Saturday, February 25, 2012

Public Sociology on Death Penalty

By Biko Agozino

You may be interested in reading the press release from New York University about a paper that David Greenberg (NYU) and Biko Agozino (Virginia Tech) published in the British Journal of Criminology. The fun lies in scrolling to the bottom to read the online comments of the readers and feel free to leave your own comments:

Here, Amnesty International twitted the Press Release while some readers disagree with the analysis:

The link below shows an award-winning Sky News crime journalist playing word games with the Press Release:

The New Pharaohs (the people of Trinidad and Tobago) appear to have their hearts hardened by the Almighty Law:

Here, the opinions of a supporter of the death penalty attracted opposing views:

This one is yet to attract comments:

What do you think? Please leave a comment on my  site and or on the other sites if you wish.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Generalization of General Ojukwu

The Generalization of General Ojukwu

By Biko Agozino


Generalization is a scholarly concept that implies the abstraction of a significant tendency, principle or observation from a sample and its application to the general population from which the sample was drawn. Can we make abstractions from the life of General Ojukwu, and generalize them to the wider population from which our sample of one was drawn without running the risk of over-generalization or over-determination? Let us attempt this cautiously and bear in mind that every generalization is falsifiable because every sampling involves sampling errors, not to mention the errors of interpretation or flawed inferences due to human error in public discourse, nor the biasing impacts of vested interests.

 The observations that are generalizable from the life history of General Ojukwu include the unbearable burden of colonialism, the value of education as an unqualified human good, the permanent menace of militarism, and the importance of history lessons. Let us take these one at a time and clarify them:

The unbearable burden of colonialism was imposed on General Ojukwu from birth as a witness to the absurdity of imperialist hubris. The tyranny of presumptuous white supremacy and black inferiority complexes had to be shattered by the struggling masses who have never had any need to prove their equality in beauty, intelligence, diligence, morality, sophistication and bravery that remain taken for granted facts of humanity.

The nationalist struggle was by coincidence led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the great Zik of Africa, who happened to have been born in the same otherwise unremarkable colonial administrative outpost as General Ojukwu, the now hallowed town of Zungeru that deserves to become a place of pilgrimage in enlightened times, and whose parents originated in close proximity from today’s Anambra State, a place disproportionately home to many giants of our modern history.

In admiration of Azikiwe, Ojukwu as a child of books (nwata akwukwo in Igbo, or simply student in English) led a protest to Occupy his privileged colonial King’s College in protest over the manifestations of white superiority. He was duly suspended but the privilege of having the wealthiest father in ‘British West Africa’ ensured that the young rebel would be bundled to an expensive private college in England which the Orwellian English would call a Public School.

From there he cake-walked into Oxford university to read History rather than the artisan professional field of Law, Medicine or Engineering, perhaps in admiration for Nnamdi Azikiwe who pursued a liberal arts education rather than professional careerism. Like the elites of Oxbridge who were trained specifically to become the administrators of imperialism, Ojukwu returned to Nigeria and shunned the gilded carriage of the family business empire and chose instead to go and serve as a colonial Divisional Officer in his native Igboland and perhaps to learn to speak the language of his people properly for the first time.

We can generalize this observation as the unqualified importance of education on the premise that if Ojukwu had been relatively illiterate like his father, no matter how much money and influence he may have peddled, he would never have been able to play the role that he played in history. We can go further and speculate that the achievements of General Ojukwu in life are all capable of being attained by his millions of compatriots if only they are all accorded the opportunities to develop their intellects in an environment that demanded that the masses dream big dreams and refuse to accept mediocrity, oppression and exploitation as fatalistic conditions. The value of education was instantly demonstrated as the scientific committees set up by General Ojukwu were funded and enabled to produce awesome technologies that could have contributed to the industrialization of Africa had such visionary intellectual leadership been sustained in peace times.

The permanent menace of militarism can obviously be abstracted from the biography of Ojukwu and generalized to demonstrate that the military has remained a wasteful institution throughout history – an institution that has done absolutely nothing for the masses except to destroy them systematically while gloating in genocidal war heroism. For a Master’s degree holder from Oxford in those heady days to enlist as a recruit and submit to drills from complete illiterates who insisted that the safety catch must be called septi ka (ironically to underscore that those are not safety catches anyway but killers indeed) was the symptom of a tragedy of incredible proportions.

The West African Frontier Force that Nigeria inherited was an unpatriotic army of occupation designed to pacify the restless natives and the young historian in Ojukwu rightly divined that such a massive force was destined to play a major role in the political economy of the nation for better and for worse. In a blink of an eye, those well trained killers plunged the country into a genocidal war that cost millions of lives in 30 months, ending only when Ojukwu went into exile in Ivory Coast to give peace a chance that the beardless military youth could have taken to abort the bloody war if the Aburi Accord was followed or even re-negotiated. The allocation of a humongous sum of money for the rehabilitation of the victims of the pogrom rather than the threat of force could have removed the option of cessation from an otherwise fanatically patriotic people of the South East Nigeria.

The successive military regimes failed to bring the hostilities to an end until they handed over to the civilian administration of Shehu Shagari and Alex Ekwueme who soon took the courageous step of allowing Ojukwu to return from exile. He once again plunged into public life by running for office as a senator only for the Igbo who proudly say that they know no king to make him lose his deposits against a relatively unknown rival. The military soon truncated the Second Republic with series of coups and after decades of those interregna, they handed over to the civilianized administration of General Obasanjo. He summoned the courage to pay pensions to officers who fought for Biafra in the war of cessation, a simple restitution that the military administrations were incapable of rendering to their very own comrades from the past.

That policy of reparative justice still remains to be extended to the people of the South East in recognition of the criminal violence that was visited on them during the mass killings across the country and seizure of their properties and savings before, during and after the war and continuing ever since in periodic acts of terrorism that could only be ended when the country demonstrates that it is not enough to seek to punish the perpetrators who tend to escape with impunity anyhow; it is even more urgent to allocate enormous resources as reparations to the wronged, and finally outlaw genocide denialism.

In appreciation of the life of Ojukwu and the dramatic history that he personified, it will be appropriate to expect that the history of the Biafra war will be a prominent module in the Nigerian education system to help future generations resolve that never again must we permit our government to declare war on fellow Nigerians without opposing such a war the way Wole Soyinka did at huge personal risks. 


In such history courses, it will be necessary to identify the very human, all too human, mistakes of the dramatic personae with the benefit of hindsight and with foresight. Nice flag, shame about the name: General Ojukwu should not have pulled the name of an obnoxious slave trading kingdom of Biafra out of his history textbooks for the people of the South East who bore the brunt of the scourge of the slave raids. For Ojukwu to choose a macabre song, ‘Finlandia’, from a place that the sun never shines to represent the national anthem, Land of the Rising Sun, was to demonstrate historical naivety because that choice signified to the Soviet Union from which Finland had seceded that Biafra was an unfriendly project. The result was the unholy alliance of the cold-war enemies who ganged up against a besieged people whose leaders shamelessly pimped for support from Apartheid South Africa and racist Rhodesia.

When a declaration of Biafran principles was belatedly made, Ojukwu chose a mad market (Ahiara) as the place to immortalize the struggle rather than the historic Enugu. When General Gowon tried the colonial strategy of divide and conquer by dividing the South East into three states, Ojukwu could have countered by creating 12 states in Biafra and by conducting democratic elections across the South East as is nearly the case today instead of insisting on defending the colonial bureaucratic structure of the Eastern Region as if it were natural law. Finally, instead of executing citizens who were accused of crimes during the war, General Ojukwu could have offered intellectual and moral leadership by abolishing the death penalty for all categories of crime, a task that is yet to be done long after Britain which imposed that barbaric punishment on us has since abolished it in Britain while the brutalizing effects linger with us.