By Philip Agbese
Very often, it’s dispiriting to turn your eyes off certain public slights and denigrations in a jiffy. I prayed fervently that my attention be distracted from Matthew T.Page’s wicked and self-mollifying lies against me, since it surfaced on the internet recently, despite its hyperbolic ease in falsity.
But day in, day out, and in good conscience, I feel there are several angles still untouched by me, in spite of previous replies. And I graciously obliged my conscience.
Let me again recall that in a published research paper, July 28, 2021, Mr. Page, a scholar and researcher at Carnegie Institute for International Peace (CEIP) bizarrely brought me into public searchlight in a scathing and damning manner. The research protruded with a style only suggestive of someone attempting to repress one group in favour of another.
I am not in a position to doubt the factuality of all the contents of Mr. Page’s thesis. But I have the onerous obligation to repeatedly articulate certain maliciously veiled and twisted sacred truths on my person, as propagated by Page, at the point he drew my shadow into the battle ring.
Page, also a fellow at other international research institutes wrote on the subject; “Fake Civil Society: The Rise of Pro-Government NGOs in Nigeria.” Therein, he narrowed and inaccurately portraited my personage and activities as young Nigerian scholar, rights activist and intellectual of international repute.
With a distinctive yardstick, Page generously categorised Non-Governmental Organisations, (NGOs) into mainstream and fake or “briefcase” entities. In what appeared like a sworn vow to demolish an enemy in a battle scenario, the researcher descended a destructive force in vile aspersions on the “briefcase” NGOs, he conspicuously repulsed, evidently resplendent even in his branding/ explication of their delineations.
The angst is that the researcher tongue-lashed me and a few others, whom he accused of inordinate distortions in the space of genuine NGOs/ Nigeria’s Civil Society Organisation’s (CSOs) agitations for popular or masses inclined causes. I couldn’t fathom why Page came to the dubious conclusion that any of the identified NGOs by the fresh status and redefinition he conferred on them was better atuned to the mindset of Nigerians than the other.
However, I am concerned at pulling a respected scholar like myself out of my shell, honest struggles, and patriotic deeds to support my fatherland to demeaning lambasts by Page. His resistable branding of me as the patriarch of “briefcase” NGOs, which repress good public cause in favour of government’s obnoxious policies in exchange for what Nigerians call “patronage,” thoroughly misrepresented my good nurtured self and is out rightly misleading.
By such posturing, Page never accurately reflected my existential vassicitudes. I also observed with keen interest, his witty and subtle campaigns to paint a portrait of me as someone who operates a surfeit of fake NGOs under the Buhari Presidency to attract patronage from foreign donors.
Honestly, Page misfired by pinning and aligning me down to such an absurd reasoning. Of course, if President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointees, surrogates and lackeys in government are funding my NGOs as Page thoughtlessly declared, it’s logical that I would not starve of funds to necessarily knock on the gates of either London or Washington DC or anywhere else to fund my operations in Nigeria.
What Page didn’t know about me; is my total repulsion for foreign aids to Africa in whatever guise. I don’t believe, aids/ grants from foreign countries can help Africa to grow or attain its full potentials and will never ask for any as far as I am concerned to support any NGO operating under my inspiration as a practitioner. It has not helped Africa in the past and it will not assist us in anyway today. My perception of aids to Africa is that of exploitative vassels perched on our burdened backs by disguised forces of neocolonialism, who blindfold us with very little, but extract so much from us.
It is therefore clear that the news platform -The NigerianNews, myself and other inspired young Nigerians founded, more as a leisure activity, but with the lofty ideals and philosophy of promoting the beauty of Africa, it’s potentials and her outstanding patriots has become a source of worry to the colonialists and their minions. But the actions of colonialists against Africa inflamed and triggered the passion by their consistent portrayal of this rich fatherland as a dark continent. Through TheNigerian, we have been able to fruitfully tell our story to the world as a continent full of goodies; a land flowing with milk and honey; aside disasters, evils and self-destruction.
And we are not indebted to anyone in terms of apology over our standpoint or perception of the African continent. Anyone can hum all his disillusionment. But I thank the Almighty God, the father of Osiroko, Osilagama and all the prophets because certainly, we have never been alone in the battles against the immolation of Africa by the western world.
Some African patriots, nationalists and leaders have walked this path before today. And many more are still crossing the same path by raising a voice. We want to be the mouthpiece of our gores or fables and other narratives, reflecting all its enriching allures.
So, Libya’s Moummar Ghadaffi vehemently kicked against the relentless portrayal of Africa as a continent peopled by dark hearts and minds. Ghana’s Dr. Kwame Nkrumah raised a voice of consciousness; Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe vigorously campaigned against it to his grave; and Tanzania’s Dr. John Magufuli was never fooled either. Burkina Faso’s Capt. Thomas Sankara renounced it strongly.
Even in contemporary times, Kenya’s anti-West evangelist, Prof. PLO Lumumba is not just sermonizing, but also, angry about it; ditto for South Africa’s forthright parliamentarian, Julius Malema and many others. Another whom I have tremendous respect for, Ousman Touray from the Gambian is out inspiring young Africans not to love their country alone but to love and stand for the continent. We shall continue to sing this song of our enduring heritage and patriotism in diverse ways.
Therefore, Mr. Page captured my philosophy of patriotism and loyalty wrongly. His reflections of my personage is different from my convictions on patriotism. And this, I am honoured to articulate to him now.
The American writer and public speaker, George William Curtis captured my deepest thoughts and application of patriotism, when he echoed that; “A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods; but it is a principle and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.” I am a patriot who stands up for country anytime it is threatened by enemy or anti-democratic forces. I love my country and the compatriots regardless of ancestry.
I am a stickler to justice, equity and fairplay. I have fought several battles against national malaises in the past, even at the risk of my personal life. I am infinitely concerned with the human rights of my compatriots and it’s practice in Nigeria is a function of the knowledge I have acquired formally.
I should be pardoned if I sound braggish. But I was the best student in human rights law module at the Middlesex University, United Kingdom during my undergraduate days. It propelled my passion to do a masters degree in law, also in human rights laws. My dissertation was focused on non-state actors and the war against insurgency in Nigeria. So, I know exactly, the nuances of the causes I support in Nigeria.
Largely, the thinking by Page that I supported the Nigerian Military in the counter-insurgency operations against terrorists and bandits was for the bait of personal monetary inducements is flawed. I didn’t just transfix myself in Abuja or Agila, in Benue State to support the Nigerian military in the war against insurgency for pecuniary gains. I took pains, endured the hardships, committed time and resources to travel to the nooks and crannies of the Northeast epicentre of the counter-insurgency combats operations countless times.
I am not blowing my trumpet, but in my little way, I have also supported the troops in the frontlines and our IDPs in the area of ameliorating the humanitarian crises in the region. Many of the operators of mainstream NGOs/CSOs who sit in cosy enclaves to belittle our military and the efforts of the Buhari presidency over insecurities haven’t crossed Jos, Plateau State, but deliberately distort the realities of these insurgencies and insurrectional war. Let me assert that there is no obstacle strong enough to restrain me from countering the conjured negative narratives by these mercantile arm-chair groups in tacit promotion of terrorists campaigns against national interest on security.
In one of my opinion articles captioned; ” My Stand for Nigeria, My beloved Country!,” published on November 9, 2020, I made my stand on the issue of my patriotism and loyalty to Nigeria with every lucidity.
I solemnly declared to some specific renegades ( details in the article)as reflected in this excerpts; ‘I have sworn never to be a party to anything that will destroy my country. My patriotic spirit won’t allow me the liberty of such generous indulgence…. I can’t enlist in the deviousness of conspiring with outsiders to build enemy camps against Nigeria… I will not bow to their unpatriotic gods within and outside Nigeria. The Almighty God in whom I serve… I put my trust forever for love of country.”
Richard Rorty, an American philosopher wrote in his book,
“Achieving Our Country,” that “National pride is to countries what self-respect is to individuals: a necessary condition for self-improvement.” So, wherever the Nigerian ship hangs after turbulent seawaves, I am there to pair up with others to render my little assurance in order to anchor it on the safe harbour.
More so, the likes of Page and others are still clinging unto the expired notions and in fact, still burdened by the mistaken illusion that everything about the whiteman is white and supreme; whilst everything about the blackman is black and evil. These were notions of yore, as decried by renowned civil rights activists.
Martin Luther King Jr, saliently decried this inclination, but cautioned decades back in this popular quote; “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Therefore, this conscious criminalization of blacks is no longer tenable as conveyed by the message of the global protests induced by George Floyd’s brutal death in the hands of American police. Page must be reminded that the colour of the brain is white and this is irrespective of one’s colour of the skin. Whitemen have also failed where the Blackman failed. It therefore means that anyone can do well and also, fail or fumble. Through my lenses, Matthew Page is indeed a failure as manifest in the published research work.
Notwithstanding, my loyalty at all times and circumstances must remain to my country. Nothing will change it. Not even a million Pages can influence a change of my mindset and preparing myself to face all odds. I am currently researching on my Ph.D in international humanitarian law which is in line with my father’s wish for his son. And I have vowed to see it to the end in order to further expose Page and his sponsors that are still deceiving Africa with grant .
Agbese, a Human rights scholar wrote this piece from Agila, Benue State.