REALPOLITIK: AFRICA, THE REAL AFRICA

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African Unity is Inter-ethnic (not Inter-national) in nature. Unlearn Africa. Learn Africa. Know the tribes and ethnic groups, their languages, histories, cultures, sentiments, traditional friends and enemies. Then you will suddenly see the real Africa and the real African boundaries and borders. They are very different from what was left behind by colonialism. Still unresolved.

African peoples and ethnic units, the real ones, not the national mirages. Any African countries that scrap their tribal languages are taking a lazy defeated step backward, not forward; suppressing forces that will still break out one day again – with even greater force. You can not deny Ethnicity in Africa.

But it does not have to divide us. On the contrary: the acknowledgment and knowledge of it helps us to form natural bridges across ethnic lines. This leads to more – and true, natural – peace and understanding. On the other hand, ignoring it has led to us over and again walking blindfolded and naively into pogroms, genocides, wars at worst – or just never-ending fractures at best.

However, in our need to find peace we have often taken the self-destructive path of sand-papering all our ethnic identities away in order to reduce us all into one amorphous history-less post-colonial European-speaking being. But we thereby go backwards, or sideways, not forwards. We lose, in the illusion of gaining. You have to know your tribe and your fellow African’s tribe; and allow the ethnic part of you to forge ties and forms of understanding with the ethnic part of them. Because our ethnic identities is what we on our own developed for ourselves over the course of millennia. They are not just surface-identities and nothing. Our colonial identities, however, were imposed on us and still sit on us like ill-fitting clothes.

It is ironic that when we associate with non-Africans, we make room for differences based on race and ethnicity. We acknowledge their race and take it into account in the bridge we build between us and them. This then smooths the way to a firm relationship and makes it easy for the shared humanity in us and them to link up with each other. But when we progressive Africans are associating with our fellow Africans, we carelessly believe the colonial white-wash of the irrelevance of our original ancient ethnic identities, and we try to build a relationship on an illusory foundation within which we have not yet reciprocally understood and arranged our minor but important ethnic differences according to their natures. But: Once done, harmonisation becomes very easy and in fact inevitable.

One of the reasons why Igbos and Yorubas, for example, quarrel so much and seemingly find it so difficult to unite politically is that they each keep on expecting the other, unconsciously, to be like them. To be the same end-product of colonialism. To be another version of themselves across the Niger. Especially politically. But since this is not the case, they CRITISIZE that which is different in the other. However only when they have have acknowledged and accepted not only the differences, but the fact that it is natural and complimentary to be different, will they – upon then understanding how to harmonise those differences – begin to see their vast Similarities too.

Despite being the victims of the same conditions all over Africa – corruption, mismanagement, abuse-of-power, and indiscipline – yet we find it difficult to form a strong fist to punch against these situations; and we don’t know why, although the answer is staring us in the face and we are living it everyday. We bunch ourselves into our ethnic groups and then say that tribalism is the problem. But tribalism is not the problem, because most people will always be true to their ethnic identity. It is natural. The problem is that the template for African Unity was created by non-Africans for economic purposes – today we call these templates “African Countries” and they are the member states of the so-called AU (formerly called OAU).

However we Africans need to create alternative theaters and templates of unification and conflict-resolution where the ORIGINAL African identities (today called ethnic groups or tribal families) can themselves work out the rules of engagement or disengagement. Then they can do away with Tribal or Ethnic BIAS. Denying this fact will change nothing, as the Realpolitik in Africa will nevertheless calmly continue to run along those lines and be powered by those forces. Thus, there needs to be a theatre and a dynamic where and whereby this reality can interact with itself and sort itself out.

That is what is still missing: an African self-made Inter-Ethnic OAU. An AU of the original ethnic families. Because the truth is this: the different constituent parts of it are already there. Look at Nigeria: Biafra, Arewa, Oduduwa, Bini Cosmos, Middle Belt. Some even extending naturally beyond the borders of Nigeria. They are all there, the true power blocs and centers of force; the true African identities of the Africans living there. Their FIRST socio-political and cultural identity. Nigeria is in this regard only their second identity. But as long as the first identities find no platform to engage according to homogeneity and share power equitably, the second identity will also know no peace and will remain unstable.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije

MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 4 – (Sudan and South Sudan)

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

Those who have a knowledge of post-independent Africa will, sadly, not be surprised by the turn of events in South Sudan today. Macabre, but true. Indeed, they would have expected it and, like Mandela and his team, and they would have prepared for it, to try and avert it. South Sudan’s road to independence has been long and winding. She began her life in the modern African world as a region of an arab-dominated Sudan which was herself the joint colonial property of Egypt and Britain. Even before their first modern independence – that of Sudan from Egypt and Britain – Sudan was divided into an arab-speaking islamic north on the one hand, and on the other hand a south full of a myriad black tribes speaking different tongues, mainly Christianised, partly adherent still to ancient African religions, and basically lacking a sense of united nationhood amongst themselves. What united them was their wariness of the north in the face of a long history of slavery and jihadic wars; whereas the north itself was focused on achieving independence from its external colonisers. And independence indeed eventually came, but it did not bring peace with it. Acrimony between military and politics, disputes between Marxists and non-Marxists, moslem-christian religious animosities, and the distrust between north and south, ensured that years of coups, civil wars, genocide and violent disunity would follow. Decades after independence, seemingly unable or unwilling to find a lasting workable peace between north and south, in 2011 they parted ways acrimoniously. Soon after, in the newly independent and sovereign South Sudan, the very same quarrels, accusations and maneuverings that had plagued newly independent African countries five decades earlier, reared their stubborn heads here too and South Sudan degenerated into a hydra-headed civil war. Finally, the tribes of the South, lacking any other external adversary, seemed all too willing to turn their guns on each other and destroy what it now seems that they never had nor ever really tried to cultivate during the decades of tribulation: internal Oneness, inter-tribal political unity. And, unfortunately for them, it seems that they, too, have no Madibas amongst them.

Take any African region, north, west, east and south, and study its collective post-independent or post-liberation history. Examples abound, enough of them. The wound cries out like a disjointed pack of scattered wild voices screaming from a burning house: the lack of reconciliation; the lack of representative, inclusive democracy, of socio-political unity. Some will call it the lack of national common sense. In Africa, for some reason, political office is not voluntarily terminal, whether or not the constitutions stipulate such, and power is not shared. Leaders seem to love only the concept of their country, the fact of having a country, but do not also love all the peoples of the country, their welfare, their liberties and their peacefully united future – not if it requires that the rulers and their support groups themselves equalise themselves with the rest of the country and subject themselves to a rule of law that stands above everyone. Instead, everybody wants to grab the crown, and sit on the throne, and then ostracize, under-develop and punish his enemies. No matter what effects this has on the country in the long and short run.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

… continued in Part 5 of 11:
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: 5 -(Ghanaian Black Holes & Ivorian Time Bombs)

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: 2 – (Egypt’s modern pharaohs)

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

History is the teacher of the wise, and Mandela himself proved to be a good student – for he had many dramatic examples to learn from. Long before South Africa’s struggles for liberation from apartheid yielded fruit, other African nations had shot out of the starting block, propelled forward by the momentum of independence and freedom, to grapple each with the daunting task of forging a modern nation-being. It reads like a soap opera, one unresolved episode after another, with dependable repetition. A few examples suffice:

In newly independent Egypt, the leader of the revolution Colonel Nasser, despite his political victories against Britain, his Suez heroism and his Sinai vicissitudes, despite his enduring popularity at home and abroad, his inspiring effect on colonised nations worldwide, his influence on the afro-arab stage and the cultural boom that his tenure occasioned, was reluctant – when it came to internal affairs – to allow or foster the blossoming of a political system in which his personal power was anything less than absolute. He crushed all opposition parties, be they communists, capitalists, muslim brothers or any other grouping critical of him. He imprisoned thousands of opponents, including some who had been his comrades in the revolution. He centralised the planning of the economy, nationalised industry and everything he could nationalise, controlled both state and government, and placed a tight grip on all types of unions and institutions, from academic, to religious, the media, to the youth. He became, in effect, the modern-day pharaoh. By the time he died, in office, in 1970, after fourteen years as president, he had written his name eternally into the history books of not only Africa, and had attempted to industrialise and modernise Egypt; but also, portentously, he had practised largely only political repression during his reign. He did not use the momentum of liberation to propel all sides of the country into the forging of a political culture of unity and inclusion. Very simply, he had omitted to lay the foundation for a balanced political system of representative, rotational, shared democracy – an omission, the after-effects of which still plague a restless, internally unreconciled Egypt to this day. Nasser was succeeded by another military veteran, Sadat, after whose assassination many years later another soldier, Mubarak, took over. In 2011 the people arose in a popular revolution against him. The Revolution culminated in the election of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mursi who, after more violent protests, was ousted in a coup-d’etat by his own head of Armed Forces Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who in turn a year later transformed from Military leader to civilian president in an election boycotted by most other political parties. Despite being one of the most ancient civilizations of mankind, and an independent modern nation, Egypt is today still struggling to find internal reconciliation, peace and socio-political harmony.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije

(Continued in Part 3 of 11:
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES : 3 – (Tunisian Troubles, Libyan Losses, Ethiopian Woes)

Preceding Chapter/
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: Part 1 (Preamble)

HERDING INTO AN UNKNOWN FUTURE

Last year, President Buhari arrested Nnamdi Kanu, accusing him of urging Easterners to arm and protect themselves.

Today, ARMED herdsmen from our president’s own ethnic group have started falling on those same unarmed Easterners and on other unarmed peoples of Nigeria, killing, maiming, raping and slaughtering them and forcefully taking over their land. The spike in these activities has been all over the news for months, and rumours now abound that there is even a secret bill in the making to legalize the unconstitutional one-sided freedoms of these armed herdsmen.

President Buhari has not arrested or brought to justice any of his own armed kinsmen and fellow herders. Infact on this issue he has been uncharacteristically soft-spoken for an ex-soldier who has severally fumed of how he will use the military might and intelligence of Nigeria to crush any violent or armed groups within the country.

If this is not the cold cynical Conspiracy that it looks like, then it is a case of a president turning out to be more clueless, inefficient and inadequate than he accuses his predecessor of being. Choose one.

The world is moving ahead, leaving Africa behind to continue to wallow in our ancient small-minded animosities. The OAU was founded in 1963, yet Africa is still not united and still not honest with itself. The Biafran War ended in 1970, but Nigerians still don’t trust one another. We are in the fourth republic, but the law and the constitution are still being interpreted selectively. Caught between the opposites of Meritocracy and Federal Character, we have not yet solved the basic puzzle of what form our democracy should take in order to succeed long-term.

The Age of Oil is slowly coming to an End. During these decades of global oil-dependency, certain Non-African oil-producers have used the proceeds of the Oil Trade to catapult their nations from the dregs of primitive rural backwardness into mind-boggling heights of beauty, industry and technology. Today while we pathetically and anxiously monitor the price of oil daily like mindless helpless victims of a system beyond our control, some scientific nations are investing heavily in New Energy, rushing at a feverish pace to hurriedly create a parallel technological space that will eventually replace the fossil-fuel-based technology and infrastructure of yesterday. The economic dynamics of tomorrow will not be kind to Nigeria and Africa.

In the arena of social and cultural engineering, upheavals are rocking the universal human soul which will shape the global social dialectics of tomorrow. Displacement, migration and integration have become issues facing more and more nations and societies. Peoples and ideologies that have always been strangers to one another and seemingly mutually incompatible are now locked in an intense discussion on how to co-exist peacefully within the different contexts of their different social systems and nation-types. Those who bring the solutions will be those who rule the future.

Rapid advances in the synergising of equally dizzying advances in new forms of information and communication technologies keep opening up wider and more customisable possibilities for any person, groups of persons, peoples or nations who really want and are committed to progress – to source out, engineer and implement the solutions they need. Living in the transitional era of the matrix of all these forces, the times could not be more conducive for progressive African minds to finally achieve the leap out of the state and the sad image of a non-producing, non-inventing, self-oppressing, corrupt, beggarly continent to a self-dependent, socially secure, rights-protecting, technologically inventive part-carrier of the future. Knowledge, once the rarest and most sought-after power-broker in the world, has become a cheap commodity easily available to any serious seeker.

In the midst of all this, it is the more primitive problems that continue to bog us down. Ill-health, lack of education, corruption, power-abuse, tribalism, broken infrastructure, the lack of basic amenities, the lack of social security, the lack of a tourism industry, the lack of a culture of incubation of ideas and new technology, issues of human, civil and minority rights, insecurity, and the list goes on. And at the top is the baffling question of the paradox of why Nigeria, an African country, should make herself the crude battleground of two imported world-religions. At these present cross-road where only UNITY gives us a fighting chance to catch up with the global shift in technology and social re-engineering taking place. My favourite song in my village has very simple lyrics – “Idinotu, o bu ya bu ike.”: UNITY IS STRENGTH. When will African “Muslims” and African “Christians” figure out this little trick?

In an integrated world in which diasporan Africans globally are increasingly looking to the motherland as a source of inspiration, a fountain of ancient knowledge, a bedrock of self-respect, and a field of new progressive activity, self-mockingly the continent is momentum-wise worse off now than at the dawn of independence.

And now Fulani herdsmen have joined the fray in expansionistic dimensions last seen only before colonialism, taken up their walking sticks and their new sophisticated firearms and started brutally doing everywhere in the country the very thing the President said he would never condone or allow under his watch. Lailai.

We are watching. Africa is watching. Quietly?

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.