Monday 21 December 2015

The ‘Failed State’ as a Doubly False Categorisation of Nigerian Statehood

Nigeria has often been described by scholars, commentators, journalists and some statesmen as a ‘failed state’. This designation is based on a faulty appreciation of the understanding of what a state is in international law and what it means for a state to fail within international politics. This paper will examine the concept of failed states and explain why there is a conceptual error in categorisation and suggest further steps that need to be taken by Nigeria – its people and its leaders.
The Argument for Nigeria as a Failed State
Because states were ostensibly created for the complete security of those who live within that state, when its peoples’ security is not observed the state would be said to have failed; for example, the failure to protect human rights is a malfunction of state.

According to Kaufmann and Kraay the crux of good governance is ‘a capable state that is accountable to citizens and operating under the rule of law.’[1] The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank encourage good governance that can be achieved through accountability, political stability, adherence to the rule of law, government effectiveness, ability to promote private sector development, transparency and eradication of corruption.[2] Therefore, if we conclude that Nigeria has the opposite of good governance as defined by Kaufmann and Kraay, we mean that the government is incapable or failed; the government is not accountable to its people and does not operate under the rule of law. There have been several instances of this in Nigerian history. Firstly, there is the high number of unconstitutional changes in government which contravene the rule of law. Secondly, a state is said to fail or be collapsed ‘when it no longer performs the functions attributed to it.’[3] Nigeria is a failed state according to the Failed States Index 2014; it is ranked 17th on the list of failed states.[4]

The concept of state failure is a matter of functional collapse, i.e. state malfunction or non-function, when a state is not able to perform the fundamental functions attributed to it by scholars like Hobbes. According to the Failed States Index, Nigeria states suffers mostly from factors such as delegitimization of the state, demographic pressures, insecurity, human rights abuses, inadequate public services, group grievance, factionalized elites, external intervention and uneven development. This argument, however, fails to take account the nature of the post-colonial state in Africa, of which Nigeria fits the general profile. It is on the basis of state criteria that some may suggest that Nigeria is ‘failed’.[5]  ‘A state, defined as the authoritative political institution that is sovereign over a recognized territory, fails when it no longer performs the functions normally attributed to it.’[6]  

What is not addressed, based on the same criteria, is whether Nigeria is a ‘state.’ Coupled with what could be seen as a relaxation of the traditional criteria for statehood at decolonization, the emergence of the additional criteria has resulted in some post-colonial states to be classified as failed states.[7] What that means is while failure is clearly proven, statehood is not.

The Creation of States in International Law
Initially humanity existed in communities which later evolved into kingdoms and empires. The complexity of human existence occasioned the move of world society from existing in stateless forms to requiring a sovereign state for security.

The classical criteria for statehood is listed in Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention 1933 as follows: permanent population; defined territory; government; capacity to enter into relations, i.e. independence.[8]  Some additional suggested criteria include: the protection of human rights; external recognition; and effectiveness.[9]

In fact of the classical criteria of statehood, recognition and territory are the only conditions clearly attained by Nigeria;[10] in the case of territory, even though it is clearly defined it is not completely accepted by those within those territories.[11] According to Kreijen[12] state attainment in sub-Saharan African was achieved by a ‘legal trick’ which involved the abandonment of ‘effectiveness.’ Therefore according to his theory, Nigeria was created and recognised outside the classical method of creating states which led to inefficient pseudo-states which inevitably failed.  Somewhere between the fleeting transition from colonies to states, there was a legal and political mishap.[13]  The disintegration of governmental control reduces the strength of the peoples’ allegiance to a state, and in fact the belief in citizenship and the rights and duties it entails become a hollow confidence forcing people to re-align along religious or ethnic lines.[14] In actuality, a state never really existed and there was nothing to pledge allegiance to.

Even though Kreijen’s theory works from logical historical premises to achieve a seemingly rational conclusion, nevertheless he accepts African states as states, though inevitably failed. It posits therefore that what was not in existence can be created by relaxed rules and engendered by recognition. Therefore, while it asserts that the states are not states stricto sensu, it suggests that they were created as ineffective states doomed to failure. This theory operates from the conception that state failure induced the reduced allegiance to the state,[15] it does not consider the fact that there was lack of allegiance to the state by the citizens and the government; that by attributing that same allegiance to the ethno-linguistic or ethno-religious group rather than to the state, the state disintegrated immediately it was integrated. Furthermore, from Langford’s definition[16] a state is failed when it, as a sovereign entity, can no longer perform the functions of statehood. The problem is that the states never performed the functions of statehood prior to decolonisation, and have had difficulty in doing so thereafter. The classification becomes increasingly problematic.
The classification problems arise from using a hybrid of circular reasoning and definition. ‘An argument is circular if it couldn't possibly convince someone that the conclusion is true if they didn't believe the conclusion already.’[17] The definition of failed state is only convincing because we all accept, at a very fundamental level that Nigeria is a state. Conceptually and logically, we have no reason to do so.

Due to the classification inadequacies of post-colonial African states in conflict as failed states, the opinion of some is that there are rather quasi-states having not been states abinitio.[18] Because Nigeria was the creation of colonialism and decolonisation, as a post-colonial state Nigeria lacks the same impetus for being a state that kept the same territory adhered as a colonial entity. Note that the functions of colonies differ from the function of states. The administrative system in place in Nigeria pre-1960 was to fulfil colonial functions. These colonies were run by experienced colonial administrators prior to decolonisation, as post-colonial states, governance was handed over to those who had not been leaders of pre-colonial entities and who had little experience in administration.[19] 

Furthermore, the speed of decolonisation resulted in chaotic state administration,[20] this led to what may be called the failure of quasi-states or non-states. This failure is due to the inherent imitation of post-colonial states of other non-colonial states with little or no resort to indigenous methods or needs of government or politics.[21] The lack of effectiveness that Kreijen adduced to sub-Saharan states is exhibited by the following signs:
  1. The central government’s authority is weak and doubtful,
  2. Government is ineffectual and riddled with corruption,
  3. There is segmentation of the community and society into various publics and political allegiance is divided along those segments.[22]
Mazrui described the failure of the African state as being characterised by lack of sovereign control over territory; ineffective revenue extraction, inability to maintain national infrastructure or provide social services or maintain law and order.[23]

Jackson has related the corruption of government to the perpetuation of the legacy of colonisation whereby state resources were colonial resources; in the post-colony they become private resources. This is why government in Nigeria became a source of privilege and power for a select portion of the populace rather than the means by which the people of the state access ‘law, order, security, justice, or welfare.’[24] The interpretation and meaning of sovereignty, classical or modern, has little impact on this type of state structure, internal conflict seems inevitable and development and positive peace is dependent on restructuring Nigeria’s political systems.

Nigeria’s Future?
Nevertheless, despite the theoretical and/or overt ineffectiveness of Nigeria as a state, any attempt to effectively and legally question its statehood would be met with opposition internally and externally. The state has been extant for 55 years and has been recognised by other states in Africa and in the world. Nigeria has been admitted into the UN and has completed treaties of various sorts with other states, institutions and organisations. In other words Nigeria is externally functioning as a state.  On the other hand, the inherent problems of questionable statehood are exhibited by the inadequacy of internal functioning which results in underdevelopment, instability and insecurity. Nigeria exists in sufferance and while not possessed of effectiveness, the state has title to territory that suffices and was an expedient step in decolonisation.[25] Title to territory enables the sale of petroleum and other natural resources.

Nevertheless, Nigeria is unable to secure its people, it therefore cannot provide ‘political goods’ to its people, most specifically, economic and physical security.[26] The problem with Nigeria as a sovereign state is that its nature lends it easily to internal failure and volatility. Ironically, a state which is completely effective but was created by means unaccepted by international law would not be recognised as a state,[27] conversely, because Nigeria was created by an acceptable means – decolonisation – though largely ineffective, it is protected by the cloak of sovereignty.

Because a government should derive its legitimacy from the people as a cohesive whole and be accountable to the people as an indivisible unit, a skewed relationship between people and government, in a properly functioning state, should affect the relationship between the government and the international community. Due to the tenuous nature of international community especially the equality of states at the UN, any attempt to alter the standard of relations is frowned upon as an attack on sovereignty and quickly shuffled into the background. The conception of state has become rigid in policy and theory while it remains fluid in actuality.

Therefore, the responsibility for the creating the Nigerian state, ideologically lies with the people. The people need to take charge of their own destiny. The state has to be built from the grassroots.[28] Ultimately, it is for the people to take back their identity and hold the government to account when it fails to protect their dignity. At present the international community through the conceptualisation of states in international law is impeding this process. While encouraging people to vote is commendable, a populace whose understanding of democracy is limited to political participation as only achievable by voting, will not ensure a credible democratic process. Governments that only have to convince the international community that elections were ‘free and fair’, will not be constrained to ensure the security of the people is protected.

One example of how the nation can be built by the people is in the area of law-making. Most laws in Nigeria are passed due to self-interest or external pressure, and the passage of significant bills is usually preceded by lack of consultation and the need to pass a quota of bills into law.[29] Very few of these bills originate, from pressure groups, or community leaders. This should change.

The immobility of ideology about Nigerian statehood and community allegiance needs to be confronted, but this can only be done efficiently, when the need for it is realised, from within. Constitution of political parties also needs to be taken out of the hands of the political elite. Presently, the creation of political parties either centres on ethno-linguistic groupings or concentrations of power.[30] In that sense, civil society needs to be reinvigorated from the grassroots, local government should also be receive more attention and the central government’s political importance to the people de-emphasized. On all spheres, local, national and international, there needs to be an attitudinal and paradigmatic alteration that eschews conceptual stagnation and focuses on human security. Human security involves a paradigm shift from the ‘focus of security to the ability of individuals to live, rather than states to exist.’[31] It is a mechanism ‘to protect the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfilment.’[32] In other words, it does not matter what you call Nigeria, as long as her people are allowed to live free fulfilled lives.

[1] Kaufmann, Daniel, and Aart Kraay. "Governance Indicators: Where are we, where should we be going?." The World Bank Research Observer 23.1 (2008): 1-30, 1
[2] IMF Fact Sheet “The IMF and Good Governance” 1 – 3; World Bank Institute (2008) “Governance Matters 2008: Worldwide Governance Indicators 1996–2007” URL:
[3] Langford, Tonya. "Things fall apart: state failure and the politics of intervention." International Studies Review (1999): 59-79, 64; Ahluwalia, Pal. Politics and Post-Colonial Theory: African inflections. Routledge, 2012, 53
[5] Bøås, Morten, and Kathleen M. Jennings. "‘Failed States’ And ‘State Failure’: Threats or opportunities?" Globalizations 4.4 (2007): 475-485, 476, 478, 482; Coyne, Christopher J. "Reconstructing Weak and Failed States: Foreign intervention and the nirvana fallacy." Foreign Policy Analysis 2.4 (2006): 343-360, 357; Rotberg, Robert I. "The New Nature of NationState Failure." Washington Quarterly 25.3 (2002): 83-96, 91
[6] Langford (1999) 64
[7] Kreijen, Gerard. State Failure, Sovereignty and Effectiveness: Legal lessons from the decolonization of sub-Saharan Africa. Vol. 50. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2004, 142-143
[8] Kreijen (2004) 18-23; Jackson, Robert H. "Quasi-states, Dual Regimes, and Neoclassical Theory: international jurisprudence and the Third World." International Organization41.04 (1987): 519-549, 529
[9] Crawford, James R. The Creation of States in International Law. Oxford University Press, 2006.
[10] Kreijen (2004) 147; even these could be doubtful considering the porosity of Nigeria’s borders
[11] For example - Bakassi
[12] Kreijen (2004) 148
[13] Kreijen (2004) 162
[14] Langford (1999) 62
[15] Rotberg (2002) 90
[16] Langford (1999) 64
[17] Sober, Elliott Core Questions in Philosophy: a text with readings. Macmillan, New York, 1991. 183
[18] Jackson (1987) 526
[19] Jackson (1987) 526; Langford (1999) 63
[20] Kreijen  (2004)167
[21] Langford (1999) 63
[22] Jackson (1987) 526-527
[23] Mazrui, Ali. "The African state as a political refugee." African Conflict Resolution (1995): 9-10.
[24] Jackson (1987) 527
[25] Jackson (1987) 531.
[26] Rotberg (2002) 91
[27] Okafor, Obiora Chinedu. Re-defining legitimate statehood: international law and state fragmentation in Africa. Vol. 36. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2000, 67; Somalia and Kosovo.
[28] Teffo, Joe. "Democracy, Kingship, and Consensus: A South African perspective." A Companion To African Philosophy (2004): 443-449, 445.
[29] Ewuim, N. C., D. O. Nnamani, and O. M. Eberinwa. "Legislative Oversight and Good Governance in Nigeria National Assembly: An Analysis of Obasanjo and Jonathan’s Administration." 147.
[30] Wamala, Edward. "Government by Consensus: An analysis of a traditional form of democracy." A Companion to African Philosophy (2006): 433-442, 440-441.
[31] Owen, Taylor. "The Critique That Doesn't Bite: A Response to David Chandler’s Human Security: The Dog That Didn't Bark'." Security dialogue 39.4 (2008): 445-453, 447
[32] Cited in Owen, Taylor. "The Uncertain Future of Human Security in the UN." International Social Science Journal 59.s1 (2008): 113-127.,118

Why We Should All Love Athletics: A Metaphor for the Human Spirit

For the avoidance of doubt in this blogpiece 'Athletics' means ‘competitive running, jumping, throwing, and walking.’

So it is the end of a year of ups and downs for athletics – a fantastic IAAF world championships in Beijing and a new chairperson to head the IAAF, but doping sits among these achievements like 20 uninvited ex-girlfriends frowning in the front row at the wedding reception. However, I still believe we should all love athletics. My arguments will be swift and to the point [ahem!]

Athletics is the biggest sport in the world: The IAAF [International Association of Athletics Federations] has 213 member nations. The United Nations has 193 member states and a handful of observer states. This means that the IAAF is the most representative international organisation in the world. [The International Olympic Committee has 133 members in total] 

Athletics is the oldest and purest sport in the world. I remember my Phys. Ed. teacher in school [USS], Mr Aina, once described a day in the life of a caveman.... Mr Caveman wakes up in the morning, and goes to look for his breakfast. Remember, of course that he is a hunter-gatherer. So taking up his spear [javelin] he jogs out into the bush. He spies the backside of a sleeping antelope. He stealthily creeps up behind it, till he is quite close… then he HURLS HIS SPEAR!!! Alas, it was not an antelope, but a lion. Mr Caveman FLEES! The lion follows in hot pursuit. To stay alive, Mr C has to outrun the lion. The lion is gaining on him, but the caveman picks up speed. You can hear the heavy, padded footfalls of Leo the Lion. Mr Caveman jumps over a small bush at top flight. The lion demolishes the bush! The caveman tries to outwit the lion by flinging himself maniacally over a large pit he had previously dug as a hunting trap. The lion speeds around it. Mr Caveman is thinking about who will inherit his bone collection, but refrains from such morbid thoughts when he sees the smoke arising from the settlement. He screams ‘NANTS INGONYAMA BAGITHI!!![1]’ at the top of his voice, as the villagers rush to close the gates. Mr Caveman vaults with the aid of his spear as a fulcrum to the ground, launches himself over the 5-foot wall – an Olympic all-rounder!

More than any other sport athletics teaches perseverance. The world today suffers from a surfeit of perseverance. Most athletes are in the game for the experience, because compared to other sports the rewards are measly. But they keep coming back…. In the running, the jumping, the throwing – you feel truly alive.

There are some great characters in athletics. I will not dwell on Usain Bolt, though he seems to poster boy for athletics. [Sorry Usain!] I believe the weight placed on him is too much for one person. There other names that should symbolise the spirit of athletics.

Julius Yego: Kenyan javelinist, who realised he was too slow to keep up with the distance runners and moved to the field event. He is mostly known for watching videos of athletes such as Jan Zelezny and Andreas Thorkildsen on YouTube to help with his technique. At the 2015 World Championships he won the gold medal with a throw of 92.72m, becoming the first Kenyan to win a World Championships gold medal in a field event. Who have to find what you are good at, you may have to look for unconventional means to get better, try everything. 

Blanka Vlašić: Croatian high jumper. Once had an unbeaten streak of 34 competitions. While she is not the world record holder, she has successfully cleared 2 m more times than anyone in her event. Prior to the 2015 World Champs, she had to walk with the aid of crutches, but still won a silver medal at the World Championships. She was so delighted with it. She is an example of perseverance, if you want something, there is just one guarantee – if you do not try, you will not get what you want.

Wayde van Niekerk: South African 200m and 400m. One of my favourites. He has the fastest non-American time for the 400m. His place in this piece was cemented by his performance in the 400m finals at the 2015 World Championships. Prior to the final the focus had been on former world champion LaShawn Merritt and reigning Olympic champion Kirani James. I had seen van Niekerk run a blistering 300m earlier in the year, and I thought if he could hold on he would get a medal in the 400m World Champs finals. He went two better and got the gold. Merrit and James could just not catch him! He had to be taken away on a stretcher following his exertions. I do not think I need to expand too much on the lessons here, but – leave everything on the field of play, you cannot be rewarded for what has not been put into play.

Valerie Adams is a shot putter from New Zealand. She is a four-time World champion, three time World Indoor champion and two-time Olympic and three-time Commonwealth champion, and currently holds the New Zealand, Oceanian, Commonwealth and equal World Championship records. Her complete international medal collection will transform the finances of many small and medium state economies [19 gold, 5 silver]. If you are good at something, keep doing, focus on your strengths, not on what the world likes to see.

Hicham El Gerrouj: Moroccan middle-distance runner. He is the current holder of the 1500 metres, mile and outdoor 2000 metres world records, as well as a double Olympic gold medallist. I have taught classes on perseverance with this man’s CV. In 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics, he was tipped to feature prominently in the 1500m final but fell down with about 400m to go. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000 he finished 2nd in the 1500m final to the person who acted as pacemaker for his world record. In 2004, knowing that he was almost at the end of his abilities, he was billed to run both the 1500m and 5000m at Athens. A huge ask for someone who had twice failed to win an Olympic gold and had a relatively poor start to his 2004 season. In the 1500m El Guerrouj narrowly beat Lagat by 0.12 seconds to win gold! 0.12 second win in the 1500m!!! Four days later El Guerrouj won the 5,000 m beating the great Kenenisa Bekele to 2nd place. Keep fighting for what you want, do not give up till you have laid hands on all you possibly can. 

I hope I have convinced you that athletics is not all about doping, it is not just about the 100m – the decathlon has TEN track and field events! Athletics is about human character, it is a showcase for the human spirit, a display of perseverance, determination and speed. Athletics is about making the mind the master of the body. Athletics is a microcosm of humanity. We should all love athletics, because we should all love humanity.

[1] Here comes a lion. This is about the first thing you hear in the Lion King [1995]

A Tale of Two Vallettas…. and Climate Change

(It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities [1859].)

2015 has been the best and worst of times, thousands of desperate bodies have been lost in the Mediterranean, and millions received with desperate hope the signing of a new climate deal in Paris. Paris itself witnessed terror on an intense scale; Paris has also been witness to unprecedented human solidarity. Our world in 2015 has been a kaleidoscope, a phantasmagoria of emotion. Indifference to the left; love to the right; hate on the one hand; help on the other. It is against this backdrop that Africa met twice with the West  at Valletta, Malta in 2015.

Valletta I held between the 11th and the 12th of November 2015. It was a summit on migration which brought together European and African Heads of State and Government in an effort to strengthen cooperation and address the current challenges of migration. Its premise was based on the idea that migration is a shared responsibility of countries of origin, transit and destination. Therefore, EU and Africa met to find common solutions to challenges of mutual interest. 36 African countries were invited. Documents available here

Valletta II which was held between the 27th and the 29th of November 2015 was a meeting of the heads of states of the British Commonwealth. The theme of this meeting was ‘Adding Global Value.’ The intention was to discuss the best way to use the Commonwealth’s strengths in international politics to influence and eventually effect change on important global issues and the lives of Commonwealth citizens. The discussions included issues arising from peace and security, human rights and gender equality, eradication of disease, good governance and democracy, liberation of international trade, as well climate change. 18 African Heads/Representatives attended. Documents and press releases are available here

Valletta II could be said to have been the more fruitful meeting for Africa, despite the fact that the Commonwealth is intrinsically linked with a history of colonialism and ideas bordering on subsidiarity The Commonwealth also has fewer African state members than states represented at Valletta I. It is interesting that the EU, which is more associated with pushing for good governance, democracy and human rights protections failed to live up to its reputation at Valletta I. The reasons for this are inextricably linked with the lessons of the two Valletta meetings.

The Commonwealth in Valletta II showed that it has learnt from its experiences in North-South relations. The Commonwealth has apparently understood the ineffectiveness of throwing money at a problem. The aim of Valletta I was encapsulated in the political declaration as follows: ‘We commit to address the root causes of irregular migration ... Our common response will focus on reducing poverty, promoting peace, good governance, rule of law and respect for human rights, supporting inclusive economic growth….’ However, the recommendation of Valletta I was to set up a €1.8 billion trust fund, in return for which they requested the swift, unencumbered repatriation undocumented African migrants as well as the cooperation of African states in curtailing the movements of their own citizens. Give money, get results. Valletta II, on the other hand, was the arena for contemporary dialogue.

Valletta I, thus presumed that the promise of money would be sufficient to spur African states into action on Europe’s behalf. There seems to be within the political declaration a presumption of what Africa wants/needs. The presumption was settled without dialogue with Africans or their leaders. Somalia's Prime Minister Omar Abdirashidali Sharmatke told the BBC: "What Africa needs today is not charity, but investment." "The trust fund is not enough, 1.8 billion euros is far from enough," said Mahamadou Issoufou, the president of Niger in the Sahel, which faces serious problems with migration and drought."What we want is not just official development assistance in this form but reform of global governance. World trade must be fair. There must be more investment in Africa. Official development assistance is good but it's not sufficient."

Senegal's President Macky Sall, told journalists on the side-lines of the summit that the money pledged was "not enough for the whole of Africa". Macky Sall accused multinational firms of tax avoidance and conniving at corrupt transfers of Africa's resources costing countries many times what they receive in aid. Macky Sall’s statement of course was Macky Sall's controversial statement requires further scrutiny.

The EU invited 36 African states to Valletta I and ‘launched’ a trust fund of €1.8 billion. If divided evenly each state would be eligible to collect €50 million. There are football players who are worth much more than that. According to Forbes three of the richest people in Africa are worth €22 billion. Notably, two of those [Aliko and Dangote] are astute African businessmen whose business are mostly in Africa. In comparison to this, €50 million is a drop in a deep African ocean. The EU also indicated that the trust fund would be open to other states apart from the 36 invited states. One can understand Macky Sall’s sentiments, however, bluntly they have been put. The trust fund CANNOT solve the problem - if the root cause was merely financial.

The other point to note here is the remittance [money sent 'home'] to Africa from the diaspora [legal and irregular]. Remittances are notoriously nigh impossible to track. Africans tend to send money to Africa via unconventional means, sometimes due to the high charges imposed on African remittances by Europe’s finance houses [This point was also not satisfactorily addressed at Valletta I]. However, it is believed that the remittances from the diaspora to Africa could amount to nearly €150 billion per year. Europe would have to bring in a colossally Cyclopean carrot to match the remittance.

Furthermore there is an indication that Europe never really intended to do serious business with Africa at Valletta I. This is the deal done with Turkey in December 2015. In December the EU ‘paid’ [actually gave] Turkey €3 billion for Turkey’s help with the crisis. This help includes the swift return of refugees entering Turkey. Turkey [population 79 million] gets €3 billion, Africa [population circa 1 billion] is promised €1.8 billion. €3 billion for deportation services; €1.8 billion to invest in development and eradicate poverty; stop conflicts and human rights abuses; support good governance and democracy; and ensure security curb terrorism in 54 countries! KMT! Shior!

In addition to this was the ‘scheme’ suggested for deportation of irregular African migrants. In essence, a destination state would attempt to determine the African’s state of origin, do so and then drop off said African migrant in the country the European state had ‘determined’ African to be from. This in effect suggested European usurpation of the sovereignty of African states through the issue of quasi-passports. The intrusive proposal was dropped. The wording in the summit declaration licensing forced deportations also met stiff resistance and had to be changed. The final statement said: “We agree to give preference to voluntary return.”’ This state of affairs was roundly decried in the Western press, because as we all know, Africa is a country and you can drop off any African in the African capital city of Lagos. [Which by the way, in case you did not know, is not even the capital of Nigeria.]

What Valletta I ignored and Valletta II focused on is the increasing interconnectedness of the world. The world is one, even if its people are not – political events and international action, legal or illegal will have an effect on population movement. We cannot ignore this truth and continue ‘to talk of this terrible Revolution as if it were the one [and] only harvest ever known under the skies that had not been sown’ [Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities (1859)]. To focus so rigidly on migration ignores the bigger problems and the smaller snowballing causes – climate change, illiberal trade practices, questionable trade relations etc. International relations very often ignores the needs of the world’s people. So the money is not the solution.

Valletta II did a better job by concentrating more on human security. To change the world you have to care about people, about their subjectivity, it is hardly ever about the money. ‘My friend is dead, my neighbour is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead’ or the child whose name I cannot pronounce, whose skin is different from mine, whose parents believe a different God than mine, whose world view is different from mine? Our capacity for compassion can multi-task. It is human nature to feel more empathy with people we think we can identify with. But is what we think not a function of human choice? Can we not choose to show empathy? Or are we creatures controlled solely by our emotions?

So.... I have no solution to the ‘migration crisis’, just opinions, based on facts. But the lessons of Valletta I and Valletta II are for us to look at the big picture, to make up our minds based facts not feelings. 

My message to Africa has not changed… stand your ground and look to Africa. 

To the world… we cannot prop up dictators, get involved in unjust conflicts, engage in unethical trade practices, fail to combat climate change and not expect to feel the aftershocks of the earthquake we set off.

To world leaders…The challenge of every politician, leader, or head of state, is allowing for needs that they do not understand, is speaking for those they represent, but acknowledging that the world you lead, is a minuscule part of the world that is ours. The EU leaders went to Valletta I to seek: border control, selectivity and repatriation. But as African leaders pointed out in their speeches and comments to the press, the contradiction between aid to Africa and the exploitation of Africa’s resources needs resolution. Definite figures [nearly €30bn] are put on aid ‘given’ to Africa by the West. No definite numbers are put on what leaves Africa to the West, there is a possibility that it is in excess of €180 billion. [Who is aiding who?] Essentially our view of the world is determined by the window we look through. Our view of Africa is coloured by misconceptions, and our view of the West is obscured by misdirection. The media adds to this confusion as shown by these contrasting reports of Valletta I:

‘"Financial aid to accept deportation of thousands" declares Algerian daily El-Khabar, before quoting human rights groups warning that Europe was "forcing African countries to play the role of policeman".

Germany's tabloid Bild asks: "Why is Chancellor Merkel negotiating with Africa's despots?" in its account of the "tricky Valletta summit".

Valletta I misunderstood the problem, and thus its solution. Valletta II engaged with the people. Valletta I completely ignored climate change, which is a cause of migration and a result of unethical industrialisation. Valletta II tried to give some attention to climate change. The world needs to do more on climate change. We need to accept the inevitability of climate change. We need to take positive action. We forget that climate change is the silently advancing apocalypse, if not for us, for our children; if not for our children, for our grandchildren, for our grandchildren’s’ grandchildren. So that, when our time here is done, when the book is closed, when the music has stopped, when the bustling has ceased, when the threshing is done... we can say ‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’ [Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities (1859)]

Other References
Migration from Africa: a forgotten crisis 
‘Well intentioned as it may be, the Valletta Summit was a waste and the EU leaders who called for it have missed an important opportunity to take any meaningful action.’
Migrant crisis: These numbers show that for Africa, $2bn EU aid deal no match for remittances or multinational tax cash 
EU launches $2 [1.8 billion euros] billion emergency fund for Africa to combat migration
EU pays €3bn to Turkey in exchange for help on dealing with European migration
Valletta Summit Highlights Discrepancies In EU, African Priorities On Refugee Crisis 
Europe's €1.8bn fund to tackle migration crisis not enough, say Africans
The 30m-strong Africa diaspora likely sends $160bn home every year
Collusion and Control: Europe Pays Africa to Keep Refugees
Migrant crisis: No EU-Africa grand bargain
EU offers more ‘aid’ to deport migrants, Africa resists
EU turns to African leaders to stem migrant crisis
Experts raise concerns over lopsided EU-Africa migrant deals

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Speech at the acceptance of Nigeria to the UN 1960

Nigeria is a great country. It is great in area- Nigeria is half the size of Western Europe. 
It is great in population: Nigeria had nearly 40 millions of people. 

It is great in prospects, because Nigeria has all the resources to maintain a powerful and a prosperous nation. 

Nigerians are great in character, for Nigerians are a happy people. They have the gift of laughter; the priceless gift of being able on occasions to laugh at themselves. They are a vigorous, self-respecting, self-disciplined people, with that backbone of moral integrity which is the secret of wisdom and the secret of human relations

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Decolonising the Colonised African Mind – The First 5 Steps

I have recently been reading of and writing on many African issues. One thing that strikes me quite strongly is the depth to which false perceptions of Africa have sunk in our collective subconscious. While I think it is forgivable for people whose only experience of Africa is aid adverts with awfully malnourished children and news bulletins featuring some rabid warlord spouting maledictions – this delusion of utter dependence should not be replicated by Africans. This is why we have autobiographies and biographies. The person describing herself has greater insight than the person retelling the tale. A self-portrait is not a caricature. We Africans have flipped the script. We have reproduced the caricature in our understanding of ourselves, in telling our stories and understanding the heart of Africa. We have replaced the cradle of life with a heart of darkness. So I have a 5 step solution. We need to begin thinking and fast.

What is Africa? Take a step back from all that has been said, especially by the media. Read the works of Africans. Look at the Africa around you. Africa is not the few unscrupulous leaders we have, Africa is its people. So look at its people. Africa is an eternal thought in the mind of God. There was always Africa. Ignore the countries/states. While I am not in favour of the breakup of states, we must remember that nation-states are made, not imagined. The states in Africa were imagined by people who never set foot on our tropical shores. Obama once said ‘The worst thing that colonialism did was to cloud our view of our past.’ We need to claim our identity as African and divorce this quest from a political one.  We have bought into thinking we can truly be what we should be by ensuring our ‘brothers’ place in political office. How’s that working for you thus far? Go and explore, and think what it means to be Africa. Africa was before Nigeria.

Colonisation and the sense of inferiority: Now I really do hate to bang on about colonialism. However, let us say as an analogy, someone scratched you with a sharp nail. Then went away. The scratch becomes septic because the wound is not cleaned, because the damage is not understood. Do we say the scratch is in the past and fail to treat the wound? By no means! We may forgo pursuit of the culprit. We may refrain from a lengthy and arduous litigation, but we do not deny existence of the wound. Make no mistake colonialism is a wound on the psyche and insult to the soul, a generational offense that lingers unacknowledged on the edges of our subconscious.

Thomas Pynchon, said, ‘Colonies are the outhouses of the European soul, where a fellow can let his pants down and relax, enjoy the smell of his own shit.’ (Imagine!)

Our Africa was the Petri dish in which the experiment of empire was conducted. And when the experiment failed, the apparatus of psychological oppression hangs on in our minds like a never-fading apparition. How did a handful of administrators manage to shackle the African giant? By imprisoning the most important part of a people – their sense of self-worth. By making us believe that we were inferior, that our laws, customs ideas were of no value, thus our minds were captured into the colonial Black Maria and our bodies soon followed. We see vestiges of this in everyday discussions and actions: Parents failing to teach their children African languages, people using ‘that’s what they do in London’ as a trump card in arguments, skin bleaching, naming of children, the repugnancy principle, acceptance of non-African standards of beauty……. The list could go on for years.

Patrice Lumumba of Congo is famed to have said to the departing Belgian colonists ‘Nous ne somme plus vos singes [or macaques].’ ("We are no longer your monkeys). The truth is more complex as words are cheap. Attitudes need to change.

Self-knowledge: The first step to changing attitudes is self-knowledge. Africans, I believe have a problem with self-awareness and self-knowledge, especially as concerns the nature of that self- knowledge. Arundhati Roy talks about the psychology of globalization thus: ‘It's like the psychology of a battered woman being faced with her husband again and being asked to trust him again. That's what is happening. We are being asked by the countries that invented nuclear weapons and chemical weapons and apartheid and modern slavery and racism - countries that have perfected the gentle art of genocide, that colonized other people for centuries - to trust them when they say that they believe in a level playing field and the equitable distribution of resources and in a better world. It seems comical that we should even consider that they really mean what they say.”’

The problem with Africa is that we still trust foreign ideas more than our own. We take these false narratives, these illusions of altruism and we internalise them and make them our own. In the quest for a better world, we intuitively understand our world to be worse. We make no allowance for our intersectionality. We are black, generationally oppressed, women, men, children, poor, third world… yet we do not speak of how these factors affect us personally. No one else can see our pain. This pain is ours, but we swallow it, we stomach it, and let it fester deep within us like fermenting cassava, its poisonous cyanide, killing us from the inside. Spit it out!

Ask a hundred non-Africans to describe Africa, there responses would be fairly similar. Ask the same of a hundred Africans… Self knowledge unlocks the heart of Africa. Africa defies definition, but that is no excuse not to think of her.

‘Africa is mystic; it is wild; it is a sweltering inferno; it is a photographer's paradise, a hunter's Valhalla, an escapist's Utopia. It is what you will, and it withstands all interpretations. It is the last vestige of a dead world or the cradle of a shiny new one. To a lot of people, as to myself, it is just “home.”’ Beryl Markham
Africa is home, I am Africa…

Historical and Contemporary knowledge: There are very few things that upset me and annoy me as much as an African spouting inaccurate and derogatory ‘facts’ about Africa. A multiple degree holder once told me, ‘no African entity had ever succeeded.’ I had to physically restrain myself, or else we would have needed industrial cleaners to clean the blood from the walls. Did he not know of the Ghana Kingdom with its riches in gold that existed for 1000 years? Or the Oyo Empire that traded far and wide? Or the Buganda and Bunyoro kingdoms of present day Uganda? Or the supposition that Africans do not know about leadership… All I have to say to that is… Mai Idris Alooma, Nana of Itsekiri, Askia Mohammed (Askia the Great), Sonni Ali, Shaka Zulu (kaSenzangakhona), Mansa Kankan Musa, Sundiata Keita, Alaafin Oranyan, Cetshwayo kaMpande, Ahosu Ghezo, Asantehene Opoku Ware and ASANTEHENE OSEI TUTU AGYEMAN PREMPEH II!!

And African women? Oya come and read this:
Cleopatra, Moremi Ajasoro, Iyeki Emotan Uwaraye, Efunsetan Aniwura, Queen Amina, Inikpi of Igalaland, Taytu Betul, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Queen Nzinga, Omu Okwei of Osomari (Felicia Ifeoma Ekejiuba), Aba women’s Riot, Lagos Market women’s riot and the Dahomey Mino (a Fon all-female military regiment).
If you don’t know who these people are or what I am talking about, shame on all the education systems in the world. Our history is a fact that happened no matter what you have heard, I dare you to act like it.

Answer me these questions:
Who discovered the River Niger?
Who was the first man in South Africa?

We need to be aware that schools set up by the colonial powers were primarily set up to enable communication between the coloniser and the colonised. In that sense they were mainly centres of instruction. However, they have gradually become educational institutions, though educational content in many African curricular still retains vestiges of post-coloniality. This the point of the questions I asked above.

On the other hand, African indigenous education emphasises training individuals to contribute to the development of their community and the benefits of a cohesive communal life. Conversely colonial education emphasised the value of the individual and deemphasised the importance of community and culture. Where education seems to isolate the individual from her community, education and its proponents become a communal enemy. These incongruences as well as the colonial purposes of education result in an irrelevant curricular – Shakespeare taught without context – inherited inadequate teaching methods, and disengaged cohorts of students.

Why do we learn Shakespeare? Or why is cramming an integral part of our education?

Education is not entirely beneficial if it becomes a means by which a person’s identity, culture and language becomes obscured. Education is meant for the FULL development of the human person – the mind, the body, the heart and the soul. Nelson Mandela once said ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language… that goes to his heart.’

We fail to learn our own languages, sing our own songs, dances to our own rhythms, to the beat of our hearts, to the steady thrum of our soul. The problem is that we approach knowing from an externalised perspective. We see knowledge as something outside of us that we have to assimilate. But it is not. We need to read more, [aim to read a book a week – any book will do], to be more self-aware, then connect what we have learnt with who we are, for the full development of the African personality that lies inside of us.

As Robert Nesta "Bob" Marley sang
‘Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.’

Self-esteem: The first black African woman to win a Nobel Prize, Wangari Mathaai said ‘our people have been persuaded to believe that because they are poor, they lack not only capital, but also knowledge and skills to address their challenges. Instead they are conditioned to believe that solutions to their problems must come from ‘outside.’’’

We can only shed this innate belief when we accept the validity and worth of our existence. What the colonised African mind suffers from is a severe case of post-colonial internalised oppression. Even when the primary source of the oppression no longer exists, we oppress ourselves with our own feelings of inferiority. We think anything from ‘oversea’ will be better than ‘tiwantiwa’ just by the fact of their different sources. Aba shoemaker will make fine shoe and stamp Italy on it. As some status-conscious person once told me, even her dead body would refuse to wear lace that wasn’t Swiss or other European origin, to the extent that we import traditional attire. I am sure many Nigerians will refuse to enter a car that is made in Nigeria.

On a more psychological level and especially in the diaspora, we see many people exhibit shame and refuse to identify as African. To this end they twist their tongues into unimaginable shapes to produces sounds completely unintelligible, in attempt to adopt an accent foreign to them. We call our languages vernacular, yet these are languages of a living people, not a jargon to be hidden from the sun.

The focus on English, French and Portuguese as languages of instruction and national communication has also contributed to the disappearance of African languages and customs. Prof E. E. Adegbija notes ‘Over 90% of African languages,…exist as if they don’t really exist; they live without being really alive. Living functional blood is being sucked out of them…’

So we live a half-life as Africans, other people tell us what should matter to us. The West tells us we should resist our ethnicities and cultures, our governments and their corruption. Our governments tell us that the West is our enemy, and that our next door neighbour is our enemy and ‘see, I built this road!’ Did they build it with their own money? 

These are the symptoms of self-oppression, not being able to refute the fallacies around, because we fear the dark recesses of our own minds and fear lurking in the corners of our consciousness. If we dare to, quietly and stoutly, consider all around us, take those books off of the shelves and learn of truth that is not really hidden, we may learn one certainty. Our minds are being held captive by our own thoughts, that captivity imprisons us into a life less than we were made for.

How did a handful of administrators manage to shackle the African giant? By imprisoning the most important part of a people – their sense of self-worth. By making us believe that we were inferior, that our laws, customs ideas were of no value.

How will we unshackle the African giant? By freeing our minds from mental slavery, by realizing that we are worth as much as anyone else, by eschewing narratives based on inferiority, by connecting once again with the Africa that lies inside of us - The true Africa whose heart is golden.