OB hour what science has found no substitute for, even in this modern century. These people (hundreds of thousands of Ca- nadians from coast to who give their blood, keep the Blood Transfusion Service alive, enable it to grow. Thesa people know (he meaning of life, and give their blood to those who need it. Without their help the complex workings of blood procurement would be meaningless. With it the Blood Transfusion Service continues lo meet the ever-growing demands for blood by hospitals serving individuals throughout Canada. Each donation of blood has tremendous value. Today one unit of blood may help as many as fiv-e people in need, in Ume it may help even more. Though science has found and continues to find many ways lo improve the use of blood, it has not yet found a way to replace the people who give it. The Blood Transfusion Service of Uie Canadian Red Cross Society depends upon people people like those you know and love, people like yourself; for with all (he progress science has made, only you can give the gift of life. riglits The Montreal Gazelle 'J'HE man has been convicted of man- slaughter, that's quite true, but his conviction is under appeal and the courts have seen fit to release him on bail. Are we to argue, then, thai any man who has been convicted of a serio-js crime but wlio has been duly given lus liberty by the judicial system whether to the form of bail or in the form of should be denied any work funded indirect- ly by taxpayers' money. The argument can be made, but tlxis re- porter isn't among Uiose who would make it. If Uic government, were to deny the right to work to persons in ttiis situalion, then why should the public do otherwise? Keep in mind that the question applies not just to Vallieres, but lo any convicted person free on bail pending an appeal. That leads us neatly into the argument that Vallieres shouldn't be allowed to ben- efit from a federal program because he has advocated violent overthrow of the government. But he hasn't been convicted of any crim- inal offence relating to this advocacy. His political philosophy may be unpalat- able, but if it isn't such as to cause the courts to put him in jail, then it isn't such as to deprive him of the right to work. To argue otherwise would be to argue that those who hold unpopular poliUcal views may rightly he made to pay for those views with Uie loss of their basic freedoms. The argument (hat Vallicres shouldn't be hired because he faces serious criminal charges scarcely merits refutation. Our legal system is based on the prem- ise that, a man is innocent until proven guilty, and the recent Bail Reform Act adds substance to that, premise. No one could argue, surely, tliat (he federal gov- ernment of all bodies should now turn around and deny a man who is out on bail the right to earn his living. That leaves us with Uie perhaps most, tcrr.pling argument Uial Vallieres just generally isn't (he type of person who should be allowed to benefit, even indirect- ly, from a government program financed with taxpayers' money. But Vallieres is legally free lo do any- thing that any other man who is out on bail can do and that means he is free to work. The federal government could have told the organizers of the project that their grant would be cancelled if tliey hired Vallieres, but that would have amounted to a declaration that even people legally free to work may be ineligible if the gov- ernment doesn't like their politics or their character. Would we want the government to taka that position? -.1 E Wonder where the went? A YEAR or so ago, during a local nul- break of ecological fervor, 1 vrrolc an article poinlirig out that talk is cheap, and that while harassing local businessmen and exchanging tall tales with environmental plots might make you feel good, such en- deavors are unlikely to accomplish a great deal. In private and in public this article was roundly damned, as being at the very best. Well, negative or not (what the hell, anything passes for Eng- lish these I've a bit of a soft spot for Ihe environment, if not for all its de- fenders, so now and Uten I like to prod them a bit in the hope they'll do some- thing more than talk. This is one of those times. feet's start with a liny, almost inconse- quential example, but one wliich neverthe- less has an interesting symbolism, Ihe busi- ness of burning barrels. There are sev- eral down our lane, and I can honestly say they don't bolhcr me a bit and never have. But surely, in the ecology minded (here's something almost comically ironic in aji allegedly modern cily countenancing this sort of thing, especially when il.s nor- mal arrangement for garbage disposal is ft reasonably enlightened one. If you're a bit sensitive about something that close U> home, or would like a i.e. involving more dollars example, you might consider a recent undertaking by a PR-conscious west coast firm to recycle waste paper. It invested in the millions for the development and construction of a spe- cial plant, sot up a gathering network, of- fered quite a reasonable price for wnste paper (incidentally, f.o.b. box cars on which it paid Ihe demurrage) and so far can't gel enough waste paper Ift muke the deal work. Waste paper, mark vou! Prefer something big but local? All righl, then, let's look at this hog-processing plajit that's due lo bo built at Taber, the current betting is. It's a big deal, said lo involve twenty five millions in capital, and operations on a scale that will mean a payroll of four lo five millions annually. (One would guess it might mean a little something to local hog-raisers and busi- nessmen, Understandably, there's been quite a bit of news about this plant, in all local media. But have you read or heard a word about the environment? I haven't. Not so much as a whisper about air or wafer or any oilier kind of poHulion. Odd, don't you ihink? But let's not be negative again, I hear you say. All right, here's a tliought (un- less, of course, you really mean "Keep your bloody mouth shut until we get a few more papers All these negotia- tions have gone on under the kindly eye of (he minister whose business it is to see thai Uie agro business (and voicrs in- volved in it) flourishes. Hut the environ- ment is under the care and conlrnl of an- other department entirely, whose minister doesn't even pot lo hear alwut hog-process- ing pfanl.s until someone1 slail.s lo complain about them. Wouldn't it more if anyone really cares to hove an ecol- ogy buff attached to each of (he de- partments and agencies, so this aspect of (lie public weal would be considered first, not last And please don't say it can't be done. The treasury toys. Ihe PH boys and others do it. It's a matter of what you think is important.