PBS Egalite for All: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution
The continent’s booming new economic zones are outstripping the ability of weak central governments to retain their hold on them.
Heavy traffic on a bridge in the Ikoyi neighbourhood in Lagos on March 27, 2012. (Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters)
Twice as populous today as the next biggest African country, Nigeria, which was cobbled together as a colony 100 years ago, has always stood out on its continent as the most ambitious and in many ways fanciful creation of British imperialism.
First, it was given its name in 1897 by Flora Shaw, a journalist for the London Times, and then run by her eventual husband, Lord Lugard, a former army officer and civil servant who recognized from the outset, even as he unified what had been a hodgepodge collection of protectorates, that its disparate regions had almost nothing common.
Almost from the moment of its independence in 1960, Britain’s fractious, artificial concoction has been falling apart, haunted by the twin specters of state failure and breakup.
In the country’s first decade, it was riven by the Biafran War, a vicious, ethnically driven bid for secession by its southeasterners that killed 2 million people and still ranks as one of the continent’s deadliest civil conflicts.
An oil boom in the 1970s briefly seemed to promise widespread prosperity. Instead, it brought a long period of runaway corruption, military coups, and abysmal misrule that have left 60 percent of the population living under the poverty line.
Civilian government and democracy were restored to Nigeria in 1999, but this has not meant the arrival of competent national leadership, nor to a halt in the procession of crises.
This decade has been marked by the alarming spread of terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in the overwhelmingly Muslim northern half of the country, and by the rampant piracy of oil, Nigeria’s main source of revenue, in the southeast.
But from the perspective of a fast-arriving future, even threats like these to the authority of Nigeria’s federal government may soon pale alongside a far more fundamental challenge to national cohesion: Nigeria’s phenomenal population growth.
Presently, almost all of sub-Saharan Africa is growing at sustained rates unmatched in modern history. In this regard, Mali, Nigeria’s resource-poor and largely desertified West African neighbor, is fairly typical. The United Nations projects that the country, one of the world’s ten poorest nations, will see its population rise to nearly 50 million by mid-century from its present base of about 16 million.
Nigeria, a rambunctiously energetic country with roughly twice the area of California, may be on a slightly slower growth path, but its already huge size makes its trajectory far more dramatic. The country’s headcount is expected to double from a shade under 200 million today to 400 million by 2050, and by century’s end will reach an almost unimaginable 750 million — more than half the size of China — according to the UN’s cautious median projections.
Given the disastrous nature of so much news from Africa, one could easily expect this to be a story about hellish population bombs. It is not. Rather, it is a look at how booming demographics are fueling economic growth in many parts of Africa, while at the same time radically stressing the continent’s political geography.
More specifically, it is a glimpse at how urban centers led by Lagos, Africa’s biggest city, are positioning themselves to accomplish what any number of rebel groups and secessionists movements have failed to achieve since the continent’s independence era commenced in the late 1950s: redraw a remarkably static political map of Africa, imposed by European imperialists over a century ago.
Here and there already, the continent’s biggest cities are spawning enormous urban corridors that are spilling over borders and creating vigorous new economic zones that are outstripping the ability of weak and plodding central governments to manage or even retain their hold on them.
Lagos, which sits in the southwestern corner of Nigeria, sprawled over a collection of islands and swampy coastlands, occupies the leading edge of this phenomenon. Today, its extraordinary growth is driving sweeping changes in a five-country region that stretches 500 miles westward along a band of palm-shaded seaboard all the way to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, a mushrooming city of perhaps six million people that has long been this region’s other major economic and cultural pole.
In between them, in one of the busiest staging areas of the historic Atlantic slave trade, West Africa is laying the foundations of one of the world’s biggest megalopolises, and in Lagos itself, the start of a potentially powerful new city-state.
With an estimated 18 million people (no one knows for sure) Lagos has grown in size nearly 40-fold since independence, and its expansion is still accelerating. Nigerian demographers estimate that as many as 5,000 newcomers migrate here every day, putting Lagos on track to easily double in size again before mid-century, when it will be a top contender for the title of the world’s largest city.
For decades, Lagos suffered one of the worst images of any city in the world, known widely as a place of thieving politicians, streets that crackled with danger, rotting infrastructure and “go-slows,” the monstrous, daily traffic jams in which people melt in their seats in the stifling, humid heat while praying they won’t be held up at gunpoint by robbers. The city’s most famous native son, the late musician, Fela, even coined a shorthand term for the Lagos’s litany of hardships: “impossibility-ism.”
But with the outside world having almost written it off, Lagos has recently enjoyed a prolonged run of strong economic growth, swelling its GDP to twice the size of Kenya’s, the richest and most important nation in East Africa. And while booming like this, Lagos has also begun to quietly develop a reputation for some of the most effective local governments in all of West Africa.
Under the leadership of a succession of ambitious, modernizing governors from the opposition Action Party, Lagos has embarked on an unprecedented construction spree, building freeways, sub-Saharan Africa’s first metro system outside of South Africa, and public housing units on a large scale. At the same time, this famously rough place has even added subtler quality of life improvements like the proliferation of public green spaces.
In a torrential afternoon rain one day, I drove to the seafront of Victoria Island, Lagos’s main business and financial quarter, to visit one of the city’s most ambitious new developments, a vast real estate project known as Eko Atlantic City. It is an entirely new district will house 250,000 people in high-rise apartment buildings, banks in corporate office towers, other businesses and hotels, and an 18-mile tramway.
With physical space for expansion fast running out, to build it, the city is filling in with rocks and sand 9 million square meters of ocean, an area one and a half times larger than Victoria Island itself.
For now, all that one can see is a vast, flat expanse of sand that stretches to the horizon, its southern border defined by a nearly 4.5-mile long seawall of boulders and concrete tetrapods piled high to hold back the ocean.
Ten enormous dump trucks filled with large rocks rumbled by while I climbed atop the seawall. On average, I was told, 300 of them unburden themselves of their 25-30 ton loads every day.
"Land used to exist here," a guide in hardhat told me, as we stood on the newly packed sand. "It took about 100 years for the ocean to reach that point," she said, gesturing toward Victoria Island’s Bar Beach in the distance.
If Lagos alone were growing like this, the disruption it would pose to the region’s staid political order would be marginal. But along with the world’s fastest population growth, over the next several decades Africa will also experience the highest urbanization rates anywhere on the planet. In this decade alone, cities in West Africa will swell by an additional 58 million people, according to the United Nations.
Between 2020 to 2030, an additional 69 million people will fill out the region’s bulging cities, and urbanization rates will continue accelerating like this at least until mid-century.
As a result, demographers foresee the emergence of hundreds of new, full-fledged cities born from what are now modest, faceless towns, as well as many others simply created from scratch that will begin popping to life like stars born from gathering dust in the cosmos.
Most existing cities, meanwhile, will undergo enormous expansion, swelling beyond recognition from what they have looked like only recently. Here and there, new urban corridors will spring up, along the lines of the 50-million strong 400-mile stretch of eastern seaboard between Boston and Washington, D.C., only far more populous.
And this is where Africa’s new political geography comes in. A simple tally of the projections for the three principal cities in this corridor, Lagos, Abidjan, and Accra, adds up to a mid-century population of 54 million.
To this, however, one must add places like Ibadan, Nigeria (presently 2 million people), only 80 miles from Lagos, Takoradi, Ghana (500,000 people), and the capitals of what are today sovereign countries, Lomé, Togo (1.5 million) and Cotonou, Benin (1.2 million). Throw in the countless other towns and cities along the way that will be swelling or springing to life, and the foreseeable result is a dense and nearly unbroken urban zone from end to end.
While I was in Abidjan on a recent visit, ground was broken on a multilane highway project that will run eastward along the coast, to Ghana, replacing the familiar old, potholed carriage road that for decades has rambled through brine-swept palm oil plantations.
A few weeks later in Nigeria, I visited an immense new Chinese industrial zone being built on the far eastern outskirts of Lagos, the Lekki Free Zone, a 60-40 joint venture between a Chinese consortium and the Lagos State government that is being promoted as West Africa’s answer to Dubai.
Even if that seems like a stretch, global energy firms and Chinese manufacturers of everything from furniture and palm oil products, to solar panels and automobiles, have already become early, enthusiastic investors. A Singaporean company, meanwhile, is at work building a deep-water port, which is due to begin operations in 2015, and to the immediate northwest of the zone, a new international airport is also under construction.
Investment in the zone represents a bet that if the government can provide land and labor at internationally competitive rates, along with reliable power supply and streamlined immigration and customs formalities, foreign investors will flock to the area. Their aim would not only be to manufacture things for export to faraway markets, but to take advantage of the emerging West African megalopolis’s attractive demographics, including high population density and a fast-rising middle class.
Arguably the most important of that city’s recent mega-projects is the Badagry Expressway, a newly opened, ten-lane road and rail corridor that will soon push onward to the nearby border with Benin.
Far more than a simple road, the highway is the physical embodiment of the politically transformative integration to come — think the I-95 of West Africa. At some point before long, it will merge with the highway being built eastward from Ivory Coast, perhaps somewhere in Ghana. But even before that can happen, tiny Benin and Togo, countries whose sliver-thin shapes mark them as conspicuous examples of fanciful European mapmaking, will face a powerful new existential challenge.
The most sacrosanct rule of continental politics in the post-independence era has always been the taboo on tampering with Africa’s borders, which almost every state has recognized as arbitrary and irrational, and yet equally essential. The Europeans may have consulted no Africans in drawing them up, but to renounce them now would be to open a gigantic Pandora’s box, and a recipe for endless, costly conflict.
But now the massive growth of cities in the region points to ways that borders and the nation states they contain can be overtaken or even rendered irrelevant without war or confrontation.
Like that of Lagos, well-managed, democratic Ghana’s resource-driven economy is booming, meaning that for Togo and Benin, the two little backwaters sandwiched in between them, hopes of prosperity will increasingly mean hitching their fortunes to those of their far larger neighbors. This will steadily force French speakers in these countries to opt for English, at a minimum, as the language of business and opportunity. And the switch of colonial languages is likely to be merely the first step toward unprecedented integration.
In fact, many see Lagos’s creeping interpenetration of Benin as being already well under way, pointing to a 2003 incident as an important milestone. It involved an armed robber from neighboring Benin who attacked a car owned by a close friend of the sitting Nigerian president’s daughter. The bandit fled back to Benin to escape arrest, but Nigeria punitively closed its border, which essentially meant cutting off trade with Lagos, Benin’s lifeline. Within 72 hours the suspect was arrested and delivered to Nigerian authorities.
"We already have houses on the border where the sitting room is in Nigeria and the bedroom is in Benin," said F.A.D. Oyekunmi, a demographer at University of Lagos. "I think Benin will remain the Benin Republic, but the string of communities that will spring up along the Badagary Expressway, all the way to the border and beyond, will become the nucleus of one new, giant and integrated urban area — one economy."
The biggest challenge posed by the growth of Lagos and the consolidation of an enormous, sub-regional economic zone around it, however, is not to the city’s minuscule neighbors. Rather, it is to Nigeria’s continued existence as a unitary nation.
If present trends continue, in another decade or two, Lagos’s economy will surpass the size of the rest of Nigeria.
What has held the country together in the past, however tenuously, is the redistribution of money earned from the country’s oil exports. But this is changing fast, as Lagos booms and its dependence on this ever more thinly sliced revenue — what Nigerian politicians call the “national cake” — dwindles.
"If [Lagos’s] GDP continues to rise the way it is, the federal contribution to [the city] could shrink to 5 percent," Folarin Gbadebo-Smith, the director of a leading independent Nigerian think tank, the Center for Policy Alternatives told me in an interview in his stylish offices. "What you would end up with is a virtual country. All of the parameters, absent an army, police and currency of your own, are there. We are good to go."
Not everyone agrees that Lagos can achieve this kind of autonomy through economic change alone. But as strong as it is, growth may only be the second most important challenge the city poses to the nation.
After decades of drift, Nigeria’s own people increasingly see Africa’s largest country as broken and fundamentally unworkable, perhaps beyond repair. Nigeria is the world’s 11th largest oil producer, and yet it imports all of its gasoline — it does not have a single working refinery. Just as gallingly for Africa’s energy powerhouse, most of its citizens live without electricity from the grid.
The arrival here a decade ago of increasingly effective, development-minded local government has already delivered a profound jolt to the country’s system, shifting much of the action in national politics from the hopelessly corrupt and ineffectual federal level to Nigeria’s 36 states.
Lagos has achieved this by providing what its incumbent two-term governor, Babatunde Fashola, a hard-driving, 50-year-old lawyer and latecomer to politics has called a social contract, which is something the national government has clearly never delivered, nor scarcely even hinted at.
At its simplest, it amounts to the promise that if citizens and businesses will pay their taxes, the local government will guarantee them services. What is more, Fashola, and his Action Congress predecessor, Bola Tinubu, have won a string of elections by urging voters to judge them on this basis.
Fashola, who previously served as Tinubu’s chief of staff, told me that when the tax collection efforts began, in 1999, the city was officially taking in a paltry $4 million a month. “Today, we are doing 15-16 billion naira ($101 million), and the incredible thing is that haven’t raised taxes. We are still a long way off, though, because we estimate modestly that 8 million people are employed here, and only 3 million are in our tax net.”
In a region full of states rendered unaccountable to their citizens by the so-called resource curse, which allows elites — in Nigeria, the so-called top million — to live off of their production of raw materials, this stands out as a surprisingly radical idea.
To wit, the city’s approach to politics and governance are being emulated in other states, especially elsewhere in the country’s south, and as dependence on the center and on oil revenue steadily weakens, many now say, so inevitably will the rational for Nigeria as we know it.
The first of two lengthy conversations I had with Fashola, came at end of a news conference at his sprawling state government complex. When the assembled local press began to break up and his aides introduced me, the governor asked me what he could do for me, to which I requested that he sit down for an interview.
Fashola’s aides had previously described him to me as restless, impatient and endlessly demanding. “He looks around us constantly and feels this is not good enough,” one of them had told me. “We have the resources, we have the materials, we have the people, and our lives could be much better.”
Now they looked on aghast when he responded by immediately inviting me into his office and speaking in impassioned, rapid-fire fashion about his ambitions for the city.
These included building a series of new satellite towns around central Lagos in order to accommodate its mushrooming population. He spoke about the need to revive the civil service by attracting talented people from the private sector. He spoke about ongoing efforts to improve education by involving parents more in their children’s schooling.
"One of the new reforms we have initiated is that parents must attend a minimum 90 percent of the parents-teachers association meetings for their kids to move on to the next class," he said, adding that, "if the parents take school seriously, the children will naturally do so."
Fashola spoke of being inspired by visits to other cities that have emerged rapidly in other underdeveloped parts of the world, beginning with Singapore. “I met with Lee Kwan Yew, and the people who worked with him. I knew from what they did that we could do it too, and I came back very angry. I went to Dubai on the same trip, and what they are doing there is absolutely audacious. It put rockets in my shoes.”
Early one morning, I set out in another driving rain to the governor’s official residence, from which I would follow Fashola’s motorcade for an inspection tour of new housing projects being built by the Lagos state government.
As my hired car approached Tafawa Balewa Square in the heart of the city, amid heavy traffic, a motorbike rider squeezed into the space between us and the car just ahead. On the frame of his license plate were printed the words, “Trust No One,” which to me seemed to capture the old spirit of the city I had known since the late-1970s.
That grudging old Lagos was a place of constant police shakedowns and of endless aggression. It was a place where the bodies of people hit by cars were uncollected and became flattened into thin pulp instead from being run over countless times.
Arriving at the residence, officers in the governor’s security detail instructed me to ditch my car and climb aboard one of the vans containing the state house press corps. Nigeria’s press has long been one of the most competitive and hard-bitten on the continent, and together with a couple dozen of its members, I waited under an elevated expressway that runs along the waterfront opposite the city’s busy port.
There, on Marina Road, the traffic was heavy and slow, but never reached a full standstill. More remarkably, the whole time we waited, public buses zipped by in special lanes introduced by Tinubu, and greatly expanded since, in a bid to combat the city’s notorious traffic.
The expansion was signature Fashola, applying public policy tools to everyday problems, and it had dramatically eased the commuting times for millions of residents. This, of course, contributed to the wild popularity of the measure, but there was something else at work in the enthusiastic public response. Nigerians had long been simply unaccustomed to their government doing anything to make their lives easier.
Waiting for the governor’s motorcade to take off, I asked one of the State House reporters if life had been improving in the city, and he gave me a befuddled look, the kind one can get in response to a stupid question.
"There are too many things to name," the reporter replied. "You don’t even need to ask. It’s everywhere: traffic, service delivery, health care, the courts…" His voice trailed off.
When we finally set off, before crossing the seven-mile span of the Third Mainland Bridge, which connects Lagos Island to continental Africa, the governor’s motorcade whisked its way up and around a looping overpass that traced the circumference of a large knoll below.
The reporter I’d befriended nudged me to make sure that I had taken in the sight. What once would have been an open expanse of dirt, a favored preserve of toughs lying in wait to ambush motorists, was now planted in manicured grass, replete with tulips and other flowers.
When we reach the mainland, though, it became abundantly clear that Lagos was not yet tamed. The traffic was manic and disordered on the main boulevard we pursued, with cars, battered tro-tros, or taxi-like vans, motorbikes and even daredevil pedestrians all jousting for precious road space.
No one seems to have ever contemplated zoning in this city, and grimy industrial parks, ramshackle high- and low-rise housing, and commerce of all kinds, together with an extraordinary proliferation of churches on nearly every block, were all joined together in a chaotic mix.
Our motorcade finally pulled of the main avenue and entered into a tight grid of streets that was bursting at the seams with people and bustling with petty traders. Without warning, our press vehicle suddenly stopped and the reporters and cameramen run, as if for their lives, dodging massive puddles, to get inside a walled-off construction site before the governor’s car made its entrance, so that they could get their shots.
Simultaneously, Fashola’s security men, large and unsmiling, also rushed to take up their positions, and then the governor’s vehicle, a black SUV, pulled onto the grounds of the site and the governor emerged, tall, smiling and exuding confidence as he buttoned the blue blazer he wore over an open collared shirt and crisp khakis.
With aides and construction company representatives cocooned around him, the governor strode forward toward a collection of nearly completed apartment blocks, firing off a series of detailed questions, and pressing for more minutiae when the answers disappointed him.
When he finished, the governor engaged in a lively give and take with local reporters who scrummed around him, lobbing tough questions.
Noting the relatively modest number of units involved in this project, a Nigerian TV reporter pressed a skeptical question, asking whether the new housing complexes we had seen weren’t largely propaganda devices; more symbol than substance for a city flooding with new residents.
Fashola’s posture grew more erect as he bristled, but his answer made clear that he relished her challenge. “You know how many projects that have been launched in Nigeria that we don’t see again today?” came his reply. Far larger numbers of units would be coming on stream in the future, he added, but unlike other governments, his administration wanted to emphasize work that was being delivered, and not make promises.
"If you [announce]a scheme and there are no houses, it will just be a big advertisement, and we do not do that. If we are committed to something in the state, we deliver it."
Curious local residents had filtered onto the construction site, forming clusters in the shaded wings. They were kept at a distance by the governor’s security detail, but could follow the exchange, and with that they applauded.
As Fashola turned on his heels, bringing the press conference to a close, he waved to them. Instead of smiling and saying “thank you,” as one might have expected, his parting words were: “Pay your taxes!”
The long-held attitude toward Lagos of Nigeria’s federal government and of its leading national politicians, many of whom have hailed from the country’s poorer and less developed north, can be summed up in the famous 1975 New York Daily News front page in which then-president Gerald R. Ford supposedly told a near bankrupt New York City to “drop dead.” (Historians later established that Ford never quite used those words.)
But the revival of Lagos, and the widening discrepancy between governance there and the steady underperformance of one national government after another, including most recently the hapless administration of the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, has produced an extraordinary reversal of fortunes.
Its strong tax collection efforts and local economic growth have given the city the means to fund 70 percent of its own operations, dramatically reducing dependence on redistributed oil income; meaning only 30 percent of its revenue comes from the national budget.
If such trends continue, as Nigeria’s troubles grow, one can imagine a Daily News-style headline that reads: “Lagos to Abuja: Drop Dead.”
Nigerians economists say that if the international price for oil dips below $90 a barrel, the government in Abuja will become insolvent. That is based on the country’s current population of 167 million people. In a quarter century, when Nigeria will likely have 300 million inhabitants, the game of redistributing oil income will be dramatically less rewarding.Richard Joseph, a Northwestern University political scientist who is a leading scholar on Nigeria, places it in a group of nations that he calls “big, messy countries,” where ethnically-based regions — places like Gujarati India or Kurdish Iraq — emerge to distinguish themselves by functioning at a substantially higher level than the nations that contain them.
Joseph said the question of whether or not Fashola’s models, places like Singapore or Dubai, are within Lagos’s striking range, is a matter of distant speculation.
"The question is whether a vibrant, efficient, democratic Lagos can emerge within a more dysfunctional Nigeria," Joseph said. "My sense is that there is a lot of space for them to go forward."
Fashola plays down the doubters, but he acknowledges that Nigeria’s grave dysfunctions hinder Lagos. “We have the power to galvanize Nigeria. Lagos can be the locomotive for the Nigerian nation. How far we can travel, though, depends on what happens with Nigeria.”
HOWARD W. FRENCH|JUL 1 2013, 10:01 AM ET
BY MARTHA LARABA SAMBE
This is a piece written by my friend on the issue of homosexuality in Nigeria. There are a lot of things to be said about this issue, especially after the recent passing of the Anti-gay bill by the Nigerian legislature, but I find that this piece, while not saying a lot (that is, blabbering), says the most. - Retardimus Prime
Let’s talk about homophobia for a minute, shall we?
Have you ever solemnly considered what it is about homosexuals that scare you? I use the word homosexuals to refer to both lesbians and gays, but I’ll tell you this, I am really interested in talking about homophobia as it concerns gay men, because for some reason that is beyond me, we never seem to be angry or threatened by lesbians. In fact I have heard one too many times how exciting the thought of two women doing it could be, but however connected the case of lesbian-acceptance is to homophobia against men, I won’t be addressing it here.
So, what is it about two men getting hot and heavy with each other that seem to terrify y’all? This is not the time to whip out your Holy books at me, keep them aside for a second, will you? I know you don’t think about what your Holy books say when you go around lying, cheating, and stealing, but, I know, I know. Those are lesser sins compared to two men having sex. I mean, those of you who lie, cheat and steal, will get one day of hell, right? And the gays will get forever. It makes perfect sense, you are worried about their eternity in hell so much that you can forget your one day in hell, how kind of you.
I would go on with more sarcastic scenarios of punishments for “big” and “small” sins, but I’d hate to lose my point, which is this: you cannot use religion as a basis for condemning the gays because you are guilty of quite many things that your religion has condemned as well, but I don’t see you judging yourself. Or is it between you and your God? If so, why can we not leave the gays to settle their issue with their God(s)?
Do you really imagine that you have a sense of propriety when you openly declare your hate for the gays? To Nigeria’s leaders, do you lot think that by signing into law anti-gay bills that your crookedness, your corruptness will be ignored or maybe forgiven by God? No, really why do we hate the gays? Is it some deeper issue that I have yet to understand or a mere case of hypocrisy?
Or were our very thoughtful leaders trying to prevent a Sodom & Gomorrah type situation by passing the bill into law? Aw, how very thoughtful, if that is the case. Nigeria is still doomed though, and it has nothing to do with whether or not the state recognizes and accepts same sex couples or not. It’s at this point I’d start listing all of the reasons why Nigeria is doomed, but I bet you know them. Or maybe you don’t, which makes you part of the problem, or maybe you do know them but are in one way or the other still a part of the problem.
I just want a sensible reason why I should take a piss on the rights of individuals who feel love and/or attraction for each other; I have not found it yet. So if you can give me one, please do, however, no religious based arguments, chances are that you’ve broken most of the rules yourself. I mean, you’re not Jesus, the perfect son of God.
In anticipation of the event that no one can come up with a logical reason for homophobia, I’ll advise that you channel your contempt for the gays to contempt for our thieving leaders; the man/woman who (sexually) abused your sister, brother, wife, mother; Boko Haram; ignorance; hypocrisy, and the many other gazillion things that mess up Nigeria. And let it not just end at contempt, (it’s a long stretch but I’ll take my chances) actively seek to erase these things from within yourself, and then from others around you. After all, Ghandi wisely said to be the change we want to see.
BY RETARDIMUS PRIME
I’ve been thinking about what to write for June 12, A day of such solidarity; a day when Nigerians come together to revamp hope for a better government, and a better country. A day when we remember M.K.O Abiola’s sacrifice and all his good works.
Even as I write this, today, there are many in different places in Nigeria celebrating and commemorating June 12. Some have organized rallies and concerts, some have written articles, some will grant special interviews, and everyone that can is pitching in to this ‘June 12 spirit’ and keeping hope alive for a better Nigeria.
I would not go as far as to tag their efforts as ‘pseudo-‘, but I will ask this, and permit me if it comes out in pidgin: Wetin una think all this your June 12 hustle go change?
In all my years as a fucking Nigerian, the Nigerian people have never really had any say in shit. The leaders do what they like; and you all know this.
What then is this stupid and unintelligent hope you are all harbouring?
After all your talk-talk today, notin dey happen!
Obviously, some are just making money off this June 12 shit and using it to up their public profiles. Some are indeed idiots and will not learn from the past. Some just do this shit because there’s nothing else they can do, and they know it.
Me, I don’t feel like saying anything or writing anything today. For days, over two weeks, I’d sit down in my lazy chair, my thinking chair, trying to get a feel for what I should write about June 12; I feel nothing. There is nothing I will say that will become of any practical use, and will have any effect.
Hundred years from now sef!
Because our leaders, they just do what they like. Look at the anti-gay bill. Nigerians don’t give a fuck about gay people, and gay people know not to publicize their gay-ness in the Nigerian society. If the leaders asked Nigerians, truly, about how they felt about gay people, like I have, they would come face-to-face so many times with the popular Nigerian phrase, “dey your own make I dey my own”, like I have.
But did they ask you? They just did it.
Our leaders do what they like, and all your talk-talk won’t change shit. That’s why Abiola is dead, that’s why there is sporadic electricity. That’s why the Nigerian Football Federation is always broke, that’s why there are so many poor people in Nigeria. That’s why the roads are bad, and that’s why an average Nigerian cannot go to school.
Nigeria is fucked up because our leaders do what they like and they don’t give a fuck how what they do affects you and what the fuck you think.
You think a man who wouldn’t think twice about stealing billions that should go to the welfare of Nigerians gives a fuck about all the ‘words’ you’re gonna say on June 12?
Why are we all psyching ourselves?
Nigerian leaders do not feel any pressure from public acts of solidarity, or loud words from outspoken fucks. They have been ignoring us for decades.
The fucking civil war that killed over a million, was it a dispute amongst the Nigerian people? No! Wetin concern Yoruba man with Igbo man that time? The Northerners did not like that the Igbos were in power, and vice versa! The fucking civil war was a power struggle that spilled into the Nigerian citizenship. These people KILLED over a million people just to get what they wanted and you want to throw WORDS at them?
You can harbour the opinion that I’m being unrealistic, but ask yourself, and please answer yourself, when has all this your protest nonsense ever worked?
It is time to realise that to change even the slightest shit in this country, we need a more radical approach. It is something that you know.
If I have anything to say today, that would be it. So please, waste your time very effectively today, as you have done since the first June 12; 1993.
Think of a famous “black”, Wole Soyinka, Gates, Oprah, Mandela,Tutu, etc, regardless of what they are notable for, there is one thing the majority of them have in common. They are all famous because they have been approved by the White power world to notable “blacks”. There is not one single notable White person, that is notable by African approval—not one. And this should cause serious concern. The icons/ “heroes ” are named and approved by the forces of oppression. They are commodities in the system of capitalism—brands even. And African people didn’t pick them; they were picked for us. And unfortunately most do not see very few of them are representative. So faces that look African, does not mean they are working for Africans, or the best voices for African issues. The role of many, like Oprah is to give the illusion of inclusion. “it is not so bad here for you, look at me. 0.00000000000000000000001% “success” story.”
The likes of Wole Soyinka are tools, which are moved into place to give authenticity to whatever beef the West has with Islam, African politicians, homosexuality, etc. They have built up his bag of credentials so he has become iconized and sold off as authentic; even if he makes no sense, shows no impartiality, or serves no Pan-African purpose. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is just a more degraded version of Wole Soyinka but located in the politics of the Diaspora. Using his dark skin as a better tool for bashing African Americans over the head. Being able to say all the things his pay masters wish they could say.
They are tool of control, of seeding agendas directly into African Diaspora communities, a distraction, which as Fanon described as Black Skin, White Mask. And even when they mean well (very few of them), they are absolutely not qualified to speak. So either way you cut it, how did they get so high to speak so loud? Because if it is between a real historian with something progressive to say and a diluted confused black historian— they prefer and give career to the weaker one. So when African history is being thought, after 40 plus years, it is still starts with Slavery.
And because people need to see “successful” images of themselves, most of us are desperate to absorb these people as icons of the race. The real sad news is most of them are famous because of their loyalty to the White power structures. Some of them, namely people like Wole Soyinka have a career of insulting other Africans; as a result he is the West go-to to give black approval to everything they need said, but like Henry Louis Gates in America—from a Black mouth. You would struggle to see him insult the Eurocentric power structure—only other Africans.
So the love (Mandela) and hates (Qaddafi, Mugabe) of the White World are a reflection of the prejudices and preference of the African world. Because through the influence of media the European world has the power to tell African people who their icons, in music, politics and scholarship should be.
Meles Zenawi was an oppressive puppet of Western imperialism, yet his obituary read out like that of a glorious king. He was called a visionary, a model for all of Africa to follow, a true friend of Zionist Israel, an inspirational spokesman for Africa. Meles was instrumental in giving support for everything the West wanted to do in Africa. Drones, Somalia invasion, Africom, Gulf War support, support for Israel. Of course the Western papers would call him a “great man”, great for them but not for Africa. His atrocities and brutal practice, “killing his own people,’ seemingly expunged from his record and the memory of Africa.
Some are so blinded they think an uncritical approach to their leaders is some sort of patriotism, some way of expressing national pride—it is not. Not to challenge the policies of leadership is to engage in passive tyranny.
DISCLAIMER: This post was not written by Kalakuta Journals, its an excerpt from a website. This is a link to the source -http://www.africanlegends.info/
On Monday 15 October 2012, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma began her tenure as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC). Her election at the African Union (AU) July 2012 Summit preceded a long drawn and somewhat not so fluent appointment. Her election ushered in the first female Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) and its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity. The election’s controversy unfortunately, overshadowed other important issues that were discussed and decided upon by this Summit. Of great concern to us is the funding of the AU which is the key driver of Africa’s integration and developmental agenda.
The July 2012 Summit also approved the 2013 Budget of the African Union totalling USD277 million with contributions as follows:
• AU Member States: $122.8 million (44 per cent)
• Development Partners (Donors): $155.3 million (56 per cent)
• Total Budget: $277.1 million
Of the amount that the African governments are contributing, only $5.3 million goes towards programmes of the AU while 96% goes to operational costs. This amount is actually 1.9% of the total budget. The total operational cost is covered by the Member States.  For the programme’s budget, the table below illustrates that the cost of programming at the AU is borne by external donors. 
Programme costs for key AU institutions such as the Pan African Parliament (PAP), the Human Rights Commission (ACHPR), the African Court (AfCHPR), NEPAD, the Commission on International Law (AUCIL), the Anti-Corruption Board and the Committee on the Rights and Welfare of Children (ACRWC) are all being paid for by donors. In fact, there is no allocation at all from Member States towards costs for the ACRWC which has a mandate to promote and protect the rights of children in Africa. The newly constructed AU Offices and Conference Center facility were solely financed by the Chinese government at USD$200 million and the office building being constructed for the Peace and Security Council being financed by the Germany government at 26.5 million euro are also worth mentioning here.
HE WHO PAYS THE PIPER CALLS THE TUNE
While it is commendable that the operational costs are wholly covered by AU member states, it is quite disturbing that the integration and development agenda for this continent is being paid for by foreign resources. Who then, is really in charge at the African Union? Who decides what initiatives and developmental projects are to be embarked on? If our continental institutions and even our governments themselves obtain a majority of their funding from external donors, then, who really drives the African agenda? Who defends Africa’s interests in the global arena where these donors have great influence? During the AUC elections for the Chairperson, representatives of member states complained that there was some manipulation by some foreign governments – with such a picture, this would not be surprising. If someone is paying most of your bills why act surprised when they think its up to them to decide what goes on in your home?
The graph below illustrates how the AU cash inflows have transpired for 2011 and 2012. It had to operate with little over half of the required (budgeted) amounts. Due to the global economic downtown, donors only came up with 42% of what was expected from them. Is it wise to have the continent so beholden to donors?
The state of financing of the Union also calls into question the commitment to building a strong and viable institution when the AU functions each year with only 50-60% of its required finances. This inhibits its capacity to fulfil on its mandate and assist member states to meet the aspirations of African peoples. If it hurts to spend money on Africa we will continue undeveloped, poor, weak and beholden to those who toss their crumbs to us and strip us of our natural resources.
AFRICAN SOLUTIONS TO AFRICAN PROBLEMS?
The AU has to wait on external funding before it can respond with peacekeeping missions to countries in crisis. 2011 saw several such situations such as Côte d’Ivoire and Libya. In both situations, the AU was unable to respond adequately or provide peacekeeping forces, and received heavy criticism for it, particularly from within the Continent. Even though there is change of leadership at the AUC, the new Chairperson may not respond any differently to crises situations if there are no resources to deploy the African standby force. 2012 has the situations in Mali, Somalia, Eastern DRC and Guinea Bissau to deal with, the growing insecurity in the Sahel region as a whole, as well as the persistent scourge of the rebel LRA forces which are causing displacement across 3 countries in central Africa. We can not champions our African solutions when we can’t pay for them.
A TREE IS KNOWN BY ITS FRUIT
There is, currently, deep frustration among the citizenry of the continent who watches their leaders bi-annually fly huge delegations to AU Summits and bear costs for their government. government officials attend numerous AU meetings and conferences, and yet there does not seem to be any obvious results from the AU. The AU not being able to fulfil its mandate hampers continental integration. It really does seem like the Regional Economic Communities like ECOWAS, SADC and EAC are more visible, relevant efficient and independent. One wonders why they would be willing to be subsumed into a seemingly weaker continental institution. One wonders how African Citizens are expected to be known and be inspired by an AU whose results they don’t see.
WHO IS PAYING UP?
Only five (5) countries contribute two thirds of the portion from AU member states. These are the so called “big five” and only 2 were paid up by mid-2012. If 5 out of 54 countries contribute 66 per cent and the majority 48 countries contribute 34 per cent what happens when one of these five countries fails to pay as Libya did in 2011 and 2012? In fact, Gaddafi in 2011 withheld Libya’s contribution to the AU because he was not pleased with the lack of progress on trajectory to the United States of Africa. When one of these five countries doesn’t pay up, the AU feels that pinch.
Only 11 (20 per cent) of the 54 Member States had fully paid their contributions by mid-2012 with 19 countries owing for the current year and 24 (44 per cent) having arrears from previous years. So when our countries do not pay up, how exactly is the AU supposed to operate? At this same Summit while reviewing the report of the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, the African Heads of States ‘deplored the low level of annual contributions from Member States for funding the NEPAD Agency operations with the implied continued reliance on Development Partners which hampers the Agency’s delivery and infringes on African ownership of the NEPAD agenda’. Whom exactly were our Heads of States and Governments so strongly criticising except the countries they lead? Where is the sincerity in this? If it hurts to spend the money we will not see any development taking place! How can NEPAD deliver when its not resourced?
Donor funds are not all about hidden agendas (although many times its about their interest) they are also about international collaboration, faith in a strong AU (Africa), sense of responsibility towards Africa due to historic baggage. These are much appreciated but they cannot be our main source for funding our integration agenda. The current state of funding at the AU accentuates our concern, that Africa remains accountable to its donors and not its peoples and makes hollow the commitments to transform the AU into an institution that is people-centred.
HOW SERIOUS ARE WE ABOUT THE AU?
In a context where member states are failing to contribute to the program cost, the AU has managed to secure some funding to run these programs, indeed this is commendable. But does the availability of sources from donors discourage member states from taking responsibility of their own initiatives? Is it that we do not take the AU seriously? Could it explain why since 1963, only 25 treaties out of the 42 adopted at the AU have come into force. And even those in force, the implementation at the national level is minimal and unfelt. Our national governments fail to comply with the African Union’s decisions on integration, development and people’s rights. The lack of accountability systems monitoring the compliance of each African state has lead to the slow ratification and implementation of numerous African Union instruments. In the mean time, the gap between policies and reality keeps expanding. There are huge inequities between the urban and rural, rich and poor people; 2 out of every 5 men and women die of infectious diseases, 1 in 16 women dies at child-birth and 44 out of 54 countries currently import 25 per cent of their food needs and over 300 million people are denied the right to food.
IF YOU HAVE WEALTH, YOUR VOICE IS LISTENED TO
Out-going Chairperson Dr Ping at his last address to the Executive Council of Ministers in July 2012 pointed out that the AU has little legitimacy in claiming marginalization in global politics when it is unable to be self- sustaining and depends on donors to support its programmes. How legitimate is the ownership of the AU by member states? As citizens it frustrates us when we see African solutions and proposals being despised and ignored by the West; we saw it in Libya for instance and yet it is Africa that pays the prize when the west intervenes with their solutions for their interests. We recognize that the crisis in Mali for instance is a consequence of Libya. Africa’s voice remains weak and a whisper in the global arena and the AU which was set up to consolidate our voice and enable us to project Africa based on our synergies depends on the same international community to do its work.
AFRICA, IT’S TIME TO PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS!
Our continent faces increasing numbers of people living in deplorable conditions, unacceptable levels of underdevelopment after five decades of independence, high unemployment, high maternal mortality just to mention a few ills. We need to develop good infrastructure that not only connects our countries but connects farmers to markets so we can begin to feed ourselves and not import food when we have large tracts of agricultural land and most of our people as farmers.
If our governments and heads of states and governments are serious about tackling poverty, growing our economies and ensuring Africa catches up with the 21st century why is there no equivalent action in terms of funding for the AU? If all the time spent in these Summits, the talk, speeches, debates are not being backed up by money then surely our talk is cheap. Its time African governments put their money where their mouths are. Africa should take responsibility of the institutions Africa has created. Don’t just talk, talk and back that talk with money. A stream cannot rise above its source. If you expect results, effectiveness and efficiency at the AU, release the resources!
IT’S TIME TO LOOK INWARDS, AT WHAT AFRICA HAS
Africa has great wealth, oil, gold, diamonds, wood, cotton, water, agricultural land, gas, precious stones, young people and yet we are so poor every year we go to bow to the Chinese, the Europeans for more loans. Its time to clean up our act and re- organize how we utilize and manage our resources. Our natural wealth should not enrich a few but benefit all.
The first place to start is with dealing with corruption. Since 2000, Africa is loosing close to USD50 billion annually with a large portion of this from the extractive industries. The AU-Anti Corruption Board which was set up to look into such issues is incapacitated and needs member states to support it and not donor funding. Former President Thabo Mbeki is leading a High Level Panel looking at the illicit flow of finances from Africa. Recommendations from this panel need to be implemented.
In 2011 the AU established a High Level Panel on Alternative Financing which is led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria. The Panel has made recommendations for possible financing options for the AU, for example from levies on international travel and imports. This is highly commendable as the implementation of its recommendations will go a long way to providing sustainable ‘own’ resources for the AU. Although this does not absolve our countries from ensuring that we pay for our integration agenda, its benefits are desperately needed on this continent.
Paying for our institutions is about self respect. Africa paying for the AU will prove our seriousness about making African institutions work for Africa. The AU exists as a mechanism that helps us drive our collective development and a better life for African peoples. This better life for all will remain a dream if the river source is not opening up and pouring its waters to the streams that water our development. It’s time to take the AU seriously, its time for Africa to resource its institutions.
By-Janah Ncube and Achieng Maureen Akena