The Open Sore of A Continent


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The Open Sore of A Continent




Olaewe Ewegbemi




April 22, 2005



The title of this piece is borrowed from Wole Soyinka’s book, THE OPEN SORE OF A CONTINENT, A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis (Oxford University Press, 1996)


My daughter gave the book to me as a Christmas present in 1996.  I read and re-read the book several times for; as usual, the works of the Nobel Laureate do not often lend themselves to easy reading. And perhaps, he is more widely read overseas than in Nigeria. Unfortunate as that might be, he is also probably more heard by students of higher institutions beyond the Nigerian boarder.

I have had to read it again this past week after another round of corruption scandals was unleashed on the nation.


Wole Soyinka has this to say on “The Spoils of Power: Buhari-Shagari Casebook”(p.61 of the book):


   “To obtain a basic understanding of today’s reality of Nigerian politics, one had to learn about and come to grasp with the phenomenon of the spoils of power. Both quantitatively and qualitatively, in aspects of tenacity and duration, of manipulations of interest groups and the scale of attendant corruption, which is usually understood by such people as patronage, the spoils of power continue to take central place in the various internal confrontations that have wracked that uneasy entity, Nigeria, since its fabrication by the British colonial power in 1914”.


That Wole Soyinka chose to talk about Buhari-Shagari casebook  is of particular interest to me for I have always thought that under Shagari, Nigeria witnessed the most CORRUPT regime ever to rule Nigeria.




And it is no accident that in a recent article that was culled by from THIS DAY magazine , Nigeria’s external debt was said to have  ballooned  under the Shagari’s  spend- and- loot administration. He was the man who bankrupted Nigeria and it was under him the import license became a tool of political patronage and corruption.




Nigeria’ s open sore has been left untreated for so many years. It has continued to fester from one corrupt regime to the other (both military and civilian). It is now a  serious ulcer , and no doctor is in sight to prescribe the cure.

As Wole Soyinka rightly observed ,” the spoils of power continue to take central place in the various internal confrontations that have wracked that uneasy entity, Nigeria , since its FABRICATION BY THE BRITISH COLONIAL POWER IN 1914”(capitals mine)




Just recently , an  Inspector-General of Police of Police(Tafa Balogun) was forced to retire  under the shadows of corrupt enrichment.


The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),  the Vanguard reported on March 30,2005  has been arrested and detained the Inspector-General of Police!

Does a Commission has that kind of power? His lawyer, Dr. Tunji Abayomi  does not think so. And rightly so too, as a Commission is not a Court of Law, but then this is Nigeria , the open sore of a continent where anything goes!


The Punch newspaper had this to say in its editorial of March 30, 2005 on police corruption:


“The level of corruption and crime involving members of the Nigeria Police seems to be worsening. Reports of the involvement of policemen in armed robbery, brazen extortion of N20 from motorists and the killing of innocent commercial vehicle drivers and passengers, are some of the embarrassing conduct of the Police that have brought shame to the nation…

The poor condition of service is glaring in every department. Recruits at Police Colleges, especially in Lagos, often roam the streets with empty buckets in search of water. Police Stations, with their dingy cells, are mostly unkempt and lack basic stationery. There are hardly enough rifles, a situation that has made it possible for bandits to make mincemeat of the Police. Operational vehicles and communication gadgets are inadequate, while uniforms, bulletproof vests and boots have to be purchased by officers who require them. Under such condition of privation, it is impossible to have a loyal, honest and committed force. What manifests as rising crime wave and compulsive extortion of money in full glare of the public is a defective policing structure…”




The   Minister of Education( Fabian Osuji) has been dismissed for bribing parliamentarians so that his ministry could be favorably treated in budgetary allocation! The top man in the National Universities Commission was also said to have been giving out loans to the Education Minister. 


These are people who are supposed to regulate our institutions of higher learning , men who are to watch over Vice-chancellors , most of who are after enriching themselves than improving the quality of education.

“SORTING” : Can the NUC be serious about wiping out sorting when its own house is full of corruption? In an article, which appeared in the Vanguard of March 31, 2005, here are some of the hollow words credited to the  Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission:


“The NUC scribe went on to highlight methods of sorting. His words: “...the teacher may be sorted for better grades, while the administrator is sorted for admission and doctored scripts. Purchase of handouts and books authored by the lecturers in order to be assured good grades in a course is sorting. A few thousand naira in an envelop submitted with the course is sorting. A female student’s one-hour sexual interaction with the teacher in the office or in an obscure hotel for better grades is sorting. Buying the lecturer’s tyres for his/her car, dresses for children and for the teacher himself/herself and food items for the home is sorting”.

Against this background, the NUC executive secretary, Professor Peter Okebukola agreed last week in a meeting with the Committee of Vice Chancellors (CVC) to declare war on ‘sorting’ and other unwholesome malpractices which tend to undermine the credibility and integrity of university  \system.”(Emphasis mine).


Are we talking of Vice-Chancellors like the one at FUTO (Federal University of Technology, Owerri) who claimed to have signed a document prepared by the Economic and Financial Corruption Commission (EFCC)? The Vice-  Chancellor , Professor Jude Njoku was reported by the Punch of Thursday, March 31, 2005 to have said that he was so frightened at the commission’s invitation that he became confused. “When you are taken unawares, it is possible , you could act in the most stupid manner”, he was quoted as saying. A Professor and Vice-Chancellor signing a document that incriminated him under duress?  Well, that is the sorry state of  affairs in Nigeria , the open sore of a continent!


 “The spoils of office, easy acquired taste

 Distend  the appetite, contract the scruples

A crow may answer eagle, perched on borrowed steeples

But crowns are crowns, When  rulers meet, their embraces

Are of presence, Absent cries make empty phrases”


                       Wole Soyinka, The Apotheosis of Master-Sergeant Doe(op cit p61)



The spoils of office, easy acquired taste,

Distends the appetite..

If late Professor Hezekiah Oluwasanmi were to rise from his grave  to visit Obafemi Awolowo University today, he would have cardiac arrest after  seeing  what those who took over after him  had done to it.  “Omo wa ni e je jo se”..He is our son,  Let him be the Vice-Chancellor…Mediocrity Rules ,  not Meritocracy .  It does not matter if he does not earn the respect of his academic colleagues .He can victimize them. Deny them their due and surround himself with his lackeys . He can also resort to fetishes , pretending to be a tradionalist/animist or babalowo,  usually with his  amulet of power displayed at  ceremonial university functions! .It is part of the open sore that festers into an ulcer. Same goes for other universities, , the premier one included!


Parliamentarians taking bribe from Ministers!

Governors, assemblymen and women,  spending the people’s money

To distend their appetite,  No accountability to anyone.

They answer to no one.


A Nigerian acquaintance   told me a disgusting story of how he enjoyed two nights of free lodging  at a hotel in Akure, Ondo State with a member of the Ondo State House of Assembly .The assembly man  , on the pretext that it was too late for him to travel to his village after some late caucus meeting, sent his aide to book a hotel room for him and his visiting friend from U.S  They were there for two nights with their girl friends(university students) , spending the people’s money to “distend “ their appetite! 




Nigeria , unfortunately, is not owned by the Soyinkas, the Femi Falanas, the Tai Solarins, the Gani Fawehinmis , the Col Umars  or the haggard looking peeper and tomato sellers in our village markets , or the disappearing peasant farmers .

Nigeria is owned and controlled by the Umaru Dikkos, the Babangidas, the Obasanjos , the Wabaras,the armed and pen robbers, the 419s , the custom officers  and other rogues in high and low corridors of Nigeria’s bureaucracy(private and public). Those are the owners of Nigeria !

Never mind what the president says about anti-corruption being the centerpiece of his administration.

A President who wants the creditors to forgive the country of its huge debts, yet has no qualms about having presidential jets.




I think it was  Wole Soyinka who  used the term “ wasted generation “ to describe his own generation some years ago, Well, methinks , many generations have been wasted by the vagabonds that have occupied power since 1960.And the waste continues as the sore festers:


A country where civil servants and ministers refuse to surrender cars issued to them even when they are no longer in service!


A country whose leaders have bloated accounts in foreign banks when its hospitals, roads,  higher institutions are in disarray.


A country that relies on cellular phones run by foreign entrepreneurs instead of making its land phones work.


 A country whose leaders take monthly bribes from the cellular phone companies so that they can rip their customers off. How much does an average Nigerian spend on those phone cards per week?


A country where electricity does not work and where generators are symbols of affluence and accidental deaths through carbon monoxide is common.


A country where students cheat on examinations and where educators bribe and are bribed to pass students… sorting themselves out, as they say?

A country where armed robbers roam freely and with audacious ferocity

A country that continues to drive its best brains abroad because of shattered dreams and aspirations

A country where malaria is still a scourge, where women die in labor at the hands of quacks, and where the average life expectancy is about 45! 

Et Cetera…




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