Title: Help From Above
Publisher: Author House, UK Ltd, UK, 2011
Author: Kingsley Ologe,
Reviewer: Bayo Ogunmupe
HELP From Above, subtitled, The Travails and Triumph of a Child of God is a historical volume written by a professor being persecuted. It is dedicated to all those living or dead who as students or staff of the University of Abuja were victimized in the wake of the student crisis of 28 February, 1994. Help From Above has been written for three historical reasons:
One, to provide a record of what transpired during a crisis and as a body of evidence against military rule in Nigeria which often enthrones mediocrity in authority and the culture of impunity. Two, this book has been published to demonstrate the faithfulness of God in the affairs of those who submit themselves to Him.
And finally, this volume is to enlighten, comfort, encourage and strengthen people who may be passing through trials. This massive book has three parts and 400 pages.
Part One is captioned – These Things Happened. It has been analysed as a Descent Into Anomie too. The significance of Help From Above is that it encompasses the history of Nigeria during military rule. More importantly this book chronicled the June 12, 1993 election, which General Ibrahim Babangida annulled. Perhaps it will be more coherent to paraphrase the chronological events as they happened.
Nigeria was granted independence by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s government of Great Britain on 1 October, 1960. With Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as prime Minister and Nnamdi Azikiwe as President in a democratically elected government. Nigeria trudged on till January 15, 1966. On that day, a military coup overthrew Balewa’s government, ushering in a military dictatorship of mediocres.
Realizing their own errors, the military voluntarily handed over power to democracy in 1979. But by December 31, 1983, the democratic government of President Shehu Shagari was overthrown by another military coup. Not long after that, in August 1985, a palace coup led by General Ibrahim Babangida overthrew Muhammadu Buhari.
At first, self styled President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) cut the image of a benign dictator. However, by the time his promoters, the Anglo American Armada forced him to step aside on 27 August, 1993, IBB had grown to become a pharaoh. But when on 17 November 1993, General Sani Abacha ovethrew the Interim National Government of Ernest Shonekan, his moves stunned many Nigerians. Abacha bought time with the appointment of Babagana Kingibe, Moshood Abiola’s running mate in the annulled June 12, 1993 Presidential election. Kingibe was Abacha’s Foreign Minister.
However, within a week of the Abacha coup, at a news conference, Professor Wole Soyinka winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature and a human rights activist called for sanctions against the new regime. Subsequent events were to prove him right. Meanwhile, sections of the Nigerian media, notably, The Guardian, Vanguard and Newswatch condemned the Abacha coup.
When it become clear Abacha had no plans to return Nigeria to democracy, a groundswell of opposition arose calling for the actualization of the mandate, which Nigeria had democratically given to Chief Moshood Abiola. The callers for democracy who oppose Abacha include the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the Campaign for Democracy (CD) and the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). General Abacha took on these people in a massive clampdown.
In defiance of Abacha, Abiola declared himself President on June 11, 1994. He was promptly arrested for treason. Consequently, some members of the opposition were murdered to clear the way for Abacha’s life-presidency. Those killed included, Abiola’s wife, Kudirat Abiola, the prominent Ibadan politician, Alhaja Suliat Adedeji, Admiral Tunde Elegbede, director of the Nigerian Defence Intelligence Agency, Akin Omotshola and Chief Alfred Rewane, believed to be a NADECO financier. Many, including Wole Soyinka had to flee into exile from where Radio Kudirat harangued the Abacha regime and mobilized Nigerians and the international community against him.
The calamity of Nigeria’s military rule reached its nadir in 1995 when nine MOSOP members including the famous playwright Ken Saro Wiwa were arrested and hanged by a tribunal. That hanging provoked widespread outrage throughout the world. A day after the hanging, Nigeria was suspended from the membership of the Commonwealth, which was meeting in New Zealand at that time. Time Magazine branded Abacha: Thug of the year 1995. Nigeria had become a pariah nation. The state of the nation at that time is well captured by the title of a book written in 1997 by Wole Soyinka, The Open Sore of a Continent: a Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis. In a 1996 report titled, Clampdown on Opposition, Amnesty International branded Nigeria the Killing field of democracy.
In time, it became clear Abacha was pursuing the agenda to transmute into a civilian president by 1998. For that purpose, the government registered five political parties. Each of these parties held a national convention at which Abacha was unanimously adopted as its presidential candidate, prompting the late Chief Bola Ige to describe them as the “five fingers of a leprous hand.”
At about the same time, some people were arrested including Abacha’s deputy, General Oladipo Dipo, former head of State, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and his deputy – General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. They were tried in camera by a special military tribunal, found guilty and sentenced to long years of imprisonment or to death. While in prison, General Yar’Adua died mysteriously in June 1998. Some alleged he was poisoned. Others say Obasanjo might have died the same way but for an alert from Bola Ige who was in prison simultaneously with him.
The author, Kingsley Ologe wrote those things to provide the background for the events that prompted the writing of this book. Although Ologe wasn’t a human rights activist or social critic, trouble still located him at the University of Abuja, threatening to terminate his career as a university teacher.
This enchanting book is a must read for those perplexed by the burden of maladministration and nausea of mediocrity and unbridled corruption in our universities. This book also mirrors the charlatanism in leadership in every segment of our society and the absence of a transparent justice system which often leads people to resort to taking the law into their own hands.
On the surface, the sheer volume of the work is so intimidating, but one is compelled to read on because it is so captivating with the narrator’s thoroughness, palpable sincerity each time you peep into it that you just cannot put it down. Reading on also avails you with how not to give up hope in the face of adversity, the triumph of evil and the arrogance of the wicked. In the foreword to the book, the Anglican Bishop of Owerri, the Right Reverend Cyril Okorocha avers that Help from above may seem delayed, but it is never denied to a faithful child of God. This is the message of the book. But for the fact that geography is a physical science Ologe would have excelled better as a pastor than as an academic.