Monday, 28 June 2021

Tony Benn: Socialism Via Christianity & Non-Conformity - Not Marxism

Tony Benn by Graham Lewinton

My understanding was always that Tony Benn, the late and influential Labour Party M.P., came to his brand of leftist politics via what may be termed "Christian Socialism" and not Marxism. His reference to "dissent" in his statement regarding "Dissent and Protestantism and Non-Conformity" presumably includes the radical movements of Diggers and Levellers, both of which developed around the time of the English Civil War.

"I was brought up on the bible. But I'm not practicing. First of all I think that the moral basis of the teachings of Jesus - Love thy neighbour - is the basis of it all. Am I my brother's keeper? An injury to others is an injury to all, you do not cross a picket line; and that comes from the book of Genesis and not the Kremlin. And my mother brought me up on the Old Testament, in the conflict between the Kings and the Prophets, the Kings who had power, and the Prophets who preached righteousness, and I was taught to believe in the Prophets and not the Kings. I mean, my cultural roots of Dissent and Protestantism and Non-Conformity all come from there. But it doesn't mean I'm trying to impose my religion on anyone else, or that any of the mysteries - the virgin birth or the ascension - interest me in any way. But I think if you are going to relate to a society with arguments that make sense, you have to relate to your common cultural background. And if I say, when Cain killed Abel in the garden of Eden - am I my Brother's keeper? - and that's really why we don't cross a picket line, people register. Whereas if I say, in my particular socialist sect it makes it clear that it's a treachery to the working class to cross a picket line, they might say, oh hell, there he is, he's at it again. So it's partly presentational. It's a cultural, historical, traditional presentation of that."

- Tony Benn (1925-2014) in conversation with C.J. Stone in November 2000.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2021)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Roll Call of Death: The Tragedy Of A Fair Number of West African Military Officers Who Graduated From Sandhurst

On June 26th 1979, six senior military officers were executed by firing squad at Teshie Military Firing Range in Accra by decree of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) which came to power after an uprising in the junior ranks of the Ghanaian Armed Forces.

Among the executed were two former Heads of State; Lt. General Akwasi Afrifa and Lt. General Frederick Akuffo. The others were Major General Robert Kotei, Rear Admiral Joy K. Amedume, Air Vice Marshal George Boakye and Colonel Roger Felli.

Four of them had graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and another graduate had been executed alongside the former Head of State, General Ignatius Acheampong 10 days earlier.

The following is a list of "Sandhurst men" from Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone whose lives were cut short by either assassination or state-sanctioned execution, although it includes one who was killed in action during a civil war and another who died in detention under a military dictatorship.

. Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari; assassinated by Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna during the army mutiny of January 1966.

. Colonel Kur Mohammed; shot to death during the army mutiny of January 1966.

. Lt. Colonel Abogo Largema; assassinated during the army mutiny of January 1966.

. Lt. Colonel Yakubu Pam; executed by Major Christian Anuforo during the army mutiny of January 1966.

. Lt Col Arthur Unegbe; shot to death by Major Christian Anuforo during the putsch of January 1966.

. Major General Charles Mohammed Barwah; shot to death by Colonel Emmanuel Kotoka during the February 1966 putsch which overthrew Ghanaian president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

. Major Chris Anuforo; killed in early August 1966 by soldiers in revenge for his part in executing senior officers during the army mutiny of January that year.

. Major Kaduna Nzeogwu; killed in action in August 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War which largely stemmed from a mutiny in which he was a key participant.

. Lt. Colonel Victor Banjo; executed by firing squad in September 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War on the grounds of treason by the secessionist state of Biafra.

. Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu; a key participant in the January mutiny who shot Brigadier Ademulegun and his wife to death, is believed to have been murdered soon after the end of the Nigerian Civil War. Several narratives exist about how he met his demise.

. Brigadier John Amadu Bangura; executed by the government of Siaka Stevens, Sierra Leonean Prime Minister, in March 1970 for allegedly plotting to overthrow Stevens. Bangura had helped restore Stevens to power after "The Sergeant's Coup" of 1968.

. Brigadier David Lansana; executed for treason in July 1973 for mounting the military coup which deposed Prime Minister Siaka Stevens after a disputed election result in 1967. Lansana had himself not been permitted to assume power by surbordinates who posted him to New York where he served as Sierra Leone's Consul-General.

. General Murtala Muhammed; assassinated in Lagos during an abortive military coup in February 1976.

. Major General Iliya Bisalla was the most prominent figure executed by firing squad after the abortive coup which claimed the life of General Murtala Muhammed in February 1976.

. Major General Neville Odartey-Wellington; a member of the Supreme Military Council led by Lt. General Frederick Akuffo, was killed while attempting to crush a military uprising on June 4th 1979.

. Major General Edward Utuka; the former Border Guard Commander who was executed alongside General Ignatius Acheampong on June 16th 1979.

. Lt. General Akwasi Afrifa; executed by firing squad on June 26th 1979 following an uprising by the junior ranks of the Ghanaian armed forces.

. Lt. General Frederick Akuffo; executed by firing squad on June 26th 1979 following an uprising by the junior ranks of the Ghanaian armed forces.

. Major General Robert Kotei; executed by firing squad in on June 26th 1979 following an uprising by the junior ranks of the Ghanaian armed forces.

. Colonel Roger Felli; the former Commissioner for Foreign Affairs who was executed by firing squad in on June 26th 1979 following an uprising by the junior ranks of the Ghanaian armed forces.

. Major General Shehu Musa Yar'Adua; died while imprisoned by the regime of General Sani Abacha in December 1997. He had been charged with plotting to overthrow the military regime of Abacha and sentenced to death, although this was later commuted.

. Major Johnny Koroma; declared dead after fleeing to Liberia after he was one of the first persons indicted on on charges of being a war criminal. He is believed by some to have been secretly executed by Liberian warlord Charles Taylor who is said to have had ‘Mosquito’ Sam Bokarie, a commander of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) killed in order to coverup his involvement in bankrolling the RUF.

Note:

* Major Nzeogwu was a Lt. Colonel in the secessionist army of Biafra.

* Lt. Colonel Banjo was a Brigadier in the secessionist army of Biafra.

* Major Onwuatuegwu was also a major in the Biafran Army.

* There are about four stories about how Onwuatuegwu met his demise:

1. Onwuatuegwu was killed on the Cameroon border by Northern soldiers as payback for the murder of the Sardauna of Sokoto, as well as a number of Northern military officers during the January 1966 mutiny.

2. Onwuatuegwu was killed by Yoruba soldiers who lured him to a hotel in Owerri as payback for the murders respectively of Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun & wife, as well as Colonel Ralph Shodeinde.

3. Onwuatuegwu was killed by Brigadier Hassan Katsina in Kirikiri Prison, Lagos. Katsina is supposed to have flown from Kaduna to put a bullet in Onwuatuegwu's forehead.

4. A slightly different narrative puts the location of his execution as an Enugu prison.

Onwuatuegwu was supposedly shot with 2 other captured Biafran army officers and had been betrayed by certain civilians from Nnewi, the hometown of the Head of State of the secessionist state of Biafra.

* Siaka Stevens was the Prime Minister of Sierra Leone from 1968-1971 and President from 1971-1985.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2021)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

The Buhari-Twitter Spat: Big Tech Power, "Hate Speech" and National Sovereignty

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria (Credit: Nigeria Presidency/Handout)

“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Biafra war. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”

- Tweet issued at the account of Muhammadu Buhari.

I have a nuanced view about the action taken by Twitter to remove the tweet by the Nigerian President earlier this month.

1. I understand the anger and displeasure felt by many because:

(a) Buhari’s tone was in keeping with the violent culture of Nigeria’s security apparatus which as the SARS protests highlighted is one which has been historically disproportionate in response and undiscriminating in effect on guilty parties and innocent bystanders.

(b) Buhari’s comments were appropriated from an earlier speech in which he was specifically responding to the violent acts against state personnel and property in the South East of the country by the Eastern Security Network (ESN), an armed counterpart of the secessionist organisation, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). His choice of words relating to the “language they understand” is seen by many in the ethnic Igbo-dominated South East as the reflecting the sentiments of the atypical Northern Nigerian oligarch who orchestrated the murder and maiming of thousands of innocent Igbos in the North during the pogroms of the 1960s.* The ensuing civil war with secessionist Biafra which witnessed mass starvation, is still viewed by many Igbos as a continuum of the brutality that had been unleashed on them prior to the war.

(b) Many pointed out that Buhari’s tone in relation to the acts of lawlessness in the South East is missing when he has addressed issue of the Islamist perpetrators of mayhem in the North East of the country where an insurgency by Boko Haram and lately the Islamic State has led to continuing instances of mass murder and a large level of population displacement. They also charge Buhari with being silent about the atrocities perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen in clashes with farming communities around Nigeria. Himself an ethnic Fulani, Buhari is often accused of tribalism and ineptitude in his handling of this matter, which like the Islamist insurgency is becoming one of longstanding duration.

2. However, the other important aspect of this incident concerns the power of the Big Tech corporations Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, which are all monopolies. Their interference in the privacy rights of their subscribers is well known. But another pernicious aspect of the conduct of these corporations is the power which they attempt to wield in relation to countries. For just as they have cooperated with the US government and powerful corporations in infringing the privacy rights of their subscribers, so it is the case that the Big Tech companies have been accused of interfering in the affairs of sovereign nation states by either doing the bidding of the United States government and its intelligence community** or by pushing a decidedly “liberal agenda” on the rest of the globe.

It is worth concentrating the mind on whether they are qualified to act as an arbiter in what they claim to have been a form of “hate speech”, but which others see as the inalienable right of the head of a government to address the violent actions of a proscribed organisation.

So, while I understand the doubts of some and the revulsion of others at the words of President Buhari, it is important to bear in mind the wider issues related to the intolerable attitude of the Big Tech giants whose self-designated powers pertaining to censorship and political umpireship must be scrutinised and where appropriate should be challenged.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2021). 

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Notes:

* The communal violence was a counterpart to the interethnic rivalry within the army in which a coup d’├ętat led by predominantly ethnic Igbos was followed by a Northern-led reprisal coup six months later.

** For instance, in the fomenting of so-called colour revolutions.