Thursday, February 01, 2018

When Civilization Kicked Us in the Face on The African Bus By Abimbola Lagunju

When Civilization kicked us in the face
When holy water slapped our cringing brows
The vultures built in the shadow of their talons
The bloodstained monument of tutelage….
                                                                David Diop. The Vultures.

Many African youths do not have any idea of African history; and honestly, I feel they really do not care. The numerous volumes available on African history and politics are tedious, and but for the most tenacious and knowledge-thirsty youth, they are largely ignored by majority of youths. We cannot blame the youths. They have many challenges to contend with, from the serious school materials to the pervasive audiovisual entertainment, which actively competes for their time and attention.

However, these youths find it difficult to understand why there are many shortcomings in their environment. They do not understand why their society should be different from those of other cultures. They are concerned that they do not have the same access to services and goods as their contemporaries in other parts of the world. They know that something is wrong; and they cannot put their fingers on it.

In order to understand the present, one must sometimes make a journey into the past. However, the journey to the past may be volumes of books that may prove to be a challenge to the youths. And knowing where to start from may be a major constraint too.

Here in these extracts from my book, I have tried to make a satirical sprint through African political history. I have focused on the most important moments of African history, namely slavery period, colonialism and post independence period. The focus is on the calamities that befell black Africans during these periods.

By presenting this in a short satirical form, it is my hope that the different historical facts deftly hidden in the text will engage the curiosity of the reading youths, and will encourage them to find out more about their past, get them more interested in their present, and inspire them to selflessly contribute to the building of a better Africa.

Hear this activist riding On The African Bus:
I nurse the pains of loss of courage, pains of transformation of the hunter to the hunted; of metamorphosis of an aristocrat to an unwanted classless being. I am a pained witness to the deconstruction of a creator of ideas to a crass consumer; to the change of roles of benefactors to beneficiaries. We, the drivers of history have become passengers of life, living on the fringes of our appropriated past. Disrobed, divested of our princely garments in the predatory arena of conquerors, we, the descendants of Kmt[i] say “…yes to the whip under the midday sun.”[ii] How have the mighty fallen!! And while the tired builders of ancient Egypt take their rest under the neem tree in the Sahel and on the coast, others claim their feats as theirs and then confine the exhausted warriors to books of historical failures. Like all conquerors, they rewrite history. They forget at will things that happened when they were historical infants; and frequently remember things that never happened. They choose to forget their own foundation, the origin of their knowledge, the beginning of their existence, the KMT. History begins at their point of convenience, from the moment of their prowess.

They rewrite everything; they whitewash it. They whitewashed Kepre Kare Senworsert the First[iii], Latinised Narmer[iv], and even assigned the writing system of the Land of Blacks to Raceless creatures! The conquerors took everything; they take everything: small and big, old and new.  If it is good, it cannot belong to this part; “….anything of value found here does not belong here.”[v]
It belongs elsewhere, far from these shores, somewhere in the north, occasionally, grudgingly in distant Asia.

Now, at the mercy of the elements, sans direction, sans plan, we dance to all winds. We are drenched when it rains. Our brain sizzles in the cooking sun. Fried. Barbecued. Roasted. Boiled. Cerveau Sauté à la carte.  And even now in our prostrate state everyone picks the brain. Each according to his appetite. They eat as much as they want and even do take-away.  No credit to the brain restaurant. No mention of the incorrigible Good Samaritan except in bad books. He is not even mentioned as the Foolish Samaritan. Just plain bad. Useless. Bad genes.  Black sheep. God’s mistake!  No history – we had no history until the arrival of foreigners. No culture – “their condition is capable of no development of culture…”[vi] No past except a savage one.  No present, except aid - left, right and centre.
No future.

Their Seine swallowed our Sine[vii] as recently as six hundred years ago. Dyed its mind blonde and blue. Hapless Sine digested, it gives up its calories and proteins. Now, stripped of everything except misery, disease and hunger, and mangled in assimilation, acculturation and globalisation, Sine is spewed in putrid vomitus. And in big banners, Sine is declared detested, unwanted. Mission accomplished: pushed, used, dispossessed, now thrown to the bottom of the ladder.  Faux Fraternité forgotten.  Dubious Solidarité sequestered. The human Race is now categorised: Super humans, humans, and the maybes. Who dares challenge the conqueror?

The sapostles (development guys) then came among us, waved Canaan of development in our faces, and we packed our bags out of Egypt. Out of Kemet. Yes, they promised us snow and we believed that snow was good for us. They said the Red Sea was nothing but a dying stream. That our pyramids were nothing but chunks of stones; that we needed to forget our past in order to be free. Forget the past to be free was what they told us. The past is a chain, it is bondage. Leave it. Let it die a quick death. One of their wise men called it “Aid-Induced Accelerated Collective Amnesia” in a conference.

They said the road out of Egypt was not difficult. They claimed it was laid with cheese, burgers, salad, caviar, foie gras, French fries, curry and every other thing alien to our palate. And our mouths watered!  We believed that alien foods were good for us. We did not think about indigestion, diarrhea, flatulence and indeed cancers.

We left everything behind, sold every possession, and moved out into the wilderness, straight for the Red Sea. How on earth could we have believed that the sea was not wider than a stream? Did they hypnotise us? Or are we just plain naïve?

And at the banks of the sea, when we began to understand their intentions, they did not give us any chance to go back or to escape. They blinded us with flipcharts and beamer lights, conferences, workshops and seminars. Some of us even got some perdiem and some, time at the podium. Tons of industrial words, phrases, plans, objectives and indicators. And we forgot everything. Yes we forgot everything as soon as each meeting was over.

Our mistake. They thought we were ignorant, that we couldn’t hold anything except combs in the tiny curls and they organised more meetings and workshops. And we chose to forget again. We told them what we wanted, what we needed. We needed glucose, not grammar. We needed proteins, not programs. We needed vegetables, not variables; we demanded our stolen dignity, not pity. We demanded respect, not project. They wouldn’t listen. They said donors would not want to hear us. We were beneficiaries, and donors were donors. Beneficiaries do not know what is good for their benefit. Donors know better what the beneficiaries need. Beneficiary compliance is very important or the donor could go into fatigue mode.

We began to complain. And when the sapostles heard rumbles of rebellion, they threatened us with selective and collective sanctions, visa restrictions, aid withdrawal, credit denial. We acquiesced, then they herded us into the sea. They pushed our bus in. Some of us broke their legs and others, their heads in the fall.

Many pensioners lost their lives. The hardy ones lost all their teeth.  Our bus lost all its shock-absorbers. The silencer broke. The radiator sucked in mud. Even, our normally obedient driver silently complained.

And now, look at the sapostles in their tight jeans at the banks of the sea, guzzling beer, eating prawns, munching lobsters, watching sunset on our beaches, laughing at us, making studies and writing endless reports. They now call themselves the local international community.........

[i] Kemet – Ancient Egypt
[ii] David Diop – Africa. A Poem
[iii] Twelth Dynasty King of Kemet (1897BC). Known to the Greeks as Sesotris and Kekrops. According to Greek mythology, he was the founder of Athens.
[iv] Known by the Greeks as Menes, he was the founder of Dynastic Kemet.
[v] Ayi Kwei Armah – The Identity of the Creators of Ancient Egypt – New African April 2006.
[vi] Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel - Philosophy of History
[vii] A river in Senegal.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Project Nigeria: Snatching Back Hope from Robbers of Hope By Abimbola Lagunju

The life of a Nigerian citizen is played out in an absurd existential theatre where what he does not want overshadows and occludes what he wants. The forces that govern and administer what he does not want dominate and define his existence. Then the Nigerian hopes and hopes. He looks for solution, not by fighting the darkness of what he does not want that controls his life, but by finding a leeway, even if it is a temporary one. He seeks to sneak out and run as far as his legs can carry him physically or psychologically, and lately, there has been a lot of flaunting of spiritual escape route too. Most times, the disenchanted Nigerian combines the three strategies to escape the suffocating powers that are determined to make his existence worthless and ultimately send him to an early grave.

The forces that govern and administer the contrary of needs of the Nigerian have stripped him of his pride, his food, his clothing, his right to a decent life and hope that has kept him going since independence. The hope of a Nigerian for good governance, for a decent homeland to be proud of, for decent living like every other civilized person on the planet has become a ball on the pitch of corrupt and rudderless politics between the ruling party and the opposition. These two teams wearing the same jerseys, switch sides at random and kick the ball around without purpose while the referee without his whistle also kicks the ball in any direction that takes his fancy.  The poor Nigerian is reduced to the state of Orwellian’s surrealism when the animals cannot different the pigs from humans. PDP becomes APC, APC becomes PDP formerly of APC, now of PDP, then again presently of APC. President Obasanjo writes a scathing letter to President Buhari in Nigeria, then they laugh over it in Addis. It is impossible to know who stands for what in Nigerian politics.

The hapless Nigerian watches in horror from the stands as his hope for electricity supply, for good roads, quality education for his children, employment, functional and quality health service and other social amenities is being murderously kicked about by the forces that govern his existence. The poor Nigerian has been dispossessed of his hope and he has no clue whatsoever on how to recover his hope from these dark and primitive forces.

And these dark ruling and opposition forces, whose antics, logic, comportment and utterances represent an antithesis of all the qualities expected in leadership tout themselves as leaders of the country! In his short treatise titled “The Trouble with Nigeria” published in 1983, Chinua Achebe wrote, “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else”.  This statement is partially true. It is true that there is nothing wrong with Nigerian land, however, in order for something to fail in its functions (in this case leadership), it must first exist. The problem with Nigeria is that leadership has never existed in this country. What we have always had under different names, shapes and brands are the same political and economic marauders, whose sole objective is to strip us to the bones and take away our hope. There is no cohesive and coherent vision for the country. There is no goal. There is no Project Nigeria.

It is the role of leadership to formulate a collective vision and it is from this vision that patriotism derives. Vision is the soul of a group or of a country. It is what unites. Different administrations, civil or military may have different strategies to move the country towards the vision, but the vision should remain the same for the country.  Unfortunately, this has not been the case for Nigeria. There is no collective vision. Successive regimes or administrations that have been in charge of governing this country since independence tend to outdo each other in bad governance and stripping the Nigerian of all dimensions of hope. Faced with a situation of moving from frying pan to fire to oven and back to frying pan with each successive regime, the Nigerian develops a false memory. When in the fire, he romanticizes life in the frying pan, and when in the oven, he remembers with fondness his life in the fire.

Enter the Nigerian youth! Dazed by daily news of embezzlement, lack of basic services, high cost of living and their hopeless situation of unemployment, the contemporary Nigerian youth, devoid of hope seeks to literally disappear from the scene. There are many escape routes for the Nigerian youth – the most favoured is leaving the shores of Nigeria, far away from their tormentors. It can be safely assumed that every Nigerian youth at one point or the other, either by himself or through the instigation of parents has contemplated leaving the country. Some embark on their journeys through Sahara Desert and others manage to get visas to their destinations in the West. To legitimize their stay, they apply for asylum; they put their most creative literary talents to work to invent stories of persecution in Nigeria. Some of the stories will pass for absurd fiction. Some of those that are stuck here find solace in vice, and many across all categories choose to fight the robbers of their hopes in spiritual realm. And many dream to join the robbers of hope too.

The contemporary Nigerian Youth does not constitute a force; neither does it have any vision. The powers that be today, who came into power in their youths have ensured that the current youths remain visionless (just like them) as far as Project Nigeria is concerned and that they are disunited. And a small number of youths that have been absorbed into the dark forces either through parental influence or political affiliations have been trained to nurse the darkest intentions against their contemporaries.

What is the way forward in this hopeless situation?
Firstly, Nigerian youths need to work together, despite the current odds, to develop a Project Nigeria. They need to formulate a vision with short, medium and long term objectives and develop strategies to achieve the objectives. The project should be a common reference and guiding document for all youths from all parts of Nigeria including the diaspora.

Secondly, as a strategy, youths need to altruistically and in total compliance with the principles of the Project Nigeria participate in the political and civil society process in order for the project to gain a foothold in the minds of politicians and the populace.

Thirdly, also as a strategy, demand for accountability in all aspects of political and social life as regards Project Nigeria should be a non-negotiable minimum to save Nigeria and restore hope.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB and the Igbos By Abimbola Lagunju

Nnamdi Kanu says he loves the Igbos. He loves them to death; he loves them so much that he wants to destroy them and their investments all over Nigeria. He loves them so much that he has, through his vitriol and irrational behavior brought the python to dance in their market place, and maybe ultimately on their graves. He loves them so much that he invited October 1deadline on the innocent ones going about their lawful businesses in Northern Nigeria. Thankfully October 1 deadline has been cancelled. But Romeo Kanu does not want the cancellation; he prefers a postponement of destruction of his kith and kin in the North. He loves his people to death.

Nnamdi Kanu read the story of Moses in the Bible. He sees himself as Moses that led the Israelites out of Egypt. He bought a shawl, a Jewish shawl to become Moses of the Igbos. He sees river Niger as the Red Sea to cross to freedom. Nnamdi Kanu, the Jew has strange visions of himself with a rod, beating the waters of River Niger to part for his children of Israel to cross. He sees manna falling from the palm trees of his native village. He sees himself climbing Udi Hill in Enugu to receive the Ten Commandments. Moses had Mount Sinai, Kanu has Udi Hills.

Kanu loves the Igbo so much that he hates every other person. He calls the Yorubas names; he calls the Hausas and the Fulani names. Only the Igbo are good. Four legs good, two legs bad..Napoleon of Orwellian Animal Farm said same. He loves the Igbo so much that he thinks only of himself as Imperial Majesty Moses Napoleon Nnamdi Kanu, the holder of power of life and death over Igbo Kingdom. He wants to leave what he calls the zoo to create his own Animal Farm. He wants the Igbos in an Animal Farm.

Kanu the Moses sees Buhari as the Pharaoh. He calls Buhari unprintable names. Buhari is his enemy, not the governors of his kingdom, not their senators, who fail their people on a daily basis like all Nigerian politicians do. In his vision, he does not see Buhari as the Head of a modern State called Nigeria; he sees Pharaoh Buharix I. Buharix wears a crown made of Igbo hide worked on by Yoruba artisans, the slaves of the Pharaoh.

Like all schizophrenics, Kanu the Moses sees all other tribes transmogrify into animals stalking the Igbos all over the country; he calls us animals in a zoo and sometimes he sees us as slaves building the pyramids for Pharaoh Buharix I . He does not want his Igbolites, the Israelites of his visions, the original people of Israel to build pyramids in Kano, Kaduna or in Daura. And he sees the Jews living in Israel today are impostors (forget that he flies their flag at his toxic meetings)….Moses Nnamdi Kanu has a plan for them. He will still take his people, the Igbos across the Mediterranean and chase out the people of Israel to the Golan Heights. He and his Igbos are the original Jews who missed their way to Nigeria’s South East. Their fatherland is across the sea, and Kanu has the rod to part the waters of the Mediterranean for his people to ultimately cross to the Promised Land. Their capital is Jerusalem.

But Reason says Nnamdi Kanu is a false irredentist. He does not love the Igbos. He hates them passionately. He is morbidly jealous of their economic success across Nigeria. His hatred is fuelled by his inability to create wealth to flaunt like his successful kin. Rather than learn from them, he wants to destroy them. In all his rantings, Nnamdi Kanu has not spoken of any vision for his Kingdom of Biafra. He has no idea. He wants to bring them economically to their knees by dangling the Biafra carrot. But they are wise; they are not biting his fake carrot. They may not understand his motive, but they understand that his rhetoric will bring ruin to them.

Nnamdi Kanu hates his Igbo brothers so much that he wants to render them economically unproductive like himself. He wants to see them scraping for a living. He wants to replace their wealth with hatred. He wants to see erstwhile rich and successful Igbos squirm in front of him. He wants to ruin his brothers and defeat their spirits forever.

His intentions are ominous for his Igbo kindred. When the Northern Youths annulled their October 1 deadline for the Igbos to leave Northern Nigeria, everyone breathed a sigh of relief, but not Kanu. He insisted that all Igbos in Northern Nigeria should return to the South-East before October 1! To do what? To worship him as their Moses!

Igbos do not only do business everywhere they are, but are also part and parcel of the landscape socially and culturally. They are settled. They are prosperous. They have numerous friends among other ethnic groups. They intermarry.  But Kanu wants to destroy all that. And what will he give in return? Nothing.

Nigeria is an environment of chronic need in terms of alimentation. It is normal that many who suffered chronic malnutrition in their childhood will have some deficits in their mental health like the shambolic followership of Kanu. It is surprising that those who have nothing to lose are calling the shots for those who have everything and their minds to lose. It is time for the Igbos to organize themselves against Kanu, the self-acclaimed Moses. He needs help. Where are the psychiatrists?

For those Yorubas who have openly supported Kanu, they share his vision of destruction of the Igbos – pull them down. They suffer from pathological envy of the success of the Igbos. They want to see the Igbos cut to size – to a very small and insignificant size. Their support is not altruistic; they are goading Kanu to bring down his own brothers.