EVEN A NOBODY IS STILL SOMEBODY

Though you seem foolish
And out of touch
Keep on being who you are,
Neither life nor nature’s laws
Was created by human beings.

Though the politicians seem to have all power
Though the freedom-fighters seem to be the only brave ones
Though the intellectuals seem to know it all
Though the popular stars seem to be the only dream-achievers
Yet always remember…

Every single Thought you think
Every deep Intuition you perceive
Every Word you quietly say
And every Little Action in your life
Has an effect Somewhere, Somehow…

For nothing goes for nothing
Nothing gets lost in life, in nature, in Creation
And the fact is that while we’re all so busy
Running around the place
None of us really knows what it’s really all about.

So: Ye Unknown Ones, be brave
And when your Inner Sensing leads you away
From everything the world proclaims “Great” and “In”
Then forsake the world’s ways and quietly, quietly
Find Peace and Joy within your Hearts.

Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

MILE HIGH CLUB AND HORNINESS IN THE AIR

What is it that makes people
Horny in the air?
Hard nipples take off
They lock themselves in the toilets
Climb to a higher orgasm –
Wet Bulge. Pull up the arm-rest
Lay a blanket over hands and laps
And transform the fear of flying
Into sexual energy – … until they Come
Back down, soft landing on hard earth.
Can you keep a secret, baby?…
We’re scared to death of flying
And loving it.

Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

BUTTERFLY: BREAKING OUT OF A BROKEN HEART

It takes a long time
To forgive yourself
For not giving love back
To the person that gave it to you –

Nobody can break your heart
Only you can break your own heart
Nobody’s forgiveness can set you completely free
Until you yourself have broken out
Of your broken heart,

Like Butterly.

 – Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

SEX IS NOT THE ONLY FORM OF INTIMATE CONVERSATION

Sex is not the only form of conversation, connection, exchange and sharing, in the course of Intimacy between people. There are other options that may fulfil the need for temporary or permanent oneness more effectively than sexual intercourse, depending on the chemistry between, the story around and the needs of and nature within the people involved.

1. THE NATURE OF CONVERSATIONS
The nature of verbal conversations between people can sometimes be a more powerful form of intimacy than sex, giving room for an inner release of pressures that not even sex can achieve. This often happens between people who feel comfortable enough with each other, or find the courage, to share information about their vulnerabilities with one another, and have found a language in which to do so. Some friendships bear this Quality intrinsically within.

2. SHARED SILENCE
There are some people whose most intimate exchange happens in deeply felt moments of shared Silence. This silence is like a continuum in which their thoughts and intuitive perceptions merge and shape one another. The people involved always emerge from such moments with enriched souls. These are people who of one another often say: we like to be silent together. Silence is their bond.

3. HONEST QUARRELS
A good quarrel – extreme, hard, honest, totally baring – is sometimes the best form of conversation and the most intimate way to exchange the most revealing information between two people or a set of people. I became acquainted with some of my closest friends after a quarrel. I met my wife through a quarrel. It was the quarrel that paved the way for the love. Quarrels are often missed opportunities when the people involved, while quarrelling, are – for lack of trust – not honest with themselves and with the other person. And yet sometimes the fundamental or temporary chemistry between two people is such that only an honest and brave painful quarrel will fulfil the function of the intimate conversation they need in order to take their understanding of one another to the next level.

4. HOMELINESS AND HOME
There are some people with whom we share the most open exchanges and most intimate conversations because the context of our chemistry and the base of our bond is a certain sense of home or homeliness, the type in which the real us feels ‘at home’ when together with these people. Some share this connection from birth, some acquire this in the course of a relationship or a friendship that makes them feel at home with each other. And this sense of home does not require of them to do or say anything extra or particular, or require another form of intimacy. The sense of being at home while together is in itself already their intimate conversation.

5. DISTANCE
There is a curious intimacy in distance that sometimes comes into play between certain people. It is delicate and fine, but also very intense, very strong and very revelatory. Invasion without invasiveness. Penetration without intrusion. An all-encompassing knowing, full of the most sensitive respect. The power of distance as a mediator and form of intimacy is often underrated. And yet there are some people with whom we can only enjoy a feeling and a sense of an intimate conversation when we find and keep the right distance between ourselves. Sometimes such people know us more intimately than the ones closest to us and may sometimes enjoy our rarest trust. It is also not by chance that people sometimes reveal themselves to and connect with less restriction and more satisfaction with Strangers than with those they know – exactly because of the fact that they are, and will remain,… strangers.

6. SEX AS A DEPTH OF COMMUNICATION
Voluntary sex is different things to different people – a power-game, a playful act; or for some it’s deeper, a level of release. There are people however who, apart from or in addition to this, experience sex as a form of conversation. An intimate way of sharing self-knowledge and exchanging sensitive wordless information about what we are in the primitive depths of our fundamental personalities. Just as sex can be used to tell lies, project a falsehood and hide secrets, it can also be used – by people whose bond trigger that chemistry – to communicate. People who experience sex solely in this way have a satisfying sense of communication, or frustrating non-communication, in connection with every moment of sexual intimacy.

7. A SHARED GOAL
There may be truth to the saying that there is nothing that binds people together as primordially and intuitively as a deeply-felt and shared Goal. The stronger and deeper the love and loyalty they have for the cause, the more this condition possesses the ability to break all barriers between them and link inner parts of their hidden selves with one another on levels which are never activated in their dealings with other people. That is to say: when people love the same thing and work passionately towards the same purpose, it wavelengths them into a place where only they can go together. The entire context of their relationship with each other becomes determined by that for which they share their truest love and most quiet loyalty, to which they have pledged the very essence their life, and it becomes the underlining hearth of their bond, their quiet intimate conversation.

The individual natures of each person and the chemistry between people, as well as the nature of intimacy possible, mutually desired or needed between them, is what determines the form of interchange between them which permits the realisation of this intimacy.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

WHAT HOLDS A SOCIETY TOGETHER?

1. TENSIONS

What holds a society together?

This question crosses my mind a lot in these times of terror threats and terror attacks, religious fanaticism, right-wing political extremism, left-wing reactionism, fear, reflection, polarization, racism, nationalism, migration, integration, refugeeism, falling wages, widening circles of poverty, animosities, dual nationalities, multi-national companies, cross-cultural love affairs, mixed children and mixed heritages, highspeed long-distance travel, nuclear tests and missile launches, global ease of communication, internet battles between love and hate, and all the rest of that stuff.

Being a part of the German society, the many observations I make everyday trigger intense bouts of reflection and thought within me. These observations are made in the private sphere, at work and in the public domain. While taking in and analysing the news – the content and selection, the context, pattern and nature of the news – over the radio or on TV and while following events on the internet. While interacting with other citizens in sports arenas, on the public transport, in parks and clubs, at the playground, in restaurants and during private events. While playing the requisite roles on the corporate theatre and being politically correct. And simply while living.

It’s hard to miss the tension that exists between those who, genealogically, have for hundreds of years fallen into the category of that which was traditionally labelled ‘German’ or ‘European’ or of such descent, and those who, by appearance, betray some other culturo-geneological descent, in part or in whole. Going deeper, it is fairly easy to feel the palpable front-lines of ancient cultural conflicts, old racial tensions and, above all, very deeply felt religious differences, a clash of political ideologies that seem mutually exclusive. Certain social scientists, broadening the spectrum, may even choose to point out that front-lines also exist in the realm of opposite genders and opposing sexual orientations and indeed even in the age-old question of age differences. By their thesis, the human being it would seem is simply a creature of division and conflict along lines and within groups of perceived primary homogeneity.

2. WHAT IS HOME?

The world appears to be changing faster than our world views, and our self-images, and our capacity to adapt in thought, in action or emotionally seem able to keep or catch up with. Fundamentally the core question to which the times seem to be driving us is the simple puzzle: “What is Home?” To what extent can differentiation within a society go without tearing it apart? The issue of ‘mutual incompatibility’ is a concept that occupies many thinking minds within the context of possible lasting damage to a societal unit. On the other hand, the sense of belonging, of having a stake in preserving the present and future welfare of the nation and the national community of which one feels oneself to be a part creates a feeling of oneness, a binding force, a desire to act beneficially in the cause of the society, that informs the unchanging root intuition in good and bad times.

So, for a German citizen, like myself, the question becomes: what is the root intuition that must guide the sense of connection and bonding between a citizen and the nation in order for the citizen to be an authentic bearer of the nation within himself? In other words, what makes me or anyone a German? Is it the language, the passport, a sentiment, an ideology? Is it the colour, the genealogical inheritance, both of which I lack? Is it a ‘way’ of doing things, of seeing things, of feeling things? What is the difference between those who want to keep it the way it is or was, according to their perception, and those who want to change it? And, for those who want to change it: Along what lines do they want to change it? These are terse fields of even if unspoken conflict, and they stir deep passions, especially in these days of the re-solidifying in large numbers of a political machinery of minds that seems to want to define Germanhood solely in terms that exclude anything not of ancient aryan or germanistic culture in its primordial origin.

However, as with everything to do with elementary outworkings of our Humanness, the answer cannot be derived within the drawn borders of the issue at stake alone, because some qualities are neither African nor Asian, nor White nor Red, but are simply basic attributes of human nature and human character, intermittently spotted across history in different peoples at different times to various degrees of expression. However, at various points in time in the seemingly never-ending process of development, groups of people begin to congeal around similar thoughts and characteristics, in the face of similar challenges and experiences, assuming linked group identities. And Nations take shape. The shape-taking never ends, as history attests to, and the global forces at play today put particular, in the entirety of its effects yet unknown, pressures on the process of identity-seeking of nations in the future.

And for the answer to this question – what makes me a German? – there is no logical intellectual formulation of requirements that can express something that exists deep within the soul. The very fact that in order to make this brief literary excursion into reflection, I availed myself of the distance and perspective offered by a foreign language, touches on the Heisenberg-like puzzle that is embedded in any personal attempt at national self-reflection of this nature.

3. A COMMON GROUND

When a society has many living parts, and the parts are not only different each from the others, but indeed stand sometimes in stark contrast to one another, what then is the binding element that holds that society together in a way that brings it together to keep it together, to preserve and protect it, to press forward towards its development in a way that respects human life and human rights and furthers human feeling of belonging and sense of justice?

Ultimately, Nations must rise all to the minimum standard as a basis of nation-building whereby the progress of one nation cannot be tied to the detriment of another. This applies, by extension, also to philosophies and ideologies. This then frees the conscience of every earth-citizen from the potential clash of interests that arises from the question: “In a war, which side do you take, if you have multiple nationalities, or married ideologies, or a deep love for both sides?” Because the only humanity that will avoid self-destruction is one in which the minimum ethical standards of nation-building are above the baselines of the selfish interests and extremist ideological deformities that have birthed our wars. That will then be the true era and definition of the United Nations.

This is thus for me the engine room working within the heart of my Germany. It is an ideal that came to light with the transformation that took place after and as a reaction to the Third Reich. It is an idea that there must be a Basic Law that brings out, protects and furthers the best in us, while simultaneously working against the arising and strengthening of that which birthed the evil monstrosity of the past, in whatever form it tries to cloak itself in the future. It is the awareness that a search for this middle line is a pressing duty for a Nation that wants to ensure that humanity does not go extinct within it, but thrives and pushes towards higher levels of inner and outer development. It is a thrust to travel the harder path – that of applying intelligence in the service of the upbuilding of human capabilities, the liberation of human potentials locked within. Nothing is more fulfilling too for a nation, for a people and for each individual.

No nation and no people on Earth today, politically, intellectually and socially, carries within its soul DNA and its ideological database and its collective cultural memory a greater antidote to the poison of destructive nationalism, self-propagandization and xenophobia than the Germans do. No nation can, and no nation should. No nation has a greater potential to find the answer to how to ensure a balance between, on the one hand the integrity of national identity, cultural heritage and spiritual beliefs; and on the other hand the unending movement and transformation of society, inwardly and outwardly, that continuously takes place in human history on Earth; than just the Germans do. In this regard, Germany has the capacity to lead mankind, by how it resolves the puzzle. We live in times that bring new – or old – responses and solutions to life’s questions.

Be it Arminius and the Romans, be it Bonifacius and the conversions, be it Karl the Great and Widuking, be it Rotbart and the Crusades, be it Martin Luther and the reformation, be it the bringing of innumerable fiefdoms into one German Kingdom, be it the refereeing of the Scramble for Africa, be it the first or the second World War, be it a peaceful split and a peaceful reunification, be it the Euro, the EU, or now the unprecedented displacement and resettlement of peoples, somehow ever and again Germany seems to be thrust – or to thrust herself – into the midst of some of the most incisive shifts in human history. And in every generation, in every constellation and constitution, those who are a part of it, feel very passionate about it. There is always a sense of making history.

4. NATIONS AS INCUBATORS

Every nation eventually is an Incubator of SOMETHING. For me, that is the definition of Nation – Incubation. What do you, as a nation, by your nature and direction, willy-nilly foster and incubate? What is it that must rise to birth and being as a consequence of your internally lived national character?

It is along these lines that every thinking person defines, or should define, for himself his relationship with the society to which he or she inwardly feels himself or herself to be a living part. What am I taking part in preserving or creating?

5. THE BINDING FORCE

Because somewhere down the line, there is only one thing that holds a society together, in times of change and transformation, of movement and uncertainty, of upheavals and tension. It is something stored in the hearts of those who are the parts of that society, who ARE that society. It is the one unifying thing, the point at which every concerned member of that society, no matter how different they each are, all become similar, united in that one intuition. There is one thing they all feel for that society, and it is the one thing that keeps that society together. One simple thing: LOVE.

It is Love that holds a society together – the love the people all individually feel for their society.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

MENSCHENGEIST

Kann man ohne politisch zu sein trotzdem den Zeitgeist treffen, spiegeln, sogar beleben, treiben, lenken? Kann man in seinen Handlungen, auch wenn sie weder politisch noch politisch-motiviert sind, Lösungen entsprechen, die jenseits der Findungsmöglichkeit aller formellen und informellen politischen Bestreben liegen?

Das politische und politisierte Ausleben vom individuellen und Gruppen-Innenleben, so scheinbar unvermeidbar und wichtig es ist – … manchmal kommt mir vor, als fahren wir im grossen Kreis von Generation zu Generation und nennen es Fortschritt. Wir haben jedoch irgendwo drinnen in jedem von uns auch ein nicht-politisches Teil. Wir spüren es, fühlen uns aber unsicher darüber, wie und in wie weit wir es zur Geltung kommen lassen dürfen oder können. Denn die politisch-gepolten Stimmen raten uns stets davor ab. Irgendwann wissen wir dann gar nicht mehr, wie das geht.

Als ich im Internat in Lagos war, von ’85 – ’91, hatten wir Mitschüler, Muslime, aus dem fernen nigerianischen Norden. Am Anfang waren wir alle 11-jährige Kinder. Doch als wir 16, 17, wurden, in den letzten Jahren, Monaten und Semestern vor dem Schulabschluss, spürte man es. Einige von ihnen wurden irgendwann in den Ferien anders, glaubensgerecht, sozialisiert, grenzten sich unmerklich bei aller Freundlichkeit ab, sprachen häufiger mit einander in ihrer Sprache, beteten ernsthafter, reagierten empfindlich auf religiöse Themen; ‘wussten’, wer sie sind. Manche sagten trocken, sie mussten sich ja vor den ‘wiedergeborenen’ Christen Stand halten. Die Wiedergeborenen, die Born-agains. Einst waren auch sie sorgenfreie Schulkinder. Jetzt treffen sie sich abends, reden laut in Zungen und verteilen Plätze in Himmel.

Irgendwann, irgendwo, irgendwie, aus welchem Grund auch immer, wird alles politisch – Religion, Ethnie, Nationalität, Alter, Geschlecht, Ideologie, Sexualität, Bildung, ‘Rasse’, Klassengeist, Gesellschaftswesen, Gesundheitsstand, selbst Sport und Freizeitaktivitäten. Auch dann wenn es sich nicht als politische Parteien ausdrückt – denn das tut es selten. Irgendwann wird trotzdem alles zur Politik oder zum Spielball der Politik.

Da die Politik historisch mit dem Erstehen des Staatswesens oder der Gruppenbildung – welches wiederum im Zusammenhang mit Kriegsführung oder Überlebenskampf und Ausdehnungsbestreben sich bildete – ihre Seele fand, wird sie leider vermutlich immer untrennbar von Auseinandersetzungen sein. Wahrscheinlich aus diesem Grund der Versuch der Relativierung durch die Trennung in ‘gute’ und ‘schlechte’ Politik, die je nach macht-habende oder macht-anstrebende Ideologie stets anders definiert wird. Der Mensch, es wird häufig behauptet, ist einfach und grundsätzlich ein politisches Tier.

Doch in dem Augenblick, wo das System zu überhitzen oder zu überkochen droht und alles außer Kontrolle gerät, da spaltet sich die Menschheit bei den entscheidenden Lebensfragen in zwei grundunterschiedlichen Gruppen. – Die eine grabt sich noch tiefer in sein politisches Wesen hinein, greift nach dem Urgefühl seines sozio-politischen oder politico-ideologischen Verstandes zurück und sucht dadrin Halt, Schutz und Orientierung.

Die andere befreit sich Licht suchend von allen Deutungen, Hetzereien und Debatten und tastet wieder nach dem Funke der eigenen nicht-politischen Inneren Stimme, nach seinem eigenen freien und unbeeinflussten Menschengeiste.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

I Don’t Run With The Crowd

I don’t run with the crowd.

When I got into secondary school, King’s College, at the age of 11, all of us wanted to each be the fastest runner. It’s in the nature of kids. Including me. But, to my disappointment, I was not a fast runner. Then my school father Emeka Udezue told me, “You look like a jumper. We have nobody to fill the second Triple Jump slot for juniors, because nobody wants to do or learn the Triple Jump. Anokwuru is our only jumper for now. Why don’t you fill the gap and become the second jumper? Every point counts.” I agreed, and learned the Triple Jump one day before interhouse sports and then competed in it. Anokwuru got the Gold and 4 points for Pane’s House. I came fourth and got 1 point for Pane’s House. That year Pane’s House won the Interhouse Sports Competition by just 1 point.
My school father said excitedly: “See what I told you!” And I internalized three valuable lessons in life.

1: Embrace what others avoid. The seemingly uninteresting. The difficult. The unsung.
2: Every point counts.
3: That which seems inconsequential and even like a failure at the start, might be what provides the complement that makes the difference in the end.

From then on, I concentrated on Triple Jump, and also added High Jump to it.

Five years later, in my last year in secondary school, the cycle closed. The scene was the National Interschool FedCol Games 1991. All the 45 Federal Government Colleges from all over Nigeria converged in Illorin for the competition. Again the stars were the fastest runners. The track events pulled the crowds. Every school wanted to produce the 100m champion! One got the impression that the Field events (jumping, throwing, etc) was not interesting to some sports teachers.
If there was any event even more unattractive to the students than Triple Jump, it was Discus. But this was exactly the event which Ekeinde Ohiwerei had practiced and mastered during our six years in King’s College. He wasn’t fast and he could not jump high, but he threw a mean Discus. And he threw his Discus and got the Gold for K.C.
Chukuka Chukuma was next. He too was uninterested in the sprints and had focused on what he could do well. He picked up his Javelin and speared a Silver medal for K.C.
Like Ekeinde, Chukuka too was not a crowd-runner.
Then I stepped up to my signature event, the Triple Jump. To my shock and surprise, all my six attempts were better than the second placed person. I got the Gold for K.C. – and my mind went back to my school-father Emeka Udezue and the day he told me to learn the Triple Jump, because I can jump and every point counts.
After that came the High Jump. I was up against a great jumper from Waffi, a dark wiry fellow called Toju. He had springs in his heels. We were the only two left in the end. When I missed, he missed. When I jumped the bar, he jumped the bar. On and on, back and forth. The officiators grew impatient, because they were waiting for the High Jump to finish in order to do the final event, the 4 x 400m relay and then end the games before sunset. So they started pressuring us to “Jump quickly! Jump quickly!” hoping one person would miss. I resisted the pressure, because… “every point counts”. But the pressure got to Toju. I took my time and scaled the last bar. He rushed.. and missed, and crashed the bar. That was one more Gold for K.C.
Then came the surprise of the day. The 4 x 400m relay event. It was the last. It was our chance and we threw everything at it. Dike Ugonna, Femi Sholesi, Sanusi Gambo and myself. We just ran like there was a devil after us – and we won the Silver medal. Our only sprint medal at the competition.

The real shock came when the final overall results were tallied. King’s College had won the overall first position. Everybody was baffled. They had only been calculating which schools won the sprint events. Most people’s attention had been on the sprint events. Very few people had taken cognisance of us as we were winning our “uninteresting” field events. And that’s how we climbed to the top. While 40 schools were busy fighting for 7 sprint events, we were calmly taking the road less travelled. And it led us home. We won by a single medal.

1: Embrace what others avoid.
2: Every point counts.
3: What seems unimportant at the start might be the deal-clincher in the end.

You don’t have to run with the crowd. But, if you do, may your fellow bandits be people who also have the foresight and the discipline to go their own path when necessary, even if it be a separate path.

And when you have friends or family members or partners who choose or are forced to take the road less travelled in life, show them the value in it, and encourage them to do it – and do it well. Because we are always a part of a greater endeavour, … and Every Point Counts.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

MANDELA, SOUTH-SUDAN, AND AFRICA (8)

(Lessons from the first (mis)steps following modern Africa’s independence)

Next to South Africa and Rhodesia, the Portuguese colonies remained for many years a rallying magnet of panafrican liberation passions and efforts. In the seventies, as a result of sustained armed resistance, coupled with a sharp socio-political mood swing in Portugal, they eventually got their independence. But even they did not fare much better in the management of the riddles of independence. In oil-rich Angola, for instance, three groups had engaged in the colonial war against Portugal. As independence approached, they each laid claim to the leadership of the country and proved unable to recognise the gravity of the situation. They failed to bring up the serious will to negotiate a difficult but necessary compromise on power sharing, of anchoring the principles of democracy as well as building the institutions that support it. Instead they turned their guns on each other and, with the same fervour with which they had fought a patriotic colonial war, plunged the country into a selfish and unpatriotic civil war. Shamelessly, each side called upon both sides of the Iron Curtain for arms and help, to help them kill their fellow Angolans. The U.S. sent arms and European mercenaries, the U.S.S.R sent arms and heavy artillery, China sent arms and logistics support, Cuba sent training instructors and special forces, apartheid South Africa – launching from its South West Africa base – sent whole columns of fighting troops, Zaire and Zambia sent advice and moral support. And the Angolans made war on each other. Angola, who had just obtained liberation from Portugal, made herself into a proxy battle theatre for the Cold War, with a mix of apartheid strategic interests. Angola thereafter became the reaping fields of decades of internal unrest.

These are just a few examples. The list goes on, of historical examples of what happens when independence or liberation are not followed by the constitutional upbuilding of a political system, rooted in conciliation, unification and equitable sharing of power, to which the leadership – terminal and law-abiding – submits itself; leadership by example. Guinea, Libya, Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Burundi – … fill in the blanks – all also went a similar way. Or be it even capitalist Kenyatta in Kenya who ruled for fifteen years until he died in Office; or socialist Nyerere in Tanzania who ruled for twenty-four years before handing over to a hand-picked successor; or Senghor in Senegal who bowed out only after twenty years and five terms in office; or Kaunda in Zambia who relinquished power after twenty-seven long years as President – all strong personalities during whose tenures, like with Houphouët-Boigny, their countries avoided the violent descent into some of the extreme forms of chaos that manifested in some other countries – their reigns nevertheless all exhibit one common feature, homogeneous with the rest of the continent. The long, autocratic nature of these foundational presidential tenures or regimes in Africa undermined the nurturing of a democratic political tradition of broad parliamentary participation, separation of powers, the cycle of free elections, change of governments and regimes, rotation and sharing of responsibilities. For more than two decades after independence, the military held Algeria in the iron grip of a one-party dictatorship that controlled political, cultural, social, religious and intellectual life, but offered no solution to the pertinent Algerian riddles. The french-algerian question, the Algerian-Berber question, the military-democracy question, the religion-state question. All these conflicts tormented the soul of the nation. Every side is convinced of its own superiority, even to this day. The concept of a solution that contains – voluntarily – a bit of everything, remains, for many, a challenge in contradiction.

“You have inherited a jewel. Keep it that way.” These were the words of advice that Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere is reported to have given to Robert Mugabe as he became the first democratically elected leader of the new free state of Zimbabwe. And yet… even Zimbabwe, which, dropping the oppression-name Rhodesia, became free and independent a full twenty years after the African year of independence, did not learn anything from the events of those two previous decades. As though Africa had no recent history from which she could learn, Zimbabwe promptly repeated the mistakes of other African nations before her. Robert Mugabe had been in power for ten long years by the time Mandela was released from prison in 1990; for fourteen years by the time Mandela became president of South Africa; for nineteen years by the time Mandela stepped down; and is still the leader of Zimbabwe even today, after Mandela’s death. In the year 2014 Robert Mugabe celebrated his ninetieth birthday, and yet, despite internal and external pressures on him to let go of power, in the face of decades-long manifold accusations of bigotry, nepotism, oppression and bias, he continues to insist on the perpetuation of himself in office. In quiet moments what must he think when he reflects upon how his friend and mate – Mandela – handled his own country’s transition? Mugabe himself was also once a freedom fighter who endured eleven years of imprisonment at the hands of his people’s oppressors before independence. Yet, when he became president of a liberated Zimbabwe, he also ended up squandering the momentum of independence, doing everything other than create a broad-based conciliatory democratic upbuilding that could have harnessed all the strengths and potential of this great country’s diverse peoples. Today he presides over an impoverished, divided, isolated, tense Nation.

… continued in Part 9

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

MANDELA, SOUTH-SUDAN, AND AFRICA (6)

(Lessons from the first (mis)steps following modern Africa’s independence)

Nigeria’s case, considering her human and natural resource potential, is especially pathetic. One of the most mineral rich countries in the whole world and probably the most educated nation-space in Africa, high hopes were pinned on her future. Before he died in 1946, Herbert Macaulay had already for more than two decades championed, stoked the fires and laid the political foundations of Nigerian nationalism. But Nigeria’s greatest strength was also her most paralysing weakness: Diversity in number. A mind-blowing total of over three hundred tribes speaking as many or more languages, additionally split between Christians, Muslims and Animists, with a long pre-colonial history of competition, are indigenous to the most populous black country on earth. As victory in the push for 1960 independence from British rule approached, politics blatantly and shamelessly degenerated into ethno-regional-religious do-or-die contests. Macaulay’s successor, Zik of Africa, eventually abandoned the national canvas and, following the examples of the other regional leaders, retreated into ethno-regional partisanship. From all sides of the federation the message was clear and unambiguous: Pan-nationalism and one-nigerianness were henceforth dead and buried. Political leaders, including the Prime Minister, were seen each by the other regions as simply representing the interests of their regions, tribes or religions. From then on, the Nigeria project became purely a treacherous, mistrustful, coalition poker, a serpentine dance on shifting sands, a volatile cake to be unevenly divided or stolen whole, a mad dash for power. Corruption and selfishness flourished. Nigeria’s stupendous mineral wealth turned into a curse. In the contest for political, economic, resource and military advantage, there was no loud, strong, unifying, pacifying, blending voice. Instead there was a deafening dearth of Will to see themselves as one great people, to detribalise and de-religionise the nation-space, to inculcate national values, to forfeit any right-to-rule mentality, to foster trust amongst one another. There was no leadership effort to awaken in the peoples a sense of being one people, a purpose to being one people, a will to become one people in an equity-based democratic independent African nation. Like an unstable atom, Nigeria wobbled and broke down. Rigged elections, violence, coups, pogroms, civil war, military dictatorships, failed democracies, tribalism, religious violence, calls for cessation from all sides, annulled elections, distrust, disunity, accusations and counter-accusations, all underlined by corruption and financed by Nigeria’s oil reserves – this would consequently be Nigeria’s fate for the next forty years after independence. Wounds and positions from the past still plague the national dialogue, unreconciled, even to this day. Great problems need great minds. Great opportunities require great courage. On independence morning, Nigeria’s leaders proved themselves unable to dream big and visionary, to grasp the spear of destiny inadvertently handed to this unique black nation and to overcome the temptations of regionalism. Nobody was willing to be the one to forfeit regionalism in the interest of nation-building. No-one was brave enough to bell the cat.

Congo, another stupendously mineral-wealthy country, did not even make it past the first few months of independence before intense internal disunities thrust it into the path of civil war, coups and dictatorship. Lumumba, quite simply, never had a chance. Belgian interests and American intelligence were bent on his demise. In the face of outside opposition, the only chance of survival anybody ever has is the unity, support and backing of his people. But, of all the independence era African leaders, probably none was a greater victim of the internal disunity of his country’s tribes and peoples than was Patrice Lumumba. But he was not victim alone. His fiery, fearless and forthright nature – his greatest asset as a freedom fighter and anti-imperialist champion of independence – became his tragic, if heroic, Achilles’ heel once the Congo attained independence and was left to itself, with him as its executive head. Not reconciliation and de-escalation were his modus operandi – such were not in his revolutionary nature. His message was resistance, retaliation, elimination and conquest. His fazit: Congo was full of local and foreign enemies, and they all had to be eliminated or booted out. Fullstop. When the U.N. – whose peace-keeping troops had, at his behest, come into his country with lightning speed – seemed unwilling to help him squash his enemies in the manner he desired, he loudly turned to communist Russia for help, inadvertently touching a raw nerve in global Cold War politics. He was punching way above his weight. Thus, his fate – and that of the Congo – was sealed right from the start. His fellow Congolese, aided by Belgian troops, captured him, held him without trial, tortured and executed him, and hacked his body to pieces; but that too brought no peace. The rest is history. The Congo, alias Zaire, has since then been the plaything of coups, interventions and dictatorships, the most infamous – but not last – of which was under Mobutu Sese Seko. After once suffering and surviving the dark horrors of Belgian oppression and exploitation, the mineral-rich Congo today still remains a tricky multi-ethnic hotbed of internecine guerrilla activity, civil war and internal disunity.

Independence, again and again, is followed by national disorientation and national soul-searching, by disagreements, civil strife and civil war. Even after the fight for political liberation has been won, the acteurs march on in the same spirit of war – hunting saboteurs, persecuting opponents, sidelining adversaries, undermining competition, underdeveloping out-of-favour regions, and taking revenge on defeated former oppressors. In Africa, rather than triggering a united, popular, constructive march towards self-dependent development, political independence exposed and fed a glaring unwillingness or incapacity to unite, to make use of the various strengths of the various components of the nation, to apply the pragmatic common sense and make the tough sacrifices and compromises required to achieve a functional political unity. What became visible was a frightening failure to grasp the concept of the one, big, strong, united Whole, shared by everybody and not just dominated one-sidedly by a few. An integrated Whole to which, and for which, each individual is responsible and free. Instead, under the conditions as they were, all that could flourish were OPPRESSION and CORRUPTION, DISTRUST, CONFLICT and, eventually, DISINTEGRATION. Independence, in the cruel irony of the ways of fate, brought with it more challenges than colonialism ever faced us with, and we were not prepared for them at all. Just like today, despite the benefit of historical hindsight, South Sudan also was not prepared for the internally disruptive forces that are always set free by independence.

… continued in PART 7

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five