APRM Will The Dragon Dance In Abuja

APRM Will The Dragon Dance In Abuja


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



The APRM report while commending Rwanda for having 49% of women in its Parliament

(about the highest in Africa), urged the country to make its laws conform with international

standards, and sincerely pursue true reconciliation and its public finance reforms.



APRM: Will the Dragon Dance in Abuja?   

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye


Two weeks ago, at the Editorial Board of the Independent Newspapers, Lagos, we deliberated on the brilliant report submitted by the Independent Panel of Eminent Persons appointed by the Heads of State of the African Union (AU), who had, under the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), assessed developments in Ghana and Rwanda. 

For me, the idea of peer review is very healthy, edifying and utterly fascinating. It affords Africans the ennobling opportunity to look at themselves with objectivity and sincerity and tell themselves unambiguous truths about themselves with candour and openness for the good of the continent. The expectation now is that the APRM will be given free hand to fully assume its position as a credible benchmark for realistic assessment of the New Partnership for African Development (Nepad).

It is indeed encouraging that Africa has now recognized the need to reposition itself in a manner that vindicates its maturity before the outside world, through programmes and actions that demonstrate clearly that the continent now possesses the capacity and discipline for credible self-appraisal, and that it can help itself stand firmly, and sincerely pursue realistic policies that foster sustainable development. Indeed, the continent is ready to show that it has the capacity to correct itself with the best of intentions and make it impossible for further patronizing assessments riddled with gratuitous insults oozing towards it from the Western world.

Ghana and Rwanda had offered to pioneer the self-assessment, and according to a report in The New Times (Kigali) of June 22, 2005, the two countries have been widely hailed for taking this very bold, decisive first move. Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo chairs both the AU and APRM, and so I had thought the natural thing would have been for the leader to show example by being the first to be assessed. Well, I have since had cause to review that opinion. 

Having looked at the matter again, I now think it is good for everyone to first observe the decent and civilized reactions of Ghana and Rwanda to the report, so that when other countries are equally examined, we can now juxtapose their response with that of Ghana and Rwanda and determine the sincerity of those leaders who had soaked in undue attention by over-advertising and over-dramatizing the mere fact of  their being the initiators and directors of the laudable policy.  

My colleagues at the Editorial Board were particularly impressed by the reaction of these two countries since the report was made public. For instance, President John Kufuor of Ghana was told that he did not need an 88 member cabinet in a struggling country like Ghana. Also, according to Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg), June 24, 2005, his country’s economy was described as “relatively weak and highly vulnerable to external shocks, especially the vagaries of world trade and sub-regional political stability.” 

But instead of dusting up a habitually discourteous and loquacious fellow among his aides to rubbish the report and describe it as the handiwork of the enemies of “Mr. President” who are unable to appreciate “Mr. President’s” (they are always too scared to use a pronoun for him) great efforts to move Africa (not his country) forward, Kufuor was rather grateful that the report had helped him realize areas his administration could devote further attention and harder work. “The country will continue to implement the Programme of Action and be submitted to regular reviews on its performance,” BuaNews (Tshwane, South Africa, June 23, 2005) quotes Kufuor as saying. 

The Mail & Guardian (June 24) also credits him with this statement: “We are not before this forum as people in the dock. We are here as brothers to see our reflection so we can correct the path we make in terms of governance and good leadership for economic development and upholding human rights.”

The APRM report while commending Rwanda for having 49% of women in its Parliament (about the highest in Africa), urged the country to make its laws conform with international standards, and sincerely pursue true reconciliation and its public finance reforms. Rwanda also got a few “brotherly” knocks here and there. But in his reaction, President Paul Kagame described the APRM report as initiating in a “good learning process,” which his country will benefit from, adding that Rwandans are looking “forward to working with” other African nations as they “carry out the corrective measures where weaknesses have been identified.”

Now, I must confess that it was difficult for me to contribute anything meaningful to the deliberations on this topic during our Editorial Board Meeting two weeks ago. I was more preoccupied with the future of APRM which, to my mind, appeared very bleak. 

The simple question to ask is: Will APRM be able to survive a head-on collusion with Nigeria’s President I-Know-And-Respect-No-Law when the Eminent Persons Group eventually gets to Abuja for the “brotherly” appraisal? In deed, the report that will emanate from Nigeria is easily predictable by even the most porous brain in the Isale Eko area of Lagos. Unless maybe the body of experts coming to do the job will let themselves to be overwhelmed by the Abuja magic and water down their report. 

But  until APRM survives an encounter with Nigeria’s Emperor, everyone  should moderate his or her optimism about APRM revolution. I so much yearn to be proved wrong, at least, this once.

After the recent Abuja forum where this report on Ghana and Rwanda was unveiled, President Obasanjo had described the report as “generally satisfactory.” So enthralled by this apt description, Accra Mail (Accra), captioned its Wed. June 22, 2005 report on the Abuja meeting: “Satisfactory!”

Indeed, I can’t wait to hear how President Olusegun Obasanjo would describe the report that will be issued about his country when the body of experts arrive Nigeria, probably,  later this year. In its editorial entitled: “Let Us Not Make Excuses,” Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra), June 23, 2005, appealed to President Kufuor “not to discredit the findings of the report, especially, as the defects observed have more to do with the lack of institutional capacity.” It then urged the government to instead “come up with countervailing measures, as APRM requires, so that” Ghanaians “shall collectively deal with these identified shortfalls, for (their) democratic advancement”

The Chronicle should have saved its editorial for a more appropriate audience in Abuja. Kufuor was being blamed for lack of institutional capacity, what then would be said about my country, Nigeria, held down by institutional and personal corruption at the highest levels?  What will be said about the countless Special assistants, Senior Special Assistants, Special Advisers, Senior Special Advisers, Ministers and Ministers of State, many of who have over-lapping functions. 

I once read where one of them was being addressed as Special Assistant to the President on Presidential Matters! (Whatever that means). There are even more ridiculous ones. Just be reading Nigerian papers, from time to time, you will keep seeing them. I even heard that one noisy Special Assistant for Talk-Talk may not even have an approved vote. He was once heard defending the letter he wrote to a government corporation demanding some millions of naira, in the spirit of anti-corruption and transparency thriving in Abuja, to enable him run his  “office.” 

APRM, did you hear that?

Indeed, anytime they arrive here, the body of experts will certainly hear about the “executive extortion” represented by the outrageous launch of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Otta, and it is most unlikely they would be impressed by the infantile, made-in-Aso-Rock legalism that the library project belongs to a duly registered Foundation and not Africa’s (not Nigeria’s) most righteous President (Nigeria has become too small). 

Probably, Abuja would instruct the Eminent Persons, as they do to us daily in Nigeria, to forcibly accept the wild tale that Bells University of Technology does not belong to the President, but his clone in one remote part of Egbaland who also shares the same name with him. You know that in Nigeria, the government does not make any effort to convince anyone. It would just be beneath it to do so! All it does is just to drop a statement for you and if you fail to be convinced by it, then, you are a mischief maker, intent on blackmailing Baba!

What will be the reaction of APRM to the recent emergence of “Obasanjo Undemocratic Party (OUP)” from the ashes of what used to be known as Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?  Will  they  be allowed just a glimpse into the oil sector where nauseating and belly-aching rackets thrive daily with utmost impunity? Well, by the time they arrive, someone must at least show them a copy of the judgment already delivered on the presidential election which Obasanjo had “won” in his home state, Ogun, which was dismissed as mere fraud.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court has just upheld Obasanjo’s “election.” But why was there so much heat on Mohammed Uwais, the Chief Justice of the Federation, a few days to judgment day, making rumour mongers to go all over town with the tale that the man’s travails have a lot to do with the judgment the apex court was about to deliver on the petition of the All Nigeria’s People’s Party (ANPP) presidential candidate, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, challenging the landslide “victory” of Mr. President in the last elections? 

The thinking then was that given the number of landmark rulings delivered by the Supreme Court in recent times in cases wherein the interests of Aso Rock were clearly predictable, and given that already the electoral “results” of Ogun State, the President’s home state, has been cosigned to the bin of infamy with the worst kind of phrases, a retiring CJ Uwais would not wish to rubbish his 38 years on the bench, 26 of which was spent at the Supreme Court, by giving an “Egbo-Egbo” judgment in this autumnal stage of his career. 

And so, anti-democratic forces had vowed that he must either be stampeded out office “before he embarrasses the President” or his integrity would be damaged so much that he would lack the moral facility to deliver any credible judgment again. And from the way the man so much sounded like someone about to keep a date with the gallows in interviews he granted just some days before the judgment, it did seem he was beginning to believe the rumour. 

Well, the judgment has now been delivered by the highest court in the land, and President Obasanjo has been declared “duly elected” in a most scandalous election that astounded the world and shocked international and local observers. All we can do now is to go about our normal businesses in a country so badly managed that even the most basic amenities, like regular power supply, taken for granted by citizens of even leanly endowed countries, is grossly lacking.

But now that the “right” judgment has been delivered, will the grievous allegations of corruption and gross abuse of office  against the CJ by a lawyer in an open court be now swept under? Well, I am fully in support of a full-scale investigation to discover whether the man had got his hands soiled as is being alleged; but the desperados in Abuja must realize that it is also in their interest that the apex court still remains the sole surviving credible institution in the land, after the most disgraceful death and burial of the two Houses of Assembly in Abuja. 

Those who are destroying all our organized systems and seducing anarchy into an exalted seat for ephemerally beneficial self-serving reasons cannot predict where exactly the monster will start to kill and devour. We better make ourselves to see reason.

There were reports that Nigeria’s turn in the peer review exercise might be in October. All in Africa should wait in anticipation to see if APRM will emerge from Obasanjo’s Nigeria in one piece. If it is not rubbished and disbanded after coming to Nigeria, then, it will become clear that it has come to stay. Surely, it won’t be a long wait.

posted 8 July 2005

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