By Paul Tarfa
GOWON, THE SECOND MILITARY HEAD OF STATE
After Ironsi’s death, the next senior officer who should have taken over leadership of the country was Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe. Ogundipe was a balanced, experienced and highly-respected officer in the Nigerian Army. He was General Everard’s choice to succeed him as General Officer Commanding the Nigerian Army but the Minister of Defence, Alhaji Ribadu and the Prime Minister Sir Abubakar decided on Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi, who had earlier commanded the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in the Congo. Ogundipe could not take over the mantle of leadership after Ironsi because in the prevailing situation, he did not command the respect of the army. He subsequently opted to be Nigeria’s High Commissioner in London. The honour and burden of leadership fell on Lt-Col. Yakubu Gowon to become Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria on 1 August 1966.
Gowon as the new Head of State, inherited many problems. He allowed Lt-Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Lt-Col. Hassan, Lt-Col Ejoor to remain in their positions as Governors of the Eastern, Northern and Mid-Western regions respectively. Whilst he appointed Col. Adeyinka Adebayo to became Governor of the Western Region on the death of Col. Adekunle Fajuyi who was killed in Ibadan along with General Ironsi during the 29 July Coup 1966. He needed wisdom and patience as well as firmness to get on with the task of moving the country forward. The time needed reconciliation. He appealed to all parties concerned to give peace a chance and made all conciliatory moves to heal the wounds brought about by the January and July coup of 1966. He demanded and called for support from the regional military governors which he got from most of them except Lt-Col. Ojukwu who rejected his leadership and that of the country.
RELEASE OF CHIEF OBAFEMI A WOLOWO FROM KIRIKIRI PRISON
Soon after Gowon became Head of State, one of his strategic moves in early August 1966 was to release from prison Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the highly influential former Premier of the West, who had been imprisoned by the Balewa government for treason. I had the honour to bring the Chief out of the Kirikiri Maximum Prison to take him to No. 36 Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. General Gowon appointed him Commissioner of Finance and Vice Chairman of the Federal Executive Council. After the latter appointment, Awolowo called his people to support the Federal Government against the rebellion. Awolowo denounced all allegations that he would take the West out of the federation if the East seceded.
When he came out of the prison gate to enter the Limousine, I saluted him smartly and introduced myself. He was definitely informed of the release plan before my arrival. I could see he was impressed by my turnout and the courtesy I gave him. In the Limousine on the way to Ikoyi, he said to me, “Officer, what did you say your name is?” I answered, “My name is Paul Tarfa:’ He appeared interested to know more about me and asked again, “Where do you come from? I said, “You will not know the place sir, because I come from a small village in the North”. He said, “No say it”. Then I told him, ‘the name of my village is Garkida in Adamawa Province.’ Chief Awolowo replied, “I was there during the 1959 Federal Elections. I landed on a primary school football field in a helicopter from Biu. Yes, I know the village.” It was the first time I met Chief Awolowo and I had great respect for him.
SEARCHING FOR PEACE: THE ABURI, GHANA, MEETINGS
Six months into the Government of Gowon and the continuing estrangement between General Gowon and Lt.-Col. Ojukwu, General Ankrah, the Military Head of State of Ghana arranged for the leadership in Nigeria to meet in Aburi, Ghana. They met on the 4th and 5th of January, 1967. That meeting afforded them opportunity to discuss their problems on a neutral ground. They attended the meetings with delegates made up of military and civilian staffs, viz:
* Colonel Robert Adebayo, Military Governor, West.
– Lt-Col. C. O. Ojukwu, Military Governor, East,
– Lt-Col. H. U. Katsina, Military Governor, North,
– Lt-Col. David Ejoor, Military Governor, Mid-West
– Commodore J. E. Wey, Head of the Nigerian Navy
– Major Mobolaji Johnson, Military Administrator, Lagos
– Alhaji Kam Salem, Inspector-General of Police
– Mr T. Omo-Bare, Deputy Inspector-General of Police
The meetings which were held at Peduase Lodge, Aburi Ghana on the 4th and 5th of January 1967, discussed various issues affecting the future political status of the country and the demand by Ojukwu for a confederal system of government for Nigeria. Ojukwu wanted Eastern Region by that arrangement to have a separate army and police force and to renounce the use of force as a means of settling the crises in Nigeria. They agreed to continue with their negotiation and peace talks, exchanging information on quantities of arms and ammunition being held by army units in each region. During these talks, the question of the Nigerian state remaining as a single entity was most paramount in the minds of the Nigerian delegation, while the eastern regional delegation wanted decentralisation of the federation, calling for confederation. Gowon and the Nigerian delegation called for a return to federal system prior to the Unification Decree. The Aburi agreement was subsequently adopted with minor modification to preserve the unity and entity of Nigeria and was overtaken by successive events.
The delegates also agreed that the use of force should be renounced as a means of settling the crisis in Nigeria. They agreed that negotiations and peace talks should continue on the exchange of information on quantities of arms and ammunition of army units in each region. But in the end, preservation of Nigeria as a single entity was paramount in the minds of the Nigerian delegates. While Ojukwu wanted a complete decentralisation of the federation, Gowon stressed that the country should return to its position before 17 January 1966 when Ironsi took over. In other word, implementing the Aburi agreement to the letter would have ended the federation of Nigeria.
Back home in Nigeria, Ojukwu continued to defy the Federal Government. Some of his actions were extreme provocation. The catalogue of his provocations to the Government of Gowon was long. They included the seizure of property belonging to the Northern States Marketing Board, the hijacking of a Nigeria Airways Fokker Friendship 27 aircraft with which he used to bomb Lagos and the environs, the takeover of Federal Government offices, Central Bank Building, and withholding of Federal Revenue, etc. He also confiscated one third of the rolling stock of the Nigerian Railways and stopped the transportation of oil products from the refinery at Port Harcourt to the North. Ojukwu announced the takeover of all federal institutions in the East including port, post and telegraph and the Nigerian Railways. By these actions, it was only a matter of time for Ojukwu to unilaterally declare the Eastern Region as an Independent State. While he persisted with these defiant moves, he seemed to be encouraged by a reported pronouncements from the West Region that if he was allowed to go out of the federation, the West would also follow suit. As though to buttress this point, some elites and political leaders including some highly respected army officers also joined in the agitation against the presence of northern troops in Lagos and the West, demanding that they should return to the North. Such officers included then Major, now General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd), and Lt-Col. Adeyinka Adebayo, now a retired Major-General.
One afternoon, standing by the gates of Dodan Barracks, Garba and I were amazed and bemused to watch a procession of Yoruba elders delegation carrying placards saying ‘Northern troops must go.’ They proceeded to the State House, Dodan Barracks, to present their demand to General Gowon. I could remember one senior officer among them, saying ‘Our demands are not much, all we want is that northern troops must go, so that we can get on with the job of reconstruction’. It was disappointing to some of us but we understand that that was the feeling at the time in the country.
Refusal to obey court order is corruption – Emir
The Emir of Gummi, Justice Lawal Hassan Gummi (retd.), says refusal to obey a court order is another form of corruption, noting that government must exemplify the change it promised before expecting citizens to follow suit.
He said disrespect for the rule of law, bad governance, disobedience to court orders, non-compliance with electoral regulations by political parties, godfathers hijacking the electoral process and dwindling confidence in the justice system posed threats to Nigeria’s democracy.
The monarch, who was the keynote speaker at the Barewa Old Boys Association annual lecture, held at the Umaru Ali Shinkafi Polytechnic, Sokoto, spoke on the topic, ‘The challenges of the judiciary to democracy: The Nigeria perspective.’
The 97-year old college, located in Kaduna State, is reputed for producing five out of Nigeria’s past leaders, including General Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, late Umaru Yar’adua, late Gen. Murtala Mohammed and the late Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
It has also produced three Chief Justices of Nigeria, three Inspectors-General of Police and four Secretaries to the Government of the Federation.
But in his address, Gummi described the judiciary as the watchdog of democracy, without which “reckless marauders will attack the society,” adding that an insecure judiciary is one of the greatest threats to democracy.
He said, “Orders of court are disobeyed at will in the name of fighting corruption. No one institution, no matter how highly placed, should flout the laws of the land, not even under the guise of fighting corruption. Refusing to obey an order of court is another form of corruption in itself.
“The executive cannot play the role of both the accuser and that of the judge at the same time. It is an aberration in a democracy. National security cannot take precedence over the rule of law; rather, it should be guided by the rule of law.
“Any democracy where the executive tries to intimidate and harass the legislature and/or the judiciary into doing its bidding is a democracy under threat. In the same vein, it is not right in a democracy for the National Assembly to make governance difficult for the executive for pecuniary reasons. “We all agree that we need change as promised by the government, but that change must first begin with them, then, you and me.”
Marriott International’s Three Loyalty Programs Unify
A new era is beginning for the more than 110 million members of Marriott International’s (www.Marriott.com) award-winning loyalty programs – Marriott Rewards, which includes The Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG). For the first time since Marriott International acquired Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2016, the programs now operate under one set of unified benefits and one currency spanning the entire loyalty portfolio of 29 brands and more than 6,700 participating hotels in 130 countries and territories. Members are able to seamlessly earn and redeem across the entire loyalty portfolio and achieve Elite status faster with new Elite tiers. Members can now combine their separate program accounts into one at Marriott.com (www.Marriott.com) or SPG.com (www.Marriott.com/default.mi?program=spg&reset=true) to take advantage of everything Marriott International’s loyalty programs offer worldwide.
Together, the unified programs are richer. Members now earn on average 20 percent more points per dollar spent and have their Elite status recognized consistently at every hotel as they indulge in the elevated benefits they’ve earned. Additionally, members now have the added convenience to book stays throughout the portfolio on Marriott.com (www.Marriott.com), SPG.com(www.Marriott.com/default.mi?program=spg&reset=true), and the Marriott and SPG apps, or by contacting customer engagement centers.
“This is an exciting time for our loyalty members who now have endless inspiration to travel and experience the world to create memories that will last a lifetime,” said David Flueck, Senior Vice President, Global Loyalty, Marriott International. “We merged the incredible earning and redeeming power of Marriott Rewards with the phenomenal Elite benefits of SPG to create one of the richest travel loyalty programs with the most extraordinary global portfolio of hotels – from overwater bungalows, to mountainside ski resorts, to iconic urban landmarks.”
Earn Points and Achieve Elite Status Faster
As a result of the unified, single-currency programs, when members combine their accounts, their points balances will also combine, ending the need to transfer points between programs. For SPG members, their SPG points balance multiplied by three. All members earn 10 points for every dollar spent at all brands except Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites and Element which earn five points per dollar spent and Marriott Executive Apartments and ExecuStay properties which earn 2.5 points per dollar spent. In addition, for 2018, nights earned at Marriott Rewards and SPG hotels will also combine, potentially helping members achieve Elite status faster. Under the unified programs, all SPG members receive a new account number to align with the Marriott Rewards system. Members with multiple program accounts can choose to combine under their preferred account. The Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) names will continue to live on until early 2019 until combining under a new brand name.
Under the unified programs, members now earn Silver Elite status after just ten nights annually, Gold Elite status after just 25 nights, Platinum Elite status after 50 nights and Platinum Premier Elite status after 75 nights. All Platinum Premier members surpassing 100 nights and $20,000 annual spend will enjoy the highest level of personalized service – the popular ambassador program – along with all the other benefits in that tier. Members who have achieved Lifetime status will continue to have their status recognized under the new Lifetime Elite tiers that will apply across the unified programs.
Redeem for Free Nights Easier
The unified programs introduce a new Free Night Award chart for redemptions across the entire loyalty portfolio. Nearly 70 percent of hotels now require the same or fewer points for a free stay than before. Further, members can save 25,000 points per night by redeeming for future category eight hotels priced in category seven until 2019, including coveted all-suites properties. The new Free Night Award chart launched with standard pricing, adding off-peak and peak pricing in 2019.
Earn Points and Access Benefits with Co-Brand Credit Card
With the new programs comes an array of refreshed benefits for co-branded credit cardholders that provide members with more benefits across the entire loyalty portfolio. Members of all three loyalty programs in the United Arab Emirates can take advantage of the Emirates NBD Starwood Preferred Guest® World MasterCard® with world-class banking partner Emirates NBD and new benefits offered within the region.
Experience rich rewards and best in class benefits with the Emirates NBD SPG® World MasterCard®. The ability to earn and redeem at our extraordinary collection of 6,700 hotels across 29 brands, an automatic upgrade to Gold Status, an annual anniversary Free Night Award Certificate upon renewal, and premium Wi-Fi are just a few of the exciting new opportunities that are now available to members.
With the Emirates NBD SPG® World MasterCard®, earn 6x points for each US dollar of eligible purchases made at participating SPG, Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards hotels, and 3x points for each US dollar of eligible purchases on your card. For more information, visit EmiratesNBD.com/spg.
More Travel Experiences
Marriott International’s loyalty programs offer members a holistic travel experience encompassing much more than hotel stays. Members have access to the wide collection of nearly 120,000 irresistible experiences in 1,000 global destinations on the company’s ever-expanding Moments platform – Marriott Moments, Marriott Rewards Moments and SPG Moments. These range from destination tours and day trips, to exclusive member-only events such as Super Fan Experiences during the Keith Urban Graffiti U World Tour, including autographed merchandise and backstage access, VIP access to sought after sporting events like the Super Bowl, music festivals like Coachella, and master classes with superstar chefs like Daniel Boulud in intimate settings.
In addition, other new benefits to highlight include:
All members now earn points for food and beverage, spa and other qualifying incidentals charged to their folio, rather than just the room rate.
Hotels throughout the loyalty portfolio now have no blackout dates for points redemptions.
Booking direct on any of Marriott International’s digital and mobile channels means members can take advantage of exclusive member-only rates and free Wi-Fi. In addition, both the Marriott and SPG apps offer mobile check-in and check-out and send members alerts when their room is ready. Members can also chat directly with hotel associates before, during, and after their stays using Mobile Requests, and use their smartphones as their room key at more than 1,000 hotels.
The information above represents a summary of certain features of Marriott International’s unified loyalty programs and is subject to the programs full terms and conditions.
To learn more about the unified programs and benefits, as well as combine accounts, please go to Marriott (www.Marriott.com) or SPG.com(https://www.marriott.com/default.mi?program=spg&reset=true).
The recurring struggle against female circumcision in Nigeria
By Osaro Itua
The story of one Mrs. Gbe (not complete name) who has a hard time preventing her 11yr old daughter from under-going the outlawed, inhuman and barbaric age long tradition of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) still been practiced by her In-Laws who hail from one of the remote areas of Edo State in South-South Nigeria is a sad tale that leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
She hails from the Eastern part of Nigeria and met her husband Mere (not complete name) in 2004. After dating for about 2yrs, they decided to get married. However, their decision was met with stiff opposition from Meres immediate and extended family, who insisted that Mrs Gbe must undergo a traditional ritual which will be rounded up with her circumcision before her bride price will be paid. They explained that every female member of the family either by birth or marriage has undergone this ritual hence theyre fertile in their marriages. While the male family members also have to undergo their own rituals, the female circumcision ritual which will see the cutting off of certain parts of the vagina by the local herbalist using crude implements and local herbs is the climax of the exercise. Most young girls and women have contracted very serious vaginal infections during this procedure which ultimately lead to their death. This is because, when they fall sick from the infections, no orthodox medical treatment is allowed as it is expected that if the girl or her mother is pure, she will recover from the resultant illness by use of native herbs. When death occurs, it is termed as the will of the ancestors and as such should not be questioned. Mrs Gbe vehemently refused this proposal and had the backing of Mere. His family, nevertheless, insisted that he would only be allowed to marry her upon the completion of this ritual.
This stand-off continued till sometime in 2006 when she became pregnant for Mere. All pleas to have the traditional marriage fell on deaf ears as his family was determined to circumcise her. She eventually had their first child — a baby girl in November 2006 and this opened another chapter of woes for her and Mere.
Since a female child has been born and as is customary in the family, Mrs Gbe was requested to bring the child for circumcision before she clocked 1 year. She also resisted this request and of course, it opened a second round of trouble for her. This time around, Meres Kindred were emphatic and categorical in their demand for their granddaughter to be circumcised. They further emphasized that nothing in this world would stop that from happening except death.
Mere and his wife didnt take seriously to this threat until one faithful morning of the 12th of June 2007 when mother and daughter were returning from a routine immunization round and they were viciously attacked by unknown assailants. Mrs Gbe who was driving alone with the baby strapped on the baby car seat behind her were double crossed by a black Mercedes Benz car while on a lonely stretch of road leading to her house. She received a massive blow to the head and passed out instantly.
However, the assailants couldnt make away with the baby as their efforts were immediately ruined by the brave efforts of two young men who were driving past. They fought the assailants to a stand-still and rescued the baby from their hands. On realizing the failure of the operation, the assailants took to their heels. This afforded the good Samaritans the opportunity to immediately evacuate Mrs. Gbe to the hospital. She was in a coma for 2 days and thereafter spent another 2 weeks in the intensive care of a private hospital. She spent a total of 6 weeks in the hospital and made sufficient recovery before she was discharged home. A report of the incident was made to the Police who pledged to investigate and bring the perpetrators to book. Nothing was ever heard from them.
Surprisingly, Meres mother and key extended family members said that the attack occurred as a result of their refusal to proceed with the circumcision ritual. They blamed Mrs Gbe for the incident and repeatedly said “… this happened because of her stubbornness…” hence their demand for the ritual became heightened. To make matters worse, they started referring to Mere as an outcast and openly said they will ostracize him from the family if he doesnt heed to their demands.
He was given a deadline for December 2007 to bring his wife and daughter for the ritual else, he would be cast away from the family and every right to inheritance of family property be taken away from him. He was also requested to stop using the family name and a curse was placed upon any member of the kindred who will communicate and keep contact with him, his wife or daughter. They were accused of bringing ill-luck to the kindred and must die as a way of cleansing and appeasing the ancestral spirits. These will be done if he doesnt comply by the deadline.
As a result of the entire incident and the resulting threats to his life and that of his wife and daughter, Mere quickly relocated his young family to Abuja in November 2007. When the baby clocked 1 year in the same month, he took his wife to the marriage Registry where they formalized their union with a Court marriage.
However, the threats to his wife and baby re-surfaced from members of their Community Development Association (CDA) resident in Abuja. They insisted that Mere must take his wife and daughter back home for the circumcision rituals to avoid bringing calamities upon their community. They were actually physically attacked during one of their outings in Abuja. Some touts from one of the popular motor parks within the city metropolis were hired to carry out the act. Right in the presence of his wife and kid, Mere was beaten to a pulp and he lost some teeth in the process. While attempting to raise an alarm for the attention of passers-by, his wife was slapped severally. They touts thereafter dispossessed them of their jewelries, wristwatches, mobile phones and cash. Before leaving, they told Mere that he should go back home to his community and do what he has been asked to do else, himself and his wife may not survive to tell the story. This then prompted them to relocate further North of Nigeria and far away from Edo State.
They headed for Jos, the Plateau State Capital in 2010 and lived in a quiet community in the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area amongst the Berom people who were predominantly farmers. They had more kids, established a farm business and built a home until the killer herdsmen struck their community on the night of June 23rd 2018. They had gotten a whim of the attack about 2 days before it actually occurred. They however paid no mind, noting that the Government security agencies were on ground to forestall any further breakdown of law and order. However, on that faithful night, they were jolted from sleep by gunshots sound from not too far away from their home and it continued ceaselessly. This prompted Mere and his wife to quickly grab the children up and upon getting outside through the back door, they saw several houses in the distance have been set ablaze and the attackers heading in their direction while shooting indiscriminating and killing every moving object in their sight.
They joined other neighbours in running towards the opposite direction and continued on foot for about 1 hour till they reached the Nghar Yelwa area and ran into a Mosque where the Imam shielded them from the attackers till security agents arrived in the morning of June 24th 2018.
By the next day, they returned under heavy security watch to their community and discovered that their entire house and personal belongings have been raised down by the attackers. This completely broke their spirit and they immediately moved back to Abuja to seek refuge with friends while planning on how to pick up the pieces of their lives and move on.
Upon arriving Abuja, they were once more greeted with the demand to go back home and carry out the circumcision ritual on Mrs Gbe and her daughters. Infact, the first daughter will clock 12yrs in November 2018 and they have been given that date as the final deadline to go back to their village and carry out the exercise. They were further assured that refusal to do so will result in the death of Mere, his wife or any of the children. Mrs Gbe has reached out to various Non-Governmental organizations for assistance, but none has yielded positive responses. Mere’s clan and kindred are vehemently bent on ensuring that she comes forward with her daughters for the initiation ritual.
One can only but imagine the agony this family is going through with their family kindred after them and their experience in the hands of the dreaded fulani herdsmen as a result of the incessant attacks on Christians in Nigeria.
Despite the existence of the Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Law in Nigeria, it is heartbreaking to note that this issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still prevalent in the Country. The Law which seeks to prohibit female circumcision or genital mutilation, forceful ejection from home and harmful widowhood practices, prohibits forced isolation, depriving persons of their liberty, economic abuse, incest, separation from family and friends, substance attack and indecent exposure, among others.
However, the existence of this law has not deterred its practice in most local communities in Nigeria. The lack of enforcement has militated against the practicability of the law. The apathy of those that should enforce this ban has been stated as one of the main issues why the practice is still popular.
Also, the lack of awareness of the dangers posed by FGM is another problem. It is imperative at the juncture for the executive to charge those responsible with enforcement with the need to do the needful.
The Community leaders, traditional Institutions and practitioners of herbal medicine must be educated on the dangers associated with this barbaric, and nauseating cultural practice.
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