I discuss Nigeria and the world at large because I strongly believe MyOpinionCounts!

Month: April, 2014

A Concise Summary of the Nigeria(n) Situation! (SNS) by Oladimeji Abiola

Mr Abiola Oladimeji is a scholar resident in Germany and guest-blogs for www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com

Mr Abiola Oladimeji is a scholar resident in Germany and guest-blogs for http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com

The mystery behind the prevalence of poverty in Nigeria despite the country being rich can easily be unraveled. There is a class of people who rule Nigeria. They come from different parts of Nigeria, belong to different religions, but they belong to one exclusive club. They have been described as the Ogas by John Campbell, former US ambassador to Nigeria between 2004 and 2007, in his book Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink.

Oga is a Yoruba word for Boss, but I would rather translate this word as feudal lord, because it best portrays the relationship between the ruling class and the masses. The Ogas operate Nigeria for themselves and by themselves. Thus, there is no country. One of the nationalists who fought for the independence of Nigeria observed even before independence that Nigeria is a mere geographical expression and not a nation. That description is still valid today.

Nigerians mainly generate electricity privately, thanks to their generating sets. Most Nigerians get water from wells, it is not the duty of the Government in Nigeria to provide portable water for her subjects. Yes, I refer to them as subjects because they are not citizens. Lest we forget, Nigeria is not a country.

There is a police force but each community organises a vigilante group to maintain security at night. The health care system is as good as comatose/dead. Of course, the Ogas get treatment in the Western countries. Is anyone still amazed that Nigerians are poor? In fact they are just fortunate to be alive, because the Ogas rule by *divine ordination* and they owe their servants no responsibility.

The Ogas rule by divine ordination in the sense that they rule Nigeria in collaboration with the clergy (wo-)men. They even swear the oath of office with either the Bible or the Quran. The clergy does not hesitate to consolidate this oppression by the Ogas in power by preaching obedience to constituted authority, as if it were a legitimate government. I need not remind you that the clergy, especially pastors, in their own domain milk the masses. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS), suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), once narrated in a series of the Ted Talk how a well known pastor foiled the prosecution of a bank top executive, namely Erastus Akingbola, who committed serious financial crimes.

The votes of Nigerians do not really count. The Ogas have their own way of getting votes, perhaps from heaven! Remi Fani-Kayode (Fani the Power) declared confidently in the first republic that his political party did not need the votes of the people of the Western Region, because angels would come down to vote! The current Ogas have only learned not to insult Nigerians directly anymore, but to phrase their own statement in this manner: *This election would be a do or die affair!*

Stating it clearly at this point, we have the same pattern that existed in the French society before 1789, when Monarchs, the aristocrats and the clergy owned the state. Just like Louis XIV declared that he was the state, the Ogas are the state. A monarch was said to be begging the current president to stand for election in 2015, because the president has performed *excellently* in his opinion.

Really, this monarch knows what he is talking about. The trade between both camps has been excellent. The president has been visiting some people recently. If you have been reading the news, you would surely know those people and those places. You would also agree with that there are three Estates in Nigeria too, just like it was in France. The only difference is the swap of position by the traditional rulers and the aristocrats, the clergy has maintained its position.

It appears we do not have men like Voltaire, Rousseau or Montesquieu, but nobody should disturb him/herself mobilising anybody. Just like Fela Anikulapo sang: These uprisings would bring out the beast in us. Nigeria is a brutal capitalist enclave with no value for human life. This is their own enclave, we need our own country.

No surprise, we have a lot of hungry almajiris ( young chaps who are either orphans or neglected by their parents) all over the country and not necessarily in the northern part of Nigeria, while we have more than 10 jets in the presidential fleet. Two wild animals even spend millions on feeding annually in the presidential villa, when human beings are hungry!

The Ogas appear so powerful, but their days are numbered. The Lord-servant union must be broken either by the Ogas themselves or the servants would revolt. Is anyone asking me when the servants would revolt? Save yourself and myself the displeasure of an invitation by the State Security Service (SSS). They should not even disturb themselves, the servants will revolt spontaneously. Perhaps, someone doubts that the servants would revolt, an ex-president said it himself: This army of unemployed youth would consume us [the Ogas]. The Boko Haram violence is certainly a sign of this revolt. Although, Boko Haram appears to be a project by some factions of the Ogas’ club, but the lesson out of it is that there is an army, which is ready for battle. The time would surely come, freedom always has a price and the price must be paid. The servants shall one day be free!

Mr. Putin’s Russia, The West and Ukraine: A Fight of Two and a Half!

Let us be clear: The agitation of the West/Western powers, that is the European Union (EU), the United States (US) and their NATO-allies, for the soul of Ukraine, which is garbed as being their support for the wishes and yearning of the people of Ukraine for freedom is not without self-interest(s). Understandably, nobody would gladly wish to do a bad business under any circumstances, be it political, economy or any other adventure. The question to ask thus is this: What do the West stand to gain in the quest to conquer (or better politically put- to gain) Ukraine for itself? And yet another question: Why does the West need to gain Ukraine for itself? Many questions can and need be asked, but let us stay put on these two for now while I turn to talk about Mr. Putin.

Better put, let me say I want to talk about Russia. Actually, the line of differentiation between Mr. Putin and Russia as a country is very thin so that one can as well talk of Russia as if one is talking of Mr. Putin. Overtime, it has come to be that it does not matter in any order one talks about either of both parties mentioned, the one can be (and in fact is to be taken) for the other. Simply put, since the emergence of Mr. Putin into power in Russia, Russia is as good as Mr. Putin, and Mr. Putin is as good as Russia. When he speaks, the world in and around Russia listens, and that very attentively. This could be perceived either ways, positively or negatively. In recent times, it must be said though, that the latter seems to be the dominant effect being deduced when Mr. Putin (Russia) speaks.

Now, let me be clear about another matter: Being in the West could make it very difficult to objectively see beyond one’s nose when talking about issues which affect relations between Russia and the West. Most especially, as in recent times, Western media have succeeded in their propaganda-like portrayal of Russia as being against the rest of the world. Even if this is the case, an objective reader or viewer would be careful not to take in these reports hook, line and sinker without looking beyond the peripherals. I am one of such critical and objective consumer of Western media. Understandably, being dwellers in this hemispherical part of the world i.e in the West, we can practically do very little to influence what we consume from the media world. Let us leave that aside for a while, lest I loose focus on the key matter being addressed here. This is the truth: Russia is not against the world. The present provocation is a conflict situation between Russia and the West for the soul of Ukraine.

Of course, one can say this: Because Russia is against the West in this matter, it is also indirectly in conflict with all other countries, who, in case of unavoidable escalation or even war, will support the West. We should however not be easily carried away by the numbers of countries who are likely to support the Western powers. Russia is also not alone. There are hundreds of countries who do not support the West. There are those who are strong supporters of Russia and there are those who neither support Russia nor are against her. We should not forget too that decision-making and side-taking can be very fluid in international politics, particularly in conflict situations. These are unsure times; a seemingly trustworthy ally/agent can become an enemy overnight: Think of Mr. Snowden and you will understand better!

Having made clear that Mr. Putin, namely Russia, is not in conflict with the whole world, I will move on to the next item. By the way, the same questions as posed to the West can be posed to Mr. Putin: What does Mr. Putin stand to gain in his quest to win Ukraine to his side? Why does he want Ukraine on his side and is apparently ready to militarily march into Ukraine if he is “forced” to do so/left with no choice?

There have been many speculations so far as to Western interest in the region. Clearly, the expansionist motive of the EU cannot be mistaken; this has been explained as a historical prerogative in order to keep Europe together and avoid the mistake(s) of the past. The unity of Europe has thus made the expansion towards Eastern Europe a must apart from economic interests which is accruable from the adventure to the powers that be in the EU.

The EU is not the only bloc that made up the West/Western powers. The US cannot be left out of the equation. One can even say that this is more worrisome for Mr. Putin’s Russia. Mr. Putin has never been too friendly with the EU. In fairness however, it cannot be said that he was too hostile either. His dealings with the EU has made a Mr. Putin, who cannot be said to be democratic in the Western-sense of the word (and this is not to be understood negatively), practically into what he is not- he is gradually and practically being garbed in a Westernized system that he normally would not be ready to partake in. Russia and her territories have not been known to subscribe to democracy as practiced by the West. They have their ways of doing democracy- Think of the Russia of Lenin and the Russia of Stalin! After the death of Stalin, the succeeding governments can as well be referred to as regimes close to a “totalitarian state” saving that of Mr. Gorbachov’s government. I need not emphasize that Mr. Gorbachov is seen in Russia as a puppet of the West and as a traitor because they believe Mr. Gorbachov’s self-imposed weakened position in dealing with the West led to the collapse and eventual death of the Soviet Union. Mr. Putin is not different from past regimes who had reigned in Russia before him.

Russia is a world-power. At least many Russians believe they are, according to a survey conducted. The US believe Russia is a seriously weakened world-power. Although the US have been very careful not to negotiate with Russia from this point of view, Mr. Putin believes, and that very strongly, that the US do not often take Russia serious. He wanted a Russia that is seen to be at par with the US when negotiating. On the other hand, the US often believe they have always conceded too much when Russia is in play. Mr. Putin does not want a Russia being treated with hand-shoes on, as though it is a sick fellow, who is gradually recovering from a bout of life-threatening fever. In short, the atmosphere can be said to be that of a complexly challenged Russia whose complex is not unnoticed by the US. This often makes relations between both powers strained.

Recently, I read in a newspaper of Russia finally letting go of the believe that she is being surrounded by friends. The expansionist moves of the EU towards Eastern Europe, and the recent flirts with Ukraine finally confirmed his feelings of a Russia that his being pursued/pushed even farther into a corner. Like the proverbial snake or goat that is finally being pursued into a corner, it is left with no other choice than to turn and face its pursuer(s) for a fight-out or an escape route from the pursuers’ end! Mr. Putin’s feeling is that of a Russia that is being asked to give away too much of her perceived territories and areas of influence. We should not forget too quickly the bone of contention between Mr. Putin and the US during Bush administration. The presence of US military know-how and equipment, be it those of NATO or directly from the US is a direct threat to Russia’s interest in the region in Mr. Putin’s opinion. Let us remember that in recent conflict over the soul of Ukraine, many of Mr. Putin’s government officials have never stopped to underline the fact that monies given by the US to support protest in Ukraine and other activities are meant to drive forward the quest of the US for a regime change in Ukraine.

Moving beyond speculation, I positioned yesterday while I talked to friend that Russia’s interests in Ukraine explains in no unclear terms those of the US in Ukraine. It does not matter how we choose to see it, Russia, being a power in that axis is right to want to ascertain and expand her influence in the area. The US is however not wrong in their attempt to win/gain Ukraine into their nest. The EU’s intrusion into the area in the name of expanding eastward is thus one intruder too much for Russia to live with! Come to think of it: The EU is the most trustworthy ally to the US. Therefore, Mr. Putin’s Russia is now being confronted with two of her most-feared “enemy” in the quest for influence. Besides, the fact that this fight for the soul of Russia is right at the door of Russia makes Russia’s reactions more volatile and perhaps even more irrational than they might have been if the dispute was somewhere else.

Before I return to talk about my opinion over Mr. Putin’s handling of the crisis in Ukraine, I will first talk about the US crisis management strategy in recent times. The US have always been known to present themselves as the non-aggressor if we are to look away from many conspiration theories which think otherwise. Moving forward, the non-aggressor often wants to make us understand that he is being “forced” to respond like the proverbial snake/goat, and most of the times, to protect the basic rights of every human, to support the yearnings of all for freedom and for humanity’s sake among many other reasons for intervention in a conflict. Let me state that I absolutely support these grounds. They are legitimate reasons. There are clearly those from whom the common people must be protected because left to these monsters they do not give a damn. All they want is to have their way at whatever cost. The US are thus right to intervene very forcefully in the interest of the people. There are accusations though of double standard in this regard. The US have been known to support some repressive regimes whose peoples also desire to be as free as residents of those countries where the US have been “forced” to come-in in the people’s interest. Beyond the problem of double standard, in recent times onlookers and many observers seem to be less-impressed/convinced with the non-aggressor-but-compulsory-intervention-theory. Therefore, it is pertinent for the US to rethink this particular strategy. We need a new approach established on a better theory. To understand the demand for a new approach, a good question to ask is this: Must the non-aggressive US often be “forced” constantly to intervene in a conflict? The truth is this: When one has to give the same reason for doing the same thing over and over again, the outcome of which is more often than not worse than the initial position/problem, then an objective observer must realize it is time to rethink and re-strategize.

I will move on now to Mr. Putin’s strategy in the crisis in Ukraine. Germany’s Finance Minister in a talk referred to Mr. Putin’s approach as very akin to those of Adolf Hitler. Hitler wanted to “protect” the ethnic Germans outside the territories of the German Reich before the outbreak of the Second World War just like Mr. Putin. He made this clear in the annexation of the Crimea. Mr. Putin also made it clear if he is compelled to do so, he will not hesitate to militarily march into East Ukraine to protect Russia’s interests and those of ethnic Russians. His support for the pro-Russian militias and separatists is unwavering.

Of course, the West is not less guilty of mobilizing her military mights in the region, it must be said though that this is a precautionary move in response to the martial display of Mr. Putin’s Russia. Right from the onset of the crisis in Ukraine, Mr. Putin has never stopped to wield his military might. It can even be said that his body language is such that places military solution above dialogue and international agreement. Come to think of it: The Geneva Agreement is yet to receive his blessing. This is not unexpected because throughout the negotiations, it was Mr. Putin’s Foreign Minister who was prominent in the deal-cutting. That he thus far ignored the commitments in the agreements is not unconnected with his preference for military solution. It need not be repeated that Mr. Putin mistrusts the West. In fact, it could be said that his mistrust of the West is one contributive factor that has made his grip on power last this long. Also, it must not be left unmentioned that Mr. Putin started his career in the Russia of the Soviet Union as a spy- a job that is best-survived when one learns to trust nobody, not even his own instincts!

A good question to ask is this: Does the world need another war with the numbers of catastrophic and war-like conflicts raging already? I do not think so, especially when this might involve too directly three major world powers, namely The US, Russia, and the EU. In my opinion, I strongly believe Mr. Putin can explore many avenues to drive home his points and achieve his aims without a head-long collision with other parties concerned. His approach so far is such that one might be made to believe Mr. Putin had from the onset chosen to exclude any form of solution that might want to include non-military negotiations and dialogues!

The talk of de-escalation and easing tension has been very loud from every corner of the globe in the past weeks. It remains only to be seen if there are serious moves from both sides, particularly from Russia, towards the realization of a peaceful/war-free solutions. The fact is this: This crisis can be resolved without the use of more force than we have seen so far in display in Ukraine; further escalation is in nobody’s interest. In order of loss, Ukraine will most-likely loose the most because she is at the heart of the crisis. However, Russia will not be left without a great loss nor will the other parties, namely the EU and the US be left out. At the end, we all loose and our world will not be made safer for it, in fact we might end up mutually assuredly destroying each other in the fight for self-interest and -realization! This is not desirable and must be stopped in a way that exclude the use of (military) force of any kind.

The Strongest Economy in Africa

Mr Abiola Oladimeji is a scholar resident in Germany and guest-blogs for www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com

Mr Abiola Oladimeji is a scholar resident in Germany and guest-blogs for http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com

The Federal Government and some Nigerians, who regard any critic of President Goodluck Jonathan’s (GEJ) administration as being sponsored by the opposition, argue that the announcement of Nigeria as the biggest economy in Africa is something to celebrate. I, like tens of millions of Nigerians refuse to be fooled with these new figures. The masses did not and will not benefit anything from this abracadabra economics!

However, some blind optimists describe those who refused to be fooled as pessimists and instrument of the opposition. They did not stop there: they refer to us as tribalists among other derogartory names to bring home their point. I do not take such people serious, because they always leave the substance and chase shadows. In fact, I see them as the tribalists and instruments of the ruling party, because they always emphasise that the President is from a particular ethnic group and defend the policies of GEJ, as if they were cabinet ministers. I care less where a president or a political/public office holder comes from, so far (s)he does the job very well.

These blind optimists keep repeating a sentence like a litany, namely this: “the new figures will attract foreign investors to Nigeria!” I laugh at them. I ponder on what the problem is: is it that these people are (1) so gullible, (2) cannot think or (3) do they even believe that prayers without work and saying nice things about Nigeria is the panacea to our problems? Beyond this litany, they put forward other arguments.

Firstly, the foreign-investor-attraction-argument is lame. Nigeria has crude oil and these foreign investors do not have oil in their countries. Let me ask this very rudely, probably that will awaken these optimists from their slumber: what the hell can the foreign investors do, that we cannot do for ourselves? Foreign investors are not philanthropists! They will not solve a percentage of our problems, it is our duty. If someone has the temerity to put up such arguments and many people truly believe that crap, then we should declare a state of emergency!

I am happy to present to the Jonathanians (die-hard supporters of President Jonathan), that Tobias Zick wrote a commentary on this same topic in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Thursday/Friday 17./18. April 2014 Nr. 90 page 4. Sueddeutsche Zeitung is the largest German subscription daily newspaper and has a relatively high circulation outside Germany. We should remember that Germany has the strongest economy in Europe and fourth in the world, thus German investors are also expected to rush down to Nigeria and start investing. I will quote and translate some lines from his article, in which he presents the growth of the Nigerian economy to German audience as well as Western readers. Whether the view of Tobias Zick is right or wrong is not my preoccupation. What he presented is my key/singular interest.

I will start with this: ‘’…man habe Südafrika als stärkste Volkswirtschaft des Kontinents überholt…’’. Tobias uses the reported speech in that sentence with his choice of the verb form ,,habe‘‘. This is what that is meant to pass across: he does not want to state if he believes in those figures or not! He continues: ‘’…doch die Kontraste zwischen den Jubel- und Schreckensmeldungen der vergangenen Tage deuten, dass etwas tief im Inneren des Systems faul ist…’’. Tobias reported earlier about the Nyanya bombing and he compares the celebration of the new figures with that suicide attack. He submits that something is wrong with the Nigerian system. He goes further‚ ‘‘…ein starkes Wirtschaftswachstum mit Zahlen, von denen Europa kaum mehr zu träumen wagt…’’. Tobias describes the whole declaration as an economic growth based on figures. Europe would hardly dare to believe such anymore.

My emphasis goes on two words here: Europe and anymore. The thesis statement goes thus: o ye gullible Nigerians and blind optimists, Europe does not believe those cool stories anymore. I have left the government officials out, because they should know better, that the world does not believe them!

He ends his commentary with a note of warning to investors: ,,wem Afrika am Herzen liegt, für den sind die reinen Wachstumszahlen nur ein bestenfalls sehr oberflächlicher Indikator‘‘. He states that the statistical economical growth can best be described as superficial indicators. Now that we have felt the pulse of one of the opinion leaders from the West, I expect the die-hards and the sycophants to bring other arguments.

One does not even need any foreign comment in order to know that the pronouncement of Nigeria as the biggest economy in Nigeria is meant to serve as propaganda rather than portraying the true situation of Nigeria. I chose to use Tobias’s commentary, because it is targeted at the foreign investor that President Jonathan ostensibly intends to lure to Nigeria. Germany has the strongest economy in Europe and the German government does not need to broadcast these figures, once you find yourself in Germany, you will know that Germany has the strongest economy in Europe.

Let me end this piece with a comic relief. I swear Tobias Zick was sponsored by the opposition party, that is APC to damage the image of President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan! That would be a likely statement from the boot licking sycophants of Mr. President.

Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM): Advocacy for Nigerian English (Tiwantiwa)!

Mr. Tanimomo is a scholar resident in Germany. He guest-blogs on http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com He is author of the popular bi-weekly: Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM).

You cannot expunge your language from your culture and by extension your identity. Words possess the meaning we ascribe them and who we are helps us give meaning to words.

I bear no grudge against the English Language. However, I dislike the pretence the language assumes; for example the Queens English is never wrong. Only speakers in the post-colonial countries can be wrong! The language changes according to the culture of the Brits. Consequently, the Anglophone keeps adjusting all along like train-waggons attached to the locomotive engine. So we grapple with what they call pronunciation and grammar problems. I have however realized that pronunciation problems like languages are constructs too. A few examples will suffice.

My grandmother pronounces the number 7 as seh-bin; a pronunciation that will earn her the tag of a semi-literate. Interestingly, Germans pronounce the same number almost in the manner just that theirs begin with sie and not seh. No one dares call them semi-literates as a result of the non-alignment of their pronunciation to English pronunciation rules. They have their own rules and culture which are products of history, fantasy, culture and experiences.

Another example is the French way of pronouncing tomato. To the French, it is tomate. This pronunciation is close to the prononciation by Yoruba speakers of the English language. We call it: tomati. Some pronounce tomat depending on which part the Yoruba speaker comes from. So if the British and American speakers of the English language evolve and alter several pronunciations for their convenience, what stops the Yoruba speaker of the English language from doing same?

In trying to convince me to see reasons to speak the ‘proper’ English, a friend argued that for every invention, the manufacturer’s manual should be followed. To me, that argument is not valid on two grounds: Firstly, Inventions are made with the cultural atmosphere of its target society in mind. The car manufacturer Toyota does not send left-hand drive vehicles to the UK or South Africa. Secondly, inventions are products of inventions. My knowledge of the Sciences betrays me here but I am aware of the fact that inventions by Einstein, Editon, Newton and other scientists inspired other inventions. Here is an example: The invention of smartphones are not unconnected from the existence of electricity. The world started with Abacuss. now there are modern and faster computer products. Inventions need be altered to suit the times.

Some have also argued that it is easier to understand each other when there are universal rules of usage. I do not subscribe to this argument. If comprehensibility is the premise for this argument, then the argument may also be flawed. Homi Bhabha, Prof Soyinka, Gayatri Spivak are some of the best post-colonial users of the English language but they are not easily comprehensible to the ordinary man. In fact Spivak has been accused of using inaccessible euphemism and academic jargon to avoid comprehensibility.

Furthermore a constraint to this universal rule of language usage is the question of who cares for the minority in the vast sea of the major Englishes? I like food and it pains me that any time I have to write Fufu and Egusi (Yoruba/African food) etc, the words are signaled as incorrect. Thus, I have to italicize them.

And the simplest reason I have heard for keeping the Queens English is this: It is more intelligible than our languages. In protest, I point out severally that ‘the response you are welcome is the weirdest I have ever heard to thank you.

By the way, I have learnt not to trust a language that says a slim person is skinny. Skinny should refer to a person with (a lot of) skin: So skinny should mean fat or something close to that if the English language was so intelligible. In the same light, how can inflammable be synonymous to flammable? Does the prefix, in- not negate?

Also, we may have to interrogate why the middle of the ocean is called sea , as in high-sea. Take a look at this too: Why should the earliest part of the morning be called night as in –midnight– in an intelligible language?

Beyond this, there is a pertinent question: What happens to words in the English language that have assumed different meaning in usage in the commonwealth countries like Nigeria? Here are some examples: A word like tribe and a sentence like I am coming do not have the same meaning as they do in the English language of the UK.

In addition, concepts in our native languages are at the risk of extinction if we keep up with the Queens-English-only-mentality. This is my proposition: Words that can only be translated loosely into English such as Alakoba, Olofofo, Ekule, Eleda among others should all be incorporated into the suppositional Nigerian English.

On a final note, let me remind of my submission at the start of this piece of mind: A language is a construct; it is an invention and it is dynamic. Therefore, it can be dynamically de-constructed and re-invented. So let the discourse begin. I strongly believe, we can all find our voice and put it into even better use by the tool of the language speak.



Of Africa by Abiola Oladimeji

Mr Abiola Oladimeji is a scholar resident in Germany and guest-blogs for www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com

Mr Abiola Oladimeji is a scholar resident in Germany and guest-blogs for http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com

It is no more news that stories of war, hunger, poverty and underdevelopment shape the image of Africa. Many believe (Africans too) that the continent has never contributed to world civilization and that she still has nothing to contribute. In today’s world order, the West appears as the saviour of this continent, which is definitely not the case.

This essay aims to achieve two goals: to restore the necessary confidence in Africans and to provide friends of the continent with another perspective to fully understand her situation. In the same vein, the essay does not intend to put the blames for the woes of Africa on other continents, but stating that the West has played/is playing a significant role in the disorder in Africa.

We all know that bad governance is the main problem of Africa ( I have even argued that it is the only problem of Africa). There are questions to ask; two of them are these: (1) How did Africa get into this situation? (2) Did Africa have good leaders?

Harold Smith, a formal British colonial officer in Nigeria, revealed in an interview (New African Issue 440 : How Britain Undermined Democracy in Africa) how Britain taught and rigged politicians from the Northern part of Nigeria into power before Nigeria’s independence in 1960. Britain feared the Southerners and preferred the Northerners, who would serve British interests. The former were simply too brilliant. Harold Smith referred to one of the political parties in Nigeria in the 1950s and 60s as a great party too much for African standard. Such parties posed threat to British interests.

Britain wanted a weak Nigeria in order to perpetrate Neo-Colonialism in Africa. That is obviously the birth of rigging incompetent politicians into office. Harold Smith’s confession has always been suppressed; his autobiography, in which he reveals the undemocratic acts of Britain, was rejected for publication. That should not amaze anyone, because books always terrorise those who want to suppress the truth.

If Nigeria appears to be an isolated case, what about the assassination of Patrice Lumumba of Congo? February 2002: The Belgian government admitted to a moral responsibility in the death of this great leader. Britain and the United States were also part of the conspiracy against this Pan-Africanist. This marks the beginning of disorder, or rather the crescending of the already Western-created/fuelled existing disorder into new heights in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We should not forget the case of the young Army officer Thomas Sankara. He got into trouble with France immediately he started working towards transforming Burkina Faso from an enclave of France to a great country. If Western powers had left these great leaders, it is most probable that Africa would not be this terribly bad today. Instead, puppets were installed and things started to fall apart. Africa has not recovered from this quagmire till today. Does any Western politician even have the moral ground to blame the current rogues in power across Africa?

Diamonds in the Congo and Algeria and crude oil in Nigeria are few among the resources that are in abundance in Africa. Corruption has been institutionalised in most African countries and most Africans thus live in poverty, despite the wealth of these countries. Switzerland is the safe haven, where these corrupt leaders keep the wealth of Africans and as long as these leaders do not offend the West, the booty is safe.

When Western media report about wars in Africa, they only show us the Western soldiers on ‘’peace keeping’’, they seem to forget the substantial role that weapons from the West play in these wars. I attended a seminar on German security policy abroad. The story is still the same: War, war and more war. Then I asked these questions: (1) Africans do not manufacture many of these sophisticated weapons, but how do they come into Africa? (2) Is weapon control not a better policy other than send soldiers on peace keeping?

As expected, I got a very diplomatic answer: We are still looking into how to control weapons from getting into wrong hands. Weapon industries provide jobs in the West and taxes for the government only when the produced weapons are sold; thus they must be sold. Who cares if that leads to the destruction of others! Without foreign weapons, how would some people in Africa wage war? I do not argue that foreigners mastermind wars in Africa, but the role their weapons play is very significant. Yet, they claim innocence. The truth is this: The West is in fact (only) interested in helping to manage the problem(s) they partly (sometimes wholely) and indirectly created/fuel and from which the West benefit greatly.

In terms of contribution to civilization, Africa surely has a lot to contribute, if only the ‘’superior’’ cultures would desist from the claim to superiority . Imperialists portrayed African culture as inferior, whereas they stole a lot of artefacts from the “so-called inferior cultures”. The West demonized the traditional religions. However, the Ifa Corpus of the Yoruba people is a very good example of what Africa has to contribute to the development of the world. Professor Olu Longe in his Inaugural Lecture at the University of Ibadan in 1983 argued that the innovations that were introduced into computer science in 1963 had been in Ifa divination, an oracle, for more than 1000 years.

I would want to point out that the title of this essay, Of Africa, is actually the name of a book by the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka. He discourses the continent at length and it is a book I would recommend to Africans and friends of Africa. He argues in this book that Africa has more to offer, if the continent is allowed to. He narrated a scenario in which an African sustained a spinal injury. Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles among other specialized hospitals could not help his situation. He found solution only in a clinic managed by a Ghanaian doctor who trained in the West, but he got treated with leaves from the bush in Ghana. This points out again, that Africa has enough in her culture to contribute to world civilization. The story of Africa is certainly that of paradox. I hope this discourse would provoke reflections on what is wrong with the continent.

Notice: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer/columnist and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com

Comments will be forwarded to the writer/columnist for response if necessary.

Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM): Political Self-Rule is not enough!

Mr Tanimomo is a scholar and resident in Germany. He guest-blogs for http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com with Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM)

Nearly two decades ago, there lived Wanayo on my street. Wanayo is Togolese. The assumption was: He was dull; as dull as an ass because he spoke no English. It would need no mentioning that Wanayo spoke French instead. He is from Fracophone West Africa. We laughed at him, questioned him in English and did whatever we could just to get him out of his shell and hear him shell in English. To us, English was a sign of good education and intelligence. Wanayo was not the only person we laughed at, We laughed at other pupils in my primary and secondary schools who did not speak good English.

Around the same time, one of my science teachers won an award as the best science teacher. I need point out that this particular teacher, like Wanayo, also spoke bad English; so bad an English that we dedicated a book to chronicle his grammatical mishaps. The book even had a name: Ish Okay Tabons. This science teacher had been nicknamed Ish Okay, because he punctuated warnings with “Ish Okay”.

Let us fast forward now: I was admitted into the university to study French. Subsequently, my parochial thinking of tying English language to intelligence changed. I did not want to study French but my grades were not so bad so I stayed.

Initially, I had no problems with the language. I was a bit above average, and at times I was a dark horse in some courses in which I did well enough to be noticed by my lecturers. I had no issues with the language until I travelled to Porto-Novo in my second year as part of a immersion programme. It was a big revelation. For the first time in my life I felt like an illiterate; a real dull illiterate. I suddenly became even duller than Wanayo. I was starved, a powerful tool had been taken away, was practically stripped of my communicative abilities. I gesticulated more than I spoke to explain what I meant. I had awkward feelings each time people laughed when I spoke. I was in another world, a world where English Language had been stripped of its dignity. I felt dull but I knew I was not dull; I knew I was intelligent, I mean I was one of the best students at OAU pre-degree entrance exam in 2005 and I made my school leaving exams at the first shot. I was just a magician whose magic wands had been stolen.

Consequently, I was compelled to see that there was (and still is) an “over-hyping” of the English Language. English has nothing at all to do with intelligence. Nobody gives so much a hoot about the English Language saving the Anglophone countries and allied countries/protégés, namely the`”Scandinavian countries”.

Truly the English Language, and many other language of colonialism could be seen as possible hinderance to and of many intelligent minds. Many African countries became independent but are yet to severe the one crucial tie to colonialism, namely the language. The truth is that language is never innocent. In all cases, it expresses the interests of its producers. I laugh at friends who in patriotic pride say things like: Africans have culture and Europeans do not. I laugh because behind this statement is an unconscious undoing. Culture is about the mask, the masquerade and the ankle long dresses. To the true owner of the language, who invented the word culture, this is what culture is: Culture is more than those, culture goes beyond the mask, it is a way of life. The reason the inventor wakes up in the morning to be productive, the reason he saves up for the future, the reason he is aware of his environment and climate etc.

By the way, have you noticed the connotative differences between the words: ‘tribalism’ and ‘nationalism’. One is pregnant with negativity while the other is tied to some positive heroic deeds; one is an infantile love for a tribe while the other is the love of one’s father-/motherland. Have you noticed that Africa was divided into tribes and not into nations? A love for your tribe gets a negative tag while a love for a nation makes a hero. I wonder how one can love a nation when one don’t love the tribe. Meanings of words are derived from what the producers wants and intends them to be.

This is a plausible question: Why can’t we develop our own brand of the English Language or any national language for that matter that reflects our culture(s) and recognizes our ways of life? Yes, we have the Standard Nigerian English, but like almost all products made in Nigeria, ours is perceived not to be good enough. So if you speak the so called Nigerian English in the presence of a Nigerian English language perfectionist, you may get some knocks because it is “sev’n” and not the Nigerian version pronounced with a stressed h as in “seh-ven”.

Certainly, there is more to independence/freedom other than political self-rule. Political independence without an accompanying cultural and language independence/freedom might as well be a good way to prevent complete freedom from ignorance and self-degradation. It is undoubtedly a bad package.

The Biafran/Nigerian Civil War: Of Conspirations Of Choices and Of Many Truths! By Abiola Oladimeji


Mr Abiola Oladimeji is a scholar resident in Germany

There are two theories, which are best referred to as The Two Igbo Theories, namely (1) The Theory of Igbo Superiority and (2) The Theory of Conspiracy against the Igbo Ethnic Group. I will consider both theories as Nigerian and Non-Igbo. Put differently, I will attempt a consideration as an outsider. It is important to state right from the onset that I am of Yoruba ethnic group, but I am not necessarily a die-hard Awoist. Chief Obafemi Awolowo was not perfect. I would not expect him to be because he is human. If Chief Obafemi Awolowo or anyone at all committed a wrong in my opinion, I will point it out. Culture, tribe or religion is a matter I am careful not to allow influence too greatly my judgement. I will respond to issues some raised in their analysis of Nigerian political history from the 1950’s till the end of the Nigerian Civil War. I also intend to remind that politicians can manipulate the feelings of the masses, in which only the politicians profit at the end of the day.

Nigerian politics of the 1950’s and 60’s was largely dictated and dominated by tribalism. The three major ethnic groups played a major role. Larry Diamond captures this very well in his book Class, Ethnicity and Democracy in Nigeria. Some accused only Chief Obafemi Awolowo of playing tribal politics. Such people surely have their plans to single him out. They argue that he formed Egbe Omo Oduduwa in 1945 and the Action Group was formed out of that organisation. To them, he was a tribalist because of this. They know or pretend to overlook the fact that the Igbo State Union was founded in 1934. In 1948, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe became the president of Igbo State Union. Thus, ethnic sentiments had entered the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC), the party Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe took over as leader in 1946. If Chief Obafemi Awolowo formed Action Group in 1951, how then was he to blame for starting tribal politics in Nigeria? I leave that answer to objective minds.

When Okpara (Nigerian of Igbo Ethnicity) and Sardauna (Nigerian of Hausa Ethnicity) most probably conspired to jail Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Yoruba people, who formed the largest of Chief Awolowo’s supporters, did not rampage that certain tribes hate their leader or tribe. It is also worthy to point out that Okpara had threatened to secede in 1964 after the Federal Census and Federal Election, which did not favour the Igbo in his opinion ( I would point out that this opinion is strictly that of Okpara because he acted majorly in his own interest. He only abused the name of the people with his claim to speak on behalf of the Igbo people).

Another fact in this phase of our history is this: The rivalry for Federal power between the three major ethnic groups ( Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo) had been reduced to a battle between Northern and Igbo leaders. Again not necessarily the people, the politicians were the actors. Chief Awolowo was in jail. The man subsequently imposed on the West (majorly lived in by the Yoruba) was unpopular. He was at best a puppet of the Northern establishment. This rivalry between Northern and Eastern region influenced the perception of the January 15th 1966 Coup. The coup-plotters were idealists who intended to execute a revolution. Unfortunately, the revolution failed: They could not implement their reforms and the victims of that coup were mainly Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba. I do not believe it was an Igbo Coup. I will quickly point out though that it was difficult to prove it was not. The man who took charge of government was Major-General Agunyi Ironsi. Worthy of mention is the fact that the Army General was of Igbo Ethnicity. To make matters worse, Nigerians of Igbo Ethnicity in the North celebrated the death of Northern leaders on the streets of Northern Nigeria! I will not justify the massacre of the Igbo people in the North after Northern officers staged a counter coup against the Igbo officers, but it cannot be left unsaid that those events are undoubtedly interconnected.

At this point, it was obvious the Federal government was sectional, namely pro-North. Igbo-residents in the North were not safe anymore in that part of the country. Caution and reasonability demanded that they fled the West too, though nobody attacked them in the West. The most important question at this point is two-pronged: (1) Sovereignty or (2) Security for Igbo people? Upon secession, the emergent Biafra Republic would claim the oil reserve of Nigeria in the Delta (not Igboland). The question which was less considered in the calculation is this: Could the young and inexperienced Biafran Army defeat also young but a well-trained and better equipped Nigerian Army without too much unwarranted civilian casualty? The young Major-General Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Eastern military Governor, and his war hawks were hell bent and capitalised on the sentiments of the larger Igbo people, who at that point in time were clearly traumatised. It is reasonable that many Igbo wanted to fight. They had been treated badly in the North. But could sentiment and sheer will to fight win a battle? A Yoruba adage says: You do not challenge killers of your father if you do not possess superior weapons. Unfortunately, young Major-General Odumegwu Ojukwu and his advisers risked a war.

The Federal government was not justified. General Gowon had agreed to a confederacy arrangement in the Aburi-Accord in Ghana, only to renege on arrival in Nigeria. There was speculation Chief Awolowo influenced General Gowon to renege. This speculation remain at large what it is: A mere speculation and another wind-chasing conspiration.

It is also worthy to raise the point that Chief Awolowo went to Enugu to plead with Major-General Odumegwu Ojukwu not to secede. In the middle of the night Major General Ojukwu sought Chief Awolowo to tell him that the decision has been made and there was no going back. Chief Awolowo requested Major-General Ojukwu to inform him 2 weeks earlier before the announcement of secession. This episode is narrated in the memoir of Wole Soyinka: You Must Set Forth at Dawn.

The question whether Chief Awolowo would risk the lives of the Yoruba people like Major-General Ojukwu was bent on doing hanged in the air still. The encounter in Enugu is cited only to compare it with some assertions that Chief Awolowo promised the young Major-General Ojukwu, thus indirectly the Igbo people, to secede once the Igbo did. Thus, the Igbo see Chief Awolowo as traitor. It must neither be forgotten too quickly to sentiment nor be given up to ask: Did Major-General Ojukwu inform Chief Awolowo 2 weeks prior to secession? Some even went as far to claim that the decision to secede was unanimous. Even if it was, was there any political reason or legal justification beyond “the morality of gentlemanhood” that would prevent a second thought?

Ralph Uwechue, the Ambassador of Biafra to France until the end of 1968, states clearly in his book Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War that there was a schism in Biafra: There were those who wanted secession by all means and those who placed the security of Igbo as the paramount. The latter group tried to persuade the leader of the Igbo against secession. Two days after the Biafran General and leader of the Igbo, Chief Ojukwu fled, when Biafra had been conquered, Philip Effiong said he had always counselled Chief Ojukwu negotiation for the security of Igbo was the best for the Biafran course.

Ralph Uwechue left his job as Ambassador of the Republic of Biafra, because he discovered that secession was Chief Ojukwu’s singular plan. Security was less important. He preferred to show the world Biafran children who starved than end the war! Security could be achieved through secession or negotiation, but the option of secession in this context is suicide in itself. The young Republic Biafra was not prepared to fight Nigeria in a real War. Argument to the contrary is a waste of time and sheer self-deceit.

In my opinion, it would be best to reflect on why the wrong decisions and choices were made which led to the failure of the Biafran project rather than propound a baseless theory in the name of creating scapegoats upon whose head the failure of the Biafran project is to be laid.

I am not Chief Awolowo. He knew best why he joined the Nigerian Government of General Yakubu Gowon. His decision to join the Nigerian Government did/does not make him the problem of Igbo, if Chief Ojukwu had planned and though well before secession like he claimed, then these words of his would have come true: No power in black Africa would be able to touch Igbo once they secede.

I have said earlier, Chief Awolowo was human, therefore fallible. One must not fail notwithstanding to recognize his brilliance. In fact, it is even this humanity which speaks strongly for the recognition of his brilliance. Thus, it can be said in praise that Chief Awolowo’s brilliance won that war to a large extent for the Federal side. If that explains the hatred, it is understandable. It must be made clear that Chief Awolowo did not risk a war for personal gains; he did not capitalise on the state of a traumatised people and brutalised nationhood. A study of the personality of Chief Ojukwu would help to understand the decision-making mechanisms and machinations which eventually culminated into his choice for war.

Some also raised some wishful accusations against Chief Awolowo, but the man answered those questions. Here is a link to the interview in Abeokuta, where he addressed the issues of starvation, the 20 pound policy and other baseless accusations against his person http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/newsflash/exclusive-chief-obafemi-awolowo-on-biafra-in-his-own-words.html

I am always shocked each time I listened to claims like this:

(1) Igbo are the best in everything

(2) Other Nigerians hate Igbo because they always achieve better than other tribes.

In the 1950’s, one Dr. Sylvester Anieke, an Igbo, who trained in Canada as a medical doctor, claimed he got a PhD in Medicine. He got a job at the University of Ibadan. Rumour had it way and he was forced to resign. Years after, this same Sylvester Anieke was forced on the University of Ibadan as Chairman of the Governing Council. This misconduct is well documented in Wole Soyinka’s memoir: Ibadan, the Penkelemesi years. This saga, among others, throws doubts into claims of Igbo supremacy theory at all cost.

It is not much of a surprise anymore after having read the article of Dr. Johannes Harnischfeger, a German who lived in Igboland. He describes the discourse in Igboland about the theory of Igbo supremacy and the purported conspiracy theory against them. He pointed out the Igbo-belief in a Jewish root and historical connectivity to Jewishness. They are the purported Jews through the theory of the lost tribes of Israel. They believe they are God’s own people. Others around them are thus pagan and inferior. The cited article is a must-read to better understand this jingoist argument. Here is the link:http://www.afrikanistik-online.de/archiv/2011/3042

Scholars have claimed that Yoruba people are also part of the lost tribe of Israel, but nobody is interested in this myth in Yorubaland, here is another article by emeritus Professor Dierk Lange in an attempt to connect the Yoruba people with Israelhttp://dierklange.com/pdf/LOST_TRIBES_OF_ISRAEL.pdf

The Igbo people have the right to believe whatever they want, but the perception about themselves will definitely shape how they see others. An objective reflection would help a lot.

Thinking that the way you cook your own food in your own culture or tribe is the best and others are inferior is the height of jingoism. It is very dangerous. Here is a worthy reminder: Should they be led to war again, only the masses would fight and suffer the most like it happened in the defunct Republic of Biafra: Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu had enough to eat. One would even think he would commit suicide when Biafra lost the war. He did not. He simply fled.

Children, who did not tell Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu to fight, suffered and were wasted! This need not repeat itself. I want to state clearly here that not all Igbo people believe in the aforementioned conspiracy theories, but the more left unchecked, the likelier the possibility of an ever-increasing followership and believers. Unfortunately, winning followership and faithfuls at any cost- therein lies the ultimate goal of conspiration theorists and peddlers of such irresponsible mercantile.

Notice: The opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com

Civility is demanded when commenting. Comments will be forwarded to Mr. Abiola Oladimeji for response if neccesary.

%d bloggers like this: