Saturday 30 July 2016

Ojukwu and Ifeajuna: A Final Encounter

Interesting film depiction of a fictional meeting between Colonel Emeka Ojukwu, the leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra and Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna, who was one of the ringleaders of the first army mutiny in Nigeria.

Ifeajuna had been the first Black African to win a Commonwealth gold medal at the Vancouver Games of 1954. Like Ojukwu, he was a university graduate who joined the army when an army career was not one of first choice for graduates.

After the failure of the mutiny of January 1966, he escaped to Ghana and stayed there under the protection of Kwame Nkrumah until Nkrumah’s overthrow. An Igbo, he went to Biafra where he became an officer, but became embroiled in an intrigue which the the Biafran authorities interpreted as treason.

The film is set on the eve of his execution by firing squad in September 1967.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2016).

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer.

Lieutenant Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi

Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, BEM (26 June 1926-29 July 1966)

Portrait of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, the military governor of the Western Region of Nigeria who was assassinated alongside General Ironsi during the army mutiny of 29 July 1966.

© Adeyinka Makinde

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Friday 29 July 2016

Operation Araba

Crest of the Nigerian Army

Fifty years ago today in cantonments, barracks, mess halls as well as at improvised roadblocks and public transport hubs the Nigerian Army exploded in an orgy of ambush killings, summary executions and extreme forms of torture. The Supreme Commander and head of state, Major-General J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi was kidnapped by junior soldiers and later executed while on a visit to the city of Ibadan.

This second mutiny of 1966 was not ideologically motivated. It was about vengeance and naked tribalism. Codenamed 'Operation Araba' (*) -"Let Us Part" in the Hausa language- the intention of the mutineers led by Lieutenant Colonel Murtala Muhammad was to exact retribution on fellow soldiers from the then Eastern Region of the country, who were mainly of Igbo ethnicity, prior to withdrawing to the Northern Region from where most of the rebels originated.

They believed that the mutiny of January 1966, which had been led by Major Patrick Nzeogwu, bore heavy overtones of tribalism. The overwhelming majority of the politicians and soldiers who had been assassinated hailed from the Northern and Western Regions. Nzeogwu and most of his primary cohorts were Igbo. Moreover, they argued, the officer who acceded to the mantle of Nigerian ruler at the expense of the civilians in power, the aforementioned Ironsi, was himself an Igbo.

The idea of an 'Igbo plot' to establish a form of hegemony over the rest of the nation was further encouraged by what many Northern army officers believed to have been promotions favourable to Ironsi's kinsmen even though soldiers such as Murtala Muhammad had benefited. The leaders of the failed first mutiny had been put in jail but there appeared to be little signs that they would be punished. The event which crystallized this line of thinking had been Ironsi's decision in May of 1966 to promulgate a Unification Decree which altered Nigeria's federal framework to that of a unitary state.

The protests which followed in the Northern Region escalated into rioting and a pogrom against Igbos. It was a baleful prelude the events of July 29.

As events unfolded, Muhammad, whose men had hijacked a civilian airliner to repatriate the families of the mutineers back to the Northern Region was persuaded not to pursue the course of secession. After three days of tense negotiations with foreign powers including Britain and the United States and within the faction of the Army in control of Nigeria's capital city, Lagos, Lieutenant Colonel Yakubu Gowon, a Christian from a minority group from Nigeria's Middle Belt, assumed the leadership of the army and the rest of the country apart, that is, from the Eastern Region. Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu, the governor of that region refused to accept Gowon's authority and the course was set for a confrontation which would lead to the birth of the rebel Republic of Biafra and a civil war which would endure until the beginning of 1970.

July 29 1966 was a day of tragedy on so many levels. It represented the unleashing of a naked blood lust which consumed the lives of many soldiers. It extended the stage for the playing out of inter-tribal rivalries from the political arena into the ostensibly neutral institution of the army. The involvement of Western powers in the negotiations aimed at keeping the country together exposed the fragile sense of nationhood as well as the country's vulnerability to foreign manipulation.

It is a day on which Nigerians can reflect not only on the severe consequences that disunity can reap, but also as a reminder of the rock bottom alternative to choosing a peaceful means of transitioning into separate sovereign nations if that is the collective will of the people.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England

(*) The coup was actually codenamed "Operation Aure" (Hausa for "Marriage"), but over the course of time has come to be referred to as "Araba", given that the aim of the coupists was to secede from Nigeria. Chants of "Araba" accompanied the demonstrations and rioting in the North after Ironsi's Unification Decree.

Monday 25 July 2016

COMMENTARY: A Civil War Looming in Israel?

Amid the seemingly perpetual turbulence and chaos of the Middle East and North Africa comes the warning of a Jewish Civil War:
"We are on the verge of an uprising of hatred, racism, darkness and upcoming killings and assassination based on the overwhelming internal hatred here. We hear hatred at every turn, whether it is directed toward women by military rabbis, by Ashkenazi Jews against Sephardi Jews and Mizrahi Jews against Ashkenazis. This way the seeds of the uprising of hatred are planted, which will lead to a civil war. This hatred is being carried out by the full support and cover of those in charge."
- Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition Zionist Union coalition in the Israeli Knesset.

Isaac Herzog’s words, spoken on Monday 18th July at a Zionist Camp parliamentary bloc session, may strike the unerring observer as alarmist and even fanciful. How on earth could the people of Israel, a state created in the belief that it would provide the best guarantee for the preservation of the Jewish people, be set on a course of fratricidal conflict which would imperil its existence?

The often repeated warnings of Israel being a state surrounded by a multitude of enemies and which has existed under the perpetual threat of being “driven into the sea” by Arab enemies has seemingly provided the basis of an unbreakable communal solidarity whatever the cultural and ethnic differences between the disparate people that comprise it.  To many, the tendency towards fractiousness and vexation; of episodic disputes and divisions arising within the subtext of an often volatile political discourse only lend credence to the old adage of  “two Jews, three opinions.”

Binyamin Netanyahu was able to ruminate over the slaughter of the ongoing Syrian Civil War as follows: “We will never be like them. We will never lift our hands against our brothers with unfettered enmity.”

The matter of fratricidal conflict is, of course, not unknown to Jewish history. The Book of Judges records a civil war fought between the tribes of Gilead and Ephraim in which over 40,000 lives are claimed to have perished. The Battle of Gibeah pitted the tribes of Israel against that of Benjamin in which 25,000 Benjaminites were slain while the narrative of Hanukkah is one that recounts the violent overthrow of Jewish Hellenists via the Maccabean revolt that was led by Mattathias. The Talmud says that rebellion against the Romans failed because of the “needless enmity between brothers”.

The modern age of Zionism has also provided episodes of violence although they have all fallen short of developing into full-blown communal conflicts. The assassinations of the anti-Zionist Jacob de Haan by the Haganah and Chaim Arlosoroff by Revisionist Zionists in pre-Israel Palestine as well as the murder of Yitzhak Rabin by an orthodox settler extremist in 1995 provide examples of the killings of prominent people which occurred during periods of deep discord.  

Israel is not a monolithic society and the divisions of ethnicity as well as those based on religious and political values could provide fertile ground for the development of serious social confrontation.

While the contrasts offered between the Sabra and Diaspora Jews -the former being those who were born within the pre-state Mandate era and the latter those who made Aliyah- is arguably one that was overstated and, perhaps, an often superficial one in the grand scheme of things, divisions within Israeli society are readily discernible from the ethnicities that make it up as well as in the differences between those who are religious and those who are secular.

A starting point of any consideration of fundamental divisions existing within the society can be found in the nature of its constitutional settlement. Israel is one of only three countries in the world that functions without a ‘written’ constitution. One reason for this relates to the compromise reached about the legal status of religion between Israel’s secular founders and the representatives of orthodox Jewry. The ‘Status Quo’ Compromise was an attempt to provide a working arrangement for the role that Judaism would play in the governmental and judicial system.

Tensions have existed between secular and religious communities over the decades with one centred on exemptions given to Haredis studying in yeshivas and anti-Zionist Hasidic groups. A law passed in 2014 which provided for criminal sanctions to be imposed on those among the Haredim who refused to be conscripted into military service was met with widespread protests by the orthodox community. Leaders among the anti-Zionist Satmar organisation who viewed such a law as an attempt by secular authorities to utilize the military as a mechanism for transforming religious communities into the secular-nationalist mould went as far as predicting a civil war. The provision related to penalising those among the Hasidim who evaded the draft was effectively reversed by Prime Minster Netanyahu in April of 2015.

There are of course divisions in ideology. Israel was dominated at the time of its founding by Labor Zionists, European Jewish socialists who wanted to develop a state through the manpower of a rural Kibbutzim and an urban proletariat. However, the rise of the Likud Party, which first came to power in 1977, has reflected a shift in the national balance of power to that of the political Right. In the time since elapsed, Likud has held power for a longer period than Labor or other Left parties. Further, Likud’s adoption of neoliberal economic policies in place of earlier ones predicated on a populist orientation has markedly transformed Israeli society -and not necessarily for the better.

For while the Israeli economy, globally renowned for its high-tech component, has experienced continual growth for over a decade, the National Insurance Institute released a report in 2014 detailing a finding that one in five of families in the country live below the poverty line.

Soon after, the Taub Center, an economic and social policy think tank based in Jerusalem issued a state of the nation report which found that four out of five Israeli households spent more than they earned each month. The following year, the National Insurance Institute found that the poverty rate had increased with one in three children living below the poverty line. Israel, which is a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, has the highest level of poverty among developed nations.

Although levels of gross disparities in wealth have often formed the basis for social discord which have led to civil insurrections and revolutions, class conflict as the pathway to an Israeli civil war is unlikely.

For many observers of Israel, the only serious basis of a war breaking out among its population is rooted in the matter of Jewish settlement on the occupied Palestinian West Bank which many believe to be the ancient regions of Judea and Samaria. A survey conducted this year by Israel Democracy Institute’s Guttman Center for Surveys and the University of Tel Aviv found that 71.5 per cent of the Israeli Jewish public did not consider Israel’s presence in the West Bank as an occupation. The considered view has long been that the larger in population size these settlements get and the longer they endure, the less likely it increasingly becomes for the settlers to be evicted as part of a final peace settlement with the Palestinians. It has always been understood that any attempt by a serving Israeli government to dislodge the settlers would risk provoking a Jewish Civil War.

While the disengagement from Gaza in 2005 evoked bitter protests and much acrimony on the part of the Israeli political Right, it did not lead to a serious conflict with military overtones. A large scale withdrawal from the more significantly colonised West Bank and dismantling of the settlements  would be an altogether different enterprise. There is evidence that in 1980, Ariel Sharon, by then a retired army general but one with continuing influence, convened a secret meeting of higher echelon figures from the military and security services in which the attendees signed a blood oath under which they pledged to make common cause with settlers on the West Bank in resisting to the death any such move.

The source of the information of such a meeting having taken place came, according to the English journalist Alan Hart, from Ezer Weizman, a former commander of the Israeli Air Force, when he was serving as the minister of defence.

The oath is one which is believed to have been taken by subsequent generations of generals. It strongly underpins the notion that no Israeli Prime Minister could ever countenance the idea of ordering the army to shoot settlers, many of whom among their ranks are permanently armed religious Zionists who would be prepared to initiate a rebellion.

The threat of a civil war in the Jewish state was a real one in the months soon after its creation in 1948. In fact, bullets were fired and fatalities resulted. The belligerents were the army of the newly created Israeli Defence Force and the terror group, Irgun which was led by Menachem Begin.

Begin, a disciple of Vladimir Jabotinsky who was the creator of New Revisionist Zionism, wanted the nascent Israeli state to continue fighting its Arab neighbours until the whole of Eretz Yisrael was conquered. This included not only the West Bank but the rest of the British Mandate territory that had been east of the River Jordan.

Prime Minister David Ben Gurion preferred not to pursue such a course and demanded that Irgun as with other paramilitary organisations be absorbed into the IDF. Begin resisted this and when his group attempted to bring in a cache of arms from a ship berthed off the coast of Tel Aviv a fierce firefight erupted between both sides leading to 16 Irgun dead and 3 from the IDF.

Begin was the founder of the Likud Party which is merged with Herut, the Right-wing nationalist party he had formed in 1948 to serve as a successor to the defunct Irgun. The formation of Herut was met with great dismay by many Jewish intellectuals including Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt who took it upon themselves to write an open letter to the New York Times to warn that Israel would head down a path which legitimized “ultranationalism, religious mysticism and racial supremacy”.

Herzog has pointedly blamed the present leadership of Likud, headed by Netanyahu, for allowing the political discourse to slide into a hate filled atmosphere. “This way,” he said, “the seeds of the uprising of hatred are planted, which will lead to a civil war.”

And he is not the only high-ranking Israeli political figure to express profound disquiet at the direction in which Israel is heading. Moshe Yaalon, a former IDF chief of staff resigned as minister for defence after hearing that his position would be offered to Avigdor Lieberman, a hardline figure from the political Right. Yaalon claimed that he was “fearful for Israel’s future”. A few weeks earlier, the deputy chief of the Israeli military, Major General Yair Golan compared contemporary Israel to Nazi Germany of the 1930s.

The rise of Likud, some critics have argued, signified the coming to power of the terror gangs of the Mandate era. And with this they argue has come a more uncompromising position regarding the possibility of a two-state settlement with the Palestinian people. With the expansion of settlements on the West Bank having reached a stage where they are essentially irreversible owing to the certainty of a Jewish Civil War in the event of an attempt to have settlers evicted, the only course left to effect a lasting solution to the ‘Palestinian problem’ is a purge of the Arab population under the cover a serious military conflict with an external enemy.

Herzog’s strongly worded remarks no doubt reflect what many consider to be an entrenched pattern in Netanyahu’s often polarizing and incendiary style. His comments during the last elections regarding the Israeli political Left busing Arab voters “to the polling stations in droves” typified this as did his statements regarding illegal immigrants from Black Africa who he described as “infiltrators” and who he claimed were threatening the “identity of the Jewish state.” Netanyahu’s  rhetoric at a rally in which he criticised Yitzhak Rabin’s efforts at effecting a peace with the Palestinians -one in which people in the crowd held aloft signs bearing Rabin’s image in an SS uniform- is remembered with lasting repulsion by many who consider him at least partly responsible for inciting an atmosphere that led to the assassination of Rabin by Yigal Amir.

It is clear that the statements made by Herzog, Yaalon and Golan point to the increasingly extremist drift of Israeli politics, but whether they reflect a state of affairs capable of metastasizing into an internecine civil conflict remains doubtful. That of course is little comfort for those such as Herzog who observe what he describes as “the budding fascism that is rising and flourishing in Israeli society”; a state of affairs predicted by the aforementioned Einstein and Arendt who had urged American Zionists not to support Begin and what they termed the “latest manifestation of fascism”.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Thursday 21 July 2016

'Yes, we are Scythians! Yes, we are Asians': Why Russia belongs to Eurasia

‘Fight of Scythuians and Slavs’ (1879) Oil on Canvas by Viktor Vasnetsov

The following sums up why Russia will never be completely European:

You are millions. We are hordes and hordes and hordes.
Try and take us on!
Yes, we are Scythians! Yes, we are Asians -
With slanted and greedy eyes!
For you, the ages, for us a single hour.
We, like obedient slaves,
Held up a shield between two enemy races -
The Mongols and Europe!
Russia is a Sphinx. Rejoicing, grieving,
And drenched in black blood,
It gazes, gazes, gazes at you
With hatred and with love!...

-Excerpts from Scythians by Aleksandr Blok

© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer

Wednesday 20 July 2016

The July 20 1944 Anti-Hitler Plot - Commemorative Plaque

Plaque on a wall in the courtyard of  the old 'Bendler Block' building complex in Berlin where members of the July 20 plot were executed. (PHOTO: Adeyinka Makinde)

Here died
on 20 July 1944

Colonel General Ludwig Beck
General of Infantry Friedrich Olbriicht
Colonel Claus Graf Schenk Von Stauffenberg
Colonel Albrecht Ritter Mertz Von Quirnheim
Lieutenant Werner Von Haeften

(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Rudy Giuliani and Black Lives Matter

Rudolph Giuliani by Vincent Altamore

Rudy Giuliani can play to the gallery over 'Black Lives Matter' claiming that the movement is "inherently racist" and "anti-American".

But this man presided over the notorious police execution of Amadou Diallo and other egregious acts of brutality while mayor of New York.

His heartlessness and incompetence is well-documented by the union representing firefighters in New York and families of firefighters killed on 9/11. The 'scoop and dump' policy instituted regarding the recovery of their remains was an absolute disgrace. The faulty equipment provided to firefighters had a background involving the circumvention of the proper bidding process for city contracts and the testing of the equipment.

He displayed poor leadership on 9/11 - playing up to the media instead of settling down to a command position to oversee operations. He's also a bought and paid for cheerleader for a foreign lobby.

He supported the illegal invasion of Iraq -an enterprise that brought no tangible geo-strategic reward to America- and one in which American troops inevitably lost their lives.

So much for Giuliani's patriotism.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Friday 8 July 2016

COMMENTARY: General Richard Shirreff's Flawed Analysis on Russian-NATO tensions

Last week, while browsing around Foyles bookstore, I came across '2017: The War with Russia' which is written by retired British general, Sir Alexander Richard Shirreff.

The prediction is right but the narrative and analysis is deeply flawed.

The argument that the Baltic States are under threat of  invasion by a Vladimir Putin seeking the 'Greater Russia' yearned for by Russian nationalist thinkers such as Aleksandr Dugin is patently false.

1. If Putin had started on such a project, he would have annexed Georgia back in 2008 when its then president Mikheil Saakashvili, at the prompting of NATO staged an attack on South Ossetia during which some Russian citizens were killed. Putin launched a police action during which Russian troops were able to secure the South Ossetian and Abkhazia as independent republics.

Georgia, the birthland of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, was a part of the Russian empire and the Soviet Union for a period of time exceeding the existence of the United States of America, but there was no prolonged occupation or annexation. Yet Shirreff insists that Russia's actions were an "invasion and seizure of Georgia" and this this was "our Rhineland moment."

2. The general repeats the erroneous narrative that Russia invaded Ukraine and 'annexed' Crimea in 2014. The fact is that United States intelligence agencies sponsored a coup d'etat effected by neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalists whose initial pronouncements and promulgations were clearly hostile to the Russian-speaking population in the eastern region.

The reaction of eastern Ukraine was to create armed militias to resist being subjugated by Ukrainian forces. That these militias include Russian nationalist volunteers as well as Russian special forces cannot be denied.

Yet the fact remains that if Russia had wanted to invade and occupy the whole of the Ukraine, it could have accomplished this within a matter of hours. In fact, Russian ultra nationalists such as the aforementioned Dugin accused Putin of weakness for not mounting a full scale invasion and occupation.

Others felt that a Russian military action which acquired Ukrainian territory as far as the River Dnieper would have 'solved the problem' as it forms a rough boundary between Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine and the rest of the country.

So far as Crimea is concerned, there was no invasion given the fact that Russian troops were already stationed there by right of treaty. Putin reacted as any prudent leader would do given the threat posed to Russia's Black Sea Fleet by convening a meeting of his National Security Council.

While it is a grave matter to embark on the redrawing of national borders, it is clear that Russia could not risk having its only year long warm water seaport and its only gateway to the Mediterranean Sea taken over and handed on a plate to NATO.

To speak of annexation is misguided. A plebiscite was held in which the overwhelming majority of inhabitants voted to re-merge with Russia. Crimea had after all being a part of Russia from the time of the Catherine the Great and was transferred to Ukraine by Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev in 1954. However, Shirreff contents himself by declaring this to be Putin's "Sudetenland moment".

An understanding of the present dangerously heightened tensions between NATO and the Russian Federation can only be understood in the wider context of United States policy of encroaching on Russia's borders.

Guided by the Brzezinski Doctrine, which calls for a post-Cold War effort to militarily intimidate and ultimately dismantle the Russian Federation, NATO has expanded its borders in contravention of agreements reached between the leaders of the United States and Russia.

It has also seen fit to steadily increase its deployment of so-called nuclear shields in countries which surround Russia on the disingenuous protestation that they are defensive measures aimed at combating a potential nuclear threat from Iran.

Thus Russia's conduct in the brewing crisis can be characterized as one which has been largely reactive.

What is particularly concerning about the deterioration in relations and the ratcheting of tension between NATO and Russia is the fact that the field doctrine of the military of both Russia and the United States has changed from the Cold War ethos of the use of nuclear weapons as retaliative measure to one which sanctions the doctrine of first strike.

The recent deployment of NATO troops to Poland and Estonia as a gesture toward indicating a resolve to respond to any Russian "aggression" is the latest stanza in this dangerous path to war.

After the United States-led destruction of seven countries over a period of fifteen years, the Western public is again being hoodwinked into believing in a manufactured threat; that peace and security is being jeopardized by despots when in fact it is the United States fueled by an arrogant foreign policy doctrine of hegemony which has consistently shown itself to be the threat to world peace.

The doctrine enunciated by Paul Wolfowitz after the Cold War remains the philosophical template for an era of militarism dedicated to preventing the rise of any military or economic bloc capable of challenging the might of the American empire.

It is unfortunate that senior military commanders have appeared willing to go along with Washington's agenda of militarism. General Shirreff's designations of Putin, whatever his shortcomings, as a "strongman" in the mould of Adolf Hitler cannot stand the test of objective scrutiny. There is little tangible evidence to suggest that Russia is actively pursuing a policy of territorial expansion.

The source of its ire relates not to the pursuit by its neighbours of friendly relations with the West, but by NATO's deployment of military forces and weaponry on its borders - the sort of provocation that led to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

He fails to consider the age long tribal animosities on the part of the Baltic states in baiting the Russian bear and the interests of the military industrial complex represented by the likes of the Lockheed Martin Corporation and the Raytheon Company in fomenting crisis and conflict toward the end of boosting stock and maximizing profit margins.

His pretensions as a soothsayer represent yet another abject failure on the part of establishment figures in the law, the intelligence services and the military in providing the requisite level of sober and truthful analysis and advice to their political masters, and, by extension, to the public.

It is a shortcoming which also extends to the mainstream Western media which has played its part in spoon-feeding the public with the narratives provided by NATO and the governments of its member states.

There is a lack of scrutiny of the facts and a consistent failure to bring issues to the fore of public debate. These include the aforementioned issues related to the change in the doctrine governing the introduction of nuclear warheads in the battlefield, the rationale for the deployment of nuclear shields around Russia as well as the justification of the continued expansion of NATO.

They are failings which may ultimately lead to an unbearable cost: the extinction of life on earth itself.

(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Thursday 7 July 2016

Sainsburys - The Anatomy of a Complaint

The change last year in the policy of UK supermarkets to charge customers for plastic bags led to a number of confrontations with customers who wheeled their trolleys to their cars after payment so as not to pay for bags. For my part, I have generally used the stronger, reusable "bags for life" at different 'local' and 'super stores' near my home.
But on one occasion in January earlier this year, an overzealous security guard confronted me at the self-service as I prepared to pay for a few items because I had entered with two bags of already purchased items. These I had obtained at a larger Sainsbury's store and had stopped by at this smaller local near my place to collect a few extra items.
This is my story of how I got my feathers ruffled and the chronology of my response which culminated in an apology and the offer of a gift card as compensation.

The Manager
Sainsbury’s Local

12th January 2016

Dear Sir or Madam,
Complaint regarding the conduct of a security guard at your store on 10th January 2016
I wish to lodge a formal complaint against a security guard working at your store in regard to an incident which occurred at about 5PM on Sunday the 10th of January 2016.
I live locally and over the years have done a great deal of my shopping at the Sainsbury’s superstore at XXX XXXXX. I have previously shopped at your recently opened XXXX XXXX local on two or three occasions and intended to go there to purchase a number of drinks after shopping at the XXXXX superstore.
The reason is that I wanted to purchase items that are not available at local stores such as frozen lamb chops. And while the drinks I wanted to purchase from the local are available at the superstore, I wanted to buy them at a location closer to my home as I was journeying by foot and did not wish carry a heavy load for longer than necessary.
The Incident
1. I arrived at the store at about 5PM and proceeded to take a shopping basket. I was carrying two shopping bags: one Tesco and the other Cooperative.
2. I obtained the following items:
A six-pack of Supermalt beverage
A 500ml bottle of Rekordelig Strawberry Lime Cider
A 1.5 litre bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice
3. I proceeded to a self-checkout. I had checked all three items and was waiting for a member of staff to confirm my adult status in regard to the cider when the security guard intervened.
4. He marched towards me and demanded that I produce a receipt and empty the contents of both bags so that each could be checked against the receipt.
5. I was absolutely stunned by this act which I considered to be both unwarranted and aggressive.
6. The justification offered by the security guard for this extraordinary request was that some of the contents in my bags were “the same” as were sold in the store.
7. I was still reeling from this when I enquired as to whether it was Sainsbury’s policy to ask customers to empty the contents of their bags in such situations. He replied, “No”.
8. He again ordered me to produce a receipt and carry out his order. At this point I responded by telling him that I found his conduct unjustifiable and insisted that the store manager be called.
9. Two male members of staff appeared and he abruptly told one to search the contents of the bags. I was so taken aback by this that I exclaimed, “Who is in charge here?”
10. I brought out my receipt obtained from the XXXXX Superstore and while holding it up for all three to see, firmly stated that as a point of principle, I would not be handing it over and would not be subjecting my bags to an unwarranted examination.
11. I then informed them that I was aborting my transaction and requested a complaint form or details of where I could make a complaint. One of the two Sainsbury’s staff then wrote the following e-mail address on a small piece of paper:
12. I also requested the name of the security guard and the name “XXXX” was written down. The security guard in question was of South Asian origin, about 5-foot-8, with a crew-cut hairstyle and uneven facial complexion which may or may not be a product of vitiligo, the skin disorder.
13. I then took my bags and walked out of the store’s exit door near to where the security guard in question had now relocated himself. Needless to say, no security buzzer went off.
14. Since the introduction of the charge for supermarket plastic bags, I have regularly made use of the stronger, reusable variety. During this time, I have made shopping trips to nearby a nearby Tesco Metro and a Cooperative store and entered either store with purchased goods in one or two bags. I have never encountered anything such as to which I was subjected at your store.
15. The incident left me in a distressed and embarrassed state. I felt that the unwarranted personal intrusion in a place where there were members of the public, some of who may live in proximity to me, served to defame me. Further, I believe that the security guard’s admission that there is no policy to automatically search bags with previously purchased content leaves the strong impression that I have been subjected to a form of profiling.
I am deeply outraged.
16. I feel it incumbent on your store to clarify its policy in regard to customers who enter your premises with bags containing products purchased elsewhere.
I would be grateful for you to advise me of the format of your complaints procedure indicating how you will proceed with an investigation, the time frame during which I can expect a response as well as the options available to customers who may wish to pursue the matter further than store level.
I look forward to receiving a response from you at your earliest convenience.
Yours faithfully,
Mr. Ade Makinde
The initial response from the Sainsbury's 'Local' a day later via e-mail (13th January 2016):
Good morning,
My name is XXXX XXXXXXX and I am currently the deputy manager in the store.
First of all let me apologise for the incident on Sunday – we in no way condone this sort of behaviour and would like to apologise for the distress this has clearly caused you. Our security guards work for a company called Securitas and should be fully aware of what is expected of them whilst working in Sainsburys stores – I have forwarded this email to the regional manager for our area XXXXX XXXXX and expect a reply today at some point. The guard has not been in store since Sundays events – so I shall sit down with him one on one if he is in today and try to understand why this has happened. If you could forward me your telephone number if you feel you would prefer to talk over the phone, please do, unless you prefer to communicate by email which I am also most happy to oblige.
I will keep you updated as soon as I have any further information.
Again – we would like to apologise for this incident and I can assure you we will certainly be taking some action.
Kind regards,
Email that day from the executive office of Sainsbury's as I had copied the Chief Executive, Mike Coupe into my original complaint:
Dear Mr Makinde,
Thank you for your contact. We really appreciate you taking the time to get in touch as your feedback is very important to us. Your complaint is now being managed here at our Executive Office.
We want to ensure you receive great service, and have started to review your complaint. We will assign you a dedicated Case Manager who will be in touch with any updates, and to introduce themselves within the next 72 hours.
Meantime, if you would like to speak with a member of the team, please call 0207 695 8900, quoting the reference above.
Thank you for your patience.
Executive Office
They got back to me in February:
Dear Mr Makinde,
Thank you for your email to Mike Coupe.
If it is convenient, I would be grateful if you could call me on 020 7695 8900 or email me on with a daytime telephone number and a suitable time to call you. I have received further information and would like to discuss this with you.
We look forward to speaking with you soon.
Yours sincerely,
David Birse
Executive Office
There was a two week interregnum while I was busy with other things and then I wrote this on the 14th of February:
Dear Sirs,
I would be grateful for you to clarify the situation regarding my complaint about a security guard at your XXXXXXX XXXX XXXX store.
Firstly, I have had no response in regard to my request for clarification of whether the two Case IDs attributed to my complaint have been consolidated.
Secondly, I have expressly stated that I would like any "further information" such as has been received by David Birse of the Executive Office to be relayed to me in writing.
If the security guard in question denies the substance of the narrative that I have given, then I would like to see his written version of the facts.
This is of great importance because if he has in any way sought to justify his behaviour on a presumption of my conduct from the time of my entering the store through picking up the contents that I required up and up to the point where I was about to pay for the items at the self-service there will be:
1. Potential legal consequences
2. It will provide illumination as to whether Sainsbury's condones the profiling of its customers
3. If so, the general public should have the right to know about the condoning of profiling in a large supermarket chain such as yours.
Finally, I would be grateful for Sainsbury's to send me a copy of the procedure which is followed in regard to customer complaints or to direct me to the relevant link from which I can access such information.
I await a response at the earliest convenience.
Yours faithfully,
Adeyinka Makinde
Mike Coupe took the trouble to tell one of his minions to respond on his behalf:
Dear Mr Makinde,
Thank you for your email to Mike Coupe. I have been asked to respond on his behalf.
I wanted to let you know I will be conducting a full investigation on behalf of Mike Coupe into the comments you have raised. I hope to be in contact with you soon, normally within 5 working days. If the investigation process takes longer than expected, I will let you know.
We appreciate you taking the time to get in touch with us and will respond to you soon.
Yours sincerely,
David Birse
Executive Office
Note: Mike Coupe was once convicted -in abstentia- of 'embezzlement' by an Egyptian court and sentenced to two years imprisonment. It was a ridiculous case involving a soured business relationship between Sainsbury's and an Egyptian company which predated his appointment at the helm of Sainsbury's. He was later acquitted.
After two e-mails informing me that they are reviewing the case, I received the following email informing me that they had sent him for "further coaching" and were offering me a £30 gift card.
Dear Mr Makinde,
Thank you for contacting us. I am sorry you had such a poor experience when visiting our XXXXXXX XXXX XXXX Local store. I appreciate your patience whilst we looked into this for you.
We want our customers to be able to shop with us with confidence and peace of mind, and our colleagues are aware of the standard of service and security we expect. Whilst we do ask our Security Officers to be vigilant at all times they should do so without causing our customers any distress or embarrassment. It is therefore disappointing we let you down on this occasion.
Please be assured we have conducted a full investigation and it is clear our Security Officer did not follow our processes correctly. We have provided the officer involved with further coaching to help prevent a recurrence and will continue to monitor their performance closely. I can also confirm your case numbers have been combined and your reference number for this case is ECM-XXXX.
I realise you have been left with a poor impression of us and we certainly do not want to lose your custom. With this in mind, I would like to offer you a £30 gift card. If this is acceptable, please reply with your postal address details and we will send this to you. Alternatively, if you would like to discuss this further, please call me on 020 XXXX XXXX.
We are grateful to you for taking the time to contact us, giving us the opportunity to investigate. I hope I have reassured you of our commitment to our customers and we look forward to hearing from you soon.
Yours sincerely,
David Birse
Executive Office
(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2016)
Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.