Friday, December 10, 2010

The Nation Builder

The world is watching somewhat befuddled as the inspirational Obama mantra ‘Yes we can ‘ has become reduced to ‘Damn he couldn’t’. What was supposed to be a call for national commitment to a collective aspiration towards to ‘audacity of hope’ has been reduced to ‘we expected him to walk on water and he didn’t so take him to the stockade’. I suppose that is the choice in the US but only that it gives lie to this constantly refrain here in Nigeria, if only we had that leader.

As 2010 draws to a close and we get ready for the ‘race tracks’ of 2011 it is worthwhile to step back and reconsider what it would actually take to truly transform Nigeria. Lets start with the nature of our challenge. I think many commentators totally underestimate what it would take to truly transform the lives of over 100 million people. In fact in my estimation only two countries have done it with legitimacy and genuine development i.e. China and India . The others such as US, Russia have used degrees of exploitation and abuse of others and used the resources of ‘colonies‘ that they are models that cannot truly be replicated. Indonesia which is closest to Nigeria in key characteristics has in spite of its progress loads yet to do, similarly Brazil to name just two. Pakistan is in arguably a worse state than Nigeria. So very few countries have fully been able to truly meet the challenge of that size population effectively. However those who have show certain qualities; a culture of enterprise; a commitment to excellence; an obsession for transformation and yes desire for experimentation and innovation (especially in the economic space). In the case of both China and India there is corruption as well as tyranny of different sort in the public space. Their leaders are no paragons of virtue and their governments are not simply as open and as accountable as the Western standards that we parrot daily.

Nigeria is also different to most others with the exception of Indonesia in that it is extremely complex in its composition and in the mix of organisational elements that it tries to wield into a cohesive system of operation. Worse than most of these other countries the language it tries to use to inspire, communicate and organise the transformation is borrowed and alien to her people. Simply the work of transforming Nigeria is a phenomenal task that must have at its foundation a lot of original thinking. It is therefore unfortunate that two orientations most prevalent in the way everyone and especially the elite of all stripes and ideology thinks and behave are the complete opposite of what is required. Nigerians are transactional in everything even when talking revolution as well as cut and paste in approach. You can blame transactional orientation on the fact that we come from mostly trading traditions and most of our ancient city states evolved from primarily trade. However this has worsened through the extractive and distributive system that funds our government and underpins our formal economy. It is unproductive and ineffective for the unique and enormous challenge of a nation in pursuit of excellence and prosperity in the 21st century. Yes , we cut and paste all the time. We borrow as consumers ideas fashioned out of hunger and experimentation in the West and import them wholesale into our context without any genuine adaptation or cultural fit. We assume westernisation is the only modernisation but both China, India and even Indonesia disprove this.

We have pursued letters behind our names and passed many exams to achieve this but the effect has not been education or curiosity or even embracing innovation. It has been a people so regimented and conservative in thought that in spite of evidence of failure they cling to infallability of borrowed ideas. Nigerians have no business in the extolling of traditions or being in the girdle doctrines . Experiment or be dammed , innovate at all cost should be our mantra.

To truly transform as we must we all need a new mindset. We need to move beyond this dance of criticism and commentary to the orientation of nation builders. Looking for so called leaders in government is a failure to understand the 21st century. A time where hierarchies fall daily , a period where it is not about the intelligence of the few but the wisdom of multitudes. We must be the ones who set the agenda clearly so that we are agreed and understand the standards on which we will elect governments who deliver our will. To get to that clarity we need our churches, mosques, associations, unions, clubs and community groups refocus on ideas and their importance in shaping new paths. This starts with us taking responsibility for finding solutions, the more original the better. It starts in the family giving voice and platform to the curiosity of our children rather than smothering it with oppressive ageism. We need a communal space that is active , engaged and oriented towards finding sustainable solution. It is the individual, family and community that are the building blocks of a nation . It is time to take responsibility and build our nation and transform our lives, that cannot be the job of government and even it is they are uniquely incompetent for it. To transform, a good government will help but we need a generation or two of committed nation builders. Now that is the revolution that will not be televised.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Repost from Article of Leonard Shilgba , A Nigerian Citizen and Nationalist.

Nigeria, the North, And How It Will All End

By Leonard Karshima Shilgba, PhD

Wednesday, 06. October 2010

To the families of Nigerians that lost their lives in the dastardly bombing act on October 1, 2010, I can only express regrets that with unabashed abandon, elders such as Adamu Ciroma and his colleagues, under a nondescript organization called NORTHERN POLITICAL LEADERS FORUM, are exploiting their misfortune and that of the nation to make as much political capital as possible.
I am a Tiv man from Benue State, who happens to be a Nigerian by the craftsmanship of the British. I am called a Northerner by geographical convenience. Accordingly, I shall open my heart and speak advisedly on some serious issues that have beset us as a nation most lately. I appeal to the reader to follow me carefully and thoughtfully as I make reference to some statements I have made in some previous articles for elucidation.
I saw and wrote about what I saw in November 2009 in an article entitled: "On Yar’Adua’s Incapacitation, the Constitution, and a Dream" the following words:
"It was Sunday night on November 22, 2009. I went to bed and had what you may call an open vision or a dream. Nigeria’s president at the time, Mr. Umar Yar’Adua had died. I saw that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the Vice-President assumed the position of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There was uneasiness, particularly in the northern part of Nigeria. In this dream, Dr. Goodluck declined the request by the North not to contest the presidential elections in 2011. Then, the unease turned to something inexplicably dastardly."
The bomb blasts on October 1, 2010 and the near euphoric reaction by people like Adamu Ciroma, the "Northern Political Leaders Forum" and their supporters did not come to me as a surprise. But I know exactly how the drama shall play out. Nigerians, we must not forget so soon:
When Boko Haram struck in 2009, Ciroma and his "Northern Political Leaders Forum" did not ask the late president (Umar Yar’Adua) to resign. When the leader of Boko Haram was killed in the custody of Nigerian security agents in an extra-judicial manner, apparently to silence him in order to protect his sponsors, Ciroma and his collaborators did not ask Yar’Adua to resign. How dare Ciroma and his collaborators to insult the intelligence of Nigerians!
Repeatedly, Nigerians have been butchered and killed during "religious riots" in Northern Nigeria, the latest and most recurring being the Jos and Plateau State pogrom. Ciroma and his group were silent and did not ask President Yar’Adua, who was president during the peak of the crisis last year, to resign.
I am sure Ciroma was in Nigeria when the first act of bombing was carried out in Nigeria under the dictatorship of General Babangida, when Dele Giwa was killed. I don’t know if he called on the General to resign.
We have lived in numerous crises orchestrated by the generation of Adamu Ciroma; I am not aware that Adamu Ciroma has reacted passionately, calling on the president or Head of State during those crises to resign.
Just recently, when the late President Yar’Adua left the country without a leader, and so in crisis, it was people like Adamu Ciroma, who threatened that nobody should remove Yar’Adua. He has never shown any interest in the preservation of this country, Nigeria.
We know exactly what the generation of Adamu Ciroma is trying to do. We know what exploiters of the nation’s recent misfortune are eager to accomplish. They seek to sow seeds of discord and split further the north and south. They seek to cut off whatever remaining emotional attachment between the north and south. To what use is our education if we fail to see through this? They want to sustain the politics of divide that has left our nation swooning. They delight in holding the back of the mirror before us and yet abusing us for our inability to see our faces. They use religion to separate us while by their acts and utterances they show they aren’t religious at all. But the end of the present drama shall depend on how President Jonathan handles issues. I shall provide some insight into what he can do and should do if Nigeria will survive this latest onslaught:
Avoid Distraction: The end has definitely come for those veterans of divide-and-rule politics. President Jonathan should desist from making further comments about the on-going investigation into the bombings of October 1, 2010 and allow his aides and relevant security officials to address us on the progress of the case. The reason is simple; whatever he says shall be misconstrued by professional politicians who want to mock the nation and distract from hunting down killers of our patriots who innocently lost their lives on October 1, 2010. Take, for instance, his recent statement that MEND did not bomb Abuja on October 1, 2010, but "terrorists" did. I listened to him. He went further to say that "terrorists" such as bombed Abuja and engaged in kidnapping recently in Nigeria committed such heinous acts, not for any altruistic reasons such as the liberation of the oppressed, but for personal selfish gain. An objective listener understood what the president was saying, "Don’t hide under a group such as MEND to commit criminal acts; you are a terrorist, pure and simple." The question is, who is MEND that bombed Abuja? Let us see his face. If some criminals claiming to be MEND have refused to show their faces, but rather chosen to hide behind some four-one-nine-like emails, and others, who have been known to be MEND’s leaders have publicly disassociated themselves from the crime, then it is not difficult to say MEND did not commit the act but "terrorists" did. And once investigations unearth sufficient evidence, those individuals shall be charged to court in their names and not in the name of some faceless MEND. What the president said was deep, but people choose to hear what they may.
Avoid deceit: In an article, "Nigeria: Interpreting Times And Events", I warned, based on what I saw at the time, that we were living in a period of great deception; that the mutually assured destruction of politicians, who shall betray each other leading up to the 2011 elections, shall lead to the liberation of the good people. I then warned that Jonathan was not clean. If President Jonathan will help himself and therefore, Nigeria, he must not use any information at his disposal, which should have been used to free Nigeria, to rather score for himself political points and blackmail his political opponents. He must not allow himself to be frightened from taking decisive steps simply because some people may impute wrong motives. If he does, he is done for. The law must strictly take its course, whosoever is affected.
Avoid destructions: Why will the president go beyond the INEC’s request for extension of time to seek further amendments to the electoral Act 2010, which shall allow his aides, ministers, Ambassadors, Chairmen of Boards of parastatals etc., to vote in party indirect primaries? This is exactly what I was wary about when I wrote the article "INEC Should Stop This Distraction and Confusion!" President Jonathan must not shred any existing laws for the immediacy of self-service.
No zone or region of Nigeria presently has a stable and strong leadership to guarantee a convenient split-up of the nation. I therefore, believe that should Nigeria be forced to break up by the provocations of elders such as Adamu Ciroma, who have lost self-control, the consequences of further break-ups shall make every mile a country in the aftermath. The North (of which I am a member) has no right to decide who should run for an elective office or not. Besides, no man or woman, elder or youth has the mandate to speak on behalf of the North in the same way no man presently (post-amnesty) can speak on behalf of MEND. Ciroma and his "Northern Elder Politicians Forum" do not speak for me and many other Northerners. I understand that Dr. Iorchiya Ayu, a fellow Tiv man, is a top official of that forum. He and all his colleagues in that forum do not speak for Dr. Leonard Shilgba and Northerners in general. And I believe that given my training and passion, I deserve to be heard and my views deserve to be examined too. Ciroma speaks for himself; and his group must not arrogate to itself the responsibility to speak on behalf of the North. I will surely speak at the polls just like any Northerner or Nigerian from whatever region can do if they so choose. When I reach out to cast my vote, at that moment I have the power to decide politically who shall govern me. Enough of this nonsense! These are people that have destroyed Nigeria, left our children dying before they reach the age of five; left the amajiris of the North uneducated while they send their children abroad and to expensive private schools in Nigeria; left the north far poorer than any region in this country; left the north with horrible roads just as in other regions of Nigeria; and left our country with poor social services. They cannot deceive northerners of my generation, not with our education at least, unless our degrees are as useless as their arguments have been.
As I conclude, permit me to make some profound assertions:
There shall be no military take-over of government in Nigeria.
Many politicians will make a snare and fall inside. Some shall pay with their lives. Stray arrows shall get them.
The mystery woven shall be broken; the faces shall be revealed. That is the task of President Jonathan. If he deviates an inch from the true rule of law, betrays compassion, yields to pressure from "Traditional rulers" and "stakeholders", he himself shall be consumed. Remember King Saul. If you spare King Agag, the throne shall be taken from you. I have spoken. He that has an ear let him hear.
I speak to King Agag. Although you say in your foolish haste, "Surely the bitterness of death is past," you are deluded. For you shall be hewn down, even if not by the hands of a disobedient President Jonathan. "As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women." You shall be blown up in pieces.
These are no ordinary times.

Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria and President of the Nigeria Rally Movement ( ).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ibadan regeneration (ongoing)

Over the past few days remarks made by Mallam Ribadu the former Chairman of EFCC during his lecture at the late Bola Ige birthday event has earned caustic response from the Oyo state government through Chief Gbade Ishola. Without rehearsing both angles I think it is a welcome thing that regeneration of Ibadan has become a topical issue. It is however an issue that requires a different discourse than that of a partisan political nature. I will avoid choosing sides because what is at stake is far more significant than who is right or wrong nor is it about the coming election.

The city of Ibadan represents a totally unique space in the history and potentially future of the nation. It has been the largest indigenous city of its kind in Africa but also the intellectual cradle of the Nigerian state. If we valued anything in our current transactional mindset it would be this city that evolve through a unique, meritocracy into a warrior republic using a constitution experiment that remains largely intact today. She carries three powerful dimension for our future, a habit of cultural innovation that includes the first television station; a platform for intellectual curiosity and academic expression that spawned the first university; a network of informal commerce that is translated into scores of open air markets including the largest market for indigenous textile in Oje. To say that Ibadan has regressed is not to focus blame on any one party in what should be a partnership to preserve her legacy and generate a vision to renew her.

Ibadan is perhaps the only city in Africa that is bucking the trend in urbanisation especially in the number of young people she has lost. The downward trend for the city started with the much vaunted Structural Adjustment Programme of the Babangida regime in the mid 1980s. This policy that decimated the Nigerian middle classes destroyed the vibrancy of Ibadan which was the most middle class of all cities in Nigeria. The disdain in which the universities, research institutes and that almost uniquely local focus i.e. ‘publishing was treated wiped out the intellectual values, skills and industries. The lack of priority for education also destroyed the place as an education destination from across the country. The middle class values of community , perseverance and long term effort were killed and replaced with neo liberal individualism leading to the triumph of the hustler class. Shame died and became replaced with wanton materialism. Ibadan has never recovered. Subsequent governments, local and national have neither had the desire nor have had the resources to prioritise Ibadan above other things they feel necessary . It does not start with the present government in Oyo sate. There is of course the inevitable structural problem of a potential ‘world centre’ in a largely rural, agricultural state. Maybe the challenge of renewing Ibadan might be a drain to ‘development’ in other parts of the State?

These challenges have not been helped by the false division amongst the citizens of our metropolis. The identification of indigene versus resident is a very poor choice. The founders of our great city came from all over Yoruba land to find fortune through valour and might rather than from birthright and bloodline. Nowhere is merit more forcefully enforced as the standard of excellence than in the ancient home of Oluyole. We as citizens have also failed our city in not creating a large enough umbrella as is our tradition. We failed to make talent, excellence and love for the betterment of our land as the only standard for determining whether one qualifies as Ibadan or otherwise. No great city is a creation of government alone but a result of the collective vision and contribution of her people , businesses, civic organisations and government in partnership. Even if the Oyo state government believes it has done some things the honest truth is that there is a lot more to do. Our city now has a shop front in every house, our roads struggle to absorb traffic because of the number of cars struggling for space. Nowhere is there more research institutes than Ibadan but they are not connected by the highway of this century in fibre optic broadband. The publishing industry in magazine road is a very pale shadow of the ‘capital ‘ of west africa that it was. I know from Mallam Ribadu’s comments that he cares and i know from my limited interaction with Chief Gbade Ishola that he is passionate about Ibadan. We can have a civil dialogue about the best way ahead.

Last year we started this process with Mesiogo initiative (outside of government and politics) to work across stakeholders for a long term regeneration for our city. We have a draft plan from robust dialogue that includes survey of nearly 5,000 citizens and a town hall meeting that involved all works of life. Lets continue this dialogue and effort without succumbing to self serving partisanship. No one has a monopoly of ideas or responsibility as we strive to continuously evolve Ibadan not just to the greatness of her pioneering past but also higher to the possibilities of prosperity for many more generations to come.

Join us :

Friday, August 20, 2010


Let Love become you. Her pain , her vulnerability , her passion. Let her service be your kindness and her longings become your poems. Let your third eye shine the light of the eternal within you so you can fully see your beauty and majesty. Then never let anyone tell you otherwise not even yourself when you drink in dark places and wake up soiled by fear of what you might have done. Always dance in that shimering light for the beauty that is within is the guide to your purpose.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back! Please Complete!

My friends and mirrors here I am. I wonder if you will spare a few minutes to complete this questionnaire and spread it widely. It is an effort to start something that will set an agenda for our future rather than the constant pain we share about the failings and failures of Nigeria. It is totally anonymous. A stab at something which will be followed by a more improved effort if this pilot works. Thanks for taking the time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mamdami Lecture @ Odia Ofeimun 60th Birthday

There are few times someone can credibly challenge the Nigerian intellectual elite with a new perspective or eyes that fully shows the lack of original ideas and the damaging group think that is destroying the possibilities of a great country. Professor Mamdami does it with class and intellect. Read below

Congo and Sudan: Lessons for Nigeria
Mahmood Mamdani
Columbia University
Text of talk delivered to the Nigeria Institute for International Affairs on Tuesday, March 16, 2010.
How should we think of political violence in Africa?  This is the question that I want to address today.
When it comes to making sense of political violence in Africa, most of us take the cue from how the international community reports it.  By the international community, I mean those who speak in the name of the international community: that is, the corporate media, the international NGOs and UN agencies.
For that international community, Congo is today the paradigm case of senseless violence.  The proof is said to be two-fold: first, the sheer numbers of the dead; second, the evident lack of reason for the violence.
Let us begin with the astronomical numbers of those said to have died in the violence.  Beginning in 2001, the prestigious New York-based International Rescue Committee carried out multiple surveys of war-related deaths in Congo since the start of the conflict in 1998.  According to the IRC, there were 1.7 million war-related dead in Congo from 1998 to 2001.  These estimates climbed to a staggering 5.4 million by January, 2008.  If correct, these figures would represent about 8 percent of DRC’s current population.  Thus the Congo war was termed “Africa’s First World War,” the title of Gerard Prunier’s recent book on the Congo wars. 
But how correct is this comparison?  About 8.5 million troops were killed in the actual First World War.  In contrast, the estimate of those who died of direct violence in the Congo wars is less than a hundred thousand.  The balance, over five million, were said to have died of “war-related” causes, such as infectious diseases, malnutrition, disruption in vital supplies, and so on. 
Your count of “war-related deaths” depends on your estimate of those who died of the same causes – such as infectious diseases, malnutrition – before the war.  In October 2008, two Belgian demographers, André Lambert and Louis Lohlé-Tart, were invited by the European Commission to assess the 2005-06 voter registration process in the DRC.  They drew on the data they had gathered, and whatever else they could muster, and wrote a devastating critique of the IRC estimates: they concluded that the excess death toll between 1998 and 2004 was roughly 200,000—which is one-twentieth of the IRC’s 3.9 million excess death estimate for the same period.

Their findings triggered further reviews.  WHO commissioned a peer review, which concluded that the IRC “estimates” had been based on “extrapolations” that were “speculative at best”.  A WHO-affiliated unit, called Health and Nutrition Tracking Service (HNTS), said the IRC’s estimates of mortality rates before the war had been too low.  Another reputable source, the Human Security Report, used a more realistic baseline rate for the period May 2001 to April 2007 and found the results led to a very different conclusion: “The best estimate of the excess death toll shrinks to less than one-third of the IRC’s original figure––from 2.83 million to 0.86 million.”
At this point, then, we have several wildly divergent estimates of war-related dead in Congo: they range from the IRC’s sensational 5.4 million to the Belgian demographers subdued 200,000.  Where does the truth lie?
Let me turn to Darfur, where there were equally divergent estimates of war-related deaths.  In this context, an audit agency of the U S Government, called the Government Accountability Office (GAO), got together with another reputable U. S. institution, the U. S. Academy of Sciences, and put together a panel of experts.  The GAO had compiled six different studies, which ranged from a high estimate of 400,000 dead, coming from Save Darfur-linked researchers, to a low of 50,000 to 70,000 dead, by the World Health Organization.  The panel of experts agreed unanimously that Save Darfur estimates were the least reliable, because Save Darfur researchers had extrapolated the figures from a survey of refugees in camps in Chad and had generalized them to the whole of Darfur.  The experts said that a more reliable estimate may be closer to 118,142, as calculated by CRED, a WHO-connected research unit in Europe, and not 400,000, a quarter of the Save Darfur figure.
As in Congo, there was a second distortion.  WHO reports suggested that many of the deaths in Darfur may not be war-related as much as drought-related, for one reason. WHO estimated that 70-80% had died from the effects of drought and desertification; that these were mainly infants and children who had died mainly from diarrhea and dysentery.  More importantly, the drought had preceded the war.
The GAO report was sent to the State Department which agreed with its findings.  It then made its way to Congress and then to the GAO’s internet site.  Just as the reassessment of the dead in Congo has had little effect on media reports, so did the GAO’s reassessment have little effect, either on media reports or on Save Darfur’s continuing claims, relayed in full page ads in New York Times as well as in subway and bus posters, on the numbers of the dead in Darfur.

We know that data collection is among the first of casualties in any social crisis.  When international NGOs confidently continue to put forward figures even after their reliability has been expertly questioned, we have a right to question their motivation.  I suggest that this practice reveals more about those making the projections than about the places they write about. Is the deliberate exaggeration of figures part of an NGO fund-raising strategy, or is the motivation more sinister, meaning more political?  I frankly am not in a position to tell.
Please do not misunderstand me.  My point is not that the numbers who have died from African conflicts are miniscule and not worthy of concern.  The number who have died are too many by any yardstick, so much so that there should be no reason to exaggerate them. 
The International Community does not just tell us how many have died in African conflicts.  The also interpret the violence behind these deaths.
Think of the reports on the violence in Congo.  Even as responsible an organization as Human Rights Watch ascribes the deaths to “anarchy”.  Anarchy evokes meaningless, gratuitous, repetitious violence. In Africa’s World Wars, Gerard Prunier describes Congo’s “rebels” as “first and foremost armed movements without ideology, without any large civilian constituency, and without any sort of unified cause … more akin to vampires than to soldiers.”
Read a human rights organisation report on violence in Congo or in Darfur, you will find that the structure of the report is basically the same.  The report begins with a page or two on history.  The bulk of the report is given to documenting atrocities.  The real point of the report is to identify perpetrators.  The technology of human rights activism is summed up in one phrase: “name and shame”.  The report concludes with a set of recommendations.  These inevitably call for the perpetrators to be punished.
Here is the problem: contemporary international human rights reports show hardly any interest in the issues that drive the violence.  In situations where the violence is not a stand alone event but part of an ongoing cycle, where there is a history of violence in which victims and perpetrators have tended to change sides, it is more important to identify and address the issues that drive the violence than to demonize the latest group of perpetrators.  If we are interested in bringing the violence to a stop, we should be interested not just in crime and punishment but, more so, in reform.

To make my point, I would like to focus on one event that seems to recur in African conflicts: ethnic cleansing.  The political history of post-independence Congo is marked by ethnic cleansing: in Katanga and Kasai in 1961, and then again in Katanga three decades later, in 1991; and then, in Ituri and in Kivu.  The political history of Darfur is also similarly chequered: ethnic cleansing first surfaces in the 1987-89 civil war between the sedentary Fur and nomadic ‘Arab’ tribes and then in the 2003-04 counter-insurgency that overlay the rekindled civil war.  A look at the Rift Valley in Kenya or northern Ivory Coast is enough to tell us that Congo and Sudan are not exceptions. Ethnic cleansing has become a central part of political violence in post-colonial Africa. 
The events in Congo and Sudan suggest that ethnic cleansing is not anarchical,but methodic.  Nor is it the result of sheer conspiracy from above, for the simple reason that violence on such a scale requires the coming together of initiatives from both above and below.  It requires joining elite conspiracies to popular organisation.  The challenge is for us to understand the popular dimension of this process.  We need to understand the historical processes and the institutional practices through which these agencies were shaped.
I would like to trace this historical development step by step through the colonial period.  Colonial authorities claimed that Africans have always lived in tribal homelands.  At the same time, they told us that Africans have always been on the move, whether as nomads on hoofs or as farmers practicing shifting cultivation – or just running away from perennial wars and slave raids.  If even a little of that is true, then there must have been at least some places where ethnic groups were mixed up.  How were these places turned into tribal homelands in the colonial period?
The answer is: administrative force.  Take the example of Katanga, where King Leopold, and the Société Générale de Belgique, Belgium’s largest corporate concern, partnered with British interests to form Union Miniére du Haut-Katanga (UMHK) in 1906.  Their object was to exploit Katanga’s mineral resources.  For this, they needed to squeeze labor from hinterland populations.  This required a firm administrative grip on rural populations.  

suggest that we distinguish an ethnic group – a group that speaks the same language – from a tribe, a group defined by a common territory.  I am suggesting that we view “tribalization” as a colonial administrative project.  In Katanga, a series of decrees were passed, in 1906, 1910, and then 1933, requiring that each ‘tribe’ be identified, separated, and resettled, each in its own ‘homeland,’ each supervised by its own Native Authority.  One District Commissioner complained: “Batshioko, Lunda and even Baluba are totally jumbled and it will be very difficult to organize them into separate chefferies.”  The separation was accomplished between 1925 and 1930.  “Customary” chiefs were charged with supplying designated quotas of labor and food, at first to the mines and, later, to European farms and administrators.
Like Katanga, Ituri too was the site of lucrative gold mines, Kilo and Moto, to which King Leopold’s men were lured as early as 1903.  As in Katanga and Kasai, so in Ituri, colonial pacification began with a policy they called “regroupement”.  Over nearly two decades, from 1916-17 to 1930s, the authorities separated the predominantly pastoral (Hema) from the predominantly agricultural (Lendu) populations, herding each into its own homeland (territoire) supervised by its own tribal authority (chefferires). 
A census tagged every villager as a tribesman or woman, as a ‘native’ of a particular tribal homeland.  Those living far from their “natural” leaders were targeted as “runaways” from tribal homelands.  When the Lendu moved away from drought struck areas in the mid-30s, one District Commissioner wrote that force would be necessary “to maintain the regroupement which was under threat”. 

Each tribal homeland was run by a Native Authority.  This power was not elected; nor was it appointed from all those who lived in the administrative unit.  The Native Authority was appointed only from the “tribe” said to be indigenous to the land. Non-indigenous groups were required to pay tribute to “indigenous” chiefs in the Native Authority.  The Native Authority system politicized ethnic identity gave the name “tribe” to this politicized group.  As a political identity, tribe became the basis of systematic discrimination between groups: only tribes officially acknowledged as “indigenous” were entitled to “customary” rights, which included the right of access to land and the right of participation in local governance.  This system of discrimination was sanctified as “customary” and was enforced by law.
The colonial system rested on a dual system of institutionalized discrimination: race in urban areas, and tribe in the countryside.  Whereas racial discrimination was justified as reflecting a civilizational hierarchy between colonizers and colonized, tribal discrimination was said to recognize cultural difference between natives.
What is the connection between the system of power I have just outlined, the Native Authority system, and ethnic cleansing?  So long as the tribal system of power continued to discriminate between ethnic groups, all institutions came to bear a tribal imprint.  Recruitment for the mines or the civil service or the army was driven by tribal identity.  Not only competition but also resistance developed along tribal lines.
Let us return to Katanga.  Labor migration gave rise to a triangular relationship within Katanga, with each group classified as indigenous or not.  The interesting thing is that there were two ethnic groups but three different classifications in the “tribal” system.  The first were the Lunda, said to be indigenous to Katanga.  Then came the Luba immigrants from Kasai, who were divided into two groups.  Those who had moved to Katanga before colonialism were considered ‘indigenous’ and were identified as Luba-Katanga.  In contrast, those who had arrived during the colonial period as labor migrants were tagged as not indigenous and were known as the Luba-Kasai.

All three groups organized as separate political parties.  Alongside, there was a fourth party, representing Belgian settlers in Katanga.  In the mines of Katanga, the Belgians confronted the Luba, organized in militant unions.  With the development of militant nationalism, Belgians promoted an alliance of the settler party with the indigenous Lunda, known as the alliance of “civilizers” and “authentic Katangans”.  The alliance first targeted the Luba-Kasai, and then all the Luba.
It is the logic that the identity of the native was tribal, not only when it came to exercizing power but also when it came to resisting power.  It is the logic that fed the dynamic to secession and, ultimately, ethnic cleansing.  As the alliance between “civilizers” and “authentic natives” gelled, the colonial establishment – the church, the state and business – took to backing “nativist” tribal movements, in both Katanga and Kasai.  With Belgian support, each mounted a separate drive for secession, first in Katanga (11 July 1960) and then in South Kasai (8 August 1960). Branded “aliens” in both places, the Luba became the first target of ethnic cleansing in both South Kasai and Katanga.  
This is the context in which the first major political crisis in Congo’s history unfolded.  The new government responded to the secession in Katanga by sending the army to suppress it.  On their way to Katanga, troops of the Congolese National Army were ordered to put down the South Kasai secession.  They went on a rampage, slaughtering civilians.

Nzongola Ntalaje, the Congolese political historian, has argued that Lumumba committed his “first major political blunder” when “as the number one national leader, instead of seeking to heal the rift in a bitter inter-ethnic conflict”, he chose to side with one group against another.  Thus he provided political enemies the opportunity to corner him politically and eliminate him physically.  Immediately, Dag Hammerksjold, the UN Secretary General, accused Lumumba of being responsible for “genocide”.  That same day, 5 September, Kasa-Vubu dismissed Lumumba as Prime Minister.
The Native Authority system continues to drive the crisis of citizenship in Congo today.  Driving a wedge between two politically defined groups – indigenous and not indigenous – it continues to fuel the dynamic leading to ethnic cleansing.  The prophetic round of ethnic cleansing began at independence, with Katanga as he paradigm case, but it was repeated on a more dramatic scale in 1992-93, again in Katanga, then in Ituri in the conflict between Hema and Lendu, and finally in Kivu.
The political crisis in Congo is today at its most extreme in eastern Congo, in Kivu, where the Native Authority system pits ‘indigenous’ tribes against the Banyaruanda minority.  The Banyaruanda are the speakers of the language Kinyarwanda, identified with the historical kingdom of Ruanda.  Along with speakers of Kirundi, its sister language, they number roughly 40 million.  Mainly resident in Ruanda and Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Eastern Congo, the Banyaruanda comprise the largest language group in the region, if we exclude the trans-ethnic speakers of Kiswahili.  Since most Banyaruanda live outside Rwanda, they face the crisis of citizenship in its most acute form: wherever the mode of governance is defined by the Native Authority system, the Banyaruanda are defined as ‘non-indigenous’ outsiders.  Even if born where they live, they remain without ‘customary’ rights, whether to land or to appointment in a local authority.
As with Lunda migrants into Katanga, the Banyaruanda in Kivu were also divided between those who came before Belgian colonization and those who came after.  The former were considered indigenous, but not the latter.
 Denied ‘customary’ access to land, the Banyaruanda took to purchasing land as private property, and refused to pay tribute to customary chiefs.  The result was a contest between two different notions of rights: on one side the right of the citizen, and on the other “customary” right. The political dilemma became acute where the Banyaruada became a majority, as they did in Masisi and Rutshuru by 1958. The conflict between the Banyaruanda and the indigenous groups broke out in 1963 and turned into a wider contest: immigrants demanded ‘democracy’ and the indigenous groups called for ‘custom’ to be upheld.  Known as La Guerre du Kinyarwanda, this conflict lasted two years.
So sensitive was the citizenship status of the Banyaruanda minority at independence that the Roundtable Conference in Brussels was unable to fix its juridical status. The Fundamental Law the conference passed left the citizenship status of the minority unresolved; instead, it called on the Congolese people to settle the issue at a future date.  The 1964 constitution famously declared that only a person with an ancestor who was “a member of a tribe or part of a tribe established in the Congo before 18 October 1908” would qualify as a citizen of Congo. The consequence was to bar all colonial era labor migrants from citizenship.
The most important dimension of the citizenship problem in Kivu is the failure of the indigenous majority to work out a political principle that would accommodate developments on the ground and extend citizenship to migrants, thereby constantly redefining the political community.  The consequence of this failure was that migrants into Kvu increasingly sought protection from an outside power, initially Mobutu and then, after Mobutu, neighboring Rwanda. 
Even the internal opposition, a gathering of over 100 political parties and over 400 civic groups, which came together as the Sovereign National Conference in Kisangani in 1991-92, failed to address this question.  In contrast, Mobutu tried, as in 1972, when his reform extended citizenship to those who had immigrated to Congo during the colonial period.  Called upon to think of a principle other than ethnic descent as the basis of citizenship in Congo, the CNS failed.

It is this failure that ultimately led to the collapse of the CNS.  The failure was tragic because the CNS began as a spectacular success.  Its proceedings were televised throughout urban Congo.  The effect was to inspire further initiatives. There was a mushrooming of civic organisations, thickening the texture of the internal political opposition.  The Sovereign National Conference was closed abruptly on 6 December 1992 when it was ready to deal with two of the most politically sensitive dossiers: one on ill-acquired goods and the other on political assassinations.  The failure of the CNS to reopen pointed beyond the regime’s strength to internal weakness of the opposition.
The opposition was faced with the dilemma of managing internal tensions within its own ranks, the very challenge that had undermined Lumumba’s position in 1961.  The more it failed to manage these tensions, the more the opposition fragmented.  The worst outcome was in Katanga, where events were sadly reminiscent of 1960.  As in 1960, the Lunda and the Luba had organized under separate political roofs, the former in the Katanga-based party, called Union des Fédéralists et des Républicains Indépendants (UFERI), led by a relative of Tshombe, Jean Nguza Karl-i-Bond (Nguza), and the latter under UPDS, led by Etienne Tshisekedi, himself a Luba from Kasai.  Initially, UFERI joined UPDS to form Union Sacré, the most important opposition bloc in CNS.  But this was an inter-ethnic unity of two separate ethnically-based organizations.  Intent on splitting the opposition, Mobutu first appointed Tshisekedi as Prime Minister and then replaced him with Nguza.  It was Nguza who closed the CNS in 1992 on Mobutu’s orders.  On its heels followed the second episode of ethnic cleansing in Katanga, on a scale much larger than in 1960.  This time, over a million Kasaians expelled from Katanga.
Let me turn to Darfur and Sudan.  Since I have traced this history in detail in my recent book, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror, it should be sufficient to underline key developments in this lecture.  The first was the creation of tribal homelands under British colonialism.
The British faced several crises during their centuries-long imperial venture.  The most serious of these was in mid-19th century when two revolts, the 1857 Uprising in India and the Morant Rebellion in Jamaica, rocked the empire at its two extremes.  The next great crisis was the Mahdiyya in Sudan.  When the British returned to defeat the Mahdiyya and colonize Sudan, they were determined to fragment the colony as effectively as possible.  Thus began the program of “tribalization”, beginning with the creation of tribal homelands.  From the very outset, this was a political program.  It favored British allies against those who had joined the Mahdiyya, and then it favored settled over nomadic groups, since the former were easier to control.  So the colonial power created “tribal homelands” – called hakuras – for peasant groups, and smaller ones for cattle nomads who were semi-sedentary, but none for the wholly sedentary camel nomads.

This did not seem to matter much until drought and desertification hit the region.  Studies by the United Nations Education Program, released a few years ago, show that the southern rim of the Sahara expanded nearly a hundred kilometers over four decades, from the mid-1940s to the mid-1980s, pushing the northern nomadic tribes south in search of better land.  The result was a classic ecological conflict between nomads and peasants over the best land in an ecological disaster zone.
I was a consultant for a year for the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation, a unit created by the African Union after the Abuja negotiations.  The DDDC carried out a research on the dynamics of the conflict.  Its findings showed that the conflict had spread over two axis: a north-south axis that pit nomadic against peasant tribes, and an east-west axis in the south that pit two kinds of nomadic tribes – those with homelands and those without – against one another. The media focused exclusively on the north-south axis of the conflict which it portrayed as one between ‘Arab’ and ‘African’ tribes. 
There are two problems with this portrayal.  The first is that the driving force of the conflict was not ethnic identity but the search for land in an ecological crisis.    Whoever controlled the land would survive the crisis, whoever lost control over land would parish.  But because land had been defined as “tribal homeland,” the fight for land turned into a fight between tribes.  This is how most observers on the ground understood the logic that fed the growing brutality in the conflict.  As in Kivu in eastern Congo, the conflict in Darfur pit two notions of rights against one another: the camel nomads claimed the right of the citizen to settle anywhere in the country, whereas peasant groups laid claim to tribal “customary” rights to land and local governance.

Second, there is no single history of “Arabs” of Sudan.  In particular, the history of “Arabs” of northern Sudan and that of Arabs of Darfur is radically different.  Whereas the “Arabs” of northern Sudan include immigrants from the Arab world, the “Arabs” of Darfur include immigrants from West Africa, mainly the Fulani who are known as the Fallata and identify as an “Arab” tribe in South Darfur.  There is also a difference in the relationship of Arabs to the slave trade in different parts of Sudan: the slave trade in the Sultanate of Funj in the North was driven by an “Arab” elite, but in the Sultanate of Fur was driven by a Fur elite.  The result was that whereas most former slaves in the north tended to identify as “Arab”, most former slavers in Darfur tend to identify as Fur. 
The elite in northern Sudan today is mainly “Arab”, but the elite in Darfur is not.  The Arabs of Darfur are in fact its least privileged group, with the lowest levels of income and education and the least representation in the state.  If Darfur is marginalized in Sudan, the “Arabs” of Darfur are doubly marginalized. 
Let me return to my main point: the Native Authority system and how it generates the dynamics that tends to lead to ethnic cleansing in times of political crisis, and the need to reform it. 
When he faced the internal opposition in Congo, and its spectacular success as witnessed in the launching of the Sovereign National Conference in Kisangani in 1991, Mobutu launched a counter-offensive, disguised as a reform of the state.  This is when he advanced a new federal principle for Congo.  Geopolitique, as he called it, was an attempt to elevate ‘nativism’, hitherto the basis of organization of the Native Authority, into a principle for the reorganization of the central government.  Having already passed a resolution that every aspirant to Congolese citizenship demonstrate an ancestral connection with Congo prior to the Berlin Conference, Mobutu now declared that new heads of Ministerial Departments represent their ‘native’ provinces.  By calling for regional quotas as the basis for recruitment at the center, Geopolitique further entrenched indigeneity as a principle and institutionalized ethnic competition.  Mobutu then went on to demand that “delegates [to the CNS] represent only provinces to which they could be considered autochthon”. 
he CNS lost the political battle the day it succumbed to this demand.  In Ituri this logic was picked up and used by the Hema against Nande competitors. When a 1995 decree declared all Kinyarwanda- speakers as foreigners, the momentum of ethnic cleansing shifted from Katanga to Kivu.  On 7 October 1996, the governor of South Kivu ordered all Banyamulenge to leave the country within a week, or else they would be interned in camps and eliminated.
I have often wondered whether Nigeria’s post-civil war constitution did not emulate the substance of Mobutu’s “geopolitique”, particularly in its inclusion of the “federal character” clause, requiring that key federal institutions reflect the federal character of Nigeria.  As I understand this requirement, the key federal institutions are three: the federal army, the federal civil service, and federal universities.  For these institutions to reflect federal character, enrollment is driven by a state-based quota system whereby the quota for each state is in proportion to its share of the federal population.  Finally, the right to compete for this quota does not belong to all those who live in a state, but only to those who can claim to be “indigenous” to the state in question, meaning that not only they but also their father be born in that state.
It is possible that this provision was adopted as a form of affirmative action for those parts of the country which had lagged behind in educational and social development during the colonial period and that its purpose was to ensure them fair representation in key federal institutions, one proportional to their weight in the population.  The question I have in mind does not concern motive, but consequence.  My question is: have the unintended consequences of this provision – its costs – come to outweigh its intended benefits for Nigeria?
The federal character principle has extended the colonial principal of Native Authority to key institutions in the federal state.  Its unintended effect has been to turn federal citizenship into an extension of ethnically-defined membership of Native Authorities, thereby eroding it.  By dividing Nigerian citizens into “indigines” and “non-indigines” – not of Nigeria but of individual states – for purposes of participation in national institutions, it has disenfranchised a growing number of Nigerian citizens, those who do not live in the states where they were born.
That Nigeria is increasingly integrated into a global economy, and has been the subject of market reforms, has intensified the contradiction between the market and the state as currently organized in Nigeria.  The tendency of the market economy is to move more and more strata of the population away from the locality where they were born. This includes both rich and poor Nigerians: on the one hand, businessmen, industrialists, and professionals, and on the other, unemployed workers and landless peasants.  The state system, in contrast, disenfranchises precisely those who move.  The state system penalizes precisely those the economy dynamizes.  The least dynamic sectors of the population respond to this situation by calling for a defense of their “customary” rights, and the most dynamic rally around the principle of a “national” citizenship.  One lesson of Congo and Sudan is that it may be time to rethink the legacy of both the colonial past and the reforms you undertook to end the civil war.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sufi Story (Or Nigerian future foretold)

A certain man was believed to have died
and was being prepared for burial , when he
revived. He sat up, but was so shocked at the
scene around him that he fainted. He was put in
a coffin and the funeral party set off for the
cemetery. Just as they arrived at the grave, he
regained consciousness, lifted the coffin lid
and cried out for help. “ It is not possible that
he has revived,” said the mourners, “because he
was certified dead by competent experts.”
“ But I am alive,” shouted the man. He appealed to
a well-known and impartial scientist and jurisprudent
who was present. “Just a moment ,” said the expert.
He then turned to the mourners, counting them.
“Now we have heard what the alleged deceased
has had to say. You fifty witnesses tell me what
you regard as the truth.” “He is dead,” said the
witnesses. “Bury him,” said the expert. And so
he was buried.

This reminds me about the resounding chorus of Nigeria the so called 'failed state'. I pray it does not end this way for us and our country. You never miss the water until the well runs dry.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Honouring Women

I am as remote as one can decently be from being a feminised male. A father of three boys, a brother of five and in all cases the only women in my life have adjusted to the Testosterone fueled existence that is normal in masculine environment. My mother, sister and wife are honorary men without doubt socialised by the necessity of relationship with men. In fact all my adventures with the opposite sex has never been much with the frilly, girly types. It is with that background that I write about the disturbing discrimination and abuse reserved for women here in Nigeria. The cover of the latest Economist Magazine shouts out Gendercide looking at over 100 million female babies disappeared in India and China because of abortion prompted by advancement in technology i.e. Scans with consequence that preferences for male children are now more efficiently exercised before birth. This is an extremely disturbing situation that not only is worthy of challenge but crosses into the most extreme evil human are capable of committing. In Nigeria it is neither that simple nor does the problem register for National Hysteria.

One in every three Nigerian women I have met have been victims of rape, incest or sexual abuse before they reached the age of 18. Most of these actions were inflicted by trusted family, friends or domestic help. In most cases as it is in a society where a woman is one step from being a Jezebel the shame of the experience is hidden from any adult for the fear of the blame or disgrace that might visit. I remember when i was growing up in Ibadan that there were a group of boys notorious for gang banging unsuspecting girls and denigrating them afterwards. None of these men were ever prosecuted and many hold responsible positions even though what they did around town is still very public knowledge.

For those who never suffered the abusive indignity there is another one reserved for them which is that no matter how successful a women is in our society if she has never been married she has failed. The constant prayers and vigil of parents to their late 20s daughters and God forbid 30s unmarried 'girls' is a constant painful reminder whether it is the regular match making efforts, the sympathetic stares or the suspicious trailing by married friends. It is never ending humiliation and reminders of foretold loneliness. The assumption that marriage cures this malaise is ignorant at best. Domestic violence or more bluntly wife bashing is a past time for large numbers of men in our society with no shame for the perpetrator. As I speak a friend is on his way from the UK to save his sister from a husband who uses her as a punching bag daily after a bottle or two of Gulder. Make no mistake the husband is not an Okada rider but a very rich Phd whose idea of masculinity includes total de-humanization of the mother of his children.

We reserve a special venom for women in our public life from the constant sexual attention in the workplace as if being in employment is advertising sexual availability. The everything goes invective that we pour on any woman who dares position themselves for power. I remember Speaker Etteh who no doubt did wrong but was analysed in ways that made every part of my skin cringe with the thinly disguised sexism on parade. I am not suggesting that women are saints in this matter , in fact some of most disgraceful acts of abuse and disrespect come from women themselves but what about men? There is a difference between an adult male and a man. A man takes responsibility wherever he finds it. Real men engage in honourable competition and assertive integrity in the most combative circumstances they might find themselves with women. Nothing can justify abuse, denigration or humiliation. It is time for real men to stand up for women in Nigeria without whom we will perpetually be an underperforming and embarrassing joke.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti and teaching the Power of Love

Jeanette and Her Husband give us the most powerful lesson in life and love. This is a lesson that should go round the world and should never be forgotten. The people of Haiti may be poor but they are rich in character, love and relationship. If what gives them this is a pact with the Devil , then I am going to get me some of that.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Passes for Christianity

Say what you want about Fox but Shep Smith is the only class act in that Network.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Underwear exposed

The decision to put Nigeria on the list of 14 nations to receive secondary screening from the US is bad policy. It discriminates very badly because if it will lead to greater detection maybe it could be justified but it will alienate millions without making the US safer. Unlike many who focus on the underwearbomber as the the reason for this decision the official excuse is the alleged laxity in Nigeria airport never mind that the journey began in Ghana and he had more opportunity to load up there than in Lagos. It is also now article of faith by US liberal powerbrokers like Senator Feingold, Senator Schumer who are briefed by the so called Nigerian progressives who have helped by carrying their cynical perspective all around for all to hear. The tragedy here is that they have turned their development at the ridiculous government we have into an indictment of everything Nigerian. Now they have to reap the wind that they have sown. In the same way that they were apologists for the kidnapers and bunkerers in the Delta. They are then shocked that the kidnaping is spreading like a cancer in all areas where former robbers can now realise greater returns and lower risks by holding the lives of successful or popular people to ransom. No matter what age this people are like little children, they no longer just inhabit the daily news, they are spread over the internet and have homes in facebook, saharareporters et al. Their initial response to the underwearbomber is to get into tribal and geopolitical finger pointing . Addicted to the adrenalin from arguing and besotted by the heat and lack of light in their opinions.

It is quite a fearful time for those of us who truly love Nigeria and are decidedly committed to realising its greatness. We have ended up with most irrelevant and incompetent National government and any assumption that we had the national, or civic pride will prompt everyone to take responsibility has faded to nothingness. granted it is easier if you had a good government to transform a society but all the energy criticising and running commentary can be used to change individual lives, family possibilities, communal aspiration and cities as well as towns. we are in national crisis and everyone who cares needs to take position wherever they find themselves to help build and develop us out of this hole government or not. Governor Fashola is a good example he could have spent time getting into the AC versus PDP thing on a daily basis but he has used his bully pulpit to inspire and deliver. nations do not change from criticism but they sometimes do from inspiration and that does not only come from Government.

I will be changing the direction of this blog and active working to create new stories and focus towards the kind of society I want my grandchildren to be part and citizens off. I have failed my children but I am blessed to be alive to make things happen for my grandchildren. This decade cannot be wasted talking it will be about what we do fail or succeed.

Ire O

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Bloomberg Third Term

Mayor Bloomberg sworn into a unprecedented third term by changing the rules so he can run. Obasanjo discredited by Nigerians for seeking a similar move. Maybe it is not the 3rd term that is the problem it is who is seeking it?

David Brooks on Terrorism, An Adult guide

Please read for an truly adult perspective and contrast with Maureen Dowd childish screed both in NY Times. By the way Happy New Year and a new opportunity to write history in a new decade, do not waste it, completely rock it.