Formal education is one of the most overrated things in human development people on the African continent can gain, maybe elsewhere too. Education in the formal sense is an “institutional thing,” i.e. the stuff of institutions. It is not just the stuff of classrooms and ivory towers. Institutions rely on education and education has to be meet institutional and societal requirements through governance for it to serve any useful purpose in society. The symbiosis of institutions and education is both valuable and undeniable. In a nation where institutions are unenforceable, we must expect the education curriculum to be inadequate in many senses. Education is not just the acquisition skills but also the awareness of the requirements of civil participation in a just or improving society.
When Manu Dibango invented disco music with his phenomenal hit “Soul Makossa“, it was staggering. Besides the breakbeats, jazz and soul influences it was complete with saxophone, trumpet, drum kits, bass and lead guitars, piano/keyboards et al. that made it the big success it was within the New York music scene and later worldwide. Its central sensibility as was developed and perfected came from somewhere. Africa. Subsequently, Fela, Osibisa, Mariam Makeba, Hugh Masekela also working within the breakbeat, soul, funk, and jazz found instant fame and recognition as innovators in the world music scene. And “Afrobeat” credited to Fela soon became an international art form with a strong legitimacy of its own.
What has happened, Africa? This is the question a bright youth leader on a private forum asked when he learnt the Chinese have set up the 13th Chinese Police Station in South Africa. The answer is Nothing. Whether we base the question on fact, fiction or exaggeration is immaterial. Chinamen are coming and coming big to Africa. Continental tragedy was visible in African people who should have known better in advance, notably the intellectual/educated class, who were unwitting. “Bright lights” keenly supported the decadent misgovernance many of the post-colonial leaders foisted upon their citizens on the continent up to this day. Africans are now living with the harsher realities of such thoughtlessness and misfortune. The Chinese are now exploiting Africa’s naivete. Who will not?
There are many able Nigerian analysts, commentators, pundits, academics and journalists who have rightfully earned a say in the Nigerian political arena. Most are insincere, some swing and a few are truthful in their evaluations of the state of political realities and performances of governments and their principals. All performances of governance do need to have standardised or unique benchmarks for their measurements to be valid. Continue reading
“There is no good name for a terrible disease” – Urhobo proverb.
“The solution to Africa’s problems lie solely in Africa” – George Ayittey.
Coconut Head Corruption (CHC) is a term derived from the vocabulary of George Ayittey. He is a distinguished U.S. based Ghanaian economist and is used to describe the observed hollow-headedness and thoughtlessness exhibited by corrupt African leaders and their clients. These Big Men Ayittey is critical of have engaged in corruption since the beginning of the post-colonial era. Ayittey consistently and emphatically in his works and on social media uses words like “Coconut Leader”, “Coconut combat” or “Coconut solutions” to address misgovernance and lousy leadership in African. Coconut-prefixed words as Ayittey uses them is just one aspect of the sincere, blunt and uncompromising zeal with which he is opposed to corruption and deliberate under-development in Africa. Solving Africa’s problems is not a ‘popularity contest’; it is about consistent successful approaches and outcomes; political correctness has not done anything for Africa (Ayittey 1992).
Whether university campus grown fraternities (UCGF) have done either good or evil to the societies in their countries of origin (e.g. the USA) is debatable. In the American-formation, without any idealisation, their “honour codes” are both formidable and strictly adhere. Honour” among brothers is a precious matter for American fraternities. Interestingly, their Nigerian imitators as ‘free-for-all fraternities’ are observably oblivious to the very meaning of honour and devoid of working honour codes. It may be the reason UCGFs in Nigeria are more like “street gangs” than collectives of educated men.
It will be interesting to hear what pundits have to say about the “sexual relationship” between the adult male, Yinusa, and Ese Oruru a 13-year-old girl said to have been abducted by the former since 2012. There is much talk about endemic injustice, an ineffectual police force and legal system, unconcerned politicians and unscrupulous predatory males within the borders of Nigeria. What is not being said is that poverty has reduced females in Nigeria even seriously underaged ones into “purchasable” sex objects either as goods or services. Ese’s case was just a solitary cause celebre case out of millions of abused underaged girls in the country. Continue reading
The leaders of the Africa Union when in congress to discuss the problems of the continent, the outcomes are predictable. The stuff put on the table for discussion is often “impossible to achieve but good for utterance only”. These discussions are regularly superficial rhetoric, used to give respectability and fame to those self-appointed African champions who promote them. There will be no concrete and effective instrumental or institutional changes implemented to offer the solutions to the problems at hand. The problems thus persist without foreign intervention. The 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union, with the theme “Women’s Rights in Africa”, is no different.
Response: Culture is Not Costume: Why Non-Africans Should Not Wear African Clothing http://www.mycoloures.com/2014/10/culture-is-not-costume-why-non-africans.html?m=1
Nneka Okona’s piece on the “wrongful appropriation” of female African dress is an interesting, challenging and well-written read but has a misplaced tone to it. The piece pleads for the Nigerian dress / attire for women to be worn exclusively by Nigerian females because non-Nigerian ladies merely fetishise something dear, central and cultural to Nigerians and the authenticity of their lifestyles. Continue reading
If a leader or intellectual is not articulating the values and necessities of robust human pride to his people, he or she is a dangerous traitor unworthy of the position – Guynes
The ontology of the African unfortunately involves ‘senseless play’ to perpetuate it as derisory, and it is becoming more visible due to social media; it has always been that way. The upliftment of the African people is what is necessary for our ontology not play. The instrumental aspects of the social organisation of things get works done while ceremonial aspects embellish what is available. For a society to work well, the instrumental aspects should supersede the ceremonial ones. When the reverse is the case conspicuous ceremony become a prime societal goal in itself. The ceremonial can be solemn, but it is mostly dominated by play.
Chinua Achebe was ostracised by the Western academy for his truthful but hard to swallow comments on two European intellectual sacred cows, Joseph Conrad and Albert Schweitzer in which he branded them as racists using the pretext of artistic expression. It is reputedly proposed by many around the world that his comments cost him the Nobel Prize. Continue reading
‘Patriotism of the stomach’ is much more pitiable than it sounds. Patriotism, even in moderate forms, is a thoroughly virtuous state of being to adopt underpinned by loyalty, commitment, support and above all selflessness in support and defence of one’s country. In Africa, it is the reverse, with rare exceptions. Patriotism is the adherence to national interests, not personal or crony interests. Unfortunately, the most’ patriotic African’ (as is locally regarded) is the one who intends to or actually (a) steals the most, (b) profits the most or (c) defends the banditry and profiteering of others the most, from and the at the expense of his or her country. The ‘patriotic African’ is vicious, not virtuous. How can a positive ontology of the African come out of such a bifurcated internal conflict? An ontology of patriotism based on ‘the sharp’ dispossessing of the state and citizens of their wealth has too many horrendous implications.
“I came I saw and I conquered” is often the motto of any conqueror. Conquest is not an easy undertaking, even if the history books make it unctuously look so. We are sold on the myth that Africa was colonised without firing a bullet. In reality, Africa was colonised through the usual approaches to conquest complete with bloody wars (e.g. against the Zulus), Massacres (e.g. the Bini Massacre), the exile of kings (Nana of Istekiri and Jaja of Opobo), the exile, deportation and imprisonment of kings thought to be divine decimating the confidence of their people and causing them to dread the conqueror (e.g. Oba Ovoranmwen), concentration camps and ethnic cleansing (e.g. in Namibia) and a lot more. Africans everywhere resisted colonisation and conquest in often gallant and admirable ways but guns and cannon versus spears and clubs provided no contests of strength but typical slow heinous slaughters for resisting, in battle and in punishment. Continue reading
Botswana, a prosperous African nation (population: 2 million), where I worked a long time ago fits very well with one of Mancur Olson’s most explicit thoughts on the conditions of economic growth and prosperity of a nation. i.e. (a) having a small population and (b) that population being homogeneous. It is a development on Olson’s Logic Collective Action in which the smaller the group (numerically) and the more they have compatible shared interests (shared incentives) which should minimise or eliminate free-riding (getting something for nothing), the better the economy will perform. Multi-ethnic societies like Nigeria (250 ethnic groups at least in 6 distinct geopolitical zones) with a large population (at least 160 million) can never emulate Botswana, according to Olson’s logic and I agree. However, there are alternative views on the subject of economic development and growth. Take a look at China and Indonesia.
The ontology of the African is an emergent creature of exploitation, historical and contemporary. It started with slavery and colonisation. The late Dr Abdul Rahim Tajudeen, former head of the Pan-African Movement, was a fierce opponent of do-gooding foreign aid and charity. To him, when the African adopts the attitudes of the non-African towards the exploitation of Africa and its peoples, it necessarily creates serious concern. What disturbed Dr Tajudeen most was the contemptuous and cynical “image of Africa” exploited by non-African NGOs to raise money in non-African societies. These images of Africa were also used by African governments to secure odious loans by way of “begging bowl politics.” One thing that disgusted him was the regular incidences of immunisation aid projects used as “human experiment labs” on African peoples. How about the fictitious characterisations of Africa with terms like “mineral curse” and “neo-patrimonial state”? Imagine “poverty tourism” which is on the rise today whereby non-Africans visit African slums to “enjoy the observable pleasures of the African in suffering”; sheer Schadenfreude! With such an ontology, should it be shocking if the is asked, “Are Africans also human beings?” Dr Tajudeen was justifiably angry.
Can Africans in power ever get it right? They can but choose not to for reasons of venality and mediocrity and sometimes sheer stupidity.
I concur with the fact that resorting to insulting a President or anyone for that matter via social media, especially cheaply is an incorrigible practice. But what happens when a president brings untold shame and embarrassment on his people? Insults are still inappropriate but proper critique necessary. The #BringBackJonathan2015 hashtags is an exercise in the most extreme of follies. It is a classic if not memorable contribution to the derisory ontology of the African. Continue reading
The claim to being knowledgeable and intelligent as well as acting in denial of knowledge and intelligence, simultaneously, is as Antinomy of an unusual kind. Knowledge is power only when it is usefully and unarguably applied. Is knowledge power to the African? The mental dynamic of the derisory ontology of the African is a perhaps fortuitous acceptance or nefarious imposition of an irrepressible “Antinomy”. Simply put, it is the acceptance of the African that the non-African has done better in and for the world and can only bring about more good. Such is twinned with the recognition that Africans have done very well in and for the world and can only do worse or nothing. It is a self-defeating belief that some gifted Africans “transcend” by way denial and demonstrating their exceptionality and ‘non-Africanness’. The contemporaneity of this Antinomy is neither extreme nor false. Africa’s past glories and excellence are as relevant as the one-time vivacious Mongol Empire is to the present-day Ulan Bator. Let us stick with today.
The African leader like the African he rules has a derisory ontology. With billions of dollars stashed away in foreign accounts, endless terms in office and the excessive paraphernalia of power, these have become the identifiers of the African leader. The one destined lead African nations seem unable to escape it, either by choice or curse. From a people do their leaders emerge; they are no different from their compatriots except by rank and vocation. At least they look African, which is part of their ontology. No one cares where an African leader got his education, his tenures in office, her family background or his religion except for a few. No one cares about his ideology or philosophy. That is how derisory the ontology of the African leader is. He is nothing to anyone, but those he represents and whose stomach he fills. For most of these leaders, their citizens are utterly ashamed of them.
Some sincere African intellectuals are genuinely dismayed about the derisory status of the African among other human beings in the world. It is the stuff of an ontology that remains the same today as it was in yesteryears. The sources of occasions for being dismayed are numerous, especially the treatment of African immigrants in Diaspora and images of Africa in the media. The unexplained detentions, sporting racism, police brutality, rough deportations, slave jobs, denial of guaranteed social amenities, human rights violations. The inhumane experiences by migrant Africans in nations who have taken it upon themselves to be the leaders and moralisers of the free world are more than contradictions. We should not exclude the cursory treatment of the African by his/her leaders and authorities, which is a significant part of the problem. A brilliant former colleague of mine, Dr Edith Phaswana, via social media, communicated that the dehumanising treatment of the African in the Diaspora especially in so-called “civilised societies”. Her comment had a basis in a crushingly low and derisory ontology of Sub-Saharan people. I agree with her completely.
An Open Letter to African Academics, Scholars and Intellectuals
Upon reviewing the current upheavals in North Africa and elsewhere on the continent, I felt it is necessary for us – African academics, scholars and intellectuals – to take stock and a fresh look at ourselves: What role have we played in advancing the cause of liberty and improving governance in post colonial Africa. Our record is not very good. Sometimes, self-criticism is necessary in order for us to make progress. You do not have to agree with what I am going to say – diversity of opinion is healthy. There have been outstanding individuals among us who risked death to champion the cause of freedom in Africa. However, as a group we have let Africa down badly by not providing intellectual leadership to the democratic struggle. Continue reading
To Cook a Continent: Destructive Extraction and Climate Crisis in Africa is yet another book about Africa’s exploitation but with a significant difference from all others. The author presents the challenge “what can be done now to end destructive exploitation in Africa?”. This is a far more superior and immediate question than “what can we do for Africa?” in which tomorrow never comes; every day, every year, every decade is always now. Continue reading