GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE

It is an illusion that Government can save Nigeria. All government can do is more or less throw its weight behind either the fair redistribution of our national wealth or not.

This thing we call “our wealth” however is our biggest self-deception, because we did not create it and do not truly posess it. We simply take what Nature made and sell it and pocket the money without even giving any part of it back to nature.
We then stash away the bulk of this money and share a small part amongst ourselves and use the little rest for “business”. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is inventing itself AWAY from fossil fuels and a system dependent on it.

Real wealth or poverty lies in the ideas that bubble up in the mind. The only thing that can save Nigeria long term is twofold:
1. To learn to transform by ourselves the bulk of those raw materials stage by stage into the final world-class products that everybody else will need and will queue up to buy.
2. To become a scientifically inventing people and culture who already now think up and excute solutions for the time when oil has finished or become irrelevant. A people who don’t eternally leave the inventing of the future to foreigners. That kind of hardwork and industry awakens new virtues and powers in a people and a culture.

Any government that, in addition to meeting its fundamental security and human rights responsibilities, also supports, engenders and midwives this new path, is a government that truly understands and wants to solve the problem LONG TERM. Any other one is just implementing short-term measures, more or less effectively. But the real danger – eventual contextual Recolonialization – remains.

If the Federal Government cannot or will not do it, either because of ineptitude or corruption or bigotry, then each State Government has to step forward and do what is within its power in the service of modernising its citizens – mentally, morally, materially and technologically.

Even on the level of the Local Government – indeed especially on the level of the LG – can the push towards a transformation of the peoples and their conditions take place.

Going by the level of corruption and desperation and visionlessness on ground now, that might seem just like wishful thinking. But I believe events will make it incredibly obvious that we are marching straight back into subjugation – either at the hands of Islamic Imperialism via a hegemonic section of the Fulani power-holders assisted by their lackeys in the other tribes; or at the hands of White Western Supremacist economic, military and political control; or at the hands of rising Asian globalization of dominance spearheaded by the Chinese.

One way or the other we’re going to get it unless we become truly independent and the governments of the Nigerian peoples get right the two points mentioned above, and find a way to tie it into Panafricanism.

Che Chidi Chukwumerije

NEEDED: QUANTUM LEAP IN OUR LIFETIME

Nigeria IS a Crisis.

It‘s been almost 50 years since the civil war ended; … and today someone was dejectedly complaining of being without electricity for 24 hours straight – and of just feeling as if she was still in the civil war devasted Biafra zone where everything broke down under the onslaught of war. Sitting in the dark. Feeling unsafe. Not knowing when the Danger will manifest. But you know it’s out there, coming at you, waiting for you. Nervous about the present and the future. All you have is just your resolve to survive, and the depressing certainty that the difficulties are far from over. You struggle to find hope. Only the super rich can afford a more or less uninterrupted self-supply of the basic necessities. Normalcy becomes a luxury. But this is not Biafra 1969. This is Nigeria 2019. On the day on which you should celebrate in exhilaration, you just feel miserable as you see the state of your country.

Almost 50 years after the Civil War. From Gowon to Murtala to Obasanjo to Shagari to Buhari to Babangida to Shonekan to Abacha to Abdulsalami back to Obasanjo on to Yar‘adua on to Jonathan … back to Buhari. It‘s like we have just gone round in a vicious circle back to darkness and hopelessness and sadness. On Independence Day, on Nigeria‘s 59th Independence Day – and in fact a full 121 years after street lights were first installed in Nigeria – millions of people in Nigerian towns and Nigerian villages are sitting in darkness in their homes on Independence Day 2019. This is Nigeria‘s sad and shameful report card.

People, we need a QUANTUM LEAP forward. But this is the question: Who will trigger it? Who will chaperone and manage it? Who will deliver and anchor it, and safeguard it and programme it with the software of the internal logic of self-perpetuation, so that it will keep on leaping forward henceforth? The people who created Nigeria did not design it for the people who live in Nigeria today. We were not on their minds. Nigeria was designed to function as a Colony, not as a self-governing Entity. At so-called Independence in 1960, the White leadership of that Colony was simply replaced by Black leadership. But a Colony by nature it remained and still remains until today.

And because Nigeria, at its heart, in its design, in its internal logic, and in its set-up, is still a Colony and is still wired like a Colony, it thus lends itself most easily to be conquered by and to be subservient to imperial leadership, to ANY imperial Leadership. And that is why any tribe or clique or gang or cabal that is versed and experienced in the ways of Imperialism will always find it easy – both in military and in civilian times – to work their way into the center of government and snatch the power and keep it to themselves, and there will be no mechanisms or dynamics or institutions in place to stop them from doing this. Even Democracy by itself will not stop them. Because Nigeria was designed for just this purpose: to be ruled by an Imperialist. The foundational nature of the animal itself, Nigeria, is that it was designed not to be a free King in the jungle, but to be the broken, driven, crazed and manipulated servant of an Imperator. Always remember this. This will explain to you why power, real power, always keeps returning to or remaining with a certain type of people. This is the DNA of Nigeria. Imperialists understand this. Republicans don‘t.

Until this system is broken up, a new kind of nation-being will not break through from our midst. A new kind of leadership will find no space to emerge. A new philosophy of followership will not be able to manifest itself. The united upbuilding will not take place. We all feel the right way things should be done – but the system just keeps on sabotaging every new attempt to correct Nigeria.

How much longer can Nigeria bear the weight of this chain? The World is galloping ahead. And one day the difference between where Nigeria is and where Nigeria should be, will tear Nigeria apart. If it ever comes to that, which would be the worst catastrophe that would have ever hit Africa, then, from the broken parts left behind, Biafra will strive again to rise again out of the darkness into which war once plunged her, rise again, rise up like the Rising Sun.

And I bet you, others will do the same too. Unless Nigeria can make that Quantum Leap, in our lifetime, away from the imperialism-prone colony-at-heart country she still is, and restructure herself into a balanced continuum that liberates her peoples’ internal powers of invention, organisation, self-correction and equal-footed association which can propel her forward. Forward into that future that is about to leave us behind.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije

NIGERIA: SERVING TWO MASTERS

Nigeria, by and large, was conquered and colonised TWICE – by Islamic Arabic Imperialism and by Judeo-Christian Western Imperialism.

But when Nigeria fought for Independence, it only fought for Independence against Western Imperialism and not against Arab Imperialism.
That is why the soul of Nigeria has divided loyalties today. Many Nigerians who consider themselves free and independent today are only independent (partly) from Western Imperialism, and not from Arabian Imperialism which – like the green snake in the green grass – is deeper, stealthier and more inchoate and not bound into a concrete, easily dismantable State-form.
While Nigeria battled back right from independence with the consequences of this subtle lack-of-freedom, Western imperialism quietly returned in the form of neo-colonialism.
Until Nigeria – and indeed Black Africa – is politically, economically and ideologically free of both the WEST AND the EAST (Middle & Far East), it will never be able to develop. It will always remain a puppet on a string and a pawn in a game being played by others.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije

BUHARI: THE BETRAYAL OF PANAFRICANISM AND BLACK UNITY IN NIGERIA

1. MERITOCRACY VS FEDERAL CHARACTER PRINCIPLE

The most significant development that came out of colonialism was that it not only lent urgency, and a reason, to indigenous African ethnic nations to forge – amongst themselves – deeper and more effective bonds of solidarity in the face of the expediency of warding off external exploitative and appropriative incursions; but even more importantly it delivered a rough, even if imperfect, template for this bonding to take place. This template are the colonially born nation-states that are commonly drawn on the map of Africa today. They constitute the member states of the organisation, once called the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), but now known as the African Union (AU), and are generally referred to as “African” countries. Colonialism thus not only kickstarted, catalyzed and accelerated Panafricanism, but it also influenced its nature and direction, and straitjacketed it into ready-made, albeit externally created, nation-forms.

In order for this Panafricanism to work, however, on this imperfect externally orchestrated template, one thing was needed, more importantly maybe than even friendship – and that thing is: TRUST. In Nigeria, for instance, in order to give as little room as possible to the sentiments of ethnic marginalisation and systemic partiality – the most lethal killers of pragmatic inter-ethnic trust – a practical compromise was reached; something called the Federal Character principle. It simply means that access to power is distributed in such a way that the different regions and religions that make up the country always have a representative at the table. The grand organigramm of power is – or was – or should be – a rough reflection of the actual internal ethno-religious map of the federation.

The Federal Character principle, significantly, finds application not only in the corridors of power and civil service, but – more contentiously – also in the education system where it often goes by its nickname “the Quota System”. The aim here is to stop one part of the country from falling behind educationally or to help them to catch up with other parts who have long raced ahead in the acquisition of western-brought education. According to the Quota System, students from the South who score high marks are not all admitted into secondary or tertiary Schools. Instead, some of them are rejected in favour of students from the North who have scored much lower marks.

The Federeal Character principle has many bitter opponents . Many neutral-minded and objective thinkers have never been a fan of it. They consider it not only inherently unjust but believe also that it denies the country access to her best minds and brightest talents, and exchanges the policy of unconditional progress for the politics of “settling for less”, which in turn breeds patronism, cronyism and nepotism, and holds the country back. They argue instead for the principle of MERITOCRACY. Let the best person do the Job, irrespective of his or her ethno-religious camp. The quintessence of their argument is that just this adherence to meritocracy – rather than concessions – will spur the weaker to work harder, bring out the best in them, and make them catch up with the stronger, thus enriching the Nation, even as it is being driven forward by its brightest, meritocratically chosen, talents.

The Federal Character principle, however, also has many passionate supporters. Indeed, there are pragmatic nation-minders who argue that a fragile, historically rootless, construction like Nigeria is, has not yet arrived at the robust generational inter-ethnic state of fusion and maturity, that equilibrium of development, which will allow her to bear the weight of systemic Meritocracy on a grand objective scale. And, even more importantly, she has not yet developed and entrenched the dynamics and the institutions to ensure, to monitor and to protect meritocratic processes in order to prevent them from being one-sidedly hijacked and distorted in the service of the attainment of the sectional goals of those currently in power – who may choose to appoint only those from their region and religion and claim it is because they are the best, without there being any institutionalised and impartial system for cross-checking or validating this assertion as well as countering, correcting and punishing it if proven false.

The basis of their insistence on the pragmnatism of a Federal Character principle as the necessary interim bridge to chaperone Nigeria onto the stable shores of a capacity for true meritocracy in some future generation, is the fact that before Nigeria was created, her constituent ethnic nationalities already existed, right here. Some were ignorant of some others; some existed in alliance with one another; some were locked in violent existential wars against each other; and some oscillated between friendship and enmity, for decades and centuries already. In other words, the Nigerian novel has a deep, manifold backstory – and Mungo Park hardly features in it.

Probably the most significant conflict that was taking place within the area of today’s Nigeria as at that time when the British made their intrusive imperialistic grab at this part of West Africa, were the Fulani Sultanate’s jihadistic wars against the nations to the South. The Fulani, a nomadic People of mainly Islamic religion, had already earlier invaded, conquered, colonized and converted the Hausa and a number of other nations in what is now Northern Nigeria. Moving further South they were locked in a back-and-forth war of oscillating fortunes with the Yoruba – another great Nation situated mainly in what is now the south-west of Nigeria – when the British arrived and plunged into the mix with their multi-pronged Arsenal of Military, Religion, Commerce, Diplomacy and new-type Education.

But then, after succeeding in gradually conquering, pacifying and appropriating that entire area now known as Nigeria, the British themselves finally succumbed to a combination of a negotiated concerted “independence” push by the ethnic peoples of that area, favorably assisted by the general wind of change after World War 2, and handed over this new country Nigeria to the indigenous African citizens of Nigeria – a geopolitical landmass, beneath the surface lattice-work of which the old alliances and conflicts, the networks of dynasties, the sentiments, prejudices and the interrupted wars, were all still festering, on the one hand. On the other hand, there was born in a few hearts a budding awakening of and even a longing for a sense of “one-nigeria-ness”.

Bear in mind: sovereignity was not individually handed back to, or won back by, the actual indigenous African nations from whom it was taken away, some of whom continue to long and strive for it until today. Instead a kind of collective authority was transfered to a newly patched up entity called Nigeria, within the geographical boundaries of which the original African nations remain to be found. The ancient African nations however are, paradoxically, not themselves directly the constituent administrative regions of Nigeria, although they exist within and across them, and they influence the context within which these administrative Units are carved out. Once upon a time, these units were, for instance, North, South and Lagos; later they were North, West, Mid-west, East. Today they are the 36 States: Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Bauchi, etc …

Not only was this sovereignity transfered to a new umbrella Nation, but also this new Nation was of the making and design, not of the Africans themselves, but of the colonizing force. One could thus say that Nigeria is a software or a robot through which an originally foreign volition, detached from its issuer and now mangled up with local intent, continues to feed its Frankenstein, mix up the African mind and strongly influence our affairs, positively and negatively. This has been the trigger of many key reactionary events in Nigerian history, all of which bear the stamp of an attempt at “Re-Africanisation” and – more importantly “Re-Sovereignization” of our space. It was what led later to the famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) Indigenization Decree of 1972. It was what led earlier to the push for Independence. And it was what provided the Canon fodder for the Biafran Conflict, where a reactionary African attempt to craft their own smaller-sized umbrella Nation made up of indigenous neighbourly African peoples was met with Military resistance by the Northern-led, British-powered Nigerian government. Nigeria, like ‘Skynet’, had become self-aware – within the same space in which the individual indigenous actual ancient African nations and Peoples also exist and also remain self-aware. Two uneasy souls in one restless restive Body.

Against these kinds of backdrop, the Federal Character principle was devised, as a compromise, a soft landing pad to further inclusion, moderation and the gradual social engineering of this new country Nigeria towards becoming an actual African new Nation of a united people of shared loyalty, trust and harmonized aspirations. Whatever intuitions of injustice were awakened by the Quota System were supposed to be mitigated by the appealing to a noble sense of sacrifice needed for the attainment of an internally balanced nation whose inner parts are helped to gear into a foundational equal-paced development.

Within this context then, the championers of Meritocracy have allowed themselves to be slightly pacified even while they continue to argue its case. They see in meritocracy, if and when attained and popularly accepted and expected, the final proof and guarantee of matured nationhood and progress. Thus they continue to push for the establishment of the institutions and systemic dynamics that will one day power, oversee and protect Meritocracy as an operating principle in our national socio-polity.

However, between these two terminals of Quota and Meritocracy, a danger lurked. A weakness lay in the system, always exploitable by the Executive arm of government, and just waiting for an unscrupulous mind who would be the first to dann the consequences and do it. And then came ex-General Muhammadu Buhari…

2. BUHARI, PANAFRICANISM, AND A BROKEN TRUST

In the many decades of Nigeria’s independent existence, through all her ups and downs, crises and vicissitudes, the Federal Character principle has been one stabilizer that every leader and every government in power – civilian or military – has always tried to (be seen to) tactfully and sensitively take into consideration while trying to steer the unwieldy and complex ship of state of this most populous and most diverse Black nation on earth. – Until now.

Today, for the first time in her history, this new nation called Nigeria finds herself in the grip of a (democratically elected!) Northern Muslim Fulani President who has openly, callously and with brutal impunity advanced almost only members of his own clan or ethno-religious umbrella-region into the most important organs of state and government. He has done this with a thoroughness, on a scale and with a scope that is staggering and unprecedented in the history of Nigeria, and has sent shock waves into the depths of the political psyche of the rest of the country and informed observers outside the country. This in turn has triggered a reawakening and a strengthening of irridentist ethnic sensitivities and loyalties on the one hand. On the other hand it has revealed the plane of conflict on which the real challenges to Panafricanism really lie.

The real conflicts are and remain on the level of that political existence for which there is no consensual political or apolitical organ of membership or conflict Resolution: the ethnic plane. The further addition of religion into this mix complexifies it into the ethno-religios plane. And this is the level on which a serious and unprecedented breach of trust has occured and is currently continuing in a troubled Nigeria. A sitting president has disponented the executing of the bully pulpit not according to either (even a semblance of) the federal character principle or the principle of objective meritocracy, but has placed the Country under the effective stranglehold of his own ethno-religious base. And then has rubbed salt into the wound by mockingly suggesting that he is simply being meritocratic. His people – the people from his own ethno-religions clan – are the best. This is the blatant, callous, mocking bigoted assertion he is sending out. He is using this vehicle, Nigeria, to continue the Fulani jihadistic imperialistic war that had once been interrupted by the very bringers of this same Nigeria. What a brilliantly ironic stroke of genius! The faint promise of Panafricanism has been thrown out of the window by a primitive yank back into feudalism.

In other words, an African has with the powers of an externally created modern African nation sought to subjugate other ancient African nations and bring them under the dominion of his own ancient African nation. Democracy, which should liberate and protect, has become the cruel weapon of a jailer and an enslaver because the world and all processes will always support a democratically elected leader, even if he is using democracy as the smoke screen and instrument with which to dismantle that very same democracy itself. Put metaphorically: a house negro has pointed the massa’s gun at the field negroes and tried to impose himself as the new master over them. And nobody can stop him. This is a low blow of such shameless proportions, a betrayal of such callous dimensions, that it takes a while to really believe that you are actually seeing what you are indeed seeing. This truly is the very betrayal of Panafricanism itself. Nobody should aspire for leadership in Nigeria, or indeed in any African country, who has lost sight of, or never had his gaze on, the bigger picture of African inter-ethnic unity and inter-tribal fraternity. This is what the Buhari presidency in Nigeria is teaching us very succinctly.

Africans need to understand again, or at last, the meaning, the true meaning, value and importance of Panafricanism. Young muslims need to rise against muslim leaders who are not panafricanistic in their message, in their method and in their goals. Members of all ethnic groups need to rise against their ethnic leaders when these deviate from the spirit and purpose of Panafricanism. Christian followers need to turn against their leaders when these betray panafricanism in their pontifications and way of life. Panafricanism is the only socio-cultural, political and economic engine that can lift Africa up. Panafricanism simply means that Africans, in a state of united mass eureka, discover, rediscover and believe in their own worth as creative, noble and highly developed human spirits who have all it takes, and the responsibility as well, to create, run and manage their own highly developed self-contained Universe and continuum. Their own First World. You must have the greatness of spirit to believe this, or you will never achieve it because you will never even have the guts to attempt it; the thought to do so will not even occur to you as a realistic thought. Until you have the greatness of spirit to really believe that you, too, are first among equals. And when you start to believe this, when you start to really believe it, then you will stop proclaiming it – and instead you will start to PROVE IT, by practicing and executing it.

It cannot be, that an African leader has the guts or ever tries again to use the cover of a colonially born state to advance only the cause of his or her own ethnic nation or ethno-religious base – thereby betraying the spirit of Panafricanism. Never again! Not in his or her appointments. Not in his or her policies. Not in the projects that he or she pushes through and accomplishes. Never again! Panafricanism or nothing. Yes, because without Panafricanism, Africa is nothing.

Why are African youths dying in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to flee Africa? Only to get to Europe to be subjected to the disgust and rejection of a European racial class whose internal color code has already condemned Blacks to being the footmat in every context, even before they arrive. And the more value you have, the stronger the socio-political determination to keep you down. And this is what our desperate youths, full of hopes in their hearts, are fleeing to? Where are the presidents, the true Panafrican leaders, who will step up and say – No! – Africa must become an Eden for Africans, one from which there shall be no banishing? Where are the presidents, the true Panafrican leaders, who will say: If Africans need a refuge, they will find it here – right here – in Africa? We will make sure of that!

Is it Buhari? Is it Biya? Is it Bouteflika? Is it Kabila? Is it Kagame? Is it Ramaphosa? Is it Museveni? Is it Uhuru Kenyatta? Is it Akufo-Addo? And all the rest of them?? Why have they not done it? While this article is about Nigeria under Buhari, the troubling fact still remains that no African leader yet has stepped up and taken the lead on THIS other topic of mass migration. Africa remains an open sore, whose lifeblood – for lack of perspective at home – is desperately draining away everyday. And the leaders will not come together with a strong voice and firm measures to heal the situation. What has become of Panafricanism? Is it just a word in the wind now, soon to sink into and drown in the Mediteranian Sea?

The grand outer unity, which is the bedrock of Panafricanism, cannot take place because internally – within the so-called African countries – inter-tribal fraternity has not yet been established, has not yet been even truly strived for. The tribes are the real political building blocks of Africa, not the colonially created nations, and we all know it. We just like to deceive ourselves and pretend as if we want to make progress, when we come together as so-called African nations in the AU and give long speeches. Then we go back home and continue to kill Panafricanism everyday by using the State Might of the modern African nation to benefit only our own individual ethnic or ethno-religious base, and crush or systemically disempower the others.

This must stop in Africa! This is where our real political struggle lies. Taking our continent out of the hands of internal Pharaohs. Taking our countries out of the hands of ethnic and religious bigots, whether they seem primitive or sophisticated. Study their methods and intentions. And soon you will know the true Panafricanists, and those who only have selfish or ethno-religious intentions and keep the rest divided.

Buhari’s deeper crime is not in the act, but in the intention. His intention was never to use Nigeria as the available template to foster inter-tribal integration and inter-ethnic amalgamation of the African people’s located within her borders. His intention from the start was always to use Nigeria as a weapon to advance the fortunes and power of his own ethno-religious base. By doing this, he not only shamed himself, but also shames every member or supporter of his ethno-religious base who supports this intention and partakes in this murder of the spirit of Panafricanism, in this unending retardation of African development. Buhari is not and was never a Pan-Africanist. Destiny offered him the historic chance to turn Nigeria into a true African (internally cohesive) nation – and he squandered the opportunity. Instead he has turned Nigeria against herself with his clan at the top. In effect, this is his most ingenious, most audacious and most imperious Coup.

He of all people was in a position to do something which would have been much too difficult for anybody else. His past as a Military Leader. His Fulani Islamic roots. His knowledge of the wounds this country has sustained since independence. His 2nd tenure coming sixteen years into the 4th Republic – giving him all hindsight with which to know what to correct. No president before Buhari has been in a stronger position to unite the country. All he had to do was just do just that, unite the Nation, heal her wounds, bring all her parts together harmoniously and encourage participation. Inclusion, not exclusion. Unity, not division. Fatherliness, not grudge-bearing. The ignition of the local Nigerian version of Panafricanism, not the continuation of the insidious well-planned conspiracy of imperious jihadistic tribalism. But he missed this great opportunity, because he lacks the one thing, the most important thing, that thing without which Africa is going nowhere: the spirit and the principles of Panafricanism.

It is sad to see, half a century after the ‘decade of African independence’, the replacement of external colonialism with internal imperialism. The entire journey since independence – has it been in vain?

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

HOW CAN A NON-INVENTING NON-PRODUCER BE INDEPENDENT?

If everything you need for your survival and for your comfort and for your daily living is not made – talk less of imagined, conceptualised and invented – by you, are you truly independent? Or are you dependent on those who invent and manufacture those essentials you need?

If the maintenance of your standard, quality and basis of living is directly dependent upon the fact that there are others somewhere who think out the technology and the systems, and then produce the goods and processes which you then purchase through the exchange of raw materials that per chance exist within the boundaries of your sovereignty, then the very fact of your dependence eliminates all claim of independence.

Because independence cannot exist without self-dependence and self-reliance. Think about it.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

FROM INDEPENDENCE TO SELF-DEPENDENCE

The news around town is that another Nigerian is claiming to have found a cure for AIDS. Again. Social media shakes its head and reminds us of Dr. Abalaka. Lone voices call for more funding, more testing. Experts take a strong look and immediately distance themselves from him. A few days later, he recants and apologises for making public something still in its early phases, according to him. Everybody breathes out; one almost wonders if we’re relieved that pseudo-normalcy has been restored:  Nigerians, indeed Africans, don’t discover or invent anything noteworthy. There is always something more to the story.

But what is actually the essential thing here? As unfortunate as it is that this fiasco played itself out around something as sensitive as this death-dealing virus, it inadvertently brings to light another matter at the core of our continental drift. Be it in medicine, in technology or in any other field necessary for the structural upbuilding of nations. Very simple: how long will we remain dependent on the solution-finding endeavours of others? I thought Independence had another meaning. But since it seems Independence, as a word and a concept, has over the last five decades of Africa’s ‘independence’ surrendered itself to another definition – one that includes inefficiency, beggarliness, corruption, division, non-productivity, squandermania, boastful pride and retrogression – and thereby lost its function as a star drawing our feet forward and a compass showing the way, it has maybe become necessary to temporarily park that word – Independence – in the purifying purgatory of history and replace it with a new-crafted word that more unceremoniously exposes the well-camouflaged wound and slams the nail on the head. A term devoid of poetry and romance, simply being stable and as unmistakably understandable as black-and-white.

A word that very clearly states, describes and defines what we did not get in 1960 when we became independent; nor in 1963 when we became a republic; nor in 1970 when we got the task done of keeping Nigeria one; nor in 1979 when we returned to democracy, new constitution in hand; nor through decades of near-uninterrupted military rule; nor have we found or got it since 1999 when we AGAIN returned to democracy, remixed military constitution again in hand; and even until today we still have not got it. Let us call this word: SELF-DEPENDENCE.

It is the perennial bane of Africa, a continent of people who claim to be the birthpoint of humanity, of civilization and of technology that every modern contraption of essential value which is required for its growth in a modern world, is invented and made on other continents and then freighted into the cradle of civilization at high prices or – even worse – as donations. How many times have we heard the lectures about the great people who built pyramids on the banks of the Nile and then migrated to the banks of the Niger, by which time they had apparently forgotten how to build pyramids because here they started to build huts? Or of the great empire-builders of Mali and Zimbabwe whose descendants, perhaps patronized by the mental version of the tse-tse, steadily slumped into the generational amnesia that rendered them incapable of matching, talk less of outdoing, their forebears?

Truth be told, such tales bore the tears out of me. I’m more interested in other, more recent, exploits, uncelebrated and often greeted with perfunctory yawns of tired amusement at best; but even more often with suspicion, ridicule and denunciation. A tinkering family member of mine and his colleagues designed some new technical thing – don’t ask me what, all I know is that it has to do with computers – but they went ahead and patented it; now some firms want it – apparently it’s the solution they’ve long been looking for. My former secondary school classmate developed with his team a breakthrough procedure for extracting the cells that make up the blood-nerve barrier (if you’re confused, don’t worry, so am I), but it permits an important step forward in understanding peripheral neuropathies, which affects millions of people worldwide.

Some months ago I read of some tenacious eccentric young man in Kaduna State, in northern Nigeria, who has been trying to build a rocket since he was a kid. His last effort did not fly very far, but it flew. The news gave me a thrill. My friend from the south did not know exactly what to make of that piece of news, cautiously asking me in which cardinal direction I thought Boko Haram would first direct that rocket if after the young man ever perfected it, BH stepped in and confiscated it. My answer: don’t worry about that – once one African builds a rocket, another will soon build a magnetic return-to-sender shield. The thirst to invent and build just has to be set free first of all, and encouraged and supported – morally, culturally and financially.

A few years ago I read the amused article of a journalist reporting on another young man, this time in Onitsha in eastern Nigeria, who had designed and built his own version of a helicopter. The writer wondered who would be the first daredevil to attempt a test-flight. And then it was on facebook not long ago that the link to an article was doing the rounds, a report on the scientific tinkering of some secondary school girls in Lagos, in western Nigeria, who had tinkered an electricity generator powered, not by the black curse called petroleum fuel, but by urine. (You read that right). Let’s not go into the jokes people cracked about that. The generator worked, by the way. If you understand anything about the mysterious fuel cabal in Nigeria, you’ll know why this news might cause some powerful people sleepless nights and blocked urethrae.

Tell me more of these stories – these are the ones I like to hear. Why? Simple. How long will we fill our lazy stomachs with the swelling garri of empty pride, back-dated? Must every good thing exist only in some distant dusty past painstakingly reconstructed by dogged historians? What of the future? Who designs it? We don’t need to re-invent the past; we simply have to invent the future. Now, the reason why we should do this, surprisingly enough to the unbelieving, is not even pride. It is more practical than that. It is economic. (The economy, stupid 🙂 ). Long-term sound economics. What is at the core of that which makes a 1st world country a 1st world country? Not the appellage, not the climate, not money, not weapons… but simply the power and the ability to INVENT. The urge as well as the consciousness of the necessity, constantly put into deed, to create new things, to find new self-made solutions, to imagine and anticipate future problems, to constantly improve anything that exists, be it a substance or a process.

If you cannot figure out anything by yourself, you will never be self-dependent and you will never be free, because you will always be dependent on those who do the figuring out and the making. If you cannot make anything by yourself – not just what you yourself need, which in itself would already be a giant step towards self-dependence, but also what others need – you will never be truly independent, because your so-called independence will lack the fortifying ramparts of self-dependence. Every shift in technology is a potential threat to your future stability. You remain constantly one step away from becoming a colony anew. Laugh not at those who warn about neo-colonialism. Political and military independence can be safeguarded long term only by economic self-dependence. And economic self-dependence exists truly only to the extent to which the basis of a people’s, a nation’s or a region’s wealth rests to a large degree on its own capacity for industrial and technological creation. Wealth that comes from the monetary equivalent of fossil fuels stored in the ground by nature’s forces is not real wealth. Real wealth is generated by the power to create or to make (out of something or even out of apparently nothing), to make a needed end-product. Some people call it the power of ideas. I think it’s more than that – we all have ideas. I think it’s the culture of industrial creation; making new things and making things new. Don’t buy everything, build some. Don’t take it, think it.

This is where we have so sorely lagged behind in Sub-Sahara Africa for much too many centuries now. There is no satisfactory excuse for this. We cannot blame others for not giving us the education on time, or in sufficient depth, or spreading it around generously enough without tempering it due to ulterior motives and all the rest of that dialectic, because well they pieced it together and systemized it by themselves, or at least preserved and built upon the documentation and further development of it. We could have also done the same for ourselves over the centuries. All kinds of ethnological theories abound as to why the different continents developed as they did. Well, let bygones be bygones, we are not time-travellers. The moment is now.

Now that we have the knowledge today, why are we still importing the application of it? What will we do when technology shifts away from fossil relics and we no longer have their monetary equivalent with which to pay for the import of new applied intelligence? Is that when we will start trying to learn how to use our own intelligence? Or will we go borrowing from IMF and World Bank? Maybe ‘Independence’ is a pun for a state of living “in dependence”. We need inventors, discoverers and makers, for whatever they imagine and create – or omit to imagine and create – today, is our future tomorrow. We need inventors. Or, to put it differently, we need to identify and, as a matter of public and private policy, indeed as a matter of culture, support our individual inventors specifically and the spirit of invention generally. Institutionalize it even. The cultivation of ideas, the inventing of models, the indigenisation of industry, the manufacture of hardware, the innovation of standards, all this should become a part of our culture.  Put on your time-telescope and peer far into the distance of development: you will see that there is no other road that leads from 3rd World to 1st World.

If there be any Nigerian, indeed any African, in whom the spark of invention, the light of discovery, the visionary eye that sees the future’s questions and answers, the power of innovation and the hunger for creation dwells, then the New African Consciousness must recognise in such a person a rung on the ladder that leads out of the dungeons of dependence. You can only be a part of those who dictate things in the new world if you were one of those who invented and designed that new world.  To set our policy-compass towards the attainment of self-dependence, but also to properly understand the source and anchor of concrete self-dependence in a world increasingly run by the power of ideas, constantly churned into an unending cycle of research and development, this is the nature of the new struggle. The spark of genius rests in the fertile soil of even the most simple mind. Parents, guardians and teachers: encourage your children and wards to join this struggle. Leaders, encourage your people to join this struggle. It is the struggle for self-dependence. Aluta continua.

Once we fought externally for independence. And, according to our definition of it, we got it. But we forgot to also fight internally for self-dependence. Simply put: we became independent, but we never became self-dependent. And it is just like freedom – if you don’t fight for it, you won’t get it. In other words, you cannot get what you have not fought for. You cannot defeat an enemy you have not properly identified. The journey did not end in 1960; it continued: the journey from independence to self-dependence. For what is independence without self-dependence? Nothing. Unsustainable.

And OK, I admit I lied; it’s not just about economics. It’s also a bit about pride. The kind of pride I sensed in a reporter of African descent who I saw on TV not long ago happily interviewing a group of Ugandan university students who had built a functional, beautiful, mobile, modern electric car. The best part was when he asked them why they chose to build an electric car instead of a petrol or diesel engine car. They said, because electric cars are the future. No point building the past.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

KNIGHT’S TRAP

image blitzmaerker/pixabay

I fell into the knight’s trap
Of trying to protect my mother
From my father

Nay
Of seeing things from her point of view
And refusing to look at them from his
Forgetting that he and I are the same –

A feathered castle is the strongest prison –

When I became a man too
Then I knew
That wittingly or unwittingly
She had simply divided father and son
For decades of lifetimes
And
Brought me together with my father
In my heart
Today.

A knight should free the maiden –
But then
Thereafter
He should remember
To free himself too
From the maiden
And ride back home
To his own castle.

Never stay.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

 

image: blitzmaerker/pixabay

MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 9 – (Sharing Power and Passing It On)

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

History is the teacher of the wise. The irony of the squandered momentum of African independence is that many of our first generation independence leaders, like Nyerere, like Nasser, like Nkrumah, like Selasie, Senghor, Houphouët-Boigny, Kenyatta and the list gets longer, were unquestionably deep-thinking, patriotic, well-meaning, ideologically clear, passionately driven and courageous personalities and leaders, conscious of their calling and fired by a sense of mission. Their gravest mistake, however, was the one that Nelson Mandela was determined not to make. They disobeyed a law best expressed by a very simple African proverb: A tree does not make a forest. No matter how deep, great, and whatever other superlative you are, you alone cannot move your country forward. Everybody must be involved. Their deepest error was not economic, ideological or military – it was political. Politically they became, at best, one-sided; at worst, unilateral. But you cannot build upon a divided house. Especially when it is your calling to be the first in a new time. You must chaperone the building of the foundation for the future and lasting peace and unity of your country’s peoples. The most important first step for a newly dependent African country is unification, not divide-and-rule; reconciliation, not vindictiveness; healing of wounds, not continuation of ancient feuds. Like a practised reverse parker, the first duty of anyone who gets into power is – almost contradictorily – to prepare to relinquish that power. Only then will such a one wield that power wisely in all its poignancy and brevity. For power is always brief in the end.

In such a tribal kaleidoscope as Africa is, the primary light filter is unity. Politics derives its strength from unity and solidarity. But the leadership style of practically each of the first and second generation nationalist leaders and regimes in power almost invariably was a one-man or one-group show, authoritarian or dictatorial, forcefully exclusive of all opposition and adversary. Most of them stayed on in power endlessly until either they died there, were killed, overthrown or forced by events to hastily stage-manage a belated exit. The few who were able to avoid serious civil unrest, did it largely by their own mercurial powers of diplomacy, or sometimes by economic policies that uneasily delayed the effects of political disenfranchisement. Economic progress without political integration is a game of Russian roulette. Every downward swing simply reminded the people that they are not united – and each time, they placed the blame on their long-winded leaders. Ultimately even the most devoted, apparently successful leaders also had to make way in order for the democracy experiment to take their place. Democracy’s joke on those who wish to bring progress is that it requires of them, above all, simply to get out of the way. And thereafter to join in and participate in the building and maintaining of a system that ensures that others too, in their own turn will get out of the way also. Politics is not kind to permanent guests.

Re-enter Nelson Mandela, in South Africa – ten years after Zimbabwe, thirty years after the euphoric year of African so-called independence – a sadder and a wiser man. And a more determined one too. If ever, in the wilderness of history, the right person was at the right place at the right time, it was Nelson Mandela. History’s quiet thoughtful student. He knew what needed to be done, and he had the heart, the intellect, the character and the experience to not just do it, but also to inspire his people to go down that road with him. The road of inclusion. The path of reconciliation. The anchoring of democracy. A bold attempt at Peace, unity and democracy. The historical chance that Mugabe, despite the benefit of hindsight, had been unwilling or unable to grasp, Nelson Mandela hungrily and wisely did. Africa needs peace, not war. Upbuilding and liberty, not oppression and suppression. Unification, not fracturisation. Reconciliation, not vengeance. Because if we go down the path of vengeance, there will be no exit from its downward spiral – for everybody has also wronged somebody else irreparably somewhere down the line. But while Africans squabble with one another, the rest of the world is rushing ahead, not waiting for them to get their act together. And now they are encroaching back on Africa, economically, politically, militarily.

Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

… continued in Part 10/11:
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 10 – (Jasmine Revolution and repeated mistakes)

Preceding chapters:
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 1 (Preamble)
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 2 (Egypt’s Modern Pharaohs)
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 3 (Tunisian Troubles, Libyan Losses, Ethiopian Woes)
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 4 (Sudan and South Sudan)
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 5 – (Ghanaian Black Holes & Ivorian Time Bombs)
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 6 – (Nigerian Nightmare & Congolese Chaos)
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 7 (Ugandan Up-n-down)
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 8 – (Angolan Angers, Zimbabwean Tragedy and a host of others)

MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 6 – (Nigerian Nightmare & Congolese Chaos)

(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. Nigeria was not plagued by one lifelong dictator; she was and is plagued by one lifelong streak of power-lust and plunder.

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 as today also, despite the benefit of historical hindsight, South Sudan too was not prepared for the internally disruptive forces that are always set free by independence.

Che Chidi Chukwumerije

… continued in 7 of 11:
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 7 – (Ugandan Up-n-down)

Preceding Chapters:
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 1 (Preamble)
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 2 (Egypt’s Modern Pharaohs)
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 3 (Tunisian Troubles, Libyan Losses, Ethiopian Woes)
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 4 (Sudan and South Sudan)
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 5 – (Ghanaian Black Holes & Ivorian Time Bombs)